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Kathy B. Hayes
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-362-0800
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Cell: 215-498-7058
Fax: 267-354-6839 
kathy@kathyhayesrealtor.com
Kathy B. Hayes

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4 Things You Need to Know About Buying Eyewear

November 5, 2013 3:42 am

There have been a lot of stories counseling Americans not to buy eyeglasses from their local eye doctor. This is not only bad from a personal health perspective, but also from a personal finance perspective.

Here are some facts that everyone needs to know before choosing their specs.

1) Retail (e.g., Pearle Vision, LensCrafters) is not always cheaper! Independent research shows that buying glasses at an independent eye doctor is still less expensive than at many corporate retail chains…by a lot! When you add vision coverage to the mix (which nearly 20 percent of Americans have), that price is even lower.

2) If you have a complex prescription, many online retailers can't make you glasses. The little secret that most online sites don't advertise is the fact that they only sell single vision lenses, not progressives. If they do sell progressives, you are responsible for providing your measurements. So if you have a complex prescription, need glasses to help you see at multiple distances, or are over the age of 40, the chances that you won't be seeing as clearly as you could are pretty high!

3) Beyond price, glasses need to do more than just look good. Glasses are unique in that they are the only fashionable medical device (so far!). Your glasses must be customized to you in every way to maximize their role to help you see clearly. And, while can find some great values online, your eye doctor should, and must, play a critical role in helping you select the best frame and lenses that are right for your individual needs. Just a few things your eye doctor and their staff ensure:

Up-to-date prescription: Your eye doctor will make sure your prescription hasn’t changed and your eyes are healthy through a comprehensive eye exam before picking out your new style. This is especially critical for young children whose eyesight can change regularly. Glasses with the wrong prescription don’t help you see!

Lens options: Lenses may seem like an afterthought, but the right ones can make a big difference. Today’s digital lens technology is more affordable than ever before, especially with vision insurance, and makes a huge difference in helping you to see your best. Your eye doctor and their staff are a great resource to learn about specialized lenses and coatings to fit and enhance your personal lifestyle needs.

Measured to fit your face: Measurements are essential to ensure that your prescription works for you. Because your face is unique so are the way your lenses fit your frames! Your eye doctor and their staff will take your personal measurements to ensure that once your new frames are in hand, they fit your face properly and not only look good on you but help you see.

4) Buying discounted frames online may cost you money in the long run. If you find a deal that is too good to be true online, it probably is. Extremely discounted designer and brand name glasses sold online are usually done so through a “gray market,” which is unofficial, unauthorized or unintended sales by the original manufacturer. This is important to know because, if these glasses malfunction, you may not have an option to get them fixed under warranty. If you purchase through your eye doctor, you have the confidence in their direct relationship with the frame manufacturer.

Source: VSPBlog.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Americans Prefer to Live in Mixed-Use, Walkable Communities

November 5, 2013 3:42 am

Choosing a community is one of the most important factors for consumers as they consider buying a home, and research by the National Association of Realtors® has consistently revealed that Americans prefer walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and shorter commutes.

According to NAR’s 2013 Community Preference Survey, 60 percent of respondents favor a neighborhood with a mix of houses and stores and other businesses that are easy to walk to, rather than neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation.

The survey findings indicate that while the size of the property does matter to consumers, they are willing to compromise size for a preferred neighborhood and less commuting. For example, although 52 percent of those surveyed prefer a single-family detached house with a large yard, 78 percent responded that the neighborhood is more important to them than the size of the house. Fifty-seven percent would forego a home with a larger yard if it meant a shorter commute to work, and 55 percent of respondents were willing to forego a home with larger yard if it meant they could live within walking distance of schools, stores and restaurants as opposed to having larger yard and needing to drive to get to schools, stores and restaurants.

“REALTORS® build communities and care about improving those communities through smart growth initiatives. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, smart growth is typically characterized by mixed-use development, higher densities, and pedestrian friendly streets that accommodate a wide diversity of transportation modes,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “Growth patterns, economic development and quality-of-life issues are inextricably linked to the success of communities and residents.”

When asked to identify their ideal community, the most popular choice was a suburban neighborhood with a mix of houses, shops and businesses. The least popular was a suburban neighborhood with just houses.

As for transportation concerns, 41 percent said improving public transportation would be the best solution, while 29 percent would prefer the development of communities where people do not have to drive long distances to work or shop, and 20 percent would choose building new roads.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Four Reasons Veterans Should Work With a Housing Counselor When Pursuing Homeownership

November 5, 2013 3:42 am

In an effort to improve the homeownership and financial planning outcomes of active duty service members and veterans, NeighborWorks America CEO Eileen Fitzgerald called upon nonprofit housing counselors and nonprofit financial capability coaches to increase their outreach and other marketing efforts to those who have chosen to serve their country in the armed forces.

