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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 3 Ds of Staging

May 2, 2016 2:45 am

(BPT)—Staging your home ensures a speedy, profitable sale—if the senses are considered. Prospective buyers interpret a potential home through all of their receptors, and that includes senses like sight and smell.

To stage to this effect, remember the three Ds:

Deep-Clean the Selling Points

Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes—but they must be immaculate to do so. In the kitchen, clean inside appliances that are staying put: the dishwasher, oven and refrigerator. Replace the filter in the range hood, if you have one, and polish windowpanes to a sparkling finish. In the bathrooms, de-scale glass shower doors and showerheads and scrub the grout. Clean metal drain grates, and add in a few drops of sweet-smelling essential oils to maintain a “freshly-cleaned” aroma.

Deter Odors

Most households have their own unique scent, likely indistinguishable to the seller, but potentially a turn-off to buyers. Neutralize smells, malodorous or otherwise, with a naturally-derived fragrance, such as lemon or eucalyptus. If possible, warm up a buyer-friendly combination of scents (think cinnamon, clove, orange and vanilla) on the stove just before a showing—it’s low-cost, fast, and heightens the “welcome home” atmosphere.

De-Clutter “Invisible” Areas

Many sellers fall into the trap of staging only the “visible” areas of their home—but a discerning buyer will look at the “invisible,” too, such as cabinets, closets, drawers and the garage. Disorganized, full-to-bursting invisible areas can read cheap, cramped or poor-quality to buyers, which can lead to low-ball offers, or, worse, no offers at all. De-cluttering is particularly paramount in the garage, where buyers are seeking a sense of spaciousness. If your garage is loaded with moving boxes, consider storing them in a rental unit while your home is on the market.

Source: Aura Cacia

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Ins and Outs of Travel Insurance

April 29, 2016 2:33 am

Travel insurance covers business travelers, vacationers, tourists and other related parties from unplanned occurrences before or during a trip.

“For many consumers worried that an extreme weather event or political unrest might affect their vacation plans, travel insurance can provide useful coverage,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, chief communications officer of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “But it’s important to understand exactly what it covers and when it makes sense to purchase it.”

To determine if travel insurance is right for you, ask yourself key questions, Salvatore says.

1. If I had to cancel my vacation, would I lose the money I paid in advance?

2. Is there a chance severe weather could interrupt my vacation?

3. If the tour operator were to go bankrupt, would I receive a refund?

4. Is there a chance I will be injured because I plan to be active on my vacation?

5. Will I be traveling with small children or older relatives who might have special needs?

6. Might I need special assistance while on vacation, such as an English-speaking doctor or dentist?


If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you may be a candidate for travel insurance, says Salvatore.

Most travel insurance policies include three basic types of coverage: 

24-Hour Assistance is provided by most travel insurance companies. It helps travelers find doctors, arrange accommodations, contact their families or get other forms of assistance in case of an emergency.

Medical Insurance and Medical Evacuation provides coverage if you are injured while traveling—for example, being airlifted off a mountain due to a skiing or hiking accident—or in the event you get seriously ill and need to be flown home. Some commercial airlines require very sick passengers to travel on a stretcher with a medical escort; your travel insurer will usually make arrangements for this.

Trip Cancellation, Interruption or Delay provides coverage if you need to cancel a trip due to sickness, a death in the family, bad weather, delayed shipment of luggage or another disaster listed in the policy. In addition, if you become seriously ill or are injured during the trip, some policies will provide reimbursement for the unused portion of the vacation. (There may be exclusions for pre-existing conditions, so check your policy carefully.)

Some (but not all) policies may provide coverage if the cruise line or tour operator goes out of business. And, for an additional fee, some insurers offer a “Cancel for Any Reason” provision, which provides coverage if you cancel a trip due to “the fear of something that may happen,” such as civil unrest or a forecasted natural disaster.

Other travel-related coverage includes:

• Accidental Death, should you or a member of your group perish during the course of a trip; and
• Luggage Insurance or Personal Effects, which provides protection if your luggage and/or personal belongings are lost, stolen or damaged.

The cost of a travel insurance policy is based upon the age of the traveler, the specific coverage selected, and the cost of the trip. On average, standard travel insurance policies cost about 5-7 percent of the total cost.

Keep in mind travel insurance is different from the cancellation waivers that many cruise and tour operators offer. Waivers are not insurance; they are relatively inexpensive and provide coverage if you have to cancel the trip, but come with many restrictions. Waivers are not regulated by state insurance departments.

Be sure to check your health and homeowners insurance policies, as well as your credit card company, to see what travel-related coverage you may already have.

There are many different travel insurance companies and types of policies. Before choosing one, talk to your insurance professional or your travel agent and compare companies, policy coverage, benefits and prices. Visit InsureMyTrip.com to review your options. Additional information is available from the U.S. Travel Insurance Association at www.USTIA.org.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Grants Rolling Out to Help Eliminate Home Lead Hazards

April 29, 2016 2:33 am

More than $100 million in grants will be made available to help eliminate dangerous lead-based paint hazards from the homes of lower-income families, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced recently.

