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Todd Bishop

Todd Bishop
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-257-7302
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6919

My Blog

Mortgage Rates Slide to Two-Month Low

August 14, 2015 12:15 am

According to a recent Bankrate.com national survey, mortgage rates have declined to a two-month low, sparked by a surprise devaluation of the Chinese yuan. By itself, such an action has little effect on the U.S. economy, but the consequent drag on economic growth from a larger trade deficit and a further downward influence on inflation could prompt the Fed to delay the first interest rate hike.

According to the survey, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate slid to 4.04 percent, and the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate ticked lower as well, to 3.26 percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) were on the downswing also, with the 5-year ARM dipping to 3.20 percent and the 7-year ARM dropping to 3.39 percent.

The larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate stepped back to 4.00 percent, still remaining below the smaller conforming 30-year fixed mortgage.

At the current average 30-year fixed mortgage rate of 4.04 percent, the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan is $959.45.

Source: Bankrate.com

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The Secrets to One-Room Living

August 14, 2015 12:15 am

(BPT) – As we seek to simplify our lives, the desire for small-space living–even one-room living–seems more attractive than ever. Whether you're ready to join the tiny house movement or just want to get the most out of a compact space in your home, there are easy things you can do to make a small space look, feel and function like a larger one.

"There's no need to sacrifice great design if you live in a small space. A few simple changes are all you need to make it feel bigger, more beautiful and a reflection of your personality," says Sherwin-Williams Director of Color Marketing Jackie Jordan (sherwin-williams.com).

1. Look Overhead and Underfoot – Consider using every conceivable space to please the eye–even the ceiling. "I love the idea of reflecting the shape of your dining room table with a bold accent color on the ceiling above it," says Jordan. Another idea: define a space at the floor level with an area rug beneath a couch and side table.

2. Integrate Multitasking Solutions – If you're always multitasking, your furniture can do the same. Place an ottoman with a hidden storage compartment or flip-top serving tray beside a comfy chair. Move a twin bed next to the wall and add big patterned pillows to create seating space by day and sleeping space by night. The pillows can also provide extra floor seating for entertaining.

3. Write It on the Wall
– Walls can also be multifunctional. Sketch Pad, a clear gloss coating, can turn any surface into a dry erase board, and goes over any paint color. Instead of cluttering up the walls with bulletin boards, write directly on the wall by a computer desk, or scribble messages and doodles in the kitchen. Simply wipe it clean with a dry eraser.

5. Find a Focal Point
– It can make a space feel larger. Try painting a corner, such as a reading nook, in a bright, bold color for a mini-room effect. Or paint a piece of furniture or picture frame and elevate it to something special.

6. Get Creative with Cabinetry
– Take advantage of cabinetry with built-in storage features, from pullout racks that create added pantry space to bathroom cabinets equipped with laundry hampers, hairdryer hooks and bins for grooming items.

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Most Americans Favor Limits on Drone Use

August 13, 2015 2:12 am

Though the first FAA-approved drone delivery of a package has already taken place, more than three-quarters of Americans support restrictions on the use of drones, according to a recent survey by legal information site FindLaw.com.

The FindLaw.com survey found that Americans have mixed views on which specific restrictions they would like to see. These include:

• Drone operators must pass a knowledge test and obtain certification from the FAA (54 percent)

• Drones must always remain with the operator’s visual line of sight (37 percent)

• Drones cannot be flown over people who are not directly involved with the flight (36 percent)

• Drone flights must be limited to 500 feet in altitude and 100 mph in speed (31 percent)

The use of drones for business or commercial purposes, such as package delivery or news photography, is currently banned in the U.S. The FAA has proposed new regulations specifying how drones can be used in business.

“Commercial drones are an emerging area of regulation, and the FAA is trying to balance the commercial use of drones with the need for safety for people on the ground and nearby air traffic,” says FindLaw.com Attorney and Editor Stephanie Rahlfs. “The FAA is seeking public comment on its proposed regulations, and people are encouraged to voice their views on what level of regulation they feel is appropriate.”

Source: FindLaw.com

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4 Reasons Not to Be Your Own Chimney Sweep

August 13, 2015 2:12 am

Most homeowners who own a home with a fireplace don’t need professional help to build a fire. Maintaining the fireplace and chimney, however, is best left to the experts, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If you’ve forgone an annual chimney inspection, consider these famous “last words” by do-it-yourself chimney sweeps.

“I’ve swept my own chimney for 25 years and we’ve been fine.”

Many homeowners don’t realize that a very thin, combustible layer of glazed creosote can build up over time. A qualified professional, such as those certified by the CSIA, has the knowledge to identify and the tools needed to remove this dangerous byproduct.

