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

For Some, Retirement Trumps Down Payment

April 7, 2015 1:12 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 1:12 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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3 Rooms to Redo This Spring

April 7, 2015 1:12 am

Spring is the season of new beginnings, so is it any wonder that many Americans think about home improvement and brightening their decor when the weather warms? Simple updates to these three rooms can bring the cheerful perspective from the outside indoors and revive any room in time for warmer weather.

1. Make Your Bathroom Bloom
Relaxed modernity is ideal for a bathroom, and a serene palette is a great way to create this calming oasis. Use the beach as your muse; pastels such as light blue and eggshell white will create an oceanfront vibe no matter where you live. To bring the coastal feel to the forefront, you can easily add waves to your walls with pre-cut rippled painter’s tape. Continue the theme of waves on your bathroom walls, accessories or even the shower curtain.

The finishing touches tie any room together, and the bathroom is no exception. The right accent rug and towels will transform the look of your bath with minimal effort and deliver maximum style. Updating your decorative accents will complement your new spring color scheme, and leave the space feeling refreshed season after season.

2. Spring-Ready Sleeping Chambers
Light hues are a great go-to for spring home decorating; utilize one of the hottest trends with a white-themed bedroom. Not only is white timeless and versatile, but it allows an array of interior design options. Add crisp white curtains to your windows to brighten the room, and for a chic addition, add a delicate white canopy to soften the atmosphere even more. For a hint of color, add in shades of muted teals on accessories throughout the room.

If your spring style calls for more color, add vibrant bursts throughout your bedroom. As the bed is the focal point of the master bedroom, make it the center of your attention as well. Fresh fabrics and linens are essential for spring, so opt for a delicate coverlet in your favorite pattern. Also, incorporate decorative vases filled with fresh flowers throughout the space, allowing the fragrance of spring to accompany your fresh decor.

3. Spring-Spruce the Living Room

To kick off spring with color and character, add an assortment of patterned throw pillows to your living room. Mix and match fabrics and patterns – geometrics, florals and stripes pair well together. It will give your living area visual texture and is the perfect way to perk up this room for the season. If you’re not in the mood for a complete room redo, use your existing color palette as inspiration; simply add in complementary shades to create a modern and harmonious look.

Looking to turn heads with a simple spring update? Reposition your furniture. First, determine the main furniture piece in the room, and place it in a position that serves as the focal point. Next, rearrange your other furnishings, photos and artwork for a whole new look without spending a dime. Be sure to keep items from blocking any natural light - a well-lit room is great for any time of year, especially spring.

Source: FrogTape.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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More Likely to Apply for Mortgage Refinances

April 6, 2015 12:30 am

According to a recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey, the likelihood that consumers will apply for a mortgage refinance in the next 12 months doubled, increasing to 12 percent from 6 percent in October 2014. However, the likelihood of applying for at least one type of credit (mortgage refinances, mortgages, credit, credit card limit increases or auto loans) decreased three percent over the same period.

The survey also found a decline in credit rejection rates, particularly for higher creditworthy groups and for credit card limit increase applications.

The distribution of credit seekers remained largely unchanged, with 30 percent of respondents granted credit over the last 12 months, 10 percent of respondents rejected, and 6.7 percent too discouraged to apply, despite indicating a need for credit.

The average perceived likelihood of the credit application being rejected, conditional on applying, remained relatively stable for mortgages, credit cards and auto loans, and declined slightly for mortgage refinance applications.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Want an Energy-Efficient Home? Buy New

April 6, 2015 12:30 am

New homes increasingly offer the energy-efficient features today’s homebuyers are seeking, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Recent studies by the organization indicate that home builders are more likely to include features like low-E windows, Energy Star-rated appliances and windows and programmable thermostats in new homes this year.

“Whether it’s improved insulation or sustainable building materials, today’s new homes can reach higher energy performance and greater durability than was possible even 20 years ago,” explains Tom Woods, NAHB chairman and home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “And programs like the National Green Building Standard help consumers achieve their efficiency needs.”

One NAHB survey found that Energy Star-certified materials are a priority for Millennials new to the housing market. In fact, 84 percent of this group is willing to pay 2-3 percent more for an energy-efficient home as long as they can see a return on their power bills.

