Archive for ‘For Homeowners’

August 18, 2014

Get to Know Your Neighborhood with Nextdoor


Moving incatto a new neighborhood can be intimidating at times, especially if you are trying to enter an established “neighborhood circle”.  Whether there is a tight knit neighborhood bond or everyone on the block is still getting to know each other; there is simple solution to get the ball rolling and to start interacting with your neighbors.


Nextdoor is a free, hyper-local social network for you, your neighbors, and community. It is the easiest way to connect and communicate with the people who live around you. When neighbors start talking, good things happens. The amount of interaction is up to you and those who join the social network. It can be used to post information about neighborhood events, gather recommendations for trustworthy babysitters, learn your neighbors’ actual names, to help find a lost pet, and so on.  Another interesting feature of the site is that it is a private social network. Members must provide their real first and last names, verified address, and email. Only people within the pre-mapped community/neighborhood are allowed to join, comment, and interact.











Nextdoor was founded in 2010 and is now running in every state. There is a free app supporting both iOS and android platforms. The company’s mission is to push the benefit and importance of a strong, tight-knit neighborhood community. There have been numerous articles supporting the valuable impact the site has had on communities; such as helping police reduce neighborhood crime, alerting neighbors about suspicious activities, and making communities much safer. So if you are interested in checking out the site…go on…you have nothing to lose; only new neighbors and a strong community to gain!


August 14, 2014

Interior Design Rules You Should Break

“The first rule of decoration is that you can break almost all the other rules.”

Decorating your new/current home can be stressful and intimidating, but it can also be fun and exciting! Whether you are preparing to sell your home, just purchased a new home or are looking for some inspiration, here are a few creative tips on how to add a personal touch to your house.


1.) “Don’t Mix Old and New”


The most livable and inspiring rooms combine old and new pieces in a variety of styles to give them an effortless sense of having been assembled over time. Mixing vintage and contemporary pieces will give any room or space personality and dimension.


2.) “Paint a Small Space in a Light Color”



Most people are under the impression that the easiest way to make a small room appear larger is to create the illusion by painting everything in the small area white, yellow or another lighter color. However, by using a darker paint, you are able to create a sense of depth within the small space.

Painting with darker colors can fool the eye into not knowing where the wall begins and ends, creating the impression of more space. Be sure to balance the dark color with light-catching objects, such as mirrors, metallic accents, and incorporating lamps/lighting to ensure that the room has a warm radiance.


3.) “Don’t Mix Metals”


There was a time when mixing metals, whether in home décor or jewelry, was considered “tacky”. Although the idea of mixing metals to some people is still preposterous; many designers and homeowners are embracing this previously misconceived decorating faux pas. There are many ways to approach mixing metals. You can choose to take the subtle route by adding a few pieces within the house or you can go bold by bringing in large pieces that will play off one another in combination with lights and mirrors. Either approach is a guaranteed way to incorporate richness in any room.


4.) “Use Only One Type of Wood In A Room”

mixingwoodSources (from left to right): and  

The era of the matching furniture sets is long gone, but many people are still apprehensive to mix multiple wood finishes in the same room. Allowing various wood tones to cohabitate within the same room will create a layered and textured look.


5.) “Dining Chairs Should be part of a Matching Set”

kitchen Source:

It has been the norm to always have a kitchen/dining table with matching chairs. But sometimes those furniture sets can look too perfect. Although a formal dining room equipped with a matching table and chairs can be absolutely beautiful, it can also appear unimaginative and “stuffy”. Purchasing one of a kind/unique furniture pieces allows you to add a little spice and personal touch into your dining area. Remember there is a difference between being mismatched and being “stylishly” mismatched.


6.) “Don’t Mix Patterns”


There are no guidelines when it comes to mixing patterns, however it may take a few tries before you feel your unmatched patterns somehow match. For a first-timer, choose a limited palette (such as blue and white) so you will be able to focus on and play around with patterns and size, instead of being overwhelmed with too many colors. Or another approach is to choose complimentary colors, and then mix/match from there.

