William Neilson
Phone:  267-872-1326Office:  215-679-9797
Email:  wneilson@remax440.comCell:  267-872-1326Fax:  267-354-6937
William Neilson
William Neilson

Bill's Blog

How Employers Can Make the Workplace More Pet-Friendly

April 11, 2017 1:03 am

From in-house baristas to flexible vacation time, offices and businesses across the country and finding innovative ways to support their employees. Making your place of business pet-friendly can help attract animal-loving talent, lower stress in the office and even boost activity. Below are several tips for making  any office environment more pet-friendly, courtesy of PetsBest.com:

Introduce the Idea Over Time – Slowly adapt employees to the idea of having pets in the office. While some employees will be ecstatic, some may not be as thrilled. By slowly introducing pets with a weekly "bring your pet to work day," employees can get used to the new additions to the office.

Pet-Proof Your Space – Just like bringing a baby to the office, pet-proofing is just as important. With cords and trashcans throughout a space, resolving these issues prior to having pets in the office will relieve chaos and issues down the road.

Set Rules and Expectations – Some dogs just aren't set out to be an office dog. Setting both pet and owner behavior rules and expectations, everyone in the office is on the same page of what is expected of them. Whether it be barking or mess clean up, having expectations laid out will hold everyone accountable.

Hold Pet Interviews – Before employees can bring their dog into the office, hold pet interviews. Some dogs, when in unfamiliar surroundings and with many people may not react appropriately for the work place. Like the trial run, this will give the dog and employees a chance to engage and become more familiar which will be helpful in the long run.

Stock the Break Room – Not only with treats for Fido, but the essentials.  Accidents happen, so making sure you have the appropriate supplies will make them that much less of a headache. By stocking up on cleaning supplies, stain remover, waste bags and treats, everyone will be happy knowing you are ready for whatever accident my come your way.

Offer Pet Insurance as a Benefit – While some companies are scaling back on wellness benefits for humans, record numbers of dogs and cats are covered for veterinary expenses through employee-benefits plans that include pet insurance. Providing pet insurance to every employee will set the tone and reassure employees that you support and care for them, and their entire family.

Source: www.PetsBest.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Where Are the Most Family-Friendly Beaches?

April 11, 2017 1:03 am

Looking to take your family on a quick beach getaway this year? You’re not alone.

"Beach vacations are at the top of so many families' must-do list throughout the year," explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. "Whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, our list aims to help families narrow down the options to find beaches that truly are fantastic for families – every beach has lifeguards, in addition to kid-friendly activities and a selection of lodging options nearby. These beaches go beyond just a day on the sand, but offer some really fun features for families to enjoy together."

The following is Family Vacation Critic’s list of this year's winning beaches:

Long Beach Island, New Jersey (Long Beach Island, N.J.)
Insider Tip: The Surflight Theatre – and its popular Show Place Ice Cream Parlour – will reopen in 2017, presenting live children's performances all summer long.

Ponce Inlet, Florida (Ponce Inlet, Fla.)
Insider Tip: The Marine Science Center offers families the chance to learn about the area's sea turtles and other native wildlife.

Jones Beach State Park, New York (Wantagh, N.Y.)
Insider Tip: Kids can touch live marine animals, dig up whale bones and walk through the butterfly garden at Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, right in Jones Beach State Park.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
Insider Tip: Families can enjoy the new Lefty's Alley and Eats – just a short drive from Rehoboth – with bowling lanes, a state-of-the-art arcade, a two-story laser tag arena and an on-site restaurant.

Coronado Beach, California (Coronado, Calif.)
Insider Tip: New in 2017, visitors can transform into a mermaid as part of Hotel del Coronado's Mermaid Fitness classes – cardio and core exercise classes while wearing a mermaid fin.

Balboa Beach, California (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Insider Tip: The area's famous Balboa Fun Zone amusement area has been entertaining families for decades, with its Ferris wheel, arcades and shopping.

North Beach Park, Wisconsin (Racine, Wis.)
Insider Tip: The Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest active lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and is open for guided tours the first Sunday of every month from June through October.

Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts (Eastham, Mass.)
Insider Tip: Cape Cod National Seashore offers a wide range of ranger-guided activities, including guided walks, campfires and canoe trips.

Weirs Beach, New Hampshire (Weirs Beach, N.H.)
Insider Tip: Half Moon Amusement Arcades offers families the fun of two arcades – the Penny Arcade and the Family Fun Center – with more than 250 games combined.

Seaside Beach, Oregon (Seaside, Ore.)
Insider Tip: Families can visit the Seaside Aquarium to explore its hands-on discovery center and interact with its resident seals.

