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

And the Paint Forecast Is...Gray

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Despite the fickle nature of interior design trends, when it comes to paint, gray is topping the charts for the second year in a row.

"Gray, in all its variations, has emerged as the overwhelming choice of designers for spaces ranging from home interiors to elegant office settings, and everything in between," says Debbie Zimmer, color expert for the Paint Quality Institute.

What’s making gray the most popular color once again? Versatility, says Zimmer. "Gray is beautiful in its own right, but it is so perfectly neutral that it can work alongside other soft tints, or serve as a perfect foil for vibrant accent colors."

According to Zimmer, the color we refer to as gray is actually a wide range of complex grayish colors that often contain hints of red, green, blue, yellow, or some other hue.

Yellowish-grays paired with beiges or off-whites create neutral color schemes that are not only classic, but also calming. Similar results can be achieved with blue-grays. Meanwhile, red- or green-leaning grays often appear ultra-sophisticated.

Grays are practical, too. Since they work with so many colors, it's easy to change the overall appearance of a room by simply repainting an accent wall in a different shade, or adding a pop of color with pillows, rugs, wall décor or ceramics.

If you've decided to use gray as the dominant color in a room, get a variety of samples and paint swatches on your walls. See how different shades look in the various stages of natural and artificial light throughout the day, as well as how they complement your floors and furnishings. Zimmer also suggests asking the salesperson to show you the color formula. Pigment colors blended into the "gray" paint point to the colors you should choose for trim paint, accent walls, and even furnishings.

So, if you jumped on board last year with the gray trend, rest assured that your home design is still on point. And if you want to join in now, it's still not too late to “go gray"!    

Source: Paint Quality Institute
For more tips on incorporating gray into your home décor, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fan the Flames Safely: Fireplace Dos and Don'ts

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

An inviting fire has long been the focal point of gatherings with family and friends, whether it’s inside around the fireplace or outside by the fire pit.
With that comes a host of safety requirements. Make sure you adhere to these dos and don’ts to ensure you’re lighting up responsibly.
  • Have your fireplace professionally cleaned (swept). How often? At least once a year, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). However, this will vary depending upon how often you light a fire. CSIA recommends that open masonry fireplaces be swept once they accumulate a 1/8-in of sooty build-up—enough fuel to cause a chimney fire. How about your fire pit? According to HGTV, if residue build-up becomes an issue, masonry fire pits may be cleaned using a solution of one part muriatic acid to nine parts water to scrub the interior. Once clean, rinse with water and allow it to dry for 48 - 72 hours before using.
  • Dispose of ashes properly. Place ashes in a metal container away from your home or other structures. Shovel ashes out of your fire pit regularly.
  • Make sure your smoke detector is functional. According to CSIA, detectors should be tested once a month to ensure they’re working properly.
  • Keep your fire manageable. Whether inside or out, too large of a fire can lead to excessive smoke and wayward embers that could ignite rugs and furniture inside, or trees and dried brush outside.
  • Have a container of water and/or working hose nearby when lighting an outdoor fire.
  • Have the right tools on hand, including an ash scoop, a long poker, and tongs for repositioning logs. 
  • Store ashes inside the house or within five feet of your home or other structures outside.
  • Burn the wrong kind of materials, such as trash, pressure-treated or green wood, which could release harmful toxins. Stick to dry, split wood and use leaves and sticks for kindling.
  • Forget to check the forecast before lighting an outdoor fire. Avoid windy conditions that can blow embers. Extremely windy conditions can also create problems for your indoor fireplace, forcing air down the chimney and smoke into your home.
  • Improperly position the logs in your fireplace. Logs should be placed toward the back of your fireplace and not be leaning toward the screen. This could cause smoke to filter into your home as opposed to up the chimney.
  • Wait to call the fire department if you suspect a chimney fire. If you notice embers falling down the chimney into your fire and/or hear a loud, rushing sound, you could have a chimney fire. Call 911 immediately, and follow your emergency fire plan. 
For more fire safety tips, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Social Media Can Help You Buy a Home