Designer Tip: When choosing patterns, the key is to stick with an odd amount, particularly three. According to home décor style guides, three is the minimum number of patterns you should use.


7.) “Match Your Colors”

mixnmatch Source:

There is no reason to continue following the rule that you have to match your pillows to the drapes and /or carpet. Playing with color is fun, and adds a touch of unique personality to your home. In order to avoid getting carried away with all the color options, choose fabrics and finishes within the same color family, but that don’t necessarily match. If the thought of combining so much color in one room is unsettling, there are subtle ways to play with color as well. For example, if you prefer a clean natural look in your home, you could play with different neutral shades in varying fabrics.


8.) “Ceilings Should Remain Unpainted”

ceiling2 Sources (left to right): and

Don’t forget to look up. Ceilings are often considered “the forgotten fifth wall”. Many people give little thought to the horizontal dry-wall hanging above their head. A ceiling is usually given a fresh coat of paint only once during its existence. However, it is time to change our perspective on the rooms we live in. Color, sheen, pattern, and texture on the ceiling can transform the entire look and feel of a room. Give yourself and your guests something to look up to…..literally.



July 21, 2014

Paying off your Mortgage Early

down-paymentIf you are looking to pay off your mortgage earlier than you had initially planned, there are multiple ways to get this done. Before doing any of them, however, you should check with your bank to make sure there are no hidden fees or charges for paying early.


Refinance your Mortgage

A good way to put a dent into paying off a 30-year mortgage is to refinance it into a 20-or-15-year loan. 15-year mortgages are the most popular, as there is considerably less mortgage interest in the long run. Be sure before making the change that you are financially able to do so, as changing to a 15-year loan commits you to higher monthly payments. If you are unsure about your financial ability to change to a 15-year, try staying on your 30-year loan and make payments as though you are on the 15-year one. This decreases the amount of time on your mortgage without adding the risk of a late payment.


Add a Little Extra

One of the best ways to pay your mortgage off early is to pay a little bit more where you can afford it. You can either do this by adding a set amount every month, or even just by rounding up every month. Even adding an extra 6 dollars to your monthly payments on a 200,000 dollar 30-year loan will save you 4 payments in the end. Make sure before doing this that you check your contract for any prepayment penalties.


Unexpected Money

Adding a little bit extra every month is great, but another option to keep in mind is adding any unexpected or extra cash flow to your payment. This can include anything from tax refunds or work bonuses to inheritances and investment earnings. This way it doesn’t feel like you are paying as much as long as you do not rely on that money.


Bi-weekly Payments

In Australia, people make bi-weekly half-payments on their mortgages. Why does this make any difference? Well, there are 12 months in a year, so most people will be paying 12 months worth of their loan. Someone who is paying half of their loan every other week, however, will be paying 13 months of their mortgage since there are 52 weeks in a year. This allows you to pay more of your loan off without feeling like you are paying more than you were before.


Other Options

These are great ways to cut down on the amount of time you have a mortgage, but there are many other ways as well. These include doubling up on your monthly payment 4 times a year and a money merge account. Money merge accounts should only be used by people who really understand cash management. If using any of the above options, it’s a good idea to get statements from your bank showing how much is still owed and also to make sure that any extra payments are going towards your principal and not being saved until the following year.

July 14, 2014

Homeownership Matters

Laurie and her pop during the Holidays

Laurie and her Pop at Christmas

Laurie Czaplinski, our Agent Services Director, shared her grandfather’s story with us:

My grandparents were married in 1945.  My grandfather had just served his last tour in the Navy for World War II.  One of their immediate goals, as a newly married couple, was to find a home where they could raise a family.  While in the service, my grandfather dreamed of meeting the girl of his dreams and building a home with her.  Their goal was independence and buying a house was the first step.

While talking about the home they were planning to build, my grandmother described a large kitchen where she could cook and bake.  My grandfather dreamed of a basement workshop and a yard where he could grow vegetables and lounge under a tree during the summer.

