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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 | email: mary@marysouthern.com

Mary's Blog

Real Estate for Your World

Where Are the Most Family-Friendly Beaches?

April 11, 2017 12:54 am

Looking to take your family on a quick beach getaway this year? You’re not alone.

"Beach vacations are at the top of so many families' must-do list throughout the year," explains Lissa Poirot, editor-in-chief of Family Vacation Critic. "Whether for a day trip or a longer vacation, our list aims to help families narrow down the options to find beaches that truly are fantastic for families – every beach has lifeguards, in addition to kid-friendly activities and a selection of lodging options nearby. These beaches go beyond just a day on the sand, but offer some really fun features for families to enjoy together."

The following is Family Vacation Critic’s list of this year's winning beaches:

Long Beach Island, New Jersey (Long Beach Island, N.J.)
Insider Tip: The Surflight Theatre – and its popular Show Place Ice Cream Parlour – will reopen in 2017, presenting live children's performances all summer long.

Ponce Inlet, Florida (Ponce Inlet, Fla.)
Insider Tip: The Marine Science Center offers families the chance to learn about the area's sea turtles and other native wildlife.

Jones Beach State Park, New York (Wantagh, N.Y.)
Insider Tip: Kids can touch live marine animals, dig up whale bones and walk through the butterfly garden at Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, right in Jones Beach State Park.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
Insider Tip: Families can enjoy the new Lefty's Alley and Eats – just a short drive from Rehoboth – with bowling lanes, a state-of-the-art arcade, a two-story laser tag arena and an on-site restaurant.

Coronado Beach, California (Coronado, Calif.)
Insider Tip: New in 2017, visitors can transform into a mermaid as part of Hotel del Coronado's Mermaid Fitness classes – cardio and core exercise classes while wearing a mermaid fin.

Balboa Beach, California (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Insider Tip: The area's famous Balboa Fun Zone amusement area has been entertaining families for decades, with its Ferris wheel, arcades and shopping.

North Beach Park, Wisconsin (Racine, Wis.)
Insider Tip: The Wind Point Lighthouse is one of the oldest and tallest active lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and is open for guided tours the first Sunday of every month from June through October.

Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts (Eastham, Mass.)
Insider Tip: Cape Cod National Seashore offers a wide range of ranger-guided activities, including guided walks, campfires and canoe trips.

Weirs Beach, New Hampshire (Weirs Beach, N.H.)
Insider Tip: Half Moon Amusement Arcades offers families the fun of two arcades – the Penny Arcade and the Family Fun Center – with more than 250 games combined.

Seaside Beach, Oregon (Seaside, Ore.)
Insider Tip: Families can visit the Seaside Aquarium to explore its hands-on discovery center and interact with its resident seals.

Source: Family Vacation Critic

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Are Your April Showers Inside? Time to Evaluate Your Roof

April 10, 2017 12:54 am

It is said that April showers bring May flowers, but they can also produce leaks or signs that indicate a roof repair or replacement is required.

The experts at Sarasota, Florida's Sonshine Roofing (sonshineroofing.com) say that any buckling, curling, rotted, or missing shingles are sure signs of something going wrong underneath - which exposes the rest of the house to water invasion during heavy precipitation.

Folks at APCO Home Improvement Company in Columbus, Ohio (apco.com) say if your roof is pushing twenty, twenty-five years, it’s time to let it go, especially if you’re not the original homeowner. The company says old roofs start experiencing all kinds of disrepair; some of it is obvious, but some stays well-hidden until it’s too late.

Brown Rooftops serving Georgia and South Carolina astutely point out that your gutter system is an extension of your rooftop, so one affects the other. If there are any granules or obvious and excessive debris in your gutters, you could be looking at replacements for your roof, your gutter, and more exterior issues.

The California Shingle & Shake Company (calshingle.com) says there is no simple answer to cost out a roofing project. A typical bid should be based on square footage, the pitch of the roof, accessibility, type of roofing material needed, 1- or 2-story home, removal of old roof (if necessary), roof permit and city license, and labor.
In their neck of the woods, the average cost to replace a roof runs from approximately $2,000 to $12,000 depending on the size of the roof and the quality of the workmanship and materials.

Calshingle.com suggests that if you suspect or know you need a repair, get detailed quotes from at least two or three different contractors, and compare estimates with special attention paid to materials used and labor costs.

