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

Take Time to Tackle Home Maintenance

August 13, 2013 2:02 am

(Family Features) Keeping a healthy home for your family means more than daily chores and the occasional deep cleaning. It’s important to add inspections of often overlooked areas and regular maintenance to your list of tasks.

“Every home can have unhealthy, harmful, or even hazardous areas,” said Mike Holmes, a contractor on HGTV and healthy home expert. “It’s important to check them out, especially during regular maintenance. Addressing these ‘hidden hazards’ helps create a healthy home and keeps your family safe.”

Holmes recommends following his “SAFETY” checklist:

S - Seek out lead in the home.
If your home was built before 1978, it could contain lead. If you disturb any material that contains lead, tiny lead particles could become airborne at home. Talk to a professional to test the entire house, and take the necessary steps to ensure your family’s safety.

A - Address indoor air quality and change your air filter.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution levels can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels. Use an electrostatically charged air filter to help capture odors and airborne particles, such as mold spores, dust mite debris, bacteria and viruses. Plus, changing your filter at the start of every season helps protect and maintain your system.

F - Fix leaks to prevent mold and mildew.
Mold spores need moisture to grow and thrive in warm, humid conditions. Inspect your home for excess water and moisture build-up from leaky roofs, faucets, basement drains, dishwashers and washing machines, and fix them immediately.

E - Exercise caution around appliances.
Before using appliances such as space heaters and toaster ovens, make sure they are working properly. Never drape an electrical cord over a sink. Also avoid overloading wiring or plugging too many appliances into a single wall socket. Be sure to unplug appliances when they’re not being used, and cover sockets with outlet protectors.

T - Test for dangerous gases.
One out of every 15 homes in the U.S. has dangerous levels of radon, according to the EPA. You can purchase a short-term home radon test for less than $20. Test the lowest lived-in level of your home, and if you have elevated levels of radon, call a qualified contractor immediately. Also, test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month by pushing the test button on the unit. Remember to change the batteries every season, and replace the entire unit every 7 to 10 years.

Y - Yield healthier results with regular upkeep.

Keep up with regular home maintenance to help keep your home healthy and your family safe. Fix small problems now to avoid big repairs later. Remember, big repairs come with big price tags and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe living conditions.

Source: 3M

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Lifespan of an Appliance: How Long Should They Last?

August 12, 2013 2:00 am

Maybe it’s not the eternal question, but I found myself asking it most recently as I was lying on the wet floor ratcheting the drive motor out of my seven-year-old front-loading washer. The question was: “How long is this appliance supposed to last, anyway?”

Sure, we all know the lifespan of any mechanical device depends on dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands of factors over time from the original parts assembled in the factory, to the frequency of use (or abuse), we as owners exact on our mechanical servants.

But this time, it seems we have an answer to that vexing question thanks to a highly touted study called: ‘The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Bank of America Home Equity Study of the Life Expectancies of Home Components.’

Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president for Research and Surveys in NAHB’s Economics Group says, “…We learned that many home components are expected to last for the life of the house. Among them are toilets, wood floors, all types of insulation, and fiberglass, steel and wood exterior doors.

“On the other hand, some components have a much shorter life expectancy,” he adds. “Wood decks should last about 20 years, depending on climate, and kitchen faucets should last about 15 years. Linoleum floors have a life expectancy of about 25 years, and furnaces can be expected to last 15 to 20 years.”

Usage, weather and a number of other factors can influence life expectancy.

Moreover, homeowners often replace items long before the end of their expected life span due to personal preferences and changing trends.
“For example,” Ahluwalia says, “the practical life expectancy of kitchen cabinets is about 50 years. However, many people buying a 15- or 20-year-old house would make installing new, updated kitchen cabinets a priority. Likewise, some homeowners paint their homes every year or two, even though interior paint has a practical life expectancy of about 15 years.”

