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

How to Avoid Problems with Your Spring Renovations and Repairs

March 12, 2018 1:33 am

As soon as winter weather starts giving way to fairer days, folks start itching to get any planned repairs, maintenance and renovations started.

If you want to protect yourself from rogue and incompetent builders, take some advice from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau's Howard Schwartz who suggests a few time-honored procedures.

Schwartz says it is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. Study these estimates to learn what type of work is needed, the quality of materials they plan to use, how long the job may take, and its total cost.

Schwartz says details may vary, but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Here are a few more tips:

Check to learn how long a contractor has been in business, contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details, and how the business responded.

Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers a ‘today only’ special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without giving you an opportunity to do your research.

Obtain references from recent customers. You may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently.

Get everything in writing. All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the type of work needed, the quality of materials, how long the job may take, specifics about the deposit and payment schedule ,and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

Pulling permits. Contractors should obtain necessary permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign.

Compare apples to apples. Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

Finally, avoid putting down a large deposit. Schwartz says a typical schedule follows the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is made when signing the contract, the second when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Ways to Embrace Snack Cravings

March 12, 2018 1:33 am

(Family Features)--While snacking can bring you joy, it can also leave you feeling guilty. There are, however, simple steps that can be taken to help fight this inner conflict and allow you to embrace snack time rather than trying to ignore your wants.

These tips from the snacking experts at Blue Diamond can help you choose flavorful snacks that satisfy your cravings.

Plan for the day ahead. No one knows your schedule better than you, so planning your snacks ahead of time can set you down the right path. Writing down your timeline for the day and choosing what you are having to eat can help. It can allow you to know how many snacks you need to pack and if it needs to be an on-the-go or sit-down food. Try packing your snacks the night before to cause less drama rushing around in the morning getting everything ready.

Focus on flavor. Keeping flavor-forward snacks, such as flavored roasted almonds, on-hand can help you feel satisfied and happy without that feeling of guilt you sometimes get immediately after snacking.

Mix and match. When planning your snacks, try a variety of flavor and texture combinations, think sweet and salty or creamy and crunchy, to see what fuels your body best. For example, homemade trail mix is one way to switch up what you are eating. It's easy to throw in something soft and sweet like marshmallows or add salt and crunch with pretzels or nuts. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Keep a snack at your desk. If you don't have time to pack different types of snacks each morning, try keeping a stash of your favorites at your desk. Look for options that are easy to store in a confined place, such as almonds, granola bars, crackers, popcorn or wafers.

Source: Blue Diamond

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Spring: Time to Rev Your 'High-Performing' Home

March 9, 2018 1:27 am

Did you know that just three basic home improvements - updating insulation, maintaining heating systems, and checking for proper ventilation and air sealing - can transform your humble abode into a "high-performing," clean, efficient and healthy home?

Experts at the utility company Eversource developed these three tips homeowners and renters can follow to make your home is high-performing:

1. Make sure your home is air-tight with proper insulation.
Don't let frosty air into your home. Sealing cracks and gaps in walls, attics, and crawl spaces as well as around wires, pipes, windows and door frames will help keep the warm inside air from escaping. Don’t forget about properly insulating those same walls, attics, crawl spaces and around your ducts too.

2. Keep on top of home energy maintenance.
Be sure you have your heating and cooling system serviced annually by a qualified professional. Clean or change air filters every three months or more often if you smoke or have pets. And consider upgrading to a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, which automatically adjusts the temperature and cuts down on energy usage when you’re not home.

3. Go for top quality indoor climate and air.
Enjoying clean air and a comfortable climate in your home begins with proper ventilation and air sealing, which not only keeps pollen and dust at bay, it also moderates humidity levels and temperature swings. Proper ventilation and air flow also reduces the chance for mold growth – whether it’s from leaky ducts or condensation in your attic and crawl spaces.

According to the U.S. EPA, there are many home pollutants that can accumulate in a poorly ventilated home and cause health problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose and throat, headaches, or fatigue. Other pollutants cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses (such as asthma), heart disease, cancer and other serious long-term conditions.

Learn more about household pollutants that may be compromising the air you breathe at

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prolong Your Laptop's Battery

March 9, 2018 1:27 am

If you're like most of us, your laptop is your lifeline. From working to browsing social media or tackling your favorite hobby, many of us spend hours behind our screen. So when the battery starts to go, it's normal to get nervous.

To help, Top 10 Hype has 10 simple tips for the "battery-nervous" laptop user:
  1. Turn off all unused features.
  2. Lower the display brightness.  
  3. Don't run more than a few apps at a time.
  4. Buy a solid state hard drive.
  5. Stay away from 4k display monitors.   
  6. Consider an always connect PC.  
  7. Use airplane mode whenever possible.
  8. High-end graphics cards are killers.  
  9. Don't worry about charging your laptop to 100 percent.  
  10. Lower your display brightness down to 50 percent (in case you missed No. 2).
Source: TOP 10 HYPE

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Credit Scores High

March 9, 2018 1:27 am

Did you know March is National Credit Education Month? In honor of the occasion, let’s review some of the top ways to keep your credit score soaring.  

