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Mark Strobel
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Mark Strobel
4550 W. Tilghman Street | Allentown, PA 18104
Phone: 610-398-8111 1471 | Office Phone: 610-398-8111 | Fax: 267-354-6254
email: mstrobel@remaxcentralinc.com

My Blog

Greener Homes Start with ENERGY STAR

November 4, 2015 2:39 pm

Want to save money at home without sacrificing comfort or convenience? Start with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® program, the world’s most widely recognized symbol for energy efficiency that saves families and businesses $300 billion on utility bills while reducing carbon pollution by two billion metric tons.

Even something as simple as a new light bulb can help save money and energy—in fact, an ENERGY STAR light bulb consumes up to 90 percent less energy over its lifetime, saving between $30 and $80.

You can reduce your impact even further by choosing a clean energy resource to power your home. Many areas offer electricity options that include generating sources that emit no or negligible air emissions, such as from wind or solar power. As the price of these energy sources continues to fall, you can start saving even more money on your electricity bills while reducing your carbon footprint. To find out which options are available in your area, consult EPA’s Green Power Locator (1.usa.gov/1S6vsGI).

Source: EPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is a 'Failure to Launch' Eating Your Household Budget?

November 4, 2015 2:39 pm

As more multigenerational living arrangements take hold in American homes, many homeowners find themselves providing financial support for their adult children. In fact, more than half of those polled in a recent American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) survey report they are footing some of the bills for at least one child over age 24—the most common of which is housing.

“Parenting doesn’t end when your children reach age 18 and, for many people, neither does the financial responsibility of supporting them,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “Setting aside the often crushing burden of student loan debt, everyday expenses for adult children are something parents are trying to manage every day.”

Respondents to the survey also report supporting their adult children with household bills, providing transportation and covering medical expenses, despite the fact that 65 percent of those adult children are employed.

Over 25 percent of those polled say they’re providing over $250 a month in financial support to their adult children; nearly 15 percent are spending over $500 a month. More than three-quarters of respondents believe providing that support is hindering their ability to save.

ACCC is a national nonprofit that helps consumers with budgeting, financial education and debt management.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Disaster Preparedness Tips for Seniors

November 4, 2015 2:39 pm

They say with age comes wisdom—and when it comes to weathering disasters like fire, flood or hurricane, older individuals and their caregivers would be wise to prepare, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Older individuals are particularly vulnerable to disaster, as they may have special needs, and seniors may also have trouble keeping up with the routine maintenance necessary for protecting their home. To be prepared, the I.I.I. suggests the following tips:

1. Have a disaster kit on hand with the supplies you need if you have to evacuate or manage on your own for a period after a disaster. For a full list of disaster supply items, visit Ready.gov.

2. Keep an up-to-date file of medical history including doctors, prescriptions and dosages. Include a copy in your disaster kit.

3. Plan for an evacuation by first learning if you are in an evacuation zone. Your local county government or municipality can provide this information.

4. Keep your homeowners insurance up-to-date, and continue to insure your home even if it is paid off. To ease the claims filing process, keep an up-to-date home inventory.

5. Consider flood and earthquake coverage as neither are provided under standard homeowners and renters policies. Flood insurance is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Maintenance Tasks to Complete when Daylight Savings Ends

November 4, 2015 2:39 pm

With Daylight Saving Time at an end, now is a good time to tick the boxes on this home maintenance checklist, courtesy of the Mister Sparky® experts.

Test your smoke alarms.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing your smoke alarms each month and replacing the batteries at least once a year. They also recommend replacing all smoke alarms every 10 years.

Check outdoor lighting.
Inspect all the wiring and light bulbs on your outdoor lighting. With less daylight, proper lighting outside can help ensure safety and security. There are new, LED, outdoor lighting options that can help save energy.

Check your timers.
Outdoor lighting timers, pool pumps and yard sprinklers need to be seasonally adjusted. Pools in the cooler seasons only need to be on an hour or two to circulate chemicals.

Save energy.
According to the Department of Energy,  upgrading to energy-efficient light bulbs and motion-sensing light switches in places like walk-in closets, dim pantries and hallways consumes 25-80 percent less energy than traditional light bulbs, saving you money on your monthly utility bills.

Source: Mister Sparky® Electricians

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Winter Improvements Add Value, Appraisers Say

November 4, 2015 2:39 pm

Did you know winterizing your home has the potential to increase its value? According to the Appraisal Institute, making specific improvements ahead of colder months is often well worth the investment.

