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

Living Paycheck to Paycheck a Way of Life for Majority of U.S. Workers

September 16, 2017 1:38 pm

Are you counting the hours to pay day? You're not alone. More than three-quarters of workers (78 percent) are living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet—up from 75 percent last year and a trait more common in women than men—81 vs. 75 percent, according to new CareerBuilder research. Thirty-eight percent of employees said they sometimes live paycheck to paycheck, 17 percent said they usually do, and 23 percent said they always do.

The national survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder this past spring, included representative samples of 2,369 full-time employers and 3,462 full-time U.S. workers across industries and company sizes in the private sector.

Having a higher salary doesn't necessarily mean money woes are behind you, with nearly one in 10 workers making $100,000 or more (9 percent) saying they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck and 59 percent in that income bracket in debt. Twenty-eight percent of workers making $50,000 -$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, 70 percent are in debt; and 51 percent of those making less than $50,000 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, while 73 percent are in debt.

Meanwhile, a quarter of workers (25 percent) haven't been able to make ends meet every month in the last year, and 20 percent have missed payment on some smaller bills. Further, 71 percent of all workers say they're in debt—up from 68 percent last year. While 46 percent say their debt is manageable, more than half of those in debt (56 percent) say they feel they will always be in debt. And it should be noted that 18 percent of all workers have reduced their 401k contribution and/or personal savings in the last year, more than a third (38 percent) do not participate in a 401k plan, IRA or comparable retirement plan, and 26 percent haven't set aside any savings each month in the last year.

Less than a third of workers (32 percent) stick to a clearly defined budget, and a slight majority (56 percent) save $100 or less a month:
  • None: 26 percent
  • Less than $50: 15 percent
  • $51 to $100: 16 percent
  • $101 to $250: 14 percent
  • $251 to $500: 11 percent
  • $501 to $750: 5 percent
  • $751 to $1,000: 4 percent
  • More than $1,000: 10 percent 
Still, despite financial woes, there are certain things employees aren't willing to give up. When asked what they'd absolutely not give up, regardless of financial concerns, employees cited:
  • Internet connection: 54 percent
  • Mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc.): 53 percent
  • Driving: 48 percent
  • Pets: 37 percent
  • Cable: 21 percent
  • Going out to eat: 19 percent
  • Traveling: 17 percent
  • Education: 13 percent
  • Buying gifts for people: 13 percent
  • Alcohol: 11 percent
Source: CareerBuilder

If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

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Renters Want High-End Amenities and Sense of Community

September 16, 2017 1:38 pm

According to a nationwide survey of residents regarding their attitudes toward the rental market, renters are becoming more selective and amenity-driven, especially if those amenities make residences feel like true homes. In fact, only price and location were mentioned as more-important factors in housing decisions.

The results of the First Annual National Renters Index, a nationwide survey of residents regarding their attitudes toward the rental market from Village Green, also show that trends like micro-units and co-living housing are growing in popularity. Forty-eight percent of millennials stated interest in paying more for "high-end property amenities." More specifically, millennials said they were willing to spend more for properties outfitted with smart-home technologies (45 percent) and high-end facility amenities such as concierge service and/or a coffee bar (49 percent).

The Index also provided insight into where renters are looking for referrals and reviews as part of their search. Notably, 45 percent of renters said using third-party rental websites was important for their search, while 40 percent of renters mentioned online review sites as key resources and influencers for their housing hunt. This highlights the increasing importance of effective social media strategies, both proactive and reactive.

If you’d like more information about homeownership, please contact me.

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Just Bought a Home? Here's What Not to Do

September 16, 2017 1:38 pm

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone, putting you on the path to a smart financial future. There are certain traps you can fall into as a new homeowner, however, that can put your financial well-being at risk. Avoid doing the following too soon:
  • Remodeling. Unless there’s something in need of serious repair, hold off on any remodeling projects. This will give you time to assess the cost vs. value of the project, ensuring that the money you put into it actually increases the value of your home. Waiting will also give you time to research and secure the best professionals to work with.
  • Furnishing the whole house. You don’t have to have every room perfectly outfitted at once. Take your time and settle in to your new home. This will give you time to make better furniture choices. It will also allow you to budget over time as opposed to a big financial hit all at once.
  • Taking out an equity loan. Let your equity serve as a cushion for future needs. As homeownership plays out, there are countless needs and issues that will arise. If you’ve already exhausted your equity, you won’t have that emergency fund at the ready.
  • Moving up. You might be on a mission to get to your next bigger and better home as soon as possible, but wait it out a bit. You want to make sure you have the finances to do so comfortably, and you want to make sure you choose the right location. Living in your current home will teach you a lot about your likes and dislikes.
  • Making major aesthetic changes. Don’t go crazy with paint, wallpaper or any other bold design statements just yet. You’re still in the getting-to-know-you phase, so feel your new home out for a while before you start changing its look.
If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me.