The online consumer finance platform even launched a new consumer education website for Credit Education Month to better educate consumers about credit health. is designed as a first stop for consumers to educate themselves on the importance of actively managing credit, illustrating the impact of credit scores and what influences them, how to read a credit report, and how consumers can take control of their credit situation.

New York-based Fora Financial ( advises consumers to understand their personal credit score, which can range from 300 to 850. Fora says personal credit reports containing credit scores and details on what things affected that score can be accessed for free through various websites.

According to, the national average personal credit score in the U. S. is 695.

Fora's experts recommend checking that score frequently, even if you think your credit scores are sufficient. There could be an error on a credit report, or your score could fluctuate depending on whether or not you make payments on-time, among other factors.

If you’re serious about boosting your personal credit score, Fora Financial says a good place to start is by paying bills early or on-time. If paying bills late is a bad habit, set up payment reminders through banking portals so you’re notified before a payment is due.

And while reducing debt is easier said than done, Fora's experts say paying off an outstanding balance can be a great way to improve your credit score. Even if it is reducing it by small amounts, it is important to make an effort to pay off debt.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Solutions to Combat Winter Skin Sensitivity

March 7, 2018 1:24 am

(Family Features)--The winter season is still here, and it's important to get in the habit of taking care of your skin. Cold weather brings low humidity levels and dry air, which can suck the moisture from your skin, and without proper care, skin can become dry, cracked and irritated, causing discomfort.

This winter, focus on a regimen that helps protect and hydrate skin so you can spend time enjoying the benefits of winter like family game night, snow days and snuggling by the fire.

These simple tips can be easily incorporated into your family's daily routine, keeping skin feeling soft and healthy.

Hydrate Inside and Out. Staying hydrated during the hot, summer months is a given, but it’s also important to remember that cold winter air can leave your skin parched. Use a humidifier to keep skin hydrated during the dry months and be sure to lather on moisturizer. Natural moisturizers like coconut oil and shea butter can act as protective barriers against harsh elements, sealing in moisture. In addition to hydrating on the outside, it’s just as important to stay hydrated on the inside. By drinking water throughout the day, your skin can stay healthy and moisturized.

Switch to a Mild Laundry Detergent. Many common detergents can be abrasive to sensitive skin, especially when it’s more vulnerable to irritation during the harsh winter months. Wash bed linens, towels and clothes with a mild detergent, especially during the winter months.

Avoid Toxins, Specifically Allergens and Irritants. Products that contain toxins, allergens and irritants should be avoided during months when skin is most sensitive. Choose moisturizers and skin care products that don't contain common irritants, and opt for mild cleansers and moisturizers that are specifically labeled for sensitive skin. Castor oil is another moisturizer alternative that’s natural and can be used on both the face and body.

Layer Up. Lock in moisture and protect your skin from wind, rain and snow by wearing layers whenever you venture outside. The skin on your neck, face and hands is thinner than other areas of the body and, therefore, more sensitive to the effects of winter weather. Thermals, scarves and gloves can keep you warm and protect your skin from the cold, dry air. For those with sensitive skin, avoid synthetic fabrics and itchy materials like wool, and wash clothes with a dermatologist-recommended detergent.

Source: all laundry

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Easier Family Travel

March 7, 2018 1:24 am

Traveling can be fun, but when you've got a large family in tow, it can be a headache and a hassle. The following tips from Dream Dinners can help ease the strain and make sure your vacation is fun for the whole family.

Consider a vacation rental over a hotel. Having access to an entire home means use of a fully stocked kitchen, the ability to store ingredients for homemade meals, and being able to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner together around the table more easily—which ultimately means spending less money eating out while on vacation.

Roll your clothes instead of folding. When you travel, too many items means going over your carry-on limit or overfilling your trunk. One way to minimize the number of suitcases without sacrificing the items you really need is to roll clothes instead of folding them. They take up less space and don't wrinkle as easily as folded clothes.

Pack your meals with you. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner means spending most of your travel budget on restaurants instead of family excursions and activities. Consider packing some of your meals with you, like pre-frozen meals. Simply pack them frozen in your cooler, store them at your vacation rental and pop them in the oven for a quick, easy, and stress-free family dinner.

Buy travel-friendly snacks in bulk. It's easy to overspend on snacks if you're buying from gas stations each time you stop for a break. Buying snacks in bulk and pre-packaging them in individual portion sizes is a great way to avoid paying premium prices once you're on the road.

Pack a picnic lunch. For a family of four, it’s easy to spend more than $30 even at the most inexpensive drive-through restaurants. Consider packing a picnic lunch instead. This can save money and it allows you to feed your family a healthier option.

Pack a toy per day for each child. To entertain the kids throughout the day, consider a trip to the dollar store to pick up a few new toys for each child. Pack them in individual zip-lock bags with the child's name and a day of the week on the outside. Opening a new toy each day means the kids will stay entertained and excited throughout your trip.

