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

Tax Refund? Spend It at Home

May 20, 2017 12:36 pm

According to a recent study from Edward Jones, only 6 percent of Americans are planning to invest their 2016 tax refunds this year. The study, which surveyed 1,004 respondents across various age groups, regions and income levels, found that the majority of Americans (53 percent) plan to put their tax refund toward necessary expenses, such as student loans and credit card payments.

Thirty-one percent of respondents plan to save their refund, and 9 percent plan to put it toward something fun, like a vacation or entertainment. For homeowners, however, investing your tax refund to improve your home—and increase its value in the process—can be the smartest move of all. Quicken Loans suggests looking at these key areas of your home, which often translate directly to the bottom line:

The kitchen. New appliances or countertops are a great way to invest your refund dollars. Also consider giving your kitchen a less-expensive facelift by painting the cabinets.

The bathroom. Bathrooms are high on the list of priorities for homebuyers, so use your refund to make sure yours is up to par. Consider adding new faucets, a low-flow toilet or a new sink counter.

The walls. One of the most important—and most affordable—home improvements is a fresh coat of paint. A sunny shade or calming neutral will instantly change the look and feel of any room.

The windows. An important investment for not only the look of your home, but its energy efficiency as well, new windows are always a smart investment.

The exterior. Whether it’s building a patio, repairing the roof, or installing new siding, improving your home's exterior is never a bad idea.  

Putting your tax refund into your No. 1 asset will not only improve your home’s value, it'll also go a long way toward enhancing your living environment. In the end, any way you slice it, it’s an investment for years to come.

Contact me today for more tips on improving your home's value.

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5 Ways to Redecorate Without Spending a Dime

May 20, 2017 12:36 pm

You know the feeling. You look around your home and are struck with a case of the blahs. The immediate thought is to set out on a shopping spree for new rugs, new lamps, new linens or whatever it takes to revamp your space. Unfortunately, your wallet may say otherwise. But don’t despair. With a little creative thinking, you can update the look and feel of your home without spending any money at all. Here’s how:
 
The old switcheroo. Believe it or not, switching furniture from one room to another can completely change the look of a room. Try swapping out a living room end table with your bedroom nightstand. Or move that stately floor lamp from your den into your dining room. With just a little muscle, you will instantly arrive at a brand-new look.
 
Find buried treasure in your linen closet. If you’re like most homeowners, it’s more than likely been a while since you’ve cleaned out your linen closet. And I bet you won’t believe what you’ll find in there. Curtains, tablecloths, throws and bedding that was tucked away years ago and forgotten about can be reintroduced to various spots in your home for a brand-new look.
 
Enlist old paint. Remember all those half-full cans of paint leftover from various projects over the years? Put them to use to change the look of a room by painting one wall, a piece of accent furniture or even cabinet doors. You saved them because you thought they’d come in handy someday. Well, today’s that day.
 
Get digging. Want to switch up the flow of your yard? Look around and see what plants, shrubs and small trees can be relocated to a brand-new spot. Be sure to do some research online ahead of time in order to determine the correct way to transplant certain items to ensure your green friends survive the move. You can do this even more easily by repositioning container plants and patio furniture.
 
Embrace the online community. Before you spend money on new furniture and décor items, check out some of the increasingly popular websites for scoring free stuff. The Freecycle Network, for example, is made up of 9 million members worldwide. The nonprofit describes itself as a grassroots movement, comprised of local volunteers who moderate activity to keep dealings on the up-and-up. Membership is free to boot.
 
With the right mindset and a little creative thinking, your home will be on its way to a brand-spanking-new look.
 
Contact me today for more real estate tips and information. 

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Clean Machine: Tackling the Fridge and Freezer

May 18, 2017 12:36 am

If there’s a funky smell coming from the depths of your refrigerator or small icebergs forming in your freezer, it’s time to bite the bullet and do a deep clean. Not only will this make for an odor-free, organized environment for your fresh and frozen foods, more importantly, it will ensure your food’s safety. Follow these tips from the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association to make the task easy and effective:

1. Prepare. Unplug the refrigerator to save energy and to safely clean coils. Empty ice from your freezer into a cooler where you can store food you plan to keep. Fill the sink with warm soapy water for cleaning shelves and drawers. Set out dishtowels on counter tops for drying. Fill a spray bottle with a cleaning solution of 1cup water, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of dish soap.

