RE/MAX 440
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

My Blog

Make Sure Your Home is Air-Tight

December 23, 2013 4:42 am

Space heating can account for up to 60 percent of most homeowners' energy bills. This is especially true with older homes, which can often be drafty, lightly insulated and may still have older, less energy efficient windows, doors and heating systems. This can add up to substantially higher home heating costs.

One of the best ways to cut down on your bills and keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer is by making sure your home is well sealed. CMHC offers the following tips on how to improve the airtightness of your home, to help you save money, reduce your environmental footprint and make your house more comfortable to live in:

• Air sealing not only cuts heat losses and gains, it also improves comfort by reducing drafts, helps improve the performance of the insulation in your walls and attic by stopping cold winter wind from washing through it, and, it can help prevent moisture build-up in your walls and attic.

• Finding air leaks can often be a challenge. Sometimes they are detectable by feeling for cold drafts in suspect locations. Other times, you may be able to see daylight shining in through unwanted openings. Blackened insulation is often another sign. For a more thorough assessment, consider hiring a qualified residential energy service provider to perform a "blower door" test of your house. During this test, your house is forced to leak, making it easier to find air leakage locations with smoke emitting devices or a special thermographic scanner.

• A blower door test can also tell you the size of the hole all the leakage areas would add up to if they were all located in one location. This is helpful when you want to know how leaky your house is relative to other houses. If a blower door test is done before and after air sealing, you can also find out how much you have reduced the air leakage of your home.

• Some of the more common air leakage points can include ceiling pot light fixtures installed through ceilings into attic spaces, electrical boxes in ceiling and exterior walls; inside to outside wiring, plumbing and duct penetrations; bathroom exhaust fans installed in attic ceilings; older windows and doors; the joint between windows and the surrounding walls; and floor-wall joints.

• Once you have located the leaks, you can use a variety of different approaches to seal them. For instance, leaky windows and doors can be sealed with gaskets or new weatherstripping. Gaps around wiring, pipes and ducts can be sealed with caulking or spray foam. Electrical boxes can be sealed with special gaskets that fit behind the box plate covers. Joints between walls and floors and around the top of your foundation may be sealed with caulking or spray foam depending on the size of the gap. To find out the right options for your home, be sure to consult a contractor with expertise in air leakage control.

• If you are replacing your exterior siding, it's a good time to add an exterior air barrier (and more insulation) that wraps your house in a draft-proof cover from the basement to attic.

• While air sealing is always a good idea, you might have to add mechanical ventilation in the form of a bathroom fan, a range hood, or better yet, a heat recovery ventilation system, to help maintain healthy indoor conditions. Air sealing can also adversely affect the ability of some fuel-fired furnaces, boilers and hot water tanks to safely vent combustion products so an additional source of outdoor air may be needed. Consult a qualified mechanical contractor for guidance on ventilation system options and combustion air needs for your home before you start.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Bad Neighbors Can Reduce Property Values

December 23, 2013 4:42 am

The Appraisal Institute cautions homeowners and potential homebuyers that bad neighbors can significantly reduce nearby property values.

Bad neighbors can include homeowners with annoying pets, unkempt yards, unpleasant odors, loud music, dangerous trees and limbs, or poorly maintained exteriors. A homeowner or prospective homebuyer should visit a street on several days at various times to learn more about what is happening in the neighborhood. A home’s proximity to a bad neighbor also can impact the rate of potential decline in value.

“I’ve seen many situations where external factors, such as living near a bad neighbor, can lower home values by more than 5 to 10 percent,” says Appraisal Institute resident Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA. “Homeowners should be aware of what is going on in their neighborhood and how others’ bad behaviors could affect their home’s value.”

The Appraisal Institute urges homeowners to take the following steps when dealing with troublesome neighbors:

1. Speak with other neighbors. Get consensus when identifying issues, and approach the bad neighbor together.

2. Look up original and updated subdivision restrictions. If talking to the neighbor doesn’t work, see if they’re violating any restrictions. If so, writing to the code office of the municipality and reporting the bad neighbor could spur an investigation into the nuisance. Depending on the offense, a call to the local health department also may be warranted.

