RE/MAX 440
Bill and Rachel Burke

Bill and Rachel Burke
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-453-7653
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6810

My Blog

Top 10 Things That Make Your House Spooky - and How to Fix Them

October 16, 2014 1:29 am

The Plan Collection (TPC) notes that having a haunted-looking house might be just the look you want once a year, but what about once Halloween's over? The company shares their list of the top 10 elements of a house plan design that can make any home the scariest in the neighborhood along with advice on how to fix them.

1. Eerie Architectural Style. Remember the rather "unique" look of the home in The Addams Family? Norman Bates' house on the hill in Psycho? Certain architectural styles - such as Victorian and the Second Empire style with its mansard roofs - have a long history in spooky literature and horror films. Ironically, we often associate these same styles with some of the most cheerful and charming places in the country - just think Disney's Main Street USA.

2. Lifeless Color Scheme. Dark paint colors, when used as the primary exterior color, can make almost any home look dreary, uninviting. Lighter paint colors that complement the design of your house are often the better choice for the exterior of your home. Reserve your use of darker color to areas that emphasize special features such as the trim or windows.

3. Ghostly Lighting. No one wants to knock on the door of a house without exterior lighting, but lighting features that cause heavy shadows along walk-ways or at entry points - creating that fear that something or someone might be lurking just ahead -- can be even worse. Redirecting the light features or using lower wattage bulbs is often an easy way to chase the ghosts away. If investing in new lighting, consider lamps that emphasize the beauty of your home's exterior features.

4. Zombie Landscaping. Those trees and bushes might have looked perfectly sized to the house for perhaps the first five years after planted, but don't forget... they're alive. Alive! Neglected trees and shrubs keep growing and need constant tending. Without attention, they end up surrounding your house with an "undead" feel. In addition to detracting from the house design, older, large branches are also a risk to your home in storms. Take those pruners and cut off some heads or at least give everything a good trim.

5. Suspended Maintenance. Most everyone puts at least some repairs off, but rigorous home maintenance is essential. Spring and fall are the best time of year to start checking fix-it projects off your list. Fix that step before you have to fix the entire stairs! If the exterior is starting to look dull consider power washing it. Touch up paint before a small problem becomes a big one.

6. Scary Windows. Small windows or windows covered with heavy drapery create a more somber feel. For small windows, use brighter window treatments to lighten the mood. Take advantage of any larger windows to bring outdoor light into the home.

7. Creepy Front Door. Ever have second thoughts before knocking on a front door while trick-or-treating? Well, the size and color of the entry door play a big role in making first impressions. If the front door feels uninviting, think about using a bolder, friendlier color such as a bright red, or chase away the shadows by strategically using lighting.

8. Bone Chilling Floor Plan. Small rooms and narrow hallways make for a cramped, uninviting floor plan. Consider an open concept floor plan if buying or building a house. If renovating, be sure to consult a professional before removing walls in your current home, as they may be "load bearing" walls, and will have to be replaced with other supports or structures.

9. Mysterious Staircases. Narrow staircases with walls on both sides can be dark and creepy. Lowering a wall to open the staircase up to the room or hallway below can go a long way to dispelling some of the dark, scary mystery and making your stairs more inviting.

10. Horrifying Home Décor. Dark, oversized furniture and heavy rugs can have a tendency to make a home feel less inviting. Stacks of stuff and excess clutter around the house? Not going to help the situation. Ask yourself if you really need all that stuff and if not, get rid of some of it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Pumpkin Carving with Power Tools

October 16, 2014 1:29 am

Want to use items you may already have to save time and effort on your Halloween pumpkins? Mr. Handyman has perfected pumpkin carving using power tools. Power tools are sturdier than pre-packaged carving kits, and help you achieve better results. Mr. Handyman shares five tips to make your pumpkins front-porch worthy this year:

• Cut off the Top: To remove the top of your pumpkin, use a jigsaw blade at a 45 degree angle around the top to remove the lid. Watch how quick and easy it is to open the pumpkin.