Source: Family Vacation Critic

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Are Your April Showers Inside? Time to Evaluate Your Roof

April 10, 2017 1:03 am

It is said that April showers bring May flowers, but they can also produce leaks or signs that indicate a roof repair or replacement is required.

The experts at Sarasota, Florida's Sonshine Roofing (sonshineroofing.com) say that any buckling, curling, rotted, or missing shingles are sure signs of something going wrong underneath - which exposes the rest of the house to water invasion during heavy precipitation.

Folks at APCO Home Improvement Company in Columbus, Ohio (apco.com) say if your roof is pushing twenty, twenty-five years, it’s time to let it go, especially if you’re not the original homeowner. The company says old roofs start experiencing all kinds of disrepair; some of it is obvious, but some stays well-hidden until it’s too late.

Brown Rooftops serving Georgia and South Carolina astutely point out that your gutter system is an extension of your rooftop, so one affects the other. If there are any granules or obvious and excessive debris in your gutters, you could be looking at replacements for your roof, your gutter, and more exterior issues.

The California Shingle & Shake Company (calshingle.com) says there is no simple answer to cost out a roofing project. A typical bid should be based on square footage, the pitch of the roof, accessibility, type of roofing material needed, 1- or 2-story home, removal of old roof (if necessary), roof permit and city license, and labor.
In their neck of the woods, the average cost to replace a roof runs from approximately $2,000 to $12,000 depending on the size of the roof and the quality of the workmanship and materials.

Calshingle.com suggests that if you suspect or know you need a repair, get detailed quotes from at least two or three different contractors, and compare estimates with special attention paid to materials used and labor costs.

Make sure you also talk to people who have used the contractors you are considering. Ask if they had any complaints, and if the contractors cleaned up nicely, finished on time and kept to the contract.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Buying Property in Another Country? What you Need to Know

April 10, 2017 1:03 am

Maybe you have a close family member living in Mexico. Or perhaps skiing in Vancouver is your favorite winter vacation spot. Maybe you have a child attending school in London. Or maybe you want to retire to the small town in China that your ancestors are from.

No matter what the reason may be, more and more Americans are looking to purchase property outside of the U.S. And as the world becomes an increasingly connected place, it’s become easier to do so.

According to the 2016 National Association of REALTORS Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, approximately 14 percent of REALTORS® reported that they had a client who was seeking to purchase property in another country, compared to six percent in the previous 12-month period. The report also revealed that 46 percent of Americans bought a home outside of the U.S. as a vacation or investment home.

Looking to spread your wings and explore homeownership in another corner of the world? Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

Find the right local real estate professional. You’ll need an excellent point person in the country you’re considering. The best way to find this person might be right here at home. Talk to your local real estate professional first - he or she might be part of a global network that has affiliates in other parts of the world.

Find out if there’s a real estate association representing your destination country in the U.S. These organizations are in the U.S. to support real estate transactions from and to their countries. They can be an incredible resource for your mission.

If you’re not fluent in the language of the country in which you want to purchase a home, find someone who is. The language of real estate in particular varies from country to country so having an interpreter is essential.

Consider the value of the dollar where you’re headed. If the dollar is weak, you may want to hold off on your decision to purchase until the economic picture shifts. Conversely, if the dollar is faring well, you may want to accelerate your plans.

Enlist U.S. home search engines that have international listings - like realtor.com and LeadingRE.com. Not only will these sites provide you with listings to peruse, they’ll serve as a resource for information on currency and customs, and connect you with real estate professionals to work with.

So when it comes to your next home purchase, think global but enlist local resources. For more information on real estate listings, contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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3 Things to Know About Driverless Vehicles

April 10, 2017 1:03 am

From smart home features to the latest app, the future is sneaking up on us fast. But driverless vehicles are arguably one of the most controversial technological advancements on the horizon. Below are three things that you need to know about driverless vehicles, courtesy of Zane’s Law.

Driverless vehicle technology is here now. The primary limitation is that it is extremely expensive to make driverless vehicles safe.  One current obstacle to a world of driverless vehicles is the current inability to manufacture true driverless vehicles at price point that is affordable to most consumers.  The current Google driverless car needs over $200,000 in equipment to be able to drive.  It uses a Velodyne 64-beam laser to create a 3D map of the vehicle's surrounding environment, which is a must in order for the vehicle to be able to drive autonomously.

The driverless car design that manufacturers seem to have in mind is a car without a steering wheel or pedals. A driverless car is unlikely to be able to avoid an accident with a car driven by human who makes a mistake.  A human driver would make a decision.  Are we as a society ready to accept the decision in this scenario being made by the manufacturer who programs it into the car's computer before you ever set foot in the vehicle?