By the way, in consulting the report, I learned my washer in particular was expected to last about 10 years. That means with the extra wear and tear of handling greater than average load size and frequency during its 7-year life, I’m probably better off replacing it for around $600, than paying more than $200 for just a replacement motor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Money-Saving Tips to Turn Regular Back-to-School Shoppers into Savvy Consumers

August 12, 2013 2:00 am

As parents and students prepare to shop for everything they need for the coming school year, PriceGrabber® offers ten money-saving tips you can use to save big.

According to a recent survey, 68 percent plan to spend up to $500 this back-to-school shopping season," said Sharon Banfield, director of public relations at PriceGrabber. "With a little homework, budgeting, and creativity, shoppers can easily reduce this number and get the most for their buck this year."

1. Take a household inventory. Scan the kitchen, office, bedrooms and the rest of the house for miscellaneous supplies. Take an inventory of the findings and then compare this to your kids' supply lists. The findings will most likely cover many items on the lists.

2. Make a list with a budget and stick to it. When planning a budget for this year's back-to-school shopping, start by making a list and separating "must-have" items from "wants." This doesn't mean you can't indulge in some trendy gear, just shop for necessities first. Take a look at how much you spent last year and challenge yourself to spend less this year.

3. Involve the (older) kids. Turn back-to-school shopping into a family activity by charting out the budget in a creative way with your children. This will help teach them to budget while you bond as a family. However, if you have young kids consider leaving them at home to avoid getting distracted from your shopping list.

4. Host a clothing exchange with other parents. Invite about 12 to 15 parents with children of similar ages, sizes and genders over to exchange kids' clothing. Have guests bring about 10 clean items in good condition so that they can leave with 10 different pieces in similar condition. Even if only a few items fit, everything was still free.

5. Shop online and look for free shipping. Skip the crowds and shop online. Comparison-shopping sites can save consumers money on popular back-to-school items like tablet computers, backpacks, dorm room furniture, and basic school supplies. Look for retailers offering free shipping to save even more.

6. Use your mobile device as a shopping aid. If shopping a brick-and-mortar store sale, use your smartphone to ensure the sale price is really the best deal in town.

7. Shop end-of-summer sales. Stock up on summer clothing which can be worn well into the fall. Sweaters and leggings can be paired with summer shirts and dresses for an easy transition into the cooler months. Microwaves, storage bins, tool kits and other dorm room must-haves are also a part of the summer clearance sales.

8. Follow your favorite shopping sites on social media. Be the first to know about special offers from your favorite retailers and shopping sites. Some retailers may offer exclusive back-to-school discount codes or coupons.

9. Buy in bulk. Pencils, markers, printer paper and other supplies are always in high demand. Spend a little more money now and buy large quantities, which will give you cheaper supplies needed later in the year.

10. Personalize. Jazz up inexpensive, plain school supplies such as notebooks and folders with stickers. Let your student get creative and personalize their items so they don't get mixed up with other students' supplies. There's a better chance you won't have to spend money on lost items later in the year.

Source: PriceGrabber®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Ways to Improve Personal Finances

August 12, 2013 2:00 am

(Family Features) As more Americans make strides towards responsible spending and debt management, there are still ways to improve the control of family finances.

According to a recent survey, less than half of cardholders always pay their entire credit card balance. With more than half of individuals carrying credit card debt, there are ways to promote good spending and personal finance habits, such as:

Limit Number of Credit Cards

Limiting the number of cards you own can help limit your spending and increase the likelihood you can pay above the minimum balance. Before you start cutting up your plastic, remember having more than one credit card can have merits. One idea is to have three cards: one in a safe place at home for emergencies and two with you at all times.

Reap the Rewards

Use the rewards programs available to credit card holders to cash in on things your family really needs. Whatever rewards you are seeking, there is likely to be a card suitable for you.

Evaluate All Debts
Many carry debts beyond credit cards, including student loans, car payments and mortgages. Evaluate your debts and decide which ones have the highest interest rates. Making it a priority to pay down these debts first will save you more money in the long run.

Create a Budget
It’s never too soon to put yourself in control of your money and stop letting it control you. A budget will give you financial peace of mind and it can help you stretch the income you have. Calculate your income and expenses and set your monthly budget. Though you may not be on-point every month, the simple act of tracking your spending will be a huge step forward in your quest towards responsible spending.

