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Peter Ryan
4789 Route 309
Center Valley  PA 18034
 Phone: 610-791-4400 1958
Office Phone: 610-791-4400
Cell: 610-360-0820
Fax: 267-354-6890 
peterryan01@gmail.com
Peter Ryan

My Blog

Home Improvement Spending Picking Up

August 5, 2015 1:57 am

With the economy looking up, recent LIRA projections anticipate more homeowners will spend on remodeling projects through early next year, with growth accelerating four percent. LIRA, or the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity, is released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

“A major driver of the anticipated growth in remodeling spending is the recent pick-up in home sales activity,” says Joint Center Managing Director Chris Herbert. “Recent homebuyers typically spend about a third more on home improvements than non-movers, even after controlling for any age or income differences, so increasing sales this year should translate to stronger improvement spending gains next year.”

“Other signals of strengthening remodeling activity include sustained growth in retail sales of home improvement products and ongoing gains in house prices across much of the country,” explains Abbe Will, a research analyst in the Remodeling Futures Program. “Rising home prices means rising home equity, which should encourage improvement spending by a growing number of owners.”

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Splurge vs. Save: Designing a High-End Kitchen

August 5, 2015 1:57 am

(BPT) – It’s no secret good design can enhance your daily life, especially in the heart of the home: your kitchen. In fact, 98 percent of respondents to a recent Dwell survey were willing to pay more for premium items that bring a high-end, functional kitchen design vision to life. But choosing between splurging on those items and saving money on the backend can be challenging. Where do you draw the line?

In conceptualizing and creating a high-end kitchen, renowned designer Nate Berkus recommends dishing on a well-made marble countertop.

“It’s such a classic piece but also very durable, meaning it will still look great for years to come, which is what a forever kitchen is all about,” Berkus explains.

Lighting, on the other hand, is an opportunity to save.

“The trick is to take the time to shop for vintage sconces and light fixtures,” says Berkus. “They will add loads of character to your home but don’t have to cost a lot."

Another way to add character to your kitchen is flooring. Think vintage wood flooring – it’s a splurge, but so worth it. You can then save on new cabinetry by painting the existing ones in a black lacquer or gray.

“I’ve done this in my own home renovations and for clients. The effect is so great, no one will know you didn’t spend a fortune on new cabinets,” Berkus adds.

When it comes to appliances, look for premium stainless models at the best you can afford. Hardworking appliances that can go the distance are worth every cent.

When dressing up your kitchen, shop your home and use things you already own. Objects from your travels, framed photographs, ceramic bowls or hand-woven baskets are all things that personalize a space and make it feel layered.

“I love the idea of doing something unexpected in the kitchen, like creating a seating area in your kitchen space,” says Berkus. Shop your weekend flea market or online for a vintage sofa and coffee table and set up an area for your family to relax in.

“It’s all about creating moments like these that help you live more beautifully,” Berkus says.

It’s important to remember the goal is always to design a kitchen that won’t feel dated in one year, or even five years. Every elements of your kitchen needs to go the distance, whether you splurge or save on those desired elements that bring your personal style to life.

“When designing a high-end space, it’s important to remember that you’re shaping more than just a living environment; you’re laying the foundation for a future community of friends and family,” says Dwell President and CEO Michela O’Connor Abrams. “Design elements that marry beautiful aesthetics, intuitive technology and functionality – and are reflective of your authentic taste and personal style – should always rise to the top when deciding which products to introduce into your home.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Tax Benefits for People with Disabilities

August 4, 2015 1:54 am

Now 25 years old, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) continues to provide assistance to people with disabilities, including help in the form of tax benefits and services. According to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), people with disabilities can benefit from the following.

1. ABLE Accounts – A newer program, tax-favored ABLE accounts are designed to enable people who became disabled before age 26 and their families to save for and pay for disability-related expenses. Any state can offer its residents the option of setting up an account, or can contract with another state that offers such accounts.

Contributions totaling up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, currently $14,000, can be made to an ABLE account each year, and distributions are tax-free if used to pay qualified disability expenses.

