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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Having a Party? Prep the Plumbing

January 29, 2018 1:09 am

If you're getting ready to host a house full of people, you're likely focusing on a zillion details, from food to home staging, music and more. But have you thought about your pipes? The professionals at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® recommend party hosts and guests follow these precautions to avoid common plumbing mishaps and help ensure fans can stay focused on the game:

Be mindful of what food goes down the garbage disposal. Fats, bones and vegetable peels can clog drains and damage the disposal. Rice and pasta can swell and clog the drain, as well. As a good rule of thumb, always toss scraps in the trashcan when it's possible.

Always use water when running the disposal. The garbage disposal works best when small particles are mixed with water. Use hot water down the disposal to keep grease moving down the drain, and run water for at least 30 seconds after everything has cleared.

Know what to do if the garbage disposal becomes clogged. If your disposal becomes clogged, turn it off, and shut off the water. Don't reach into a disposal, and never, ever use harsh chemicals to treat a clog. Instead, try a plunger.

Educate guests on what can and cannot go down the toilet. Commonly flushed items that may clog your pipes include napkins, paper towels, facial tissues and feminine products. Keep a trashcan near the toilet and remind guests to please only flush toilet paper down the commode.

Inform guests of any existing plumbing issues. For example, if the toilet handle needs a little jiggle in order to flush, spread the word and post a sign in the bathroom as a constant reminder.

Source: Benjamin Franklin Plumbing®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Stage Your Home On a Budget

January 25, 2018 1:06 am

Getting your home into prime showing shape is essential to helping it sell in the shortest amount of time for the best possible price. But while a professional home stager can work wonders, it just might not be in your budget. Don’t despair - here are some great ways to inexpensively stage your home all on your own:

Get rid of the excess. The first thing every home stager will do is get rid of the clutter. And that is something anyone can do on your own without spending a dime. Get some boxes and storage bins and start removing whatever you can, including: framed photos; anything hanging on the fridge or anywhere else; knick knacks; most books (save a few nice ones for staging); trophies and awards; kitchen gadgets; personal effects, such as glasses, keys, jewelry, etc. The golden rule? You can’t remove too much.

Rearrange the furniture. Go from room to room and make sure the furniture is arranged in a way that makes the room look as open and spacious as possible. If this means removing chairs or tables to open the flow, go for it.

Brighten things up. Replace heavy drapery with sheer panels, raise blinds and shades, and place higher wattage bulbs in lighting fixtures, adding a lamp or two where necessary. Maximizing natural and artificial light are essential to making your home look as bright and appealing as possible.

Paint where necessary. A small investment of paint in key areas will be worth it. Change any dark or oddly painted rooms to a light, neutral color, and prioritize any walls and rooms where the paint is dirty or showing signs of aging. Paint can also be a good option for updating kitchen cabinets that are otherwise too expensive to replace.

Add new accessories. A trip to your nearest discount store can send you home with a bundle of new accent pillows, throws, bathroom and kitchen accessories and a nice vase or two for the dining room and coffee tables. These decorative accessories will add a fresh feel and pops of color where necessary throughout your home. Just remember: less is more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Slippery Slope: Ski and Snowboard Safety 101

January 25, 2018 1:06 am

Are you a ski or snowboard fan?  As the popularity of these winter sports continue to rise, according to a review article published in the January 1, 2018, issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the number of skier and snowboarder injuries also continues to rise.

"Skiing and snowboarding are associated with a large number of injuries, with specific patterns and anatomic areas affected," says Brett D. Owens, MD, lead review article author, an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine as well as complex shoulder and knee surgeries and who is a professor of orthopaedic surgery at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

"Snow sport athletes can best prepare for their sport with a general preseason conditioning program as well as familiarity and maintenance of equipment," says Dr. Owens. To stay safe on the slopes this year, read the following tips:

- Be prepared for the season with well-conditioned muscles and a body that is adequately hydrated.
- Be knowledgeable about how to use your equipment appropriately, and ensure everything is in optimal working condition.
- Check that the ski bindings can release from your boots when appropriate, and that boots fit appropriately.
- Check that the edges of your skis and/or snowboard are flat and sharp for maximum performance to minimize injuries.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Avoid alcohol or drug use.
- Be sure you have the ability to slow down and stop on busy days when many other athletes are also on the mountain.
- Use extreme caution when weather conditions are not optimal.
- Always follow signs and ski patrol instructions. Never ski or snowboard "out-of-bounds."