These grants, administered through the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, are intended to protect young children from lead poisoning, as well as provide an opportunity for states and local communities to establish programs that assess and remediate lead-based paint and other housing-related health hazards.

According to HUD, unsafe homes affect the health of millions of in the U.S., of all income levels, geographic areas and walks of life.

The housing improvements made with these grants will help prevent illnesses and injuries, reduce associated health care and social services costs, lessen absentee rates for children in school and adults at work, and cut stress, all of which help enhance overall quality of life.

The grants are being offered through HUD's Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program, totaling $43 million, and through its Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Program, totaling $45 million.

HUD is also providing nearly $13 million in healthy homes supplemental funds to promote, identify and remediate additional housing-related health hazards.

HUD's Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes promotes local efforts to eliminate dangerous lead paint and other housing-related health and safety hazards from lower-income homes, stimulate private sector investment in lead hazard control, support cutting-edge research on methods for assessing and controlling housing-related health and safety hazards, and educate the public about the dangers of hazards in the home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Clean Sweep: Tips for a Healthier Home

April 29, 2016 2:33 am

(Family Features)—At their core, healthy homes are allergen- and toxin-free. To maintain a healthy home, it’s important to deep-clean without introducing more harmful pollutants into the indoor environment. The tips below, courtesy of the Oreck Corporation, will help you do just that.

• Purify indoor air. Catch dust before it settles with an air purifier. Indoor air can be up to five times dirtier than outdoor air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An air purifier can remove up to 99 percent of airborne allergens, dust and odors, as well as manages humidity, to ensure continuously clean air.

• Vacuum carpets regularly. Carpets are prone to trapping allergens and other offenders, so to keep those at bay, commit to frequent vacuuming. A high-powered, filtration-bag vacuum can collect up to 99 percent of dirt and dust particles, including those not visible to the naked eye.

• Use natural cleaning agents. Some household cleaners—including fragrance-laced sprays—contain chlorine, which poses health risks. Look for natural cleaning products, or produce your own with baking soda, peroxide or vinegar.

• Launder linens. It’s easy to overlook linens and upholstery, but these materials can harbor the most pollutants in the home. Bedding, curtains, cushions and throw pillows are all common culprits. To part with unwanted particles, wash linens in hot water regularly, and steam-clean upholstery, if possible.

These tips will help maintain a cleaner, fresher—and most importantly, healthier—home for years to come.

Source: Oreck Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Remodeling? High-Ranking Kitchen Brands to Consider

April 28, 2016 12:30 am

Quality materials matter in any remodel—and when renovating the kitchen, no material matters more than the cabinets.

“One of the most critical times in a remodel or new construction is when customers order their kitchen cabinets,” says Greg Truex, senior director of the at-home practice at J.D. Power.

J.D. Power recently released their annual report of the kitchen cabinetmakers ranked highest in customer satisfaction, rated by factors including design, operational performance and price. The top five are:

1. Thomasville
2. SEKTION (IKEA)
3. American Woodmark
4. KraftMaid
5. Hampton Bay

Also included in the report are the purchasing behaviors of kitchen remodelers. Notably, 66 percent are first-time kitchen cabinet buyers, and 34 percent have not purchased a kitchen cabinet in nine years—possibly signaling a correlation between the rankings and the preferences of newer homeowners.

Source: J.D. Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Grow a Garden…Without a Garden

April 28, 2016 12:30 am

Apartments and condos rarely offer much opportunity to garden, even with balconies or patios. ApartmentTherapy.com recently rounded up container gardening tips that’ll help satisfy small-space green thumbs. Some are viable even in apartments with no outdoor space at all!

1. Ceramic Pots – Dwarf fruit trees, such as Calamondin Orange, Eureka Lemon, Improved Meyer, Orangequat, Persian Lime and Ponderosa, do well in ceramic pots. Consult with experts at your local nursery for the proper mix of soil. Ensure the trees receive plenty of sunshine and regular watering.

2. Jars – Plant slow-growing herbs in mason jars, which can be purchased at your local hardware or housewares store. Mount them vertically on a board out on the patio, or set them out on your kitchen counter, tied with decorative ribbon or rope.

3. Shoe Organizer – Hang up a vinyl shoe organizer, and fill each compartment with potting soil and plants, such as mixed salad leaves, herbs, sorrel, peas, and mini tomatoes.

4. Water Container – Container water gardens are a collection of submerged potted plants. Pots with dark interiors give the impression of depth and discourage algae. Place bricks below the surface to vary the height of the plants; tall grasses, cascading species and water flowers are ideal. Top up the water in your container every few days.

5. Wine Boxes – Buy (or wheedle a few) wooden wine boxes from your local liquor store. Place them on a table or on the floor of your balcony or patio. Fill them with potting soil and small-growing plants, like cherry tomatoes, radishes, some lettuce varieties and herbs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Refund Refurbish: Paint Your Home!