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Home sales are ticking upward with the National Association of REALTORS®’ Pending Home Sales Index now 1.8 percent higher than this time last year. As home prices and interest rates continue to rise, now is the time to seriously consider taking the plunge into buying a home.  
But many would-be homeowners are intimidated by the process of buying a home and remain on the sidelines, to their own disadvantage. How can you streamline this often overwhelming process? With the help of social media.
Utilized these days for way more than sharing personal updates and photos, social media can actually play a key role in making big decisions, like buying a home. Use social media in the following ways before and during your home search:
1. Connect with agents on Facebook. Just about every real estate agent worth his or her salt has a Facebook business page. Search for agents in the towns you’re considering and send a friend request or private message. Start following their feed and you’ll get a good idea of their overall real estate savvy, in addition to a sneak peek at their new listings. You’ll also get a feel for who they are as people, which is important, because good chemistry with your agent leads to a better outcome in terms of finding your dream home.
2. Check out LinkedIn profiles. Once you’ve narrowed down the field of potential agents you might want to work with, look them up on LinkedIn. Here, you’ll be able to learn about the company they currently work for, as well as their career history. You’ll see what networks they’re a part of (networking is key to helping you find the right home), what awards or achievements they’ve received, what skills they excel in, and recommendations from others.
3. Use Twitter for housing and interest rate updates. Twitter is a great way to get quick news updates on what matters most to you right now: interest rates, home values, market trends, and more. Follow a few credible financial and real estate news organizations and become an educated home shopper.
4. Put hashtags to work. Use hashtag searches on Instagram, including the names of neighborhoods and towns you’re interested in. This will give you a view of the communities you’re considering, the restaurants, the culture, the overall lifestyle, and more. If you want to see some actual listings in the towns you’re interested in, add the term ‘real estate’ into your search.  
5. Tour homes and towns on YouTube. Nothing gives you a better view of a town or listing than a video. Lots of agents post listing videos, so be sure to check them out.
6. Get organized with Pinterest. Pinterest can serve as your digital scrapbook of the neighborhoods, homes, interior designs and home features you’re interested in. Your Pinterest page can evolve further once you’ve purchased your home, serving as a gateway to décor and home improvement ideas.

When it comes to buying a home, social media will not only help you get informed, but it will also go a long way toward helping you make the right connections. So start friending, following and posting and find the home that’s right for you faster.
Contact our office today for more tips on using social media to help you buy a home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Store-Branded Credit Cards: Worth the Rates?

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

“Would you like to save an additional 10 percent on today’s purchase by applying for a credit card?” That option is always so tempting and can often take every bit of willpower to resist. When you consider what you’re potentially paying in the long run, however, you might have an easier time saying no to store credit cards.
According to the results of a recent CreditCards.com survey, store-branded credit cards are charging record-high interest rates, such as 29.99 percent at Big Lots, 29.24 percent at Zales and 28.24 percent at Staples. The survey was conducted using the terms and conditions agreements of 68 cards from 44 retailers. Each of the 100 largest retailers (as defined by the National Retail Federation based upon 2015 sales) that offers a retail credit card program was selected for the study.

Over the past year, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 percent, and the average store credit card interest rate rose by 0.41 percent. The Fed is expected to take a similar action this month, which will likely push store card rates even higher.

The average store card charges 23.84 percent, according to the report, much higher than the national average for all credit cards, which is 15.22 percent. Retailers get customers to sign up for these cards by offering incentives, but the deals aren't very generous. For example, while half of the credit cards offered by the nation's 100 largest retailers give new cardholders a sign-up bonus, only 13 exceed $25 for a $200 purchase.

For example, Best Buy's 10 percent sign-up bonus would be worth $100 to someone who buys a $1,000 television. But the benefit would be lost—and then some—unless the cardholder pays the entire bill before interest starts to accrue.

But what about the ongoing rewards offered by store credit cards? According to the report, unless you’re a frequent shopper at the store in question, such rewards tend to pale in comparison to those offered by general-purpose cards. For example, someone who spends a lot at Target would benefit from its 5 percent cash-back program since the best general-purpose cash-back cards yield about 2 percent.

The bottom line? As with any credit card—but even more so with store-branded credit cards—unless you can pay off the balance in full each month, you’ll be spending much more in the long run than any offer or reward could make up for.