2. Purge. Empty the refrigerator, then the freezer, and place items on counter. Take time to sort and discard old, unwanted foods, drinks and condiments. Check expiration dates and beware of moldy and freezer-burned foods. When in doubt, toss it out!

3. Clean. Remove drawers and shelves and clean them in the sink with warm soapy water; set aside to dry. Spray the interior with cleaner, and wipe from the top down with a warm, wet sponge or towel. Thoroughly dry and replace drawers and shelves. Wash the exterior door and handles. Replace water and ice-maker filters if needed. Clean the grill on bottom front of refrigerator. Consider cleaning the condenser coils for optimum cooling efficiency (refer to manufacturer directions).

4. Check Temps. Food kept too long or at improper temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees and your freezer 0 degrees or less to ensure food safety. You can check the temperatures with an appliance thermometer.

5. Organize. When restocking your clean refrigerator and freezer, organize according to usage and group like items together. Label and date new foods so you know when to use or throw out. Do not store perishable foods in the door as temperatures fluctuate there. Place meat, poultry or seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags and keep fruits and vegetables in separate drawers away from the meats to avoid cross-contamination.

Source: National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association

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How-to Buy a Home in a Tight Market

May 18, 2017 12:36 am

We all know the equation: low inventory means higher prices. Also known as a tight market, this setting can be stressful for buyers, who are trying to snap up their dream home but keep running into competition. According to the National Association of REALTORS® , attempting to purchase a house in this type of market can make the already complex process of buying a home even more overwhelming.

To help buyers successfully get through the buying process in a tight inventory market, NAR offers these five suggestions:

Determine and stick to a budget. Before beginning the house hunting process, prospective homebuyers should receive preapproval from one or more lenders to verify the amount of money they are qualified to borrow. Then, after taking into account additional costs of ownership such as taxes, utilities and insurance, buyers should determine a final budget they can comfortably afford. When listings are scarce, bidding wars can drive up prices, so buyers must be prepared to walk away if the asking price surpasses their budget.

Identify desired neighborhoods and home wants versus needs. When housing inventory is tight, buyers may need to compromise on what they believe they want from a home. Certain wants, such as stainless appliances or hardwood floors, can be added later. However, if a buyer wants to be in a specific school district or have a decent sized backyard, those cannot be addressed later and must be taken into account during the house hunting process.

Be ready to make a decision quickly. In a seller's market, homes rarely stay on the market long, so when a house that is in their budget and checks off all of their needs come along, buyers should not hesitate. Buyers should be ready to submit an offer quickly, or they may risk missing out on the home altogether.

Bid competitively and limit contingencies. It is tempting to submit a low offer as a starting bid, but in a seller's market buyers need to put forward their highest offer from the very beginning or they are likely to lose out on the home. It is also important to remember that in multiple bidding situations it is not always the highest offer that is most attractive to the seller but the one with the fewest contingencies. Removing restrictions related to the sale of a current home and being flexible with things like the move-in date can make a bid stand out to a seller.

Work with a Realtor®. All real estate is local, so it is important to work with an agent who is a Realtor®, a member of the National Association of Realtors®, and who is familiar with the areas and neighborhoods the homebuyers are considering. Realtors® are the most trusted resource for real estate information and have unparalleled knowledge of their communities; they can give buyers the competitive advantage needed in a tight market.  

Source: www.nar.realtor.

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How to Battle Back Pain

May 18, 2017 12:36 am

Those of us that sit at our desks all day likely suffer from back pain. To help promote the proper posture and avoid a slew of sitting-related issues, www.blitzresults.com offers the following tips.  

- Place your computer monitor at least one arm's length away. If it's too close, you will create tension in your shoulders and neck.
- The monitor should be set so that your eyes are at a downward angle. This helps to relieve strain on your neck and your eyes.
- Sit with the pelvis tilted slightly forwards. Ergonomic chairs and seat cushions help to retain the backs' natural posture, providing relief to the discs and muscles.
- Move around the office! Speak personally with your colleagues instead of sending them emails. Drink a lot of water: it's not only healthy, but it will keep you moving.
- Important: Adjust the desk and chair to your height so that you are relaxed while sitting. How does that work? Use an online calculator for ergonomic sitting.

