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

When Do Homeowners Need a Permit?

August 13, 2014 2:51 am

The summer season is considered the busiest time for home improvement projects, and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is reminding homeowners to understand rules regarding building permits before embarking on common remodeling projects.

Although building codes vary from state to state, a permit is generally required for remodeling projects that involve changes to the building's existing footprint, electrical system or plumbing. Adding new windows to existing walls usually requires a permit. You are likely to need a permit for any project that goes beyond a simple repair or aesthetic upgrade such as:
  • adding supporting walls or taking down load-bearing walls
  • an in-ground concrete pool or a porch/deck
  • replacing the roof, backyard shed or concrete sidewalks, driveways and slabs
“There are two major reasons why a homeowner needs a permit on projects,” says Michael Harris, president of BRY-JO Roofing & Remodeling, in Richardson, Texas, whose company won a National CotY 2014 Award in the Residential Addition Under $100,000 category. “The first is because when a permit is filed, city officials will inspect the work completed at different stages to insure the work complies with current safety and health building codes. The second, and most significant reason, is it protects the homeowner’s investment they are making to improve the property.

When work is done to refresh an existing structure, however, a permit is usually not necessary. For example, updating the appearance of the existing kitchen cabinet doors with laminate layering does not require a permit. Other remodeling updates such as flooring/ceiling coverings, painting/papering, tiling or carpeting and interior wall decorations can usually be done without a building permit. However, even if a permit isn't required, certain projects may require licensed professionals for structural, electrical and plumbing work. If unsure, homeowners can check with their local city or county government office.

Permits need to be obtained before the project gets under way. If city officials spot a project without proper permits, work could be stopped until they are obtained, leaving you without a functioning kitchen or bathroom for weeks and a hefty fine.
If you are using a professional contractor, it’s recommended to have them pull the necessary permits. City officials are likely to have a long list of questions that contractors are best qualified to answer.

“While it may be tempting to forego the permit, a remodel or addition done without one can be a problem if the homeowner decides to sell or refinance,” says attorney Patrick Noaker, from Noaker Law firm, a member in the NARI Minnesota chapter.
If the appraiser’s total of the square footage of the home differs from county records, it triggers a search for a permit. If not found, the bank may decline to issue a loan on the home. In today’s housing market, illegal construction is a risk for the lender. A fire insurance carrier, for example, may refuse to honor a claim.

"If there is a wiring problem that causes the home to burn to the ground, the homeowner's insurance company could refuse to cover the loss," Noaker says.

Source: NARI

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Three Overlooked Features That Drive Curb Appeal

August 12, 2014 2:15 am

(BPT) - Selling or staying, it makes no difference - everyone wants a home that looks great from the curb. Curb appeal comes together when all the elements of a home's facade are in good shape and working together. Driveways that are cracked or pitted with potholes, dingy front doors and shabby, scuffed mailboxes can all significantly detract from a home's overall curb appeal.

Here are a handful of projects - many of them quick fixes - that can greatly enhance a home's appearance.

Repair or resurface your driveway – For many homes, the driveway is one of the largest visual elements of the home's overall curb appeal, ranking right up there with siding, the roof and the lawn. If winter was rough on your driveway, it's time to make repairs. Concrete can crack and crumble, and asphalt develops potholes. Both can be repaired quickly and easily.

For any driveway repair, make sure the area to be repaired has been cleaned of debris and loose materials. Cleaning with a hose or pressuring washing can improve the entire surface.

Concrete driveways can develop different types of cracks: very small and shallow resembling a dry river bed; cracks between 1/8 and 1/4 inch wide; and cracks wider and deeper than 1/4 inch. Your choice of repair method will depend on how you want the finished product to look and how much time you have to make the repair.

Spruce up your mailbox
– It sits at the end of your driveway and often plays a key role in helping guests find your house. Little things can mean a lot when it comes to creating curb appeal. While a mailbox that looks good might not get much attention, one that's ugly or shabby is sure to draw the kind of attention you don't want.

If you live in a community that restricts what type of mailbox you can have, simply give your rusted, stained mailbox and the post it sits on a fresh coat of paint in its original color. If your community has no standards for mailboxes, you can swap out an ordinary looking box with something that compliments your exterior design. Does your home have a brick facade? Consider a mailbox set in or on a brick pillar. If your house features fieldstone accents, consider carrying that over to the mailbox with a small, stone-trimmed planting bed at its base.

Give your front door some TLC – The door is the point where your exterior design meets your interior décor. It's also an element that significantly impacts how visitors view your home. Give yours a fresh coat of paint or stain, and don't forget the trim around the door.