Make sure you also talk to people who have used the contractors you are considering. Ask if they had any complaints, and if the contractors cleaned up nicely, finished on time and kept to the contract.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Buying Property in Another Country? What you Need to Know

April 10, 2017 12:54 am

Maybe you have a close family member living in Mexico. Or perhaps skiing in Vancouver is your favorite winter vacation spot. Maybe you have a child attending school in London. Or maybe you want to retire to the small town in China that your ancestors are from.

No matter what the reason may be, more and more Americans are looking to purchase property outside of the U.S. And as the world becomes an increasingly connected place, it’s become easier to do so.

According to the 2016 National Association of REALTORS Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate, approximately 14 percent of REALTORS® reported that they had a client who was seeking to purchase property in another country, compared to six percent in the previous 12-month period. The report also revealed that 46 percent of Americans bought a home outside of the U.S. as a vacation or investment home.

Looking to spread your wings and explore homeownership in another corner of the world? Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

Find the right local real estate professional. You’ll need an excellent point person in the country you’re considering. The best way to find this person might be right here at home. Talk to your local real estate professional first - he or she might be part of a global network that has affiliates in other parts of the world.

Find out if there’s a real estate association representing your destination country in the U.S. These organizations are in the U.S. to support real estate transactions from and to their countries. They can be an incredible resource for your mission.

If you’re not fluent in the language of the country in which you want to purchase a home, find someone who is. The language of real estate in particular varies from country to country so having an interpreter is essential.

Consider the value of the dollar where you’re headed. If the dollar is weak, you may want to hold off on your decision to purchase until the economic picture shifts. Conversely, if the dollar is faring well, you may want to accelerate your plans.

Enlist U.S. home search engines that have international listings - like realtor.com and LeadingRE.com. Not only will these sites provide you with listings to peruse, they’ll serve as a resource for information on currency and customs, and connect you with real estate professionals to work with.

So when it comes to your next home purchase, think global but enlist local resources. For more information on real estate listings, contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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3 Things to Know About Driverless Vehicles

April 10, 2017 12:54 am

From smart home features to the latest app, the future is sneaking up on us fast. But driverless vehicles are arguably one of the most controversial technological advancements on the horizon. Below are three things that you need to know about driverless vehicles, courtesy of Zane’s Law.

Driverless vehicle technology is here now. The primary limitation is that it is extremely expensive to make driverless vehicles safe.  One current obstacle to a world of driverless vehicles is the current inability to manufacture true driverless vehicles at price point that is affordable to most consumers.  The current Google driverless car needs over $200,000 in equipment to be able to drive.  It uses a Velodyne 64-beam laser to create a 3D map of the vehicle's surrounding environment, which is a must in order for the vehicle to be able to drive autonomously.

The driverless car design that manufacturers seem to have in mind is a car without a steering wheel or pedals. A driverless car is unlikely to be able to avoid an accident with a car driven by human who makes a mistake.  A human driver would make a decision.  Are we as a society ready to accept the decision in this scenario being made by the manufacturer who programs it into the car's computer before you ever set foot in the vehicle?

Driverless cars will initially make congestion worse. Simulations have shown that, until most vehicles on the road are driverless, driverless vehicles will create bigger traffic jams than we currently have. But as driverless vehicles become the majority, experts believe the consumer will eventually have an improved commute.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Seasonal Sport Safety

April 7, 2017 12:51 am

For those interested in seasonal sports like skiing or snowboarding, it’s important to keep safety top-of-mind in order to avoid an injury.

Knee injuries, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are the most common injury for skiers due to the twisting motion of the sport. Snowboarders typically experience more impact-related injuries to their wrists and shoulders from falls.

Meredith Bean, MD, specializes in treating injuries from sports, including skiing and snowboarding injuries. Here are Dr. Bean's top five tips to avoid skiing and snowboarding injuries:

Be prepared: The best way to prevent snow sport injuries from occurring is to be physically fit before hitting the slopes. Prior to your trip up the mountain, incorporate strengthening, agility, balance, and endurance exercises to your workout routine.

Use proper equipment: All skiers and snowboarders should use a helmet, but be aware that helmets do not provide full protection at higher speeds. She encourages snowboarders, especially beginners who may fall often, to wear wrist guards to help prevent wrist fractures, as those are the most common injury she sees for that sport. Skiers should use pole straps appropriately to avoid thumb injuries.

