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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

Athletes: How-to Protect Your Eyes

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

Whether you’re a pro athlete, a weekend warrior, or the parent of a little all-star, it’s important to consider eye safety when playing sports.

Here are some tips for both the professional athlete and the Little League star to stay safe:

- Athletes should wear sports eye protection that meets requirements set by appropriate organizations.

- Parents should make sure that children wear eye protection. Most often, those who sustain sports-related eye injuries are 18 years old or younger.

- Eye protection can weaken with age and may no longer provide adequate protection. Consider replacing when damaged or yellowed.

- For basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey, wear protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses.

- Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear. Contacts offer no protection and glasses do not provide enough defense.

- Professional athletes should also wear sports goggles that meet national standards.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Will Interest Rate Increases Affect Your Home Sale?

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

As the Fed began nudging up interest rates in March, I wondered what it might mean for the housing market. So we turned to  K.C. Sanjay, Senior Real Estate Economist at Axiometrics.com, who recently blogged about the subject.

When examining the potential impact on the single family housing market, Sanjay makes the following points:

- About 5.5 million existing homes were sold in 2016, according to the National Association of REALTORS, and the annual pace of new homes sold averaged more than 563,000, according to the U.S. Census. We expect the pace of home sales to pick up moderately this year and next. First-time home buyers remain on the sidelines, and other structural issues surrounding the single-family market prevent robust growth. Existing home sales are expected to average 5.76 million per year over the next five years, the NAR said.

- Housing months of supply remained low in 2016 at 4.5 months. So Axiometerics expects this rate to pick up during the next three years.

- The pace of housing starts during the past few years has been dominated by multifamily. So Axiometrics expects this to change during the next three years, as the pace of single-family permits picks up.

- Mortgage rates are expected to gradually increase over the next three years, yet remain low.

- The increase in rates is a sign of increases in general economic conditions. Though there will be less savings and higher risk to consumers because of rising rates, higher income growth will mitigate some of the hurdle in the short-run.

- Having said that, buyers today may be more sensitive to increased rates than in the past, because of higher requirements to qualify, sluggish income growth and rapid acceleration in prices over the past three years. Low interest rates helped offset these drags.

When examining how Americans are going to pay for their new homes, Sanjay points to the 4.7 percent unemployment rate – which is below the “natural rate” of 5 percent. He added that increasing wage-growth numbers added sufficient evidence of the U.S. economy’s strength to move the rates higher.

Axiometrics forecasts an average jobs gain of over 200,000 per month from 2017-2021.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What to Buy (and Not Buy) in May

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

The month of May brings us Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, both traditionally heavy shopping periods for spring clothing, cosmetics, and a wide variety of spring and summer outdoor goods.

While some retailers will tempt us with early summer sales, spring apparel will see the deepest discounts closer to Memorial Day weekend, according to consumer watchdog dealnews.com. Look for coupons in print and online to get the best prices on your favorite stores and brands.

The best deals anytime in May, says deal-news, will be on certain home goods, with a few surprises thrown in:

Buy a mattress – Memorial Day historically offers a chance to buy mattresses at 40 to 50 percent off regular prices. Check local sales and coupons.

Buy patio furniture – Sales on backyard furnishings, as well as camping gear,  begin in time for Memorial Day and may not be this good again until after July 4.

Check out big-screen TVs – But not too big. While spring is not the best time to buy a TV, you should find really good prices on 42- and 55-inch screen models.

Satisfy your Stars Wars fans – Believe it or not, May 4 is Star Wars Day. (“May the Fourth be with you! Get it?) Look for deals on Stars Wars-related toys, gear, and accessories on Amazon.com, the Disney Store and other retailers.

What about Jewelry? – If you’re looking for some bling for Mom or yourself, shop early. Strangely, jewelry prices tend to go up the closer you get to Mother’s Day. Or wait until just after Mom’s Day, when many retailers are anxious to unload unsold inventory.

Hold off on laptops – The best deals on Apple and PC laptops are found just before graduation in June or in time for back-to-school sales in September.

Stay out of the water – Swimsuits are just hitting the stores in May, and sales are not the norm. Hold off until July 4, if you can. That’s when the sales kick in.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Prevent Mosquito Bites for Your Kids

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

Spring and summer bring warm weather, longer days, and mosquitos. Luckily, you can do your part to help minimize mosquito activity around your home, and prevent those pesky little bites so that you and your family can stay bite-free.

Remove standing water. Mosquitoes love water and wet areas. Remove standing water from any place it collects, like flowerpots, drains, birdbaths, children's pools, and roof gutters, and teach children not to play in puddles.

