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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

Home Maintenance for New Homeowners

September 7, 2015 2:48 am

If you live in a cold weather climate, fall is when you put in the storm windows. If you live in a warm climate, summer is when you step up the pool maintenance. No matter where you live, however, checking on – and maintaining – 10 areas of your home each year is one good way to ensure your home stays in peak condition.

From the home maintenance consultants at Home Depot, here is where – and how – to begin:

Roof
– In early fall, check around vents, skylights and chimneys for cracks or leaks and repair or replace tiles as necessary.

Gutters
– Clean gutters so leaves won’t clog them, and be sure they drain away from the house.

Fireplace – Clean out any leftover ashes. If heavily used in winter, you may want the chimney professionally cleaned. Make sure the damper is closed tightly.

Filters – clean or replace furnace filters once every month or as needed. Check and clean the dryer vent, air conditioner, stove hood and room fans regularly.

Safety Equipment
– Be sure smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working condition. Replace batteries twice a year.

Air Conditioner – In cold climates, put on waterproof covers when you cover or remove outdoor furniture.

Refrigerator
– Test door seals once or twice a year to be sure they are airtight. Test by closing the door over a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, the seal may need to be replaced. If you have a coil-back fridge, the coils should be vacuumed twice a year.

Faucets – Check for leaks in kitchen and bathrooms and replace washers as necessary.

Windows and Doors – Replace seals as necessary to keep heat in and drafts out. If you added up all the tiny cracks where heating and cooling escapes, it could be the same as having a window open.

Siding and Paint
– Look for cracks or peeling areas. Repaint or replace caulk as necessary.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Social Media Safety Tips for Teens

September 4, 2015 2:48 am

With most of their everyday happenings documented through social media, teens and tweens may not understand that sharing can compromise safety. “Conversations about social media are never easy because kids often view posts as casual and delete-able,” says Social Sentinel President and CEO Gary Margolis. “Parents need to help their children make smart decisions about what and where they post, explain the potential risks linked with oversharing and encourage their children to speak up if they run across concerning content.”

Margolis recommends parents impart the following safety tips to their children:

1. Make your profile private.
A public profile may lead to more likes, comments and shares – from people you may not know. Strangers can easily gather a lot of information from public posts, including where you live or go to school, what type of car you drive, who your closest friends are and more.

Be sure to log out of all your social media profiles and Google yourself to see how much information pops up. If you don’t like what you see, change your privacy settings.

2. Don’t add anyone that you haven’t met in person.

Online predators often fake profiles to talk with potential victims, but they will make it seem like they’re just making new friends (i.e., “catfishing”).

Go through your friend or follower list and remove anyone you don’t recognize. If you can’t identify where you met a person in real life, they probably aren’t a “friend.”

3. Disable “Check-In” and geo-tagging features.
These features can let online predators know your exact location, down to the street address. Click on the location symbol on your Instagram profile and zoom in – you may be shocked at how accurate it is.

4. Think before you post.
While some apps claim to be anonymous, or that shared content will disappear after a certain amount of time, remember that anything posted online can be screenshot and shared.

Always assume that what you post online will be permanently accessible. Ask yourself: Would I be okay with a parent, teacher or boss eventually seeing this? Am I sharing sensitive information? Scan your profile to see if your posts pass this question test.

5. Speak up if you see something concerning.
Posts about violence, threats, bullying, suicide and abuse are serious. Tell a parent, teacher or other trusted adult if you think someone in your network needs help or may be in trouble.

Source: Social Sentinel

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Just Say No to Used Furniture

September 4, 2015 2:48 am

For college students, the temptation to re-use another’s furniture is considerable – it’s free! But bringing used furniture into your apartment can also invite unwanted guests: bed bugs.

According to Jonathan Boyar, owner of pest management firm Ecologic Entomology, all used furniture is suspect and should be avoided. Bugs can hide in crevices deep inside the furniture that are not easily inspected.

Store-bought insecticides and home remedies, Boyar says, almost never eliminate bed bug infestations in the home or on infested furniture. Those products can actually make the problem worse by spreading the bugs out into areas where they don’t normally exist, making the eventual remedial process even more difficult.

If you suspect a problem in your apartment, contact your landlord as soon as possible to have the issue assessed, advises Boyar. The problem may not be limited to just one apartment and the landlord may need to inspect all abutting units or every unit in the building. Pest control companies need the consent of the property owner to perform treatments in their building.

Source: Ecologic Entomology

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Remain Below 4 Percent

September 4, 2015 2:48 am

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) recently averaged 3.89 percent with an average 0.6 point, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). The rate, a slight nose up, comes amid volatile market activity and “essentially no new information,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti.

“The 30-year mortgage rate increased 5 basis points, but don’t read too much into that,” Becketti says. “The Fed took great pains at the Jackson Hole conference to keep all their options open and to avoid talking too much – or too little – of the situation in China and the volatility in global equity markets.”