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6 Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim After a Storm

September 16, 2017 1:38 pm

Whether reporting storm damage to your property over the phone or through your mobile device, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) offers the following tips on how to file an insurance claim:
  1. Contact your insurer as soon as possible to begin the process. Provide your insurer with your policy number and the best phone number and email address at which to reach you. After a major storm, insurers visit those with the most severe damage first. Be prepared to provide an accurate description of the extent of the property damage. Explain any special needs of your family, particularly if personal circumstances require that you get priority. Ask your insurer when you can expect to be contacted by an insurance adjuster so you're ready for the visit. Since adjusters may be in areas in which cellphone towers are damaged, it's also a good idea to get the phone number of your adjuster's supervisor so you have an additional contact. If you have a flood insurance claim, contact the agent or broker who sold you the policy to start the claims filing process.
  2. Document your loss. The insurance adjuster will most likely inspect the damage to your home, auto and possessions in order to write a check to help you replace, repair and rebuild. It's a good idea to take photographs and document the details of damaged items, including the date of purchase and approximate value—and collect receipts, if you have them. Many companies will ask you to submit an inventory of the items.
  3. Check with your insurer before discarding damaged items and materials. You will generally need to show storm damaged items to your adjuster. If, however, you're required by your local municipality to discard them for safety reasons, take photographs to help with the claims process.
  4. Sign up for SMS/text alerts. Many insurance companies use SMS/text message alerts that will notify you of the status of your claim. You will receive text messages on your phone when you first report your claim, when your estimate is available, and when a payment has been sent.
  5. Know what emergency services are available. In the event you need emergency services, such as removing water from your home, covering your roof, or boarding up windows or doors, many companies will dispatch an approved emergency services company to protect your home from further damage. If your home has sustained severe damage, making it unlivable, your homeowners insurer will provide you with a check for additional living expenses.
  6. Keep a claim diary. Good record-keeping is important when filing a claim. Make a list of everyone you speak to about your claim. Note their name, title and contact information. Also, keep track of the date, time and issues discussed. The more organized you are, the simpler and easier the claims process will be. 
Source: Insurance Information Institute

If you’d like more homeowner information, please contact me.

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In this Edition: Insurance Claims

September 16, 2017 1:38 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines six tips to keep in mind when filing an insurance claim after a storm. Other topics covered this month include what not to do after purchasing a home and how to safely use your portable generator. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

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Simple Ways to Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

September 15, 2017 4:29 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, some recommendations are fairly simple, such as exercising regularly and eating right. Many people, however, don't know how much exercise they should get or which foods are the best choices. They also may not realize there are other ways to take care of your body and mind to promote better overall health.

Start on the path to healthier living with these tips from the wellness experts at Walgreens.

Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, and that's because an active lifestyle can help you achieve far more than muscle mass or weight loss. Regular exercise can also contribute to mental well-being, and even something as simple as a walking break or two at work can provide health benefits.

Eat well
The keys to a healthy diet are eating the right amount of calories for your activity level and eating a wide range of foods to ensure that you're receiving all the nutrients your body needs. 

Get enough sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being, and can help improve your mental health, physical health and quality of life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults and 9-11 hours for school-aged children. If you find sleep elusive, try implementing a bedtime routine to send signals to your body that it's time to sleep, avoid screen time immediately before lights out and eliminate caffeine after lunch.

Manage stress
Between juggling a career, family and other commitments, it's easy to find things to stress over. Practices such as meditation and yoga can help to better manage stress. Setting aside time for a favorite hobby can also help relieve stress and focus on an activity you enjoy. Aside from mental and emotional impacts, stress can also impact your physical health, so it's important to identify coping mechanisms that reduce overall stress.