“Fall is an ideal time for homeowners to take stock and make the appropriate updates for the cold months ahead,” says Appraisal Institute President M. Lance Coyle.  “Routine improvements can make a winter indoors more enjoyable and, in some cases, increase the value of a home.”

Home improvements with the highest cost-to-value ratio include steel entry door replacement, mid-range and upscale garage door replacement and wood window replacement, according to a recent Hanley Wood Cost vs. Value Report. Replacement projects tend to generate higher returns on value than major room remodels, including those of kitchens and baths. At the time of resale, for instance, a bathroom remodel recoups 70 percent of its cost, but a steel entry door replacement recoups almost 102 percent.

Along with making these improvements, homeowners can winterize with some simple, energy- and cost-efficient measures:

• Check for air leaks around walls, ceilings, doors, lighting and plumbing fixtures, switches and electrical outlets.

• Look for ways to use controls such as sensors, dimmers and timers to reduce lighting use.

• Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.

• Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads.

• Close curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts; open them during the day to let in the warming sunlight.

Additionally, taking steps to winterize outside of the home can protect investments in landscaping, a deck or roof, all of which can potentially add to property values. Consult with an appraiser before making decisions on which outdoor winterization projects to undertake.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Questions Every Job Candidate Should Be Prepared to Answer

November 2, 2015 12:54 am

In a less-than-flourishing employment market, job-seekers have to compete for positions. One good way to improve your chances is to sharpen up your interview skills.

“There are three things I look for in every candidate, Lori Senecal, CEO of the CPM Partner Network, told Adam Bryant of the New York Times. “I always ask three questions to determine which job-seekers can deliver.”

Savvy candidates would do well to address the issues behind Senecal’s three main questions—whether or not they are specifically asked – at some point during the interview:

What have you invented? – This doesn’t mean you have to have built a robot that brings beer from the fridge, explained Senecal. It’s to establish that you have a creative mindset and an ability to find fresh solutions – a new, more efficient way of doing something…or filing something…or approaching something. What in your school years or a previous job moved you to solve a problem?

What is your greatest achievement? – This may be less to learn about your achievement (which has probably been answered with question one) than to test your willingness to be part of a team. Senecal finds an ‘I/we’ mindset more significant than an ‘I/me’ perspective. Think about a time when you worked with a team to achieve a positive outcome.

Have you ever had to stick your neck out for the greater good of a mission? – "I want people who are willing to take bold action to move the mission forward," Senecal said. She looks for talent that embodies original thinking, passion and dedication, and a spirit of collaboration—traits it will most likely take to excel in a creative work environment. Was there a time when you bucked the established view in order to get something done?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Space-Saving Tricks to Open Up a Small Kitchen

November 2, 2015 12:54 am

A well-designed kitchen should offer minimum clutter and maximum efficiency. Whether you are redecorating or totally remodeling, check out these space-saving ideas shared by noted kitchen designers with House Beautiful editors:

Re-think the design – If your kitchen is not wide enough to add an island, rethink your existing counter. Jutting a small counter piece out from the wall to form an L-shape can up the available workspace by a lot.
Smart cabinets – For more accessible pantry space, think about slide-out shelves in upper kitchen cabinets that can slide out over countertops.

Tucked-away seating – When not in use, backless stools can be slipped under the breakfast counter or even under a kitchen island to save space, while offering seating when you need it.

Open shelving – Think about replacing upper cabinets with open shelving, which can hold more and make a small kitchen look larger than it really is.

Go lighter – a small kitchen can look larger just by replacing or refinishing dark wood cabinets and/or backsplash tiles in a much lighter color.

Hang pots and pans – An antique pot rack on one wall keeps pots and pans within easy reach and frees up lots of cupboard space.

Hanging knife rack – A knife block is nice, but it takes up lots of space. Free that counter space by hanging a knife rack on the wall.

Add mirrors – It’s a trick of the eye, but using antiqued mirrored glass in place if regular glass in your cabinet doors will enlarge the look of a small kitchen.

Roll with it – If you have someplace to tuck it away when not in use, a moveable rolling cart – even a folding cart – offers a great way to gain needed counter space while you are working in the kitchen.

