RE/MAX 440
Wayne Robinson

Wayne Robinson
101 Quakertown Ave.  Pennsburg  PA 18073
Phone:  267-481-4811
Office:  215-679-9797
Cell:  267-481-4811
Fax:  267-354-6936

My Blog

Traveling? How to Thwart Vacation Scammers

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

(BPT) – Fact: Scammers, identity thieves and fraudsters rarely take a vacation, even when you do.

"When people plan vacations, they let their guard down," says David Barnhardt of Early Warning, a fraud prevention company. "Fraudsters know this, and they have a whole bag of tricks created specifically for people in a vacation frame of mind."

Enjoy your vacation, he says, but exercise good judgment. That suggestion mirrors similar advice offered by both the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Their websites each devote pages of precautions about potential travel scams - some of which can happen long before you pack your suitcase.

Many pre-vacation scams, the FTC warns, can begin with unsolicited vacation e-mails announcing amazing travel deals. The agency says if an offer sounds too good to be true, be wary.

Barnhardt agrees. "If you get an e-mail announcing you have won a 'free' vacation, be careful," he says. "Chances are before long you will be asked to provide someone with a credit card number to confirm your reservation. You would be surprised how many people fall for that scam."

Credit card numbers are the gold-standard for many fraudsters, and one way to protect your card, Barnhardt advises, is to place a travel flag on your credit and debit cards. Those flags can help card issuers quickly identify suspicious charges.

"If charges are swiped outside of your vacation dates, it can signal a compromised card," he says.

That said, Barnhardt recommends travelers use credit cards instead of debit cards.

"Simply put, credit cards draw on credit lines, whereas a debit card hack means your money is actually withdrawn from your account," he says. "That can cause an overdraft, which means overdraft charges. You may get your money back, but it often means you may need to file a police report, which can be a huge headache, especially if you're overseas. Plus you may have to explain to your creditors why your payments were returned and work with your institution to get penalty fees reversed as well."

Credit cards are also the safer method of payment when you're asked to put a deposit on a vacation rental.

"If a website advertises a gorgeous house or condo and the property owner asks that you wire a deposit, a red flag should immediately go up," says Barnhardt. "Don't do it. Money wired is money gone. Unlike a credit card deposit, once you wire money, you cannot get it back."

And after you have arrived at your destination, it pays to stay alert. "Hotels and motels can be breeding grounds for fraud," says Barnhardt.

One prevalent travel scam the FTC warns about involves a late-night phone call to your room allegedly from the front desk at a hotel, motel or resort. The caller claims there is a problem with the credit card and asks the guest to read the number over the phone. The obvious solution: make a trip to the front desk to speak with someone in person.

Barnhardt also warns of another lodging-related credit card scam currently in vogue: fliers slid under hotel-room doors offering pizza delivered right to your room.

"This sounds great to a hungry traveler, but if you call and they ask for your credit card number, it's better to hang up the phone and ask the front desk to recommend local eateries," he says.

Don’t forget to exercise caution when logging onto the hotel's free Wi-Fi network, says Barnhardt.

"Just about every hotel and motel provides free Wi-Fi," he says. "But fraudsters have perfected the art of mimicking legitimate networks. Logging onto a fake Wi-Fi network can put all the data stored in your tablet or phone in jeopardy."

Once again, he says, the best solution is to ask before acting.

"Check with the front desk," he says. "Make sure you are using the hotel's authorized network and they've supplied you with a secure Wi-Fi password. A bogus Wi-Fi can be outsmarted just by being cautious. Vacation time is about relaxing, but don't relax your common sense."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Great Debate: Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

(Family Features) For many families, some of the most anticipated summertime activities happen around the pool. Both chlorine and saltwater pools are common in homes today, but there are distinct differences between the two. In a saltwater pool, chlorine is produced by a salt chlorine generator, rather than adding chlorine to the pool directly. A saltwater pool is still being sanitized by chlorine.

Before you dive into the fun, remember that saltwater pools require the same maintenance functions and still must be checked and balanced regularly, just like a traditional chlorine pool. Here’s how to do it.

Test the Water Daily

Whether your pool uses traditional chlorine or is equipped with a salt chlorine generator, make testing it a top priority, especially when your pool is used frequently.

Make sure to read and follow the product label instructions closely when dealing with pool chemicals. Proper dosing of pool chemicals is important for swimmer comfort.

Always test the water and make sure the free chlorine level never falls below 1 parts per million (ppm). Chlorine is the main sanitizer of your pool (and drinking water), and the more people in your pool, the more chlorine you may need.

Keep Water Balanced


If your eyes are irritated and the pool water is cloudy or looks green, the balance is probably off. Here's how to test it:

- Use strips that show chlorine, alkalinity, pH and cyanuric acid levels.
- Follow instructions on the package for how to submerge the strip.
- Compare color readings on the strip to the range on the product bottle.

Ideal water balance ranges for chlorine are 1-4 ppm; alkalinity, 80-120 ppm; pH, 7.2-7.6; cyanuric acid, 20-50 ppm.