Pack reusable water bottles. This works for air travel or car travel. Bringing reusable water bottles that can be filled at water fountains or restaurants saves money and reduces waste.

Research fun games to play in the car. It's fun to go beyond the basics of I Spy and the License Plate Game. Try Road Trip Bingo or Twenty Questions. Both can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Source: Dream Dinners

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Planning a Spring Lawn Project? Tips to Put into Practice Now

March 7, 2018 1:24 am

If you plan to revamp your yard or lawn this spring, don't wait for the sun to come out. You can get started as the winter wanes for best results. Consider the following.

Book your landscapers. If you plan a big lawn or landscaping project this spring, book them now. Most landscapers get super busy as spring lands, so snap them up ASAP.  

Mulch. Once frost has stopped in your area, it's time to lay down some fresh mulch. This matter can protect your soil come summer, and keep weeds at bay.  

Fertilize. Your plants had a long, harsh winter. Make it up to them by laying down some fertilizer for some easy to access fuel.  

Reseed. Grass looking patchy? Now’s the time for reseeding to fill in any bald spots.  

Prune. Remove dead branches from your bushes, hedges and shrubs.

Powerwash. If you have a patio or deck that’s been exposed to the elements, it may need some TLC. Give it a power wash or re-sand it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Good Reasons to Take Social Security Early

March 6, 2018 1:18 am

Retirees can file for their Social Security benefits at any age between 62 and 70 or older.

The customary advice is to hold off as long as possible, because the longer you wait to claim your benefits, the larger your monthly check will be—and the difference can be considerable.

But there are three good scenarios, say personal finance experts at, when it makes good sense to take benefits earlier:  

You need the money. If you don’t have enough savings to live on, or can’t—or don’t want to—take another job, it makes sense to claim benefits at 62. But remember: if you do take a job before full retirement age—65 to 67 depending on when you were born—your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn above $16,920 (until you reach full retirement age.)

Longevity doesn’t run in your family. Experts suggest you do a break-even analysis of your benefits. Say, for example, you would be entitled to monthly benefits of $1,529 at age 62 as opposed to $2,273 at 67 and $2,873 at age 70. If you claim benefits at 62, you will have received over $100,000 by the time you’re 67. If you wait until you’re 67, it will take until you’re about 78 before the accumulated benefits would overtake the total you would have received if you had started taking benefits at 62. So, if you don’t expect to live until age 78—and that’s a tough call even if your parents died early—it makes sense to claim benefits earlier. Check your estimated benefits on the website of the Social Security Administration and run your own break-even analysis.  

You have plenty of money saved. If you have enough money to live on in retirement without your Social Security benefit, you may want to claim early anyway, and use the extra income to invest, buy long-term care insurance, or buy more life insurance. But it is a choice, because you will receive a higher monthly benefit the longer you wait. Also, if you’re married, remember that when you die, your spouse can choose the higher of their benefit or yours, so waiting longer to claim might be helpful to your spouse if you were the higher earner.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Aging in Place With Assistive Technology

March 6, 2018 1:18 am

(Family Features)--Most Americans want to stay in their homes as they age. Not a bad plan, but what if your home doesn't fit you as well as it once did?

Often, aging can be accompanied by a change in your ability to manage and move around in your home. That's where assistive technology—better known as AT—comes in. No matter your age or what type of disability you may have, chances are there’s an AT device out there that can help you with everyday tasks.

AT isn't a new concept. In fact, most people have probably used an assistive device without realizing it. Smartphones, voice command technology and certain types of software all fall under the AT umbrella. AT also includes plenty of low-tech devices, like adapted pencil grips for students with disabilities.

There's an ever-growing variety of AT tools available to help with household chores, work functions, getting around, seeing, hearing, learning and living independently in general. These devices and technologies are designed to help older adults and people with disabilities, but you may find that these tools can make life easier for anyone.

Examples of AT devices and tools include:

- Hearing aids
- Vehicle modifications, such as hand controls or wheelchair lifts
- Devices that help with bathing and eating
- Software modifications for those with hearing and visual challenges
- Equipment, such as grab bars in a shower, to help prevent falls
- Eyeglasses and magnification devices to help individuals with low vision
- Communication devices for individuals with speech disabilities
- Wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility devices

The right AT for you

At first, trying to find the right AT tools and solutions can feel overwhelming. The network of State Assistive Technology Act Programs is a good place to start. Your state AT Act program can provide information and support to help you identify and acquire AT that meets your needs.

These programs offer:

- Device demonstration and short-term loan programs that allow you to try out equipment before purchasing
- Reuse programs that provide gently used devices at substantial savings
- Financing options, such as cash loan programs, that can help you get the AT devices you need

You can find the AT Act Program in your state or territory at You'll also find additional information on state AT programs, data about the network of state AT programs and additional resources to help you find and obtain AT that fits your needs.

With more research and awareness around the importance of AT, the future possibilities for living independently in the place of your choosing are almost limitless.

Source: Administration for Community Living 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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