The home they built was what we would now call a bungalow.  It’s a one and half story that they built for less than $3,000.  Today it would sell for at least $130,000.  It is only a three bedroom, one and half bath but there is a lot of living square footage packed into this little home and they have used every inch of their home for the past 68 years.

As I asked him what he loves about his home he recalled all of the good times our family has shared there.  “A home is not only a place to lay your head at night.” My grandfather said to me.  He reminded me that every Thanksgiving we would pack into their finished basement and my grandmother would set up a large buffet feast for us and that my mom somehow used to be right by his side every time he opened a Coke in the basement.  He talked about the door in his workshop that has the heights of my aunts, mom and all of the grandchildren recorded, every year up until now.  He talked about the day he found his dog, “tuffy” and cat “killer”.  Then told me about the neighbors and the block parties they had.  And I remembered all of the weekend sleep overs and how he would make us ice-cream floats and “pop-pop sandwiches”.

“It doesn’t matter how big or expensive your home is, it’s the people who live there and the adventures you experience together that matter.”

This talk with my grandfather reminded me that homeownership means so much more than a roof over our head.


July 2, 2014

Landscaping Tips

Have you ever looked at a home and thought that its landscaping was beautiful,
but you could never afford it?

Landscaping can be costly and discouraging if done improperly, but there are several things that you can do to increase the beauty and value of your home for an affordable price. When done correctly, landscaping can even save you on electricity and water bills in the future. Here are a few good guidelines to follow when considering how to landscape your yard.

July 14 IOV - Ecard Graphic

June 30, 2014

Fire Safety Tips

Firefighter&TruckEvery year, more than 3,800 people die in house fires in the United States alone. An additional 18,300 survive but are disabled or injured. It is important to keep your family and your home up-to-date on fire safety.


Fire Alarms

Every level of your house should have at least one working fire alarm. Be sure to test the alarms every month, keep them clean, and change the battery at least once a year. Every ten years, fire alarms should be replaced unless the manufacturer says otherwise. There are also smoke alarms available for the deaf or hearing impaired that flash strobe lights and shake the bed.


Causes of Fires

The leading cause of fatal home fires in the United States is smoking. If possible, smoke outside and dispense of remnants in designated areas, such as ashtrays. Cooking is another leading cause of fires, typically as a result of people leaving the oven or range unattended for any length of time. Heating equipment should be cleaned, checked regularly and kept away from furniture according to fire regulations. Lastly, burning candles should never be left unattended in the home.


Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide is the deadly result of fuels burning incompletely. It is recommended that every house has a CO alarm on each floor as well as a fire alarm; in 2010 the United States fire department dealt with over 80,000 non-fire CO related incidents. Be sure to keep your home well ventilated, and use charcoal or gas grills outside only. Never keep a car running for an extended period of time indoors.


Escape Route

It is very important to have planned escape routes from your house in case of a fire. If possible, try to have at least two different ways out of every room, and make sure everyone in the house is familiar with them. It is advisable to practice your plan twice a year, both at day and at night. If an actual fire occurs, immediately get low, stay low, and get out of the building. Most fire-related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation rather than burns, since fire burns the oxygen out of the air and lets off poisonous gases. You can suffocate from a fire even if you aren’t in the same room.


June 26, 2014

Childproofing Your Home

Little Girl Enter HouseDid you know that the most common injuries to children under three years old happen right inside your house? Because toddlers and infants spend most of their time there, it is important to make sure that they are as safe as possible. Childproofing a house is a never-ending task and safety measures need to be constantly updated as your children grow.


Every child will accumulate bumps and bruises, but most serious injuries are entirely preventable. Make sure that any equipment or furniture you buy for your child meets the current safety requirements and be sure to follow any assembly instructions accurately. However, most areas of risk involve furniture and fixings that are already inside your house. Here are some key areas to check out:



Your windows pose a variety of threats to a growing child. Be sure that any window ledge corners are appropriately covered and that cords from blinds or curtains are tied up and out of reach. Locks and latches on windows are also important; you may wish to consider safety netting to prevent falls.



