RE/MAX 440
Margie Kollar

Margie Kollar
1110 North Broad Street  Lansdale  PA 19446
Phone:  215-822-8171
Office:  215-362-2260
Cell:  215-620-5500
Fax:  267 354-6859

My Blog

How to Keep Winter Pests Out of Your Home

January 27, 2015 12:57 am

As temperatures across the country drop, winter pests, particularly rodents, search for warmer areas to set up shop – and your home may be vulnerable. Aside from being a nuisance, winter pests can chew through dry wall, insulation, wood and electrical wiring, effectively eating a hole in your wallet.

Keep your home pest-free this winter with these tips from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home to help prevent pests from getting inside. Be sure to check the areas where utilities and pipes enter the home – a mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
  • Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your home. Pests often take up residence in wood piles and can easily gain access to your home if the pile is nearby.
  • Rodents can hide in clutter, so keep storage areas well-organized and store boxes off of the floor.
  • Eliminate all moisture sites, including leakage pipes and clogged drains. Extra attention should be paid to kitchens and bathrooms, as these areas are particularly vulnerable to infestation.
  • Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens in windows.
  • Screen vents to chimneys. Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well-ventilated and dry.
Source: My Pest Pros

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Life Events That Can Affect Your Insurance

January 27, 2015 12:57 am

Life events can have a profound effect on insurance needs. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) advises policy holders to conduct an annual review of their coverage to assess any changes that could affect their financial footing.

Talk to your insurance provider about any or all of the following:

1. Driver’s Licenses – It’s generally cheaper to add your teenagers to your auto insurance policy than for them to purchase one on their own. If they’re going to be driving their own car, consider insuring it with your company for a multi-car discount. And choose the car carefully – the type of car a young person drives can dramatically affect the price of insurance.

2. New Jobs – If you started a new job or experienced some other significant change in your income, replace any ‘lost’ coverage from your former employer to your new employer with individual policies. In the case of an income increase, you may have taken on additional financial commitments that your beneficiaries will depend on. Make sure to review your life and disability insurance to ensure it is adequate to maintain those commitments.

3. Carpools – If you’re a frequent carpool driver, whether it is to work, school or other activities, your liability insurance should reflect the increased risk of additional passengers in the automobile. Check with your agent or representative to make sure your coverage is adequate.

4. Valuable Purchases – Have you acquired any new valuables, such as jewelry, electronic equipment, fine art or antiques? A standard homeowner policy offers only limited coverage for highly valuable items. If you made purchases or received gifts that exceed these limits, you should consider supplementing your policy with a floater, a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy, such as accidental loss. Before purchasing a floater, the items covered must be professionally appraised. Keep receipts and add the new items to your home inventory.

5. Rented Homes or Apartments - If you’re renting a home, your landlord is responsible for insuring the structure of the building, but not for insuring your possessions. Renters insurance is a good investment. Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes liability, which covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home, or elsewhere, by you and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court. It will also provide additional living expenses if you can’t live in your home in the event it is damaged by an insured disaster such as a fire.

6. Home Renovations – If you’ve made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, enclosing a porch or expanding a kitchen or bathroom, report those changes to your insurance company. And don’t overlook new structures outside of your home. If you built a gazebo, a new shed for your tools or installed a pool or hot tub, you should speak to your agent.

If, as part of a renovation, you purchase furniture, exercise equipment or electronics, you may need to increase the amount of insurance you have on your personal possessions. Keep receipts and add any new items to your home inventory.

7. Second Homes – If you’re searching for a vacation home or a second home you might retire to, research the availability and cost of homeowners insurance before you commit to the purchase. The very factors that make a vacation home seem ideal, whether it is a waterfront property or a mountain retreat, can often introduce risks that make it costly and difficult to insure – including the likelihood that it will be vacant for long periods of time.

If your new property is close to the water, be sure to ask about flood insurance. Damage to your home or belongings resulting from flood is not covered under standard homeowner insurance policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as some private insurers. Ask your Insurance Professional whether your home is at risk for flood, or enter your address on the NFIP website to find out whether your home is in a flood zone. If you have a very valuable home, some homeowner insurers offer excess flood coverage over and above that provided by the NFIP policies.

