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

Brace Your Home for Frigid Weather

January 7, 2015 1:15 am

With record lows reported across the country, it’s no surprise that families will be staying indoors this winter. If you’re a homeowner, the best way to brace your home before the next wave of freezing temperatures is to control the humidity inside.

When relative humidity (RH) drops at home, moisture is pulled from anywhere it can be sourced – including people. This can cause uncomfortable issues such as dry skin and static shocks. A lack of humidity can also wreak havoc at home, causing failure of electronics, cracking of wood floors or damage of furniture. To avoid these dry air effects, add humidity back into your home with a humidifier.

Despite the initial cost, humidifiers can lower heating bills. Humidifying your home while the furnace is on creates a more comfortable atmosphere at a lower temperature. According to Energy.gov, turning down a thermostat 10-15 degrees for eight hours can reduce heating costs by up to 15 percent each year. In short, keeping your thermostat down and your humidifier on can add up to big savings.

Many homeowners have benefitted from a whole house-humidification system, which adds moisture to every room using the duct system of the furnace. Installed by an HVAC contractor, these automated systems continually monitor humidity levels to adjust moisture output based on factors such as indoor and outdoor temperature. The best part? These automated systems continually monitor humidity levels, so there will be no condensation on windows or walls.

Source: Aprilaire

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Five Tips for Weight Loss Goals

January 6, 2015 1:12 am

Is weight loss at the top of your New Year’s resolution list? Beat the odds with these tips from the Calorie Control Council.

1. Be realistic. Losing ten pounds in two weeks is probably not going to happen. Most people don’t gain weight overnight – the same applies for losing it. Set a realistic goal of losing 1-2 pounds per week.

2. Pare down goals. Set intermittent goals to stay motivated. Instead of mapping out a plan for weight loss for the entire year, select a target weight to be attained by June.

3. Make substitutions.
Cutting 150 calories a day over the course of a year can result in a five to ten pound loss. Opt for lower calorie meals at restaurants and replace sugar with low calorie sweeteners at home.

4. Change your lifestyle. Swearing off carbs and desserts may be doable for a month or so, but it’s probably not something most people can stick with long term. Make changes that you can live with to maintain your weight loss moving forward.

5. Stay active. Hitting the gym or hiring a personal trainer are great, but come at a cost. Sneak in physical activity by parking farther away from the store, walking children to a play date and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Source: Calorie Control Council

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What's Next for Smart Homes

January 6, 2015 1:12 am

With more manufacturers pushing the envelope in smart home design, homeowners can expect a fully connected home in the not-so-distant future. From donation-enabled laundry to intelligent kitchen surfaces, find out what the experts at Whirlpool have in store for the “home ecosystem.”

Expanding on the popular digital cook top concept, the brand predicts a concept cooking environment and fully connected, social media hub that syncs devices and all your kitchen appliances. One possible innovation is an interactive backsplash with the potential to:
  • Connect to social networks and favorite websites
  • Store recipe cards in digital format
  • Track refrigerator inventory and create grocery lists
  • Keep tabs on expected guests with GPS
Whirlpool also anticipates the debut of thoughtful appliances that work for homeowners and the greater good. Laundry, for example, could become an act of charity with apps that automate donations for every load. Washers may also come equipped with at-home quiet modes triggered by a smartphone, and varied cycles for specialized clothing like active wear, infant clothing or hand-wash fabrics.

Source: Whirlpool

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Resolve to Save on Homeowners Insurance This Year

January 6, 2015 1:12 am

Trimming frivolous expenses is a popular New Year’s resolution for many, but if you’re a homeowner, there are greater opportunities to cut costs. Save smart this year with these tips from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

1. Raise your deductible.
An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your annual premium. Ask your insurer about all available discounts.

2. Insure for rebuilding cost, not real estate value. The amount for which you can buy or sell a home fluctuates, but insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home – not the sale price. Make sure you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace all of your belongings in the event of a disaster.

3. Avoid dropping your flood insurance. It seems counterproductive to saving money, but damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. With 90 percent of all natural disasters involving some form of flooding, it’s worth researching flood zones and insurance costs and possibly elevating the structure.

