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

Keep the Heat in Your Home: How Super-Insulating your Attic Can Save Energy and Money

November 15, 2013 3:57 am

Many are doing everything they can to cut down on the amount of energy used around the house. One of the best ways to do this, while also reducing your environmental footprint and lowering your monthly utility bills, is by ensuring your attic is well insulated.

Adding insulation to an attic is a lot like putting on a hat when it's cold outside. Insulation helps keep the heat inside the home where it belongs, so you can stay warm and cozy without spending a fortune. Insulating and air sealing an attic can also help prevent icicles from forming at the roof edge.

To help save money while keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips on how to super-insulate your attic:

• First, create an air barrier by having all gaps and holes that pass through the ceiling into the attic sealed. A good air sealing job will help prevent warm, moist, house air from escaping into the attic. This is a very important first step to any attic insulation project. Ceiling electrical boxes, exhaust fans, pot lights, wiring and duct penetrations, attic hatches, vent pipes and chimneys are locations that should be inspected and properly sealed.

• If you don't need frequent access to your attic and if space permits, consider having at least a 71-centimetre (28-inch) layer of blown-in or batt-type insulation added over top of existing insulation. Make sure the new insulation does not block the ventilation spaces needed to permit air to move freely from the eaves into the attic. Insulation dams or guards can be installed to ensure this ventilation space does not become blocked by the new insulation.

• In restricted spaces, such as the eaves where the roof passes over the exterior walls, spray-foam insulation may provide a better air seal and insulation level than can otherwise be achieved with batt-type or blown-in insulation. Spray foam insulation can also help prevent "wind washing" of the insulation in this area which can reduce its insulating value and create cold spots along the ceiling-wall intersection below the attic.

• To stop heat from escaping through the attic hatch, insulate the hatch with RSI-5.3 (R-30) or similar high-R-value solid board insulation. Add compressible weatherstripping and a couple of latches to the hatch to ensure an airtight seal.

• If you think you will need access to different parts of your attic, have planks installed through the roof truss members above the insulation layer to provide a surface to crawl over.

• In some cases, due to the condition of the roof, limited space, or a desire to change the appearance of the house, it may be possible to install a new roof over top of the existing roof. This can provide an opportunity to add more insulation than would otherwise be possible.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fun and Creative Kids' Activities for Fall

November 14, 2013 3:57 am

(BPT) - Each year autumn marks a time for change - leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. -The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children in school, it's important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

- Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree seeds — this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.

- Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.

- Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.

- Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you're making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To: Avoid Overspending During Thanksgiving

November 14, 2013 3:57 am

While Thanksgiving may be intended as a day to give thanks for everything life has to offer, many Americans view it as a day to overcook, overeat, and overspend. Below are a few tips you can use to practice moderate spending and eating, so that you don’t break your budget—or your belt--in order to enjoy the celebration.

Here are five tips to follow so your Thanksgiving is fun, but not expensive:

1. Don't go in cold turkey – Plan a realistic budget well in advance, one that considers what you can really afford to spend on the holiday (in cash), not what you'd "like" to spend.

2. Think like a Pilgrim – The fairytale version of early Thanksgivings included a focus on saying thank you, and not trying to impress those in attendance, so be modest and frugal.

3. Remember the trimmings – not the stuffing, the decorations! Don't buy them, make them! Look online and you'll find easy-to-make, inexpensive ways to decorate your home and table.

4. Ask everyone to give thanks – Ask family and friends to bring a prepared dish, dessert or the wine, and build those items into your budgeting and planning.

5. Involve the natives – Invite your children, or some who may be attending, to prepare decorations, easy-to-make snacks, or lead after-dinner games rather than spend on entertainment.

Source: www.InCharge.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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

November 14, 2013 3:57 am

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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Easy-to-Install Window Trim Options

November 13, 2013 3:57 am

On the “what’s in and what’s out” list for homeowners, naked window exteriors are definitely out. Easy-to-install decorative accents like mouldings, window crossheads and shutters are now trending for homeowners across the country.

“With so many options for enhancing window exteriors using lightweight polyurethane products, even the most novice do-it-yourselfer can change a window exterior from boring to beautiful in a short time,” says Niki Decker with Fypon. “If you can use a tape measure, a hammer and a caulk gun, you can transform your window exteriors!”

