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RE/MAX 440
Susan Langenstein
423 North Main Street
Doylestown  PA 18901
 Phone: 267-446-6201
Office Phone: 215-348-7100
Toll Free: 800-360-7100
Cell: 267-446-6201
Fax: 267-354-6816 
susanlangenstein@comcast.net
Susan Langenstein

My Blog

Solar-plus-Battery Could Power Homes in the Future

April 10, 2015 1:03 am

Over the next 10 to 15 years, grid-connected solar-plus-battery systems may become an increasingly cost-effective option for customers, according to a recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and HOMER Energy. No matter how expensive electricity gets, customers that invest in these grid-connected systems can contain their electricity costs and see significant savings on their monthly utility bill.

“Today’s electricity system is at a metaphorical fork in the road. Down one path are pricing structures, business models and regulatory environments that favor eventual grid defection,” says Jules Kortenhorst, CEO, RMI. “Down another road, those same factors are appropriately valued as part of a transactive grid with lower system-wide costs and the foundation of a reliable, resilient, affordable and low-carbon grid of the future in which customers are empowered with choice.”

Solar-plus-battery systems will likely play a central role in the grid of the future, but exactly what role they’ll play has yet to be determined.

Source: RMI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Questions to Ask about Your Insurance

April 10, 2015 1:03 am

Spring may be the time of year for cleaning, but it is also a great time to review your insurance coverage. As your life changes, so do your insurance needs, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Instead of dusting around the corners of your insurance policies this year, take the time to ask yourself the following:

1. Is my home covered for its full rebuilding cost?
Review your policy to make sure that you have enough insurance to rebuild your home. If you have made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, enclosing a porch or expanding a kitchen or bathroom, you risk being underinsured if you don’t adjust your homeowners insurance coverage limits.

And if you don’t yet have a separate flood insurance policy, now would be a great time to check whether your home is in a flood risk zone at FloodSmart.gov.

2. Do I have enough coverage for expensive items?
Have you bought or received any valuable jewelry since you purchased/renewed your policy? When was the last time you had the items you owned appraised? Standard homeowners insurance has dollar limits for the theft of certain types of expensive items like jewelry, furs and silverware. This means that the insurer will only pay the amount specified in the policy – generally $1,000 to $2,000. To insure these items to their full dollar value, consider a special personal property endorsement or floater. This coverage includes “accidental disappearance,” meaning coverage if you simply lose an item, and there is no deductible.

Remember that items can go up or down in value. Floaters and endorsements are priced on the appraised value of an item or collection, so have periodic reappraisals done to make sure you are purchasing only the amount of coverage you actually need.

The best way to keep track of your belongings and make sure they are adequately insured is to create a home inventory.

3. Do I still need comprehensive/collision on my car?
If you’re driving an older car that is worth less than $1,000 – or less than 10 times the insurance premium – the optional coverage may no longer be cost-effective. Consider saving money on your premium by dropping either comprehensive or collision.

4. Do I have enough liability insurance to fully protect my assets?
Standard homeowners and auto policy liabilities pay for judgments against you and your legal fees up to a limit set in the policy. However, in our litigious society, you may want to have additional protection—that’s what an umbrella liability policy provides. An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage in a homeowners, renters, condo or auto policy. If your assets have increased of late, you’ll have more to lose and may want to consider this extra layer of protection.

5. Should I rent out my house during the vacation period?
Whether you own a second home that you plan to lease to a tenant or want to rent out your primary residence though an online service such as Airbnb, your first step should be to call your insurance professional. Depending on the rental scenario, your standard homeowners policy may not cover losses incurred while your home is rented out, and you may require a more specialized insurance policy.

If you are taking an expensive, pre-paid vacation or an active vacation such as biking or hiking in an exotic locale, travel insurance can help protect the financial investment in your vacation.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homelessness Declines Nationwide

April 9, 2015 1:00 am

According to a recent report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, homelessness dipped 2.3 percent in 2014, thanks to an ongoing decrease in unemployment and continued economic recovery. However, the number of low-income people living in doubled-up situations with family and friends is growing, and the number of people at risk for homelessness has yet to return to pre-recession levels.

The Alliance’s report, “The State of Homelessness in America 2015,” reveals that a total of 37 states and territories showed declines in overall homelessness. The nation is in the midst of a shift toward Housing First interventions like permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing, with rapid re-housing capacity nearly doubling from 2012 to 2013 from about 20,000 to 38,000 beds.

The report indicates that the number of renter households who must pay more than 50 percent of their income toward housing remains at a historic high.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Consumers Anticipate Mind-Controlled Household Devices

April 9, 2015 1:00 am

Smart home technology is advancing faster than ever, but humans would much rather rely on their own brain power to operate household devices. According to a recent survey by IEEE, an organization dedicated to technological innovation, respondents expect that by 2025, devices found in the home will be controlled by the human mind.