Outlets are the source of sending on average 2,400 children to emergency rooms. Shielding your outlets with outlet covers is a great start to securing your child against electrical shocks. It is also a good idea to unplug any equipment that is not currently in use. Even loose cords can pose a threat, so keep unused cords tied up and tucked where your child cannot reach them.



The kitchen is one of the most difficult rooms in your house to childproof, because there are so many different areas to consider. Adding latches to all of your cabinets is essential. It is also a good idea to move any hazardous chemicals and sharp kitchenware to high, protected areas. While latches on your cabinets are key, most people forget that it is equally important to secure your oven, fridge, and microwave. Lastly, your trashcan can be an attractive target for your little ones, with all of its interesting smells and contents, so keep it behind closed, locked doors.



Many household accidents involve pieces of furniture. Whether it is in a bedroom, study, or living room, securing furniture to the wall and floor is vital to prevent tipping. Be sure to secure your TV, as well, in this process. Additionally, most furniture has corners or sharp edges that should be covered, especially those areas near ground level.

These target areas are great places to start, but also remember to consider hazards like stairways, heaters, fireplaces, and outside doors. Every house is unique and has its unique challenges, so one of the best ways to check for areas to childproof is to get down on your child’s level. Remember to update safety measures as your child grows ; previously difficult areas to reach may have become accessible.  Most importantly, remember that you are your child’s best defense, so never leave your child unattended.


Check out these additional tips on child proofing your home!

May 29, 2014

Neighborhood Spotlight- Lancaster, PA

lancThinking about moving? Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has a diverse selection of neighborhoods and locations to choose from. Lancaster is a popular choice and your interest may increase after seeing why. Voted #4 on the most exciting small cities list, Lancaster, PA, which is a short drive from Baltimore, MD and Philadelphia, offers over 300 boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, museums, and entertainment.


Take a Day to Relax

Lancaster County is home to several magnificent day spas such as the Plum Salon and Spa, where friends and couples can relax together with massages, facials and more as you gaze out over the serene Amish countryside.


Have Fun with the Whole Family

Have any little ones? A great place to spend the day is Dutch Wonderland, an amusement park geared toward children under the age of 10.

Just a mile down the road, you can experience Lancaster’s living heritage at America’s first Amish attraction, the Amish Farm and House.


Go for a Walk at the Park

Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Lancaster County Central Park is the largest of the county’s parks, covering 544 acres. Central Park is located on the southern edge of Lancaster City in West Lampeter Township and is a great place to spend time with your family.


Shop until you Drop

The Tanger and Rockvale Outlets are great places to go shopping if you are looking for deals and variety, and Bella Whit Boutique features many selections from local artists and designers. You can find new and vintage items for your family and home.


Have a Sweet Tooth?

Stop into Carmen & David’s Creamery for fun and tasty treats. Choose from a variety of cones, dishes, sundaes, milkshakes, ice cream sodas, floats and coolers, as well as their special blend of French Press coffee.


Wine & Dine

Looking to enjoy a good meal and access free Wi-Fi? Cafe One Eight is an exceptional restaurant located in downtown Lancaster that “offers casual dining in a historic, intimate, downtown setting. They feature the finest selection of coffee & tea, pastries, sandwiches, salads, soup, and more!”


Real Estate Overview

With a desirable combination of good schools, low crime, and educated neighbors, Lancaster, PA has many of the features that families look for when choosing a good community to raise children. If you’re interested in buying a home in Lancaster, please contact one of our local real estate professionals.

May 27, 2014

Getting Your Lawn Ready for Summer

curbSummer is coming, so now is the perfect time to get out and work on your yard. Gardening, mulching, and sweeping out your pathways help to make it presentable, but a major factor of yard work is keeping your lawn fresh, bright, and green. Here are a few tips to make your lawn the brightest and freshest on the block.


1.) Keep your soil full of nutrients

If you are new to the area or have just never looked into what your soil is made up of, it’s a good idea to get a professional to check it out. Cooperative extension services only cost about $20 and they conduct a variety of measurements for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients. They will likely recommend a type of fertilizer to add to your lawn to make up for any nutrients it is lacking.

