RE/MAX 440
Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879 
peterpatkos@remax440.com
Peter Patkos

My Blog

Despite Changes to Flood Insurance Program, Still Opportunities to Save on Premiums

July 25, 2013 12:04 am

When Congress mandated changes last year to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), before Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast, it meant flood insurance premiums for many homeowners in flood zones would rise. According to Smart Vent Products, Inc., that's because for the first time, rates will reflect such factors as actual flood risk and major improvements to the property, while discounts will be phased out for non-primary residences and cases of repeat claims on the same property, among others. Some may see rates jump by 25 percent starting Oct. 1, 2013.

But even as affected homeowners face a potentially large hit to their wallets, opportunities to save significant money on premiums by meeting various criteria still exist. Under the NFIP reforms, the more you can do to reduce risk, the more you can reduce premiums.

"The best thing homeowners can do is to sit down with a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) and discuss your particular situation," says Brian Shaw of Smart Vent. "A CFM can provide you with retrofitting solutions you can take to your agent and see what the reduction in premium will be."

For example, by raising the home above the minimum required elevation standards or dry- or wet-proofing a non-residential building, owners can mitigate potential damage and therefore lower their premiums. Adding flood vents to foundations or installing breakaway walls are other ways to sharply reduce premiums.

In fact, Shaw notes, by coming into compliance with NFIP recommendations, owners can realize savings of up to 83 percent.

In a typical example, one New Orleans homeowner was paying $1,600 annually for flood insurance, post-Katrina. After discussion with his insurance agent, and consulting a Certified Floodplain Manager, he made modifications including installing automatic flood vents, which sent his premium plummeting to approximately $300 per year. His insurance company even sent him $1,300 back from the current year's premium.

FEMA is also in the process of reviewing flood zone designations, and revising them as needed, in some cases removing homes from so-called "V-Zones."

"Several thousand properties in four New Jersey counties were redesignated in June, so you and your insurer should be familiar with the latest flood zone maps before making any costly decisions," Shaw adds.

Source: Smart Vent Products, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Best Summer Home Improvement Projects for Kids

July 25, 2013 12:04 am

Remodeling expert Dan Fritschen wanted a practical, inexpensive way to keep his 12-year-old daughter engaged this summer. So he encouraged her to install a wireless alarm system in their home, a project she was able to complete within a few hours.

Setting up a wireless alarm system was the ideal project for his daughter Chrissy, who completed the job with the help of two other middle school students. They used an easy-to-install security system, watched a YouTube installation video, followed the instructions, added batteries, aligned the sensors, set up the control box, created passwords, and programmed the dialer to call when the alarm is tripped.

"Many kids can benefit from a bit of variety in the typical summer routine," said Fritschen, the creator of RemodelOrMove.com and author of five books on home remodeling. "Installing an alarm system is one example of something they can do that that offers many challenges and learning opportunities and is beneficial to their families."

Fritschen suggests several other simple projects for preteens:

Test your smoke detectors and other devices
Take a walkthrough of your home and point out important safety devices in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms like smoke detectors, radon detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Test the devices and, based on your observations, have your child create a report to recommend those items that need to be improved or replaced. Children can learn budgeting lessons and financial discipline by creating a shopping list that compares brands, features and cost estimates. Shop for any new devices together and let the kids handle installation and putting in new batteries under your supervision using the instructions provided.

Replace a lockset or doorknob
If the doorknobs in your home are dated, why not let your son or daughter select, with your approval, and purchase a new one to replace the old? Standard spacing makes installing most interior locksets simple. An older child under an adult's supervision can use an electric screwdriver to do the job more effectively. Updating your door's hardware will not only enhance the appearance of your home, letting your child take the lead on installation will provide valuable do-it-yourself (DIY) experience.

Add solar landscape lighting
Solar patio lights that get their energy from the sun make your home safer, add ambiance and let you enjoy patios, gardens and decks at night. Planning and installing wireless lighting is a great project that children will enjoy. Everyone – including your neighbors – will appreciate the end result. You can make the project a teachable moment by giving kids a budget along with your objectives. Have them design an installation plan just like a real electrical contractor for you to approve.