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-to Save Energy in the Middle of Winter

January 25, 2018 1:06 am

Winter may seem like the wrong time to save money on home heating and cooling. However, with a few tweaks, you could see major changes on your bill, even in the coldest, bleakest months. The Petri Plumbing & Heating team has three tips to help you save money and the environment, even in the dead of winter.

Install a programmable thermostat and use it. Programmable thermostats have been around for quite some time, and with "smart" thermostats becoming the norm, energy saving has never been easier. Upgrading your thermostat to a newer model ensures accurate temperature readings, allows remote operation, and helps ensure your climate control system is being used efficiently.

Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air downwards. It seems counter-intuitive to have a fan running in the winter, but since heat rises, it can help circulate warm air throughout your home. By turning your ceiling fan on a low speed, warm air doesn't just sit at the ceiling. Many ceiling fans have a small switch on them that allows you to change the direction the blades turn in. Blades that spin in a clockwise direction pull air down. With more air circulation, you can bump your thermostat down a degree or two to save some energy.

Make sure your furnace and filters are clean and unblocked. One of the biggest energy hogs during the winter is a blocked or clogged filter. Dirty furnaces aren't just inefficient, as they can also pose a fire hazard. Clean furnace filters trap dirt and allergens, and help your furnace run more efficiently. With windows shut for months on end in the winter, filters tend to get dirty quicker. Petri recommends changing your furnace filter monthly during the winter. However, if your home has a boiler system, you're off the hook for changing your filters.

"If you take advantage of these tips, you can easily transform your home into a comfortable, energy efficient space this winter," says Michael Petri, owner of Petri Plumbing & Heating. "It may be wise to even consider installing a new boiler, as modern ones can run at 98.5 percent efficiency compared to 80 percent or less for older models. And if you're interested in taking your energy efficiency even further in 2018, we can provide in-home assessments of where you can improve your efficiency, which is not only  better for our environment, but also saves you money in the long run."

Source: Petri Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Quick Ways to Jazz up Your Home's Curb Appeal

January 24, 2018 1:00 am

Curb appeal, a phrase often used by real estate professionals, describes the pleasing first impression viewers have at their first glimpse of a home. It could mean, ‘neat and clean.’ It could mean, ‘welcoming’ or ‘stately.’ It could be all of these and more.

In essence, a home with great curb appeal says ‘a caring homeowner lives here’ – and what homeowner wouldn’t want to be identified as such?

The best part, say the home design experts at Better Homes & Gardens.com, is that jazzing up your home’s curb appeal doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are just a few of the ideas they suggest for upping any home’s appeal:

Dress up the front door – Give it a burst of color; say a coat of red or marine blue paint to contrast a grey or white exterior. Polish up the door’s hardware, especially around the knob.

Create an instant garden – Container gardens can add a warm and welcoming feel when attractively grouped on or around the porch or front steps. Affordable, ready-made containers of plants and flowers available at most home centers can make this an easy, pleasing upgrade.

Do a mailbox makeover – Your curbside mailbox should complement your home. Dress it up by painting the box and/or the  post to match your home’s exterior – and surround it at the base with a neat patch of plants or flowers.

Install a window box – Take a page from the French or British with a colorful window box or two to set off your home’s front windows. Choose boxes made from iron or copper for a traditional look, or painted wood for a cottage feel. Mix and match the flowers and/or plants to suit your color scheme and lighting conditions.

Add an artsy element – Give your front yard a little spunk and eye appeal by installing a fountain or birdbath, an interesting sculpture, and/or some attractive wind chimes. The sounds and movement can be as pleasing to the ear as to the eye.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Steps for Smart Financial Planning

January 24, 2018 1:00 am

Are you hoping to create a smart financial plan this year, but unsure where to start? Being realistic and accurate can ensure those budgets have long-term success, according to Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®.