2.) Don’t let your lawn dry out

In order to keep your lawn bright and green over the summer, it is recommended that you water your lawn every day that it doesn’t rain. An easy way to do this is with a sprinkler system. Be sure that the system covers the correct area, as water on pavement or asphalt is wasteful. Your lawn gaining a slight blue tint, the grass blades curling, or foot imprints being left after someone crosses it are all signs of dehydration. Watering your lawn in the morning maximizes the amount of water absorbed by your grass, and also helps prevent burning.

3.) Watch for pets and pests

If you notice that your lawn is patchy, there are several common pests that may be at work. For instance, if you find small volcano shaped holes, it is likely that moles are the culprit. Voles also like to burrow in yards, and can be identified by the long pathways that they dig out in the late winter or early spring. Either of these pests can be taken care of by treating affected areas with castor oil. If you see an excessive number of beetles in the area, it is likely that you are dealing with lawn grubs. In this case, you can treat your yard with Milky Spore lawn spread or granular pest control products.
Another cause of lawn damage is pet urine. If you own a pet, it is likely that this cannot be avoided, but there are a couple of things that you can do to help. First, be sure to walk your pet in different areas so that one particular part of your yard is not over-used. It also helps to encourage your pet to drink more water, which can dilute urine. Most importantly, you should water down the affected area within eight hours.



April 28, 2014

What to do with a blank wall in any room

Blank walls can feel like one of the most daunting decorating tasks, but a little inspiration can go a long way. From DIY crafts to inexpensive decor ideas, we’ll show you how to transform bare walls into beautiful works of art.

In the entryway

Make this smaller space seem larger with the help of a decorative wall mirror. The reflection not only brightens the room but also creates an inviting feel for house guests. Save money by sprucing up a vintage, multi-pane mirror salvaged from a local flea market. The project will make you feel accomplished and likely inspire your next renovation project.

In the family room

Share your favorite family memories with a photo wall collage. blank wallMake the collection as simple or intricate as you’d like by finding a set of frames that complements the room’s existing decor and matching each frame to an accompanying photograph. First, hang the top row of frames, making sure to mix up the sizes and space them no more than four inches apart. Next, hang the bottom row in a similar fashion, saving the middle photos for last.

In the kitchen

Don’t be afraid to bring touches of art into one of the most functional rooms in the house. Get creative by showcasing vintage recipe cards, delectable food images from art books, or even your favorite cookbook cover. Inexpensive clip-frames make the process easy to re-imagine and repeat, as new art inspires your foodie soul.

In the dining room

Design your own mini museum by displaying your favorite collectibles, whether they’re thimbles or plates. Hang two identical shadow boxes parallel to one another, and fill them with a series of themed trinkets or contrast the two boxes. This exhibit will instantly revive a would-be bland dining room.

In the office

Refresh your study with a splash of color thanks to a roll of leftover, or inexpensive wallpaper. Bright, graphic prints transformed into panels of framed wall art help spotlight the room’s accent color. If the wall is painted, match the frame color to the crown molding to give the art an extra pop.

In the kid’s room

Unleash the power of your children’s imagination and hang a collection of their personal creations on an empty bedroom wall. Group together several paintings and drawings to form a tasteful representation of their artistic talents. Encourage them to continue creating new pieces to keep the decor fresh.

In the bathroom

Make the most private room in your home more inviting with a series of handsome artwork displayed in a row of uniform frames. The set will not only add a simple touch of color to a blank wall, but also make the space appear longer and larger. Remember to use moisture-proof framing materials to protect the art from mold and mildew.

In the master bedroom

Transform the wall behind your bed into a breathtaking art gallery with an over-sized print scaled to fit the wall’s dimensions. Keep the surrounding decor and frame simple, letting the artwork take center stage. If you want to create a cozy atmosphere, look for an image of a natural setting, or opt for a more modern feel with a fashion-inspired photograph.

In the playroom

Make your casual space even more fun with a triad of graphic art panels. A traditional triptych can be an expensive investment, but you can save money by downloading free artwork from the web and framing the extra-large prints yourself.

Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.



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