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

Is Your Home Leaking Money?

November 18, 2016 12:03 pm

You may be throwing money right out the window. Or out the front door. Even down the drain.
 
Why? Because these are some of the common places where your home might be leaking air, overtaxing your air conditioning and heating units and increasing your costs considerably. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), finding and sealing air leaks will save you a bundle.
 
Once identified, leaks can be stopped in their tracks with simple caulking or weatherstripping, a move that provides a return on investment usually in less than one year, says the DOE. Caulk is used for cracks and openings around stationary items, like doors and window frames, and weatherstripping is best for sealing moveable components like doors and windows. In addition to drafts and cold spots, air leakage also contributes to moisture problems in the home.
 
Energy.gov offers the following tips for making your home air-tight and cost effective:
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, duct work or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
  • Inspect dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold. Seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose, and install house flashing if needed.
  • Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists, and caulk them.
  • Cover single-pane windows with storm windows or replace them with more efficient double-pane low-emissivity windows.
  • Use foam sealant on larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where air may leak out.
  • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use.
  • Check your dryer vent to be sure it isn’t blocked. This will save energy, and may prevent a fire.
  • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
  • Keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use.
  • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or sheetrock and furnace cement caulk. 
The DOE emphasizes that air sealing doesn’t eliminate the need for proper insulation, which reduces heat from escaping the building envelope.
 
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
 
To learn more about making your home air-tight and cost effective, contact our office today.

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5 Ways to Adjust to an Empty Nest

November 18, 2016 12:03 pm

For most parents, seeing their last child off to college brings with it a sense of great pride, accomplishment and a deep-seated happiness that your child is off to pursue his or her dream.

When you return to the empty nest, however, you may experience a whole range of emotions you never expected. Many parents miss not only their child’s presence, but the hustle and bustle that went along with raising children. Here are some strategies to help you transition to the next phase of life:

1. Go easy on yourself. While knowing your children are happy is all any parent ever wants, it’s still okay to miss them and feel sad. When all the kids are out of the house, many parents experience a sense of loss akin to grief—and feel guilty for feeling that way. This is normal and will pass, so let yourself process the emotions without beating yourself up.

2. Pick some projects. Now is a great time to delve into those unattended tasks that nagged at you over the years, but were never priority. Great solace can be found in cleaning out the linen closet, organizing the kitchen cabinets and finally framing and hanging those photographs. Not only are such tasks therapeutic, they’ll make you feel productive as well.

3. Give in to guilty pleasures. What parent ever has time to sit around binge-watching Netflix series? Empty-nesters, that’s who! Indulge in some good old-fashioned couch potato activities— you deserve it!

4. Explore your own backyard. While you and your spouse suddenly have the free time to travel, if you’re juggling college tuitions, you may not have the funds to spend long weekends in the Caribbean. Instead, spend time in your own town—watch the sunset at the beach, hike the trails at the local park, take a day trip to the city or spend a weekend at a B&B. There are probably many places within driving distance that you never had time to discover. Now’s your chance!

5. Invest in your friendships. Whether solo or as a couple, it’s important to start spending more time with your friends. While raising kids, most of our social activities revolved around their social life and school activities. As empty nesters, however, we get to create our own social calendar, so call up some friends you haven’t seen in a while and host a pot luck, check out the new craft brewery in town, go bowling, or go see a local band. This is your time, so you make the rules!

While you’re creating your new empty nest life, remember that your kids are only a phone call away, so stay in touch and start redefining your relationship with them. In the blink of an eye, they’ll be home with loads of laundry in tow.

Contact our office today for more tips to help you successfully transition to an empty nest.

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Consumer Alert: Beware IRS Scam Calls

November 18, 2016 12:03 pm

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has reported that one of the most persistent schemes on their current radar involves scammers calling unsuspecting consumers and claiming to be with the IRS in order to extort money through scare tactics and threats of imprisonment. The IRS imposter informs the person that they owe money in back taxes and that they’re in danger of being arrested unless they pay the amount via credit card or wire transfer. The IRS scam accounted for one in four reports through BBB's Scam Tracker.