3. Hire an attorney. If all else fails, the cost of an attorney likely will be less than the home’s potential loss in value.

“Even though homeowners do have some recourse, it’s important for prospective homebuyers to carefully examine the neighborhood where they’re considering living,” Borges says. “That way they can hopefully prevent any problems in the first place.”

Potential homebuyers also should be aware of a property’s proximity to commercial facilities, such as power plants and funeral homes, as these also can negatively affect a home’s value.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Kitchens Often Top Location for Home Fires

December 20, 2013 4:36 am

Cooking is the No. 1 cause of home fires, and a significant contributor to home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

It's a good idea for parents to talk to their children about fire safety in the home.

"Children practice fire drills at school, and adults practice them in the workplace, but many families have not practiced a fire escape plan in their homes," says Kathy Krafka Harkema, Pella Windows and Doors spokesperson and fire safety educator. "Make the time to help protect your loved ones. Consider what you can do to observe fire safety, as well as window and door safety."

Through its Close the door on fire® campaign, Pella encourages consumers to practice home safety year-round:

Identify, Prepare, Practice

• Evaluate fire safety risks inside your home and immediate surroundings. Equip your garage with smoke detectors since garage fires can start and spread quickly. Also, properly extinguish fire in indoor fireplaces or outdoor fire settings like grills or fire pits to help prevent the risk of fire spreading around your home or elsewhere. Check for local burn ban ordinances and follow them.
• Identify two exits - Designate two exits from every room in your home -- a door and a window. Make sure doors and windows open quickly and easily to help ensure a quick exit; if not, consider replacing them for safety's sake.
• Have a plan - Draw a floor plan of each level of your home. Before an emergency strikes, establish and communicate a meeting place a safe distance outside your home for your household members to gather in the event of a fire.
• Check the alarms - Install working smoke alarms in or near every sleeping area and on every level in your home. Test alarms monthly, change batteries regularly, and every 10 years replace alarms not permanently wired into your home's electrical system.
• Make smart purchases - Keep fire extinguishers in your home. If your home includes more than one story, consider keeping a fire escape ladder in bedrooms and sleeping areas to help prepare for an exit from an upper story in the event of an emergency. Mark their location on your home fire plan and share this information with those in your home. Since many fires start in the kitchen, keep a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen.
• Test the alarm - Sound smoke alarms when household members are awake so everyone knows what they sound like, and test your family's ability to awaken to alarms during sleeping hours. If those in your home don't awaken easily, assign someone to awaken sound sleepers in the event of an emergency.
• Practice makes perfect - Practice your home fire escape plan with everyone in your home at least twice a year. Practice your plan first in the daytime, to familiarize everyone in your home with what to do in the event of a fire, and then at night, when most home fires occur.

Fire safety especially critical during drought
• Keep grass cut short around your home and property.
• Remove dried leaves and other potentially flammable debris.
• Clear debris from your home's gutters.
• Trim and remove dead plant material, like trees and shrubs, from your landscaping.
• Observe burn bans and refrain from starting outdoor fires, including campfires, fire pits and grills with exposed embers.

Share window safety tips
• Keep children's play away from windows, doors and balconies.
• Teach people not to lean against a window screen. Insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep a person in a building.
• Keep windows closed and locked when not in use to let in fresh air. When opening windows for ventilation, open those that a child cannot reach like the upper sash on a double-hung window.
• Keep furniture like beds and dressers -- anything children can climb -- away from windows.

Source: pella.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Tips for Interpreting Nutrition Facts Labels

December 20, 2013 4:36 am

(Family Features) Take a trip to the grocery store and you’ll encounter miles of aisles stocked with thousands of food products. Every product has a story to tell or better yet, sell. Information printed on packages is helpful but it’s often confusing and even a bit misleading.