2. Tax Credits – Low-and moderate-income workers and working families often qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable credit that varies by income, filing status and family size. Although many eligible taxpayers with disabilities get the EITC, the IRS estimates as many as 1.5 million others miss out on it each year because they fail to file a federal income tax return.

Generally, eligible taxpayers can still file a return claiming the credit for tax year 2012, 2013 or 2014. People can see if they qualify by visiting IRS.gov.

The credit for child and dependent care expenses can also help working taxpayers paying the cost of caring for a spouse or dependent who is physically or mentally unable to care for themselves. To claim the credit, use Form 2441. Publication 503 contains further details.

3. Deductions
– Taxpayers with disabilities can deduct various impairment-related work expenses on their federal income tax return. Both employees and self-employed individuals may qualify.

In addition, various unreimbursed disability-related expenses qualify as deductible medical expenses. However, to get a tax benefit, an eligible taxpayer must itemize their deductions on Schedule A, and their total medical expenses must exceed 10 percent of their adjusted gross income (7.5 percent for taxpayers who are at least age 65). Eligible expenses include:

• Artificial limbs, contact lenses, eyeglasses and hearing aids

• Cost and repair of special telephone equipment for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

• Cost and maintenance of a wheelchair

• Cost and care of a guide dog or service animal

• Within limits, premiums for qualified long-term care insurance

For a detailed list of qualifying medical expenses, see Publication 502.

4. Tax Help – Publication 907, available on IRS.gov, highlights these and other tax benefits for people with disabilities, including special rules for reporting disability income. During the tax-filing season, trained community volunteers prepare tax returns for low-and moderate-income taxpayers, including many people with disabilities, at thousands of neighborhood tax help sites nationwide through the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.

Year round, the IRS also offers a variety of helpful resources through the Accessibility link on IRS.gov. These include accessible IRS forms, instructions and publications that can be downloaded or viewed online in text-only format, Braille-ready files, browser-friendly HTML, accessible PDF, large print and ePub for mobile devices. The IRS has also produced 100 YouTube videos in American Sign Language on topics ranging from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights to the EITC.

In addition, taxpayers can request reasonable accommodations for services in any federally funded or federally assisted tax program or facility.

Source: IRS.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Property: Early Fall Color a Sign of Stress

August 4, 2015 1:54 am

The color-changing foliage of autumn is one of nature’s finest shows. If you’re fortunate enough to have mature trees on your property, take note of when leaves start to change – does it seem early?

A too-early transformation may signal a stressed tree, says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

“Premature colors can be an indication that a tree isn’t vigorous enough to withstand insects and disease organisms that may attack it, not to mention the usual changes that occur when the weather turns cold,” explains Andersen. “Occasionally, only one or two limbs of the tree will show premature fall color. This could a sign of a disease at work, weakening only the infected limbs.”

The more common situation is for the entire tree to exhibit premature fall coloration, a phenomenon usually linked to root-related stress.

“Trees respond to these stresses by trying to curtail their above-ground growth,” says Andersen.

To better understand how leaves change prematurely, think of them as small factories containing raw materials, products and by-products, all in chemical form and some with color. As the leaf is “abandoned” by the tree, the green chlorophyll – the dominant chemical found in most leaves – is broken down and “recycled,” leaving behind other colored chemicals. Supply lines to the leaves also become clogged. If the major chemical remaining in the abandoned leaf is red, the leaf turns red. If it’s yellow, the leaf turns yellow.

“The yearly variation in color intensity is due to varying weather conditions, which can affect the balance of chemicals and their composition in the leaves," Andersen says.

Differing amounts of rainfall, sunlight, temperature, humidity and other factors may have an effect on how bright, how quickly and how long "leaf-peeping" season will be in any given year.

If the leaves on your trees seem to have gotten a jump start on fall compared to other similar species in the area, it may be time to consult with a professional arborist who can identify problems and offer solutions.

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Should You Rent or Buy?