“That crack has been there for years! It’ll be okay.”

When a flue liner is cracked, these cracks open during the heating phase and may allow heat to be transferred to vulnerable chimney walls. One of the important functions of the flue lining is to serve as an insulator between the hot flue gases and the chimney wall.

“I heat with gas. I don’t need to have my chimney swept.”

Qualified professionals do so much more than simply run a brush up the flue. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep will identify and help address operational inefficiencies, installation or venting issues and provide needed maintenance.

“If I start a chimney fire, I’ll burn out all of the creosote.”

Chimney fires are no casual manner. Chimney fires can melt mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home, but a second can burn it down.

Source: CSIA

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Renting a Vacation Home? Consider Travel Insurance

August 13, 2015 2:12 am

As vacation rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO grow in popularity, new questions have arisen about how this type of expense can be insured. According to travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, travel insurance coverage can apply to accommodation rentals in the following ways.

Vacation rentals often have a strict cancellation policy, sometimes offering little to no reimbursement, regardless of the reason for cancellation. Fortunately for travelers, the cost of rentals can be covered under a travel insurance policy, including any associated deposits, expenses and cancellation fees. The standard trip cancellation reasons still apply to travelers insuring a rental property. Common covered reasons include illness of a traveler, their family member, or weather preventing the trip. In the event of a claim, the traveler will need to show proof of their rental and their out-of-pocket expenses.

"In most cases, your email confirmation from your rental will suffice if it includes what you paid, your lodging dates, and any penalties you would incur if you cancelled," says Squaremouth Zero Complaint Manager Brandi Morse. Morse also says that the traveler must formally cancel their stay. “The first step of the claim would be to cancel with the owner of the rental property.”

Despite the benefits of choosing a rental property over other accommodations, travelers may feel they are sacrificing the reliability that comes with an established hotel.

"A common concern of travelers who choose a rental property is that the accommodations will be insufficient, different than were advertised, or the rental is a scam altogether," says Squaremouth Director of Marketing Megan Singh.

Unfortunately, these concerns are never covered reasons to cancel or interrupt a trip under a standard travel insurance policy. Even the catch-all 'cancel for any reason' policies can't offer help in these situations, as they require a trip to be cancelled days before reaching the destination.

"Situations that come down to fear or fraud typically aren't going to be covered under a travel insurance policy," Singh explains. "If that is a traveler's primary concern, it may not be worth the price of the policy."

Source: Squaremouth

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Traveling by Air? 4 Tips for Your Pet

August 12, 2015 2:12 am

Did you know that over two million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the United States? Whether you’re planning to fly cross-country or abroad, it’s important to make traveling arrangements for your furry friend before getting on the plane. USA.gov recommends:

Travelers ask their airline about requirements for and restrictions on traveling with a pet. Check with your airline to find out if they allow pets in the passenger cabin. If you can't bring your pet on your flight as checked or carry-on baggage, you might be able to ship your pet as cargo. You’ll likely have to provide a certificate from a veterinarian stating that your pet is in good health. Airlines may not, however, require health certificates for service animals used by people with disabilities.

Travelers make sure they bring an approved kennel.
The kennel for a carry-on pet must fit under the seat in front of you, and your airline will likely require your pet to stay in the kennel during the flight and in the airport. You'll want to de-clutter your pet's kennel before you get to the airport, in case TSA agents need to do a physical inspection of your pet's carrier.

Travelers carry a leash. Whether you need to walk Fido through a metal detector or carry him through, bringing a leash can help keep your animal under control in the busy airport environment.

Travelers take comfort into account.
Traveling, particularly loading and unloading, can be stressful for an animal, so you should always consider your pet's comfort. Try feeding your pet a light meal two hours before getting to the airport. Walk your pet before leaving for the airport, and again before checking in. While you should leave the sedatives at home, if you're thinking about giving your pet something to help it sleep easier on the trip, always check with your veterinarian first.

Source: USA.gov

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Elevating Your Garden: 3 Questions to Ask

August 12, 2015 2:12 am

(BPT) – According to the Garden Writer’s Association, an astounding 78 million households in America grow gardens, including those with raised beds and planter boxes. If you've never considered using either, think again: these tools offer high yields and a longer overall gardening season, say Western Red Cedar Lumber Association (RealCedar.com) experts.

Before you begin elevating your garden with either raised beds or planter boxes, ask yourself the following:

Where will I place my garden beds?

This may be determined by the specific space you have available. If you have a few options, look for the sunniest spot possible. Remember that larger beds will have greater yields, but they also require more work. It's best to build your beds to match the gardening time you have available.

What's the right size bed for my space?