While lists of ingredients and the Nutrition Facts panel are there to help shoppers choose foods to fit their nutritional needs, it’s not always easy to interpret. Learning how to decode the jumble of numbers and percentages is the first step in shopping for healthier foods.

“The best guide for making decisions affecting your diet is the nutrition facts panel, which is regulated by the FDA and for meats and poultry by the USDA,” said Carolyn O’Neil, registered dietitian and nutrition advisor for BestFoodFacts.org. “The Nutrition Facts panel lists all of the important specs, such as calories, fats, sodium, fiber, sugar and several key vitamins and minerals.”

Nutrition label 101
Here are some of O’Neil’s tips on understanding nutrition labels, so you can be a more informed consumer and make healthier decisions for your family.

• Always note serving sizes: While a food or beverage may seem like a good nutritional fit, the first thing to notice should always be the serving size. Watch out because if you read that a serving contains 100 calories, for instance, that may be for 8 ounces of a juice beverage and the container may hold 16 ounces.

• Be aware of unhealthy contents: If looking to limit fat, sodium and sugar, pay close attention to these call outs on the label. Some foods might deliver more than your daily limit for sodium! Remember that trans fats should be avoided completely.

• Look for the good stuff: A healthy diet consists of vitamins and nutrients which nutrition labels also spell out. Go for foods that are good sources of the good guys - dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and potassium.

• Don’t be fooled by healthy looks: While package design may illustrate people engaging in healthful activities, pretty farm scenes and adorned with “healthy” words, note that the FDA does not regulate the use of creative brand names. As always, it is the nutrition facts label where a consumer can see what’s really inside.

• Trust health claims: The FDA closely monitors the use of health claims on food packaging. So, if you see wording such as “heart healthy,” you can be confident the company had to meet nutrition criteria set by the FDA.

Prepared with nutrition label know-how, shoppers can put this valuable information to work to make food shopping easier on the next trip to supermarket. For other tips visit www.BestFoodFacts.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Winterize Your Home to Avoid Unnecessary Insurance Claims

December 20, 2013 4:36 am

According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, one of the worst winters in years is ahead for most of the United States with below average temperatures and abnormally high snowfall. Homeowners should consider the below tips to begin to prepare their homes for the cold months ahead and to avoid unnecessary claims.

1. Avoid ice dams.
Ice dams can form at the lower edge of your sloped roof when interior heat causes the snow to melt and refreeze. Once an ice dam forms, it blocks water from draining off the roof forcing the water inside, which can cause serious damage to your home's interior.

"Ensure the attic is properly ventilated and nicely insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic," said Paul Hurd, assistant vice president, National Property Product at Grange Insurance. "Homeowners should also seal air leaks in the ceiling so that warm air doesn't leak into the attic. In this case, cooler is better. Doing so will not only prevent ice dams from forming, it will limit cold air drafts and reduce energy bills."

2. Prevent bursting pipes.
Another potential cause of water damage is bursting pipes, which can happen when water freezes in a home's pipes. Secure insulation sleeves over any exposed pipes, seal cracks and holes near water pipes, and allow slow trickles of water to flow through faucets that are connected to pipes in unheated areas. If your home will be empty during the winter months, it is best to drain your water lines.

3. Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice and snow.
While your homeowner policy should have liability coverage, you can avoid claims by making sure your sidewalks and driveways are clear of ice and snow to prevent injuries. Try to shovel several times, even while it's still storming, so that snow doesn't get a chance to build up and bond to surfaces. Plus, it's much easier to shovel two inches of snow than five. Get down to the pavement beneath so that sunlight can warm it up and prevent ice from forming. In addition, use sandbox sand to add traction to slippery surfaces and prevent falls.

4. Properly shutdown a vacant home.
For homeowners who close up a summer vacation home or leave for an extended period of time each winter, it is important to prepare before vacating. Homeowners leaving town should give a trusted neighbor a key so they can check the house periodically to account for any unforeseen damage and discourage burglars.

It is important that homeowners turn down their heat, but do not shut it off completely. They should also shut off water, clean out the gutters and arrange for snow removal services to clear sidewalks and driveways while the home is vacated.

