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

Get Ready For a Safer Clean-Up before a Hurricane or Severe Weather Strikes

June 11, 2014 1:57 am

Far too often, people face grave safety threats after a hurricane or severe weather ends when they begin to clean-up their homes and businesses. It's important for homeowners and businesses to have proper equipment on hand and to be familiar with safe operating procedures when an emergency hits.

During National Safety Month in June, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages homeowners and businesses to take stock of their power tools and equipment for storm clean-up, such as chainsaws, pruners, generators, and utility type vehicles.

OPEI's President and CEO Kris Kiser says it's important to think ahead about equipment you may need. "Often after a disaster there is a rush on power equipment like generators and chainsaws – just like there's a rush on supplies at the grocery store. Having the proper equipment on hand before the post-storm rush means you avoid being left empty-handed."

The trade association also cautions consumers to know how to handle that equipment safely. Kiser says before a storm strikes is the best time to familiarize yourself with your power equipment operation and safety manuals. "When you're in the throes of an emergency, you might not be thinking clearly or you may have trouble locating your safety manuals," said Kiser. "So it's important to brush up on the user and safety guidelines before disaster strikes."

Here are a few tips to help:

Use common sense with chainsaws. Remaining calm and using common sense are important when using chainsaws to clear storm debris. Be aware of fundamental dangers that can occur with chainsaws, including kickback, which may happen when the moving chain at the tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. This can cause the saw to suddenly jerk back toward the operator.

Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the saw chain blade. Also, hold the chainsaw with both hands, and never overreach or cut above shoulder height.

Keep firm footing when using pole saws and pole pruners. Pole saws or pruners are effective in selectively removing dead or damaged limbs. When operating these tools, make sure you always keep a firm footing on the ground. Observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area.

Give portable electric generators plenty of ventilation. Generators produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas. Generators should never be used in an enclosed area, even if the windows or doors are open. The muffler on a generator can get extremely hot, so any combustible materials (leaves, grass, brush) must be cleared away before operating. Remember to clean out any stale fuel by draining old fuel out of the tank and the carburetor bowl to avoid engine problems, such as starting issues and rough running.

Drive Utility Type Vehicles (UTVs) with care. UTVs can be useful for hauling debris, particularly when clearing damage in rural settings or on large properties. When the vehicle is loaded, the center of gravity is higher, and so is the risk of overturning. To keep the vehicle stable, drive slowly and do not turn the vehicle in mid-slope or hill as this could increase the likelihood of overturning.

Have the proper fuel on hand for your outdoor power equipment. It's also important to have the proper fuel on hand for your equipment, as filling stations may be closed after a storm. Make sure you store fuel properly and buy the type of fuel recommended by your equipment's manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol content in outdoor power equipment (for more information on fueling properly see www.LookBeforeYouPump.com).

Find your safety gear now. Before the storm is also a good time to locate any safety gear you may need for storm cleanup. Sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing and work gloves may be helpful and in short supply after a storm.

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is your Relationship Ready for DIY?

June 9, 2014 2:48 am

Each year, thousands of couples across the country will embark on a journey that may be one of the most rewarding and challenging events in their lives: the shared home improvement project.

Whether it's newlyweds walking down the aisle and purchasing their first home, or couples preparing to freshen up their home and landscape, warmer weather is known to awaken the home improvement bug – for better or for worse.

In a recent survey, 2,000 people were asked how partnering on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects impacts their relationship:

• Sometimes couples working on projects hit a bump in the road – more than 60 percent of people admitted to having a disagreement with their significant other during the course of a DIY project.
• Don't feel like a failure if your project stalls halfway through – one-third of couples surveyed had left a project partially complete at some point, and didn't expect to finish them for more than three months.
• But there is a happy ending - people still want to work on projects with the one they love. Nearly 80 percent of respondents turn to their significant other as the first choice for help when it's time to DIY.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Helpful Tips on Clutter Cleaning

June 9, 2014 2:48 am

When you have clutter everywhere what is the best way of removing the problem? Is it one big massive expedition into clutter cleaning or is it better to take it in smaller bits and pieces?