Driverless cars will initially make congestion worse. Simulations have shown that, until most vehicles on the road are driverless, driverless vehicles will create bigger traffic jams than we currently have. But as driverless vehicles become the majority, experts believe the consumer will eventually have an improved commute.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com

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Prep Your Home for Painting Day

April 8, 2017 12:21 pm

As we usher in spring, it’s time to take a good look at our homes and evaluate what needs repair, touching up or simply a creative refresh. One of the best places to start is your home’s exterior.

"Early spring is an ideal time to plan ahead and begin some of the prep work that's key to a well-painted exterior," says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute. "Carefully inspect the outside of your home and write down what needs to be done. Your notes will serve as helpful 'marching orders' for the coming painting season."

What to look for? Obviously, any sign of trouble on the siding or trim in the form of paint that's peeling or flaking, but also spots where ugly mold or mildew has taken hold.

Pay special attention to areas where different materials meet and note if the caulk is missing or deteriorated. Gaps in the exterior not only detract from the appearance of a home, but they can also create drafts, letting costly air conditioning and heat escape, possibly leading to water damage as well.

If there's any painted metal on your home's exterior, see if the coating or coatings have been compromised. Is there rust on iron railings or efflorescence (powdery white residue) on aluminum siding, soffit or trim? If so, jot that down.

Note anything else that's amiss with your paint. Nearly any deficiency can detract from the appearance of your home, lessening its protection at the same time. And correcting these problems quickly may help prevent bigger issues in the future.  

According to Zimmer, some projects can be done in almost any weather; others are weather-dependent.

For example, you can remove mildew on any dry day without regard to the temperature. Simply scrub the surface with a bleach solution, allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so, then wash away the offensive growth.

Most caulk can be applied when the temperature hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but take into account the overnight lows, which could leave surface materials below the threshold, at least earlier in the day. Just clean adjoining surfaces thoroughly, apply a bead of caulk, and smooth it with a moist finger to produce a tight, protective seal.

Likewise, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is typically the cutoff for exterior painting when using a latex coating (again, take overnight temperature into account). If you're doing touch-ups, scrape away any loose or peeling paint, prime bare wood with quality acrylic latex primer, let it dry thoroughly, then apply one or two coats of 100-percent acrylic latex paint. (By using a "paint and primer" product, you can skip the prime coat.)

Your home is unlikely to suffer serious harm if you leave bare or primed wood exposed to the elements for a short time. But that's not true with many metals, especially iron.

Once you scrape or sand away rust and expose bare metal, it must be primed immediately and painted as soon as possible afterward, or the rust could reappear in just a couple days. Therefore, don't start this project unless the weather is warm enough to finish the job.

Make progress now on your spring painting by inspecting your home's exterior, planning the work, and even tackling some projects right away. That's the way to get a great jump on things!

For more tips to prepare your home for spring painting projects, contact me today.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Equity Grows for 62-and-Over Homeowners

April 8, 2017 12:21 pm

Retirement-aged homeowners saw a combined 2.8 percent increase of $170.7 billion in home equity in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to a recent report from the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, boosting their total housing wealth to $6.2 trillion.
 
A 2.4 percent increase in home values for owners 62 and older in Q4 2016 drove the NRMLA/RiskSpan Reverse Mortgage Market Index (RMMI) to 221.75, an all-time high since the index was first published in 2000. On a year-over-year basis, the RMMI index rose by 9 percent in 2016, compared to an increase of 8.6 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2014.
 
“The strong RMMI in the fourth quarter of last year shows that home equity continues to be a valuable asset for homeowners 62 and older,” says NRMLA President and CEO Peter Bell. “It’s time for consumers to study what it means to have home equity and to learn about its strategic uses, including how it can be used to support retirement goals."
 
Recent research from the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and a new Issue in Brief from the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College show that home equity has gone largely underutilized by older homeowners who have been unwilling to consider housing wealth as a resource for retirement funding. NCOA and CRR both show that limited awareness and knowledge of home equity tools contribute to the low take-up of financial products such as reverse mortgages.
 
To learn more about home equity, contact me today.
 
Source: National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association

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Avoid These Financial Faux Pas