As you're planning your bed size, remember you'll need to work in the space as well. The garden bed's width can range from 2 to 4 feet and the ideal length is 8 to 12 feet. No matter the dimensions you choose, make sure your beds and planters are at least 6 inches deep; 12 inches is optimal for allowing the roots to grow deep and strong.

Is my soil ready?

Before you start digging, make sure your soil is ready for success. Dig down 6 to 8 inches and loosen the soil. Create a mixture of top soil and organic material, such as compost or manure. Once the soil is ready, it's time to start watering, weeding and fertilizing. You may discover your garden quickly dries out in the sun – if this is the case, a layer of mulch will help your soil retain moisture.

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Generator Safety: 6 Tips to Stay Vigilant

August 12, 2015 2:12 am

(Family Features) When weather or other unforeseen circumstances cause a power outage, many households rely on portable generators to serve as temporary power sources. Though there are benefits to using a portable generator, homeowners run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if it is not handled properly, according to the Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association (PGMA).

The PGMA recommends homeowners become familiar with portable generator safety before operating. Keep the operator’s manual in a safe place so you can refer to it easily. Remember:

1. Never run a portable generator indoors or in partially-enclosed spaces, even if you plan to use fans or open doors or windows for ventilation.

2. Always take your portable generator outside, placing it downwind with the engine exhaust pointed away from occupied spaces.

3. Avoid placing a portable generator near windows, doors or vents, as carbon monoxide gas can accumulate and potentially be drawn indoors.

4. Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms according to manufacturer's instructions. Replace batteries and test the alarm regularly to ensure it is in good working condition.

5. Know how to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness and fainting.

6. If you feel sick, dizzy or weak while using your portable generator, get to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention.

Source: PGMAOnline.com

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6 Back-to-School Transition Tips for Parents

August 11, 2015 12:09 am

When back-to-school time approaches, it is important for parents to ensure their children know what to expect.

“Parents need to begin transitioning children into the back-to-school routine early enough so they have time to adjust -- mentally and physically,” says Richard Peterson, Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care vice president. “Waiting until right before school begins is not an effective strategy for a smooth start to the school year.”

To help get your children acclimated to the start of a new school year, start by:

Getting children excited. Get your children ready for school by making back-to-school shopping a family affair. During a shopping trip for new school supplies, let children cross off items from their lists as they fill the cart. This will keep them involved and excited during the process.

Establishing a school year schedule. A few weeks before school begins, set – and stick to – a realistic bedtime to allow children to get the recommended 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night.

Playing school.
Gather books, paper, pencils, and crayons and play school with your children. Let them be the teachers and you be the student. As you play, ask your children how they feel about starting school. This is a great time to talk about anxieties or concerns they may have as they start a new school year.

Attending back-to-school events. Find out about back-to-school activities or events, such as meet and greet with teachers. This is a great opportunity to get your children familiar with their school surroundings and comfortable with their new teachers.

Practicing the morning routine. Before the first day of school, figure out how long it will take for everyone to get out of the house on time. If your children will be walking to school, practice the route showing them where to stop and if necessary, how to cross the street. If your children are bus riders, show them where to catch the bus and review the bus rules.

Getting your own routine in check. Make sure you know what you need to keep the busy morning schedule running smoothly. To make more time in the morning, consider handling tasks like setting the coffee maker, preparing lunches and reviewing homework at night. And, practice your new routine before the stress of the school year really hits.

Source: Kiddie Academy®

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A Guide to Post-Disaster Home Repair

August 11, 2015 12:09 am

As important as it is to make home repairs as soon as possible following a natural disaster, it also is important to take some time to plan the project, consult with local officials and choose a contractor wisely. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), homeowners in disaster-prone areas should do the following.

Before you start, contact the local permitting office. Follow all local and state requirements. Check with your local building official to make sure your work is safe and meets all local and state requirements.

Consider using building materials that are more resistant to flood, wind, corrosion and decay. If siding or roof sheathing needs replacement, consider installing hurricane/seismic connectors at the rafter-to-wall or truss-to-wall connections. Adding wall-to-foundation ties may also be possible.

Windows, doors and skylights should be checked for leaks. If they need replacement, consider impact-resistant units.
Check your attic for adequate insulation. Straps should be added from rafters to wall top plates, and gable end-wall framing should be braced. Inspect soffits to determine if structural upgrades are necessary.

If you live in a flood-prone area, elevate and appliances.

Lastly, look for a contractor with an established physical address. Get bids from more than one person. Make sure they are in writing and specify exactly what will be done. Beware of a low-ball price. Ask for references and contact them. Make sure the contractor has the proper licenses and insurance coverage required in your state. Never pay the full price in advance.

Source: FEMA

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