5. Inspect heating systems and alternative heating sources.

Homeowners should inspect any heating systems, chimneys or other supplemental heating devices this fall. Although fireplaces, space heaters and wood stoves are popular heating sources, they require proper maintenance and caution to ensure safe operation.

"It is imperative to never leave wood stoves, space heaters or fireplaces unattended to prevent house fires," said Hurd "In the event of a house fire, call the fire department immediately. Once your family is in a safe place and accounted for, contact your independent agent to report the damage. He or she will help you file a proper claim."

6. Consider policy add-ons for further protection against harsh winter weather.
As weather pattern changes continue to impact insurance claims, homeowners should consider additional policy options to make premiums more affordable.

For example, homeowners should consider coverage add-ons for valuables damaged by water during a sewer, drainage or sump-pump back-up.

"Back-up of sewers and drains coverage provides coverage for losses caused by water which backs up through sewers or drains, or water that enters into and overflows from within a sump pump or sump pump well," Hurd said. "This coverage will provide peace of mind when winter storms approach this season."

Source: www.grangeinsurance.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

3 Tips for Beautiful Wood Doors

December 19, 2013 4:36 am

(BPT) - Your home's front door is more than a portal for family and friends - it makes a statement about your own personal style. Home designers often list the entry door as one of the most cost effective ways to dress up the front of your home for "wow" curb appeal.

This Old House magazine notes that since the front door is the first and last thing we touch when entering and leaving our homes, "it's easy to understand why many of us still like our doors to be made of wood - nothing else matches the material's warmth and satisfying heft."

"People choose wood entry doors first and foremost for their beauty; it's a fine piece of furniture on the front of your home," says Brad Loveless of Simpson Door Company.

For homeowners who enjoy the beauty of wood entry doors, options are now available to stand up to the harshest climates - from the wind-driven rains of Nantucket Island to the desert Southwest. Following are three ways to have the wood door you want and to ensure it will look great for years, no matter what the climate throws at it.

Bring your dreams to life
With doors available in hundreds of wood species, and numerous designs and glass options, it can be hard to envision how a particular door will look on your home. Short of hiring an architect to make a sketch, most people have had to rely on their imaginations. Recently, easy-to-use, free online tools have become available to simplify the door selection process. For example, Simpson's "Test Drive a Door" enables people to upload a photo of their home and view different door options on it. This allows a homeowner to be sure before they buy.

Go for performance
People are used to looking for high performance when shopping for new cars or computers, but might not realize the same approach can apply to doors. Manufacturers have developed high-performance wood doors with superior weather resistance that last in the most demanding exposures, including coastal homes with no porch or roof overhang to protect the door.

One high-performance option to consider is choosing wood species that perform best in moist conditions, as this varies among wood types. Species that have been shown in laboratory testing to have natural moisture resistance include Douglas Fir, Black Locust, Nootka Cypress and Sapele Mahogany, among others.

Another performance option some manufacturers offer in their wood doors is water-resistant composite blocks within the bottom of the door, where water can infiltrate. Doors also are available with full exterior cladding to protect them from rain and sun, while retaining the beauty of wood inside the home.

A strong finish
With any door, whether made of wood, steel or fiberglass, it is crucial to finish it for long-lasting protection from the elements. Doors are sold either factory finished or unfinished. If unfinished, the door must be finished by the door dealer, a contractor or the homeowner.

Manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions for best results from finishing, and those steps typically must be followed to ensure warranty requirements. Chief among these are to finish all six sides - front, back and all edges. As no wood surface should be left unfinished, finish should also be applied to the cut-outs for the handle and lock set, as well as any other openings, such as for mail slots or pet doors.