• Gut the Pumpkin: Purchase a pumpkin gutter tool for around $10 and save 20 minutes compared to scraping the insides with a spoon. Simply insert the pumpkin gutter into your drill, tighten, and quickly clean the insides without damaging the seeds.

• Drill Perfectly Circular Eyes: Use a ruler and mark two evenly spaced places for the eyes. Then, insert coring bits into the drill and to easily cut perfect holes for the eyes.

• Chip Away Pumpkin "Skin": One of the biggest trends in pumpkin carving is chipping away the "skin" or outermost layer of the pumpkin. To get this look, download one of our pumpkin carving templates, outline your design on the pumpkin using a pen or thumb tacks. Next, place the tip of a woodworking chisel underneath the skin and push away from the outside edge of your design.

• Create Mini Pumpkin Bats: Spray cardboard and mini pumpkins with black spray paint. Cut the cardboard into wing shapes, take a chisel to cut slips on the sides of the mini pumpkins, and insert the wings. Drill holes in the pumpkins and insert small bolts for eyes. You can insert an eye screw on the top so you can hang a dozen of these around your front door using fishing line.

Source: Mr. Handyman

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Least Expensive Fall and Thanksgiving Travel Destinations

October 15, 2014 1:29 am

Against the backdrop of rising airfares, new research from Fly.com reveals travelers can still save money this Thanksgiving and fall. But, to do so, travelers will need to fly westward.

Fly.com’s data study, which compared the average cost of flights to popular fall vacation spots in 2013 against 2014 prices, found that – with the exception of Dallas – the only destinations experiencing cheaper fares this fall are located in the western United States.

Surprisingly Hawaii, which is often associated with expensive airfares, offers the best deals for the Thanksgiving and post-Thanksgiving travel periods. In contrast, Florida’s continued popularity over the fall has played a role in rising fares. For instance, flights to Tampa between December 1-21 cost 25 percent more in 2014 compared with last year.

The Fly.com study also revealed that flights to popular fall destinations cost an average $105 more during the Thanksgiving travel period, but drop $123 post-Thanksgiving.

“To borrow the words of American author Horace Greeley, it is time to ‘go west,’” said Warren Chang, vice president and general manager, Fly.com. “For anyone still looking to use up their vacation days without breaking the bank, the West Coast and Mountain states offer something for every taste. There are also some amazing hotel deals out there for Hawaii and Los Angeles that can save travelers even more money.”

Source: Fly.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Dog Safe on Halloween

October 15, 2014 1:29 am

(Family Features) Including pets in your family's Halloween festivities can be a fun addition to your celebration. However, with all the excitement comes the chance for pets to get into danger or trouble. You can head off potential problems and enjoy an evening of fun with some safety tips and smart planning.

Keeping your pet away from candy and other Halloween treats is especially important because so many favorites include chocolate, which is potentially toxic for dogs. It's also an ideal time to practice obedience commands with your four-legged friends, as crowds of unfamiliar people, costumes and lots of open doors can create temptations too hard to resist.

To include your furry family members while still keeping them safe during the fun, follow these guidelines.

Trick-or-treating together
  • Before hitting the streets, make sure your dog is socialized around kids, adults and other animals.
  • Bring water and treats to reward your dog for good behavior and reduce the desire to go for kids' candy.
  • Increase nighttime visibility with LED leashes, collars or harnesses.
Pawsitively good party manners
  • Before guests arrive, practice "leave it" or a similar command. This is useful to help pets avoid candy or food they might encounter on the ground. Trainers can help you get it down right.
  • Establish a rule that guests don't feed the dog candy or human food. A new interactive toy or long-lasting rawhide may keep your pup busy and out of temptation's way. Many ingredients commonly found in Halloween candy can be harmful to your pet. For example, xylitol, found in gum and candy can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death. Even snacks that are healthy for humans, such as raisins, can cause a toxic reaction.
  • Prevent your dog from running out an open door by working on a "stay" command. Ask your dog to sit, and praise him when he obeys. While your dog is sitting, say "stay" and place your hand flat with your palm facing the dog. Wait 2-3 seconds then give your dog a treat. You can increase the time he stays by a couple of seconds every three repetitions, working up to 30 seconds.
  • If you aren't confident about your dog's abilities, keep him on a leash while the doorbell is ringing.
Costume comfort and safety
  • A costume should never constrain or bother your pet. If your pet isn't comfortable, try a strap-on costume that attaches loosely with snaps or around the pet.
  • Once a costume fits properly, make sure your pet won't trip on anything like a cape or ribbon. Check for little parts within chewing distance and keep identification tags on collars.
  • Throughout the evening, watch your pet and make adjustments as needed. You may need to cut or remove portions of the costume to increase a pet's comfort. The most important part of the evening is your pet's safety.
Source: PetSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Winter Storm Prep: Your Home's Exterior