Source: BOA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Keep a Speeding Ticket Out of Your Summer

August 11, 2013 8:00 am

(BPT) - Want to know how to avoid a speeding ticket? Easy - don't speed. But even the most law-abiding drivers with flawless records can make mistakes and find themselves pulled over. In fact, 34 million people in the United States receive speeding tickets each year, according to the National Motorists Association.

A ticket can raise insurance rates and tarnish your driving record, according to FindLaw.com. If you get arrested or fined for other traffic violations, those tickets can lead to stiffer fines and penalties.

"The big rule of speeding tickets is that most come at the discretion of the police officers involved," says Don Cosley, a criminal defense attorney of the Cosley Law Office in Chicago. "Unless the officers are working a state or federal grant where they are required to issue traffic tickets, how you interact with a police officer will play a considerable role in whether you drive away with a warning or a ticket."

"Always cooperate with law enforcement officers," Cosley says. "They've heard every excuse in the book. If you immediately start arguing or making smart comments, your chances of driving away with a ticket increase."

Here are some additional tips from FindLaw.com on how to avoid a speeding ticket:

• Watch for posted speed limit signs. According to a 2013 survey by Insurance.com, the top excuse for speeding is, "I didn't see the sign." The safest way to avoid a speeding ticket is to carefully watch posted signs and not exceed the limit. Even five miles per hour over the speed limit can land you a ticket - particularly near schools, road construction zones and other hotspots where police try to increase safety.

• Give yourself plenty of time. If you're running late, you're more likely to speed. One simple trick you can do to build in some travel time is to set your house clocks a few minutes ahead. Remember, you'll arrive even later if you get pulled over.

• Keep a clean driving record. Police cars are often equipped with computer systems that allow law enforcement to instantly look up your driving record. A driver with a clean record is more likely to be let off with a warning than one with several traffic violations.

• Stay off your cell phone. Cell phone use is legal in some states and illegal in others, but distracted driving should always be avoided. If you are observed speeding and using your phone at the same time, it will dramatically boost your odds of driving away with a ticket, rather than a warning, and it may increase fines associated with the violation.

• Avoid speed traps. Speed limits typically drop when you approach a small town or city. That's prime real estate for speed traps. Police often use highway overpasses, bridges or medians with a clear view of oncoming traffic to hunt for speeders.

• Don't stand out. Drivers who go too fast, swerve or aggressively pass other drivers are more likely to draw the attention of the police.

• Move over. After using the left lane to pass a car, move back over to the right lane. Cars that continue to pass other cars while in the left lane are easy targets for police. Also keep in mind that in some states, the left lane is only for passing.

• Cooperate with the police officer. Being cooperative and respectful toward the police officer who pulls you over is one of the best ways to avoid a speeding ticket. It also can help defuse a potentially stressful situation. If you are pulled over, start by turning off your car, put away your cell phone and place your keys on the dashboard and your hands on the wheel in the 10 and 2 o'clock position to show the officer that you aren't doing anything illicit before he or she arrives. Taking off your sunglasses also can be a show of respect. If it's nighttime, turn on the interior lights of your car.

• Save your arguments for traffic court. If you believe you don't deserve a speeding ticket, take your argument to court. Don't argue it with a police officer at the scene.

Source: FindLaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Quickly Sell Your Home

August 11, 2013 8:00 am

Why do some houses sell faster than others? Same house, same number of bedrooms, same size garden, same street. The difference? The house down the road is presented properly for a quick turnaround.

You must present your property in the best possible light. That means present it as you would wish to see it for the very first time. Let's start at the first thing a potential buyer will see - the front of the house. Is the gate hanging off the hinges? Is the path/driveway covered in weeds?

Does the front door need a lick of paint? Do the windows need cleaning? Whatever the season you're selling a house, there's always stuff to do, so get them done! First impressions count; don't put off your potential buyer before they've even got through the front door.

In the living room, make sure the TV is turned off, cushions plumped up, carpet vacuumed, toys and general stuff put away, the room freshly aired and flowers somewhere in the room. The living room, as with all rooms, should be freshly decorated and de-cluttered.