Next, consider lighting. Is the area around the door well lit? Good lighting is key for safety at night and to enhance the appeal of the area. Consider sconces beside the door or an attractive overhead fixture if your door has an awning, porch or overhang. Ground lights can accent the effect, either illuminating the pathway that leads to the door or lighting up the door itself.

Finally, take a look at the door hardware. Is the handle or knob looking rusted and shabby? Replacing worn or dated door hardware is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the overall look of your entryway.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Need a New Car? August is Best Month to Buy

August 12, 2014 2:15 am

Consumers looking to save on a new car or truck should do their shopping in August, according to the analysts at TrueCar. New car and truck prices during the past five years in August have averaged $29,296 – $169 lower than any other month.

“This is a great example of the power of data, which shows dealers are clearing out older inventory in August,” says TrueCar founder and CEO Scott Painter.

Conventional wisdom used to be that December was prime time for new car and truck buyers. However, TrueCar data reveals that prices in December average $31,146 – the most expensive month for new cars and $1,850 higher than August.

“Consumer buying trends have been turned upside down during the past decade due to the emergence of big data,” says Painter. “New car buyers are better educated because transparent pricing information is readily available online. And price–confident consumers create a better buying experience for themselves and car dealers.”

The next lowest average is July. The average August savings are $716 less than the median price for the rest of the year.

Source: TrueCar

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Your Finances: Manage Your Emergency Fund

August 12, 2014 2:15 am

Many people think that funding an emergency savings account is only necessary if you own something valuable, like a home or car. In reality, everyone should save for an emergency. No matter your budget, saving in any increment is better than not saving at all. Here are a few methods expert financiers rely on to contribute to their emergency funds.

Get into the habit of paying yourself first. When money comes in, make a concerted effort to set some aside for your emergency fund before taking care of other responsibilities. Waiting for leftover dollars at the end of the month is unrealistic and unsustainable.

Accumulate at your own pace. This is especially important for beginners like college students or entry-level employees. Avoid creating an emergency fund simply to get a new car or go on a vacation. Live with your old model and sacrifice a few trips while you build your fund.

Open an account. Set up an account – preferably one with direct deposit that isn’t attached to your checking account. If available, choose one that’s high-interest and won’t penalize you for dipping below a certain amount.

Save for retirement, too.
Saving doesn’t mean putting all of your eggs into one basket. Set up multiple accounts so that the money you’re saving is distributed appropriately, or pay your emergency fund, then save for retirement, then prioritize bills, investing and other expenses.

Avoid using it for debt. Savings accounts can be set up for all kinds of reasons, but try not to dip into your emergency fund to pay down debt. It’s better to create a separate account strictly for debt – that way, you won’t dig yourself deeper in the event of an emergency.

Don’t withdraw unless it’s an emergency.
What qualifies something as an emergency? For savvy savers, that means only when the unexpected happens. Unforeseen medical bills and necessary car repairs are good examples. Things you can plan in advance for, like holiday gifts, should not be funded by your emergency account.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Fastest Growing, Top Paying Temp Jobs

August 11, 2014 1:39 am

What are the fastest growing and best paying temp jobs? From manufacturing and transportation to business and healthcare services, companies all over the country are in high demand for temporary employees across various industries and job-types.

According to an annual forecast by Careerbuilder, 42 percent of private sector employers plan to hire contract or temporary workers in 2014; that's up 36 percent from last year alone. Of these companies, 42 percent plan to offer some of their temporary workers permanent, full-time work.

The following list is comprised of occupations in the temporary help services industry that are projected to grow by at least three times the projected rate of all job growth, have more than 20,000 projected temporary workers employed by year end, and pay more than $16 per hour:
  • Registered Nurses (59,632)
  • Human Resources Specialists (58,016 jobs available)
  • Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses (37,895)
  • Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks (26,154)
  • Maintenance and Repair Workers (26,021)
  • Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers and Weighers (24,276)
  • Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers (21,264)
  • Machinists (20,277)
  • Sales Representatives, Services (19,861)
Source: Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. 2013.4 Class of Worker Dataset; Temporary Help Services Industry

Many of these fast growing opportunities not only offer higher wages, but also substantial career growth. Due to the tight labor market and hard-to-fill positions, many HR departments are outsourcing temporary staffing companies to fill these positions for them.

Source: Link Staffing Services

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Smartphone Technology Makes Homes Smart, Too

August 11, 2014 1:39 am

(Family Features) With apps that offer comfort, convenience and security, homeowners are getting more out of their smartphones to make their homes better, smarter places to live. Smart home apps link various home devices together to bring peace of mind, control and energy savings to homeowners.