"These projects have little room for error, and will provide children with knowledge that he or she can build something," said Fritschen. "Although your child may roll his or her eyes when you suggest these 'fun' projects, they are wonderful opportunities for kids to be responsible while creating value for the family."

Source: remodelormove.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Easy-to-Install Window Trim Options

July 25, 2013 12:04 am

On the “what’s in and what’s out” list for homeowners, naked window exteriors are definitely out. Easy-to-install decorative accents like mouldings, window crossheads and shutters are now trending for homeowners across the country.

“With so many options for enhancing window exteriors using lightweight polyurethane products, even the most novice do-it-yourselfer can change a window exterior from boring to beautiful in a short time,” says Niki Decker with Fypon. “If you can use a tape measure, a hammer and a caulk gun, you can transform your window exteriors!”

Options for homeowners to use include:

Crossheads – Decorative crossheads sit on the top of a window and add a regal look. They can be plain or detailed with keystones in the center to draw attention or detail trim along the length of the crosshead to suit traditional home styles. There are also crosshead arches and eyebrow crossheads that provide a softer, curved look when installed above a window.

Pediments – Stylish and eye-catching, pediments also sit above windows. From curved and peaked sunbursts to triangular peaked caps, acorn and rams head styles, pediments are the most dramatic way to draw attention to your window exteriors.

Pilasters – Not all window enhancements sit on top of the window unit. Usually intended to flank the sides of entry doors, pilasters can also be cut down to run vertically up the sides of windows. Pilasters can be smooth and plain, or have a “fluted” recessed design. They generally have plinths at the top and bottom to balance out the window design and add style to the window surround.

Mouldings - Perhaps the easiest way to surround a window is with flat or decorative trim and plinth blocks. This quick project requires no miter cuts because the plinth blocks are put in all four corners of the window exterior and butt up to straight cuts of smooth, paintable trim pieces. Many homeowners use this technique as a “starting point” and then add in other elements such as pediments and shutters to create their own personal window statement.

Shutters – Another popular way to draw attention to the sides of windows is to add a set of decorative shutters. Available in louvered and raised panel styles that are smooth and paintable, shutters provide the perfect way to carry an accent color throughout the exterior of your home. Or, timber shutters in board, plank and louvered styles can be stained to imitate the look of wood on a home without all the maintenance hassles of real wood.

Window Panels – To add depth to the look of a window, flat and raised panels can be added below the window unit and then enclosed entirely with trim. Window panels tend to fill in space between the bottom of the window and the ground, helping the windows gain more presence and focus on a home exterior.

Pot Shelves
– Available in both timber and stone styles, a pot shelf is placed below the bottom window sill. Oftentimes they’re used to balance out an entire window surround with a finished look.

Source: Fypon, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Ways to Better Your Bones

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

There are few things scarier than a broken bone—especially as we age. But, while it isn’t possible to break-proof your bones, there are some pretty reliable ways to strengthen and protect them.

From Prevention Magazine, here are 10 good tips for keeping your skeleton healthy:

● Get enough D – More than half of adults don’t get enough of this vitamin, essential for calcium absorption and bone health. Cod liver oil is a great source, so are salmon, tuna, whole eggs, and D-fortified milk and yogurt.

● Cut back on caffeine – Too much caffeine has been linked to hip fracture. Limit your intake to 2-3 small cups per day, and watch what you’re getting from sports drinks and supplements.

● Say ‘ohm’ – Studies show that doing yoga exercises regularly helps increase bone density. Start with a gentle yin or relaxation yoga class.

● Restrict the vino – Alcohol is known to have a negative effect on bone health. Keep intake to no more than two drinks in an evening.

● Prevent falls – We all lose bone density as we age. Clear away clutter, take your time, and be aware of your surroundings to guard against falls and broken bones.

● Skip the skinny look – Eat sensibly. Being overly thin may put you in more danger of broken bones because you may be depriving them of protein.

● Eat like a Greek – Increase Omega-3s and monounsaturated fats with olive oil, lots of fish, and minimal red meat.