Source: https://www.blitzresults.com/en/ergonomic/

 

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That Back Porch Hammock is Good for Your Health

May 17, 2017 12:36 am

The idyllic idea of languishing on a warm breezy afternoon in the snug comfort of a backyard hammock is very appealing.

But did you know that hanging around in your hammock can have a few health benefits? A 2011 study showed that rocking during a nap leads to the synchronization of brain waves, which results in the quicker onset of sleep and deeper sleep benefits.

According to a study by Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva, the kind of rocking movement one experiences in a hammock increased the length of N2 sleep, a form of non-REM sleep that takes up about half of a good night's rest.

It also increased slow oscillations and "sleep spindles" - brief bursts of brain activity that can cut into deep sleeping patterns. So hammocks can sometimes act as a natural cure for insomnia. The experts at Patio34,com in Oswego, Ill. say it's because there are no pressure points on your body.

While it can be difficult to get comfortable when settling into bed or onto the sofa, painful pressure points are soothed when you’re in a hanging hammock.

In addition, experts say that the best sleeping position is one in which you lay on your back with your head slightly elevated - just like the way you lay in a hammock. This opens the air passageways for unobstructed breathing and encourages healthy blood circulation.

So taking good care of your hammock is important - you want it ready and waiting when it's time to relay, right?

So here are a few quick tips to keep your hammock in tip-top condition from Patio43.com:

- Be mindful of the weight limit - putting excess weight on one can result in tears to the fiber or even large-scale rips.
- Bring it in during extreme weather - heavy snow, rain, winds, and other environmental factors can cause excess damage.
- Keep it free of debris - bacteria grows on natural debris, like fallen leaves and twigs, and lead to the growth of mold or mildew, so wipe off debris right away.
- Know your hammock's material - some are more weather-, mold-, and stain-resistant than others. So pay extra attention to manufacturer's recommendations for care, and follow them!

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How to Keep Kids Safe on Bikes, Scooters, Skateboards

May 17, 2017 12:36 am

Worried about your kids’ safety when they’re out on their bikes, scooters, or other wheeled toys? Perhaps you should be. More than 426,000 children – nearly 50 every hour – visited an emergency department (ED) in 2015 due to a wheeled sports-related injury.

A new report from Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide's Make Safe Happen program reveals alarming news about the risks kids take when riding bikes, scooters, skates and skateboards. Nearly 40 percent of the 1,600 parents surveyed admitted that their child doesn't always wear a helmet while riding.

The report shows a clear need to educate families about the very real injury risks for their children while riding and how to protect them. Below are some of the study’s top findings.

Why Aren't Kids Wearing Helmets?

Some kids don't wear helmets because their parents don't require it. Nearly half of parents said that they or the child's other parent don't always make them wear it.

Twenty-five percent of parents said that their child simply won't wear helmets, saying they find them uncomfortable or uncool.

Are Kids Wearing Other Protective Equipment?

Less than 1 in 5 parents of children who scooter and less than 2 in 5 parents whose kids skate said their children always wear knee or elbow pads.

Parents of children who skateboard reported even lower numbers, with less than 1 in 3 saying their children always wear knee or elbow pads and less than 1 in 5 reporting they always wear wrist guards.

How Can Parents Protect Kids?

- Wear properly-fitted helmets, which are the best way to prevent head injuries and death, for every ride.
- Ride in safe locations like sidewalks, bike paths or bike lanes whenever possible.
- Follow the rules of the road.
- Check all equipment at the start or end of every season.
- Ride together until kids are comfortable enough to ride on their own.

Source: safekids.org.

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Money Tips for College Grads

May 15, 2017 12:36 pm

While they leave college with a diploma in hand attesting to their completion of a rigorous course of learning, recent graduates are falling short when it comes to financial smarts, according to a 2016 Experian survey.

The research reveals that although 69 percent of recent graduates surveyed do have student loan debt, 70 percent feel their college failed to properly prepare them to handle real-world personal finance.  KeyBank research shows similar concerns – nearly 20 percent of those surveyed know their financial goals, but are not confident they know how to reach those goals.