A recent survey by NeighborWorks America found that homeownership is a major goal for veterans and their families. According to the survey, 92 percent of veterans said that homeownership was an important part of their American Dream. And by a nearly three-to-two margin (49 percent to 32 percent), veterans today feel prepared to buy a home.

Against this backdrop, Fitzgerald identified four reasons that service members and their qualified family members considering homeownership or financial planning should work with a housing counselor. These reasons included how taking advantage of nonprofit housing counseling and education could help reduce the significantly higher mortgage delinquency rate seen among borrowers with mortgages backed by a Department of Veterans Affairs guaranty.

Become familiar with the home buying process.


With home prices rising in nearly every market across the United States, and mortgage rates moving erratically, active duty service members, veterans and eligible spouses have the unique opportunity to purchase a home with a zero down payment because of the 100 percent borrowing ability enabled by a home loan backed by a Veterans Affairs guaranty.

"A zero percent down payment mortgage could be a great way for those who qualify to achieve homeownership," said Fitzgerald. "But there's more to buying a home than having enough money for the down payment. It's extremely important to understand the home buying process and to know how to avoid potential risks. That's where NeighborWorks network and other nonprofit housing counseling agencies add tremendous value, by providing step-by-step information on everything from how to pick a real estate agent to guidance on home energy efficiency."

Take steps to reduce default risks.


One of the major downside risks of homeownership is delinquency that could lead to foreclosure. Default and foreclosure damage a homeowner's credit, cause extra stress and could lead to poor financial decisions - such as falling prey to a mortgage loan modification scam - that have the potential produce even worse financial outcomes.

"Working with data from the credit reporting company Experian, NeighborWorks America showed that homebuyer education and counseling is effective at helping to reduce serious mortgage delinquency," said Fitzgerald. "There are many factors that can lead to delinquency and default, but one thing that seems to help reduce the risk of default is housing counseling and education."

Locate closing cost assistance.

VA mortgage eligible homebuyers have the opportunity to include their closing costs in the overall mortgage amount borrowed. Although closing costs vary from location to location, they typically are several thousand dollars. But what if a VA borrower who may have little cash saved didn't want to borrow the closing costs as well as the money needed to purchase the house. What's the solution?

"There are a number of ways that working with a nonprofit housing counselor could help a VA mortgage borrower obtain closing costs," explained Fitzgerald. "While each assistance program has different terms and conditions, the best way to determine eligibility is to work with a nonprofit housing counselor."

Connect with a financial coach.

According to Fitzgerald, a growing number of nonprofit housing counseling organizations are increasing the skill set of their staffs by having some counselors become certified as financial capability coaches.

"Financial capability coaches help everyone establish a plan to meet their financial goals, whether that's to achieve homeownership or another goal such as decreasing credit card balances or increasing savings," said Fitzgerald.

Research from a recent project between the Citi Foundation and NeighborWorks America found that that people who received financial coaching significantly improved their savings habits, enhanced their credit scores and meaningfully paid down debts.

"Nonprofit housing counselors who also are certified financial coaches are a key asset for service members to connect to," said Fitzgerald. "The bottom line is that whether a homebuyer is using a VA mortgage or not, the nonprofit housing counseling community is here for active duty service members and veterans to help them achieve their financial goals."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Great Dollar Store Buys

November 4, 2013 3:39 am

If you are pinching pennies, a dollar store can be your best friend. Not everything there is truly a bargain, but consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch recommends 10 dollar store purchases that offer good quality as well as big savings:

Cleaning supplies – According the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, most dollar store cleaning supplies work just as well as name brands at a savings of 30 percent or more – and that includes sponges, mops, and scrub brushes.

-Food containers – Plastic food containers in all shapes and sizes cost a fraction of the name brands at retail stores and will keep your food fresh just as well.

-Gift wrap and bags – They will probably be of lesser quality than what you find at the party store. But they are just as attractive, and since most bags and wraps are discarded anyway, why pay so much more than you need to?

-Greeting cards – Cards may cost as little as fifty cents at the dollar store. You may not find a great selection, for many occasions you will find them a worthwhile buy.

-Holiday items – From Halloween centerpieces to Christmas décor and Valentine’s Day items, you will find a huge selection of holiday items and candy at the dollar store.

-Party supplies - You can find paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils in a variety of colors at the dollar store for about a third of the cost at party supply stores and less than half what you’ll pay at the grocery store. Also look for streamers, plastic tablecloths and helium balloons at great prices.

-Personal grooming items – Hair brushes, toothbrushes, toothpastes and deodorants are significantly less expensive at the dollar store.
Picture frames – You may be amazed at the variety of picture frames in all sizes available for a buck at the dollar store. Look like a hero and frame your children’s artworks for practically nothing.

