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 Do Energy Savers Decorate for the Holidays?

November 24, 2016 1:54 am

It's that time of year for bright, glowing, blinking and shimmering holiday decorations start going up. But most homeowners would rather not see those cheery decorations doubling or tripling their energy bills. In light of this, we turned to a host of holiday helpers for some practical tips on energy efficient home holiday decorations.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy says think reflective so you can maximize the power of whatever lighting you choose. Reflective ornaments and tinsel are just as bright at night, so getting creative with your lighting display can multiply your resources for shine.

Their advice at energy.gov even suggests mirroring your neighbors' frighteningly costly display with a string of silver bells on your railing. Don't forget the ribbons, wreaths, garland, and reflective menorahs, for electricity- free age-old traditions that still 'reflect' your holiday cheer.

If you are looking for lighting, energy.gov says this year offers a variety of savings opportunities. You can find local rebates and coupons on ENERGY STAR® qualified Decorative Light Strings at many hardware and department stores.  These lights have a three-year warranty, come in a variety of colors, and have indoor and outdoor models.

The folks at directenergy.com say that replacing incandescent holiday lights with energy-efficient LED lights can help. ENERGY STAR® qualified LED lights use 70 percent less energy while providing a brighter light.  They also remain cool to the touch and are not made of glass or filament, making them safer for children. In addition, these bulbs also last 10 times longer, ensuring homeowners will have an energy-efficient solution for many years to come.

Shifting to other energy saving opportunities, improvementscatalog.com says if you plan on doing some holiday cooking or baking, consider using the microwave or toaster oven for smaller tasks such as melting chocolate for dipping, and keep the oven reserved for larger items, such as cooking a turkey. While cooking on the stove, keep the lids on your pots so your food will cook in less time.

The site also suggests if you are having family or friends over for a party, you can really take advantage of the body heat that will generate in your home. Have a warm and sparkling holiday season!

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Living Large - Why It's Time To Buy That Big House

November 23, 2016 1:54 am

A few years ago, I wondered if the trend in subdivision building of larger than average sized homes - 5,000 square feet or more - had seen its day. Apparently not.

According to a recent National Association of Home Builders report, and citing the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction, new homes with 5,000 square feet or more of living space increased both as a share of all new construction and in absolute number in 2015.

And that same year, the share of new homes this size reached a post-recession peak of 3.9 percent of new homes started. The total number of 5,000+ square-foot homes started that year was 28,000 units.
NAHB analyst Ashok Chaluvadi observed that in 2012, the number of new homes started with 5,000+ square feet rose to 15,000 units, yet their share remained at only 2.8 percent.

In 2015, while the number of 5,000+ square feet homes started (28,000) was the highest since 2008, their share of the new market (3.9%) was the highest since 2004.

When analyzed by the different characteristics, Chaluvadi says that 79 percent of 5,000+ square feet home started have a finished basement, 68 percent have a 3 or more car garage, and at least 60 percent have a patio or porch.

More than half of these homes have 5 bedrooms or more, and 70 percent have 4 bathrooms or more.
But before you run out and start shopping for a large home, consider the advice of K.C. Hernandez at budgeting.thenest.com, who advises that before you make a large financial commitment on a bigger house, consider several financial and life factors to determine the right time to buy.

Hernandez says buying a bigger house makes the most sense when your income is stable and you expect it to remain the same or increase for the foreseeable future.

He also says that upgrading to a larger home is a good idea when market conditions favor buyers, who have more opportunity to negotiate better prices with sellers. Just keep in mind that if you plan to sell your current home before moving into a bigger one, you will likely face the same challenges finding buyers at the right price.

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What Millennial Homebuyers Want in a Garage

November 23, 2016 1:54 am

Millennials are the largest generation shaking the housing market, according to research by the National Association of REALTORS. Despite this great news, when compared with the generations that came before them, millennials remain delayed in purchasing their first home. One aspect of homes millennials are particularly interested in is technology. From smart appliances to easy access garages, millennials love the latest gadgets.