These handheld, portable gadgets allow users to do everything from setting the thermostat to a comfy temperature to ensuring the garage door is closed. The best part is all of these helpful functions can be performed away from home, so homeowners can monitor their most valuable investment — even while out of town.

Here is a guide to new technologies that make homes smarter than ever before:

Make temperatures just right – Imagine coming home from a trip to learn your town is experiencing extreme weather conditions. There’s no need to worry about how hot or cold your home will be. Special apps allow you to control the temperature settings on the thermostat from your smartphone or tablet, so your home’s temperature will be just the way you like it when you arrive. These capabilities are also eco-friendly, allowing users to regulate the temperature while the home is unoccupied, which can mean big savings on energy bills.

Let a little sunlight in – Until recently, motorized window shades were a luxury only the rich and famous could enjoy — that is until smartphone technology came into play. With the touch of a finger, homeowners can now adjust their curtains and the natural light streaming into their rooms with one of several applications. These special systems even allow you to set a schedule for opening your shades, so you can wake up to natural light every morning.

Program favorites with ease – Have you ever misplaced your television’s remote control? Do you have a hard time remembering to record your favorite television programs before leaving the house? Both of these problems can be solved with your phone. By downloading an app to connect to your smart TV, you can instantly turn your phone into a remote control. This allows you to schedule your favorite show and film recordings from anywhere.

Save time in the kitchen and beyond
– Standard kitchen appliances are getting a technological upgrade. Cooks can now save time with apps that allow them to preheat, monitor food as it cooks and turn off the oven all from their phone. Many other appliances, such as washers and dryers, are also on board with connectivity. New apps allow homeowners to check laundry cycles and receive alerts when their clothes are clean and dry.

Keeping an eye on things
– Frequent travelers and businesspeople will love the remote monitoring capabilities available from various home security providers. With a few taps on your device, you can monitor your home from any location. This can even mean checking on Fido while out running errands.

Flip the switch
– When traveling, many people leave lights on inside their homes to deter thieves. Some smart apps allow you to control various lighting sources within your home through your smartphone or tablet. Now you won’t have to beg your neighbor to house sit while you’re away. Do you have a forgetful family member who always leaves on the lights? Save energy and money with the ability to turn off those lights from anywhere.

Source: Chamberlain

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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New Kitchen Floor Choices: Is One Right for You?

August 11, 2014 1:39 am

The kitchen floor, besides being practical, has become a major design statement—with a bigger choice of colors, styles and textures available today than ever before.

“You need to consider practicality first,” said Home and Garden TV’s Katie Allison Granju. “How much time do you spend in the kitchen? What’s most important to you?”

Granju offers a brief description of the newest flooring options to help you make the right decision:

Porcelain tile
—Porcelain tile is very durable, and is available in a wide range of colors, designs and prices. It is tough enough not to chip, crack or discolor under most circumstances – and more affordable than natural stone. Limestone, slate and travertine lend character to the room, but they are absorbent enough to stain to an extent and they tend to scratch more easily than porcelain.

Wood—Wood flooring is making a major comeback. Wood adds charm and comfort to the kitchen and is easily continued into adjacent rooms. Properly installed and maintained, wood floors are durable and easy to clean – especially if factory pre-treated with a polyurethane sealer, which eliminates the need for anything more than regular sweeping or mopping.

Cork—Soft, comfortable, and remarkably resistant, a cork floor “remembers” its shape, preventing furniture dents and scuffs. Dropped dishes and glasses probably won’t break on a cork floor – a bonus if you have small children – and cork is extremely water-resistant.

Brick—Brick flooring pavers come in many colors and textures, and they can be laid in interesting patterns. Like tile, they require some grout maintenance, but they are practically indestructible and offer a homey look reminiscent of the vintage farmhouse kitchen.

Rubber—Today’s manufacture rubber flooring is environmentally friendly, often made from recycled tires, and offers a dazzling array of colors. They are durable, easy to clean, and easily withstand busy kitchen traffic while offering busy cooks an easy-on-the-feet surface.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Give Your Home an Annual Checkup

August 8, 2014 1:54 am

(BPT) - There's no better time than now to give your home the attention it deserves. Give your windows and doors an annual checkup before cold weather arrives to help add comfort, save energy and cut home maintenance in the long-run.

Inspect interior and exterior finishes. Over time, paint and stain can weather away. Flaking or peeling may mean that it's time to refinish or replace the unit. When replacing windows or doors, consider factory prefinished wood, fiberglass or vinyl options that don't need painting or staining.

Look for damaged exterior surfaces or signs of leaks.
Check your sprinkler system to make sure it's watering your lawn and landscape, not soaking your windows or doors. Cracked or deteriorated wood may be a sign of water penetration. Leaks can linger and affect interior walls, floors or ceilings, so look closely for discoloration or other moisture signs.