The 15-year FRM averaged 3.09 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.93 percent with an average 0.4 point, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.62 percent with an average 0.3 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Travel Trends to Expect This Labor Day

September 3, 2015 2:48 am

Leave it to the last minute. According to a recent Expedia.com® report, one-fifth of Labor Day travelers this year booked travel accommodations in July – late by most booking standards. In addition, many travelers, late bookers or not, are headed overseas for a last-weekend-of-summer getaway.

International hot spots for Labor Day include:

• London
• Barcelona
• Florence
• Paris
• Rome

"The favorable exchange rates we've seen this summer are a welcome relief for travelers looking to experience Europe," says Expedia Senior Editor Ingrid Belobradic. "Coupled with the already great promotions available, we're seeing opportunities for strong savings this Labor Day across international and domestic destinations."

Source: Expedia.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Ready Your Hardscapes for Fall

September 3, 2015 2:48 am

When designing an outdoor space, start from the ground up.

According to the experts at Belgard® Hardscapes, homeowners can enjoy their patio, poolscape or driveway well into the fall season with a few key upgrades:

• Install a fireplace or fire pit as part of a backyard space to serve as a much-loved gathering spot and a complementing, permanent part of an overall outdoor living design.

• Explore large-format pavers for a natural stone look that mimics the appearance and texture of slate, flagstone or hand-chiseled rock.

• Take advantage of modular units like grill islands, brick ovens or wood boxes to create a customized outdoor space.

• Plant fall perennials that bloom during the season, including tall grasses, mums and certain varieties of hydrangeas.

• Define a space and add extra seating with built-in seat walls and add ottomans, throw pillows and stools to create an inviting outdoor setting.

Source: Belgard® Hardscapes

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Fall Lawn Care Tips by Zone

September 3, 2015 2:48 am

As summer transitions to fall, your lawn will begin to store moisture and nutrients in preparation for the upcoming winter. As a homeowner, there are a few steps you can take now to help your lawn in the process, according to Grass Seed USA, a national coalition of academic turf specialists and grass seed farmers.

"September is the best time to prepare your lawn for the dormant winter months," says Grass Seed USA Executive Director Bryan Ostlund. "This time of year, simple lawn care chores such as reseeding, weeding and aerating will help your grass immensely."

The United States can be roughly divided into three grass-growing zones:

• Warm Zone
• Cool Zone
• Transition Zone


If you live in the Warm Zone, few winterization measures are needed and new warm-season lawns are best planted in the late spring or early summer. One option you may want to consider is overseeding, or adding cool-season grass seed over your warm-season turf. The cool-season grass will thrive until the warm-season grass turns green again in the spring, giving you a lush lawn year-round.

Homeowners in the Cool Zone and Transition Zone should take similar steps to prepare their lawns for winter, including:

• Adding seed to thicken an existing lawn;


If your lawn is looking thin or if you need to fill in some bare patches, now is the time to reseed. Talk to a turf specialist at a garden shop or university extension agent to find out what type of seed is best for your lawn conditions. Spread the seed over your existing lawn and then water lightly and regularly, making sure the reseeded areas stay moist until the new grass grows in. Transition Zone homeowners with warm-season grasses also have the option of overseeding their lawns to keep them green through the winter.

• Dethatching;

A certain amount of thatch – the tightly packed layer of organic matter between the grass blades and the soil surface – can benefit your lawn, but if the layer exceeds half an inch, it can keep moisture and oxygen from reaching the soil and can harbor fungus and insect pests. If your lawn needs to be dethatched, you can rent a vertical mower or hire a professional to do the job for you.

• Aerating;

Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen into the soil. You can rent an aerator or hire a professional to aerate your lawn for you.

• Raising your mower blades;

Let your grass grow a bit taller in the fall, usually between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half inches. If you cut it too short, you'll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring. If the grass is too long it can become matted, which leads to problems as well.

• Winterizing your irrigation system.

If you live in an area where the frost level extends below the depth of your irrigation pipes, be sure to shut off the water to the irrigation system and drain all the pipes before the first freeze.

Source: Grass Seed USA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Ways to Save on Bank Costs

September 2, 2015 2:48 am

Did you know the majority of Americans spend more money on milk than they do on banking? According to a recent American Bankers Association (ABA) survey, nearly three-quarters of bank customers spend $3 or less in monthly banking fees, and approximately 60 percent pay nothing at all for banking services.

“We’ve seen tremendous innovations to bank services over the last decade that have allowed our customers to bank in the way that is most convenient for them and at little or no cost,” says ABA Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Counsel, Consumer Protection and payments Nessa Feddis. “Today’s consumers have become adept at using the many options that may allow them to bank for free, whether it’s maintaining a minimum balance, opting for direct deposit or using ATMs owned by their bank.”

To cut banking costs, the ABA recommends bank customers do the following:

• Utilize free checking and savings accounts. Many banks still offer them, especially if you maintain a minimum balance. Shop your own bank first.

• Utilize direct deposit. Many checking accounts are free when you use direct deposit.

