RE/MAX 440
Maureen Fitzgerald
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 215-643-3200 1824
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Cell: 215-530-6438
Fax: 267-354-6880 
mfitzgerald@remaxcentralinc.com
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Maureen Fitzgerald

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The Far-Reaching Impact of Household Food Waste

June 29, 2015 2:15 am

There’s no arguing food waste is a common occurrence in homes across America. According to a recent survey by TNS Global, more than half of households in the U.S. throw out leftovers at least once a week, and a nearly equal amount throw away food they bought, but never consumed. Government figures estimate households waste $900 in unconsumed food each year.

When asked what concerns them most when wasting food, almost 80 percent of respondents cited money lost; about half were bothered by the fact that others do not have enough to eat. Less than 20 percent pointed to adverse impacts on the environment, although the EPA says wasted food is the most prevalent material in landfills and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA also expresses concern over the wasted energy, water and other resources used to produce the 30-40 percent of food that goes uneaten in the U.S.

One way to reduce food waste is through proper packaging. Plastic packaging helps prevent food waste by providing barriers to oxygen, light, temperatures, moisture, microbes and other factors that lead to spoilage.

“Just a little bit of plastic packaging can prevent a whole lot of food waste,” says Steve Russell of the American Chemistry Council.

Though less than half of survey respondents say they actively use proper packaging at home, nearly all said they take or one or more steps to prevent food waste, such as eating leftovers and avoiding over-buying of perishables.

Source: Plastics Make It Possible

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Property Manager Preferences Differ in Renter Screenings

June 29, 2015 2:15 am

Whether evaluating an individual new to the rental market or a seasoned tenant, property managers often prioritize factors when assessing candidates. Did you know the size of a property manager’s portfolio can have an impact on those priorities?

According to a recent TransUnion survey, the number of properties one manages can impact which qualities are valued when reviewing prospective residents. Small property managers, the survey says, prefer an individual to have favorable income and employment circumstances, while large property managers mainly screen for rental and eviction history. Small property managers are defined as those managing 100 units or less. Large property managers are defined as those managing 101 or more units.

Both small and large property managers also place importance on criminal and background checks. Credit history, the survey says, is the least important factor.

Source: TransUnion

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What to Look for in a Home Maintenance Pro

June 29, 2015 2:15 am

Cutting maintenance costs is a priority for many homeowners, but the search for an affordable professional may lead to disreputable websites that offer services at a discounted rate, warns the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). While the savings may seem attractive, it is important to be able to differentiate between the deals that are too good to pass up and deals that are just too good to be true.

Before hiring an HVAC professional, for instance, ask for credentials. A good indicator of a trustworthy professional is the NADCA certification, which sets performance standards when assessing new and existing systems, evaluating and verifying the cleanliness of system components, guiding the restoration of systems and preventing job-related hazards.

Another good indicator is if the company is licensed and insured. Be sure to ask for this information before signing any contract, as well as a system inspection prior to hire. A reputable HVAC professional will gladly complete this task.

Lastly, evaluate the numbers. The EPA estimates duct cleaning services range from $450 to $1,000 per heating and cooling system, so avoid advertisements for “whole house specials” under $100, NADCA says.

Source: NADCA

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Not a Beach Bum? Visit One of These Coastal Gems

June 26, 2015 2:11 am

Many beachgoers consider lounging with their toes in the sand a day well spent, but for others, spending hours idling on the beach can be a drag. If you're in the "can't wait to get off your towel and do something" camp, there are several beaches worldwide that offer more than just sand, seashells and sunshine, say the experts at Cheapflights.com. Here are their five top picks.

1. El Castillo, Tulum, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Even if you aren't a huge beach fan, it's tough not to appreciate the postcard-perfect combo of white sand and turquoise water set against cliffs that you get at El Castillo in Tulum. But there’s much more to do here than sit on sand. This beach is directly below the Mayan ruins of Tulum, meaning you can combine some cultural exploration with a bit of beach hopping. El Castillo is the largest structure among the Mayan site and can be seen directly from the beach.

2. Long Beach, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Long Beach, as the name would suggest, is long. This stretch of sand located in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve between Tofino and Ucluelet clocks in at just over 4 miles. Options include surfing (or learning how to surf), kayaking and jogging.

3. Kite Beach, Cabarete, Dominican Republic

If your speed of beach-going leans more toward, well, speed, then this is the beach for you. Cabarete is a small village in the northern part of the Dominican Republic that's within walking distance to Kite Beach, an aptly named mecca for kiteboarders. Kite Beach gets constant trade winds and warm waters, which is why it's so popular among kiteboarders. If you're interested in trying the sport, there are several local businesses that offer lessons and rent equipment.

