RE/MAX 440
Margaret Schickling

Margaret Schickling
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack  PA 19474
Phone:  610-584-1160
Office:  610-584-1160
Cell:  610-802-0891
Fax:  267-354-6252

My Blog

5 Tips for Tackling a Home Improvement List

October 9, 2015 2:01 am

(Family Features) From aesthetic upgrades to practical necessities, there is no shortage of projects for homeowners to tackle. To take the stress out of home improvement, blogger and author Justina Blakeney and YP.com serve up the following tips:

  • Prioritize projects by needs, not wants. Blakeney advises making sure important projects (functioning air conditioning, for example) are set before tackling less crucial ones, like popcorn ceilings. Be realistic with your goals and always factor in 20 percent more money and time than you think the project will take.
  • Some projects are simple enough to DIY, but other projects may be better handled by experts. Honestly assess your own level of expertise, permit requirements and local regulations, your budget, your timeline and ultimate goals before deciding whether to DIY or hire an expert. Whether you need a personal organizer or a painter, a foundation specialist or a handyman, ask friends for referrals and then head online to dig a little deeper before getting a project bid.
  • Create a collection of professionals you will be working with and all the stores you will source materials from. You'll have all of the info in one place for follow-ups, and it's easy to share the info with friends once they start asking for recommendations. Also get a clear breakdown of all elements involved in each project, how much each step will cost and deadlines for each step along the way. A clear plan of action will help keep the budget and timeline in check. 
  • One of the best ways to save time and money is to find things second-hand. Thrift shops, salvage shops and flea markets are great places to find furniture, appliances and hardware on the cheap. Or, repurpose items you already own by moving them to a different room or by painting them different colors. Explore all of your options and resources before going out and spending that hard-earned cash. 
  • It’s okay to start small. Swap out the old hardware on your kitchen cabinets or fix the broken brick on your patio. Just start somewhere and build your way up to the larger stuff. If you're feeling overwhelmed, try setting and accomplishing one small home improvement goal every week. 

Source: YP.com

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Survey Highlights the Struggle to Save

October 8, 2015 2:01 am

“How much money do you have saved in your savings account?”

A simple question with a not-so-simple answer, as a recent GoBankingRates.com survey found. According to the survey, one-fifth of Americans do not have a savings account, and nearly two-thirds have no more than $1,000 saved.

Those who have money saved, however, have much more than $1,000 – ten times more, per the survey’s findings. Perhaps attributable to age, seniors, or those aged 65 and older, are most likely to have $10,000 or more saved. Millennials, or those aged 18 to 24, are most likely to have less than $1,000 saved.

Interestingly, Gen Xers, or those aged 35 to 54, are most likely to have a savings account balance of $0.

“It’s troubling how many Americans aren’t thinking about long-term planning or retirement, with little to nothing stashed away in a savings account,” says Casey Bond, editor-in-chief of GOBankingRates. “Saving money is an uphill battle for many, but there are a number of simple ways people can consistently grow their nest egg over time, such as automating their savings. Even a small contribution is better than nothing at all."

Source: GOBankingRates.com

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Understanding Your Flood Risk

October 8, 2015 2:01 am

As a homeowner or renter, understanding your flood risk is essential. Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down is covered by homeowners or renters insurance; water that comes from the bottom up is covered separately by flood insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“Many consumers don’t understand what type of water damage is covered by standard home insurance, nor do they understand the various types of flood policies available to them,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, chief communications officer for the I.I.I.

Water from the bottom up, such as overflow from a nearby lake, river or stream, is typically not covered by homeowners or renters insurance. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies. Policies from the federal government have a 30-day waiting period before the coverage is activated. Excess flood insurance is also available from some private insurers if additional coverage is needed above and beyond the basic policy.

Remember: it only takes a few inches of water to cause tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. Don’t hesitate to contact your insurance professional to ask questions. Doing so will help you make informed decisions about your coverage.

You may also consider conducting a home inventory to document your belongings. Taking stock of your possessions will help you purchase the right amount of insurance, makes filing a claim easier and can be used to document losses when filing tax returns or applying for financial assistance after a disaster.

Source: I.I.I.

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7 Things to Know about Title Insurance

October 8, 2015 2:01 am

Many factors play a role in the process of purchasing a home – none understood less than title insurance. Put simply, title insurance protects your investment from title issues that may arise after buying or refinancing a home, such as lost, forged or incorrectly filed deeds or liens on a property, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

To gain a clearer understanding of title insurance, take a look at the facts recently shared by the NAIC:

• Lenders typically require title insurance; however, you are not required to use their recommended title company or agent. Keep in mind that by federal law, affiliated (referral-based) relationships must be disclosed to you in writing.