• Keep a minimum balance. Consider keeping a small amount to pad your account. This helps to avoid monthly fees and accidental overdrafts.

• Take advantage of college partnerships with banks. College students may find special checking account deals at banks with which their college has a partnership.

• Keep multiple accounts at your bank. Many banks seek the entire customer relationship and may offer free service if you maintain both checking and savings accounts with them.

• Use your bank’s ATMs and reduce the use of foreign ATMs. Avoid fees by using ATMs owned by or affiliated with your bank. If you must use an ATM not affiliated with your bank, take out larger withdrawals to avoid having to go back multiple times. Consider the cash-back option at the grocery store.

• Don’t spend more money than you have. Keep track of transactions and account balances to avoid overdraft fees, which is easier to do with features such as mobile banking apps.

• Sign up for email or text alerts. Ask for an automatic alert when your balance falls below a certain level.

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Gardeners: Don't Fear Fall Frost

September 2, 2015 2:48 am

(BPT) - As summer winds down and frost threatens, even avid gardeners may be tempted to pack up their trowels and call it a season. You may think it's better to leave the victory garden gracefully than risk the disappointment of watching crops wither in chilly temperatures. But fear of frost and failure don't have to stop you from enjoying a fruitful fall garden. With the right plant choices and a few tricks, producing a hefty harvest can be easy.

Frost occurs when temperatures drop enough to condense and freeze the moisture in the air. In fall, when air temperatures sink, it's common to find frost layering the ground, leaves and crops. Frost may occur frequently in the fall before the ground really becomes frozen. This is known as a hard freeze.

While a hard freeze generally heralds the end of the growing season and frost can harm warm weather crops like oranges, some veggies actually do very well - and taste better - when nipped by frost. By stocking your fall garden with frost-loving varieties, you can ensure your garden remains victorious and bountiful right up to the first hard freeze. Not sure when the hard freeze will occur in your region? Check out the USDA’s Freeze Map.

When you consider the many advantages of fall gardening, frost shouldn't be feared. Cooler temperatures mean you'll have a more comfortable experience while working in the garden, and you'll have fewer insect pests and weeds to deal with.

To start, clear out the remnants of summer plantings and debris and get the ground ready for fall favorites like spinach, cabbage, collards and kale. These hearty, leafy vegetables actually like the chill weather and can stand up to some frost. Certain root veggies, such as radishes and turnips, also do well in cooler temperatures.

When planning your fall garden, time is of the essence. Start with well-established, vigorous plants, which not only see faster growth, but ensure strength during unexpected or extreme temperature variations. Remember to choose short-season varieties that will produce quicker in fall's shorter growing season.

Even though your fall vegetables might be able to handle the cold, you may want an extra layer of protection for unseasonably cool nights. Choose a location for your garden that gets plenty of sun, especially in the morning when you'll want plants to quickly shake off overnight chill. Planting in a raised bed also helps insulate plants and their tender roots from ground freezes. Container gardens are also great for fall; when a severe frost or hard freeze threatens, you can bring plants inside overnight for protection.

Sometimes you may want to cover plants against extreme cold. One option is a cold frame. Typically constructed of wood and glass or plastic, the frame sits over plants like a portable mini greenhouse. You can build your own - an online search will yield plenty of how-to plans - or purchase a prefabricated one. For less severe situations, simply turning a pot or bucket upside down over tender young plants can be enough to shield them from cold.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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12 Inspiring Fall and Winter Color Trends

September 2, 2015 2:48 am

Global color authority Pantone recently released its forecast of autumn and winter color palettes, emphasizing a “mixology of real and unreal.” For homeowners, this forecast can inform seasonal design inspiration when transitioning a home’s decor from summer to autumn and autumn to winter.

Black
- Newly appreciated as a prestige color, black is the pulsating force behind Pantone’s forecast and the perfect canvas on which other colors are revealed.

White
- Appearing in cool and warm guises, white is important because of its properties, as opposed to its actual color.

Grays - Essential to the palette, grays stretch across a variety of hues, warm and natural, muted and hard.

Green - Green can go in two directions: the first more yellowish and olive oil-led; the second cooler, sometimes glassy, but also more mineral, cool and Nordic.

Yellow - Reminding us of light and radiance, yellows are important because of their warming presence and their effects on surface and texture.

Orange - Now suffused with spicy hues, shades in the orange family display influences of caramel, cinnamon and saffron.

Purple - Penetrating all levels of design, purples in a variety of berry colors are now a lifestyle as opposed to a fashion shade.

Blue - Becoming more sophisticated, blues move away from the more classic indigo shades to those that are infused with gray or green.

Brown - From nutmeg and tan to the red-infused wine-y browns, the browns continue to be very important across all materials and surfaces.

Red
- A safe option for those looking to add bright color, red is a well-received and well-understood pop color that can be combined in new ways.

Pastels - Pastel shades leap from nuanced neutrals to stronger and more assertive colors.

Metallics - Metallics are as pragmatic as they are decorative, combining light or texture to enhance, bring movement and dimension.

Source: Pantone

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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