Keep hydrated: When it's cold, you may not feel as thirsty but your body is still losing water through sweating and breathing. If you can see your breath, that's water leaving the body. So when heading out to the slopes, drinking lots of water is important to reduce muscle fatigue and injury.

Stay in control: Know your fitness and ability limits and stay within them.

Stop if you're tired: Many snow sports injuries occur on the final run of the day. This often is due to fatigue or a change in conditions on the mountain, which can lead to a lack of focus or control and result in injuries. If you are tired, but considering one last run, it is best to play it safe and call it a day.

Source: Saint Francis Memorial Hospital 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Spring Cleaning Tips to Save on Energy Expenditure

April 7, 2017 12:51 am

Spring cleaning can do more than clear out your closets; it can also lower your energy expenditure, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in the bank.  

Gentec Services recommends five things homeowners can do during spring cleaning to save money:

Clean or change heating and air conditioning filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. Residential heating and cooling systems account for over 50 percent of the energy costs in the average Bay Area home. A properly maintained system can be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than one that is not properly taken care of.

Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills. Replacing older water fixtures with low-flowing ones is a relatively low-cost and quick way for your home to conserve water and save money. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Reduce water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and money on heating water. It's also a good practice to wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed, insulated thermal blanket to retain the heat.

Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Install a security alarm system. By setting an alarm system to "arm" upon leaving the home, this event can command lights to turn off. Additionally, when you cross a predetermined "Geo Fence" (set by the homeowner) the physical location of the homeowner's phone can easily turn off lights, lamps, plugs and appliances as well. It's always good practice to turn off electronics whenever possible. A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. In addition to turning off lights manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers and other automatic lighting controls.

Source: Gentec Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Take a Holistic Approach to Retirement Planning

April 7, 2017 12:51 am

(Family Features)--Although retirement is a milestone for all working adults, decades of hard work may not pay off if you haven't planned for your financial needs once a regular paycheck stops coming.

According to research by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), millions of Baby Boomers stepping into their retirement years have unrealistic expectations and lack a full understanding of the danger of running out of money during retirement. However, the challenges do not stop with Baby Boomers. A recent study indicated 47 percent of Gen-Xers and more than half of Millennials believe a secure retirement is beyond their reach.

"Most people recognize the need to grow their wealth before retirement, but getting there isn't always a clear path," says Cathy Weatherford, IRI president and CEO. "Starting early and taking a holistic approach to financial planning is truly essential for a safe and dignified retirement."

Experts generally concur that it's never too early to begin planning for retirement, but depending on your stage of life, your approach may vary. Consider this advice from the experts at IRI to get on a path toward financially secure retirement.

Student

Forming good money habits can set you up for a lifetime of success. An act as simple as putting spare change in a jar can help you start saving. Talk to adults you trust about how to create a budget and work toward a financial goal. Auto insurance and cell phone bills are important expenses to factor into your budget.

Building a career

Once you have a solid budget, stick to it and set aside some money to save. Compound interest adds up over time and the earlier you start compounding, the better. Credit will also start to play more of a factor in your life, as major expenses like buying a house or car, or starting a business rely greatly on your credit.

Mid-career

At this stage, your employer may offer a retirement savings plan. Whether you have various investments to manage or not, you should start to look at your building your portfolio and retirement plan. This mid-career life stage is a good time to set a retirement savings goal, and now is also the time to consider hiring a financial advisor.

A professional can help you explore less understood but worthwhile approaches to holistic retirement planning such as annuities. Annuities are essentially insurance contracts that come in different types and offer several options to meet a variety of financial objectives. They are a guarantee of income as you age.

Late career

At this stage, you probably have a better idea as to when you will be able to retire, but it's important to review your savings on an annual basis and make adjustments, if needed, to stay on track. As you approach retirement, you'll want to research Social Security, Medicare and long-term care options to ensure you have a comprehensive view of your future finances.

Ready for retirement

If you haven't already done so, the time has come to better research your Social Security benefits (and when it's best to start accessing them), Medicare coverage and long-term care options. This is the time to start making some choices, such as whether you will downsize your home and how to eliminate as much debt as possible. One of the more complex aspects surrounding retirement can be determining which of your accounts to tap and in what order, and a professional can help guide you.

Explore more resources and tools to aid your retirement planning at retireonyourterms.org.


Source: Insured Retirement Institute
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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What’s the Deal with Ceiling Paper?

