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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

10 Ways to Improve Your Home's Air Quality

October 1, 2014 1:31 am

With cooler weather on the horizon, homeowners everywhere are preparing with maintenance tasks in and out of the home. While working on these projects, remember to address your home’s indoor air quality, especially if you’re going to spend a lot of time inside once winter weather kicks in.

Refresh the air in your home with these 10 tips.

1. Vacuum frequently
– Vacuum carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture twice a week to eliminate airborne allergens.

2. Add houseplants – Plants naturally produce oxygen, a process which removes carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the air.

3. Clean green – Chemicals from cleaners can be released into your home and be detrimental to the health of you and your family. Swap toxic products for organic cleaning supplies or homemade, natural cleaners, such as vinegar, that are just as effective.

4. Cut cigarette smoke – Quitting is the only way to eradicate second-hand smoke pollutants, but if quitting isn’t an option, you can minimize its effects by sending smokers outside and away from windows and doors.

5. Purify your air
– Especially helpful in bedrooms, air purifiers clear the air of toxins lingering around your home. Select one based on the type of purification needed and the size of the room it will be used in.

6. Replace your HVAC filter – Furnaces and air conditioners only work well if they are properly maintained. Change out the filter regularly to keep the air circulating through these devices clean.

7. Conduct radon testing
– Every year, pick up a radon testing kit at any hardware store and test for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer.

8. Test your smoke detectors – If you don’t already, be sure you have detectors installed in every bedroom and hallway. Test the batteries frequently and heed detector warnings signaling a low battery.

9. Install carbon monoxide detectors – For maximum protection against carbon monoxide, install detectors near the kitchen and in hallways outside of bedrooms.

10. Create natural air cleansers – Instead of relying on spray fresheners or candles, diffuse pure essential oils to produce a fresh scent.

Source: Homes.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Medication Safety Tips for Cold and Flu Sufferers

September 30, 2014 1:31 am

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cold and flu season will pick up this October and peak between January and March next year. Each year, Americans catch approximately 1 billion colds, and seven in 10 consumers will turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat symptoms.

As the countdown to cold and flu season begins, the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition (AAC) advises consumers to stay safe when recuperating by reading medicine labels carefully to avoid doubling up on medicines with acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in America.

Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 different medicines, including prescription and OTC pain relievers, fever reducers, sleep aids and numerous medicines for cough, cold and flu. It is safe and effective when used as directed, but there is a limit to how much can be taken in one day. Taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage.

When treating symptoms during the upcoming cold and flu season, follow these safety guidelines:
1. Always read and follow the medicine label.
2. Know if medicines contain acetaminophen, which is in bold type or highlighted in the "active ingredients" section of OTC medicine labels and sometimes listed as "APAP" or "acetam" on prescription labels.
3. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
4. Ask your healthcare provider or a pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.
Source: AAC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Rising Incomes to Support Housing Market in 2015

September 30, 2014 1:31 am

The U.S. economy is showing renewed vigor and is poised for a pickup in growth, according to a recent report by TD Economics, an affiliate of TD Bank.

"Job growth is gaining speed and confidence is rising," says TD Chief Economist, Craig Alexander. "The strength in job growth will support consumer spending and energize housing demand, shifting the economy into third gear."

After averaging 2.2 percent in 2014, the economy is forecasted to grow by 3 percent in 2015. With faster growth, the unemployment rate will continue to fall, reaching 5.5 percent by the end of next year.

Stronger job and income growth will support the housing market. "The dearth of new household formations is strongly related to the lack of job opportunities among young people," says Alexander. "As employment rises, the housing recovery should also pick up speed as these first-time buyers come back into the market."

Between January and August, the economy generated over 1.7 million jobs, nearly 300,000 more than the average over the previous three years. The acceleration in job growth has been accompanied by broader signs of labor market improvement. Businesses are reporting high levels of job openings and increasing confidence in the durability of the economic recovery.

With the expected improvement in growth over the next year, the economy is likely to have shown sufficient progress for the Federal Reserve to begin raising short-term rates.

"After almost seven years of zero interest rates, the recovery in 2015 will have finally moved to a stage where rates can begin to move higher," says Alexander. "But, this will occur gradually."

TD Economics expects the Federal Reserve to begin its rate hiking cycle mid next year and bring the fed funds rate up to 0.75 percent by the end of the year. By the end of 2016, the fed funds rate will likely only be at 1.75 percent – still high enough to stimulate the economy.

Source: TD Economics

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What to Consider before Borrowing Home Equity

September 30, 2014 1:31 am

In the first quarter of 2014, lenders approved $13 billion in home equity loans and lines of credit (HELOCs). Economic conditions have continued to improve, as the recession fueled by underwater mortgages gives way to rising home values across the country.

While this shift signals the beginning of a renewed confidence in borrowing against a home’s equity, homeowners should tread carefully. If you’re considering borrowing, keep in mind these facts.
- With fixed interest rates and payments, home equity loans may be a safer option. HELOCs have variable rates, so an increase may be detrimental to your payment plan.