August 4, 2015 1:54 am

It’s an age-old question: should you rent or buy? If faced with this dilemma, consider the following questions, courtesy of the American Bankers Association (ABA).

1. How much do you have saved?

Start with an evaluation of your financial health. Figure out how much money you have for a down payment or deposit on a rental. Down payments are typically 5 to 20 percent of the price of the home. Security deposits on rentals are usually about one month of rent and more if you have a pet. Be sure to keep enough in savings for an emergency fund. It’s a good idea to have three to six months of living expenses to cover unexpected costs.

2. How much debt do you have?

Consider all of your current and expected financial obligations like your car payment and insurance, credit card debt and student loans. Make sure you will be able to make all of the payments in addition to the cost of your new home. Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25 to 30 percent of your gross monthly income.

3. What is your credit score?

A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness. Both renters and homebuyers can expect to have their credit history examined. A low credit score can keep you from qualifying for the rental you want or a low interest rate on your mortgage loan. If your credit score is low, you may want to take steps to raise your score, which could improve the terms you’re offered, before entering a loan or rental agreement.

4. Have you factored in all the costs?

Create a hypothetical budget for your new home. Find the average cost of utilities in your area, factoring in gas, electricity, water and cable. Find out if you will have to pay for parking or trash pickup. Consider the cost of yard maintenance and other costs like replacing the air filter every three months. If you are planning to buy a home, factor in real estate taxes, mortgage insurance and possibly a homeowner association fee. Renters should consider the cost of rental insurance.

5. How long will you stay?

Generally, the longer you plan to live someplace, the more it makes sense to buy. Over time, you can build equity in your home. On the other hand, renters have greater flexibility to move and fewer maintenance costs. Carefully consider your current life and work situation and think about how long you want to stay in your new home.

Source: ABA.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Where to Score Summer Savings

August 3, 2015 1:51 am

For savvy shoppers, the summer season means sales, and lots of them. With careful planning, any shopper, savvy or not, can score big savings on everything from household appliances and electronics to toys and clothing. To take advantage of some of the best deals and pricing of the year, FatWallet.com suggests these tips.

• If you’ve been putting off a large purchase for your home, summer is an ideal time to splurge – without really splurging, of course. Home improvement tools and materials are typically on deep discount in summer, along with other big-ticket items like appliances, furniture and décor.

• Families wanting to have fun in the backyard this summer should consider purchasing sale-price outdoor toys and games, including sports gear and apparel.

• Clothing clearance sales on tank tops, sandals, shoes, shorts, swimwear and eyewear heat up during the height of summer. Prices continue to come down as retailers look to move inventory ahead of the back-to-school shopping season.

• Early back-to-school sales bring sharp price drops on laptops and desktop computers. Shopping ahead of these sales will assure parents shop from a better selection of models and features their kids want and need.

Source: FatWallet.com

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Walk This Way: Accessible Communities a High Priority

August 3, 2015 1:51 am

Americans have a penchant for walkable communities more so than they have in the past, with millennials favoring walkability by a substantially wider margin than any other generation, according to a recent poll by the National Association of REALTORS® and the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University.

Poll findings indicate nearly half of respondents would prefer to live in communities containing houses with small yards, but within easy walking distance of community amenities. While 60 percent of respondents live in detached, single-family homes, a quarter of those would rather live in an attached home in an area with greater walkability. Millennial respondents, especially, prefer to live within walking distance of shops and restaurants and have a short commute.

Respondents also point to community transportation options, such as sidewalks, as positive factors when purchasing a home. Millennial respondents show a stronger preference than other generations for expanding public transportation and providing transportation alternatives to driving, such as biking and walking, while also increasing the availability of trains and buses.

Source: NAR

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Construction, Home Improvement Complaints Top List

August 3, 2015 1:51 am

Construction- and home improvement-related complaints made the top three of the Consumer Federation of America’s (CFA) top 10 list of complaints in the last year, with consumers reporting home professional grievances such as failure to start or complete a job and shoddy work. The worst complaint on the list is debt collection, and the fastest-growing complaint is identity theft.