-Scented candles – You can find these in a variety of sizes and colors for a dollar, compared to three bucks or more at other stores.

-Shampoo and conditioner – Unless you are loyal to one particular label, you will probably find that most shampoos and conditioners from the dollar stores do as good a job as their name-brand counterparts.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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CPSC Urges Consumers to Replace Batteries in Smoke and CO Alarms

November 4, 2013 3:39 am

There is no doubt that smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms can save lives. But to do their job of alerting consumers to fire or CO, alarms need fresh batteries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers put new batteries in their alarms to prepare and protect families throughout the upcoming winter.

Home fires take a heavy toll in lost lives, lasting injuries and property damage. CPSC estimates an average of 362,300 unintentional residential fires attended by the fire service, resulting in 2,260 deaths, 12,820 injuries and nearly $7 billion in property damage each year between 2009 and 2011.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three out of five fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Working smoke alarms with fresh batteries can make a real difference in lives saved and injuries prevented. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey for 2011, only three out of four homes reported they changed the batteries in their smoke alarms in the last six months. Batteries should be replaced in alarms every year. In addition, CPSC recommends that consumers test their alarms every month to make sure that the alarms are working. Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas.

CO alarms are just as important as smoke alarms. If you do not have CO alarms, get them. Each year from 2007 to 2009, there were nearly 170 carbon monoxide deaths involving consumer products under CPSC's jurisdiction, including portable generators and home heating systems.

Carbon monoxide is called the invisible killer, because you cannot see or smell it. This poisonous gas can come from a variety of sources and quickly incapacitate and kill its victims.

CO alarms should be installed on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Like smoke alarms, CO alarms need fresh batteries every year. They should be tested once a month to make sure they are working.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Decline for Second Consecutive Week

November 4, 2013 3:39 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates declining for the second consecutive week amid recent data showing softening in the housing market. Fixed mortgage rates are at their lowest levels since June.

Findings

30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.10 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending October 31, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.13 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.39 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 3.20 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.24 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.70 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.96 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.00 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.64 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.60 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.58 percent.

"Fixed mortgage rates eased further leading up to the Federal Reserve's (Fed) October 30th monetary policy announcement. The Fed saw improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program, but noted the recovery in the housing market slowed somewhat in recent months and unemployment remains elevated,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

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Health Risks of Noise Pollution

November 1, 2013 3:33 am

Noise pollution is a significant cause of sleep deprivation, stress, hypertension, and heart risk. The problem is, it invades our work places and homes constantly.

Recent studies published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” indicate that noise levels at night may also increase the risk of heart attack by chronically elevating stress-related hormone levels. It's clear that noise adversely reduces people's health and quality of life.

Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep. Uninterrupted sleep is critical for proper physical and mental functioning in healthy individuals.

Apart from various effects on sleep itself, noise during sleep causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, narrowing of the blood vessels, changes in respiration, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased body movement.

Secondary effects measured the following day include fatigue, depressed mood and well-being, and decreased performance. People who sleep in a noisy environment have a shallower and less restful depth of sleep. This creates more health stresses on the body.

Most homes are built to protect against heat and cold. Often, they are not effective in blocking out noise. Studies of hundreds of offices and homes show that the most significant amount of noise comes through windows, not walls. While many people spend thousands of dollars on "sound proofing" the walls of their buildings, laboratory studies show that more than 90 percent of all the exterior noise comes in through doors and windows. Walls are almost never the problem.

Dual pane windows have been shown to be ineffective at handling noise issues. They are designed to handle heat and cold. The engineering needed for sound is quite different than for handling temperature. That's why people looking for noise relief who simply replace their dual pane windows are often disappointed.

A solution that has shown to reduce noise levels by 75-95 percent is adding soundproof windows. These are add-on windows which install quickly on the interior of a room. They blend with the window frame and dramatically reduce the level of outside noise that comes into the room. The technology behind these specifically engineered windows is grounded in engineering sound-eliminating window systems for recording studios.

Independent laboratory tests confirm noise reductions of 92-99 percent, as verified by audio instrumentation. While the human ear cannot detect that level of precision, the difference in noise levels in a room is significant.

If you live in a major city or on an otherwise noisy block, soundproofing your windows may just be the solution you need for uninterrupted sleep.

Source: Soundproof Windows, Inc.

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10 Foods to Stock Up On to Reduce Impact of Cold and Flu Season

November 1, 2013 3:33 am

Flu season has significant costs for everyone. According to a National Business Group on Health report, the flu indirectly costs employers about $76.7 million a year in employee absenteeism and other indirect costs. A typical employee has flu symptoms for five to six days and misses between a half day and five days of work.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting flu activity to increase in the coming weeks and months, now is the time for employers to prepare. One important way is help employees boost their immune systems, the front-line for flu protection.