8. Marriages or Divorces – If you’ve gotten married and are merging two households, you may need to update your homeowners insurance. This is also a great time to create a home inventory list for possible future claims. Couples who are bringing two cars into the relationship and two different auto insurance companies should review their respective policies and see which company offers the best combination of price and service. Don’t forget to ask about discounts for multiple cars or married policy holders.

If you’ve gotten divorced, you’ve likely moved to a different residence and probably will no longer be sharing a car with your former spouse. If this is the case, inform your insurer and set up separate homeowner and auto policies.

9. New Children
– If you’ve recently added a child to your family, it’s important to review your life insurance and disability income protection. If you are planning for your life insurance to match your beneficiaries’ expenses, a new child will add to those expenses. If you plan to save for your child’s education, life insurance can also assure completion of that plan.

10. Retirement – If you commuted regularly to your job, your mileage has likely plummeted in retirement. If so, you should report it to your auto insurer to significantly lower the cost of your premiums. Furthermore, drivers over the age of 50-55 may get a discount, depending on the insurance company.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Tips for Efficient Firewood Burning

January 27, 2015 12:57 am

Whether you’re using a woodstove, pellet stove or fireplace to heat your home this winter, seeing smoke from your chimney means your fire isn’t burning as efficiently or cleanly as it should. Wood smoke contains fine particles – also called fine particle pollution or PM2.5 – which can pose a health risk to occupants, especially older adults and children.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends building a cleaner fire with these tips:
- Start a small fire with a dry kindling, then add a few pieces of wood. Be sure there’s space between the pieces, and give the fire plenty of air until it roars. A smoldering fire, ‘dirty’ glass doors on a wood stove or smoke from the chimney are all signs that your fire needs more air or the wood is too moist.

- Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Wet, or green, logs create excessive smoke and waste fuel. How can you tell if wood has been seasoned? Listen for a hollow sound when you strike two logs together.

- Wood burns best when the moisture content is less than 20 percent. You can purchase a wood moisture meter to test the moisture content of your wood before you burnt it. These meters are as little as $20 at most home improvement retailers.

- Never burn household garbage, cardboard, painted or treated wood or any wood that contains glue, such as plywood or particle board. These items release toxic chemicals when burned.

- Check your air quality forecast on airnow.gov before you burn. Some areas limit woodstove and fireplace use under certain air quality conditions.
Source: EPA.gov

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Update Your Kitchen or Bath with On-Trend Design

January 26, 2015 12:57 am

Contemporary and transitional styles have overtaken North America's long love affair with traditional designs in the kitchen and bath, according to a recent report by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). This year, homeowners can expect transitional style in the kitchen, and a mix of transitional and contemporary style in the bathroom.

In the kitchen, the NKBA expects:
  • Fusion of styles and multiple colors
  • European-styled cabinets
  • Multiple appliances
  • Steam ovens
  • Furniture-look pieces
  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Counters or tall gathering tables in place of traditional kitchen table
  • TVs and docking stations
  • Wine refrigerators
In the bath, the NKBA expects:
  • Clean, white design
  • Floating vanities
  • Open shelving
  • Electric heated floors
  • Trough sinks
  • Innovative storage
  • Freestanding tubs
Source: NKBA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Decoding Your Taxes

January 26, 2015 12:57 am

(Family Features) You don't need to be an expert on taxes or the new health care law to get it right. For the 70 percent of Americans who earned $60,000 or less in 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends using Free File (IRS.gov/freefile) to file their taxes. If you made more than $60,000, you still have a free option in Free File Fillable Forms.

When it comes to the health care law, almost everyone will need to do something new when filing a tax return this year. For each month in 2014, you and everyone on your return will need to do one of the following:
• Report healthcare coverage
If you and everyone on your tax return had health care coverage for all of 2014, simply check the "full year coverage" box when completing your return in the Free File software. For most people, that's it!