Source: CreditCards.com
To learn more about store-branded credit cards, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


'Tis the Season...for Insurance Claims

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Before you mix up the egg nog and deck the halls, take a good look around. While the holidays bring lots of merriment to your home, they also introduce a new set of hazards to both your property and your person. Consider these top five seasonal insurance claims, according to Franklin Mutual Insurance (FMI), and take the following precautions.
1. Fire. Christmas trees, turkey fryers, candles, fireplaces, electric heaters and even wrapping paper can be at the root of a conflagration. Unplug lights, turn off ovens and heaters, never leave a lit candle unattended, and fry the turkey outdoors at a safe distance from the house or garage.
2. Burst pipes. If you’re headed out of town, be sure to keep your thermostat set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

3. Damage caused by outdoor decorations. A good wind is all it takes for that snowman lawn ornament to become a dangerous projectile. Make sure your outdoor lights and décor are properly secured with hooks and tethers.
4. Theft. Keep your lights on timers, have a neighbor collect your mail and avoid piling up empty gift boxes at the curb when you’re out of town. All of these are red flags to thieves that you’re not home.

5. Ice-related accidents. Be sure to have plenty of rock salt on hand, and make sure someone’s manning the shovel to keep driveways, stairs and entryways clear.
According to Dale Martin, co-vice president of claims for FMI, while homeowners should take the necessary steps to help prevent the above mishaps from happening, they should also be aware that not everything is covered through a standard homeowner’s policy.
For example, “If a homeowner is using a ladder to hang Christmas lights, slips and injures his or her back or leg, homeowners insurance will not cover the homeowner’s medical bills,” says Martin. “However, if a caroler slipped on a homeowner’s icy walkway, homeowners insurance would cover the claim if the insurer found the homeowner negligent. It would be covered under Bodily Injury Liability coverage.”
If you do fall victim to a seasonal snafu, Martin recommends the following steps for efficiently and effectively filing an insurance claim:
  • Prepare a home inventory before a loss occurs. In the event of a fire or catastrophe, a home inventory list helps insureds and insurers identify the personal belongings and their respective value. “We recommend taking photos or videos of each room in the house along with the contents,” adds Martin.
  • Take photos of the damage or loss.        
  • When reporting the claim, provide a detailed description of the loss. If property is lost or stolen, list the value of items and provide receipts, if possible.
  • Prevent further damage by taking temporary precautions—i.e., placing a tarp over a damaged roof to prevent further water damage or boarding up a window that was broken. “Avoid making permanent repairs before speaking with your insurance agent or carrier,” advises Martin. 
As you head into the new year, take the time to reassess your homeowners insurance. “It’s important to schedule an annual insurance review with your independent agent,” says Martin. “As your insurance needs change through the years, your agent is there to help make sure you have the most appropriate coverage to protect your home and family year-round.”
For more information about insurance claims, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Don't Let Insurance Claims Put a Damper on Your Holiday Spirit

December 10, 2016 12:06 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the top five seasonal insurance claims, and what you can do to protect both your property and your person. Other topics covered this month include what you need to know before signing up for a store-branded credit card and 6 tips for putting social media to work when purchasing a home. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Pay Less at the Gas Pump

December 9, 2016 2:00 am

While gas prices dropped to a 12-year low this past July and are expected to remain favorable, it’s always a smart idea to be prudent when it comes to fuel usage – both for your wallet and the environment. Here’s some great advice from the U.S. Department of Energy, on saving money at the pump.

Turn your engine off when you’re parked for more than 10 seconds. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size, adding up to $.03 cents* of wasted fuel a minute.

Calm down behind wheel. Aggressive driving – i.e., speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration -  can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33 percent and your city mileage by 5 percent.

Watch your speed. Every five miles per hour above 50 miles per hour, equates to an additional $.19 cents per gallon of gasoline. 

Stow items inside the car as opposed to the roof rack. This reduces “drag,” which can decrease your fuel economy by up to 8 percent in city driving and up to 25 percent at Interstate speeds. 

That said, avoid keeping heavy items in your car; an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.

Run all your errands at once since stopping and starting cold can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

Drive less. Of course telecommuting, carpooling, and public transportation are the ultimate ways to save on fuel costs. Try walking or biking and you can tick off the exercise box, too.