October 15, 2014 1:29 am

With forecasters anticipating a bitterly cold winter, take time now to prepare your home for weathering seasonal storms. Damage from a storm can be devastating to both the interior and exterior of your home, so it’s important to take precautions inside and out.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) suggest taking these steps to protect your home’s exterior.

1. Clean out gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, a condition where water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.

2. Install gutter guards.
Gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

3. Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind could cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.

4. Repair steps and handrails. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.

5. Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations. Use caulking to seal around any wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Caulk and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent warm air from leaking out and cold air from blowing in.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Easy Ways to Protect the Planet

October 14, 2014 1:29 am

Most people are aware that Mother Earth needs all the help it can get to avoid running out of resources. But going green doesn’t have to be a daunting task, ecologists maintain.

We can all lend a hand to help the planet beginning with these 10 simple tactics:

Launder in warm/cold water
– If every U.S. household switched the washer from hot cycle to warm/cold, we would save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

Recycle glass
– Recycled glass reduces related air pollution by 20 percent and related water pollution by 50 percent. (Glass that isn’t recycled can take a million years to decompose.)

Go vegetarian one day a week
– It takes 25,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.

Rethink bottled water
– It’s convenient, but 90 percent of plastic bottles are not recycled and can take thousands of years to decompose. Buy a reusable container and use it. (Surprise: EPA standards for tap water are stricter than FDA standards for bottled water.)

Use both sides of paper – American businesses throw away 21 million tons of paper annually. Before you pitch it, turn it over and use the reverse side as scratch pads – and when you’ve used both sides, don’t forget to recycle.

Use your cruise control – You paid for the extras, so use them. Using cruise control can save you up to 15 percent on gasoline, saving you money while you help the planet.

Recycle old cell phones – The average cell phone lasts around 18 months, which means 130 million phones will be retired each year. In landfills, these phones and their batteries introduce toxic substances into the environment. Retire yours into one of many reputable phone recycling programs, many of which benefit good causes.

Recycle old wire hangers – Many recycling programs won’t accept steel wire hangers – but the many dry cleaners will gladly take them back to use again.

Go to a car wash – They make more efficient use of water than we do when we wash our cars ourselves. We could save more than 8 billion gallons of water annually if we all used the car wash.

Use cotton swabs with paperboard spindles – If 10 percent of households switched back from plastic-spindled cotton swabs to those with paperboard spindles, the petroleum energy saved per year would be equivalent to150,000 gallons of gas.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Poll: Many Americans Neglect Online Security

October 14, 2014 1:29 am

A recent survey of Americans' personal online security habits shows large numbers of Americans are putting their devices and personal information at risk. The poll commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance and Blackfin Security shows that Americans open their devices up to unknown entities, download files of unknown origin at high rates, and even ignore best practices when they know they should do otherwise.

"The hackings of Home Depot, Target, and other large retailers may be lulling Americans into thinking that it's big corporations that are rogue operators' prime targets, but that's a mistake," said Adam Benson, Deputy Executive Director of the Digital Citizens Alliance. "Hackers want personal data - credit card numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers. They'll look for open windows - and the online behavior we see reflected in this survey tells us that millions of Americans are leaving the windows open, the doors unlocked, and even giving some hackers the key to get in."