Many aspects of the home of the future will be programmed to read individuals’ directives from their brainwaves. Survey respondents consistently noted mind-controlled applications as the preferred means of completing tasks at home such as opening the front door (35 percent), using kitchen appliances, turning off the lights or playing videogames.

The expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices prefaces a shift away from mobile devices as the go-to technology. Less than one-third of respondents indicated plans to use their cell phones to control their front doors, kitchen appliances and lights.

More than one-fourth of respondents still want to cook manually in 10 years. Just 8 percent of respondents would like to control lights manually.

Source: IEEE

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Avoid 5 Spring Lawn Care Fails

April 9, 2015 1:00 am

As this year's winter finally ends, homeowners will be faced with the same challenge they are faced with every single year: how does one keep a healthy, dark green lawn looking its best?

Unfortunately, many homeowners will make mistakes that set back the health of their lawn and they don't even know it.

"When it comes to having a nice lawn, ironically the lawns worst enemy is the person who thinks they are helping,” says Thomas Kelly, founder of BeeSafe Lawns. “Tinkering too much is a terrible thing when it comes to lawn care.”

With that in mind, avoids these pitfalls when caring for your lawn this spring:

1. Don't Jump the Gun

Right out of the gate, it's important to know that more isn't always better. The inclination is to load up the lawn with products that the lawn doesn't really need. Your lawn is experiencing one of its most healthy phases about two weeks after it breaks dormancy. Both roots and shoots are growing at a tremendous pace and sometimes doing too much can interfere.

2. Don’t Over-Water

One of the worst things to happen to even the best lawns is the introduction of an unlimited supply of water. The rule of thumb is that you should water three times per week for 40 minutes per zone only when rainfall is not present. Remember the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”? If it's raining, resist watering.

3. Don’t Bag Your Clippings

Your lawn wants to be fed naturally. Mulching the clippings back into the soil creates an additional source of nutrients, especially nitrogen and the goal of any lawn care program should be to reduce inputs.

4. Don’t Over-Fertilize

Your lawn needs about half as much fertilizer as the fertilizer companies lead you to believe. The more you apply, the more your lawn will require even more to stay healthy.

5. Hold Off on Seeding

The temptation is hard to resist. Those bare spots that were filled with crabgrass last year are bare again this spring. The commercials on the radio are telling you to plant seed now. The truth is, fall is the best time to seed and 90 percent of the time new seed won't make it through the summer.

Source: BeeSafe Lawns

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Upgraded Backyards Support Outdoor Living

April 8, 2015 12:54 am

Americans spend an average of 309 hours in their yard per year – close to two weeks of outdoor time, according to a recent TruGreen survey. Moreover, most Americans who have a yard consider it an important part of their lives, spending an estimated 50 hours more per year outside than those without a yard. That’s more than a weekend!

The survey also found that three out of five Americans agree their yard is their favorite place at home to spend quality time with family, particularly when hosting barbecues and cookouts (82 percent).

Despite warmer weather, longer days and greener lawns, more than half of Americans do not spend as much time outdoors as they’d like. Sixty-eight percent of respondents reported they were spending less time outside compared to five years ago.

An improved landscape may help – 46 percent of Americans surveyed said if they had a greener, more maintained and healthier lawn, they’d spend more time outside.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Half of Homeowners Leave Projects Unfinished

April 8, 2015 12:54 am

If you’ve procrastinated on a project at home, you’re not alone. Nearly half of homeowners have put off home projects due to a lack of reliable cost information, according to HomeAdvisor’s 2015 True Cost Report.

“More than a third of homeowners don’t know how much it will cost to hire a professional for home projects and 68 percent of homeowners are concerned about overpaying without a reliable source for cost information,” explains Chris Terrill, CEO of HomeAdvisor.

In the report, millennial homeowners outpaced every other group, either putting off a project when they don’t know how much it will cost or attempting to complete the project on their own. When asked to provide estimates for home projects, most homeowners have a tendency to estimate less than the actual cost of the project.

The report also highlighted trends in home improvement spending. The majority of homeowners paid for recent projects with available funds as opposed to financing, and homeowners plan to spend roughly the same amount on home projects this year as in the past year.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average national cost of painting a home’s exterior is $2,500, with homeowners spending anywhere from $1,500 to $3,600. The average national cost of remodeling a kitchen is $19,935, with homeowners spending between $10,957 and $30,000.

Source: HomeAdvisor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renovating the Kitchen? Island Plumbing Problems Solved

April 8, 2015 12:54 am

(BPT) – Designers and builders agree: islands are a must-have upgrade when renovating a kitchen. Aside from features like custom cabinetry, granite countertops, reclaimed wood flooring or top-of-the-line appliances, islands can dramatically alter the appearance of a kitchen, providing additional storage space, a much-needed work area and seating.