Options for homeowners to use include:

Crossheads – Decorative crossheads sit on the top of a window and add a regal look. They can be plain or detailed with keystones in the center to draw attention or detail trim along the length of the crosshead to suit traditional home styles. There are also crosshead arches and eyebrow crossheads that provide a softer, curved look when installed above a window.

Pediments – Stylish and eye-catching, pediments also sit above windows. From curved and peaked sunbursts to triangular peaked caps, acorn and rams head styles, pediments are the most dramatic way to draw attention to your window exteriors.

Pilasters – Not all window enhancements sit on top of the window unit. Usually intended to flank the sides of entry doors, pilasters can also be cut down to run vertically up the sides of windows. Pilasters can be smooth and plain, or have a “fluted” recessed design. They generally have plinths at the top and bottom to balance out the window design and add style to the window surround.

Mouldings - Perhaps the easiest way to surround a window is with flat or decorative trim and plinth blocks. This quick project requires no miter cuts because the plinth blocks are put in all four corners of the window exterior and butt up to straight cuts of smooth, paintable trim pieces. Many homeowners use this technique as a “starting point” and then add in other elements such as pediments and shutters to create their own personal window statement.

Shutters – Another popular way to draw attention to the sides of windows is to add a set of decorative shutters. Available in louvered and raised panel styles that are smooth and paintable, shutters provide the perfect way to carry an accent color throughout the exterior of your home. Or, timber shutters in board, plank and louvered styles can be stained to imitate the look of wood on a home without all the maintenance hassles of real wood.

Window Panels – To add depth to the look of a window, flat and raised panels can be added below the window unit and then enclosed entirely with trim. Window panels tend to fill in space between the bottom of the window and the ground, helping the windows gain more presence and focus on a home exterior.

Pot Shelves – Available in both timber and stone styles, a pot shelf is placed below the bottom window sill. Oftentimes they’re used to balance out an entire window surround with a finished look.

Source: Fypon, LLC

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Mortgage Delinquency Rate Drops Nearly 25 Percent in Last Year

November 13, 2013 3:57 am

The mortgage delinquency rate (the rate of borrowers 60 days or more delinquent on their mortgage) dropped 23.3 percent in the past year, ending Q3 2013 at 4.09 percent. It stood at 5.33 percent in Q3 2012. The mortgage delinquency rate also dropped on a quarterly basis, down 5.3 percent from 4.32 percent in Q2 2013, the seventh straight quarterly decline.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia experienced a decline in their mortgage delinquency rate between Q3 2012 and Q3 2013. Five states - California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah - experienced 30 percent+ declines in their mortgage delinquency rate. Three states - California, Florida and Nevada - had double-digit percentage drops in the last quarter.

"This isn't a sample data set," said Tim Martin, group vice president of U.S Housing for TransUnion's financial services business unit. "We looked at all 52 million installment-based mortgages in the U.S. and the trend is clear - the percentage of borrowers willing and able to make their mortgage payments continues to improve. The overall delinquency rate is still high relative to 'normal,' but a 23 percent year over year improvement is great news for homeowners and their lenders."

TransUnion recorded 52.31 million mortgage accounts as of Q3 2013, down from 54.23 million in Q3 2012. This variable was as high as 63.14 million in Q3 2008 prior to the housing crisis.

Viewed one quarter in arrears (to ensure all accounts are included in the data), new account originations increased to 2.34 million in Q2 2013, up from 2.09 million in Q2 2012. This is a major increase from just two years ago when there were 1.32 million new account originations in Q2 2010.

"New mortgage originations showed good growth through the second quarter of this year, largely the result of increased refinance transactions driven by low rates and increasing home prices," said Martin. "However, mortgage rates started to increase right around Memorial Day, and when the data come out next quarter, we expect it to show that new originations are decreasing as a result."

TransUnion's latest mortgage report also found that the non-prime population (those consumers with a VantageScore® credit score lower than 700) continues to represent a smaller portion of all mortgage loans, more than 50 percent lower than was observed in 2007. Non-prime borrowers constituted 5.82 percent of all new mortgage originations in Q2 2013. In Q2 2008, non-prime borrowers represented 12.69 percent of the total.

TransUnion is forecasting that the downward consumer delinquency trend will continue in the final three months of 2013. The delinquency rate will likely be just under 4 percent at the end of the year.

