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

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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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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.

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4 Tips for the Buyer of a Previously Owned Home

August 7, 2013 4:02 am

Purchasing homes with a history can present some unique issues, especially if they are not visible to the average homebuyer. Sewer-related problems are potentially one of the most expensive and least evident of those issues. When shopping for a new home, outdated or broken appliances, peeling paint or dirty carpet are a lot easier to spot than plumbing issues. And, while a standard home inspection will cover some of the basics like water damage and water heater safety, other common plumbing problems often go unseen. Potential sewage and drain issues may lurk beneath the surface, unbeknownst to the buyer.

Here are four tips for buyers:

1. If it happened once, it will happen again. It is extremely likely that a home would have an ongoing history of sewer-related issues. According to Roto-Rooter Director of Plumbing Services, Larry Rothman, “In fact, it's almost a certainty. Some customers require sewer cleaning every six months, while others need us on an annual basis or every two years. The roots from the same problem tree will continue to grow back as long as the sewer pipe has voids and loose joints that allow the roots to get inside the pipe and the problem almost always gets worse over time, requiring more frequent cleanings to keep the roots under control because pipes will shift within the soil causing misalignment between sections.”

2. Sump pump problems may not be evident unless there has been a fair amount of rain. Not all basement homes have sump pumps, but most ought to have them to prevent basement flooding. Sump pumps are now a normal requirement in most new building codes for basement homes, but older homes were not subject to the new, stricter codes and the vast majority of older basements are at risk for some level of basement flooding if rainfall is particularly heavy and the ground around the foundation becomes saturated.

Rothman says, “An inspection of the plumbing, particularly the sump system, water heater and sewer line could potentially save a prospective homebuyer a great deal of money, potentially thousands of dollars.”

3. A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection. Homebuyers regularly waive this extra inspection in the purchasing process because it requires an additional cost of anywhere from $250 to $550. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Whatever the reason for skipping a sewer line inspection, buyers should reevaluate foregoing this important step in signing a deal. If a problem exists, excavation could be required costing thousands of dollars after the home has already been purchased. “Sewer inspection camera equipment is expensive and often is only utilized by well equipped plumbing companies, but the video inspection service itself is easy to complete and well worth the extra step,” said Rothman.

4. Sellers do not have to disclose information about plumbing problems. Ask questions! Know when the home was built; if it is 25 years old or older, it is more likely to have nonplastic pipes that are at least somewhat deteriorated and more susceptible to root entry. Take note of mature trees, visible root growth and cracked concrete and ask if they are related to any persistent pipe problems.

The benefits of purchasing a previously owned home can be wonderful. However, some of the things a buyer loves most about an older home, the charm, older fixtures, the mature landscaping, can all be indicators of potentially costly problems for the plumbing system below the surface. Homebuyers may be focused on kitchen designs, interior paint or landscaping, overlooking the possibility of serious plumbing problems. In fact, about 44 percent of people purchasing homes call a plumber for one reason or another within the first year at their new residence. Simply avoid any unpleasant surprises before it is too late by being thorough in the inspection and buying phase. Ask the right questions and prevent the added cost of repairs down the road.

Source: Roto-Rooter

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Driving with Dogs: Tips to Keep Everyone in the Car Safe

August 7, 2013 4:02 am

(BPT) - It's only natural for man's best friend to stay close by his master's side, but for dog owners who drive frequently, bringing Fido along for the ride can be risky. The problem is particularly worrisome for older drivers; a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed that for people 70 years and older, crash rates were higher among those who frequently drove with pets in the car. But for many drivers, leaving precious pets behind isn't an option. The best compromise is to find solutions that will get you from point A to point B without compromising the safety of human or animal passengers.

Distracted driving is a growing concern and a loose pet in the car certainly numbers among the potential hazards that can take your eyes - and mind - off the road and lead to accidents. While older drivers might not be as likely to be distracted by texting or smartphone surfing, even those who have spent many years navigating the roads need to honestly assess how having a pet in the car can divert their attention away from the road.

To stay safe on the road when Fido is with you, remember these tips:

• Don't allow pets in the front seats. Having a pet sit on your lap is obviously distracting, but if he's in the front passenger seat, the problem can be just as bad. In the front seat, your pet is more likely to be within your line of sight and obstruct your view of the road. An unrestrained dog in the front seat could also be easily injured if you have to slam on the brakes or swerve, or are hit from behind. The force with which airbags deploy also poses a safety hazard for dogs in the front seat - if you're in an accident and they inflate and hit your dog, he could easily sustain an injury.

• Create separation. There are a variety of pet barriers on the market that can keep your pet from moving between the front and back seats of your car. Installing a barrier will help keep your pet out of your way and diminish concerns about him being propelled forward in case you have to make a sudden stop.