Make sure your home has screens on doors and windows. Even small holes can let in mosquitoes, so be sure to repair any tears in the screens. Children can help by playing "detective" to find any holes in need of repair!

Mosquito netting can also be used to protect strollers and infant carriers or when sleeping outdoors.

When outdoors, use personal repellent, following the label instructions, and wear light colored and long-sleeved clothing.

Source: www.scjohnson.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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High Credit Card Balance? The New Normal

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

It’s no surprise that nearly three quarters of all adult Americans have at least one credit card. What may be surprising, however, is how much credit card debt we’re carrying. A January online poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) revealed that 56 percent of respondents carry $15,000 or more in credit card debt in their household, while only four percent declare themselves to be debt-free.

Unfortunately, high balances often lead to difficulty maintaining minimum payments and safeguarding your credit score. Before you come close to getting into credit card trouble, learn how to spot these early warning signs from the NFCC and take action:

Check your credit card usage regularly. Keep an eye on how and when credit cards are being used each month. If there is an increase in the number of times a credit card is used for purchases that had been covered in the past with cash, it could be a sign that you’re using credit to fill gaps in your budget. Instead of charging more often, look for ways to cut back to keep expenses in line with your cash flow.

Keep an eye on your balance. Each credit card comes with a credit limit. Your goal should be to keep the balance as low as possible compared to the limit. This makes payments more affordable and helps avoid running the risk of incurring costly penalties for overcharging. Stay out of trouble by paying off balances as quickly as possible, either all at once or by paying more than the monthly minimum payment.

Count your cards. Make sure plastic isn’t taking up too much space in your wallet. Federal Reserve data shows that Americans with credit carry nearly four credit cards on average. Most experts advise carrying less than that. If your number of cards is on the rise, consider consolidating. This makes it less stressful to keep track of payments and balances, which helps make debt management easier.

Source: The National Federation of Credit Counseling

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Not Your Usual Mom’s Day Gift Ideas

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

It isn’t easy to think of cool Mother’s Day ideas once the days of your hand-scribbled cards are just a memory for both of you – so Country Living magazine editors brainstormed to come up with a few ideas that may just fill the bill:

Cooking in style – If she likes to cook, how about a basket full of trendy (read: expensive) ingredients Mom might never buy for herself – truffle oil, infused vinegar, exotic spices, imported teas. A trip down the aisles of a gourmet cook shop should easily fill your basket.

Luxury skincare – A loofah sponge and a lavish assortment of bath oils, soaps and body lotions may be just the thing to keep Mom happy and relaxed. Wrap them all in a new terry robe and watch her face light up.

A Sunday outing for two – Afternoon tea? A movie or concert? Choose an outing you know Mom will enjoy – and make it just for the two of you!

A chauffeured spa day – Taxi Mom to a local spa for a day of pampering; a leisurely massage, manicure, pedicure and/or facial.

A family brunch – gather up the kids and a few of their handmade gift creations (A photo bookmark? A handmade picture frame? A hand painted mug?)) PLUS all the fixings for a fabulous brunch that can be put together very quickly in her kitchen or yours.

A fix-it day – As people age, they find minor repairs more difficult to make. Ask Mom for a ‘honey-do’ list, and spend a weekend on a ladder and in your toolbox crossing chores off the list.

A planted garden – Indoors in pots or in her yard or patio, plant strawberries, tomatoes, or her favorite flowers – with a firm promise to help maintain them.

A sentimental journey – Fill a memory book with photos of family trips and activities taken through the years. Today, when so many of our photos are in digital formats, an album she can actually leaf through may bring a happy tear or two – and that’s a good thing on Mom’s Day!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Prevent a Dog Bite

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

While you likely love your fluffy friend and can’t imagine them biting anyone, even the friendliest of dogs can sometimes bite when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Since dogs who have bitten someone can sometimes face heartbreaking consequences, it’s important to keep both people and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.

Here’s a list of things you can do with your pooch to help avoid a bite.

- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.

- Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.

- Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.

- Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.

- Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.

- Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.

- Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.

- Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog's health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.

- Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog - caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.

Source: http://www.americanhumane.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Cleaning Can Provide A Windfall To Local Charities

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

As spring cleaning commences across the nation, remember that donating items you might be inclined to trash may not only provide a treasure to another consumer, but donating qualified items through local charities could also bump up your charitable tax deduction next April.

According to Charity Navigator, the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, generous donors looking to donate non cash items to a worthy cause should take the following steps to maximize the impact of noncash contributions.

Step 1: Determine whether or not the items you wish to donate are useful.

Most charities can only make use of items that are new, unused, or nearly new. If you think that the items you wish to donate may be of use to someone else proceed to..

Step 2: Consider selling your items and donating the proceeds to charity.