Next move on to the kitchen - the most important room in the house! Get it spotless. All dishes should be cleaned and put away, the table set, and the floor polished. Show that you have pride in your kitchen and that it’s an important room in the house. The smell of coffee or freshly baked bread or cut flowers always works as a treat.

The back yard should also be kept tidy. Make sure all toys and bikes are hidden away in the garage or shed, have the grass freshly cut and all weeds removed, and make sure the garden furniture is clean and well presented. And hide any gnomes!

Back in the house, the master bedroom should show with fresh clean linen and curtains open to give as much light as possible. Do the same with the kids’ rooms and again, hide any clutter, take down all the One Direction posters and make sure the bedrooms don't have any lingering smells.

Use these simple tips to help you sell your house quicker than your neighbor. Do these and more if you can and you will soon be shaking hands with your buyer.

Source: Flying Homes Ltd

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Ten Reasons Your Property Isn't Hurricane-Ready

August 11, 2013 8:00 am

If you used the plywood from your hurricane shutters to build a tree house there’s a good chance you aren’t hurricane-ready.

If hurricane season is anything like last year, being prepared is paramount. State Farm is reminding property owners that a little preparation can make a big difference when it comes to safety and security.

Is your property hurricane-ready? If you identify with a majority of our top ten list, you may not be ready:

1. Your roof is in poor condition and the shingles are questionable.
2. Your house has large trees looming over it and branches ready to fall.
3. There are none of those famous “hurricane straps” on your trusses or rafters.
4. The house was never bolted down to the foundation.
5. The plywood that’s supposed to serve as hurricane shutters was used to build a tree house.
6. Your six foot-wide patio doors rattle every time the wind blows.
7. The wind brace for your garage door is holding up a bird feeder.
8. The stuff in your yard; patio furniture, solid fence, pool cage, etc. is ready to sail away in the wind.
9. You have no emergency power system (generator).
10. You forgot to meet with your agent to review your homeowners coverage.

Forecasters expect to see above-average hurricane activity between now and November. The peak of hurricane season begins in August. Homeowners can protect themselves and their property with a few easy steps:

Review your insurance coverage. Make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance.

Create a home inventory. Make a list of your possessions and their estimated value.

Protect your property. Stock plywood and materials you may need to board up windows. Move garbage cans and other large objects inside the house or garage. Secure boats and cars.

Have an evacuation plan. Before the hurricane, decide what you will do. Find out the location of evacuation shelters. Determine if you will ride out the storm in your home (if local authorities permit you to stay), or establish a safe place inland. Plan an escape route. Tell relatives where you will be.

Source: State Farm

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Turn Your Balcony into an Edible Garden

August 11, 2013 8:00 am

Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries.

“There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, CEO of Greenbo. “Plants add a great deal to our quality of life – from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they’re convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.”

While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.

He offers these tips especially for balcony gardeners:

Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have:

Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun?

• Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day.)
• Remember, pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive. Plants in regions with short growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.

Choose the right pots:
• Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where the winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Non-porous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.
• Most vegetable plants require even watering – don’t let them dry out completely and don’t keep them soggy. Apply water directly to the soil.
• Make sure your containers have drainage holes or a drainage system. If they have an attached tray to catch excess water, don’t allow the plants’ roots to sit in the water, which promotes rot and fungus. Either empty the tray regularly, or use a design that holds the water away from the roots.

Use the right dirt:
• It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted – a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots out. You can buy a sterile soilless potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix up your own batch using one part compost, one part perlite and one part potting soil.
• Don’t use garden soil or top soil, which won’t allow adequate drainage.
• On windy balconies, top-dress your container with small rocks to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.

Joulus offers one more tip for high-rise dwellers: Rely on self-pollinating plants, or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate.

“You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” he says.

Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Small Home Improvements That Save Big

August 11, 2013 8:00 am

Home improvements almost always increase the value of your home. But you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot to get results that will save you big money in the long run.