• Restrain your pet. There are a number of options for pet restraints in your vehicle. Pet seatbelts and car seats will help keep a dog safely in place. Keeping a crate in the car is also a good option. Make sure it's secured and large enough so that he can stand up, turn around and comfortably sit or lay down. Add a soft pad in the bottom of the crate and it might just become your pet's favorite way to travel.

• Brush up on your driving skills. Today's driving environment is probably very different than it was when you first got your license. A refresher course, like those offered by AARP Driver Safety, is an ideal way to ensure that your skills are up to date. Brushing up on defensive driving techniques and the essential rules of the road will help keep everyone in your car safe - and you may even qualify for a multi-year automobile insurance discount from your insurance company (check with your agent for details). AARP Driver Safety courses are available in a classroom or online setting, in both English and Spanish.

Source: www.aarp.org/drive

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Make Your Movie Night Modern

August 7, 2013 4:02 am

(Family Features)--It's that time of year again when the year's biggest movies begin invading theaters. But big movies can also mean big lines and big bucks.

Sometimes, it's just more convenient and affordable to have a movie night at home. Hosting an at-home movie night can be even more fun than taking a trip to the theater if you make it a "Modern Movie Night." Here are some tips to help put a new spin on a movie night at home:

Plan Ahead - The official Redbox mobile app lets you browse movies and reserve them for pickup, right from your phone. You can even see which boxes have your favorite movies. Pick the closest box and a copy will be reserved for you.

Spruce Up Your Snacks - One of the best things about the theater experience is the delicious snacks. But you can make what you eat at home just as good by putting a modern spin on old favorites. For example, once your popcorn has cooled, add M&M'S to give it a colorful, delicious new look.

Digital Movie Buzz - Don't just plop on the couch for the evening. Get together with family and friends and enjoy some digital fun before the movie starts. Guess The Movie app or MovieCat challenge you with quizzes and classic movie questions. You can even compare your own review of favorite movies with scores from Rotten Tomatoes.

If the flick is a bust, live tweet funny commentary while you watch or write your own movie reviews at moviequotesandmore.com. Try playing the popular movie trivia game Scene It or play Charades using Vine video clips. You can also check out cast info on the IMDB app. End the evening with a movie discussion and your house may become everyone's favorite home theater.

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Top Tips to Relax and Save on Labor Day Trips

August 6, 2013 3:56 am

Looking to plan a getaway for Labor Day weekend? Here are some tips for travelers who want to get out and explore over the long weekend without spending too much money.

1. Celebrate the long weekend in the Big Apple. The Wellington is available Sunday and Monday night for as little as $157 a night. Walk to Central Park or Broadway from the hotel.
2. Booking early is always a smart move. Thousands of hotels offer lower rates for bookings purchased 21 days in advance.
3. Atlantic City is a relaxing and exciting Labor Day destination, with rooms filling up fast. Enjoy fun casinos and a walk on the boardwalk.
4. Some of the top destinations for Labor Day include Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Orlando, London, San Diego, Washington DC, Myrtle Beach, San Francisco and Miami.
5. Use Southwest Airlines' low fares to get to your destination. Many flights are available for as low as $59 to some of the most popular spots throughout the country.
6. South Beach sizzles over Labor Day. Try one of Getaroom.com's value boutique hotels such as the Harrison Hotel to enjoy nearby beaches, great Cuban food and world-class shopping.
7. New Orleans offers great food, music, and a glimpse into the nation's past. Enjoy first-class accommodations from $99 a night at the St. James hotel.
8. Many hotels in Las Vegas offer very low rates during Labor Day. Every major hotel has a pool and ice-cold air conditioning to help you beat the September heat. Try The Quad for rates as low as $32 a night and an unbeatable center Strip location.

Labor Day is a time to reflect on all of the hard work that made the country great and also marks the end of the summer travel season. With proper planning and some help, Labor Day travel can be enjoyable and within any budget.

Source: Getaroom.com

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Renters Insurance Can Provide Important Financial Protection This Hurricane Season

August 6, 2013 3:56 am

Although the majority of homeowners purchase insurance for their home, when it comes to renters, only 65 percent have renters insurance, according to a poll conducted for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The number of renters is steadily increasing. According to an April 2013 U.S. Census Report, the share of housing occupied by renters rose to 35.4 percent in 2013—up from 34.1 percent in 2009. And in some of the country's largest cities, renters significantly outnumber homeowners. In New York City, 69 percent of households rent their homes, followed by Los Angeles (61.8 percent), Chicago (55.1 percent) and Houston (54.6 percent).

"One of the biggest insurance problems after Sandy was the large number of renters who did not have coverage for their homes," pointed out Jeanne M. Salvatore, the I.I.I.'s consumer spokesperson and senior vice president. "It can be extremely expensive to have to re-buy the entire contents of your home, so a renter’s insurance policy provides very important financial protection when there is a hurricane or other covered disaster."

The good news is that renters insurance is relatively inexpensive. In fact, the average renters insurance policy cost only $185 per year in 2010 (the latest year this data is available), according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That’s less than $16 per month.