A recent intervention in India appears to have reduced the number of scam calls drastically, reported the BBB. The intervention included the arrest of 70 suspects and the closing of a Mumbai, India call center. Since then, Scam Tracker reported that the number of complaints from victims dropped from an average of 200 reports weekly to 11 reports, a decline of nearly 95 percent. The BBB claims the scam bilked millions of dollars from American consumers.

Another version of the scam involves the caller informing the consumer that they’re being issued a tax refund. The imposter will then ask for personal information in order to transfer the funds, thereby paving the way for identity theft.

The BBB offers the following tips to spot the IRS scam:

-The calls often begin with an official-sounding robocall recording. The scammer will provide a fake badge number and name. Your caller ID will often indicate that the call is coming from Washington, D.C., or Ottawa.

-You’re pressured to act immediately, before you’ve had time to think things through and verify the information. In reality, the IRS would always provide you with a chance to appeal what you owe. And their first contact would always be via mail.

-Scammers will ask for payment to be made by wire transfer, prepaid debit card or other non-traditional forms of payment, because these methods are untraceable. The IRS would never deal in these forms of payment.

For more information, please visit www.bbb.org.

To learn more about how to stop an IRS scam call in its tracks, contact our office today.

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Less Stress, More Gratitude This Thanksgiving

November 18, 2016 12:03 pm

Everyone has their favorite holiday. Some love the summer sparkle of July 4th, some the magical spirit of the Christmas and Hanukkah season, and some the spooky antics of Halloween. While those holidays are all indeed wonderful in their own right, Thanksgiving is quite possibly the very best holiday of all.

Why? Because Thanksgiving boils down to the simplest yet most meaningful of pleasures: food, family and gratitude. No lavish decorations, no presents, no raucous parties or overblown expectations. We simply come together with those we’re closest to, prepare a great meal together, join around a table and reflect on all we have to be thankful for.

With that as a premise, it doesn’t take much to turn your home into an optimal environment for celebrating Thanksgiving. Here are some great ways to enhance your day while avoiding some of the stress that comes with hosting:

Plan for seating. Instead of scrambling to pull together disparate chairs to outfit your table, consider renting chairs, and, if needed, an extra table. Rentals are usually reasonably priced and can be quickly dressed up with table linens. This ensures everyone will have enough room, providing a comfortable setting that will entice them to linger longer after dinner.

Set up stations. Sides, wine, cider, gravy boats, and, of course, the main attraction, the turkey, can overwhelm your dining room table. Instead, suggests lovetoknow.com, set up a buffet area for dinner items, a station for drinks, and another side table for desserts. Not only will this beautifully display the meal, it makes for a spacious table, reducing spilling hazards.

Emphasize the thankful part. A common Thanksgiving practice is to have each guest proclaim what they’re most thankful for. This year, consider a new twist on that idea by asking guests to select a cut-out leaf and write down what they’re thankful for, or as the host, creating place cards with each of your guest’s names and a brief note of why you’re thankful for that person.

Invite interaction beyond the table. Avoid the after-dinner turkey coma in front of the TV by leaving out a deck of cards or board game, or by heading up a game of charades. Even better, weather permitting, get everyone into the yard for a classic round of touch football, or take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.

Switch off for cleanup. If you took the lead on cooking the meal, make sure someone else takes the lead on cleanup. This way you’ll all be able to spend some time relaxing with guests as opposed to being relegated to the kitchen for the entire day. To build even more togetherness into the day, a team effort pre and post dinner is the ultimate way to go.

Contact our office today for more tips to help take the stress out of Thanksgiving.

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In this Edition: Focus On Gratitude—and Forget the Stress—This Thanksgiving

November 18, 2016 12:03 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines simple tips for enhancing your Thanksgiving, while leaving the stress behind. Other topics covered this month include 5 ways to adjust to an empty nest and how to stay safe while shopping online this holiday season. 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.

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Keeping Kids Active in Cooler Temperatures

November 18, 2016 1:51 am

(Family Features)--As the weather gets colder, it can be harder to motivate kids to step away from their computers and devices and get off the couch. However, it’s essential for kids to participate in active play all year round. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.

Sadly, physical activity is becoming less of a priority in kids’ daily routines. A recent survey conducted by Let’s Play, an initiative from Dr Pepper Snapple Group to make active play a daily priority, found that 64 percent of parents said busy schedules stand in the way of more active play for their children, up from 56 percent in 2015.