TransUnion's forecast is based on various economic assumptions, such as gross state product, consumer sentiment, unemployment rates, real personal income, and real estate values. The forecast would change if there are unanticipated shocks to the economy affecting recovery in the housing market or if home prices begin to depreciate once again.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Two-in-Five Borrowers Shorten Term When Refinancing

November 13, 2013 3:57 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its third quarter 2013 quarterly refinance analysis, showing that borrowers are continuing to take advantage of near record low mortgage rates to lower their monthly payments, shorten their loan terms and overwhelmingly choosing the safety of long-term, fixed-rate mortgages. Borrowers who refinanced in the third quarter of 2013 will save, on net, approximately $6 billion in interest over the next 12 months.

-Of borrowers who refinanced during the third quarter of 2013, 37 percent shortened their loan term, up 5 percent from the previous quarter and the highest since 1992. Further, 40 percent of those who refinanced outside of HARP took out a shorter-term loan, while 32 percent of HARP borrowers shortened their term. Borrowers who kept the same term as the loan that they had paid off represented 59 percent and only 4 percent chose to lengthen their loan term.

-The net dollars of home equity converted to cash as part of a refinance remained low compared to historical volumes. In the third quarter, an estimated $6.4 billion in net home equity was cashed out during a refinance of conventional prime-credit home mortgages. The peak in cash-out refinance volume was $84 billion during the second quarter of 2006. Adjusted for inflation, annual cash-out volumes during 2010 through 2013 have been the smallest since 1997.

-The average interest rate reduction was about 1.8 percentage points - a savings of about 30 percent. On a $200,000 loan, that translates into saving about $3,500 in interest during the next 12 months. For all borrowers that refinanced during the third quarter, the estimated interest savings over the next 12 months will be about $6 billion. Homeowners who refinanced through HARP during the third quarter of 2013 benefited from an average rate reduction of 1.9 percentage points and will save an average of $3,850 in interest during the first 12 months, or about $320 every month.

-About 85 percent of those who refinanced their first-lien home mortgage maintained about the same loan amount or lowered their principal balance by paying in additional money at the closing table. That's just shy of the 88 percent peak during the second quarter of 2012.

-More than 95 percent of refinancing borrowers chose a fixed-rate loan. Fixed-rate loans were preferred regardless of what the original loan product had been. For example, 86 percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM refinanced into a fixed-rate loan during the second quarter. In contrast, only 3 percent of borrowers who had a fixed-rate loan chose an ARM.

-With mortgage rates remaining below 5 percent for most of the past four years, relatively few homeowners with loans taken in this period would have much incentive to refinance. Consequently, the median age the original loan was outstanding before refinance increased to 6.7 years during the third quarter, the most since the analysis began in 1985.

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Consumers Plan Early Start to the Holiday Shopping Season

November 12, 2013 3:57 am

The 2013 holiday shopping season is underway, with survey results showing some unexpected trends. As in most years, the top shopping day of the year is expected to be Black Friday. However, Cyber Monday will follow close behind across most demographic groups, overtaking Super Saturday as the second busiest holiday shopping day of the year.

Procrastinating is out this year with most consumers (62 percent) planning to finish their gift buying on or before December 16. Stores are likely to accommodate this trend and consumers should plan to make popular gift purchases early this holiday shopping season.

The hottest gift category this year is expected to be toys and games followed closely by consumer electronics. Gifts receiving the most specific mentions include smart phones, tablets, game consoles, digital cameras and televisions.

Other key findings include:

-Thirty-seven percent of women list "seasonal discounts" as their top motivating factor while only 20 percent cite "gift practicality." Men were more evenly divided between "seasonal discounts" (30 percent) and "gift practicality" (27 percent) as the driving factor influencing their holiday shopping.

-Men are more likely to shop for consumer electronics this year while women intend to buy games and toys.

-Respondents aged 18-34 are significantly more likely to shop for consumer electronics this holiday season than any other age group surveyed.

-Approximately one-third of respondents from households with a combined annual income of $100,000 or more are expected to shop on Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday. The opposite is true for respondents from households with a combined annual income of less than $35,000.

-Respondents from lower income households are more driven to find the perfect gift for their loved ones this year, with 40 percent of respondents in the $35,000-and-under income category saying that "finding the perfect gift" is the factor most likely to influence their holiday shopping.