If the door is exposed to sun, it is generally better to use lighter color paints or stains as those absorb less heat from damaging UV rays.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Winterize Home Plumbing and Avoid Costly Problems

December 19, 2013 4:36 am

When the first big winter storm hits, many people focus on prepping the outside of the home — shoveling snow, spreading salt, putting the winter tires on the car. Now that the first snow has melted, it's the perfect time to take preventative steps indoors. Freezing temperatures that last for days at a time can cause a variety of plumbing problems. When pipes freeze, water in the pipes turns to ice and expands. The pressure causes cracks, whether the pipe is made of plastic, copper or steel. Even a tiny crack can unleash 250 gallons of water in a single day. Even in the south, where cold weather is a rarity, there are simple steps to take to prevent pipes from freezing and damaging structures when temperatures drop.

• Disconnect outside water hoses. If left connected during freezing temperatures, water in hoses will freeze and expand causing connecting faucets and pipes to freeze and break.
• Inspect outside faucets. If dripping or leaking, make the necessary repairs or call a plumber before a freeze.
• If your home is equipped with interior shut-off valves leading to outside faucets, close them and drain water from the pipes.
• Cover outside faucets using an inexpensive faucet insulation kit.
• Insulate pipes in unheated areas. Apply heat tape or thermostat-controlled heat cables around exposed pipes.
• If your washing machine is in your unheated garage, turn off water supply lines leading to the washer and disconnect the hoses if temperatures are expected to drop below freezing.
• Allow a trickle of hot and cold water to drip overnight in sinks and bathtubs with supply pipes that run along outside walls and leave sink cabinet doors open to allow warm air from the room to circulate around uninsulated pipes.
• Keep furnace set no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source: Roto-Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Top Five Safety Gift Picks for 2013

December 19, 2013 4:36 am

As time runs out for buying this year's presents, remember a gift that could save a life is always in style. That is exactly what you can do by purchasing electrical safety devices. To help you in your last-minute shopping, Safe Electricity has picked their top five gift ideas to help keep your holiday season merry, bright, and safe!

"The holidays are a time to let people know how much you care about them," says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. "A practical gift that helps keep loved ones safe continues to say 'I care about you' long after the holidays."

Safe Electricity's top five safety gift picks for 2013 are:

• Appliance Timer with a Safety Turn-off: Is there someone on your list who is repeatedly forgetting to turn off a curling iron or other small appliance? An appliance timer with a safety turn-off can be found for around $8 and provides an added layer of protection when a small appliance, such as an iron or space heater, accidentally gets left on. It has an auto shut-off timer that helps protect homes from fire or burn hazards.

• Portable/Extension Cord GFCI: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) detect and prevent shocks. You may have noticed them in many bathrooms, kitchens, and other places where water and electricity may meet. They are the outlets with red and black buttons. If you know someone who works outside often, a portable GFCI is a perfect gift. A portable GFCI offers protection from shock regardless of the electronic or tool that's plugged into it, helping keep your loved ones safe wherever they work. A GFCI extension cord starts at around $25.

• Tamper Resistant Outlets or Outlet Plugs: Young children may put fingers or other small objects in outlets without understanding the dangers of electricity. It is up to you to understand the dangers of electricity and prevent accidents. Tamper Resistant Outlets (TROs) provide a permanent solution. TROs have shutters that stay closed unless a plug with two prongs is plugged in. If you do not have a thorough understanding of electricity, TROs should be installed by a professional. Another option is simple outlet plugs. A TRO costs less than $2. Packs of multiple outlet plugs start at around $3.

• Non-contact Voltage Tester: This gift is for the do-it-yourselfer. This is an inexpensive tool that detects the presence of voltage without touching a bare wire. The tester uses non-contact voltage detection technology to identify voltage in cables, cords, wires, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, switches, and outlets. Prices start around $12.

• Power Strips and Smart Strips: Many people will get new electronics for the holidays. Help your friends power electronics safely with a new power strip. Choose a power strip that comes with a circuit breaker that will trip if the power strip becomes overloaded. Overloaded power strips are dangerous and can cause shocks and fires. Power strip prices start at around $7. Smart power strips are another option that add energy savings. Electronics that are turned off sometimes still draw power. So a control unit, such as a television or computer, is plugged into one outlet. The smart strip detects when the control unit is off and shuts off power to peripherals, like DVD players and printers. Smart strips can be found for as low as $22.

