RE/MAX 440
Gail Ruth

Gail Ruth
4550 W. Tilghman Street  Allentown  PA 18104
Phone:  610-398-8111
Office:  610-398-8111
Cell:  610-390-5434
Fax:  267-354-6263

My Blog

7 Ways to Reduce Household Pollution

October 16, 2015 12:58 am

When it comes to pollution prevention, no gesture is too small. In fact, there are several actions households can take that have far-reaching benefits for the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

• Maintain heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other energy-using equipment, to reduce the amount of energy consumed.

• Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

• When you purchase electronics and appliances look for the ENERGY STAR® label and buy the most energy-efficient items possible to meet your needs.

• Save water and protect the environment by choosing WaterSense-labeled products in your home, yard, and business and taking simple steps to save water each day.

• Use re-useable lunch container bags, rather than paper or plastic.

• Practice safe take-out – say “no” to extra napkins, plastic-ware and condiments.

• Use only recycled paper and other recycled products.

Source: EPA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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To Spray or Not to Spray? Plant Pesticides Explained

October 15, 2015 12:52 am

When it comes to landscape care, fall and early winter are prime time for professionals to use pesticides – a broad term that includes products that eradicate insect pests and herbicides that kill weeds. As a homeowner, it’s important to evaluate if the use of these pesticides is practical.

“Many people might not have to use pesticides at all,” says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). “For example, an infestation last year may only require all the old plant material be cut out. Often, cultural practices (pruning, raking leaves, etc.) will go a long way toward solving pest problems.”

If you decide to use pesticides to care for the trees and other plantings on your property, Andersen recommends purchasing the least toxic application. Most chemicals available to homeowners have the words “caution,” “warning,” or “danger” on their labels – try to avoid those with “warning” and “danger” labels, as they are more hazardous. Don’t be tempted to use agricultural chemicals, which are not designed for use by homeowners.

Keep in mind that if used improperly, herbicides can kill valuable mature trees and shrubs, along with sprouting weeds.

“Herbicides should not be applied on or near desirable trees, or on areas where their roots may extend or in locations where the herbicide may be washed or move into contact with their roots,” Andersen explains. “Even properly applied chemical applications may be affected by rainfall. Some herbicides can be washed off paved surfaces or soak into the ground through the cracked joints – the very place with the greatest concentration of fine tree roots.”

Remember to never use the same equipment to spray herbicides and other pesticides, and avoid mixing herbicides with other kinds of pesticides. Don’t mix or store pesticides in food containers, and don’t measure pesticides with measuring cups or spoons. Always store pesticides in the original container, and keep the label intact.

Most importantly, consult with a professional who can diagnose the pest problem ahead of time – he or she can recommend the best solutions that will save you time and money.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Equity Loan, HELOC Delinquencies Decline

October 15, 2015 12:52 am

In more encouraging news for housing and the overall economy, loan delinquencies fell in two of three home-related categories in the recently released American Bankers Association’s Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin. The categories on the decline are home equity loan delinquencies, which fell to 2.90 percent, and home equity line of credit delinquencies, which fell to 1.42 percent.

“There is a strong correlation between rising home prices and falling home-related delinquency rates,” says James Chessen, chief economist of the American Bankers Association. “As the housing market continues to gain strength, we expect home equity loan delinquencies to continue their downward trend.”

Property improvement delinquencies edged up slightly to 0.91 percent. The American Bankers Association (ABA) defines a delinquency as a late payment that is 30 days or more overdue.

“The steady forward march of the economy has continued to strengthen consumers’ financial positions,” says Chessen. “Consumers continue to impress with their ability to manage debt prudently and keep spending under control. The drop in gas prices last year has provided a big boost to disposable income and has freed up money that makes debt obligations a bit easier to handle.”

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Outdoor Projects That Can't Wait until Next Year

October 15, 2015 12:52 am

(BPT) – Summer may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t complete a few exterior DIY projects before colder temperatures set in. If you act fast, you may even have time to enjoy your handiwork this year!

Which projects are best suited for fall? Here are five to get you started, courtesy of the experts at ProWood (ProWoodLumber.com).

1. Close the Cracks – Fall is an ideal time to seal cracks in your driveway before temperature fluctuations make damage worse. Start by cleaning the affected area, followed by applying the proper sealer – the sealer you choose depends on the size of the cracks. You can use concrete or vinyl patches, paints, caulk or grout to seal smaller cracks; larger cracks commonly require a combination of cement and grout. Apply the sealing solution to the crack and let dry before smoothing over.

2. Do That Deck – Installing a deck in the fall guarantees a full summer spent outdoors next year. Treated lumber is perfect for any DIY deck project because it's easy to work with, durable, and can be used to construct railings, stairs and more.

3. Liven Up the Landscape – A livened up landscape can work wonders for your home’s curb appeal. Flower boxes or raised planter beds are a great way to introduce new flowers and create spots of color. You can also surround your shrubs with new wood shavings or small rocks.

4. Fortify the Fence – Fencing your yard provides security for your home, your children and pets. Wood fencing is budget-friendly, and produced in several styles of convenient, prebuilt panels, as well as individual fence pickets. For an even more attractive fence, install color-treated wood fencing that retains a natural cedar-tone or redwood-tone color.

5. Fire Up the Fun – A backyard fire pit is a great place to congregate and one you'll enjoy well into the colder months. If you're seeking a quick addition, purchase a fire pit kit at your local home store. More durable, long-lasting options will require you to dig a trench and lay gravel before applying pavers. The option you choose should depend on how often you plan to use the pit, the appearance you're going for and the time and money you have to spend.

Source: ProWood

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Tips when Making Disaster Relief Donations

October 14, 2015 1:16 am

Relief funds are vital to communities impacted by a natural disaster, but an influx of donations in its aftermath can make it difficult to determine how individual contributions will be purposed. According to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, donors can avoid questionable solicitations and ensure their contributions are put to good use by:

Exercising caution when giving online;

Following Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, the FBI raised concerns about newly-created organizations and websites that claimed to help victims. Be cautious about spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s website.

Remaining wary of “100 percent” claims;

If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting disaster victims, the truth is that the organization is still likely incurring fundraising and administrative expenses. Even a credit card donation will involve, at minimum, a processing fee. It may use some of its other funds to pay these costs, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Giving to the charity directly;

Some charities may be raising money to pass along to other relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to those that have a presence in the affected region. At minimum, research who the ultimate recipients are to see if they are equipped to provide aid effectively.

Avoiding inexperienced charities;

While well-intentioned, in-kind drives for food and clothing may not necessarily be the best way to help those in need, unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute donations properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans, and be wary of those who are inexperienced in disaster relief.

Source: BBB Wise Giving Alliance

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Seniors: 10 Ways to Avoid ID Theft

October 14, 2015 1:16 am

Identity fraud involving elderly individuals is not uncommon – in fact, older persons are often targeted specifically by identity thieves seeking financial gain. To protect yourself, your parents or loved ones from identity theft, follow these 10 tips recommended by Experian.

1. Always shred or destroy documents that contain personal information before throwing them away. 

2. Never respond to cold phone calls or e-mails asking for account details, PINs, passwords or personal information.

3. Don’t give too much away on networking websites. For example, pets’ names or children’s names could be used as passwords.

4. Register to vote at your current address. If you don’t, thieves could use your previous address details to open new credit accounts and run up debt in your name.

5. Monitor your mail regularly so you know when to expect important documents — and when to act if they don’t arrive. 

6. If you move to a new home, redirect your mail through the postal service.

7. Always use secure, unique passwords for as many online accounts as possible. At the very least, have a unique password for each type of service provider, such as financial services, retail services and email. 

8. Don’t store account names and passwords on your smartphone, either in email, as a note, or to auto-complete when you open a website or app. It will be a goldmine for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen. 

9. Read all bank and card statements regularly to check for suspicious transactions. 

10. Check your credit report regularly for suspicious applications and spending.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Danger of Lead-Based Paint

October 14, 2015 1:16 am

Though the federal government banned residential use of lead-based paint in 1978, it remains on the walls of about 40 percent of the housing stock today. For children, older homes are considered to be the most hazardous source of lead, and exposure can result in lead poisoning, a serious health concern.