With the rapid growth of online shopping, consumers planning to buy their gifts over the Internet this holiday season should be aware of their state's tax remittance policies, save all receipts from online purchases and be sure to calculate and remit the taxes at the appropriate time. This unnecessary burden on consumers would be lifted if and when Congress passes Marketplace Fairness legislation. Modernizing the sales tax system so that it aligns with the 21st Century marketplace will benefit consumers and create a level playing field for all retailers.

Source: ICSC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Flu Prevention Tips

November 12, 2013 3:57 am

Germ removal experts at Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System® have developed helpful tips to keep office environments healthy and help eliminate germ "hot spots" during cold and flu season.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, it is important to keep work environments clean. Reception desks, counters, door handles, telephones and computer keyboards are some of the most common surfaces that are touched hundreds of times throughout the day. Germs quickly spread from surfaces to the immune system, making it important to clean areas with EPA-registered disinfectants frequently.

Here are some strategies to remain flu-free this season:

-Know the germ "hot spots" in the office. For example, the average phone has 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. Flu viruses can live on surfaces up to four days. It's important to properly disinfect your work area frequently.

-Eating at your desk? Your work surface is a "bacteria cafeteria" according to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona.

-Know the grimiest things you touch at the office on daily basis: kitchen sink and faucet handles; microwave and fridge door handles; vending machine, elevator and ATM buttons; drinking fountains; keyboards and touchscreens.

The most common way the flu spreads is by hand-to-face transmission. The average person touches their face 18.5 times and 30 objects within an hour. Washing hands frequently with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds helps stop the transmission of germs.

"For years, professionals in the commercial cleaning industry relied on their senses to determine whether something was clean or dirty," said Sean Kajcienski, chief sales officer at Coverall. "The old way of cleaning with string mops, upright vacuums and cotton rags doesn't work. In fact, those old techniques can actually make the problem worse by spreading germs throughout your facility."

Kajcienski advises workers be aware of harmful germs lurking in unexpected areas and traveling throughout the office. Last flu season began in November and was the worst since 2009. December, January and February log the most flu cases, so the time to "step up" your germ-killing cleaning program is now.

Advanced technology, such as the ATP meter, is often used in restaurants, schools and hospitals to accurately verify germ reduction after cleaning.

Germs can best be killed and removed from surfaces using:

-Hospital-grade disinfectants (proven to kill germs)
-Color-Coded microfiber towels (towel used on toilet not used in kitchen)
-Flat mops with self-dispensing buckets (never uses dirty water)
-HEPA Backpack Vacuums (removes 99.97 percent of particles)

Source: Coverall

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DIY Decorating that Lasts All Season Long

November 12, 2013 3:57 am

(BPT) - As the holidays roll around, it's natural to want to spread good tidings and cheer with festive decorations like wreaths, candy canes and Santa Claus figurines. But this year, instead of digging out the same old holiday decorations, why not create some new looks that will last the entire winter season, even after you put away the gift wrap and ornaments?

Stimulate the senses

Nothing says winter like the fresh smell of pine and the soft, warm glow of candle light. Place pine tree-scented white taper candles around your living spaces, light and enjoy for a fresh look and smell that will stimulate your senses well into 2014.

Color works wonders

Another easy way to excite the senses during a drab, gray winter is with pops of color. For a decorative display that lasts all season, avoid the red and green color combination associated with Christmas and branch out with more contemporary choices like teals, blues, purples and pinks. Metallics like silver and gold are also a great way to glitz up the season without looking like the North Pole in overdrive. Group spray-painted ornaments or pine cones in a hurricane vase or glass bowl and display on the mantel for added ambiance to any living room.

Deck the halls

Looking for a way to display the abundance of holiday cards from friends and family? Repurpose an old window shutter to create a unique display. Start by spray painting it with a festive shade, such as green or burgundy, which adds a touch of holiday spirit. Once dry, hang the shutter in the kitchen or entryway and place holiday cards in the slats of the shutter for a creative way to stay organized. Once the holidays have passed, you can still use the shutter to display birthday cards, thank you notes, party invitations and more all year long.

Outdoor decor
The inside of the home isn't the only space you can be creative. Make a lasting statement before house guests even step inside your home by focusing decorative attention to the outside. Line walkways and driveways with lights or faux miniature pine trees, and place white flameless candlesticks on each windowsill to add a simple touch of holiday spirit without going overboard. Prop a vintage snow sled outside the front door to welcome guests.

Source: www.krylon.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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