The first thing you need to realize is that clutter cleaning is a long process, so it is advisable to take the small approach rather than the large approach. One of the most useful methods is what we would call box therapy. Using boxes is useful in the decision making, because it uses a fairly simple approach in order to help with clutter cleanup. One of the boxes would be allocated for trash, another for donation and the final one is for things to keep. This method allows you to remove items from your home over a period of time.

Another way of dealing with clutter is by viewing certain items with more of a utility value than a sentimental memory. This allows you to discern what is junk from what is a treasured personal item, and if that item has a specific use. The boxing allows you the ability to see how many of the items are clutter and can be gotten rid of after a certain point.

Another way of reducing clutter is by reducing the amount of media items. Media items usually tend to accumulate quickly in the case of a clutter cleanup situation. These can be a whole host of different items. Examples of this may include photographs and documents, which can be placed on your computer. Also, books and other paper media can often be read on your computer, e-reader, tablet, or smart phone. These devices can actually hold thousands of books, and you can read your newspapers or magazines on those devices as well.

Another factor that might need to be looked at is the habits that need to be broken for clutter cleanup to occur. You need to observe your behaviors and try to break them. When looking at purchasing an item, do a careful reassessment of your choices. Do you absolutely need this item or do you just want to purchase it because it is the latest and greatest? Is it financially prudent to purchase more items, before selling or giving away some of your items that you think you may need to replace.

Source: Address Our Mess

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Move Over Kitchen: The Backyard is the New Heart of the Home

June 9, 2014 2:48 am

As millions of Americans ready their outdoor space for the summer season, a new study from SABER Grills reveals just how enamored U.S. homeowners are with their backyards. Eighty-three percent of homeowners across the country say their outdoor living space is the favorite place in their home. It’s also the most used space in American households just behind the kitchen, and way ahead of the game room, living room and dining room.

While spaces like dining rooms and formal living rooms have lost favor in American homes, the backyard has gained popularity each year. The survey showed the overwhelming majority of current U.S. homeowners (81 percent) consider their outdoor space the heart of their home.

"It doesn't matter if your home is valued at $75,000 or $775,000, if you are an American homeowner, you are proud of your outdoor space and consider it an essential part of your home," said Rob Schwing, GM of SABER Grills. "Homeowners use their backyards to relax and reconnect with family – just like the kitchen."

It's not surprising then that 51 percent of all homeowners say they update the space as often as their favorite interior rooms. And, new man-cave trend alert - a full 30 percent of male homeowners say they are solely responsible for decorating their homes' outdoor space. Topping the guy's wish list for 2014 outdoor space additions? A pool or hot tub. One thing they can't live without? Their grill. And, not surprisingly, "access to wi-fi" is now among the top five most common items in demand for outdoor living spaces.

Super engaged with their outdoor space are Baby Boomers who live in older homes, mostly congregating in the Southern and Midwestern U.S., the survey revealed. Their backyard is more likely than others to be equipped with TVs, Wi-Fi and special lighting. They own at least two grills and are adventurous entertainers, frequently trying new recipes with groups of five or more.

Other regional facts:

• Midwesterners are the most interactive with their outdoor space: they update/accessorize most often and 75 percent use it throughout the week.
• Top of the wish of outdoor furnishings for all was a pool or hot tub. Southerners and Westerners are most likely to include "kitchen" in the top three.
• South and Northeast residents have the biggest parties, usually entertaining more than five people.
• Southerners are most likely to own two or more grills; Northeasterners, just one.
• Roughly 40 percent of all outdoor chefs consider themselves average grillers. More than 30 percent of Northeasterners, however, identify themselves as "confident" grillers.

Source: SABER Grills, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Talk Your Way to the Top: Why Old-School Communication Skills Are the Competitive Edge New Grads Need

June 6, 2014 3:21 pm

You’ve just graduated from college and are (justifiably) proud of your accomplishment. But as you head into the workforce, don’t expect your new credentials or your great GPA to do the heavy lifting for you. Geoffrey Tumlin warns they don’t matter nearly as much as your ability to articulate, influence, persuade, and connect. These days, innovation and collaboration rule, and without the skills you need to do both, even the most prestigious degree is just a piece of paper.