For those interested in the latest and greatest in garages, read on for a handful of tips.

Access: Millennials use their phones for more than just communicating. They use them to buy coffee, book exercise classes and directly pay friends and family. Access to the garage should be no different, and with the availability of garage door apps,  homeowners can control entry to the home through their smartphones.

Security and Safety: More than 70 percent of homeowners use the garage as the main access point to the home, making safety and security a top priority when selecting the right home. Through LiftMaster's partnership with Nest Cam, homeowners can have an added security element. With Nest Cam, users can also access a video feed of what's happening in the garage the moment the garage door is activated, allowing for enhanced security and peace-of-mind. Garage safety is also vital – when viewing a potential home or during home inspection, millennials should ensure the garage functions securely and safely.  

Home Control: A connected garage is an easy way to make any home a "smart home." When looking to purchase a home, millennials should examine the capabilities of the garage door opener. Is it Wi-Fi® capable? Is it compatible with technology that controls the lights or thermostat? If not, consider asking the seller to replace the garage door opener with one that is,

Source:  LiftMaster.com.

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UV Rays Inside: Tips for Protecting Your Eyes At Home

November 23, 2016 1:54 am

When it comes to protecting our eyes against harsh, damaging UV rays, most of us think about popping on sunglasses for long days at the beach. However, it's possible to incur UV damage right at home, especially if you have an abundance of wide, bright windows.  According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home.  

Untreated windows protect the eyes from only about 25 percent of damaging UV rays. As the AAO states, continued exposure to UV light raises the risks of many issues for the eyes, from cataracts to cancer.
To battle this, the International Window Film Association (IWFA) suggests consumers have professionally installed window film applied to all of the windows in their homes to protect their family's eyes from the damage caused by UV rays.

Having window film professionally installed on a home's windows can block up to 99 percent of UV rays from entering the home, protecting eyes from damage over time, while at the same time reducing glare and eliminating the need to squint when enjoying the view outside.


While extremely thin and virtually invisible to the eye, window film provides powerful protection without altering the look of a home.  Though it can be tinted in several shades, homeowners can also opt for clear film, which does not alter the view in any way. 

Source: www.iwfa.com.

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City Living Without Sprawl - Downsized Communities Offer Options

November 22, 2016 1:54 am

So you like the idea of popping down the block to a nice jazz club, or grabbing a quick bus or train to a minor league ballpark? I recently discovered why small cities are a big destination for home buyers thanks to WalletHub's in-depth look at 2016’s Best Small Cities in America.

With small cities growing 10 percent faster than the nation as a whole since 2000, WalletHub analysts compared 1,268 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 using a data set of 30 key metrics ranges from “housing costs” to “school-system quality” to “number of restaurants per capita.”

So what did the Wallethub researchers determine? Here are a few high points:
- The Villages, Fla., has the highest homeownership rate, 96.50 percent, which is 148 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the lowest, 0.65 percent.

- Westfield, N.J., and Holly Springs, N.C., have the lowest percentage of residents below poverty level, 2.20 percent each, which is 24.3 times lower than in Statesboro, Ga., the city with the highest, 53.40 percent.

- Leawood, Kan., has the highest percentage of residents with at least a high school diploma, 99.2 percent, which is 2.6 times higher than in Maywood, Calif., the city with the lowest, 38.2 percent.

- Fort Hood, Texas, has the shortest average commute time, 10.4 minutes, which is 4.1 times shorter than in Waldorf, Md., the city with the longest, 42.9 minutes.

- East Lansing, Mich., has the lowest mean weekly work hours, 27.8, which is 1.8 times lower than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the highest, 50.

-Duluth, Ga., has the most coffee shops per 100,000 residents, 194.10, which is 142 times more than in Pharr, Texas, the city with the fewest, 1.37.