Get ready for the flu season by stocking the right foods in your kitchen. The 10 great immunity-boosting foods are:

-Oranges
-Veggie slices (peppers, carrots, celery, any)
-Whole grain fortified cereals
-Nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, any)
-Hardboiled eggs
-Hummus
-Yogurt (Greek or low fat)
-Bean salad
-Green tea
-String cheese

Building one's immunity system with vitamin C, zinc, protein, and antioxidants before cold and flu season helps lessen its impact. Studies show that consuming these nutrients after getting sick does not shorten the duration or stop the virus.

In addition to eating the 10 immunity-boosting foods, here are some other ways you can to boost their immune system:

-Eat yogurt or other sources of probiotics to support the gastrointestinal tract, the second line of defense for the immune system
-Eat a well-balanced diet
-Reduce stress levels
-Keep skin healthy - dry cracked skin can provide an entrance for the flu virus
-Laugh – laughter has been shown to improve immune function by lowering stress
-Consider getting the seasonal flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine (to determine your suitability for these vaccines.

Source: Geneia

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Mold and Windows: What Homeowners Need to Know

November 1, 2013 3:33 am

“As long as it has an organic food source such as wood, cardboard or paper, mold can grow in any location," says John Stark, marketing manager for Simonton Windows. "The key is the organic food source. When products in the home, such as wood window frames or wood window sills, come in contact with moisture for an extended period of time, then mold can grow."

According to The Mold Services Group, a division of GHH Engineering, Inc., vinyl is not an organic food source, so mold cannot grow on vinyl window frames.

However, if even tiny particles of organic debris are found on or around the surfaces of a vinyl window in a moisture-rich area, homeowners can potentially find mold growth. What makes up this debris? It can be anything from microscopic fragments of pollen to animal dander to insect pieces to normal household dust.

"Routinely cleaning vinyl window sills and surfaces helps eliminate the remote possibility of mold growing on vinyl windows," says Stark. "By removing organic debris, such as dust and dirt, you will help keep your vinyl windows free of mold spores."

Sweaty Windows
Stark reports that, in order to keep areas around windows moisture-free to prevent potential mold growth, homeowners should watch for - and take steps to minimize - condensation.

"People sometimes see their windows 'sweat' during the winter or summer months because of varying humidity levels in the home," says Stark. "Without proper ventilation, moisture can accumulate on windows and walls from daily household activities such as hot showers, boiling water and opening dishwashers after a cleaning cycle."

This minor accumulation of moisture or steam generally isn't a cause for concern, and using ventilation fans and dehumidifiers can help reduce humidity in the home.

"Windows are a major component in a home that impact other things around them," says Stark. "They eventually need to be replaced. If windows have major air leaks, don't close properly, or are failing to act as a solid barrier to the environment, then it's time to consider replacing them with new energy-efficient vinyl windows."

Reducing the Chance of Mold
The Florida Solar Energy Center reports that moisture levels in the home are one of the easiest elements to alter so that mold will not grow in a house. Since people prefer humidity levels that are generally below the critical relative humidity for mold growth to occur, the simple acts of using ceiling fans, reducing the number of house plants in a home and leaving interior room (and closet) doors open can all help reduce moisture levels throughout the home.

Stark advises that homeowners with plantation style blinds or heavy window coverings that are closed all the time should change their habits. Condensation can get "trapped" in between the window treatments and the windows creating a damp environment that may encourage mold growth.

"By routinely opening window coverings to increase ventilation near windows homeowners will help reduce both condensation and potential mold growth," says Stark. "Another smart tip is to make sure that air vent deflectors are placed on floor vents to reroute air into the room rather than straight up against a window.

"Vinyl windows are a smart, durable choice for the home. However homeowners have to do their part too. Keeping the home well ventilated and clean during all seasons of the year makes it easy for vinyl windows to remain the most effortless and reliable windows imaginable in the home."

Source: Simonton Windows

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Don't Compound the Hazard When Hiring an Asbestos Contractor

October 31, 2013 3:30 am

The discovery of hazardous material like asbestos lurking in one's home is disturbing enough. Homeowners in this situation can get it resolved without compounding the problem by hiring an improper or unscrupulous contractor to do the work.

The Alvarado Group of Madison, WI recently posted some good advice from Gary Mason, a Wisconsin Registered Home Inspector. Mason says if you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic, usually asbestos material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.
There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed, fibers are released and then inhaled. Mason also offers these tips for homeowners considering a corrective-action contractor:

-Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures).

-Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home by sealing off the work area using plastic sheeting and duct tape - also turn off the heating and air conditioning system.

-Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer - wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.

-Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air.
At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.

-Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used.

-Air monitoring to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air, and to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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