April 28, 2016 12:30 am

Eight in 10 taxpayers receive refunds each year. Most will obtain their refunds in May or June—ideal months for paint projects. What better way to purpose your tax refund than improving your home with paint?

Because paint is a relatively inexpensive product, your refund doesn’t have to be substantial to have an impact. According to the Paint Quality Institute, supplies for an interior painting project cost less than $100. In fact, if you’re a taxpayer receiving the average $2,800 refund, you can feasibly repaint the entire interior of your home!

Exterior painting is more costly, but your refund may cover a significant portion of the expense, including the product. The quality of ordinary exterior paint lasts for about four years; 100 percent-acrylic latex paint lasts 10 years. Purchasing a durable product is ultimately more cost-effective than buying a less expensive alternative.

Consider spending your refund on small-scale paint projects, too, such as a applying a fresh coat on the front door or an accent color in a built-in feature. These minor improvements will have major effects come resale.

Keep in mind, also, that if you run a home-based business, some of your painting expenses may be tax-deductible on next year’s return. Be sure to consult with your tax professional to determine your eligibility.

How are you purposing this year’s refund? Will you invest it back into your home?

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Actions Impact My Credit Score?

April 27, 2016 2:30 am

Credit scores factor into the majority of lending decisions, including those for mortgage and rental applications. In most of these scenarios, lenders determine an applicant’s eligibility by weighing his or her FICO® Score.

FICO recently rolled out an enhanced version of their Score Simulator that helps prospective homebuyers and renters understand the impact their actions have on their credit scores. The tool simulates actual FICO Scores, allowing users to enter multi-action simulations and providing side-by-side comparisons with data from the three major credit bureaus.

The what-if simulations include over 20 distinct actions, such as:

• Forgetting to Pay a Bill
• Increasing a Credit Account Limit
• Maxing Out a Credit Card
• Paying Down a Credit Card Balance
• Refinancing a Mortgage
• Taking Out a Car Loan

“Because FICO Scores are used in more than 90 percent of U.S. lending decisions, consumers want to better understand how their actions might affect FICO Scores," says Geoff Smith, vice president of Consumer Scores at FICO. “The newly enhanced FICO Score Simulator enables consumers to run simulations using the actual FICO Score 8 formula, as well as data from all major credit bureaus. This is an extremely easy-to-use and valuable tool for anyone who wants to understand how their financial behavior could impact their FICO Scores.”

The Score Simulator can be found at myFICO.com.

Source: FICO®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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National Safe Digging Month: Call 811!

April 27, 2016 2:30 am

Every six minutes, underground utility lines are damaged by contractors and homeowners.

“[This] is the time of year when many of our customers think about planting trees and shrubs, putting up a fence, or replacing a mailbox post,” says Ed Baine, senior vice president of Dominion, a Mid-Atlantic power supplier. “But with more than 20 million miles of underground utilities buried across the country, it's very likely that there are telecommunications, cable, electrical or gas lines buried in your yard—in places you cannot see and may not expect.”

To determine if your dig project will strike an underground utility line, call 8-1-1, says Baine. A professional locator will visit your property to mark the underground lines with flags or paint.

Remember:
 
Plan – Always call 8-1-1 at least three business days before digging and allow time for marking, regardless of the depth of the dig or familiarity with the property. If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made.

Confirm – After the professional marks the lines, confirm with the 811 call center that all utilities have responded.

Move – Consider relocating your project if it is in proximity to utility line markings.

For more information, visit call811.com.

Source: Dominion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey: Coastal Cities Still Commanding Highest Rents

April 27, 2016 2:30 am

Average rent prices may have dropped 0.4 percent in recent months, but in coastal communities, they’re increasing, according to ApartmentList.com’s recently released National Rent Report.

Cities on the coasts continue to be the nation’s most expensive, as the Eastern Seaboard, California and the Pacific Northwest make the site’s list of “Top 10 Cities with Highest Rents.”

Once again, San Francisco, Calif., takes a commanding lead as the most expensive city in the nation for two-bedroom rents, averaging $4,800 a month.

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s fourth most expensive city, with two-bedroom units now averaging $2,980. A one-bedroom averages $2,200.

Not surprisingly, Seattle, Wash., comes in eighth for most expensive rents, with a median two-bedroom price of $2,460.

Markedly, Jersey City, N.J., and Stamford, Conn., have shown double-digit gains in rents, as well.

Notable cities from the interior that barely missed the cut include Minneapolis, Minn. (#15), Denver, Colo. (#17), and Dallas, Texas (#22).

What about the fastest-growing rents?

• Orlando, Fla., had the third-largest increase in rent nationwide, with a 9.0 percent increase over last year. A two-bedroom apartment now costs $1,100.

• San Jose, Calif., came in seventh place for highest rent increases, with two-bedroom prices up 7.8 percent over the last year. A two-bedroom apartment now averages $2,650.

• Just behind San Jose, Austin, Texas, claims the eighth spot for fastest-growing rents at 7.7 percent over last year. A two-bedroom apartment now averages $1,500.

All data come from the several hundred thousand listings on ApartmentList.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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