April 6, 2017 12:48 am

You may have heard that wallpaper is making a comeback. But have you heard about wallpapered ceilings? Technically, this trend is called ceiling paper, and it can transform a room in the same way papered walls can.

Highlight a space. Do you have a home office tucked to one side of your family room? How about a cozy reading nook? Add colorful ceiling paper to one portion of a room to divide the space naturally.

Make a statement. Just like a colorful throw cushion on a neutral couch, jazzy ceiling paper can make a “boring” room bold. Choose a fun print or color that shows off your personality and style.

Accent, accent, accent. Tie your ceiling paper into the rest of your decorating scheme by choosing the right accent color. Whether you go with a solid, stripes or a soft pattern, a papered ceiling done up right can complete the look of a room.

When wallpapering a ceiling, it may be best to bring in a pro, as the application can be tricky. If you’re a diligent weekend warrior and feel like going DIY, make sure to properly prep your ceiling for application by removing any paint and electrical fixtures. Experts also suggest creating a ceiling blueprint for precise application.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How Your Business Can Prep for an Online PR Crisis

April 6, 2017 12:48 am

As a business owner, you’re likely in constant preparation mode. Having an online crisis plan in place is a necessity, according to MarxLayne.com. When dealing with a disrupting event that spreads online, organizations should consider the following fundamental guidelines:

1. Actively listen for "brand" mentions
If you want to mitigate trouble online, you must be alert to what is being said about your organization. Are online conversations taking place about your "brand?" If so, are they positive or negative?

2. Monitor your social spaces constantly 
It's critical to constantly monitor what people are commenting and sharing. To help expedite, numerous social medial listening tools — like Google Analytics, Social Mention, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Topsy — can identify trends.

3. Have a consisten presence
Nothing looks worse than an organization that never communicates except when absolutely forced to do so. An active and steady presence on the social pages you own will help you be better prepared for a potential crisis.

4. Respond swiftly
This is perhaps one of the most important ways to avoid a crisis. Just like with the news media, even if you don't have an immediate answer, just letting people know you are listening and care about what's going on will help soften stressful situations.

5. Include your communications and legal teams 
Being prepared for an online crisis means establishing a protocol in advance that includes not only your social/online specialists, but also your PR and legal teams. Concise messaging that is consistent with the organization's policies and positions is essential to any crisis strategy.

6. Have a plan of action 
Make certain you have a detailed plan on how you will execute if an online crisis occurs, including:

- Establishing the crisis team. In addition to your online, PR and legal teams, think about who else needs to be included. Consider every area of your organization.

- Knowing the chain of command in a crisis. What should the approval process look like? Who should be responsible for what? And what does the timeline look like?

- Brainstorming potential scenarios. In any organization, there are dozens — if not more — of potential situations that could develop into a crisis. Work with your team to identify these scenarios and develop a "response template.

Source: MarxLayne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is Home Flipping for You?

April 5, 2017 12:42 am

While you may think that home flipping went the way of the dinosaurs after the real estate bust, flips actually rose 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2016, with gross profits averaging $62,624, according to research from ATTOM Data Solutions.

Home flipping enjoyed a boost last year thanks to low inventory in many areas of the country and an infusion of foreign and domestic capital, says ATTOM, who reported that roughly 6 percent of condo and single-family home sales in 2016 were flips - the highest share in three years.

Hot markets in California - like San Jose, San Diego, and San Francisco - along with cities such as Baltimore, Md., Boston, Mass., New York, N.Y. and Seattle, Wash. earned more than $100,000 in profits. The most flipping took place Florida and Tennessee, where it comprised 11.7 percent of all sales in Memphis, Tenn.

Are you ready to get into the flipping game? Consider these pros and cons from The Balance:

Pro: Home flipping can be very lucrative, earning you a sizable sum of money within a very short period of time

Con: Conversely, when a flip becomes a “flop,” you can lose money. This can happen when unexpected expenses for home repairs or taxes arise, or when holding costs accrue from paying the mortgage and other expenses for a longer than anticipated period of time.

Pro: Home flipping is a great learning experience and will sharpen your skills on all things real estate, including construction, related finances and the local market.

Con: The process can be very stressful. There will be bumps along the way and there is always a risk involved, so make sure you’re ready for the roller coaster ride.

If you’d like more detailed real estate information about your market, please contact me.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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