Be social
Making time to socialize with friends and family is an important part of living a long and healthy life. Even if your schedule is packed, try to block out time at least once a week to spend with family and friends.
Break bad habits

Whatever their nature, work to break bad habits by first acknowledging the problem then working to replace the negativity with alternatives that make a more positive impact on your life.  Even a negative attitude can bring you down.

Source: walgreens.com/nice.

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5 Tips for Deck Design

September 15, 2017 4:29 am

(Family Features)--Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to planning an outdoor living space. By getting a jump-start on planning, you can afford yourself time to complete the process with maximum creativity and minimal stress.

Try these expert tips and tricks of the trade to help make your dream deck a reality.

Lay a Solid Foundation
Don't skimp on the substructure. Often overlooked, the substructure can have tremendous impact on performance and appearance. For maximum strength and stability, opt for steel framing over wood in order to achieve a consistently flat decking surface. Wooden substructures can split, warp and shift over time, leading to an uneven surface in the deck boards. Dimensionally stable steel offers durability benefits over wood, plus greater design flexibility, sustainability, safety and fire resistance.

Get the Right Tools
In addition to magazines, TV shows and social platforms offer outdoor living ideas and inspiration. There are also a number of online tools designed to help guide you through the planning process, such as the Trex Deck Starter, which can help anyone at the outset of their deck building adventures. It provides a user-friendly way to experiment with various deck configurations and design combinations. In three simple steps, the tool can help you choose the right materials for your project and design a customized outdoor living space before ever raising a hammer.

Choose the Right Materials
When selecting materials, invest in decking that can hold up against the harshest weather and messiest cookouts. High-performance, low-maintenance composite decking offers superior durability and long-lasting looks. It can also outperform both wood and PVC alternatives over time. With a wood deck, the cost of regular sanding, staining and painting compound considerably over time. Over the life of a composite deck, the reduced maintenance costs of simple soap and water cleanings can add up to a greater return on investment - not to mention the value of all the time spent enjoying your deck rather than maintaining it.

Add Safety and Style with Railings
Railings can be one of the most visible parts of any deck so it should be considered at the same time as the deck boards. A good rule of thumb is to use the "three C's," which are: coordinate, contrast, customize. For example, crisp white posts and black aluminum balusters coordinate beautifully with gray deck boards, delivering an elegant look and feel. For a beachy vibe, opt for a contrasting look with all-white railings. Or go completely custom with sleek, black aluminum railings to create a space that's both modern and inviting.

Incorporate Personal Touches with Accessories
Have fun exploring the many design elements that are available for customizing your deck. Things like built-in seating, planters and storage, as well as add-ons such as a pergola or outdoor furniture, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor living space. Further personalize your space with a variety of deck and landscape lighting fixtures. Set up path lights to brighten walkways and use spotlights to showcase trees and architectural features.

Source: Trex.com.

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How-to Prep Your Home for Earthquakes

September 15, 2017 4:29 am

Earthquakes are rarely predictable. However, if you live in a state like California or Hawaii where quaking and shaking is common, there are several things you can do to your house to prepare for such emergencies. Consider the following tips from Brian Vardiman, owner of Best Service.

Secure the water heater – Unsecured water heaters often fall over, rupturing water and gas lines causing fires and flooding. Secure your water heater with two straps that wrap around the top and bottom of the water tank. Ensure the straps are made of heavy-metal gauge strapping. Many water heaters are currently secured with plumbers' tape; the thin metal in this strap is too brittle to be effective. If the homeowner is not sure if the water heater is secured with the proper straps and technique, call a professional to inspect it before the protection is needed.

Add flexible piping – The rigid pipes used to transfer natural gas, air and water into the home are susceptible to damage during an earthquake. Flexible piping is made from materials that will absorb the vibrations created during an earthquake before they can crack or break.

Install vibration isolators – The majority of the damage an HVAC unit sustains during an earthquake comes as a result of the shifting that occurs with seismic activity. Providing a buffer that can absorb the vibrations before they cause the unit to shift is a great way to prevent damage during an earthquake. An expert can retrofit a home's HVAC system with vibration isolators. These spring-type devices can be installed on the bottom of the unit to absorb movement before it affects the HVAC system's positioning.