Conquer the corners – Try a lazy Susan solution to turn that smidgen of unusable cabinet space in the corner of your kitchen into a useful bit of extra storage space.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Dos and Don'ts If You're Eyeing A Home Equity Loan

November 2, 2015 12:54 am

With interest rates still hovering at historic lows and the economy and job picture improving across the nation, many property owners are eyeing home equity loans to underwrite a variety of products and purchases. So we're tapping the folks at Take Charge America, a nonprofit financial planning and resource site (takechargeamerica.org) for some common-sense, home equity dos and don’ts:

DON’T use home equity to purchase unnecessary luxuries.

DO use home equity for improvements or additions that add value to your home. It may also be appropriate to use home equity to purchase income-producing property or an investment that’s expected to generate a higher return than the cost of the loan.

DON’T tap home equity if you plan to sell in the near future.

DO consider home equity to cover expenses from unexpected events. If you do not have emergency savings, your home equity can provide financial relief related to unexpected events, such as an injury preventing you from working.

DON’T take out excessive equity. Since a home equity loan or line of credit decreases the amount of equity you have in your home, if you have taken out too much equity and the real estate market drops, you can end up losing all the equity in your home. Further, if you have negative equity, the lender may demand immediate payment of the loan.

DO consider home equity for use in retirement. Retired homeowners who have paid off their mortgage can sell their home and cash out the equity by downsizing. Further, homeowners 62 and older have the option of reverse mortgages, which basically means the bank will give your equity back to you while you’re still living in it. The homeowner does not need to repay the mortgage for as long as he/she lives in that house.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Tips for a Spooky—but Safe—Halloween

October 30, 2015 12:51 am

Each Halloween, safety should be a top priority for parents of trick-or-treaters. “Parents should educate kids on the true phantoms of the night while trick-or-treating," says Dr. Steven Frick, spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “They aren't ghosts and goblins. Instead, they'll need to watch out for aggressive neighborhood dogs, vehicles on the road, poorly lit houses and uneven terrain and be prepared for what to do during these situations."

Specifically, the AAOS suggests the following:

• Walk on sidewalks and never cut across yards or driveways. Obey all traffic signals and remain in designated crosswalks when crossing the street.

• Costumes should be flame-resistant and fit properly. The child's vision should be unobstructed by masks, face paint or hats. Costumes that are too long may cause kids to trip and fall, so trim or hem them as necessary.

• Bright-colored costumes make it easier for children to be seen at dusk or in the dark. Add reflective tape to costumes and treat bags to provide additional visibility.

• Wear sturdy, comfortable, slip-resistant shoes to avoid falls.

• Trick-or-treaters should only approach houses that are well-lit.

• Both children and parents should carry flashlights to see and be seen. Do not point your flashlight above chest level to avoid obstructing the vision of other trick-or-treaters.

• Be aware of neighborhood dogs when trick-or-treating, and remember that pets can impose a threat when you approach their homes.

• Carry a cell phone while trick-or-treating in case of an emergency.

Source: AAOS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Design Book: Go Mod with Metal, Geometric Shapes

October 30, 2015 12:51 am

(BPT)—Once limited to simplistic, clean lines and cool color schemes, modern interior design has evolved to include sleek, minimalistic looks with gentle, warm, organic elements. With the right accents, this “approachable” take on modern design can be effortlessly incorporated into any home.

Not sure if modern design is right for you? Test the waters with these ideas, curated by the experts at Delta (www.deltafaucet.com).

Let There be Light

The right lighting is critical when creating a space that channels modern design. Remember quality of light and placement are key. If you wish to highlight certain room features, spot lighting can be incorporated, whereas skylights work well for added natural light.

Bring on the Bling

Metal accents often serve as the focal point of modern design. Start with the basics: hardware, faucets and fixtures. If you gravitate toward warm finishes like bronze tones, choose accents with clean, minimalistic silhouettes. If you prefer finishes with cool blue undertones, like chrome and stainless, look for hardware with organic shapes inspired by nature.

Color Your World

Use a neutral, like grey, white or beige, as the primary color in your home to enhance a contemporary feel. To elevate your home's color palette, incorporate organic materials such as wood or slate in dark, rich tones.

Create Harmony

To maintain a modern feel, complementariness is the key with accessories. Look for a few small items that work within organic schemes. For instance, geometric-shaped mirrors work well across from windows to enhance natural light, and a touch of greenery can come to life in a minimal, white pot.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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