“What stands out to hiring managers are great communication skills,” says Tumlin, author of Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life. “Can you pitch an idea to a supervisor? Can you build a consensus among group members? Can you build rapport with a client?

Here, Tumlin shares eight communication lessons that will give you the competitive edge you need, now and throughout your career:

Take a daily dose of higher-order communication. Most new grads are highly skilled users of social media, text messages, and email. But these modes of communication are characterized by expedience and convenience—it’s easier to send messages this way than to call or to communicate face-to-face.

“Not all of our communication can happen effectively along lower-order channels,” says Tumlin. “Sometimes we need to do difficult things with our communication, like resolve a conflict, persuade someone who’s reluctant, or convey a complicated idea. When we reach for our more difficult and time-intensive higher-order communication skills, we can’t afford for them to be rusty. That’s why everyone should practice higher-order communication every day.

“Even though it takes longer and is more difficult, walk over and talk to a coworker instead of sending an instant message. Call a friend and congratulate her on getting a new job instead of posting it on Facebook. And go visit your client instead of writing him an email,” recommends Tumlin.

Talk (and type) like your grandmother’s watching. While words can build our work relationships only slowly, they can cause damage with lightning speed. A blurted retort, a thoughtless email, or a hasty remark can—and does—land people in hot water all the time.

“A quick and effective way to improve your communication is to pretend like your grandmother—or someone else who brings out the best in you—is standing by your side when you are talking or typing,” Tumlin suggests. “Acting like someone you respect is looking over your shoulder will give you the pause you need to get in front of ill-advised words and provide the space you need to self-correct when you’re frustrated, agitated, or confused.”

Expect less from technology (and more from people). Because technology does a lot for us, it’s easy to overestimate its role in our success. But our enthusiasm for what our digital communication tools can do shouldn’t cause us to lose sight of the people behind the tools. Our devices don’t possess the communication abilities we think they do.

“A tech-centered view of communication encourages us to expect too much from our devices and too little from each other,” says Tumlin. “We assume that hitting ‘send’ means we’ve communicated, when really, the other person may not have understood the message at all. Even with the most powerful connection and transmission devices in human history in the palm of our hands, communication doesn’t happen until the other person understands.”

Listen like you’re getting paid for it. The digital revolution facilitated hypercommunication and instant self-expression, but made it harder for anyone to listen. Between emails, social media, and texts, there’s just too much communication junk getting in the way. Our thoughts are scattered, our minds wander, and ever-present distractions make it difficult for us to focus on the person right in front of us. We need to make a concerted effort to reinvigorate our listening skills.

Assume you’re a terrible questioner (and set out to fix it). Most of us have poor questioning skills because we don’t think twice before blurting out a query. But questions aren’t neutral; they are powerful communication tools because they change the trajectory of a conversation. As you’ve probably noticed, questions often make conversations worse. Even “simple” inquiries can go awry. “Is this your final report?” or “Did you call John in accounting about this?” can cause trouble if the other person thinks there’s a criticism behind the query.

“Faulty questions contribute to many conversational failures and can add anxiety, defensiveness, and ill will to interactions,” says Tumlin. “Use your questions to open up a conversation and learn about the topic you’re discussing. If you take your questions as seriously as you take your new job, you’ll dramatically reduce the friction caused by faulty questions.”

Act like every interaction might be important. Nothing kills a conversation faster than someone who doesn’t care. And it doesn’t take much more than folded arms, a disapproving scowl, a sigh of boredom, or a well-placed eye roll to make someone feel like what she’s saying just doesn’t matter. And the company newbie, who needs to establish connections all over the office, can’t afford to prematurely shut the door on any relationships.

Don’t “be yourself.” “‘I was just being myself’ sounds harmless, but it’s often an excuse to indulge in bad interpersonal behavior,” points out Tumlin. “Authenticity is good in spirit, but in practice it often torpedoes our goals and harms our underlying relationships.