4. Seek out satisfactory experiences.
When selecting an insurance provider, enlist family and friends for recommendations. Their suggestions may point to a company with more costly policies, but sound finances and superior customer service will ultimately save you money.

Source: I.I.I.

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3 Tips for First-Time Tax Filers

January 5, 2015 1:09 am

(BPT) - Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar to your first job interview. Though understandable, this is an unfounded fear, given the simple taxes most individuals have in their early to mid-20s and the easy digital tax programs available.

“All you need to file your own tax return is a little self-confidence, the desire to get your maximum refund, and a computer or mobile device," says TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “You're well qualified to do your taxes because you're the expert of your finances."

Follow these tips to successfully file your taxes for the first time and every year after that.

Don’t procrastinate.
Waiting until the last minute causes undue stress, and rushing increases the potential for typos and overlooked information. While you can do your taxes in one fell swoop, it's unnecessary. Online tax programs save as you go, so you can stop and finish at your leisure. You may reap benefits from starting early because many tax programs point out potential savings requiring action before December 31 or April 15.

Compare tax products before using them.
Read expert and user reviews. Look at the situations and tax forms each includes, as some require you to upgrade for certain forms. If you have to file a state return, compare prices. Using a mobile filing app? Choose one that also provides access to your data on a browser for convenience and peace of mind in case you lose your smartphone or tablet.

Gather all forms and documents.
Before starting your return, compile all tax forms and documents, including:
  • Form W-2 from your employer (Received by January 31)
  • Form 1099 if you're self-employed or a contractor
  • Form 1098-E from your lender if you've paid student loan interest (Even if you don't receive this form, you can still deduct interest paid.)
  • Form 1098-T for tuition paid and scholarships or grants received
  • Statements for retirement savings accounts
  • Receipts for charitable donations
After filing, keep these papers or make electronic copies to save with a copy of your return.

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A Resolution You Can Keep All Year: The One-Day Identity Checkup

January 5, 2015 1:09 am

(BPT) - Exercise. Lose the weight. Answer every incoming email.

Those are the hard kinds of New Year's resolutions, because you have to think about them every day for the rest of the year. Many are forgotten long before Valentine's Day.

But here's one important resolution, one you can fulfill today and easily keep all year: protect your identity.

Identity theft is a fast-growing crime, but there are ways to reduce your chances of being a victim. The identity theft protection experts at LifeLock recommend doing these five quick things today to help keep your identity safer all year long:

Use safe passwords

Are you among the people who use simple passwords like "123456" or "qwerty" or "abc123" to protect your personal information? Or even the word "password" itself? Many people do, so identity thieves can often break in just by trying the most popular passwords.

To create a safer password, avoid using words that are in the dictionary. And stay away from your own personal information, like a nickname, pet's name or birthdate. One option is to come up with a memorable phrase that includes numbers and symbols, and use the first letter of each word. "My Tigers are Number One in Football!" might become "MTaN1iF!" - a good example because it uses capital letters, lower-case letters, a number and a symbol.

Use multiple passwords

Stop using the same password for every account. Several big companies and websites have recently had their users' personal information stolen by hackers. If your password for one site is compromised, and you use the same password for your bank and credit accounts, it's much easier for a thief to get into all of them.

At least have a different password for each account that has personal or financial information. And consider using a password-management program, which lets you set more cryptic passwords for each site you visit and control them with one master password.

Stash that Social Security card

Do you carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet? Don't.

You may, on a rare occasion, need to show a Social Security card to an employer or a government agency. Aside from those days, keep it locked up in a safe place. Your Social Security number is a thief's ticket to everything from opening new accounts in your name to stealing your tax refund. Don't run the risk of losing it.

Protect your mail

Do your bank statements, credit card bills and utility invoices arrive by mail? If your mailbox is outside your house, thieves can take those bills and collect personal information that helps them steal your identity. And once those documents are in your house and no longer needed, they can be stolen from a trash can or recycling bin.

First, if your mail is delivered outside your home, install a locked mailbox. And use a shredder, or the shredding services offered by local shipping stores and some credit unions, to destroy documents once they're no longer needed.