Some homebuyers are looking for even more sustainable features, prompting an increasing number of single-family and multifamily builders to deliver green homes. Green builders incorporate energy, water and resource efficiency; improved indoor environmental quality and sustainable and locally sourced products into their projects.

Another NAHB survey revealed that nearly 25 percent of builders installed alternative energy-producing equipment in new construction. This includes geothermal heat pumps and photovoltaic solar panels. The current 30-percent tax credit available for homeowners who install this equipment is set to expire at the end of 2016, which makes this a good time for interested buyers to consider purchases.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Home Insured for Tornado Damage?

April 6, 2015 12:30 am

When a tornado strikes, the economic and insurance repercussions can be costly. From 1994 to 2013, tornadoes accounted for 37.2 percent of insured catastrophe losses (Property Claim Services) – $10.3 billion in losses were reported in 2013 alone (Munich Re).

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), standard homeowners and business insurance policies cover wind damage, including that caused by tornadoes, to the structure of the building and its contents. Homeowner policies also provide for additional living expenses (ALE). ALE coverage pays the costs of living away from home if you cannot inhabit your house due to damage from an insured disaster.

If you own a business that has been damaged, business income (also known as business interruption) insurance covers the profits a business would have earned had the disaster not occurred. This includes additional operating expenses—such as operating out of a temporary location—incurred as a result of the disaster.

Damage to cars from a tornado is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of a standard auto insurance policy.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Caring for Your Stone Surfaces

April 3, 2015 12:03 am

(Family Features)—Many homeowners install granite or marble countertops and vanities for their durability and to add more value to the home. But in the end, nothing beats the most visible benefit—that rich shine and luster right after the workmen install the new natural stone.

It’s that gorgeous shine homeowners desire to maintain. For some, their lustrous granite or marble surfaces are the envy of dinner guests. For others, it’s a feeling of frustration and disappointment, most likely due to lack of knowledge and education on maintaining the life and beauty of natural stone. While literally solid as a rock, natural stone isn’t impervious to wear and tear, and it requires correct and regular care and maintenance. It’s important to understand the shine on granite is not from applying a wax, but a natural shine that goes through a rigorous process.

Quarried from the earth’s surface using a combination of diamond wire cables, drills and even dynamite, these stone blocks weigh in at around 40,000 pounds. The blocks are then taken to a factory for processing. A giant gang saw using diamond blades slices the blocks into a calibrated thickness similar to a giant bread slicer. The next step is over to a polishing line where they pass under diamond polishing heads that apply thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Here, finer and finer grits bring out the natural polish of the stone. From there the slabs are bundled and shipped to your local stone manufacturer and installer to be further cut to a homeowner’s needs. It’s this factory finish that enhances their inherent characteristics — veins, swirls, crystals — prior to installations in kitchens and baths.

There are two common routes to pursue to maintain natural stone’s durability and to ensure that brilliant shine persists. One option is contracting with a stone restoration specialist. These professionals can clean, seal and polish your natural stone. This does, however, come with a formidable price tag — north of $250 to $500 a visit. A more palatable option is the do-it-yourself route. There’s a lower price tag, less than $50, with more of an investment in a homeowner’s time and attention.

“But do your homework first,” cautions Lenny Sciarrino, a third-generation stone care expert and co-founder of Granite Gold brand stone care products. “Common household cleaning products can damage granite, marble and other natural stone, and that can lead to costly repair and replacement.”

He also warns homeowners to be wary about misleading promises with some do-it-yourself granite cleaning products claiming they can remove stains and water marks or reduce dullness and scratching.

“Having grown up manufacturing, installing and restoring stone surfaces, I can assure you an off-the-shelf granite cleaner can’t deliver on those promises,” said Sciarrino. “In most circumstances, there are home remedies, and we’re often teaching homeowners those tricks over the phone or through email.”

To maintain that rich shine from when the stone was first installed, Sciarrino advises homeowners make sure the granite or marble is sealed upon installation. It’s not uncommon for a new counter to be installed without a protective seal, leaving it immediately susceptible to stains and etches. After installation, he said, plan a regular routine of daily cleaning and frequent polishing.