Each season brings its own opportunities for play, and fall is no exception. Families can beat the cold weather blues and stay active together by trying some of the following activities:

Plan a nature walk to find inspiration and materials for art. Even though it’s chilly outside, your family can still get out and enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and take a nature hike with your kids around the neighborhood or at a local, national or state park. Encourage your kids to collect items like pinecones, acorns and leaves as you go and to be on the lookout for wildlife to observe. After the hike, take out art and craft supplies and help them create projects with the items they found.

Plan an indoor scavenger hunt. When a really cold day comes along, send your kids on a fun and active scavenger hunt around the house, searching for items that you can hide in advance. Work together as a family to locate the items or create some friendly family competition to see who can find all the items first. Having the family move around the house with a mission prevents the temptation of staying on the couch in front of the television all day.

Join a class or indoor sports team. Whether you are playing a favorite sport or learning a new one, it is always more fun with other people. Longer stretches of active play are often more likely to occur with friends or siblings. Sign your children up for an indoor sport or class they have never tried before, such as gymnastics, rock climbing, swimming or dance. This allows your children to learn something new, meet kids their age and be active for an extended period of time.

Volunteer. While giving back is always in season, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about giving back to those in need and being grateful for what they have. Sign the whole family up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, participate in a toy drive for a children’s hospital or help out at an animal rescue shelter. Your children will not only be active, but will also grow emotionally, socially and intellectually as a result.

Source: LetsPlay.com

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Pull Your Holiday Table Together with a Tablescape

November 17, 2016 1:48 am

With the holidays looming, many are busy planning their holiday home décor. One decoration often overlooked is the tablescape – the decoration of your holiday table.

These top tips can help you pull together a festive tablescape this holiday season.

Think about the centerpiece: The centerpiece can tie the full look together. Fill a lantern with pumpkins, go for fall florals, or add a table runner to add various sizes of pumpkins lining the table.  

Create the look based on atmosphere: Think through all the details including where you will eat, who will attend, and how big of a crowd you'll host. You can still have a dinner al fresco with Edison bulbs or have a formal dinner for a larger group with stylish, party dinnerware that looks like the real deal. 

Expand décor beyond the table: Spreading leaves on a side table, adding candles and other thematic décor throughout the house can make decorations cohesive.

Themes don't need to be traditional: If you're going for different look this holiday season, At Home offers its Grateful Shores line – complete with driftwood and pumpkin decor that have a nautical twist.

Source: http://www.athome.com/.

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Four Steps for Downsizing Your Home

November 17, 2016 1:48 am

(Family Features)--For one reason or another, you’ve determined the house you’re living in has become too much to handle. Seniors, empty nesters or those moving from a suburban home into a loft or apartment in the city all face similar challenges when it comes to downsizing.

For example, after Judy Raphael’s husband was diagnosed with dementia and moved to a nursing home, it became difficult for her to take care of her large house the couple had lived in for 23 years. At first, Raphael tried to maintain the house by herself, but things started to pile up and soon the house was in need of serious repairs.

“There were a lot of unknowns on what was wrong in the house – from mildew and mold to the driveway that needed to be replaced, the list goes on,” Raphael said.

When it comes to downsizing your living space, you can start preparing with these steps.

Determine what’s next. Think about what type of lifestyle you want to live moving forward, but take into account how much space you’ll actually need to accommodate that life. Whether it’s a smaller house or alternate option like an apartment or townhome, the first step is to decide what you’re looking for in your next living space. This can also help you figure out what items will move with you and what will need to be sold, donated, thrown away or left behind.

Assess what you actually need. Now that you’ve determined that downsizing is your best option, you’ll need to figure out what size, space and things you need. Maybe there’s a pile of stuff collecting dust in your attic or basement that can be sold or donated, or maybe you believe you can move all of your belongings into a more compact area. Either way, a downsize means going through storage spaces, closets and room in your home to determine what stays behind and what goes with you.

Sell your home. Raphael knew she needed to fix the house before it would be considered sellable, but knew she could not manage it alone. Working with a reputable real estate brokerage will help you sell your home faster, and with ease.