U.S. News personal finance experts suggest eight budget-friendly but energy efficient fixes guaranteed to be worth more than what they cost:

• Low-flow fixtures – Easily installed low-flow showerheads, which cost as little as $20 at most home improvement stores, and other low-flow fixtures, can reduce your home water consumption by as much as 50 percent and save you up to $145 annually, according to Energy Star estimates.

• Programmable thermostats – Used properly, Energy Star reports, these energy-saving devices are more accurate and can save users up to $150 per year

• Weather stripping – Air escaping from under your doors can account for as much as 30 to 40 percent loss of heat and cooling. Up your comfort and save money with weather stripping materials that start at as little as $5.

• Ceiling fans – The average ceiling fan, at about $50 in cost, can help keep your home more comfortable while reducing your energy bill by about $15 per year.

• Insulation – Adding insulation, at about $15 per roll, can reduce energy costs by up to 20 percent, experts say, while keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

• Compact fluorescent light bulbs – The odd-looking bulbs cost a little more initially than standard bulbs. But they last up to 10 times longer and will save you approximately $6 per year.

• Tankless water heaters – Tankless options cost a bit more, but will allow users to cut 20 percent off their water bills. They will also last up to 10 years longer than traditional water heaters and will never run out of hot water. Bonus: According to Energy Star, you can get a federal tax rebate if you buy one.

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Home Prices Pick Up Steam in Most Metro Areas during Second Quarter

August 11, 2013 8:00 am

Median home prices continued to rise in the majority of metropolitan areas in the second quarter, with the national year-over-year price showing the strongest gain in seven-and-a-half years, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Despite rising prices and higher mortgage interest rates, a companion breakout of income requirements to buy a median-priced home on a metro area basis shows most buyers remain well positioned to afford a home in their area.

The median existing single-family home price increased in 87 percent of measured markets, with 142 out of 163 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showing gains based on closings in the second quarter compared with the second quarter of 2012. Fifty areas, 31 percent, had double-digit gains; one was unchanged and 20 had price declines.

Eight markets were added to the report in the latest quarter. In the second quarter of last year, 75 percent of all available areas showed price gains from a year earlier, and only 14 percent of markets rose by double-digit amounts.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said tight inventory is continuing to drive home prices. “There continue to be more buyers than sellers, and that is placing pressure on home prices, with multiple bids common in some areas of the country,” he said. “Higher interest rates are now causing sales to level out, but the tight supply conditions look to be with us for the balance of the year in most of the country. Areas with tighter supplies generally are seeing the strongest price growth, including markets such as Sacramento, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Naples, San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

The national median existing single-family home price was $203,500 in the second quarter, up 12.2 percent from $181,300 in the second quarter of 2012, which is the strongest year-over-year increase since the fourth quarter of 2005 when it surged 13.6 percent. In the first quarter the median price rose 11.3 percent from a year earlier.

The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. A shrinking market share of lower priced homes accounts for some of the price growth. Distressed homes2 – foreclosures and short sales generally sold at discount – accounted for 17 percent of second quarter sales, down from 26 percent a year ago.

Yun notes areas impacted by judicial foreclosure are seeing more modest price increases. “In areas where foreclosed inventory still looms because distressed properties are mired in a slow process, lender and market uncertainty are holding back price growth. This includes areas such as New York City; Hartford; Conn.; and some markets in New Jersey.”

At the end of the second quarter there were 2.19 million existing homes available for sale, which is 7.6 percent below the close of the second quarter of 2012, when 2.37 million homes were on the market. The average supply during the quarter was 5.1 months, compared with 6.4 months in the second quarter of 2012.

“Supplies in the low 5-month range can be expected for the foreseeable future,” Yun said. “Steady increases in new home construction will help to relieve shortage conditions going into 2014, which would moderate price growth.”

Total existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.06 million in the second quarter from 4.94 million in the first quarter, and were 12.3 percent above the 4.51 million level during the second quarter of 2012. Sales were at the highest pace since the second quarter of 2007, when they hit 5.23 million.

According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.69 percent in the second quarter, up from 3.50 percent in the first quarter; it was 3.80 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Mortgage interest rates have trended higher in recent weeks.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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