● Don’t smoke – As if you needed another reason! Nicotine and free radicals may harm our body’s bone making cells.

● Exercise – Moderate exercise, including brisk walking, is known to help build bone density.

● Mind your meds – Some commonly prescribed drugs, such as steroids or protein pump inhibitors, can cause bone-thinning. Check with your doctor to develop a plan to counter this unwanted result.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Health Risks of Noise Pollution

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

Noise pollution is a significant cause of sleep deprivation, stress, hypertension, and heart risk. The problem is, it invades our work places and homes constantly.

Recent studies published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” indicate that noise levels at night may also increase the risk of heart attack by chronically elevating stress-related hormone levels. It's clear that noise adversely reduces people's health and quality of life.

Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep. Uninterrupted sleep is critical for proper physical and mental functioning in healthy individuals.

Apart from various effects on sleep itself, noise during sleep causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, narrowing of the blood vessels, changes in respiration, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased body movement.

Secondary effects measured the following day include fatigue, depressed mood and well-being, and decreased performance. People who sleep in a noisy environment have a shallower and less restful depth of sleep. This creates more health stresses on the body.

Most homes are built to protect against heat and cold. Often, they are not effective in blocking out noise. Studies of hundreds of offices and homes show that the most significant amount of noise comes through windows, not walls. While many people spend thousands of dollars on "sound proofing" the walls of their buildings, laboratory studies show that more than 90 percent of all the exterior noise comes in through doors and windows. Walls are almost never the problem.

Dual pane windows have been shown to be ineffective at handling noise issues. They are designed to handle heat and cold. The engineering needed for sound is quite different than for handling temperature. That's why people looking for noise relief who simply replace their dual pane windows are often disappointed.

A solution that has shown to reduce noise levels by 75-95 percent is adding soundproof windows. These are add-on windows which install quickly on the interior of a room. They blend with the window frame and dramatically reduce the level of outside noise that comes into the room. The technology behind these specifically engineered windows is grounded in engineering sound-eliminating window systems for recording studios.

Independent laboratory tests confirm noise reductions of 92-99 percent, as verified by audio instrumentation. While the human ear cannot detect that level of precision, the difference in noise levels in a room is significant.

If you live in a major city or on an otherwise noisy block, soundproofing your windows may just be the solution you need for uninterrupted sleep.

Source: Soundproof Windows, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Make DIY Home Repairs Safely

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

When it comes to home maintenance and repairs, many homeowners opt for the DIY approach. Not only is it a fun way to get your hands dirty, but it can save money on the expenses of hiring a professional. However, many DIYers neglect to fully prepare themselves for accomplishing the task at hand. This results in surprisingly common mistakes that could easily be avoided. So before you choose to DIY something in your own home, take a look at our list of common mistakes homeowners make and learn what you can do to prevent them from happening to you!

Electrical Repair

When it comes to DIY around the house, there's one area that should more often than not be left to the professionals—electrical repairs. According to Root Electric, anywhere from 4,000-6,000 people are injured each year from electric accidents, with a high percentage coming from those performing DIY electric repair attempts.

Neglecting Safety Tips

A great deal of at home DIYers neglect useful and common safety tips during projects. For instance, wearing protective eye wear and dust masks are crucial to a person's safety while doing household repairs. Additionally, it's important to be extra careful and watchful no matter the size of the project you are doing.

Not Taking Out Required Permits

Another common mistake homeowners make when completing home improvement projects themselves is neglecting to take out the required permits. Not only is this not meeting legal standards, but not following certain procedures can be unsafe.

Starting a Job Unprepared

It's great to want to tackle a household task without calling in the professionals, but make sure you are fully prepared. A common mistake most homeowners make is not checking to ensure they have the necessary materials. Before you get in over your head on a project, double check your supply list.

Source: Homesessive.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Ant Prevention

July 23, 2013 5:56 am

(Family Features) Of all the pests that can take up residence in your home this summer, ants are among the most common, and they don’t discriminate.

“Treat ants proactively, even if you only see one or two,” advises Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Desperate Landscapes.” Cameron’s long experience in home remodeling and carpentry makes him an expert on how to detect and discover entry points for potentially destructive ants to enter the home. “Taking preventative measures will help you protect both the inside and outside of your home from these pesky insects.”

Here are a few of Cameron’s tips and tricks to help protect your home and outdoor spaces from ants:

Treat Using a Systematic Approach
Even if you only see a few, adopt a systematic approach to help treat the ants you see and even those you don’t. Start by treating the perimeter of your home using a product such as Raid Max Bug Barrier to defend against ants that want to enter your house. Next, use an instant-action product indoors to kill them on contact. Treat areas such as baseboards and entry points, as they are prime locations for ants to infiltrate homes. Finally, place baits in areas where you see individual ants or ones following a trail or path to protect against bigger problems in the future. Do not place ant baits in areas where sprays were used.

Clear Damp Areas
Ants love to build their colonies in moist areas, especially those in which organic mulch, leaves, weeds, branches and brush remnants collect. Places such as where rain gutters overflow are perfect environments for ants, so be sure to clean them out regularly. If you have an ant problem year after year, see if there is any wet debris up against your home and get rid of it. Use stone mulch and cut back weeds around the foundation.

Store Food Properly
To help protect the inside of your home from ants, store food in sealed containers, use dried goods in a timely manner and sweep up crumbs immediately. Even a small crumb on the floor is a large meal for an ant colony. Also, be sure to clean up after your pets. Many ant problems are the result of pet food bowls being left out with food remnants in them. Be sure to have an instant-action spray on hand, such as Raid Ant & Roach Killer, to kill bugs on contact. Be sure to read the label carefully when treating in and around food-prep areas.

Monitor Mounds
Outdoor mounds are nests that are underground. They are a big cue for a colony of ants, so when you see them, be sure to treat them right away with a pest control product.

Check Trees
Carpenter ants are the largest of all ant species and usually get into homes from nearby trees. Inspect trees on your property for nests and treat as needed. Most carpenter ant nests are found in decaying wood in trees with holes or imperfections. In fact, carpenter ants can hollow out the wood throughout your home, causing problems that can be costly to repair.

To learn more about how to keep bugs out of your home, visit www.RaidKillsBugs.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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June Existing-Home Sales Slip but Prices Continue to Roll at Double-Digit Rates

July 23, 2013 5:56 am

Existing-home sales declined in June but have stayed well above year-ago levels for the past two years, while the median price shows seven straight months of double-digit year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dipped 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.08 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.14 million in May, but are 15.2 percent higher than the 4.41 million-unit level in June 2012.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is enough momentum in the market, even with higher interest rates. “Affordability conditions remain favorable in most of the country, and we’re still dealing with a large pent-up demand,” he said. “However, higher mortgage interest rates will bite into high-cost regions of California, Hawaii and the New York City metro area market.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.07 percent in June from 3.54 percent in May, and is the highest since October 2011 when it was also 4.07 percent; the rate was 3.68 percent in June 2012.

Total housing inventory at the end of June rose 1.9 percent to 2.19 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 5.0 months in May. Listed inventory remains 7.6 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.4-month supply. “Inventory conditions will continue to broadly favor sellers and contribute to above-normal price growth,” Yun remarked.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $214,200 in June, up 13.5 percent from June 2012. This marks 16 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases, which last occurred from February 2005 to May 2006.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Half of America's 74 Million Cats are Not Receiving Regular Veterinary Care

July 23, 2013 5:56 am

A study conducted by Bayer HealthCare found that more than half of the nation's cats (52 percent) had not been taken to the veterinarian within the last year for needed checkups. Because the first two years of a cat's life equal 24 years of a human's life – with each successive year equivalent to four human years – annual examinations are essential to keeping cats healthy and preventing potentially serious disease problems.

Feline resistance single biggest obstacle to veterinary visits
According to the Feline Findings Study, 58 percent of owners report that their cats hate going to the veterinary clinic and, for 38 percent of them, just thinking about it was stressful. The study found that most cats fear being placed into a cat carrier and transported by car, so many owners simply opt not to put up with the hassle.

The Feline Five: five things cat owners can do to improve feline healthcare
"There are five easy steps owners can take right now to increase the likelihood their cats will be healthy," said Bayer's Dr. von Simson. "We call them the Feline Five."

1. Make the cat carrier a familiar, comfortable place.
Reduce feline resistance to the cat carrier by placing it near to where the cat rests with soft bedding, leave the door open and occasionally place treats in the carrier.

2. Familiarize your cat with your car.
Prepare your cat for the car ride to the clinic by taking her on rides in the carrier as you run normal errands.

3. Recognize the importance of regular check-ups.
Since the first two years of a cat's life equal 24 years of a human's life – with each successive year equivalent to four human years – your cat needs veterinary check-ups at least annually.

4. Realize that cats keep secrets, so you must be a cat detective.
Health problems often go undetected for a long time because cats hide signs of illness, so be attentive.

5. Know the signs of illness and injury.
 Signs include: changes in interactions, activity, sleeping habits, food and water consumption, grooming and/or vocalization; unexplained weight loss or gain; signs of stress; and/or bad breath.

Source: Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division

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Guide to Effortless Summer House Painting

July 19, 2013 1:40 am

You can boldly embrace summer this year with a new coat of paint on your home's exterior. While exterior painting may seem a daunting task, College Pro Painters has tips to help you achieve an effortless and elegant exterior painting experience with some before, during and after painting tips.

Before you go searching for paint swatches, take these points into consideration:

-What is your house's style? Pay heed to the style of your house - its age and architectural background - with a little research. Choosing colors that adhere to its style, whether it's southwestern, colonial revival, Tudor, or ranch style will help your house to truly own its new color.

-What are the styles and colors of your neighbors' houses? Neighborhoods often feature a particular set of house shades, and selecting colors that are compatible with these (but not necessarily the same) will keep your home from sticking out like a sore thumb.

-Are there decorative features you want to play up as you paint? In your exterior painting plans, do you also plan to paint the shutters? Front door? Columns? Trim? Choosing accent colors to play up these features will give your home more visual interest and depth.

-How do color tones affect the appearance of your home? A general rule of thumb in house painting is that lighter colors will make a house appear bigger, while darker or more intense colors make a house seem smaller. Color tones will affect the longevity of the paint and your home's ambiance.

-What colors are already present in your home? If your home has decorative stone or brick elements, your house's exterior should complement those colors - especially their tone. You can also create a vibrant continuity between your home's exterior and interior by choosing exterior colors that pair with your interior design.

During your research of house painting trends and possible painting companies keep in mind:

-Grays of all shades from slate to feathered gray have been extremely popular recently. Because they're so neutral they can be paired with less standard colors to add a pop of excitement.

-Primary colors - Variations of primary colors, especially more subdued blues are paired with bold primary accent colors on the doors or shutters to enhance the visual interest.

-Color families - If you're looking for cohesion, consider choosing different shades from the same family. The variety will give your home dimension while still keeping it consistent and classy.

-College Pro's Rule of three - An exterior color scheme should, in most cases be composed of three colors, allowing for a base color and contrasting accent colors to highlight your home without overwhelming the exterior.

-A comprehensive house painting company - Choosing an exterior painting company to work at your home may seem a little unsettling. After all, the company's employees will be entering your family's personal space. That's why it pays for you to select a company with many years of experience and high customer satisfaction standards to meet all your needs.

After your newly painted house is the envy of the neighborhood, here are easy updates to spruce up the rest of your home's exterior too:

-Replace Old Hardware - Replacing old door knobs or latches will complete the new, sparkling appearance of your home.

-Paint/Stain and Repair your Deck-- A dingy deck can drag down the appearance of your house's exterior. Paint or stain your deck to compliment the new shade of your home. (Mid-range stains are particularly popular now.)

-Put Your Personal Stamp on Your Mailbox - Show off your new exterior painting job and invest in a new mailbox or redecorate the one to compliment your house.

-Gear up your garden - Adding potted plants or flower boxes near your front door and in your windows can make your home appear much more inviting for visitors!

Source: College Pro

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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