To help, Schlesinger offered a list of financial goals to help people start creating a financial plan.

- Pay down consumer (credit card balances or auto loans) and student debt

- Establish an emergency reserve fund of six to 12 months of living expenses

- Maximize retirement savings (the 2018 limit for 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457 plans is $18,500 or $24,500 if you are over age 50; the limit for Traditional or Roth IRAs is $5,500 or $6,500 for those over age 50. If you are self-employed, the limits are higher.)

- Fund a 529-education fund (now expanded via the tax plan, to include private or parochial school for up to $10,000 a year in tuition and other expenses)

- Establish a general investment account to fund anything from a second home to an accelerated path to retirement

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Tips for Landing Your Dream Job

January 24, 2018 1:00 am

Looking for a new job? Dreaming ways to land your ideal gig? Nearly two in five (38 percent) U.S. job seekers and employees are currently searching for or plan to begin looking for a new job in 2018, according to a survey from Glassdoor.

With this in mind, here are the top 10 tips for job seekers to apply to their job searches in 2018, according to Glassdoor.

Identify your skillset to find the right job for you. Instead of focusing on a job title in your job search, focus on the required skills. Job titles are evolving and changing – while you might be searching for a particular title, there may be other, more suitable positions available with a slightly different title. By identifying your skills – those performed in the job, the tools you have experience using and personal attributes that support your ability to perform your work – and matching them to the skills employers are seeking, you can expand and better target your job search.

Use online resources and company websites to identify opportunities. Search for jobs on job search sites such as Glassdoor, along with company career pages. When using job sites, start with a specific job title that you are interested in, and then use the "suggested jobs" or "similar jobs" feature to identify additional opportunities.

Narrow down to a few high-quality job opportunities to apply to. Applying to jobs is more about the quality than the quantity of opportunities. Research each company before applying to ensure it is a company that you're interested in working for. When reviewing jobs, some questions to keep in mind are: Where is the job located? What are the company values? and Do employees like working there?  

Download and save attractive job listings for future reference. Copy and paste or print the job listing and description for each position you want to apply to so that you can reference it at a later time. Many employers may remove a job listing before a position is filled if they believe they have the right candidates in their applicant pool. By saving the job description, you have the qualifications to look back when preparing for a potential interview.

Customize your resume for each job application. It's important to tailor your resume to fit the job you're applying for. While your resume will contain many of the same elements from job to job – skills, experience, education, etc. – customization based on the job description can often give you a competitive edge.

Ensure your cover letter doesn't restate your resume. Your cover letter is a supplement to your resume, not a copy of it. In your cover letter, you should share a bit more about who you are, what you have to offer and why you are the right fit for the position and employer. You should also include a call to action such as, "I look forward to connecting to discuss next steps." Not sure if you even need a cover letter? When in doubt, draft and send it on with your resume. It can give a hiring manager more detail into who you are and further separate you from the competition.

Study hard for your interview. Preparing for your interview is threefold: 1. Know about the company, the work they do and the job you are interviewing for. 2. Practice answering common and tough interview questions you may receive with friends or family. 3. If you know the individuals with whom you’ll be interviewing, look them up online to learn about their background.  

Always ask your interviewer questions. Be prepared for your interviewer to ask if you have any questions. It is important to have some questions ready – if you don't ask questions, you can run the risk of unintentionally appearing disengaged or uninterested. Some questions may include: What are growth opportunities at this company? What is your favorite thing — and biggest challenge — about working here?

Send a thank you note after your interview. Always follow up with the people who you interviewed with to share appreciation of the time they took to meet with you. How you send the note is up to you – email or snail mail – but be sure to include your thanks and reiterate your interest in the position. Be timely in sending your thank you note.

When offered the job, don't accept on the spot. Congratulations – you got the job! Most employers will call you to make the official job offer. On the call, you should thank the employer for the offer and confirm when you will need to accept by. Some may request your acceptance later that day, others may give you a bit more time. Take the time they give you to carefully review the offer, and if necessary, go back to them to negotiate. Research online or use online tools to ensure you are receiving fair market pay for where you live, based on your job title, relevant work experience and other factors.

