Mary Southern
Mary Southern
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack, PA 19474
Phone: 610-207-2110 |Office Phone: 610-584-1160 | Fax: 484-991-1837
Cell: 610-207-2110 |

Mary's Blog

Real Estate for Your World

7 Emergency Preparedness Tips for Your Household

October 1, 2015 1:39 am

It’s never too soon to prepare for an emergency. According to The Red Cross, one of the most common emergencies faced by families every day is a home fire – but unlike other disasters, home fires can often be prevented.

To stay safe, The Red Cross recommends these tips:

• Check existing smoke alarms and make sure to install one on every floor, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.

• Practice fire drills at home several times a year to reduce evacuation time to less than two minutes and pick a place to meet outside.

• Fire escape plans should include two ways to get out of every room; consider escape ladders for bedrooms and homes on the second floor or above.

Additionally, every household should at least have the basics in place:

• Put together an emergency preparedness kit that contains food, water and other basic supplies to last at least three days.

• Ensure each kit includes essential medicines, copies of important documents and special items for children and pets.

• Plan to stay safe and communicate during disasters. Decide what to do if your family becomes separated or needs to evacuate.

• Coordinate plans with your place of employment and your child’s school, and know local emergency plans. Understand and be informed on the disasters that affect your local area and how to access guidance and information during an emergency.

“Preparedness is an ‘all of us’ activity, not just something for emergency preparedness professionals. There are simple things families can do now to prevent emergencies and make their lives better in the aftermath of a disaster,” says Russ Paulsen, Executive Director, Community Preparedness and Resilience Services for The Red Cross.

Source: The Red Cross

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Home Under-Insulated?

October 1, 2015 1:39 am

A home’s best defense against energy loss is its insulation - but an astounding 90 percent of homes today are under-insulated, according to a recent North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) report. An under-insulated home wastes energy and money, and decreases overall comfort.

“The fall is when many homeowners around the country begin thinking about home improvements to increase comfort and reduce their energy bills as temperatures drop come winter,” says Curt Rich, president and CEO of NAIMA. “Research like this should reinforce our message to homeowners, and to policymakers, that added insulation has real and significant benefits.

“People don’t see insulation, so they don’t think about it,” continues Rich. “They see windows and doors, so they think about those items. The reality is that insulation has a three times greater impact on the average home’s energy and comfort than windows or doors do.”

Rich encourages homeowners to assess their insulation needs by first inspecting their attics. Increasing insulation in your own home can have widespread impact.

“If all U.S. homes were fitted with insulation based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), residential electricity use nationwide would drop by about 5 percent and natural gas use by more than 10 percent,” says Dr. Jonathan Levy, professor of Environmental Health at Boston University School of Public Health and a lead researcher on the subject.

Source: NAIMA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Tracking Down a Lost Life Insurance Policy

September 30, 2015 1:36 am

Life insurance benefits are sometimes left unclaimed after the passing of a loved one, simply because the beneficiaries were unaware of the existence of a policy. This is an unfortunate situation under any circumstance, but can be especially troubling if dependents have been left struggling financially. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), beneficiaries can track down a lost policy with these tips.

1. Look for insurance-related documents.
Search through files, bank safe deposit boxes and other storage places to see if there are any insurance-related documents. Also, check address books where insurance agents or companies may be listed. The insurance professional who sold the deceased their auto or home insurance may be able to confirm the existence of a life insurance policy.

2. Contact the most recent employer. If the deceased was working at the time of death, he or she might have been covered by an employer-sponsored life insurance policy. If not, it’s possible the deceased might have converted their employer-sponsored life insurance into a permanent individual life insurance policy when the job ended.

3. Review bank books and canceled checks.
Look for any checks that were made payable to a life insurance company over the years.

4. Check with the state’s unclaimed property office.
If a life insurance company knows one of its life insurance policyholders has died but cannot find the beneficiary, the company must turn the death benefit over as “unclaimed property” to the state in which the policy was bought. If you know where the individual life insurance policy was purchased, you can contact that state’s government to see if it has any unclaimed money from life insurance policies belonging to the deceased. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration is a good place to start.