4. Playa Grande, Costa Rica

Known as one of the best surfing spots in Costa Rica, Playa Grande in the Guanacaste region attracts surfers from around the world. The breaks at Playa Grande are moderate and constant, meaning it's a suitable surf spot for both experienced and new surfers. And, if you're in the area between October and May, you might be lucky enough to spot a leatherback turtles coming ashore.

5. Maho Beach, St. Martin

If you like watching planes coming in for a landing, then Maho Beach was made for you. The popular stretch of sand in St. Martin is located at the western end of the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport and it's known around the world for the ultra-close encounters with planes you can have there. How close? Close enough to reach out and touch a wheel!

Source: Cheapflights.com

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6 Ways to Finance a Renovation

June 26, 2015 2:11 am

(BPT) - If you're planning to take on a home improvement project, you're in good company. A recent report by the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University predicts that the home improvement industry is expected to post record-level spending this year. As you prepare for your renovation, it’s important to review your financing options based on the size of the project, your intended repayment plan and whether you plan to use a contractor or do it yourself. Some financing options to consider:

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
- A HELOC can provide ongoing access to funds using the equity in your home, which typically results in lower interest rates than unsecured credit. This type of credit may also provide you potential tax benefits. Consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of interest.

Mortgages with Built-In Renovation Financing
- These loans help homeowners complete renovations with a loan amount that is based on an appraiser's estimate of what the property value will be with completed improvements. This is also an option for aspiring homeowners who purchase properties that need repair. Whether a home purchase or a refinance, this option finances the renovations and mortgage in one loan.

Cash-Out Refinance Mortgages - A cash-out refinance replaces your current mortgage with a new and larger mortgage that pays off your current balance and allows you to use the equity in your home to provide additional funds for other purposes.

Credit Card - Credit cards can be used for large or small purchases and may earn rewards, which can add up to significant benefits when you're making big home improvement purchases. However, credit cards often have higher interest rates than other loan or credit options, which should be taken into consideration.

Personal Loans and Lines of Credit - These personal credit options typically offer quick credit decisions and access to funds in a day. Lines of credit provide ongoing access to funds.

Savings - If you have a do-it-yourself project or a small renovation, accessing your savings might be an option. By paying cash, there is faster access to funds and nothing to repay.

Your bank may not be the best source for what color to paint your room or which walls to move, but it can help you identify your financial options. Each option has its associated benefits and considerations, and your bank can provide valuable information to help you make informed decisions about which options are right for you.

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How to Spot a Section 8 Scam

June 26, 2015 2:11 am

According to a recent report by the Better Business Bureau, homebuyers seeking affordable housing are becoming increasingly susceptible to “Section 8 scams” aimed at collecting personal information and fees from unsuspecting house hunters. These scams often take the form of a fake website that offers a voucher waiting list or lists supposed Section 8 rental properties.

If the site asks for your personal information, especially your Social Security number, do not submit it. If the site requests a registration fee, do not provide bank information or any other details that could comprise your finances. If the site asks for a wire transfer or prepaid card for first month’s rent, do not remit any funds.

Keep in mind these scam sites may rank high in search engine results or display an Equal Housing Opportunity logo. Don’t fall for it.

If you are interested in Section 8 housing, register for a housing choice voucher program through your local housing authority. You can find your local authority’s contact information by visiting HUD.gov. If you are confronted with a scam site, you may file a complaint with HUD or the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/Complaint.

Source: BBB.org

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Window Replacement Popular for First-Time Buyers

June 25, 2015 12:09 am

First-time homebuyers are often faced with remodeling and repair projects as they work to make a house their dream home. For these homeowners, window replacement is a priority. In fact, more than half of customers who purchase windows are first-time buyers, according to a recent study by J.D. Power.

When selecting windows, most homeowners prefer to make decisions themselves. Others rely on guidance from an outside source, such as a window installer, independent contractor, retailer, window store representative or architect, the study finds.

Homeowners tend to assess new windows based on appearance and design, operational performance, durability, ordering, delivery, price and warranty.

Source: J.D. Power

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5 Precautions to Take in Hurricane Season

June 25, 2015 12:09 am

Even the most experienced meteorologist can inaccurately forecast the strength of a hurricane. To keep you, your loved ones and your home safe during hurricane season (or any severe storm), prepare now with these tips, courtesy of Generac Power Systems.

1. Stock up on essentials.
Having gallons of water, a storage room with food, extra batteries and waterproof emergency numbers on hand is a smart idea on its own, but will come in extra handy if you can't leave your home during a hurricane. If you have little ones, create an activity box full of games, cards and books to keep them occupied while waiting out a storm.

2. Invest in hurricane-proof windows and garage doors. When hurricane winds blow, they can damage not only your windows, doors and roof, but the actual structure of your home. Invest now in wind load and impact-resistant garage doors, and hurricane-proof windows to ensure the structure of your home stays protected.