"Islands are replacing tables," says Audrey Macdonald of Creative Interiors By Audrey in the National Kitchen & Bath Association's most recent Kitchen & Bath Style Report. These days, homeowners are replacing traditional dining tables and breakfast nooks with spacious islands that feature seating.

In addition to seating, homeowners are incorporating restaurant-quality fittings into islands, adding charging stations for the family's digital devices. They're also choosing architectural and design touches such as decorative legs and countertops and cabinetry that contrast with those around the perimeter of the kitchen.

While you could add an island without plumbing, having a sink in an island can improve the workflow in a kitchen and open up counter space elsewhere. Plumbing an island can be problematic, however, if your home is built on a slab or a crawl space. The cost of cutting through concrete and adding piping can be prohibitive.

Above-floor plumbing can solve the problem. Some manufacturers produce pumping systems that can eliminate the need to cut concrete and reduce the cost of installing plumbing in a new island.

"Cutting through concrete to install plumbing can easily account for 50 percent of a renovation budget," says Chris Peterson, spokesperson for plumbing manufacturer Saniflo. "Homeowners may decide to abandon the idea of an island altogether when they face that kind of cost. Above-floor plumbing allows them to add an island, hide a single drain pipe in a decorative column, and achieve the kitchen of their dreams at a fraction of the cost of traditional plumbing options."

Kitchen renovations continue to be among the most popular home improvement projects and can offer homeowners a high return on their investments. A major kitchen remodel costing about $56,000 can recoup nearly 68 percent of its cost when you sell your home, while a minor remodel in the range of $19,000 can yield a 79 percent ROI upon resale, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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For Some, Retirement Trumps Down Payment

April 7, 2015 12:54 am

The gradual improvement of the economy has resulted in shifting financial priorities for Americans. In a recent NeighborWorks America financial capability survey, 24 percent of adults reported retirement is their most important savings goal; adults saving for down payments for a home edged down 5 percent, suggesting the housing market is still well on its way to a full recovery.

The survey also pointed to a whopping 72 million people who don’t have an emergency savings fund – a sharp increase from the survey one year ago. Moreover, the percentage of adults saying saving for emergencies is an important financial goal fell to just one percent.

The absence of savings for one-third of adults is particularly worrisome in light of how long it takes the average person who becomes unemployed to find a new job.

Source: NeighborWorks America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Common Lawn Care Myths

April 7, 2015 12:54 am

After another chilly winter for much of the nation, many homeowners may be eager to roll up their sleeves outside this spring. Before beginning seasonal maintenance, keep in mind these common lawn care myths, courtesy of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

Myth #1: You can water your lawn and landscape any time of day.
Reality: Water is a valuable resource – make every drop of irrigation count! Watering the lawn in the early mornings or evenings after sunset minimizes evaporation, so it's the best time for water to penetrate deep into the soil.

Myth #2: It's fine to cut the grass very short.
Reality: Avoid cutting more than one-third of the grass leaf at a time. Mowing at a finished cut height of 3 to 3.5 inches tall throughout the summer is generally recommended. The lawn will need less water, will be more resistant to weeds and will have a deeper, greener color. Use a sharp mower blade to prevent tearing grass blades. A crisp and clean cut will help prevent a "brown tip" appearance.

Myth #3: It's best to water your lawn every day.
Reality: Watering your lawn every three days is better than daily watering. Deep, rather than shallow lawn watering is recommended to nurture roots. One inch of water to 12 inches of soil is the preferred ratio for watering actively growing grass.

Myth #4: If you want to replace your lawn, you should do it in the spring, when plants are preparing to bloom.
Reality:
The best time to sow seed is in the late summer and early fall when the temperatures are more consistent and highly competitive weeds, like crabgrass, are at the end of their life cycle.

Myth #5: Early spring is the best time to fertilize the lawn.
Reality:
Since different species of grass prefer nutrients at different times of the year, be sure to use the correct fertilizer, at the right rate, right time, and in the right place. A slow release fertilizer allows for more even and consistent feeding over a longer period of time than a quick release fertilizer. Remember to use fertilizers responsibly by cleaning up any that lands on streets, sidewalks or driveways where they can be washed away into lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Myth #6: A garden hose is more cost-efficient than installing an irrigation system.
Reality: Many landscape professionals recommend installing an irrigation system with smart controllers which have sensors that water when needed. Smart irrigation can offer a cost savings of 15 to 20 percent on water bills. Converting irrigation spray nozzles from sprinklers to rotating nozzles will spread heavy droplets of water at a slower pace, which makes them more targeted and effective.

Myth #7: You have to irrigate to have a healthy and beautiful lawn.

Reality: Grasses are built to endure long periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy. When temperatures and moisture levels are at their extreme, the growing point of the grass plant, the crown, will shut off the grass blades, turning them brown. In almost all instances, once the heat and drought stresses have gone, the crowns will begin to send up new shoots. There's nothing wrong with irrigating to avoid dormancy, but "embracing the brown" for a couple of weeks in the summer is just fine.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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