“Although granite, marble and other natural-stone surfaces are highly durable, they do require proper care and maintenance,” said Sciarrino, whose company recently introduced Granite Gold Clean & Shine, which fuses the cleaning and polishing strengths of the brand’s two most popular products in one solution for those who are on the go. “The additional benefits of polishing these stone surfaces are that it helps resist fingerprints and water spots and it reinforces the protective seal.”

Homeowners should often test the integrity of the protective seal, even scheduling it like they do when changing batteries twice yearly at daylight saving time. Here’s an easy way to do that: Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface in several locations and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you see a dark mark or ring, the water is penetrating the stone and it’s time to reseal.

Protect Your Stone Investment

Beyond the basics, stone care expert Lenny Sciarrino offers some additional tips for caring for your natural stone kitchen and bathroom surfaces:
  • Don’t use everyday household cleaners, as they can be too harsh on stone and lead to costly repair or replacement.
  • Seal regularly for the best protection. Have a stone backsplash? It’s just as important to seal.
  • Keep stone floors safe with mats and regular damp mopping to catch abrasive particles that can scratch the surface. Lift, don’t drag, furniture to avoid risk of scratching floors. Don’t polish floors — they will become too slippery and will risk injury.
  • Polish regularly (except stone floors) to increase the shine, color and beauty of your stone and reinforce its protective seal.
  • Use safe-on-stone scrubbing pads and brushes when cleaning natural stone.
  • Polishing stone shower walls adds protection to help prevent etching, water spotting and soap scum build up.
  • Keep grout lines clean by using a cutting board on food-prep surfaces.
  • Water spots on stone surfaces can be gently scraped off with a razor blade. Regular sealing and polishing will keep water spots from sticking to the surface. Water should bead on the surface when the stone is sealed.
  • Common disinfectants can damage natural stone surfaces, leading to costly repair and replacement. Look for a safe-on-stone disinfectant.
Simple Stain Removal Steps

While many people believe that stains are impossible to remove from granite and other natural stone surfaces, there are simple steps you can take to remove or reduce these unsightly blemishes.

Oil Stains
(vegetable, olive and other types of cooking oils)

Mix baking soda with acetone into a paste to the consistency of pancake batter and place onto the stained area. Allow the paste to sit for 24 hours, then remove and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary; some stains may require two or three attempts. Reseal the stone surface once this is completed.

Organic Stains (food products, mold, mildew, plant runoff, dirt and soil, pet urine)

Take a paper towel, cotton balls or white terry cloth towels soaked in any brand of liquid bleach and place it on the stained area. Allow it to sit for 24 hours and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary. You can also spray bleach on stained areas, scrub with a soft nylon brush and then rinse with water. Bleach does not harm natural stone as long as it is rinsed each time and sealed properly after the process is completed.

Rust Stains


Most rust stains have to be removed by a professional. Pour or spray 3 or 4 percent hydrogen peroxide on the stained area and agitate with a safe-on-stone scrubbing pad or nylon brush (also safe on stone). Allow to sit for 24 hours, then rinse with water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's the Buzz? Your Backyard Beehive, Of Course!

April 3, 2015 12:03 am

I have always kept an eye on practices homeowners can adopt that will not only improve the value and appearance of their
property, but will also improve their neighborhoods, communities, their own family's health and the environment.

Perhaps there are fewer things a homeowner can do to impact their property and their world is to consider housing and maintaining a small beehive.

Why keep bees? Christy Hemenway, author of "The Thinking Beekeeper," and founder of Gold Star Honeybees in Vermont says there is a bit of magic to bees.

She says establishing a low-maintenance hive tucked away in the corner of the yard will enhance the resurgence of a dwindling bee population, while providing robust pollination to flowering plants around one's home and landscape.

She believes bee Colony Collapse Disorder, as reported in the news recently, is absolutely connected to toxins being put into the environment. And Hemenway's solution is her signature top bar hives.

They allow bees to make their own wax without a foundation—a piece of plastic coated with wax, embossed with hexagons. Some hexagons in the top bar comb are sized for food storage (honey), while others are for raising young bees.

Hemenway says beekeeping is not labor intensive—owners can spend as little as an hour a week simply performing inspections.

Her premiere product is the Deluxe Top Bar Hive kit, with every part is included, down to the glass observation window. All the owner must do is assemble the hive using a screwdriver and staple gun.