5. Try the MIB database.
The not-for-profit MIB Group, Inc., a consortium of life and health insurers, maintains a database of individual life insurance applications underwritten since 1996 by MIB member companies. There is a fee of $75 per search. For more information, go to MIB's Consumer Protection page.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Way to Cut Household Energy Costs

September 30, 2015 1:36 am

Think a new home appliance is out of your budget? Think again.

According to a recent report by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), appliances produced today consume significantly lower amounts of energy than appliances made a decade ago. In fact, if homeowners were to replace a 10-year-old refrigerator, dishwasher and washing machine with one of today’s models, they’d save an average of $140 a year on their electricity bills.

Homeowners don’t have to skimp on size to become energy-efficient, either, reads the AHAM report. Refrigerators, for instance, have grown 20 percent in capacity over the last 20 years, but have maintained a steady decrease in energy consumption since then. Washing machine tub volumes have grown by over 40 percent in the last 20 years, becoming more energy-efficient over that time period, as well.

New technologies have also made it possible for appliances to reduce energy consumption. Take dishwashers, for example. Many new models have stainless steel interiors that dry dishes faster, and soil sensors that use only as much water as needed.

All of these findings point to long-term savings for homeowners. As household expenses rise, can you really afford not to replace dated appliances?

Source: AHAM

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Be Left Out in the Cold without a Home Warranty

September 30, 2015 1:36 am

No one wants their home’s heating system to break down, especially in late fall and winter months. In truth, homeowners have no way of knowing when a general malfunction or system leak will strike, so it’s important to purchase a home warranty, says the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC).

"A home warranty is the best way to protect your home, and your peace of mind, from costly unforeseen damages," says SCIC Executive Director Timothy Meenan. “On a brisk fall night, the last thing you want to worry about is having a broken heater with no coverage for repairs."

Home warranties can shield you from expensive bills and long wait times for repairs. The benefits of having coverage for your home go beyond saving time and money – a home warranty also adds value to your home and is transferable to a new owner.

"Many real estate deals now include home warranties," adds Meenan. "A home warranty provides a double benefit, making your life easier while you own the home and then enhancing its value if you decide to sell."

Source: SCIC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Travel Philanthropy: A New Way to Give Back

September 29, 2015 1:36 am

“Travel philanthropy” – a budding movement among American millennials, families and affluent households – gives new meaning to giving back.

According to a recent study by Tourism Cares, “Good Travels: The Philanthropic Profile of the American Traveler,” more Americans are giving away time, money or goods while on vacation. More than half (55 percent) of respondents to the study reported volunteering for or giving to a destination they visited for leisure. The study noted a high degree of informal giving – 48 percent of respondents gave back directly to individuals or families, while others supported cultural, religious or nonprofit organizations.

Of all philanthropic travelers, millennials are the most generous with their time, money and in-kind donations than any other generation. Per the study, more than 80 percent volunteered or gave in-kind, and just below 80 percent donated cash during a recent trip. On average, millennials volunteer more than double the hours and donate nearly three times the money and more than four times the supplies that 55-plus travelers do.

Families with children also exhibit generosity when traveling – but it doesn’t end when the vacation is over. Upon returning home, 46 percent keep tabs on causes they donated to and 34 percent give more to the same cause. Additionally, nearly half of parents in these families plan to increase discussions with their children about community needs, as well as their children's engagement in giving activities.

Those with household incomes over $100,000 are especially attuned to giving back abroad and at home: 55 percent felt it extremely or very important to give help to communities. More than 40 percent of households in the $150,000-plus income bracket plan to engage their children in more charitable activities in the future.

Source: Tourism Cares

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Be a Good Neighbor: 5 Yard Etiquette Rules

September 29, 2015 1:36 am

Whether it’s a lawnmower wake-up call or a pile of leaves blown onto your lawn, there’s nothing more frustrating than a neighbor with poor yard etiquette. But this breach of neighborliness, according to a recent Lowe’s study, is actually more common than you think. To remain courteous to your neighbors – and (hopefully) earn the same treatment in return – the experts at Lowe’s have laid down the following rules:

1. Never blow leaves into a neighbor's yard and leave them there.

2. Neighbor's plants are not to be used for table arrangements.

3. Set boundaries with your sprinkler system to avoid saturating a neighbor's property.

4. Clean up after your pets.

5. Park cars in the garage, driveway or street, but never your lawn.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Tips for Homeowners Rebuilding after a Storm

September 29, 2015 1:36 am

As important as it is to make home repairs as soon as possible following a natural disaster, it is also important to take some time to plan the project, consult with local officials and choose a contractor wisely, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Before you start:

• Contact the local permitting office. Follow all local and state requirements.