• Title insurance can be purchased from a licensed title insurance company or agent. Attorneys may also have the authority to sell title insurance, depending on their jurisdiction.

• When comparison shopping, inquire about services and fees, both included in the title premium and not. Be sure to ask about discounts.

• When selecting a policy, take time to assess your options. As stated above, your lender will likely require a lender’s policy for the amount of the loan, which protects the lender from title issues that may occur after buying the home. Though you may have to pay the policy premium, coverage will decrease as the mortgage is paid off.

• Though you are not required to buy one, an owner’s policy for the full price of the home (and potential legal costs) protects you if title issues emerge after purchasing the home. Coverage will remain as long as you own an interest in the home.

• Depending on your area, you may also have the option to purchase an enhanced owner’s policy, which covers approximately 20 percent more than a standard owner’s policy.

• Policy endorsements may be available to you, as well. An endorsement, which you may or may not have to pay for, covers a specific issue, such as a mechanic’s liens.

Source: NAIC

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10 Steps to Keep Your Car in Tip-Top Shape

October 7, 2015 1:55 am

Taking a proactive approach to preventative vehicular maintenance helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected repairs. Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the non-profit Car Care Council recommends 10 basic procedures to keep your vehicle operating at its best:

1. Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

2. Check the hoses and belts
to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.

3. Check the battery
and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.

4. Check the brake system
annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.

5. Inspect the exhaust system
for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.

6. Check engine performance
to make sure it is delivering the best balance of power and fuel economy and producing the lowest level of emissions.

7. Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.

8. Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.

9. Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

10. Check the wipers and lighting
so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly. Replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

Source: Car Care Council

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The Top Remodeler-Approved Design Trends

October 7, 2015 1:55 am

As professionals with a presence in both the design industry and with the homeowner, builders and remodelers are privy to the trends that truly resonate with consumers. And a recent study has revealed exactly what those trends are.

According to the study, conducted by Schlage®, an Allegion™ brand, nearly half of builders and remodelers cited an interior design update as the most common reason for undertaking a renovation. Minor kitchen and bath remodels, fixture and hardware updates were also reported popular.

When builders and remodelers were asked to rank the design styles they’d most likely recommend to homeowners, traditional design ranked highest. Contemporary, eclectic and rustic designs followed, respectively.

When asked which elements have the most design impact, more than half of builders and remodelers noted paint colors, followed by light fixtures.

Much like homeowners, builders and remodelers reported deriving design inspiration from catalogues and magazines.

Source: Schlage®

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What's Cooking? The Secrets to a Gourmet Kitchen

October 7, 2015 1:55 am

(BPT) – If you’re a homeowner with a passion for cooking, there’s likely one amenity you covet above all others: a gourmet kitchen. But you don’t need a five-star restaurant budget to have a chef-worthy kitchen. All it takes are a few simple upgrades and coordinating design elements, say the experts at faucet manufacturer Brizo (www.brizo.com).

• Just as great recipes call for top-quality ingredients, great kitchens need excellent tools. Maximizing storage is key for those with a collection of kitchen tools and culinary essentials. Avoid overwhelming renovations and make the most of storage options by thinking "outside the cabinet" to fully accommodate needs.

For a crisp, modernized look, arrange pots and pans in a line on the wall with a linear rack. Take organization a step further by incorporating a magnet bar for sharp utensils, ensuring tools are close at hand without getting in the way. Store culinary tools and flatware in expandable drawer dividers to ensure all cabinet space is utilized and the counter remains clutter-free.

• To bring a bit of the outdoors in, plant a miniature herb garden for fresh flavor enhancements when you need them. Spaces in front of a kitchen window with natural light are ideal for an indoor garden.

Various herbs in three- or four-inch pots can be grouped together in stylish trays to keep humidity high. For an extra splash of color, add edible flowering plants to the garden, such as lavender, lemongrass and violet. These homegrown herbs can be used as garnishes, to layer flavor into a dish or even in cocktails for at-home entertaining.

• Commercial restaurants work well with cooking stations for seamless preparation and execution. Designate specific areas for every facet of meal preparation to aid in overall organization and evoke the look and feel of a five-star kitchen in your home.

In most top-rated kitchens, food preparation is commonly performed between the sink and refrigerator to ensure all needs are met for retrieving, rinsing and chopping. Added elements like a deep sink and wide counter space make these tasks efficient and restaurant quality.

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Leave Kitchen, Bath Remodels to the Pros

October 6, 2015 1:52 am

Planning to remodel your kitchen or bathroom? Don’t go at it alone. Because the magnitude and complexity of these projects are well beyond the typical weekend do-it-yourself job, a higher level of expertise on product, design and installation is needed, says the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

“Hiring a certified professional for remodeling projects is a must,” says NKBA President Maria Stapperfenne. “DIY sounds good on paper, but homeowners are rarely prepared for the amount of work behind a remodel project; professionals provide much-needed insight into technical regulations and design innovations that the client isn’t even aware of.”