Deluxe Top Bar Hive kits come in the New Englander Model, with its black roof for colder climates and the Arizona Model, with a white roof, for where it's warmer. Hemenway's other two top bar hive kits allow for beekeepers who enjoy the craft of woodworking to be more involved in the process of building their bees' new home.

She has recently made the Gold Star Top Bar Hive kit plans available as a .pdf file as well. To learn more about backyard beekeeping, top bar hives, and more, visit GoldStarHoneyBees.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Safe Is Your Aging in Place Space?

April 3, 2015 12:03 am

I am seeing more and more people finding themselves in the challenging position of having to evaluate whether or not it is appropriate for parents or other older loved ones to age in place, or to possibly move in with their adult children.

No matter which option you choose, the folks at Home Instead Senior Care want to share their practical and extensive checklist to help determine if your senior’s home is safe from hazards that could jeopardize their well-being and independence.

In this report, we'll take a look at how the site suggests you make a foyer and front yard safer for aging loved ones. Among the questions you need to ask are - Do steps have proper handrails? Are they too steep, cracked or uneven? Is there adequate lighting at night? And can your senior hear the doorbell?

Address these concerns by using the following tips from the Home Instead Senior Care checklist:

1. Stabilize unsteady railings. If they are missing, install at least one and preferably two.

2. Proper handrails are a must where stairs are steep. Have damaged or broken steps and sidewalk repaired. Consider planning out an alternate route to and from the home for your senior. Contact your local city or county government about repairing a sidewalk or the end of a driveway.

3. Make sure your senior has someone to shovel his or her walk after winter storms, or maintain their yard. Work out an arrangement with a neighbor or snow removal/yard service. Use snow melt when necessary.

4. Add an outdoor light if one is not available. Motion-activated lights may provide an older adult much comfort and security.

5. Install barriers and fences in the yard to help ensure a senior doesn't wander. Place larger flower pots near small openings to help re-direct. Create inviting areas including benches where an older adult can sit and enjoy nature.

6. Consider adding a device that enables a ringing doorbell to trigger a flashing light - including existing house lamps and special strobes for rooms where lamps aren't generally used - the device lets your loved one know if someone is at the door

Source: MakingHomeSaferforSeniors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Financial Spring Cleaning Can Lead to a Richer Long-Term Outlook

April 2, 2015 1:00 am

One lesson the average American should have learned from the recent financial crisis and gradual recovery is that putting more money into savings is, in general, good, says veteran financial expert Jeff Gorton.

“When things are fine, most of us are prone to commit less of our money to savings; when the economy is down, however, we realize that having money is far more important than spending it on things we don’t need,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group, (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

The personal savings rate in July 2005 hit an all-time low at just 2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in May 2009, near the beginning of the recession, the average American’s savings rate hit a high of 8 percent.

“That rate dwindled as the economy recovered, which is unfortunate because you can do more with accumulated money, including benefit from investments yielding compound interest, which means that interest also earns interest in an investment,” says Gorton, who suggests practical ways to trim spending in the short term in order to get your financial house in order and accumulate more money in the long term.

Car buying says plenty about how a consumer views their money. For most Americans, the question is whether to buy new or used. The moment you drive a brand new car off the lot after the purchase, the car’s value drastically drops. Many of the benefits you may enjoy in buying a new car can be had with a certified pre-owned car: low miles, good-as-new functionality and, usually, that new-car smell. And, a given model will have a history, so you can avoid cars that have been recalled. Buying a certified pre-owned car will save you several thousands of dollars versus buying new.

Summer vacation is an important lifestyle enhancer for many couples, but consider replacing the $400-per-night hotel with a condo rented through a private owner, especially if your vacation will last for an extended period. A condo rental should cost you in the ballpark of $200 per night, which totals $2,800 savings for two weeks.

Your home is probably your most significant asset if you’re like most Americans. But with that grand house on the hill comes plenty of costs, many of which you may not need. As with a luxury car, rethinking the amount of luxury for a home can save you big on taxes, insurance and maintenance. The cost of maintaining a large home can be put toward lifestyle activities, such as travel and hobbies.

“Of course, these are all simply suggestions; money plays a major role in how we achieve happiness, and I’ve found through years of working with clients, a few tweaks here and there frequently yields greater satisfaction with their money,” Gorton says. “You don’t have to be on autopilot with your expenses.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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