Source: GlassDoor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Stage Your Home On a Budget

January 22, 2018 12:48 am

Getting your home into prime showing shape is essential to helping it sell in the shortest amount of time for the best possible price. But while a professional home stager can work wonders, it just might not be in your budget. Don’t despair - here are some great ways to inexpensively stage your home all on your own:

Get rid of the the excess. The first thing every home stager will do is get rid of the clutter. And that is something anyone can do on your own without spending a dime. Get some boxes and storage bins and start removing whatever you can, including: framed photos; anything hanging on the fridge or anywhere else; knick knacks; most books (save a few nice ones for staging); trophies and awards; kitchen gadgets; personal effects, such as glasses, keys, jewelry, etc. The golden rule? You can’t remove too much.

Rearrange the furniture. Go from room to room and make sure the furniture is arranged in a way that makes the room look as open and spacious as possible. If this means removing chairs or tables to open the flow, go for it.

Brighten things up. Replace heavy drapery with sheer panels, raise blinds and shades, and place higher wattage bulbs in lighting fixtures, adding a lamp or two where necessary. Maximizing natural and artificial light are essential to making your home look as bright and appealing as possible.

Paint where necessary. A small investment of paint in key areas will be worth it. Change any dark or oddly painted rooms to a light, neutral color, and prioritize walls and rooms where the paint is dirty or showing signs of aging. Paint can also be a good option for updating kitchen cabinets that are otherwise too expensive to replace.

Add new accessories. A trip to your nearest discount store can send you home with a bundle of new accent pillows, throws, bathroom and kitchen accessories and a nice vase or two for the dining room and coffee tables. These decorative accessories will add a fresh feel and pops of color where necessary throughout your home. Just remember: less is more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Slip, Trip, Stumble: 5 Tips for Safer Falling

January 22, 2018 12:48 am

Most of us will take a tumble at some point in our lives. But be it a slip on an icy walkway or a trip over an exposed cable, there are ways you can minimize damage when you fall - if you know how.

"We often associate falls with children or the elderly, but in fact 50- to 60-year olds experience more falls than older individuals," says Allison Averill, M.D., director of neurorehabilitation, Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. "And while falling at some point in time is inevitable, there are ways to protect yourself from serious injury by creating a safer environment in and around your home and also by learning how to fall."

Understanding the science of falling is critical. Studies have shown that it's not whether you slip on a wet or icy surface, trip over a rug or a crack in the sidewalk, or fall down a flight of stairs, but rather what you do in those brief seconds before you reach the ground:

Protect your head. Falls are the No. 1 cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States, accounting for nearly half of these injuries. To help minimize the risk, try to tuck your head toward your chest if falling backward and turn your head to the side if falling forward.

Reach and relax. Although it's natural to tense up, try to stay loose and reach with your arms bent to help cushion your fall.

Butt first … Falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries. To help distribute the impact of a fall, try to land on the fleshier parts of your body and roll with the fall.  

Reducing the risk of falling is equally important – and that includes paying attention to both physical and environmental factors:  

Eliminate clutter. Keep pathways clear by moving furniture or removing throw rugs, toys and other obstacles in the home, as well as tools, hoses and other items outdoors.     

Focus on safety. Make sure rooms are well lit and use handrails on stairways and grab bars in the bath or shower. Outdoors, pay attention to the pavement or other surfaces and weather conditions. Even at the market or the mall, watch the flooring, displays and other potential hazards.

Build your balance.  Developing core strength and flexibility through exercise and/or physical therapy, along with training like tai chi, may help improve balance.

Check your eyes – and your meds. Poor eyesight, certain medications and even your diet, as well as the effects of arthritis, MS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, stroke and other medical conditions, can affect balance and coordination and lead to falls. See a physician if you experience any difficulties.

"Falls will happen," cautions Dr. Averill. "The best defense to help avoid injury is to minimize risk factors in and around your home, workplace and community. And in that split second as you begin to fall, remember how to prepare to land."