3. Have a backup generator installed. Automatic home backup generators automatically turn on if a hurricane knocks out the power, and remain on during extended outages until power is returned, giving you and your family peace of mind and a sense of safety and security during a storm. They are safer and more convenient to use than portable generators.

4. Charge your electronics before the storm hits. Charge your cell phone, computer and other electronic devices before the storm hits. Put new batteries in flashlights and have a backup case of batteries in a watertight container.

5. Remove all outdoor furniture prior to the storm. Patio furniture, plants, trash cans and children's toys can become airborne during high winds, causing damage to your home. Place them in a garage or shed, or bolt them to a sturdy surface.

Source: Generac.com

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DIY: Outdoor Power Tool Maintenance

June 25, 2015 12:09 am

When it comes to outdoor power equipment, the best service is no service at all. Homeowners who do their own outdoor maintenance, including mowing the lawn, can also do their own outdoor equipment maintenance, say the experts at Husqvarna. They suggest these tips to keep your mower and other outdoor power tools in tip-top shape for years to come.

Don't Be Fuel-ish
Gas with too much Ethanol can harm small engines, says Brett Wright of Wright Brothers Power in Newark, Ohio. Additives can help, but "we see more carburetor repairs than anything else," he explains. "Just because gas is OK for your car doesn't make it right for smaller engines."

Air It Out

A frequent mistake people make with mowers – or any equipment powered by an engine – is failing to clean or replace air filters. "Everything with a motor has to have clean air to run," explains Jared Basch of Basch Bros. in Cullman, Ala. "If people would check, clean and replace the air filter regularly, that would alleviate a lot of problems."

Inspect Intermittently

Similarly, a lack of attention to fuel filter maintenance allows "trash to get in your gas," notes Judy Lord of Steve’s Service Center in Prattville, Ala., causing engine issues. "Check it at the beginning or end of the mowing season – one or the other," she adds. "But just do it. It's crucial to maintain your mower."

Stay Sharp

A common problem with chainsaw maintenance occurs after a new chain is installed. Because it naturally stretches out after the first cut, the chain must be checked and tightened often, especially after the first few uses. "If it loosens and jumps the sprocket, that can ruin it,” says Basch.

Source: Husqvarna.com

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The 4 Things Grads Should Know about Student Loans

June 24, 2015 2:09 am

If the results of a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) poll are any indication, many college graduates are faced with stress over student loan debt repayment. “The best way to feel more confident about keeping your student debt under control is to have a specific plan,” says Bruce McClary of the NFCC. “Part of the planning process involves learning about the debt and the options for making it work within a budget.”

To gain control over your financial future and stay on track repaying educational loans, the NFCC recommends the following tips.

1. Track Grace Periods – Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is how long you can wait after leaving school before you have to make your first payment. It is six months for federal Stafford loans, but nine months for federal Perkins loans. For federal PLUS loans, it depends on when they were issued. The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don’t miss your first payment!

2. Understand Your Loans – Use whatever time you have during your grace period to get to know the types of loans you have, keeping track of the lender, balance and repayment status for each one. Every detail is important, because it can play a role in determining how each loan is repaid and what options might be available if you are ever at risk of falling behind. Start by visiting www.nslds.ed.gov to identify the details about the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all federal loans. If some loans aren’t listed, they’re probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement and/or the original paperwork. The school may be able to help if those records aren’t handy.

3. Plan for Repayment – When your federal loans are due, your payments will automatically be based on a standard 10-year repayment plan. If the standard payment is going to be hard for you to cover, there are other options, and you might be able to change plans down the line if you want or need to. Extending your repayment period beyond 10 years can lower your monthly payments, but you’ll end up paying more interest – often a lot more – over the life of the loan.

Some important options for student loan borrowers are income-driven repayment plans such as Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn, which cap your monthly payments at a reasonable percentage of your income each year, and forgive any debt remaining after no more than 25 years (depending on the plan) of affordable payments. Forgiveness may be available after just 10 years of these payments for borrowers in the public and nonprofit sectors. To find out more about Income-Based Repayment and related programs and how they might work for you, visit www.IBRinfo.org.

4. Stay Out of Trouble
– Ignoring your student loans has serious consequences that can last a lifetime. Not paying can lead to delinquency and default. For federal loans, default kicks in after nine months of non-payment. When you default, your total loan balance becomes due, your credit score is ruined, the total amount you owe increases dramatically, and the government can garnish your wages and seize your tax refunds if you default on a federal loan. For private loans, default can happen much more quickly and can put anyone who co-signed for your loan at risk as well. Talk to your lender right away if you’re in danger of default.

Source: NFCC.org

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