But you can also take steps to keep that paperwork from ever arriving at your home in the first place. Have bills sent to you electronically; you'll get them by email, save paper, reduce clutter and never have to worry about stolen mail or shredding. Opt out of credit card and insurance offers by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. And dramatically reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive by opting out of junk mail at www.dmachoice.org.

Be prepared for a loss


If your wallet or purse is stolen, you'll want to cancel all of your credit and debit cards before they can be misused. Keep a copy of each of your cards, or use a digital wallet program like LifeLock Wallet, which is available for your smartphone from the iOS and Android app stores. It gives you instant access to copies of your cards and also helps you track your balances, monitor transactions and cancel cards that are lost or stolen.

Do these things today and you can proudly declare that you'll keep at least one New Year's resolution all year long: Protecting your identity.

Source: LifeLock

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Spruce Up Your Home this Year

January 1, 2015 1:00 am

(BPT) - Making a New Year's resolution is common, and many people set goals for ways to improve themselves. If you have set a goal to lose weight, learn a new skill or get promoted, congratulations. But while you are striving to attain your personal goal, have you ever thought of setting a goal to refresh your home in a way that will have your friends talking?

Setting a home improvement goal is more common than you may think and you can make a dramatic improvement to your home with a complete remodel. You can take on several smaller projects - any time of the year - that will leave you loving your home all year long. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

* A fresh coat of paint. Nothing reinvents a room like a fresh coat of paint. Yet many people put off painting a room because they can't afford professional painters and they don't have time to do the job themselves. But you can achieve that professional quality finish at a fraction of the time and cost by visiting RentalHQ.com and renting your own paint sprayer. Use your sprayer to add a neutral color, which provides visual appeal and works with most furniture patterns, leaving you plenty of decorating options.

* Change hardware. Faucets and cabinet hardware can quickly date a room. Replacing hardware can add beauty to your kitchen without adding a lot of extra cost. Be sure to find knobs and pulls that are the same size as the existing ones so you don't have to re-drill the cabinets. Do this for any furniture and in any room for an instant decor face-lift.

* Replace old tile. Outdated tile can make a bathroom look old and dull. Replacing it with new tile that is in style will give the space a rich, modern look. Tiling is a DIY project that anyone can tackle with the right tools. Rent the necessary items like a tile stripper, a tile saw and a mortar mixer to keep your costs down.

* Update curtains and blinds. Textiles play a major role in the overall decorating scheme of a room. New window treatments offer an inexpensive way to introduce bold color and patterns for an instant refresh. Pair your new curtains with decorative throw pillows for a striking impact to the living room.

* Recreate your flooring. If your carpet doesn't need to be replaced but it could use a little refreshing, cleaning your carpets will do the trick. If you can't afford to hire professional carpet cleaners or you feel like taking on the project yourself, renting a carpet cleaner can give your carpets the professional look you've been dreaming of. And if you have hardwood floors that need to be refurbished, renting a floor sander is an excellent first step for this project.

Home improvement projects do not have to include a complete overhaul to provide a new look. These smaller projects will dramatically improve your home all year long. To learn more about the tools you can rent for your next project and to see more ways those tools can help you, visit rentalhq.com.

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New Year's Resolutions That Will Keep Your Home Warm and Happy

January 1, 2015 1:00 am

With the New Year upon us, many people are reminded of their resolutions from the past year. Many resolved to keep up with their home maintenance. How did you do? Was your New Year's resolution to fix those air leaks in the window? If you haven't done it yet, the time is now. The winds of winter are here and that means that it's time to assess your home's insulation situation and save yourself some money while also providing your home with trendy new fashions. If you have never done it before, the first thing you should do to winterize your home is conduct an energy audit.

Hiring a professional energy auditor may seem unnecessary, but turning your home into an energy efficient machine will help you save more money in the long run. The auditor will point out spots of energy waste, poorly insulated areas and air leaks, and other places which are the main causes of higher-than-usual utility bills during the winter months. Once the auditor has pointed out the areas that need home improvement, it's time to go about winterizing those areas to save as much money as possible.