- Lenders still require adequate income and credit, and most will set a maximum limit of 80 to 85 percent of the home’s value.

- Debtor habits can spell disaster for those who borrow equity against their home. Don’t borrow for unnecessary expenses, such as vacations.

- Homeowners should work toward paying back the loan quickly; however, it is acceptable to extend the life of the loan if making an investment in the home, such as a kitchen renovation.
Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Support Healthy Eyesight with Optimal Foods

September 29, 2014 1:31 am

According to a recent survey conducted by DSM Nutritional Products, 83 percent of adults in the U.S. believe worsening eye health is inevitable with age. What many don’t realize is that there’s a connection between healthy eyes and proper nutrition, and it goes beyond eating carrots.

“Incorporating certain nutrients into the diet can support a lifetime of healthy vision and help protect against serious conditions, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD),” says Dr. Kimberly Reed, optometrist and Ocular Nutrition Society board member. “The latter affects more than 2 million Americans and can lead to severe visual impairment.”

Studies have found that the typical American diet lacks the nutrients people need and many adults struggle to get the recommended amounts from food alone. Just 10 percent of adults are getting nutrients crucial to eye health – lutein and zeaxanthin.

The survey also found that many Americans aren’t focused on maintaining their eyesight. In fact, if given the opportunity, nearly a third of adults would take a material luxury item over a lifetime of perfect vision, and more than 1 in 5 Americans are more concerned with maintaining their youthful appearance than healthy eyesight.

According to Reed, one essential way to maintain eye health throughout life is to focus on a diet packed with the nutrients known to support eye health, including:
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Colorful fruits and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, green beans, peas, oranges, and tangerines
  • Omega-3 (DHA/EPA): Fatty fish, including salmon and herring, fish oil, and algae
  • Vitamin E: Oils, wheat germ, almonds and peanuts
  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and berries
  • Zinc: Beef, pumpkin seeds and lentils
“It is difficult to obtain all of the nutrients that support eye health from food alone,” says Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author. “To fill in the gaps, consider adding a supplement specifically formulated for eye health and vision to your diet.”

Source: VitaminsinMotion.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pre-Boomers Happy with Homeowners Insurance, Gen Y Most Critical

September 29, 2014 1:31 am

According to the recently released J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Household Insurance Study, satisfaction with homeowners insurance is highest among Pre-Boomers, or those born before 1946. Gen Y consumers, or Millennials, who comprise the largest group of homebuyers in the United States, are more critical of their homeowners insurance than any other generational group.

Gen Y consumers expressed the most concern with interactions with service providers and claims processing.

“Millennials are a critical demographic for insurance companies, given that they are the largest group of homebuyers and renters,” said Valerie Monet, director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power. “Insurers in one or both of these product categories need to pay very close attention to Millennials, evaluate the usability of their website and find new ways to communicate with customers, such as through the use of email, apps and online chat.”

Insurers that are most successful in understanding and meeting the expectations of Gen Y customers have a higher rate of executing on the following service practices than insurers less successful in understanding Gen Y needs: informing customers of other products and services; providing access to policy information online; ensuring complete understanding of the bill; limiting bill errors; resolving issues in one contact; and limiting customer-reported problems.

“In short, insurers benefit from ensuring that their Gen Y customers are well informed, and that there are no issues or problems in servicing their policy,” said Monet. The study also revealed:
  • Overall customer satisfaction with homeowner insurers is up since 2013, increasing 3 points on a 1,000-point scale. This increase is driven largely by an improvement in price factor.
  • Sixty percent of customers indicate their homeowners insurance premiums have remained the same during the past 12 months, up from 58 percent in 2013.
  • The proportion of customers who experience an insurer-initiated premium increase dropped slightly to 29 percent in 2014 from 30 percent in 2013.
Conversely, satisfaction with renters insurance is highest among Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964. Echoing similar sentiments, Gen Y is also the most critical of renters insurance.

Source: J.D. Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Dress Up Your Home with a Chandelier

September 29, 2014 1:31 am

Twenty years ago, a chandelier was a sure thing in two rooms in the home – the foyer and dining room. Homeowners today have extended those parameters, using chandeliers as statement-making additions to everything from bedrooms to closets. What’s influencing this trend?

“The two-story foyer is essentially disappearing from new architecture,” says Jeff Dross, Corporate Director of Education and Industry Trends with Kichler Lighting. Pendants are making inroads into dining rooms, too, so chandelier use is naturally migrating to other spaces.

Where homeowners spend most of their time has changed, too. Master bedrooms with expansive vaulted ceilings have turned into mini living environments to accommodate relaxing and reading. Bathrooms have become larger, and guest areas are not just throwaway spaces anymore. It is that switch from pure function to aesthetics that is also driving the appearance of chandeliers in unexpected places.