“I’m not suggesting that you become a fake, just that you don’t cloak impulsive—and counterproductive—communication in the fabric of ‘being yourself,’” says Tumlin.

Let difficult people win. Your coworker Jane loves to argue. Your colleague Jim is incredibly stubborn. Your client in Albuquerque is always moody. Whether they’re controlling, critical, or cranky, the behaviors that make someone a difficult person spark frequent confrontations. Even if you fire a barrage of points and counterpoints into Jane’s arguments, you won’t match her debating skills. You won’t change Jim’s mind on anything. And you’ll be unsuccessful in your efforts to offset your client’s mood swings. Don’t lock horns with difficult people, insists Tumlin.

“Your communication—productive or unproductive, healthy or dysfunctional—is a major factor in how successful you will be in any job,” concludes Tumlin. “For the kinds of productive and meaningful interactions you want—and need—at work, pack a few communication ideas you didn’t learn at college in the pocket of your new suit to show you have the communication skills to succeed in business environments where innovation and collaboration are king.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Ways to Create a Safer Bathroom

June 6, 2014 3:21 pm

(Family Features) According to the National Safety Council, approximately 70 percent of all accidents occurring in the home happen in the bathroom -- accounting for nearly 200,000 accidents each year.

While it's difficult to eliminate risks entirely, you can make your bathroom safer for the whole family by following a few simple steps:

• Choose a textured floor. The splish and splash of taking a bath often leads to slippery surfaces. When choosing flooring for a bathroom, avoid slick surfaces like porcelain and granite, and look for textured choices with better traction. If ceramic is a must, look for certified slip-resistant options. When in doubt, opt for smaller bathroom tiles. The more grout lines, the more resistance your flooring will offer.

• Make it level. You don't need a large, walk-in shower to get one with a low threshold. As trips can be as dangerous as slips, look for a safe shower pan that is level with the floor, making it easy to step inside.

• Get a grip. Installing grab bars in the shower and next to the tub is a good idea for everyone, but it's especially important for those looking to stay in their home as they age. Some products, such as the new Decor Assist accessories and Decorative ADA-compliant Grab Bars from Delta, exceed ADA load requirements and come in a variety of designs and finishes to coordinate with any aesthetic.

• Keep kids in mind. Locks for every style of cabinet or drawer are readily available at local hardware stores. If you have small children (or if they visit), remember to lock away medications, small electrical appliances and cleaning supplies. Above all, never leave children unattended in the bath or shower.

Don't get burned. Water heater thermostats can be preset up to 140 degrees, a temperature that can easily burn sensitive skin. Reduce the risk of burns by setting your water heater to 120 degrees. For added peace of mind, install a shower system that provides a digital temperature read out. Some shower heads and hand showers, such as the new options from Delta Faucet with Temp2O Technology, indicate the temperature of the water via an LED color indicator, as well as a digital numerical readout, and can be installed within minutes.

No matter what age or stage of life, mishaps can happen to anyone and making a few simple adjustments could make all of the difference for your family's safety in the bathroom.

To learn more about home safety, visit www.NSC.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Only Certain Home Improvements Pay Off

June 6, 2014 3:21 pm

The Appraisal Institute encourages homeowners to exercise good judgment when deciding which home improvement projects to take on, saying that not all renovations enhance property values.

"It's very important that renovations stay within, but not exceed, community norms," said Appraisal Institute President Ken P. Wilson, MAI, SRA. "If they don't match what's standard in a community, owners could have difficulty recouping their investment when selling the property."

According to Remodeling magazine's most recent Cost vs. Value report, some of the projects with the highest expected return on investment are entry door replacement (steel), deck addition (wood), garage door replacement, attic bedroom and minor kitchen remodel. Other renovations with high expected pay-offs include window replacement (wood and vinyl), siding replacement (vinyl) and basement remodel.

Wilson advised homeowners that it may be best to hold off on major renovations if a homeowner isn't sure how long they will be in the home. The longer a homeowner stays in a property, the greater the opportunity for a return on investment, he said.