According to the CFA survey, conducted in conjunction with the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI), debt collection issues run the gamut from callers trying to get consumers to send money to satisfy loans that don’t really exist to abusive practices to collect debts that consumers legitimately owe. Other credit-related complaints include billing and fee disputes, mortgage modifications and mortgage-related fraud, credit repair, debt relief services and predatory lending.

Tax identity theft is also particularly troublesome. “Government benefits fraud resulting from identity theft makes it very difficult for the victims to claim benefits that are rightfully theirs,” says NACPI President Amber Capoun, who is also a legal assistant in the Office of the State Banking Commission in Kansas.

A newer consumer complaint involves businesses closing and reopening under the same name but with new owners refusing to honor agreements that the original companies had made.

Rounding out the top 10 list of complaints are:

Landlord and Tenant Complaints – Includes unhealthy or unsafe conditions, failure to make repairs or provide promises amenities, deposit and rent disputes and illegal eviction tactics

Auto-Related Complaints
– Includes misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars, lemons, faulty repairs, leasing and towing disputes

Retail Sales and Utility Complaints
– For retail, includes false advertising, defective merchandise, problems with rebates, coupons, gift cards and gift certificates, failure to deliver; for utilities, includes service problems and billing disputes with phone, cable, satellite, Internet, electric and gas services

Professional Service Complaints
– Includes misrepresentations, shoddy work, failure to have required licenses, failure to perform

Home Solicitation Complaints
– Includes misrepresentations or failure to deliver in door-to-door, telemarketing or mail solicitations and do-not-call violations

Health Product/Service and Internet Sales Complaints
– For health products/services, includes misleading claims, unlicensed practitioners, failure to deliver; for internet sales, includes misrepresentations or other deceptive practices and failure to deliver online purchases

Fraud Complaints – Includes bogus sweepstakes and lotteries, work-at-home schemes, grant offers, fake check scams, imposter scams and other common frauds

Household Goods Complaints – Includes misrepresentations, failure to deliver and faulty repairs in connection with furniture or appliances

Source: CFA

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Americans Say Yes to Gluten-Free

July 31, 2015 1:42 am

America has spoken: gluten-free is the way to be.

According to a recent report by market research publisher Packaged Facts, over a third of respondents say gluten-free is an important factor when shopping for foods, in part due to its superior healthfulness. The “gluten-free” label has been a particularly strong selling point in salty snacks, such as tortilla chips.

“Even those who are not gluten-sensitive are attracted to gluten-free salty snacks because they seem to add another check mark to the list of perceived requirements for better-for-you salty snacks,” explains Packaged Facts Research Director David Sprinkle. Gluten-free salty snacks lead gluten-free sales by an overwhelming margin, dwarfing other popular foods such as gluten-free crackers and gluten-free pasta.

The majority of respondents note the nutritional content and ingredients in the groceries they buy, reflecting a growing trend of rejecting artificial additives, long ingredient lists and unpronounceable food ingredients.

Source: Packaged Facts

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pest Prevention as Easy as 1, 2, 3

July 31, 2015 1:42 am

Pest prevention is a matter of homeowner diligence – establishing cleanliness habits and maintaining pest-prone fixtures regularly. According to the pest control experts at Assured Environments, pest problems can be avoided in three simple steps.

1. Establish Storage Habits – Keep all garbage in tightly sealed containers and empty trash receptacles regularly. Be diligent about safe food storage. Keep food items in sealed containers and never keep anything past its expiration.

2. Maintain Plumbing System – Keep all pipes in working order. Ensure there are no leaky patches in roofs and do not let water accumulate. Make sure toilets do not back up. Use dehumidifiers in basement storage areas.

3. Inspect Wood Structures – Termites and other small creatures are highly attracted to rotting wood. Ensure all wood structures on the property are well-maintained. Note any openings and seal them to stop small rodents and insects from entering.

Source: Assured Environments

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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