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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

The Best Plants for Fall

September 6, 2016 1:15 am


Spring may be known as a prime time for planting, but fall is equally optimal.

“Autumn is the perfect time to assess landscaping needs and fill any gaps that exist in your landscape,” says Natalia Hamill, a horticulturist at Bailey Nurseries. “While you're at it, you can add plants that provide a pop of color—like a throw pillow for your garden.”

Hamill says a variety of plants, including shrubs and trees, can be planted during fall, and many will bloom come springtime.

It is important to determine where and what your landscape is lacking, Hamill says. Consider, too, the climate in your area—different plants react in varied ways to temperature swings. Hamill recommends consulting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map and adjusting your plan of action, if necessary.

The best plants for fall, according to Hamill, are:

Birchleaf Spirea – The Pink Sparkler variety shows exquisite pink blooms in early summer and fall—though fall flowers re-emerge further down the stem for a full appearance.

Dogwood – The Cayenne variety produces blue berries in late summer, along with lush green leaves, followed by rave red stems through fall and winter.

Hydrangea – The BloomStruck variety turns deep red in fall, complementing the seasonal change of the trees.

Maple – The Scarlet Jewell variety shows crimson red leaves in early fall, before those of other red maples, and rave red flowers in spring.

Ninebark – The Amber Jubilee variety shows golden orange and yellow hues, ideal for fall, followed by delicate white blooms come spring.

Source: Bailey Nurseries
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Design Leans Toward Balance, Color

September 6, 2016 1:15 am


As borders continue to blur between home and work, there is a strong desire to bring nature—and, therefore, balance—into our homes.

Milou Ket, a Dutch designer and international trend analyst, expects interior design to shift with that in mind, forecasting more homes filled with natural elements including greenery, hanging plants and herbs.

To incorporate nature-inspired decor and lend balance to your home, Ket recommends introducing aged or worn furnishings, along with personal treasures. Warm textures are also ideal—fur, cork, hides, paper, shearling or wood. Top color choices include beige, gray, off-white and yellow, with accents of copper, gold and walnut.

Another trend to watch, Ket says, is “handicraft” accents, influenced by designs common to North Africa, the Middle East and other regions. Mix in handcrafted pieces, such as baskets and vegetable-dyed products, in shades like amber, brick, mustard and indigo.

Feelings of softness and warmth are also coveted at home, and current design trends are evocative of both, Ket adds. Place fine linens in a bedroom, for instance, or tactile materials, such as handmade crochet or knits, in the living room. Top color choices include blue, lavender, mint, rose and turquoise.

Color is as important as ever, as well, Ket says. Vibrant colors were everywhere a few seasons ago, but now, brightness in doses is best. Add a splash of color, such as cobalt blue, with pillows or on a single chair or sofa.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Sellers Score in Sought-After School Districts

September 6, 2016 1:15 am


Homeowners in sought-after school districts move to the head of the class when they list their homes for sale, garnering higher offers than sellers in less desirable districts, according to a recently released study by realtor.com®.

“It’s common knowledge that buyers are often willing to pay a premium for a home in a strong school district,” says Javier Vivas, manager of Economic Research for realtor.com®. “Our analysis quantifies just how good it is to be a seller in these areas.”

The study reveals that homes within the boundaries of a strong district are 77 percent more expensive than those within a lesser district and 49 percent more expensive than the national median—$400,000 compared to $225,000 and $269,000, respectively. Homes within the boundaries of a strong district also sell eight days faster than those within a lesser district.

“On average, homes in top-rated districts attract a price premium of almost 50 percent and sell more than a week faster than those located in neighboring lower-ranked school districts,” Vivas says.

The top 10 districts commanding the highest premiums, according to the study, are:

1. Beverly Hills Unified (Los Angeles, Calif.)
2. Highland Park Independent (Dallas, Texas)
3. Kenilworth No. 38 (Kenilworth, Ill.)
4. Indian Hill Exempted Village (Hamilton, Ohio)
5. Winnetka 36 (Winnetka, Ill.)
6. Manhattan Beach Unified (Los Angeles, Calif.)
7. Scarsdale Union Free (Westchester, N.Y.)
8. Saddle River (Bergen, N.J.)
9. San Marino Unified (Los Angeles, Calif.)
10. Mariemont City (Hamilton, Ohio)

The top 10 in-demand districts, or those earning the most listing views on realtor.com®, are:

1. Rocky River City (Cuyahoga, Ohio)
2. Clear Creek Independent (Harris, Texas)
3. School Town of Munster (Lake, Ind.)
4. Orange (New Haven, Conn.)
5. Etiwanda Elementary (San Bernardino, Calif.)
6. Longmeadow (Hampden, Mass.)
7. Strongsville City (Cuyahoga, Ohio)
8. Plymouth-Canton Community (Wayne, Mich.)
9. Regional School District 05 (New Haven, Conn.)
10. Trumbull (Fairfield, Conn.)

“While highly-ranked school districts in these markets have pushed home prices higher than their surrounding areas, the majority of these high-demand markets are relatively affordable when compared to the national median, which is a big factor contributing to their popularity,” Vivas adds.