Source:
SaltorChlorine.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Sweat It: A/C Maintenance Tips

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

As the temperature rises outside, it is becoming more challenging for homeowners to keep energy costs low while keeping cool inside. According to the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association (also known as NADCA), there is a way to decrease energy usage and still beat the heat.

“Air conveyance systems are the largest sources of energy within a home, so it’s important to clean the units whenever needed, in order to avoid increased costs and energy usage,” says NADCA President Bill Benito. “When the units are not in use, they collect a lot of dirt and dust; when they are turned on during the summer months, all of that dust and dirt gets blown back into the home.”

NADCA recommends hiring a certified contractor to inspect air-handling units and test for efficiency. Proper duct cleaning and sealing of the air handling unit will help maximize system efficiency and performance during the hottest months of the year, when the air conditioners run the most often.

“Dirty or contaminated filters and poorly maintained air handling systems can reduce air flow and efficiency. Dirty coils can cause a unit to work harder to pump out cool air, which will ultimately lead to increased energy costs,” adds Benito.

A complete and proper cleaning, according to industry standards, will remove built up particulate and contaminants, resulting in improved indoor air quality. The standard defines complete cleaning to include the inside of air ducts from where air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil and heat exchange), to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housing's Looking Up, Americans Say

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

With more Americans preferring to buy instead of rent and others believing now is a good time to sell, housing is right on track with forecasted improvements this year, a Fannie Mae survey recently reported.

Based on the survey, a growing number of Americans say now is a good time to buy a house, climbing back up to 66 percent. The amount of Americans who believe it is a good time to sell also increased, surpassing a survey record.

“Things are looking up for housing,” says Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Those saying it is a good time to sell a house hit a survey high of 49 percent. Also, the percentage of consumers telling us their household income is significantly higher than 12 months ago grew six percentage points to 28 percent over the past two months.”

Additionally, more than half of Americans expect rents to rise, further boosting optimism for buying a home.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You a Habitual or Aspiring Saver?

June 9, 2015 1:39 am

As a large portion of the population nears retirement, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) recently examined the relationship between saving patterns and long-term outcomes. Chief among the findings was the ratio of habitual, occasional, past and aspiring savers, with habitually-saving Americans surpassing global statistics at 52 percent.

These habitual savers, put simply, are consistently setting aside funds for retirement. One-fifth of Americans identified as occasional savers, contributing to a retirement fund from time to time; 12 percent are past savers, who are currently not saving, but have in the past; and 11 percent are aspiring savers, who are not saving enough for retirement, but intend to do so. Just 5 percent are not saving, and have no plans to do so in the future.

The TCRS research also found the average annual income for habitual savers to be $73,000 – significantly higher than that of the rest of the world. Predictably, habitual savers reported having higher incomes than aspiring savers.

Beyond receiving a pay raise, which most aspiring savers say would be helpful, the findings illustrate ways employers and policymakers can play important roles in promoting habitual saving.

Source: TCRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Landscape Investments Drive Home Value

June 9, 2015 1:39 am

Maintaining the landscape on your property creates scenery not only visually appealing – it can enhance value, too, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“If landscaping is properly maintained, the impact on home values can be positive,” says Appraisal Institute President M. Lance Coyle, MAI, SRA. “However, it’s important for homeowners not to exceed neighborhood norms when upgrading.”

Curb appeal is an important factor when selling a home, Coyle adds, noting that it is one of the best ways for property owners to make a positive first impression. A home with landscaping that is dated or not appropriately maintained can be a turn-off to prospective buyers and can have a negative impact on the home’s potential resale value.

Coyle says homeowners should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to their home’s landscaping:

• Is the landscaping nice enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door? Keep the design modern and on-par with comparable properties in the neighborhood.

• Could the landscaping help future owners save money? Landscaping that needs minimal, if any, water to maintain could be attractive depending on the geographic area.

• Does the landscaping help with the property’s energy efficiency? For example, it’s a good idea to plant trees in a location where they provide shade in locations with year-round hot climates.

If you’re installing a new landscape or planning to revamp an existing one, the EPA’s Energy Star program advises selecting plants that are appropriate for their climate and using a suitable landscape and irrigation design. Homeowners should also consider landscaping techniques using low-water and drought-resistant grass, plants, shrubs and trees.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Tech Evolves with Apple HomeKit and More

June 8, 2015 1:36 am

(Family Features) There’s no doubt technology brings convenience and peace of mind to homeowners. At the touch of a button, families can benefit from thoughtful, digital shortcuts throughout their homes.

One of the newest additions to home technology is Apple HomeKit, slated for release sometime this year. Apple’s latest rollout will make controlling smart devices seamless using iPhone and Siri. Some of the first HomeKit-enabled products include Chamberlain MyQ garage door openers, Honeywell thermostats, the iDevices Switch and Schlage door locks.

While you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of HomeKit, take a look at these other advancements already available for your home.

• It is now possible to control lighting throughout the interior and exterior of your home using your smartphone. With the proper bulbs, in-home Wi-Fi network and an app on your phone or tablet, you can control lights from anywhere and even schedule lights to turn off and on at intervals to give the appearance that someone is home. You'll never have to enter a dark house again when you use lights with geofencing technology, which recognizes when you pull in the driveway and turns lights on automatically.

• Similarly, you can automate and control your home's temperature from your smartphone or device. Although many thermostats allow you to drop temperatures while you're away at work for the day, options such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Honeywell Lyric take climate management to a whole new level, learning your schedule and adjusting temperatures automatically.

• Motorized drapes not only add a stylish enhancement to your windows, they help keep dawn at bay and your privacy intact through smartphone control. A variety of options allow you to customize settings based on needs, such as blocking daylight, obscuring valuables from outside view, managing the impact of UV rays on your possessions or regulating solar heat.

• With landscaping a chore for many, and water conservation a growing concern, a robotic hose attachment may be the answer, delivering precise amounts of water to each plant. For a large yard, or to use your existing irrigation system, a smart sprinkler system may be a better answer to keep your yard looking lush. Most models can be customized by valve or zone, and many use weather data or moisture sensors to ensure the right amount of water is delivered each time.

• When dinner plans call for a steak on the grill, keep your meal deliciously on target with a smartphone app, such as iGrill or Grill It, which guides you to the perfect temperature based on variables such as the cut and thickness.

With such advancements right at your fingertips, it's becoming easier than ever for families to manage household tasks and functions quickly and easily. Evolving technology means more sophisticated alternatives are yet to come. It's clear that when it comes to home management technology, the future is only a click away.

Source:
Chamberlain.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Patio Hacks to Try This Summer

June 8, 2015 1:36 am

When you’re not soaking up the sun on the beach or taking in a game at the ball park, your backyard is likely playing host to summertime activities. To crank up the good times at home, add these unconventional upgrades served up on your patio for endless fun all summer long.

1. Chandelier and Sconces – Today’s outdoor lighting designs have evolved beyond tiki torches and paper lanterns. String up tiny twinklers, repurpose a chandelier or install sconces to add some sparkle to your summer.

2. Suspended Sofa – Outdoor spaces have become an extension of the interior of the home, and your patio should be no exception. Suspend a sofa for lounging, create a coffee nook for weekend mornings or a cozy bench to tackle your summer reading list.

3. Pizza Oven
– It’s no secret outdoor kitchens are in high demand. Add your very own to your backyard by installing a pizza oven. For the non-handy homeowner, pre-manufactured pizza ovens are available, but do-it-yourselfers can construct one in a weekend.

4. Foldable Bar – A bar is a must if you regularly host guests. If your patio doesn’t permit a full bar set, DIY a foldable bar. The best part? It can be stored at a moment’s notice – not that you’d want to!

5. Movie Screen – An outdoor movie at home is a fun way to spend warm summer nights without breaking the bank. String clothesline between deck posts or trees and use a white sheet and a projector to create your very own theater.

6. Dance Floor – If your patio is spacious, up the entertainment factor with a portable dance floor. If your patio is natural wood, reserve a corner for when Saturday Night Fever rolls around.

7. Container Garden – Your patio is the perfect place for a container garden. Inject life onto a stone slab by growing your own vegetables (tomatoes are easy) or summer blooms.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Homeowners and Renters Can Apply for Disaster Assistance

June 8, 2015 1:36 am

With storms battering many parts of the country, homeowners and renters in disaster-designated counties who sustained damage to their homes, vehicles or personal property as a result of severe storms should know that they may qualify for disaster assistance. According to FEMA, applicants can:

• Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov
• Apply by smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov
• Apply by phone at toll-free 800-621-3362800-621-3362 FREE or 1-800-462-75851-800-462-7585 FREE

Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance because you may find you have unmet needs after you receive your settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so right away. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But insurance does not cover many expenses, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA.

After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.

If you’re a homeowner, you may borrow up to $200,000 from SBA to repair or replace your primary residence. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kitchen Design Goes Global

June 5, 2015 1:24 am

(BPT) – Every great kitchen starts with great design. Whether you favor clean, contemporary lines or err on the side of traditional, trends today draw inspiration from global sources, incorporating cultural influences from around the world while balancing the practical needs of families. To add worldly flair to your kitchen, start by:

Getting Fancy with Flooring

Certain materials establish a regional look because they are widely available in that region. In India, where quarries make natural stones easily affordable, kitchens commonly feature floors of glossy marble or other stone. Ceramic tile is abundant in Spain, and a wide variety of styles are available to create the underpinning for any regionally-inspired kitchen design.

Paving the Way with Walls


Kitchens around the world have signature design elements when it comes to walls. Wood paneling is a hallmark of English country kitchens, while modern Japanese kitchens, which are often limited in space, are made to look larger with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. And arches and bright tile accents lend themselves to Mexican design.

Opening Up with Cabinetry


The material and color you choose for your cabinets will play a defining role in the overall appearance of your kitchen. Flat white or frosted glass doors can impart a very modern, European flair, while distressed woods in rustic hues create a Tuscan effect.

Coloring Your World


Specific colors are tied to certain world cultures, regions and locations – walls in a soft mandarin paired with burgundy window treatments can build an Asian-inspired backdrop, and Aegean blue and sand backsplash tiles speak of a subtle Mediterranean influence.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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