While chandeliers come in a range of styles, sizes and colors, the functions of chandeliers have certain commonalities. Their height and structure naturally pulls the eye up and around a room, creating movement. Color or crystals can add visual interest, as can the mix of materials that make up the arms of a fixture.

“The illuminated candles and brilliant sparkle of crystal chandeliers provide multiple light points and create a vivid, less static environment,” says Mike Hadank, Director Retail Sales of North America, Swarovski Lighting. “Chandeliers add a sense of elegance and mood to any space.”

The American Lighting Association suggests that homeowners remember these two points when installing a chandelier:
  • Don’t hang the chandelier too high. “People will hang it a mile from the table,” says Dross. A rule of thumb: Keep it about 30 inches from the bottom of the chandelier to the top of the table.
  • Scale up the chandelier size for the dining room. Dross recommends a chandelier that is slightly oversized in a dining room. “It fills the space a little better when it is a touch larger. If it’s a pipsqueak-size chandelier, it loses its impact. If you really like a small chandelier, put in two of them.”
When it comes to design, Dross is seeing an upswing in contemporary styles as Generation X and Y consumers move into their own homes and work on their own renovations, as well as Baby Boomers looking to redo their own decorating styles. As oversize furniture becomes less popular, the scale of contemporary chandeliers works better for newly streamlined spaces.

Source: ALA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Lost Phone? 8 Ways to Prevent Financial Risks

September 26, 2014 1:31 am

On average, an individual loses his or her cell phone at least once a year. In the U.S., 113 cell phones are lost every minute. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and mobile security firm Lookout, lost phones pose risks financially – 51 percent of smartphone users log in to mobile banking. In the hands of hackers, your billing address may change, your funds may be transferred out of your account, or your account may even be cancelled.

The FCC and Lookout recommend taking the following steps to protect your finances.

Before losing your phone

  • Set up a pin or passcode to keep your phone locked at all times.
  • Include contact information on the phone’s lock screen.
  • Install antitheft software with a GPS tracker, remote wiping system and alarm.
  • Keep a record of the device’s make, model number, serial number and IMEI or MEID number.
After losing your phone
  • Activate antitheft software immediately.
  • Contact your mobile provider to cut off access.
  • Monitor financial accounts for any unusual changes.
  • File a police report, if theft is suspected.
Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sustainability and Functionality Key Décor Trends in 2015

September 26, 2014 1:31 am

Décor trends in 2015 favor functionality, with designers turning to self-renewing materials that are both stylish and environmentally friendly. Looking towards the new year, celebrity designer Vern Yip lists these six trends to watch.

1. View the floor as an extension of the living space. Opt for materials that are both stylish and comfortable, such as cork flooring. Warm, soft on the feet and eco-friendly, cork's natural ability to insulate against heat, cold, noise and vibration make it an ideal choice for "on-the-floor living.”

2. In open concept homes, mix and match old with new, high with low or light with dark. Using timeless and resilient materials, or those that can be used and reused, allows homeowners to be eclectic and bold.

3. Geometrical and angular designs are making a comeback. Think of zigzag, herringbone or chevron patterns to bring mid century flair back into your home.

4. Living outdoors is a great way of maximizing living space. Make it cozy with pillow, tiki lights or a bonfire pit. In cold temperatures, use heat lamps positioned around the border of the patio.

5. Look at the floor, which is a home's largest surface area, as a canvas. It offers ample opportunities to add visual interest and achieve a unique look. Think about combining textures and colors. Create a pattern of alternating colors and grains.

6. Break away from a sea of neutrals. Replace old pillow covers, throws or lampshades to reflect the hues and tones of the season. Or, create an accent wall with a printed wallpaper or painted design. Do keep your larger items white or neutral, so that you can easily mix and match seasonal colors with permanent pieces.

"The variety of stylish product choices available to today's environmentally-conscious consumers is remarkable," says Yip. He points to the many color choices of no-VOC paint, new agave plant and sisal fiber area rugs as great examples of the intersection between style, functionality and environmental responsibility.

Source: APCOR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Hidden Clutter Caches in Your Home

September 26, 2014 1:31 am

Did you know that clutter can accumulate even in the neatest of homes? Families with minimal clutter can benefit from de-cluttering in unexpected spaces. In fact, storage solutions often amass the most unnecessary items, becoming a seemingly organized catch-all.

Consider removing clutter from these storage areas around the home.

Filing Cabinets
– While an effective filing system is necessary for saving important documents, take time periodically to remove papers that you are no longer required to keep.

Pantries – Once a month, clear your pantry of expired food products, specialty items you no longer have use for, or non-expired items you want to donate.

Bookshelves – Avid readers have difficulty letting go of books. Scan your bookcase for a few books each year that you might lend to friends or donate. Pack away or donate collections you are not actively adding to.

Computers
– Digital storage is one of the biggest culprits of clutter. Condense or delete unnecessary folders and files to free up cyberspace.

Source: Unclutterer.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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