"Awareness is the key to eradicating lead poisoning," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. "The more homeowners know, the more likely they are to demand and be willing to pay what it takes to remodel and repair without endangering their children."

Any project that disturbs old paint – such as prep work for re-painting, remodeling or window installation – can create dust and debris that a child may inhale or ingest. Since 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required contractors whose work disturbs lead paint to be trained and certified in proper safety techniques.

"Of course do-it-yourself projects present the same dangers, so handy homeowners should be following best practices, too," Hicks adds. "This isn't rocket science. It's smart, common sense actions that anyone can do – and all of us who deal with older homes should want to do."

To learn more about residential lead, visit EPA.gov.

Source: Angie’s List

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Report: College Expenses Eclipse Retirement

October 13, 2015 1:10 am

Financial obligations in the present may put off retirement in the future. According to a recent report by the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute, nearly one-third of Americans would be willing to reduce the amount they are saving for retirement, or even defer it, to help their children or grandchildren pay for college educations.

“Long ago, attending college morphed from a privilege into a necessity for so many,” says report author Michael Ericson, a LIMRA analyst. “With the average student loan approaching $30,000, people have been forced to shuffle around their financial priorities and obligations.

“In addition to eroding retirement confidence, these loans are causing Americans to reduce their discretionary spending,” Ericson adds.

But the report also confirmed what previous research has found: those saving for retirement are also more likely to save for other purposes, as well.

“Those saving in their 401(k)s are also putting money aside for college tuition. They’re doing what they can to prepare for both,” says Ericson.

Source: LIMRA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sunny Days: Controlling Natural Light at Home

October 13, 2015 1:10 am

(Family Features) No matter the level of natural light in your home, controlling the light is important, especially if limited privacy or damaging rays are concerning. Several blocking techniques can correct these matters, say the experts at ODL, Inc., a leading manufacturer of door and window products. Those techniques are:

Trapping light with textiles – If you’ve always considered curtains an attractive but non-functional addition to your home, think again. Choosing the proper weight and texture for your window treatments can significantly alter the lighting when curtains are drawn. For example, combining heavier drapes and sheer panels is a stylish approach that lets you filter without fully eliminating light. When placed on a double rod, the drapes can pull closed for more complete blockage.

Seeking solutions for unique situations – For glass inserts on doors, traditional coverings such as curtains or blinds are impractical; the sway of fabric or banging of blinds grows tiresome quickly. An alternative is an energy-efficient solution that lets you easily adjust and change the height and tilt of the slats as needed to control the amount of light and privacy you want.

Filtering harsh rays with window film – Although it lacks the day-to-day flexibility of other options, tinting windows or applying a window film is an effective way to significantly reduce bright light through a window. There are a wide range of options to fit your specific needs, from glare reduction and heat control to privacy and decoration. You can choose versions that allow varying degrees of opacity in gray or dark colors, or even frosted or stained glass looks. In most cases, the film is applied from inside; the street appearance varies depending on your selection.

Planting with purpose – If your preference is to leave your view unobstructed, enhance the view with strategically positioned shrubs or trees that lend a more subtle sense of privacy while blocking direct sunlight. This approach is ideal for windows and glass doors overlooking a scenic backyard with limited privacy concerns.

Source: ODL, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Average Well Below 4 Percent

October 13, 2015 1:10 am

Average mortgage rates across the board continue to remain below 4 percent, most recently falling due to weak employment numbers. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.76 percent with an average 0.6 point. The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped below 3 percent to 2.99 percent, also with an average 0.6 point.

The PMMS® also reports the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.88 percent (with an average 0.4 point), and the 1-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.55 percent (with an average 0.2 point).

“Calling the September jobs report disappointing is an understatement,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The sputtering U.S. economy added only 142,000 jobs. To make matters worse, there were downward revisions to the prior two months. Hourly wages were flat, and the labor force participation rate fell to 62.4 percent, the lowest rate since 1977. In response, Treasury yields dipped below 2 percent, triggering a 9 basis point tumble in the 30-year mortgage rate to 3.76 percent.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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