• Check with your local building official to make sure your work is safe and meets all local and state codes and requirements.

• Look for a contractor with an established physical address. Ask for references and contact them.

• Get bids from more than one person. Make sure they are in writing and specify exactly what will be done. Beware of a low-ball price, and never pay the full price in advance.

When building:

• Consider using building materials that are more resistant to flood, wind, corrosion and decay.

• If siding or roof sheathing needs replacement, consider installing hurricane/seismic connectors at the rafter-to-wall or truss-to-wall connections. Adding wall-to-foundation ties may also be necessary.

• Windows, doors and skylights should be checked for leaks. If they need replacement, consider impact-resistant units.

• Check your attic for adequate insulation. Straps should be added from rafters to wall top plates, and gable end-wall framing should be braced.

• Inspect soffits to determine if structural upgrades are necessary.

• If you live in a flood-prone area, elevate appliances such as air conditioners.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Ways to Improve Your Sleep Environment

September 28, 2015 1:30 am

If sleep disturbances regularly prevent you from getting the proper amount of shut-eye, you’re not alone. In fact, 75 percent of adults experience sleep disruptions caused by allergy symptoms, trips to the restroom and temperature discomfort – and nearly a quarter say they rarely wake up feeling well-rested, according to a recent AllerEase® survey.

To improve your sleep environment, Dr. Neeta Ogden, a board-certified adult and pediatric allergy and asthma specialist, advises a three-pronged approach.

"My top recommendation for those suffering from respiratory congestion at night is to try a three-step plan: use zippered allergen barrier bed protectors, nasal saline spray, and remove allergens from your bedroom such as pets and carpets," says Dr. Ogden. "Simple changes can have a year-round impact on quality sleep and living."

Dr. Ogden also recommends addressing other common causes of sleep disruptions with the following tips.

• Wash bedding once per week, including comforters and duvet covers, to prevent household allergens from collecting in plush surfaces.

• Wash pillows monthly, or replace them every six months, if they are non-washable.

• Limit liquids and snacks close to bedtime to avoid overnight bathroom breaks.

• Identify optimal sleep temperature and adjust fan, heat or air-conditioning accordingly.

Source: AllerEase®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Preserve Character when Renovating Your Home

September 28, 2015 1:30 am

(Family Features) A self-taught home rehabber, licensed real estate agent and designer Nicole Curtis, star of HGTV's "Rehab Addict," has made an art of introducing the comforts and conveniences of modern living while restoring homes to their former glory.

Whether you're giving new life to a historic treasure or sprucing up a more modern home, there are many ways to retain the integrity of the original design while keeping your renovation within budget.

Take hardwood flooring, for example. Many homeowners can’t wait to tear out a dingy carpet, but that carpet may actually be covering a hidden gem: original hardwood floors. Approach your renovation with a “What can I save?” rather than a “What can I lose?” mentality, says Curtis. Damaged sections of wood flooring can be patched using reclaimed wood from other parts of the home, or even the attic. A good sanding and a fresh coat of stain are all that’s needed to restore the original flooring.

Likewise, consider every alternative before installing a brand new feature in your home. A ductless system, for instance, is a modern upgrade that won’t destroy the existing structure and architectural integrity of the home.

"No ductwork makes my life so much easier," Curtis says. "There's less time and money spent on finding ductwork space and installing the systems, so we no longer have to sacrifice design."

When it comes to the kitchen, pause before you make plans to gut it. In the kitchen, you may be surprised by how sanding and staining or painting the existing cabinetry transforms the space. Keep in mind that lightly colored cabinets and countertops will make a small kitchen space feel larger, and you can bring pops of color into the room with the backsplash and décor, says Curtis.

Source: Mitsubishi Electric

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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