During the busy holidays Safe Electricity encourages you to take time to keep all of your celebrations safe. For more information, visit http://SafeElectricity.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Four Quick Steps to a Guest-Friendly Home

December 18, 2013 4:36 am

Having extra bodies in your home overnight can be stressful at any time, but house guests for the holidays – when you are already deep into shopping and preparing – can seem like more than you want to take on.

The home and style editors from Better Homes and Gardens offer four do-ahead suggestions that should help to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable and calm your last-minute jitters about hosting:

Clear the clutter – Keep an eye out for any knick-knacks or furniture you can store in the garage or closet in order to provide extra space for your guests’ luggage and belongings.

Prep the sleeping space – Whether it is a guest bedroom or a pull-out sofa in the den, place a basket nearby with extra linens, a few magazines or books, and a small alarm clock. If your guests will be spending some time on their own, include a map and/or guidebook for the local area. Try to make sure there is adequate reading light, and – somewhere on a small table or dresser top, place a small plant or a vase of fresh flowers with a welcome note propped up against it.

Prep the bathroom – Clean the guest bathroom, or a shared one, thoroughly, and consider replacing a tired-looking shower curtain or towels. Find a spot for a basket containing spare towels and personal items, such as lotion, shampoo, and toothbrush, or other items that might have been forgotten. Plug in a nightlight to help light the way from the sleeping area.

Prep the kitchen – Before your guests arrive, ask them about any food or snack preferences or other items they would like to have on hand. On a tray near the coffeepot, or on a counter, place a selection of coffee, tea and cocoa along with sugar and creamer so your guests don’t need to rummage through the cupboards. You may want to include some cookies or fruit for impromptu snacking anytime the mood strikes.

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

31 Percent of Holiday Shoppers Have Yet To Buy a Single Gift

December 18, 2013 4:36 am

Despite the shorter-than-usual holiday shopping season, 31 percent of Americans who plan on giving gifts haven't even started shopping as of early December, according to a new Consumer Reports poll. Of those who have started shopping, 49 percent were less than half way done.

The Consumer Reports poll also revealed that with regard to their holiday preparations, 64 percent of shoppers felt they have things under control and will be ready. However, 36 percent were feeling at least somewhat stressed – including 6 percent who were so overwhelmed that they're unsure if they'll be ready in time, and 3 percent who said they almost certainly won't be ready for the holidays.

"Even though this year there's less days on the calendar to get their holiday shopping done, there are still quite a bit of procrastinators out there," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. "The 11 percent who told us they've completely finished shopping already have certainly saved themselves the stress of frantically searching for last-minute gifts."

The Consumer Reports poll also revealed which methods of sending holiday greetings are least likely to be well-received. When asked to rate the tastefulness of various ways people may send holiday greetings, 67 percent of Americans said group text messages were in poor taste, 65 percent said the same about all-purpose greetings posted on social media or the like, while 57 percent said  group emails were in poor taste. 

When asked which holiday gift recipient is the hardest to shop for, 30 percent said it was their spouse/partner/significant other, one quarter cited a parent, while 12 percent said it was the kids.

As for whom Americans will be spending the most money on for holiday gifts, the Consumer Reports revealed the following top responses:

Children (39 percent)
Spouse/Partner/Significant Other (29 percent)
Parent (11 percent)
Sibling (5 percent)
Friend ( 3 percent)

Most shoppers seemed to be doing a good job of controlling their holiday gift spending, according to the Consumer Reports poll. But 36 percent indeed were concerned about overspending – including 6 percent who were very concerned.

Other holiday tidbits from the poll included:

-82 percent would rather receive practical gifts vs. luxury gifts (18 percent)
-60 percent would rather receive cash vs. gift cards (40 percent)
-56 percent would rather host out-of-town guests vs. being a guest at someone else's home (44 percent)
-56 percent would rather have a fake Christmas tree vs. a real one (44 percent)

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: