Cheryl A. Snyder
Phone:  610-346-7908Office:  215-538-4400
Email:  csnyder@remax440.comCell:  215-801-0583Fax:  267-354-6905
Cheryl A. Snyder
Cheryl A. Snyder

Cheryl's Blog

Your Property: Avoiding Tree Care Cons

May 23, 2016 1:37 am

Healthy, mature trees can be a benefit to your home and property. Aside from their beauty, trees offer shade, helping to naturally regulate your home’s indoor temperature, and may even absorb harmful gasses.

Caring for the trees on your property, according to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), is best left to a professional. Because many home-related scams involve tree care companies, the Association recommends vetting out potential hires.

Knowledge is key. An arborist is defined by the Association as “a professional who cares for trees and other woody plants by pruning, fertilizing, monitoring for insects and diseases, and consulting on tree-related issues, and occasionally planting, transplanting and removing trees.”

“With hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars at stake—not to mention the integrity and appearance of your property and your personal safety—make sure that you take your time in deciding which company you should hire,” cautions Peter Gerstenberger, senior advisor for Safety, Standards & Compliance for the TCIA.

Gerstenberger advises first seeking out up-to-date proof of insurance from potential hires. If the company does not have insurance, you may be held responsible for any future claims.

“Disreputable companies are renowned for ripping gutters off, breaking fences and bird baths, and even dropping trees on houses. Then they typically fold up and leave, never to be seen again,” Gertsenberger says.

Always, always get estimates in writing, as well as a second (or third) opinion and quote. Do not feel pressured by bogus “bargains” or pay-upfront schemes.

During the screening process, request local references. Don’t hesitate to assess workmanship, and verify any professional affiliations the company claims to have. This may include the TCIA, Gertsenberger adds.

Bear in mind reputable tree care companies generally follow ANSI Standards. Confirm this information with potential hires before signing a contract. When you settle on a company, be sure the contract includes dates, cost and detailed descriptions of the work to be performed.

If you believe you’ve been victimized in a tree care scam, report the incident to your state’s Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the FBI, says Gertsenberger.

Source: TCIA

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Can Thrifty Security Measures Effectively Burglar-Proof Your Home?

May 23, 2016 1:37 am

The answer is yes!

Homeowners incur several expenses each month. By taking a few low- or no-cost precautions, security doesn’t have to be one of them:

• When preparing to travel, don’t be too obvious with luggage. Load the car inside the garage, if possible, or load up quickly, at the very least. If you have a second car, leave it parked in the driveway.

• Don't announce your absence on social media.

• Keep window coverings in their normal, semi-open positions—just be sure nothing valuable is visible through the windows.

• Hide your valuables in a small, fireproof safe securely attached to the floor, the wall or another structure that can’t be carried out of the house.

• Put lights, and even television sets, on timers, and place your mail and newspapers on hold, or ask the neighbors to pick them up.

• Consider replacing any short screws that typically come with lock hardware with longer ones that will extend past the door jambs into the frame of the house.

• Don't leave ladders or tools outside—criminals could "borrow" them to gain access to the home.

• Let your neighbors know you'll be gone, and for how long, or hire a house sitter. If your neighbor will be watching the home, ask him or her to walk around your property each day.

Beyond these measures, some law enforcement officials also recommend purchasing inexpensive security decals or signage, or even a fake security camera, to ward off burglars. Even a “Beware of Dog” sign can be a deterrent!

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Mortgage Rates Linger Near Year Low

May 23, 2016 1:37 am

Mortgage rates remain around year-to-date lows, giving homebuyers and refinancers time to act ahead of a potential interest rate hike next month.

According to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) is up slightly, averaging 3.58 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 15-year FRM is holding steady at an average 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point.

“The 10-year Treasury yield saw minimal movement over the past week, despite encouraging news from April's consumer spending and CPI data,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist of Freddie Mac. “Accordingly, the 30-year mortgage rate moved up just 1 basis point from its 2016 low to 3.58 percent. Although there was minimal change in rates this week, the hawkish tone of Wednesday's Fed minutes release had an immediate impact on Treasury yields, and could possibly shake up next week's survey results.”

The survey also revealed a somewhat-higher 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), averaging 2.80 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

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8 Foods to Kickstart Your Summer Slimdown

May 20, 2016 1:28 am

Summer weather’s around the corner, and like millions of Americans, you may be focused on shedding a few pounds for the season.

Kickstart your slimdown with these eight foods, compiled by EatingWell.com, which contain few calories and lots of tummy-filling fiber.

Almonds – A two-ounce serving of almonds is a satisfying snack—and the more times you chew them, the more satisfied you’ll be. Chewing releases more healthy fat, which triggers hormones that curb hunger.

Apples – A medium apple is four grams of fiber for a mere 95 calories. Munch on slices as you work.

Chili Peppers – Consuming a little hot pepper (in tomato juice or in capsules) 30 minutes before a meal can help you feel less hungry, and eat about 10 percent less.

Eggs – Dieters who eat eggs get fewer calories and more satisfaction than those who eat a bagel for breakfast. Try them for lunch or snacks, too, in salads or simply shelled and eaten out of hand.

Mushrooms – These low-calorie filling veggies can be as satisfying as meat, recent studies report. Use them in omelets, salads, sauces and soups in place of bacon, ham or sausage.

Oatmeal – Eating a breakfast made with "slow-release" carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or bran cereal, three hours before you exercise may help you burn more fat, recent studies suggest.

Small Desserts – Sugar-filled desserts are hardly diet aids, but studies show that banning sugar from your diet altogether often results in binge eating. Reward yourself now and then with a sweet of 100 calories or less.

Soups – Recent studies show that people who start a meal with vegetable soup eat 20 percent less calories overall.

These slimdown secrets can be applied to virtually any meal. Be creative! Who knows? You may stumble upon a recipe that becomes a new favorite.

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Hard Water at Home? Handle It with These Tips

May 20, 2016 1:28 am

Certain areas of the U.S. contain soil replete with calcium and magnesium—two contributors to hard water, or water with a high mineral content, at home. Though hard water poses no health risks, it can damage a home’s plumbing system if not addressed.

“Homeowners and renters who do not have a home water softener or water purification system are probably very familiar with the tough, white residue left over by hard water,” says Josh Kelly of Parker & Sons, an Ariz.-based home services company. “The severity of hard water is measured in grains-per-gallon, or, as we call it in the industry, GPG.”

Severe mineral build-up can accelerate the deterioration of pipes. It can also restrict water flow, creating pressure within the home’s plumbing system.

“There are many different options when it comes to dealing with hard water,” Kelly says. “We suggest doing researching and picking out the method that is best for your home.”

One option is an ion exchange water softener, which removes calcium and magnesium ions and replaces them with sodium ions. The result is softened water with higher sodium content. It is important to note, cautions Kelly, that individuals on a doctor-prescribed low-sodium diet should ask their physician before using.

It is also wise to leave the installation to a professional, Kelly says.

“It is always a good idea to consult with a professional, especially when it comes time to install your water softening system.

“Quality of life will improve almost immediately,” Kelly adds. “Say goodbye to unsightly white deposits on your dishes and glassware, and say hello to clean, soft, delicious-tasting water.”

Source: Parker & Sons

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Maintenance 101: A Structurally Sound Deck

May 20, 2016 1:28 am

(BPT)—A deck isn’t just a bonus for homeowners—it’s sought after by homebuyers, too. In fact, at resale, a wood deck addition can recoup up to 75 percent of its cost, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report.

For maximum return-on-investment, maintain your deck’s structure with the long-term in mind, recommends the Softwood Lumber Board (www.woodnaturally.com).

To start, inspect your deck each year. Go underneath to make sure beams, boards, connectors, fasteners, joists, posts and railings are all stable, says David Finkenbinder, branch engineer with Simpson Strong-Tie, a structural connecting system manufacturer.

“The ledger connection is where the deck connects to the house,” Finkenbinder explains. “It is one of the most common failure points on a poorly built deck. It's very important to use structural screws, rather than nails, to secure your deck ledger board to your home.”

Like a house, a deck should support the weight it will need to carry. The deck should be load-tested, with structural connectors and fasteners spanning from the house to the posts in the ground.

Metal connectors, nails and screws can corrode over time due to the elements, weakening the deck’s structure. Connectors with a zinc-galvanized coating and hot-dip-galvanized fasteners resist this corrosion. If you live along the coast or near a body of water, consider using stainless steel connectors and fasteners.

A licensed contractor or your local building authority can assess your deck to ensure it is up to code. You may also want to review the “DCA 6: - Prescriptive Residential Deck Construction Guide,” a publication by the American Wood Council, at www.awc.org/codes-standards/publications/dca6.

Beyond those measures, the Softwood Lumber Board advises regular maintenance, and a cleaning and/or staining or sealing once a year.

If you have more questions regarding the structure or safety of your deck, consult a professional. He ors he can thoroughly inspect the structure, as well as recommend repairs and estimate costs, if needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Sit Back, Relax…and Find Your Own "Zen" at Home

May 19, 2016 1:28 am

Our ever-hectic lives underscore the need for relaxation spaces at home—especially in the bedroom. In fact, that bedroom “zen” we’re all after trumps the need for sleep for nearly half of Americans surveyed in a recent report.

Many of us have tried to create a more restful space in our bedrooms (60 percent, according to the survey), but often, professional and personal demands foil those plans. Those surveyed seek “calmness” and “comfort” above features like “better functionality,” “excitement” and “organization.”

Achieving that coveted calm doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility, says Elizabeth Mayhew, author, decorator and partner of The Saatva Company, which conducted the survey. She advises these tips:

• Select a harmonious color palette. Natural colors in cool, soft tones, such as gray, white or shades of beige or blue, have the power to induce a sense of calm.

• Look for fundamental furniture with clean, simple lines and no excess ornamentation.

• Avoid strong direct light from the ceiling, which can inhibit relaxation, and combine soothing ambient light with the room’s natural light.

Don’t neglect the bed, adds Mayhew. Mattresses manufactured today marry comfort with advanced, eco-friendly technology, which lends to the overall zen vibe.

Source: The Saatva Company

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Still Spring Cleaning? Tips to Donate Excess

May 19, 2016 1:28 am

Has your spring cleaning produced an ever-growing pile of usable items? Donate them!

When donating non-cash items, it’s important to be mindful of your chosen charity’s specific needs. According to CharityNavigator.org, remember:

Ask First – Contact the charity first before delivering your donations. Let them know what you have to offer, so that they can decide if your items are needed.

Think Locally – It makes little sense for you (or the charity) to travel long distances to retrieve and haul items—some of which may not even be useful to the charity!

Consider Tax Implications – There are regulations behind deducting non-cash donations. Consult the CharityNavigator.org “Tips for Donors” page to learn more about these tax benefits.

Bear in mind that in many cases, a cash donation is preferable to a non-cash one, especially when responding to natural disasters. Monetary donations give charities the flexibility to spend on what they need, rather than forcing them to use items that may not be ideal.

To mutually benefit, hold a garage or yard sale to convert items to cash first, and then donate the money to the charity directly.

Visit CharityNavigator.org’s advanced search tool to find organizations by mission or close to home. Each charity’s profile page includes contact information, so you can follow up directly with the organization of your choosing.

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5 Pre-Summer Checks for a Well-Insulated Home

May 19, 2016 1:28 am

El Niño’s effect on the U.S. has been mild so far, but it is expected to bring above-average temperatures to many regions this summer—and homeowners should be prepared.

One of the simplest ways to beat the heat at home is with adequate insulation, says Patrick Pitrone, president of USA Insulation.

“Most people associate insulation with keeping things warm,” Pitrone says. “However, it is equally important when it comes to ensuring your family is cool and comfortable in the summer. We've helped customers save thousands of dollars in energy costs, making insulation one of the best investments you'll never see.”

Minimum insulation standards are not as effective as they could be, adds Pitrone. Homeowners should conduct checks in these areas before the heat wave sets in:

Attic – Confirm the insulation in your attic is at least 12 inches thick. Generally, there are 15-20 inches of insulation in a well-insulated home, Pitrone says.

Band Joist – This is the area where the basement ceiling meets the basement wall. Check to see if there is an open cavity or space—there shouldn't be!

Basement – It may not be the most fun to navigate your way through your basement crawl space, but it's important to inspect, says Pitrone.

Ductwork – Make sure there are no holes or areas of exposure in your duct system—this can leak 30 percent of the cool air generated by your A/C.

Walls – Remove a switch plate (or drill a small hole) to determine whether or not there is insulation in the walls. Remember that even if there is insulation, it may be insufficient.

Beyond these checks, consider contacting a professional to do a thorough insulation assessment. He or she can recommend best options for your home’s specific needs.

Source: USA Insulation

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5 Tips to Prevent Electrical Fires

May 18, 2016 1:28 am

Did you know that approximately 50,000 home fires each year start from an electrical source?

That’s according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which estimates half of those fires involve cords, plugs or other electrical equipment.

To protect your loved ones and your property, the NFPA advises the following safeguards:

1. Hire a qualified electrician to complete any repairs or replacements to the electrical system in the home.

2. Purchase light bulbs with the same power (wattage) recommended by the manufacturer for fixtures throughout the home.

3. Run cords away from areas in which they can potentially be damaged, such as under doorways or rugs.

4. Consult appliance operator manuals to determine best practices for plugging and unplugging devices. Plug in just one heat-producing device into an outlet at any given time.

5. Insert outlet covers or install childproof outlets, if applicable. Consider, too, having a professional install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), which cut off electricity in hazardous circumstances.

Source: NFPA

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