"Consumers should be aware that cost does not necessarily equal value," he added.

For an unbiased analysis of what their home would be worth both before and after an improvement project, a homeowner can work with a professional real estate appraiser -- such as a Designated member of the Appraisal Institute -- to conduct a feasibility study.

During a feasibility study, the appraiser will analyze the homeowner's property, weigh the cost of rehabilitation and provide an estimate of the property's value before and after the improvement.

Some green and energy-efficient renovations, such as adding Energy Star appliances and extra insulation, are likely to pay the homeowner back in lowered utility bills relatively quickly. Lower utility costs also are a draw for potential homebuyers. When appraising a home, the appraiser evaluates local supply and demand for green and energy-efficient properties and features.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Survey Says Father's Day Sales Offer Best Time to Find Tool Deals

June 4, 2014 1:00 am

FatWallet.com announced results from its Tools Shopping Survey* (TNS Global). Of 1,000 American adults surveyed online, more than 8 in 10 said they buy tools every year, with nearly 4 in 10 saying Father's Day is the best time to find deals on tools (compared to 18 percent on Black Friday). Lawn and garden tools were most in demand this year (38 percent) over combination power tool kits (20 percent), while Craftsman leads the way as most popular tool brand (38 percent) over Black & Decker (26 percent) and DeWalt (19 percent).

Overall, home improvement spending is expected to grow 6.8 percent this coming year to nearly $313 billion in 2014 (Home Improvement Research Institute). FatWallet's tools shopping survey also reveals that 87 percent of those that buy tools will spend up to $250 on tools this year (13 percent will spend more than $250).

Key Results from the Survey:

How Often: Eighty-one percent purchase tools at least once this year, and 40 percent more than once (50 percent under the age of 40). Twenty percent buy tools three to four times a year (25 percent for those w/children). Nineteen percent have "never" purchased tools (13 percent of males).

Best Time to Buy: Thirty-nine percent say Father's Day is best time to find deals on tools, more than Black Friday (18 percent), Cyber Monday (1 percent) and December Holiday (12 percent) combined. Thirty percent said Spring Sales offered the best tool deals.

Tool Spend, or Not: One-third of males said the only thing to stop them from buying tools is if they "run out of money." Fifty-eight percent will spend less than $100 while 29 percent will spend between $100-$249 (36 percent under the age of 40). Thirteen percent will spend $250+. On the contrary, one-in-four said they either have way too many tools or are too busy to take on home projects and one-in-five admit they have tools they've never used before.

High Demand: Lawn and garden tools are most coveted (38 percent), especially for females (46 percent) and those with children (44 percent). Cordless-combo power tool kits and hand tools (20 percent) are next followed by power drills (15 percent), tool box/storage (13 percent) and circular saws. Note: two-thirds of respondents say Quality/Durability is the most important feature for power tools.

Top Brands: Four-in-ten choose Craftsman as their most desired tool brand, while 26 percent like Black & Decker, 19 percent go for DeWalt, and 5 percent or less would choose either Makita, Ryobi, Bosch or Milwaukee.

"Technology allows us to build and repair stuff around the home–faster, easier and cheaper than ever before," stated FatWallet spokesperson, Brent Shelton. "Deep discounts online for newer tools and tech gadgets during Father's Day promotions have created a windfall of savings and selection for early June shoppers."

Source: FatWallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Win a Competitive Bid for Your Next House

June 4, 2014 1:00 am

With housing prices continuing to increase due to a low housing inventory, the market is proving to be competitive as buyers attempt to secure their dream home. According to Don Frommeyer, CRMS, President of NAMB (The National Association of Mortgage Professionals), there are several techniques potential buyers can utilize to make sure their offer sticks in the midst of a bidding war.

“Many people think the real estate market is easy for buyers, but in reality, it’s still quite vigorous and with fewer houses on the market, buyers must set themselves apart with competitive bids,” says Frommeyer.