Source: Best Service, www.callbest.net  

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15 Tips for Staying Safe When Returning Home After Irma

September 15, 2017 4:29 am

If you live in an area impacted by hurricane Irma, you or someone you know may be displaced from their home. Here are a few important Red Cross safety steps to follow when returning home after the flood:

- Keep children and pets away from hazardous sites and floodwater. If you have children, leave them with a relative or friend while you conduct your first inspection of your home after the disaster. The site may be unsafe for children, and seeing the damage firsthand may upset them even more and cause long-term effects, including nightmares.

- If power lines are down outside your home, do not step in puddles or standing water. Report them immediately to the power company.

- Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage.

- Damage on the outside can indicate a serious problem inside. Ask a building inspector or contractor to check the structure before you enter.

- Do not cut or walk past colored tape that was placed over doors or windows to mark damaged areas unless you have been told that it is safe to do so. If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on the home, do not enter it until you get more information, advice and instructions from your local authorities.

- Take pictures of home damage, both of the buildings and its contents, for insurance purposes. Make temporary repairs such as covering holes, bracing walls, and removing debris. Save all receipts.

- If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame, including candles, to inspect for damage or serve as alternate lighting.

- Sniff for gas. If you detect natural or propane gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately and get far away from it. Call the fire department after you reach safety.

- If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system out before you use it again.
- Wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and rubber boots, and be cautious when cleaning up.
- Throw out items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected. This includes mattresses, carpeting, cosmetics, stuffed animals and baby toys.

- Throw out all food, beverages and medicine exposed to flood waters and mud. When in doubt, throw it out. This includes canned goods, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and containers with food or liquid that has been sealed shut.

- If any gas or electrical appliances were flooded, don't use them until they have been checked for safety.

- Pump out flooded basements gradually (about one-third of the water per day) to avoid structural damage. If the water is pumped out completely in a short period of time, pressure from water-saturated soil on the outside could cause basement walls to collapse.

- Is your ceiling sagging? That means it got wet – which makes it heavy and dangerous. It will have to be replaced, so you can try to knock it down. Be careful: wear eye protection and a hard hat, use a long stick, and stand away from the damaged area. Poke holes in the ceiling starting from the outside of the bulge to let any water drain out slowly. Striking the center of the damaged area may cause the whole ceiling to collapse.

- Is the floor sagging? It could collapse under your weight, so don't walk there! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged by thick plywood panels or thick, strong boards that extend at least 8–12 inches on each side of the sagging area.

Source: redcross.org.

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Tips for Prioritizing Your Fall Maintenance Projects

September 13, 2017 4:17 am

No matter what part of the country your home is in, the coming of fall signals an opportunity to do whatever necessary or voluntary projects need to be done ahead of winter weather, the coming holiday season, and the New Year.

At soundbuilthomes.com, Elizabeth Kraus wonders if you have been putting off re-staining or sealing your deck? Her advice: take advantage of the remaining warm, dry weather to clean and seal or stain your deck before wet weather arrives to do damage.

The same, Kraus says, goes for your home’s window and door trim, gutters and other areas which may have had surfaces exposed, paint or stain eroded, and see to any loose exterior trim pieces, window or door seals, gutters, shingles, siding or roofing.

Kraus says late summer and early fall present the perfect time to have ducts and chimney flues cleaned and vacuumed, before you shut yourself and your family behind closed doors and windows with all of the dust which may have accumulated during the past year. And don't forget to dust off the blades of those ceiling fans, too!

The Virginia Farm Bureau (Vafb.com) says simply walking around the outside of your house is the best way to detect any areas in need of attention.

Got any obvious openings under your porches, or into your crawlspace, or basement? The bureau suggests sealing any places where wild animals might take winter refuge.

The bureau also says this time of year is an ideal opportunity to address this punch list:

- Trim back tree branches and brush that might damage your house during a storm, and remove dead trees near your house that pose a risk to your house during high wind storms

- Check that all outdoor stairs are in good shape and have sturdy railings

- Check your plumbing, testing pressure valves on hot water heaters and move any flammable materials away from furnace, hot water heater, and other heat sources

- Check water hoses on washer, ice maker, and dishwasher for leaks

- Clean lint from the clothes dryer exhaust duct and surrounding area to prevent fires

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