-Castle Rock and Parker, Colo., have the lowest percentage of adults reporting fair or poor health, 7.2 percent each, which is 5.3 times lower than in Eagle Pass, Texas, the city with the highest, 38.3 percent.

Source: Wallethub  

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Top Safety Tips for Riding Your Bike at Night

November 22, 2016 1:54 am

Are you a bike enthusiast? Long work days may mean you're hitting the pedals at night. Below are a handful of safety tips for all of you night riders.

Plan your routes. For night riding, pick spots with features that enhance night rides: slow traffic, bike lanes and street lights are a must. And although you don't want to ride on a busy street, try to find spots that are somewhat well traversed; you don't end up all alone on a deserted trail with a flat tire or worse.

Get the right lights. Lights are key for safe night riding. Make sure you have a bright red light on the back of your bike (this will help ward off rear-ends) and front lights to warn oncoming drivers.

Slow down. Sure, you may love the wind in your hair as you whip down a dark city street. But speedy riding is more likely to end in an accident, especially when you're riding in the dark, so navigate slow and steady and you'll reach your destination safely.

Reflect. Sure, you may feel dorky wearing one of those reflector vests, but a safe dork is far better off than a squashed cool kid. In addition to wearing reflectors on your person, install them on your spokes, and the back and front of your bike.

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Make A Big Impression By Cooking Small For Thanksgiving?

November 21, 2016 1:54 am

If cooking small on what is arguably the biggest food holiday of the year seems like an exercise in culinary futility, I have tapped several noted sources who will tell singles and small intimate Thanksgiving hosts otherwise.

At finecooking.com, Tom Douglas writes that smaller turkeys are easier to cook than 25-pound behemoths, and their meat is more likely to stay moist while the skin crisps up nicely. In fact, Douglas says even if you’re cooking for a large group, you’re better off roasting two medium turkeys than the biggest turkey you can find.
He prefers about a 12-pound turkey rubbed with smoked paprika and toasted fennel seeds, then roasted over a bed of onions, which become the base of a flavorful gravy.

And finally, Douglas prefers not to truss his turkeys or chickens so the heat circulates better - and don’t forget to let your roasted bird rest 10 to 20 minutes before carving to give the juices time to settle.

Emma Christensen at thekitchn.com reassures those hankering for a scaled-down feast, that it is doable. Her favorite alternative recipes for two to four people include:

Rolled Turkey Breast with Sausage Pecan Stuffing - The turkey breast by itself cooks much more quickly than the whole turkey, plus it stays moist and tender in a dish like this.

• Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash - One half for you, the other half for your guest.

• Kale and Ricotta Salata - this recipe offers fresh flavors to create a nice balance to heavier holiday dishes.

• Fingerling Potatoes with Chives and Parsley - Teeny fingerlings are perfect for a small-sized meal.

At seriouseats.com, Maggie Hoffman is pitching openers like shucked oysters, and is also a fan of the turkey breast versus the whole bird. She dresses it with an earthy, mushroomy gravy that starts with good homemade turkey stock, and is flavored with dried porcini mushrooms and a little sherry for added savory flavor.

Hoffman also suggests a side of uncooked cranberry relish with orange zest and apple, that can be whipped up in the food processor a few days in advance. And she says it's also fantastic on a leftover-turkey sandwich.

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Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets: Paint vs. Stains

November 21, 2016 1:54 am

So you've got new kitchen cabinets. Congratulations! But now what? For those wondering how to finish their brand spanking new cabinets, we run down the pros and cons of painting vs. staining—the two most popular finishing avenues.

Pros for paint
- It's flawless. Regardless of the color you choose, painting your cabinets covers up any quirks or blemishes in the natural wood, which can often be magnified by staining.

- Your color choices are endless. When it comes to picking a paint, the world is your multi-colored oyster. Get crazy and really customize the look and feel of your cabinets.

- Paint sticks to lower quality materials. If your cabinets are not made of wood (think particle board), paint is your BFF. It sticks to these materials just as well as higher grade wood options, and no one but you will know the difference.