Source: realtor.com®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Ways to Keep House Guests Happy

September 5, 2016 1:09 am


Hosting family or friends for a few days? Make them feel welcome and comfortable with these nine tips:

Add fresh flowers and other thoughtful touches. A small bunch of flowers in a vase on the nightstand goes a long way to make guests feel welcome. Add a magazine or two and a carafe of water with a glass for an extra touch.

Ask ahead about allergies or diet restrictions. An email or phone call a few days before the visit will help prepare you to meet guests’ food preferences and other needs.

Consider a luggage rack. Having a rack handy in the guest room will help your guests stay neat and organized. (Some are available online for as little as $15!)

Include guests in chores. Most guests will ask how they can help—and they mean it! Enlisting them to chop veggies and set the table (or help clear it) will make them feel more at home.

Keep snacks out in the kitchen. Guests may feel awkward snooping about your kitchen for a snack. Keep a basket of power bars, fresh fruit, small packets of nuts, dried fruit or cookies on the kitchen counter.

Prepare a basket of toiletries. Outfit the bathroom with travel-size tubes of body lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, etc., and even an extra comb or toothbrush. Guests may not need them, but your effort will not go unnoticed.

Take a tip from hotel managers. Give your guests a key and a cheat sheet—a key enables them to come and go as they please, and a cheat sheet will clue them in to information such as alarm codes, emergency contact numbers, information about your pets and your home's Wi-Fi password.

Think like a hotel housekeeper. Leave an extra pillow or two and an extra blanket in the guest room—and be sure a supply of towels is within easy reach, as well.

Work out a bathroom routine. If bathroom space is limited, work out a morning or evening routine to make everyone feel comfortable.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Cleaning Tips from Hotel Housekeepers

September 5, 2016 1:09 am


Nobody knows how to clean faster and more thoroughly than a hotel housekeeper. To cut down on the time you spend cleaning, use these tips, courtesy of Radisson Housekeeping Manager Maria Stickney:

Clear the Clutter – Removing the clutter eliminates the temptation to dust or mop around things. Clear away towels, cups, glasses, reading materials—and even the bath mat—from the counters and floors before you begin to clean.

Corral the Tools – Fill a plastic bin or bucket with all your cleaning supplies Keeping everything together cuts the time it takes to get the job done.

Do the Bathroom(s) Last – Starting in other rooms means there’s less chance of transporting bathroom bacteria to the rest of the house.

Give Drapes a Whack Between Dry Cleanings – Doing so knocks dust to the floor, where it cam easily be swept up or vaccuumed.

Give Products Time to Work - Spray the shower walls and toilet with your cleaning agent, and then leave it to do its job for several minutes. Use that time to clean the counters, mirrors, medicine cabinet and windows.

Have a Toothbrush on Hand – They are great for cleaning between tiny cracks in tile and elsewhere, such as around the bottom screws of the toilet.

Use Microfiber Cloths – They are the most efficient. Second-best are 100-percent cotton cloths, such as old t-shirts, slightly dampened. Avoid terrycloth and polyesters, which only create more dust.

Vacuum Before You Mop - Always vacuum (or sweep) before you mop. When it's time to mop, start from the far corner and make your way to the exit.

Vacuum into the Room, Then Out – Start from the entrance and move toward the walls, then vacuum your way out again to cover the main traffic areas twice.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Preparedness Month Reminders Can Protect You Year-Round

September 5, 2016 1:09 am


September is National Preparedness Month—but as a homeowner, it's important to be prepared year-round. This year, we're passing on some tips to weather a power outage with minimal damage to the appliances and electrical systems in your home, courtesy of Eversource Energy:

Build an emergency kit with essential items to meet the needs of your family, including a first-aid kit. (Visit Ready.gov/Build-a-Kit to get started.)

Fill several large containers with water for drinking; if necessary, fill your bathtub so you have water to flush the toilet.

Fill up the tank. You may need to travel at a moment's notice—and your car can also keep you warm, so long as you keep it well-ventilated and don’t sleep while it's running. Purchase extra if you own a gas-powered generator.

Have adequate medical supplies and prescriptions for yourself and your pets.

List emergency numbers near a phone (landline, since cordless phones don’t work during outages) and in your mobile phone, including numbers for the Red Cross, your local fire and police departments, and your doctor.

Keep batteries, candles, flashlights and matches on hand throughout the house.

Prepare to cook outside. Use a charcoal or propane grill, or even a camping cook stove, if the power goes out. Never bring a grill inside!

Stock up on non-perishables, such as canned goods and pet food.

Turn the temperature controls on your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting to keep food cold as long as possible in the event of a power outage.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Stress Less…on a Spur-of-the-Moment Trip?

September 2, 2016 1:06 am


Preparing to vacation can be stressful—determining what to bring, delegating tasks while you’re away…it can make you forget why you were getting away in the first place!

A recently released report reveals the least stressful trips are the ones we don’t plan for—those last-minute excursions that leave us little time to prepare. The report, by Booking.com, states spontaneous trips “boost happiness” and “reduce stress,” and can even make us “more productive at work.”