To help bridge the gap, KeyBank suggests college grads take the following steps:

Build a Budget
For many recent grads, that first, full-time paycheck may make them feel rich compared to what they were used to earning from their part-time and campus jobs. This makes now the perfect time to build a budget that takes into account all of their new economic realities: student loan payments, rent, utilities, transportation costs, career clothing, insurance and food.

Start a Savings Strategy
KeyBank recommends a three-pronged approach to savings that provides for short-term goals, long-term goals and saving for retirement.

- First, build an emergency savings that will cover 3 - 6 months of living expenses. This will allow grads to avoid turning to credit cards for unexpected expenses.

- Second, set up a second savings account for long-term goals, such as a car, travel or a down payment on a home.

- Third - and this will be tough one for grads to buy into - establish a retirement savings plan. Take full advantage of an employer’s 401K plan by allocating at least enough to qualify for any available 401K employer match, and then making a commitment to increase that contribution by 1 percent every year until you're saving 10 - 15 percent of your salary.

Monitor Your Credit Score
Establishing and managing a credit score is important for college graduates, as credit scores can affect their ability to rent housing, access utilities or eventually obtain a low-interest loan for major purchases. Good credit scores are built by managing credit payments, including student loan payments and credit card debt, paying bills on time and keeping any credit card debt at a minimum.

Adopting these three steps will put college grads on the road to financial security and help them build wealth long-term.

Source: KeyCorp

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Garden Safety 101

May 15, 2017 12:36 pm

In terms of dangerous activities, tending your garden likely falls low on the list. But many consumers throw out their backs while gardening, and the presence of sharp tools and hot summer sun only ups the risk factor.

Before heading to the beds this summer, peruse these safety tips from the  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

- Loosen your joints and muscles before gardening with simple stretches.

- Take breaks. Do not stay in one position for too long. Switch positions often to avoid overworking one part of the body.

- To avoid injuring your back when lifting heavy objects, position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Separate your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support. Then bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up. If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself. Get help.

- Protect your back and knees from strain by sitting on a garden stool when possible to help relieve pressure on your spine and knees.

- Consider having a vertical garden, wall planters or hanging plant baskets to avoid the repetitive back bending and kneeling positions that's involved in traditional gardening.

- Stay hydrated with fluids, especially if you're working up a sweat.

- Children should not be allowed to play in or near where sharp tools, chemicals or gardening equipment are being used or stored.  

- Remove stones, toys and other objects from the yard before you start gardening.

- Wear protective gloves, sturdy shoes and long pants when working in the garden to protect against insect bites and injuries from stepping on sharp objects, or cuts from handling sharp tools.

- Familiarize yourself with the plants that are in your garden. If you identify poisonous plants or trees, ensure you keep young children away and educate them about the potential risks. If you cannot identify a plant or tree, take a sample to your local garden center for identification.

- Keep gardening equipment in good working order. For example, when using a hedge trimmer for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Summer Safety for the Whole Family

May 15, 2017 12:36 pm

(Family Features)--Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other outdoor activities. Longer days mean more time outside and more physical activity, which translates to increased potential for injuries. Playground falls, lawn mower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common childhood injuries that can happen during summer months.

"Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child," says Chris Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children®. "We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe."

These tips from Shriners Hospitals for Children can help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.

Go Outside and Play

Outdoor play provides physical and mental health benefits, including opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D – sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they are wearing shoes to protect their feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wearing sunscreen to protect against sunburns and harmful ultraviolet rays.

Playground 101

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:

- Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.

- Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.

- Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.

- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.

Make a Safe Splash

While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children ages 1-4 and the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 kids under the age of 14 are hospitalized because of diving injuries each year, with 1 in 5 sustaining a spinal cord injury.

Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family's safety around water:

- Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.

- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or near any body of water.

- Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.

- Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.

Fun on the Water

Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:

- Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.

- Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.

- Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.

Fire Safety Simplified

According to the CDC, more than 300 children ages 19 and under are treated in emergency rooms for fire- and burn-related injuries each day. Use these tips to help keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:

- Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.

- Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.

- Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.

- Leave fireworks to the professionals.

Source: shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/safesummer.

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