Some of the major findings from the poll include:
  • Nearly one-third of Americans don't change their passwords enough, going as long as a year without updating them.
  • More than one-third use public WiFi that doesn't require a password.
  • Sixteen percent said that using two-factor authentication (which requires the user to have two types of credentials before being able to access an account) makes signing on too much of a burden, while another 23 percent didn't know what two-factor authentication is.
  • Sixty-two percent said they didn't always check or weren't sure if their downloaded movies, music, games, or books were legally authorized.
  • More than 35 percent of all Americans like, follow and connect with people they barely know or don't know on social media. While that can often be with a celebrity or influential figure, in some cases, people might be connecting with someone more interested in your habits than they are in your safety.
Source: Digital Citizens Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Winter Storm Prep: Your Home's Interior

October 14, 2014 1:29 am

With forecasters anticipating a bitterly cold winter, take time now to prepare your home for weathering seasonal storms. Damage from a storm can be devastating to both the interior and exterior of your home, so it’s important to take precautions inside and out.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) suggest taking these steps to protect your home’s interior.

1. Keep the house warm.
Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees – since the temperature inside the walls is substantially colder, a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.

2. Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice melt on the roof. Water can then re-freeze, causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in an ice dam that causes significant roof damage. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing. You may also consider insulating unfinished rooms, such as garages.

3. Provide a reliable back-up power source. In the event of a power outage, continuous power will keep your home warm and help prevent frozen pipes as well as help if you have a battery operated sump-pump. Consider purchasing a portable generator and follow installation and maintenance steps to ensure safety.

4. Have the heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.

5. Check pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately. Pipes in attics and crawl spaces should be protected with insulation or heat. Pipe insulation is available in fiberglass or foam sleeves.

Heating cables and tapes are also effective in preventing pipes from freezing. Select a heating cable with the UL label and a built-in thermostat that turns heat on when needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely.

6. Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.

7. Remove combustible items placed near any heat sources. This includes wood stoves and space heaters.

8. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and make sure they are working properly. Not only do residential fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning.

9. Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.

10. Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired now. Also, ask about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other methods can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fixed Mortgage Rates Decline

October 13, 2014 1:29 am

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates falling back near their lows for 2014.

“Fixed mortgage rates were down on a week filled with bleak forward projections from the Federal Reserve and concern over growth in Europe,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Despite gloomy vernacular from the Fed, mortgage purchase applications were up 2 percent on the week and the labor market added 248,000 jobs, beating expectations and lowering headline unemployment to 5.9 percent.”

Fixed mortgage rates average as follows:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.12 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending October 9, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.19 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.23 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.30 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.36 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.31 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.05 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.06 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.05 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.42 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.64 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Families Can Combat Seasonal Stress

October 13, 2014 1:29 am

With the relaxing days of summer long behind us, the reality of returning to our busy fall routines can be stressful. Whether it's back to a full-time job or adjusting the kids back to school, fall is often a hectic time of year that can cause stress levels to spike.

“People who cope with stress in unhealthy ways end up creating significant personal health problems and more stress for themselves,” explains author Paul Huljich, one of America’s leading stress management experts. “Returning to work after a vacation, transitioning your children to a new school, or even fighting a busier rush hour as schools reopen can all contribute to increased stress levels.”

Don't fall back into old, familiar patterns of stress this season – fight back! When dealing with children, you should focus most on limiting your child's stress levels by preparing them for what's to come. Talking with your kids and understanding what may be causing their stress is a good first step in helping them cope. You'll teach them valuable stress management tips that can be relied upon throughout their lives, and also help to decrease the stress levels in your own life.

Another good approach to cope with stress this fall is to "un-schedule.” For example, there are many fun and rewarding extracurricular activities for children, but it is equally important that kids take time to relax with unscheduled time at home or outdoors. Try to reserve at least one weekday after school that is a "free day," and stick to that schedule for the school year. Both your child and you will be much more relaxed and prepared when you allow yourselves proper downtime.

Source: Mwella Publishing

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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