*All cost estimates assume an average price of $2.69 per gallon.

Source: fueleconomy.gov

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5 Tips for Easy Holiday Shipping

December 9, 2016 2:00 am

(Family Features)--It's the most wonderful time of the year, and holiday gift-giving and receiving is at the top of everyone's to-do list. There are several simple steps you can take to make those deliveries a little easier.

1. Pack like a pro (or rely on one). Be sure your packages arrive intact by using the proper materials. Use sturdy, corrugated boxes as well as foam packaging peanuts and bubble cushioning to protect your gifts. Allow at least 2 inches on all sides of the items being packed, including the top and bottom.  

2. Secure delivery locations. If you're expecting deliveries of online purchases or gifts, you may hesitate to leave the house and enjoy holiday outings and family activities. Some companies allow you to redirect packages to a neighbor or a nearby business so you can rest assured your packages are in good hands.

3. Ask for a guarantee. After spending precious time selecting each gift, you need assurance and peace of mind that your efforts won't be for naught. For example, The UPS Store offers the Pack and Ship Guarantee, a service that covers lost or damaged items. Some providers even offer coverage for the cost of packing materials, service and shipping.

4. Use tracking tools. The holiday season is no time to wonder when or if your package will arrive. Using a trackable delivery service helps ensure you can monitor your package's progress and receive an alert when it is successfully delivered.

5. Ensure gifts arrive before Santa. Timing is key when it comes to holiday shipping. Mark the calendar with these shipping deadlines so all gifts arrive just in time.

Source:  theupsstore.com 

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How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

December 9, 2016 2:00 am

As winter weather blows in, many of us are thinking about the holidays. But with temperature drops and inclement conditions involving snow and ice, it's important to pay attention to your car to ensure your safety all season long. Routine maintenance, changing tires and fluids, and traveling with an emergency kit can help drivers avoid weather-related issues.

Below are six tips to prepare for the winter season, courtesy of YourMechanic.

Store an emergency kit in your car that includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, food, water, flares, warm clothing, blankets, tools, and any other items that may help if your vehicle breaks down or you are at risk of being stranded.

Check your engine coolant to ensure it is able to withstand the coldest sustained temperature in your region. Consider scheduling a cooling system flush to keep the vehicle in top condition.

Inspect the windshield washer system. Make sure wiper blades are working and regular washer fluid has been replaced with winter washer fluid, which has antifreeze properties. Replace old wiper blades before winter and keep an ice scraper in your vehicle.

Perform routine maintenance including regular oil and filter changes. Extreme cold weather, below -25°F, may require a different blend of motor oil for your vehicle.

Consider winter tires if your vehicle will be driven in a region with three or more months of snow annually. The tread on winter tires provides enhanced traction. All-season or summer tires lose effectiveness below 45°F.

Test your battery. A weak battery may have difficulty starting because reserve energy levels drop when temperatures plummet.  At 0°F, a car battery can lose about 60 percent of its strength, and at 32°F the battery can lose 35 percent of its strength.

Source: http://www.yourmechanic.com

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How to Pay Down That Debt

December 8, 2016 2:00 pm

Ever daydreamed about what you would do with your wads of cash if you were to win it big in the lottery? If you're anything like those interviewed in a recent survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), then your first priority would be less-than-glam: paying down debt.

Among the 1,729 people who took part in this online poll, 87 percent indicated that they would use their winnings to become debt-free. Conversely, only 8 percent would use the funds to invest and grow savings before considering other priorities.

Since most of us will never win it big, the NFCC offers the following tips for paying down debt:

- Rethink the approach toward debt management. When progress is slow on the road to being debt-free, consider increasing monthly payments to make faster progress. Additionally, consider prioritizing all extra payments to the accounts that are charging the highest interest rates. Even the slightest adjustments can make a big difference.

- Pay yourself first. Contributing to a personal savings account and 401(k) before turning attention to other expenses will help keep important financial goals in sight, and will maintain steady progress toward reaching them.

- Declutter the debt. If dealing with more than a few accounts, it helps to merge them into a single loan or credit card with one payment. This is called debt consolidation, which works best when resulting in lower interest and fees.

Source: www.NFCC.org.

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