Stay organized during the move. You’ve now spent a ton of time and energy going through old things and boxing up possessions for the big move – don’t let that time go to waste by allowing your organization to fall apart on move-in day. Make sure you store items in places that make sense, going room-by-room in an organized fashion.

Source: homevestors.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Plan Your Outdoor Living Space

November 16, 2016 1:48 am

(Family Features)-- Nothing makes your home feel more expansive than functional outdoor spaces. Whether you're planning a deck, an outdoor kitchen or a poolside patio, read on for quick tips to make creating your outdoor oasis exciting and easy:

Get digitally inspired
The Internet is a great place to get your creative juices flowing. There are countless online resources to help homeowners create and plan their ideal outdoor living space. A great starting point is perusing the outdoor living projects posted on social media channels, such as Houzz and Pinterest. For more inspirational images and valuable information, check out the websites of home and garden magazines, contractors and decking manufacturers.

Dive into design
Designing a deck starts with the same questions as planning interior rooms, such as whether it will be used for relaxing, grilling or socializing. Determine how to incorporate those activities into your space by exploring the possibilities with online apps. Trex offers several ready-to-build Deck Design Plans representing today’s most popular and versatile designs. Once a user selects a design, the tool provides the details of the deck’s dimensions and materials needed, as well as an overview of the design’s benefits so that homeowners can be assured they are selecting the ideal layout for their planned outdoor living activities.

Decide on details
When planning, have fun exploring the many design elements that are available for customizing your deck. You’ll need to decide early on if you want to incorporate features like built-in seating, planters and storage, as well as add-ons such as a pergola or outdoor lighting, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor living space.

Incorporate railing
As one of the most visible parts of the deck, railing can provide design inspiration and should be considered from the outset. Available in a wide array of styles, shapes and materials, you can tailor your railing to personalize and frame your outdoor space.  

Understand costs and value
To ensure your dream deck remains within reach, keep costs in mind. Several factors will affect the price, including the size and shape, along with any extras you incorporate. When evaluating expenses, think beyond the initial material and labor costs and peer into the future. With wood decks, the costs of sanding, staining and painting add up over time. Over the life of a composite deck, the reduced maintenance costs of simple soap and water cleanings add up to a greater return on investment – not to mention the value of all the time spent enjoying the deck rather than maintaining it.

Source: trex.com

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Tips for Buying a New Furnace

November 16, 2016 1:48 am

Whether you're snagging a new furnace for your just-purchased home, or replacing your old clunker with an updated option, below are top tips for those looking into a new furnace for their home

Size matters – One of the most important factors when buying a furnace is to have a professional installer examine the size of the house and then determine the size of the furnace necessary for the space. A furnace that is too large leaves gaps in temperature as it turns on until it overwhelms the thermostat. The house ends up cooling down until the next cycle and creates an inconsistent temperature. A furnace that is the right size for the space, however, will be able to better regulate a constant temperature.

Fewer emissions – Being energy and environmentally conscious does not have to stop at the furnace. With Napoleon’s HYBRID 150, the fuel comes from three different sources – wood, oil or electric. This furnace is one of the cleanest and most efficient combination solid fuel-burning furnaces on the market today. The furnace switches from wood to oil or electric automatically and if the furnace runs out of wood a second thermostat will keep the house nice and toasty even if you are not at home.

Don’t buy on price alone – Always be sure to ask a professional installer, contractor or reputable salesperson about annual operating costs for whatever furnaces you may be looking at. While there are a variety of factors to consider, price should not necessarily be number one. Efficiencies, however, can vary drastically depending on price, which means that if you pay more up front now, you’ll still enjoy lower heating bills 10 or 15 years later.

Get the right documentation – Any reputable installer or manufacturer will be sure to not only include the purchase agreement and warranty information but also explain exactly what you are getting. If you feel confused or unsure about anything don’t be afraid to ask.

Correct installation and maintenance – Furnace installation should be done by a trained professional as not only can it be a safety hazard but if anything is off it can severely impact your efficiency and therefore your heating bill. Regular maintenance, generally in the fall, will keep the furnace performing like it should, keeping your family warm and your wallet a little fuller.

 Source: Napoleon

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