Cons for paint
- It looks more uniform. Remember those natural quirks we mentioned? Well you may not want to cover these up. If you're looking for a more natural, country vibe that highlights those stunning features like grain and knots, opt for a stain over a paint.

- It's pricey. While not too expensive in the grand scheme, paint is more expensive than a stain, so if budget is a concern, take heed.

- Harder to touch up. Even if you can't find an exact match for your cabinet color, when you're working with stain, odds are you'll have better luck blending touch-ups in stain than with picky paint.

Source: Houzz

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Must-Read Financial Tips for First-Time Parents

November 21, 2016 1:54 am

So a babe is on the way? Congrats! Along with the chaos of, well, everything that is to come, your finances are soon to get an upheaval as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost upwards of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18 – and this does not include college. Feeling that bank account burn already? Below are 5 tips for rocking your budget as a new mom or dad.

1. Tweak the budget. Your new little one is going to cost a pretty penny. From hospital costs to diapers and child care, budgetary stress is an added strain on you as a new mom or dad. Look for any un-necessaries you can slash to make room for more baby dollars. The more prepared you are, the better.

2. Track your spending. Don't just make that budget and set it aside. Set a monthly meeting with your spouse to look over your spending, make sure you're on track, and identify any problem areas or potential saving pockets.

3. Learn your tax credits. I bet you didn't see this one coming. Being a parent has some advantages at tax time, so talk to your tax professional about the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit (EITC), and the child and dependent-care credit, all of which can save you mad money come tax tie.

4. Automate, automate, automate. Not only can automation help you avoid bouncing bills, but by having money withdrawn from your account, you can pad up your savings, too. Figure out how much you can part with every month and automatically squirrel it away into an emergency savings account, a college savings account, or both.

5. Set financial goals. While creating a budget and savings plan is great, setting goals for your family can help you stay on track. Looking to have a set amount in a college account by the time your kid hits 18? Do the math and decide how much you need to save monthly to hit it. Is an annual family vacation a must for connecting? Figure out how to stash some cash for that, and then make it happen. Don't forget to be realistic (a tour of Europe with a two-year-old wouldn't be that fun, anyway), and forgive yourself if it takes some time to get on track.

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Shopping Online? Proceed with Caution

November 18, 2016 12:03 pm

Whether you’re starting your holiday shopping early, or waiting for the last minute, you’re most likely doing a lot (maybe all) of your gift buying online. Online shopping allows us to avoid the crowds, traffic and often less-than-spirited experience of the mall and, instead, shop from the comfort of our couch. What could be better?

Before you settle in and get your credit card ready, there are several precautions you should be aware of when shopping online, starting with avoiding cybercriminals. The holidays mean increased traffic online, making it prime time for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. Consider the following online shopping safety tips from staysafeonline.org:

Do your homework: Using a new site to shop from? Read some consumer reviews first to see what kind of ratings the site has gotten.

Think before opening links: A common way for cybercriminals to steal your information or infect your device is to send phony links in posts, texts and emails. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the link.

Watch what you’re filling out: If it seems like a site is asking for way more information than necessary to make a purchase, you may want to move on to another site. Only fill out fields that are required.

Look for secure sites: Check to make sure the web address begins with https://, which means the site is security enabled to protect your information. Such addresses are usually preceded by the small lock symbol.

Avoid WiFi hotspots: Public WiFi connections are just that…public. Try to avoid using them, especially for accessing email and banking information. Also, adjust the security settings on your phone to limit who can access it.

Shake up your passwords: While it may be convenient to use the same username and password across the board, it’s much safer to have a unique password for each unique account. Make sure your passwords for your most critical accounts are the toughest to hack.

By heeding these simple security tips, you can start attacking that holiday gift list with gusto…and peace of mind.

Source: StaySafeOnline.org – National Cyber Security Alliance

Contact our office today for more online shopping safety tips.

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