The term "winterize" is used in professional inspection services to refer to houses that are going to be vacant during the winter. However, there are ways to prepare (winterize) your home while living in it, which effectively protects it from the damaging effects of the harsh weather. Consider these tips for helping you make it through the winter in a comfortable and cozy fashion.
• Improve insulation. Poor insulation can cost you money on your utility bill year round, but especially during the winter when your cozy warm air is seeping through different leaks. If your home is not well-insulated, you will end up spending more money on gas and electricity trying to keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer. This makes insulation improvements a top priority on your New Year's to-do-list for home repair and maintenance.

- Insulate all piping exteriorly exposed.
- Insulate your hot water tank with an insulation blanket.
• Doors

- Install weatherstripping.
- Use a door sweep for extra insulation.
- Like storm windows, storm doors can help you save money by eliminating air leaks in this area.
• Windows

- Find air leaks and seal them with caulking.
- Consider installing storm windows.
- Insulate your windows and save money in the New Year with eco-friendly shades that can also help keep you warm during the winter. The use of custom window coverings can help your home keep the heat in when the winds are blowing.

• Roofing

- Replace missing or damaged shingles.
- Clean gutters and downspouts.
- Check flashing around chimneys and other roof protrusions. Air often leaks around these areas.

• Outdoor landscape

- Cover furniture and external air conditioners.
- If your deck needs it, seal it before the wet winter ruins it completely.
- Drain gas from lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other outdoor equipment.
- Drain water from fountains.
- Purge sprinkler systems by shutting off water and blowing compressed air through system.
Preparing your home for winter doesn't have to mean locking yourself up in an igloo for four months! You can prepare your home for winter by redecorating your interior to match the seasonal trends and to add a new level of comfort and coziness to your humble abode.

Source: Budget Blinds

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Four Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle in the New Year

December 31, 2014 12:57 am

Cut the carbs, eat more veggies. Exercise more, stress less. Get organized, stick to a budget. We start every January 1 with good intentions, but often fail to follow through – just 8 percent of those who make health-related New Year’s resolutions manage to keep their pledges.

Stay on track this year with these tips from :DentalPlans.

Get inspired. Many websites offer inspiring stories from people that have met their health and fitness goals. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) page, "Inspiration for a Healthy Year," features pictures and stories to reinforce the idea that you can set and achieve significant goals.

Break goals down. Whether it's your resolutions or daily to-dos, a long list of goals is overwhelming, not inspiring. Make no more than three resolutions and break them down into actionable steps.

Explore your options. If you've delayed getting essential health services due to financial concerns, a little research can reveal ways to make getting the care you need more affordable.

Track and share your goals. It takes about three weeks to establish a new habit. Track your health goals on your 2015 calendar by marking the 22nd as the day you put the past behind you. Consider publicly sharing your goals with family and friends and asking for their support.

Source: :DentalPlans

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Homestays on the Rise Worldwide

December 31, 2014 12:57 am

The accommodation market is making room for homestays over hotels and Airbnbs, according to the Homestay.com’s first annual Homestay Index. In 2014, the number of homestays for vacationers grew exponentially, with both renters and visitors reaping the benefits of the cheaper travel alternative.

“The sharing economy is allowing both hosts and guests to completely redefine the travel experience,” says Alan Clarke, CEO of Homestay.com. “The homestay market segment is still relatively young, but homestays are not a new ideas – they may indeed be one of the oldest forms of lodging. They are ideal not just for homeowners with extra space, but also for adventurous travelers and event planners in need of pop-up lodging.”

The Homestay Index indicated the most expensive and least expensive options for travelers around the world. The top 10 for each are listed below.

Most Expensive Homestay Cities

1. Glasgow ($61 USD/per room, per day)
2. Rome ($60)
3. Amsterdam ($57)
4. Paris ($54)
5. San Francisco ($53)
6. Singapore ($51)
7. London ($50)
8. Florence ($49)
9. New York ($49)
10. Kyoto ($46)

Least Expensive Homestay Cities

1. Toronto ($20)
2. Alicante, Spain ($20)
3. Santiago ($22)
4. Darwin, Australia ($22)
5. Montreal ($23)
6. Buenos Aires ($24)
7. Berlin ($24)
8. Madrid ($24)
9. Seoul ($25)
10. Vancouver ($26)

Source: Homestay.com

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