If you spot a problem, track its trail. For example, discolored trim around a window might actually be caused by moisture entering a ways away. With a leaky roof, water may run down inside the wall and appear at the window. Contact a professional for help in making home repairs.

Clear windowsills and tracks of dirt and debris. Sand, leaves, insects or pine needles stuck in weather-stripping can affect the performance of your windows and doors. Open the windows and clean the opening with a soft brush, like a dry paint brush or vacuum attachment. Do the same for sliding patio doors.

Try opening and closing.
Open your windows and doors to make sure moving parts work, and units close properly. Replace worn or broken parts.

Inspect weather-stripping.
Re-attach loose weather-stripping around windows or doors, and replace material that's ripped or torn.

Replace or repair broken locks. If locks feel loose or don't work smoothly, replace them. Keep windows and doors locked when not in use. Locks help hold doors and windows tightly, to lock out rain, wind, snow and insects.

Inspect weep and breather holes.
Weep holes on the exteriors of windows allow excess moisture to escape, while breather holes allow air exchange within certain components. Clear blocked holes of dirt or debris with a wire or toothpick.

Check exterior sealants and caulk on and around windows and doors. Pay attention to areas susceptible to rain, water and extreme sunlight. Remove damaged material and reapply sealant.

Feel for signs of air leakage around the window or door. Improperly installed windows or doors can be drafty, decrease energy efficiency, and allow unwanted moisture into your home. To help save on utility bills and keep your home more comfortable year-round, replace drafty old, leaky windows with new, ENERGYSTAR-qualified versions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Questions to Ask before Buying a Tablet

August 8, 2014 1:54 am

Whether you need a tablet for business or pleasure, buying one requires some leg work. With so many varieties available, it’s important to invest in a model that meets your needs and budget. Before buying a tablet, prepare by asking yourself these five questions.

What’s my budget?
First, decide whether to stick to a budget or splurge on a higher-end version. Some tablets are more expensive because they come loaded with features you may not need, or add-ons like a stylus or office software. Think about how you’ll purpose your tablet before spending too much on a product you won’t use.

Which operating system is right for me?
There are three operating systems available on tablets: Apple’s iOS, Android or Windows. If you already have a desktop or laptop with one system, it may be a no-brainer to keep things consistent. By using the same system across multiple devices, you can use all of the same apps and sync your documents and photos seamlessly.

What size do I need?

Many tablets come with pint-sized alternatives, such as the iPad and iPad Air or iPad Mini. Most tablet users opt for 7- to 9-inch screens, but it’s important to choose the correct size for your viewing pleasure. If you plan to use the tablet to take photos, for example, you might buy one with a smaller screen. On the other hand, if you’re using it to enjoy books or magazines, you may want to get one that’s large enough for reading.

How will I connect to the Internet?
Depending on your needs, you can purchase a tablet that is Wi-Fi only or one that is 4G-enabled. 4G capabilities cost more, but might be an option for those who need Internet access on the go. With a Wi-Fi version, you won’t have to pay a 4G bill every month.

Will I need a keyboard?

If you plan to use your tablet to type, you may want one that connects easily to a keyboard stand. Some tablets are actually detachable parts of a laptop whole, while others have keyboards as an added expense. Whichever you choose, take time to factor that, as well as protective cases and accessories, into your budget.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Know Your Rights: Mortgage Servicing Deadlines

August 8, 2014 1:54 am

The first step on the path to homeownership is deciding which mortgage company to work with. With so many lenders and loan options, it’s important to research each contender thoroughly before borrowing.

Consider selecting a lender that abides by these deadlines:

1. The lender credits on time. The lender must credit the payment the day it is received. In addition, make sure you are set up with periodic billing statements that indicate not only the payment due, but the balance on your loan and the escrow balance.

2. The lender contacts you on time. If you default on your mortgage, the lender is required to contact you no more than 36 days after the missed payment. They must also provide you with loss mitigation options in writing by the 45th day of delinquency.

3. The lender evaluates on time. Your modification application must be reviewed within 30 days. If the application is incomplete, the lender must inform and advise as to the best course of action.

4. The lender processes on time. If your home faces foreclosure, the lender cannot begin or complete that process during a loss evaluation (unless you’ve submitted an application 37 days prior to the scheduled foreclosure.)

5. The lender informs on time. If your lender thinks you did not keep your homeowners insurance, the lender must send you two notices before charging for force-placed insurance. If you send evidence to the contrary, your lender must cancel the insurance within 15 days of receiving it.

Source: Bankrate

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