Below are the techniques Frommeyer suggests considering to maintain a competitive bid:

- Escalation Clauses: An escalation clause offers $1,000 above the highest bid and automatically kicks in when other offers are present. Buyers can set a cap on their escalation clause to ensure their bid doesn’t unknowingly go above what they’re comfortable with. This technique allows the seller to know the bid is serious, while also offering buyer protection by safeguarding a realistic offer from the potential buyer instead of a random counteroffer.

- Cash Offers: CoreLogic reported that all-cash offers have grown to almost 40 percent nationwide. Having a cash offer with proof of the funds is extremely valuable in a competitive housing market as it typically involves fewer obstacles making it more likely to close. However, all-cash offers do not mean no financing is required—buyers may be using alternate forms of financing that count as cash by leveraging assets.

- Quick Closing: Have all financials in place before placing an offer. A pre-approved loan and regular contact with a lender can show the buyer how serious the bidder is.

Source: www.namb.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Creating Inviting Outdoor Spaces for Entertaining

June 3, 2014 2:27 am

(BPT) - From barbecues and games of bocce to parties and candlelit dinners, your outdoor space can be a hub for entertaining friends and family.

"Try to create a living room for your outdoor space," says Kate Anthony, owner of Kate & Company Design Studio and Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California - San Diego, a campus of Argosy University. People spend a lot of time on their indoor living room spaces, and she recommends extending the interior home out to your exterior.

Whether you have a small patio or sprawling backyard, interior design experts from The Art Institutes system of schools provide six simple tips for making the great outdoors a great place to eat, play and entertain.

1. Focal points
Edward Varias, owner of E.V. Design and Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California - Hollywood, a campus of Argosy University, says a focal point brings everyone together, and can include furniture, a fountain, a fireplace, or any piece that will provide a "wow" factor. An outdoor rug can serve as a focal point and help define an area, and a fire pit makes a great place for guests to gather.

2. Seating groups
"Define the space for the type of entertaining you need," says Varias. Determine the size of your space, the number of people you will typically be entertaining and whether you will use the space for eating, drinking and socializing, or playing games. In a larger space, you can mix dining, hanging out and garden spaces to provide your guests with more areas to enjoy.

For a small space, seating can be a simple bistro table and two chairs. For larger spaces, you can incorporate sofa and chair groupings, along with a small coffee table. Anthony adds that a circular furniture pattern allows everyone to see each other, which is great when playing cards.

3. Vistas
"Select several vistas or view points for people to explore depending on the space; utilizing the space in several locations creates gathering areas, such as a garden to explore or seclusion for meditating," says Varias. Anthony encourages people to think about creating areas for games such as bocce and says that seating or rugs can help establish designated areas without fences or barriers.

In creating vistas, you can use a combination of natural and manmade elements. This can include creating garden areas with rocks and fountains and adding little surprises such as statuettes, pagoda lanterns and seating for two, says Varias.

4. Landscaping
The first step in landscaping is cleaning up the space and trimming bushes, trees and overgrown plants to create a fresh palette. Anthony recommends hiring a professional landscaper as they will be able to tell you what plants are appropriate for your climate. If a landscaper isn't in your budget, Varias encourages you to take advantage of the people at your local home and garden stores. They will be able to make recommendations based on your climate and the look you are trying to achieve.

Plants can help add color, style and definition to your space, and Anthony says not all plants need to be in the ground. "You can create great little vignettes throughout the yard by using varying sizes of planters." Potted plants can also be brought in during the winter to keep them looking great year after year.

5. Lighting
Lighting can set the tone for any type of nighttime event. Varias recommends providing ample lighting for your focal points and providing a mix of electric lighting and ambient lighting such as candles and candelabras. Other easy DIY lighting includes strings of lights, which can be used year-round and simple solar lights.

6. Accessories
Anthony recommends bold accessories for outdoor spaces. Your starting palette will be very neutral, with a lot of greens and browns, and you can add pops of color with pillow cases or colored plants. Storage is another area to consider. You won't want your hose and garden tools lying around the yard, so a storage bench or shelving can keep everything nicely organized.

The tips above can be adapted for spaces of varying sizes and can range from simple DIY to high-end customized projects.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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