April 8, 2017 12:21 pm

Managing your finances can feel like a full-time job. And, even the most fastidious types can unwittingly make a mistake that harms their current and/or future financial well-being. According to Forbes, these are some of the biggest money mistakes people make:
  • Not saving for retirement. Even if retirement is a long way off, it takes a long time to save enough money to live comfortably once you leave the workforce. Starting today, make sure to save part of every dollar you earn.
  • Not understanding the true cost of student loans. Many students and parents of students see student loans as a standard operating procedure for getting through. Make sure you and your child know exactly what your monthly payments will be—and for how long—before taking out the loan.
  • Not having a budget. You may feel that you have a good awareness of your income vs. expenses and, therefore, don’t need a budget. However, you’ll never have a true picture of how much you’re spending until you commit it to paper and track it religiously. Once you’ve taken this step, map out a budget and stick to it.
  • Not having savings. Make sure your budget includes putting at least a little money away for unexpected expenses in order to build up an emergency savings. According to Forbes, your emergency savings should be enough to cover six months' worth of income. Therefore, when your income goes up, so should your savings.
  • Not taking care of your credit score. You may think you’re doing all the right things credit-wise, but that may not be how credit-scoring firms evaluate your profile. Your balances may be too high, you may have too many credit cards, or you may have been late on a payment or two. All of these things affect your credit score, so be sure to check your credit report three times a year and dispute any mistakes you find. 
Avoiding these mistakes will help put you on the road to financial peace of mind, hopefully leaving you a little money to spare.
 
Contact me today for more financial tips you can't afford to ignore.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Things You Should Know About Your Real Estate Agent

April 8, 2017 12:21 pm

Choosing a home to buy is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life. That’s why choosing the right real estate professional to work with should be your second biggest decision.
 
On the surface, it may seem that all real estate agents basically do the same job…but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like in all professionals, experience, skills, integrity, professionalism and personality vary greatly from person to person.
 
Here are five things you should know about any prospective real estate professional you're considering working with:
  1. Their background. Real estate agents come from all walks of life. While some have been born and bred in real estate, others come from a wide variety of previous careers. Knowing an agent’s background will shed some light on what they may or may not be able to bring to the table.
  2. How many transactions they closed last year. Whether they work with buyers, sellers or both, find out how many deals your agent closed last year. This will give you a good sense as to their productivity.
  3. If they’re part of a team. Some agents work solo, some work with a partner, and others work as part of a team made up of several members. If you’re dealing with an agent team, find out what the various team members are responsible for and who you’ll be dealing with for each stage of the process.
  4. If they have any reviews. These days, reviews rule. Ask your prospective agent if they can direct you toward any online ratings and reviews. If they don’t participate in review sites, ask for past clients you can reach out to.
  5. Their tech competency. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the home-buying and -selling process. Check out your agent’s social media sites, what mobile technology they'll incorporate to facilitate the process, and how they use digital documents and web-based programs to keep the process running smoothly. 
You should also select an agent with whom you have great chemistry. You will be close allies in the process of finding and securing your home, so a great relationship matters a lot.
 
Contact me today for more tips on choosing a real estate agent to guide you through the process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keep Your Home Smart and Safe

April 8, 2017 12:21 pm

Technology has paved the way for convenience in every area of our lives, from our cars to our offices to our homes. But while we take advantage of all the possibilities technology offers, there are risks involved.
 
Often referred to as “the internet of things” or “the connected world,” the integration of wireless technology that runs our homes, alarm systems, thermostats, refrigerators, lights, vehicles and more can be easily hacked, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While we’ve embraced this new technology, it has come with unintended consequences, such as the theft of personal and financial information in data breaches.
 
The BBB outlines various ways our technology can cause risk.
  • Modern smart TVs have features that allow them to harvest information about our watching habits that can then be sold to third parties. One preventive tip involves disconnecting your television from the internet when it isn't being used.
  • Computers have built-in cameras and microphones that hackers have managed to turn on in order to spy on unwitting victims. Security-conscious users routinely keep the camera covered when they're not using it.
  • If you use a baby monitor, perhaps you’ve heard conversations and arguments coming from your neighbor's house. If so, that means they can probably hear you. High-tech baby monitors use your wireless routers and the internet to allow you to keep track of your residence when you're not at home. Unfortunately, the information sent over the internet is not encrypted. In other words, it can be intercepted.
  • We can be tracked almost anywhere we go. Billboards, stores, malls and other locations can pick up your wifi signal, collect your information and share or sell it to other parties without revealing who will use it and how.
  • Smart car entertainment centers can be hacked, allowing access to remotely steer, accelerate or hit your car's brakes. Headlights and other systems can also be infiltrated as well.
  • Wireless and internet connections can operate security cameras, lights, alarm systems, thermostats and door locks. In the wrong hands, these capabilities would be extremely dangerous. 
The best way to secure your newly-connected world, says the BBB, is to research as much as you can, contact a manufacturer if you have any security questions or concerns, and ensure that you change the passwords on your wireless routers and all of your smart devices, rather than leaving the default password. Not only can default passwords for devices easily be found online, but they can be used to compromise your personal and financial information.
 
The best defense is to understand how these new devices work and what we can do to make them as safe as possible from the prying eyes of hackers.
 
For more tips to keep your technology devices from being infiltrated by hackers, contact me today.
 
Source: The Connecticut Better Business Bureau

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