By donating cash you allow charities greater flexibility in spending the money so that it reaches the people or animals that need it most. You also eliminate the for-profit middleman that can take a big cut of the money intended for charity.

And by selling the items yourself, you know the exact value of the donation you can report to the IRS..
Whether or not you decide to sell your items and donate the cash, or you still think your items may be of use to a charity in need, proceed to Step 3 to find the right charity to accept your generous support.

Charity Navigator recommends you start locally to avoid transportation costs that can lower the impact of your donation. You can use Charity Navigator's database to find a charity in your local area that might be interested in donated goods within a set radius from your zip code.

Once you see a few efficient charities that you think may be interested in your donated goods you can use contact information on their ratings page to discuss how to arrange your donation.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Refresh Your Space for a Brighter Season

April 19, 2017 12:24 am

(Family Features)--As temperatures rise and springtime blooms, it's time to wipe away winter and refresh your home. Spring is all about airing out your space and spending more time outside, which calls for cleaning and perking up your routine.  

While a seasonal overhaul can sound daunting, here are five simple steps to help make spring preparations a breeze.  

Clean Out the Fridge. Before tackling messes around the house, start at the heart of the kitchen by cleaning out your refrigerator. Get rid of old leftovers, forgotten frozen meals and expired condiments. By removing perished contents from your fridge, you'll get rid of lurking odors and have plenty of room for all the fresh produce that spring has to offer.

Soften and Eliminate Odors from Fabrics. Throughout the cooler seasons, spring clothing that has been stored away can take on odors and become stiff after being folded for so long. Preparing your wardrobe is an essential step to ease into the seasonal transition.

Declutter to De-stress. While disinfecting and removing odors are the cornerstone of spring cleaning, it's also important to re-evaluate items that were hoarded over the winter months. For example, revisit your spring wardrobe and pick at least three items to get rid of or donate to a clothing drive for every new item that you plan to bring in. Start by eliminating what doesn't fit or what's no longer needed. Cleaning out your wardrobe is an easy way to declutter your space.

Add a Pop of Color. Say goodbye to winter grays and blues and invite color back into your home with affordable and small swaps to celebrate the hues of the season. Replace white table napkins or plain placemats with patterned prints or shades of magenta, red and orange for a pop of color, or snip a few buds from the garden and place in different sized vases and jars to decorate the table spaces and windowsills around your home.

Update Your Calendar.  After you refresh your space, revisit your calendar to update with spring sports, holidays and events. Warmer weather and sunnier days mean a more full social schedule, and keeping your calendar organized is just as important as keeping your home organized. Hanging a whiteboard calendar in a central location is an efficient way for the whole family to make real-time updates. Add flower magnets or use pink and green dry erase markers for a seasonal touch.

Make the most of your spring cleaning with these tips to start enjoying a more fresh, colorful and organized home.

Source: Snuggle

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Things To Know Before You 'Hit The Wall'!

April 13, 2017 1:00 am

In talking with remodelers and interior designers this year, the biggest trend seems to be: less is more - especially when it comes to interior walls.

So in the interest of learning the ins and outs of interior walls, we turned to Lee Wallender at thespruce.com. He examined the difference between renovating load-bearing, versus non load-bearing walls.

Wallender says while walls always define rooms, they only sometimes bear weight from above and are important to the structural integrity of the entire house.

He notes that:

- All exterior walls are load-bearing.
- If the wall parallels the joists above, it is likely not bearing loads.
- If a wall is bearing loads, it will be built perpendicular to the joists above it.

But walls built at a perpendicular angle still might be non load-bearing. A closet is a good example.

When removing a non load-bearing wall, Wallender says the main thing that you need to be concerned about is utilities running through the interior wall: electrical, plumbing, cable, and telephone. If your interior non bearing wall has utilities, then you have the added cost of hiring a plumber or electrician to come in and “cap off” those utilities.

On the other hand, load bearing walls are structural elements, so he says removing a load bearing wall and replacing it with a beam is significantly different from removing interior non load bearing walls.

He says when you or a contractor remove a load bearing wall, it must be replaced with either:

- Beam Only:  Horizontal beams of sufficient size.  Other than the two ends, the beam has no vertical resting points.
- Beam + Post:  Horizontal beams whose strength is augmented with one or more vertical posts between the two end resting points.

Wallender says it should come as no surprise that your local or county permit agency wants to know if you are taking down a wall that affects the structural integrity of your home.

Even though you have determined that you can remove your wall with zero effect on the house's structural integrity, he says your city or county permit agency still does not quite believe you. This is because there is a long history of homeowners before you removing walls and causing serious damage to the house and even injuring others.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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