Most spontaneous trips, according to the report, occur at the end of summer, while some occur when severe weather threatens or over school holidays.

One of the most fun parts of a spontaneous trip? The “hotel room ritual,” the report found. Last-minute travelers say the first thing they do when they enter a hotel room is:

• Check Out the Bathroom/Shower (48 percent)
• Admire the View (47 percent)
• Jump on the Bed (22 percent)
• Scope Out the Mini-Bar (8 percent)
• Take a Selfie (5 percent)

When was your last spontaneous trip? Do you have a hotel room ritual?

Source: Booking.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Forget Your Cereal—Is Your Home 'Fortified?'

September 2, 2016 1:06 am


Few things are more concerning than learning of weather-related disasters that take a toll on homes, neighborhoods and entire communities, so the prospect of promoting consumer access to cutting-edge, home-building and -retrofitting was worth stopping the presses.

Recently, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Munich Re launched an app, FORTIFIED Home On the Go, to help homeowners build safer, stronger structures in the face of increasing severe weather events. FORTIFIED™ Home is “a set of engineering and building standards designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to minimum building code requirements that will reduce damage from specific natural disasters.”

The app walks homeowners (and architects and contractors) through the home-strengthening process. It provides animations, technical specifications and videos for building and retrofitting single-family homes.

Julie Rochman, president and CEO of the IBHS, says the FORTIFIED Home program provides a uniform set of construction and retrofitting standards to help improve a home’s resilience.

Rochman notes people often ask why the FORTIFIED Home programs are necessary, especially in jurisdictions where building codes have been established. She says codes provide minimum life safety protection to ensure occupants can exit a home safely; however, the codes are not intended to ensure homes are habitable after a catastrophic weather event, or to protect the contents inside of them.

Carl Hedde, head of Risk Accumulation for Munich Re, says the $60 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the almost $30 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are just two examples of why the app was needed.

Hedde says the FORTIFIED Home On the Go app is primarily an educational tool. It is available free from the iTunes Store.

For more details on the FORTIFIED Home program, visit DisasterSafety.org/FORTIFIED.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Closing Time: 5 Tips to Prep Your Vacation Home for Vacancy

September 2, 2016 1:06 am


Summer is coming to a close, and, with it, the task of closing up a vacation home for the season.

Preparing your vacation property for vacancy involves several steps, says Charles Crews, spokesperson for Michigan-based Consumers Energy. The most important measures, listed below, can help minimize damage brought on by the harsh elements of winter and early spring.

1. Shut off the water supply. Shutting off the water supply to your vacation home will reduce the chance the pipes freeze and burst, which can be costly to repair. Once the supply is off, drain the hot water tank, pipes and sewer traps, or, place antifreeze (the product designed for RVs, Crews recommends) into empty toilet bowls.

2. Clean the fireplace. Cleaning the fireplace will prepare it for use next season—be sure to close the damper flue once it is swept, Crews advises. Remove any debris from the chimney opening, and place a cover over it to keep hibernating animals out.

3. Store outdoor equipment. Storing outdoor equipment will prevent it from damage should severe weather occur while you’re not present. Stow away chairs, grills and tables in a secure area. (Remember to disconnect the grill’s propane tank and store it, too!)

4. Remove edibles. Removing edibles from your vacation home will keep rodents and pests at bay—they can cause extensive damage if they access the home. Do not store food, even if it is non-perishable.

5. Arrange for maintenance. Arranging for winter maintenance on your vacation home can lessen the potential for damage come spring. If you expect your home will weather a winter storm or two, consider having a local snow removal company stop by periodically throughout the season to remove ice or snow from the driveway, roof and walkways.

In the market for a vacation home? Contact a real estate professional today!
 
Source: Consumers Energy

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Off to College? Money-Saving Tips for First-Years

September 1, 2016 1:03 am


Starting college is exciting, but move-in can overshadow important financial considerations for freshmen.

“A college career comes with newfound independence, and for many students, this change comes with a new level of personal responsibility,” says Joe Mason, chief marketing officer of Allianz Global Assistance USA.

One of the first steps incoming students should take, Mason says, is to locate an area bank. Proximity to charge-free ATMs is key, especially if the student is studying far from home.

Allow for parking expenses, as well—many institutions impose fees on students who park on campus, Mason explains. Keep an allowance handy to avoid more costly tickets.

Password-protecting all electronic devices is also important, because it will prevent cyber criminals (on campus and off) from accessing identifying financial information, Mason says.

Look into tuition insurance, Mason adds. Tuition insurance will cover losses should the student have to take an unexpected leave of absence.

“While day-to-day money management strategies are important, it is just as critical to prevent larger financial losses,” Mason says. “Increasingly, parents and students are choosing to protect their college savings with tuition insurance, just as they protect other large investments, such as their homes and cars.”

Eight in 10 financial advisors recently surveyed by Allianz recommend tuition insurance for students taking out loans to finance their college education.

“Safeguarding your tuition investment is a smart financial decision. Even the best students can struggle with adjusting to the demands of a university, fall ill or need to leave school for another unforeseen reason,” Mason says.

Source: Allianz Global Assistance USA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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