• Claim an exemption from coverage
If you did not have health care coverage for all or part of 2014, you may qualify for a coverage exemption. Free File will help you complete Form 8965 and file it with your tax return.

• Make a shared responsibility payment with your tax return
If you or your dependents had neither health care coverage nor an exemption, you may need to make a payment with your tax return. Free File will help you calculate your payment and report it on your tax return.
Most people will simply have to check a box to indicate they maintained health care coverage for the entire year.

Before you begin filing your taxes, gather all related documents:
- A copy of last year’s return
- Valid Social Security numbers for yourself, spouse and children
- All income statements, i.e. W-2 forms, from all employers
- Interest and dividend statements, i.e. 1099 forms
- Form 1099-G showing any state refunds
- Unemployment compensation amount
- Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, if you purchased coverage from a Health Insurance Marketplace
- Records of your own and your family members' health care insurance coverage, including employer provided, government, Marketplace or private coverage
(Note: If you or anyone on your return purchased insurance coverage from the Marketplace, you may be eligible for the premium tax credit. If you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent to your insurer in 2014, you must reconcile or compare the advance credit payments with the actual premium tax credit you are allowed to claim on your return.)

Once you’ve completed your return, you can also print a copy and e-file your federal taxes, absolutely free. With electronic filing, you will receive a confirmation within minutes that the IRS has accepted your return. Or, if it's not accepted, you can easily find out why. E-file helps make your tax return even more accurate, which means a quicker refund. To get your refund even faster, combine e-file with direct deposit.

The Free File software is available online 24/7.

Source: IRS.gov

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Household Finance Growth Expectations On the Rise

January 26, 2015 12:57 am

A recently released survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes that household finances could see significant growth this year. The survey indicates that median household income growth expectations rose 0.3 percent, its highest level since the survey’s inception in June 2013.

The uptick in consumer household finance expectations was driven primarily by respondents from the South and in the 40- to 60-year-old segment. In contrast, median household spending expectations declined late last year, driven primarily by high-income respondents.

Expected changes in credit availability a year from now or compared to a year ago remained mostly unchanged.

In addition, the survey points to trends in inflation, including home and gasoline prices. Median home price change expectations remained steady at 3.7 percent; gasoline price change expectations continued a four-month decline to 3.8 percent. Median earnings growth expectations jumped to 2.7 percent – again, its highest level since the start of the survey in June 2013.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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Setting a Household Budget and Sticking to It

January 23, 2015 12:48 am

Despite a growing economy, many Americans still struggle with money management at home. If you’re experiencing challenges financially, there’s hope. According to financial publisher Bankrate.com, establishing a foolproof budget is key to eliminating debt, saving both short- and long-term, and building wealth. Here’s how to do it.

1. Record all expenditures. Track all transactions for at least one month to gauge your spending habits. Record everything, including pocket change amounts like ATM fees.

2. Set financial priorities. After learning exactly how your money is being allocated, take time to evaluate what really matters. Expenses related to housing and utilities should always come first, followed by food, clothing, gasoline, recreational activities and vacations. Decide what you’re not willing to compromise on and actively look for areas where you can cut back.

3. Plan to pay down debt. In 2014, the average credit card debt landed just above $5,200 per borrower (TransUnion). The trick is to pay the maximum amount your budget will allow every month. Some people feel better if they tackle smaller debts first, which often take a shorter amount of time to eliminate, and others, like those with multiple credit card balances, focus on debts with the highest interest rate first.

4. Start saving today. Most experts agree that saving just 10 percent of your earnings annually can lead to significant wealth in the future. If you’re used to saving sporadically, set up an automated system with your online banking provider. For short-term savings goals, it’s best to place those funds in an interest-bearing account, money market fund or CD. For long-term savings goals, focus on gaining tax benefits by contributing to a 401(k) or IRA. Be sure to contribute the maximum amount allowed to your 401(k).

Source: Bankrate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Essentials

January 23, 2015 12:48 am

If you're aiming to eat healthy this year, make your goal a reality by stocking your kitchen with the right basics. Registered dietician and author of “Schedule Me Skinny” Sarah-Jane Bedwell recommends getting into the habit of keeping healthy foods on hand at all times.

Here, the most nutritious essentials to stock up on:

Vinegar – The acid in vinegar, including white wine, red wine and balsamic, brightens and balances favors. It’s key to a salad vinaigrette, of course, but a splash can also add depth and sweetness to soups and vegetable sautés.

Peanut Butter – An inexpensive source of protein, peanut butter can be a healthy addition to baked goods or Asian-style sauces on meats and noodles. It also pairs well in the classic sliced apple and dip combo.

Canola Oil – This kitchen workhorse is one of the healthiest cooking oils available and ideal for almost any kind of recipe. It contains the least saturated fat and most plant-based omega-3 fat of all common cooking oils.

Honey or Brown Sugar – Sweetener isn’t just for baked goods. Use a touch to help caramelize foods or bring out the natural sweetness in vegetables.

Low-Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth – Store-bought broth tends to contain higher amounts of salt, so look for low-sodium varieties. Boost flavor by using broth for homemade soup, whole grains or a braised dish.

Whole Wheat Flour – Flour is useful for thickening sauces or binding griddle cakes. Look for the white whole wheat kind, which has a lighter texture and still maintains the benefits of whole grain.

Canned Tomatoes – An essential building block for sauces, soups and stews, canned tomatoes are faster (and most times of the year tastier) to use than peeling, seeding and chopping your own. Again, select ones that are lower in sodium.

Source: CanolaInfo.org

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Smart Home Devices That Lead the Pack

January 23, 2015 12:48 am

Recent research from Experian Marketing Services found that nearly a third of all Americans use at least one type of smart or connected device. According to the research, 14 percent of homes are smart homes, featuring devices such as connected lights, locks, thermostats or electrical outlets. Since the beginning of November 2014, interest in leading smart home devices has increased 54 percent.

“As everyday things get smarter, consumers will grow more reliant on those things to process information and designated tasks autonomously. [Connected devices] will also allow consumers to ‘unglue’ their attention from computer, tablet and smartphone screens,” says John Fetto, Experian Marketing Services.

Since the beginning of November 2014, interest in leading smart home devices has increased 54 percent. Consumers helping to push these devices into the mainstream are highly connected both technologically and socially, and they are more than twice as likely as the average U.S. consumer to access social media from different devices.

“The rapidly growing trend of the Internet of Things manifested itself during the 2013 holiday season through the popularity of connected fitness trackers, but [in 2014], it was all about the emergence of smart home devices,” says Fetto.

According to Experian’s research, the hottest smart home device products based on share of top-branded search terms are:

• Nest Thermostat (21 percent)
• Dropcam (12 percent)
• ADT Pulse (5 percent)
• Phillips Hue (5 percent)
• Nest Dropcam (4 percent)
• Dropcam Pro (2 percent)
• Wemo (2 percent)
• Nest Protect (2 percent)
• Hue Lights (2 percent)

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Watch for Ice Buildup at Home

January 22, 2015 12:48 am

Ice buildup is common following cold weather. Often, DIY experts suggest using a rake with wheels or panty hose filled with calcium chloride to clear ice, but the real solution is much simpler.

Ice buildup occurs when the roof (minus the eaves) is warmed by the house below it. Snow melts on the roof and drains down to the eaves, where it refreezes. Because heat flows by conduction, convection and radiation, the main culprit is not the home’s insulation – it’s air leakage.

Since warm air rises, the air in your home in winter ends up in your attic and roof cavity. Instead of adding more insulation, cooling the roof or warming the eaves, have your home air sealed.

To do that, have your home tested with a blower door for air leakage and for the attic's connection with the house – this will serve as the ‘before’ picture. Enlist the help of a BPI-certified air sealing company to seal the floor of the attic, underneath the insulation, with spray foam or another high-performance sealant. After the seal, test your home again to gauge your ‘after’ picture.

Source: IAER

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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