When you purchase renters insurance, your belongings are covered against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage—for example, if an upstairs neighbor's tub overflows and damages items in your apartment. However, renters insurance does not cover damage from flooding. Flood insurance is available for renters from FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

Renters insurance includes additional living expenses (ALE) coverage if you are unable to live in your home because of a hurricane, fire or other disaster listed in the policy. ALE pays for hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

Like a standard homeowners insurance policy, renters insurance includes liability protection. This covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home or elsewhere by you, a family member or your pet and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court.

There are two main types of renters insurance policies:

1. Actual Cash Value coverage
pays to replace your possessions up to the limit of your policy, minus a deduction for depreciation.
2. Replacement Cost coverage pays the real cost of replacing your belongings (regardless of depreciation) up to the limit of your policy. This will usually cost about 10 percent more but is a much better value in the long run.

If you have expensive jewelry, furs, sports or musical equipment, or collectibles, you may want to consider adding a floater to your policy. Most standard renters policies include a limited dollar amount for such items. A floater is a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and may even cover them if they are accidentally lost.

The best way to determine how much renters insurance you need is to create a home inventory. This is a detailed list of all of your personal possessions along with their estimated value. An up-to-date home inventory will also make filing an insurance claim faster and easier. The I.I.I. offers free home inventory software and a mobile app at www.knowyourstuff.org.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

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Five Tips for Summer Picnic Food

August 6, 2013 3:56 am

Picnics are a great way to enjoy the last of those lazy summer afternoons in the sunshine and can be a cost effective family day out. Emma Bridgewater, the handmade kitchen and dinnerware company, has created the following five tips for the perfect picnic.

1) Keep food simple
Think about how practical certain dishes are when you prepare for a picnic. Dishes that work brilliantly around a dining table may not be so sensible served balanced on a picnic rug. Finger food eliminates the need for cutlery and will usually mean less mess at the end of the meal.

2) Choose foods that travel well
Hopefully you'll be taking advantage of a really beautiful day, in which case your picnic will be just one part of the day's fun. With this in mind, choose food that travels well. This will give your dishes a better chance of staying in tact, as well as keeping sandwiches from being disappointingly soggy by lunchtime. The most delicious sandwiches are often the simplest. Use lettuce or baby leaf spinach to surround mayonnaise-based sandwich fillings to keep the bread dry.

3) Create a finger-food salad
Chop up chunks of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks to make a finger-food salad. Serve in bowls with hummus for dipping for a delicious raw vegetable treat. This way you can still serve healthy food without the need for knives and forks.

4) Keep the desert simple
Bring a sponge cake and a bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries or grapes for a refreshing end to your picnic. Avoid sticky foods and cover cakes and sugary deserts to keep insects at bay. Keeping desserts simple is also likely to reduce the amount of cleaning up required at the end of the picnic.

5) Serve fresh and fruity drinks
Homemade lemonade or fruit juices can be kept cool with an ice pack in your picnic basket. Serving drinks in sturdy tumblers with a wide base mean they won't get spilled when you spread out on a picnic rug on uneven ground. Wine glasses and champagne flutes may look elegant at a picnic, but can leave guests struggling to hold a delicate glass, cutlery and plate of food.

Source: http://www.emmabridgewater.co.uk/

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Timely Tips for Home Buying

August 5, 2013 3:54 am

Regardless of market conditions, a home is not only a place to live, but also a financial asset and a plan for the future. But is it the right time for you to buy? Here are a few general rules to consider:

- Steady employment. It's essential to have a reliable source of income.

- A solid credit score. A bad credit score will increase mortgage interest rates. Potential homeowners should clean up their credit report and ensure that long-term debts are paid before considering homeownership. And when selecting a house, a potential buyer should determine the qualities that best suit his or her situation.

- An affordable price. The total cost of a home should generally be less than 2.5 years' pay. Ensure that the down payment and monthly mortgage payments are manageable.

- Location, location, location. Where a home is located can change its value dramatically. Being in a district with good schools, for example, is important -- both for raising the family and for resale value. Also consider what's going on in the community. Are peace and quiet high priorities, for example? Then perhaps a rural or suburban environment would work best. By contrast, if a desire for high culture and a fast lifestyle is a factor, then an urban setting might be preferred.

- Size matters. Is the home big enough, and will it allow for future growth?

Finally, when buying the house …

- Get some help from the pros. Using a real estate agent and a home inspector is important in selecting a good home and making an appropriate bid.

- Make the right mortgage move. When selecting a mortgage, determine whether it's better to pay additional points: One portion of the interest paid at closing may lead to greater savings down the road. If the plan is to stay around for a while (i.e., more than five years), experts say it's usually better to take the points.

Follow these tips and make your home-owning dream a reality. Buying a home is truly a life milestone, and it can be a big step toward financial security. Finding a good house in a nice neighborhood could be the key to making a home investment pay off.

Source: ForeclosedHomes.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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