Source:  www.kessler-rehab.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Overpay Your Taxes

January 22, 2018 12:48 am

(Family Features)--With tax season in full swing, take time to consider how to get the most out of your tax return, which includes finding all the credits and deductions available to you. While many taxpayers claim common deductions, such as home mortgage interest and self-employment expenses, there are additional tax deductions that can lessen your final tax bill or increase your refund. These often-overlooked tax breaks could potentially save you hundreds - maybe even thousands - of dollars if you itemize deductions.

To start, get to know the difference between tax credits and tax deductions. Tax credits reduce the amount you owe in taxes. In some circumstances, tax credits allow a refundable credit, meaning you may not only reduce the amount you owe to $0, but you can also get money back. Deductions, on the other hand, simply reduce your taxable income. Both can have a potentially significant impact on your taxes and are often worth the extra effort to include on your return.

Some commonly overlooked credits include:

1. Child and Dependent Care Credit

You can claim a credit of up to $2,100 for day care for your dependents so you and your spouse can work. Qualifying dependents include children under 13 and parents who are no longer able to care for themselves.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit based on your income and the number of qualifying children living with you. Nearly 1 in 5 people who qualify fail to claim the credit, worth up to $6,318. Just because you didn't qualify last year doesn't mean you won't this year; one-third of the EITC-eligible population changes each year based on marital, parental and financial status.

3. Saver's Credit or the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit

Make sure you "pay yourself first." Even if it is only $20 each pay cycle, make sure you are putting some money into a retirement fund. If your company offers a retirement savings plan, like a 401(k), it is usually in your best interest to participate. If your income is lower than $60,000, you can receive a credit of up to $1,000 for a contribution of up to $2,000 into an IRA or an employer-provided retirement account, such as a 401(k). The credit is in addition to any deduction or exclusion from income for the contribution.

Some tax deductions that allow you to reduce your taxable income include:

1. Moving Expenses

If you moved for a job that is at least 50 miles away from your home and held this job for at least 39 weeks, you can claim your moving expenses even if you don't itemize deductions.

2. Tax-Preparation Fees

Plan for tax time. Tax laws change and so do life circumstances. Using a professional to help you file your return may be a wise investment. For example, the tax pros at Jackson Hewitt can help you get every deduction and credit you deserve and the biggest refund possible. Plus, the cost of preparing your taxes can be claimed if you itemize your deductions. In fact, one missed credit or deduction could more than cover the cost of having your taxes prepared by a tax professional.

3. New Moms

Breast pumps and lactation supplies are considered medical equipment, which means they qualify for a possible deduction.

4. Career Corner

Job hunting often means investing both time and money. However, you may be able to deduct some of the job-search expenses you incur. Costs such as preparing resumes, creating and maintaining websites, business cards, agency fees and travel expenses may be eligible.

5. Wedding Bells

If you were married in a church or at a historical site during the past year, you may be able to deduct fees paid to the venue as a charitable donation.

6. Medical Fitness

While general toning and fitness workouts to improve general health are considered personal expenses, you may be able to deduct your gym membership as a medical expense. If a doctor diagnoses you with a specific medical condition, such as obesity or hypertension, or a specific physical or mental illness, and prescribes workouts or participation in a weight-loss program to treat your illness, the membership dues may be tax-deductible.

7. Road Warriors

If you travel for business and aren't reimbursed by your employer, those costs can qualify as a deduction.

Refund Advance
If you're getting a refund, you typically want it as soon as possible, but that isn't always an option, especially if you are one of the millions of Americans who claim either the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit.  

Did You Know?
1. The IRS, as well as many states, allows taxpayers to catch up on missed credits or deductions, offering a three-year window for filing an amended tax return. You can secure unclaimed credits and deductions by filing amended tax returns to avoid losing any unclaimed funds from as far back as 2014.

2. With locations across the United States, including kiosks in 3,000 Walmart stores, the tax professionals at Jackson Hewitt make it easy to stop in when it's most convenient for you.

3. If you are a single parent, you can file as Head of Household instead of Single. This filing status can provide better deduction options and a lower tax rate schedule.

Source: Jackson Hewitt

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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