Certified professionals have an “engineer-type” mentality which couples aesthetic judgment with practicality and safety, notes Stapperfenne.

“They understand the components ‘behind the wall’ that enable the space to function properly and efficiently, while still maintaining sleek design.”

While cost can be a concern, the services of certified professionals are not out of reach. Typically, professional fees represent about 4 percent of the total project budget. And, “if the project is done incorrectly the first time, a client will spend even more money hiring a professional to fix it,” adds Stapperfenne.

Source: NKBA

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3 Storm Preparedness Strategies for Homeowners

October 6, 2015 1:52 am

Believe it or not, many homeowners fail to take necessary steps to prepare for storms. In fact, according to Kim Brooks, president and CEO of ServiceMaster DSI, disaster restoration experts still come across mold damage in homes months or even years later.

"We can't stress enough the importance of having a plan," says Brooks. "Unfortunately, people often don't take weather warnings seriously, and once they do, panic sets in and they run out of time to take care of simple precautions to secure their property. Knowing what to do before and after a major storm, and knowing when to call in the professionals for assistance, including who to call, can help home and business owners avoid costly damage to their properties in the long run."

Brooks suggests a three-part strategy to help reduce potential damage, expense and inconvenience following severe weather:

1. Prepare in Advance - Once severe weather is predicted, begin boarding up windows and ensuring rain gutters are clear. Secure loose outdoor items and have a fresh supply of batteries on hand, as well as emergency supplies such as water, medication and non-perishable food. Take photos and make lists to document essential possessions.

Most importantly, have a plan for post-hurricane repairs and information on hand for professional restoration companies to help lessen damages in a timely manner.

2. Assess Aftermath
- Safety after a heavy storm is critical. Debris, live power lines and electrically-charged water are just a few of the safety risks to keep in mind. Evaluate the situation and structural damage before entering the home or attempting DIY cleanup, which can cause more damage and lead to additional expenses.

When possible, water cleanup should begin right away (within 24-48 hours) to avoid mold, rust and further damage. Remove wet area rugs to prevent seepage of water up drywall and discard damp, non-valuable items to help avoid potential mold contamination. To mitigate loss, contact a professional restoration company immediately.

3. Recognize Lingering Problems - Be on the lookout for mold following water damage or flooding. Mold needs wet conditions to grow and is most often detected by sight or smell. If you notice mold stains or a musty smell in a room or area, remove any lingering wet items.

Don't rely on products that promise to kill mold, including bleach, as it only causes mold to go dormant. The only way to truly get rid of mold is to cut it out of an area -- an undertaking best left to professionals to avoid spreading it across the property, causing further costly damage and inadequate cleaning.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore

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5 Things to Know about Credit

October 6, 2015 1:52 am

Though most of us have basic knowledge about credit, major gaps still exist. According to the nonprofit organization American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), more than half of Americans are unaware that credit scores measure the risk of not repaying a loan on time, rather than their ability to pay based on their annual salary.

“Credit has a major impact on so many aspects of an individual’s life, from the ability to rent an apartment to buying a car or securing a mortgage,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of ACCC. “Despite its importance, many Americans not only have trouble managing their credit, but they don’t fully grasp how it works and what it means – particularly when it comes to understanding their credit scores.”

The ACCC shares five things to know about credit:

1. A good credit score secures financial wellness. Credit is more than just a plastic card you use to buy things—it is your financial trustworthiness. Good credit means that your history of payments, employment and salary make you a good candidate for a loan, and creditors—those who lend money or services—will be more willing to work with you.

2. All credit scores are not the same. There are three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion), and they each have their own model for calculating your score. They also may not all be using the same information. Each score matters, and different lenders may be using different scores to evaluate you.

3. Bad credit scores are fixable.
A bad credit history can haunt you for a long time—seven years or more. Make sure you correct any errors on your report. Asking for help from your creditors can go a long way in terms of fixing bad credit. If you have a poor credit score, take the necessary steps to start fixing it by paying down debt where possible and making payments on time.

4. Make the right choice.
Consider fees, limits, interest rates, and benefits, which can vary substantially among credit card issuers, when opening a new card. Some credit cards that look like a great deal at first glance may lose their appeal once you read the terms and conditions of use and calculate how the fees could affect your available credit.

5. Discipline goes a long way.
Try to pay your bills on time and in full as much as possible. This will help you avoid late fees, and build a positive credit history.

Source: ACCC

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