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Pergola particulars: How to pick yours perfectly

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 22, 2017

A pergola creates an outdoor room without walls, the perfect addition for the back yard. The feature—constructed of pillars, beams, and cross-beams—can provide a cozy oasis or a place to host your outdoor party. Before you start building your pergola (or having a professional builder do it for you), consider the pergola particulars, so you know how to pick yours perfectly.

How will you use it?

Will your pergola be a garden feature, something to add vertical interest with trailing vines along the beams and pillars? Are you thinking about this space as a peaceful oasis where you can escape with a good book, a cup of coffee, or just your thoughts? Or will your pergola be entertainment central, with an outdoor kitchen, furniture, and lighting? Determine how you need your backyard pergola to “perform”. This will help you determine the size and other features.

What style do you like?

Pergola design ranges from rustic to traditional to contemporary. Decide on the style that suits you. An arched pergola is ideal for a garden feature, where the flowers and vines grow along the curves in a naturally-looking way. Choosing straight lines gives a clean style that can be adapted to your taste by choosing the wood type and stain you like, or opting for maintenance-free vinyl in white or black.

How much shelter do you want?

A pergola is an open space, but if you’re leaning toward more shade or shelter, you have options. Install roof cladding for the most protection from the elements, or acrylic panels to keep out the rain. A pergola canopy or shade cloth adds color and the soft draping of fabric. You can also construct your pergola with the beams placed more closely together, which can provide a surprising amount of shade.

Do you need lighting?

Picture your pergola lit up at night, a place to enjoy stargazing or extend your entertainment into the evening hours. Solar lighting will offer soft illumination, or you can hire an electrician to wire your pergola for lighting and other electrical uses.

How big should your pergola be?

Size is relative. A pergola should be sized to scale with other outdoor structures. If you’re placing it near your pool, make sure that the pergola isn’t dwarfed by the size of the pool, and vice versa. Consider future uses for your pergola. If you plan to eventually add an outdoor kitchen, build a pergola that will grow with your vision.

The Best Local Places to Celebrate with Dad this Father’s Day

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: June 15, 2017

 

Looking to start a new tradition with Dad this Father’s Day? We at Team Tuskes know just how special this day can be. To celebrate, we put together some of our favorite Father’s Day traditions—both old and new, across the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern PA!

If you’re in the Lehigh Valley…

IronPigs Baseball: Take Dad out to the ballgame!

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs will be playing at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Enjoy the stadium’s tasty (and dad-friendly) ballpark snacks, like roasted corn from Aw Shucks, or pizza and other favorites from Pig Stop. To really show Dad he’s super, celebrate at “Superhero Night” on Saturday, and enjoy a special fireworks show at the end of the game. If you’re bringing Dad to the park on Sunday, don’t forget your baseball mitt—the field will be open to the public for fans to play catch after the game, just for Father’s Day.

 

 

 

Lehigh Valley Zoo: Explore your wild side!

Dads are sure to have a wild time at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, located in Schnecksville, where they’ll receive half-price admission this weekend! The zoo will be full of fun Father’s Day activities, like animal-themed craft stations where kids can make gifts for Dad. Enjoy the zoo’s Wonders of Wildlife shows, where you’ll get up close and personal with some of your favorite wild animals, and bond with Dad while interacting with animals from across the globe.

 

 

 

SteelStacks Grand Prix: Start your engines!

Race down to Bethlehem this Father’s Day for the first-ever SteelStacks Grand Prix! The Lehigh Valley Grand Prix and SteelStacks have teamed up to plan an action-packed afternoon of fast-paced go-kart racing and exciting family activities, perfect for Father’s Day. Racing teams, sponsored by local businesses, will zip down a half-mile track at up to 40 miles per hour. Spectators can watch from the grandstands and cheer on their favorite teams, free of charge. Then, check out the car show presented by Chevy 21, enjoy a snack from one of the event’s many food vendors, or compete in a virtual go-kart race in the Mario Kart Tourney at the ArtsQuest Center. The action kicks off at noon!

 

 

 

If you’re in Northeastern PA…

Sand Springs Golf Course: Hit the green!

There’s no better tradition than a round of golf on Father’s Day. Luckily, our Sand Springs community in Drums, PA is tailor-made for a perfect day with Dad! In addition to our homes, Sand Springs has an 18-hole championship golf course and a wonderful restaurant, bar, and grill. To celebrate Father’s Day, Sand Springs is offering 18 holes of golf with cart, a hot dog, and soda for just $32. Or, make a reservation for the Father’s Day FEAST—a buffet on the patio serving all of Dad’s favorites. For more information regarding tee times and buffet reservations, call 570-788-5845 today!

 

 

Color me sold! How paint color impacts your home’s sale price

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 15, 2017

You’re getting your home ready to put on the market. You clean out the clutter and the personal items. You boosted the curb appeal. You put a fresh coat of white paint on your bathroom walls.

Which one of these actions will actually reduce the amount you get for your home?

The white paint is going to cost you.

According to Zillow’s 2017 Paint Color Analysis, the choice of light blue or periwinkle for your bathroom walls could increase your home’s sales price as much as $5,4440, while your white wall could lower the price by up to $4,035.

Zillow studied 32,000 photos of homes that sold between 2010 and February 2017, and compared the price to the Zillow estimate, when compared to similar homes with white walls. They analyzed color combinations for various rooms and the exterior paint color to determine the best color choices.

The right shades of blue and gray in certain living areas will fetch you a better price, too: $1,809 for the kitchen and $1,926 for the bedroom (light cerulean to cadet blue), but cost you $820 in your living room!

Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist, explains, “Painting walls in fresh, natural-looking colors, particularly in shades of blue and pale gray not only make a home feel larger, but also are neutral enough to help future buyers envision themselves living in the space. Incorporating light blue in kitchens and bathrooms may pay off especially well as the color complements white countertops and cabinets, a growing trend in both rooms.”

Homes with the exterior paint color of “greige” (gray and beige) added $1,526, while medium brown, taupe, and stucco seemed to cut the selling price by almost $2,000.

Even the color on your front door can increase your home’s sales value to a buyer. The choice of navy blue or dark gray could boost the selling price by $1,526.

Here are some other room color choices to avoid:

  • Pink bedrooms = -$208
  • Yellow kitchen = -$820
  • Red dining room = -$2,031

For a minimal investment in the right paint colors, you can easily brush up the sale price of your home.

10 ideas for a pet-friendly home

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 8, 2017

Your pet is part of your family, so make sure your furry friends feel like they’re also part of your home. Here are 10 ideas for pet-friendly home.

  1. Remove temptation. Dogs and cats have a powerful sense of smell, so they’re drawn to fragrant items and places, which could include your garbage, pantry, and countertops. Keep a strong lid on your trash can and keep food out of the reach of pets. Remember, certain foods are toxic to dogs and cats, like grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, mushrooms, and xylitol (artificial sweetener). In addition, a dog can choke on small bones discovered in a trash can.
  2. Get rid of dangerous plants for pets. Some common house plants present a risk to pets, who often can’t resist chewing on foliage. English ivy, lilies, azaleas, mums, tulips, and oleander should be removed from any areas where your pets roam freely. Click here to browse the ASPCA’s complete list of toxic plants.
  3. Another reason to put down the toilet lid. The toilet bowl is a curious place for animals. Dogs and cats may go there for a drink, and end up ingesting chemicals. Small animals—hamsters, kittens, guinea pigs, gerbils—have been known to fall in and drown. For safety sake, make sure everyone in your family closes the toilet lid.
  4. Tuck strings, cords, and wires out of reach. Animals may chew or become tangled in the cords from your electronics or window treatments. Protect your animals and your home by keeping those pet hazards out of reach.
  5. Put a latch on cabinets. Cabinet doors can be easily opened with the nudge of a nose or paw. Prevent your pet from getting into your stash of cleaning supplies by putting a child-safe latch on your lower cabinet doors.
  6. Secure your screens. Cats and dogs love to look out windows. They might get a little too excited when they spot a squirrel or bird. If your window screen isn’t firmly secured, your cat or small dog can push the screen and fall out the window. Check your window screens to make sure they are tightly secured.
  7. Provide safe chew toys and scratching posts. It’s natural for dogs to chew and cats to scratch. Cats mark territory with scent from glands in their paws and also scratch to sharpen their claws and stretch their muscles. You can prevent them from taking out their natural instincts on your furniture, flooring, door trim, and windowsills by presenting palatable alternatives. Put healthy chew toys in various places for your dog. Place scratching posts and boards (preferably with coarse surfaces, like sisal rope) near the areas where you cat likes to scratch. Rub catnip oil on the scratching surface to entice the cat.
  8. Give them their own space. You have your bedroom, so why not give your dog or cat their personal space? A dog bed with toys and perhaps a blanket with your scent on it is perfect for your canine companion. Cats prefer to hide away in a secluded space, so a quiet retreat away from bustling activity will be ideal. A perch on a windowsill is also a welcomed space for a cat to relax.
  9. Shop wisely for home furnishings. Be sure your upholstery and carpets are stain-resistant and sturdy. Avoid anything with a thick nap or pile because pet hair will find its way in there and become difficult to remove. You might also consider purchasing furniture that blends in with your pet’s fur color!
  10. Top your bed with washable duvet covers. A majority of homeowners welcome their pets into their beds. A duvet cover is easy to remove and wash—and far less bulky that a comforter.

When you create a safe environment for your pet, you’re less likely to have those “oh no!” moments.

House-hunting tips for successful online home searches

Categories: Blog | Posted: June 1, 2017

Nine out of ten people who search for a new home use the Web at some point. According to Google, the number of real-estate related searches appearing on this browser increased 253% in four years.

We rely on our mobile devices for all sorts of research and purchases, so why not use this power tool when tackling the hunt for the perfect home? But, like any other online research, make sure you’re using the right resources that will give you accurate and useful information. Here are some tips for successful online home searches

  1. Use a reliable real estate search site. Realtor, Zillow, and Trulia are the most common sites for browsing listings. Realtor is the most up-to-date of the three, but you probably won’t find “For Sale By Owner” listings there. The site is sponsored by the National Association of Realtors, so it feels no obligation to list properties that aren’t represented by one of its members. Zillow is useful for gauging home values (although the numbers are calculated using an algorithm, so don’t count on them as a negotiating tool). Trulia has some valuable features, like using map overlays to learn more about a neighborhood’s schools, crime statistics, and amenities.
  2. Know your priorities and deal-breakers. To avoid wasting your time with homes that just don’t meet your needs, make a list of your criteria—location, size, age, and maximum price of the home, number of bedrooms and baths, lot size, and home style (e.g., single-family, duplex, condo, townhome). Enter those into your home search, as well as any other important features, like a swimming pool, attached garage, basement, fireplace, central air, handicap accessible, hardwood floors, or water view. You can specify new construction or look only for homes within communities. Start with the “must have” list so you don’t exclude a possible winner that is only lacking a feature that you could honestly live without.
  3. Research the school system. If you have school-age children, you can easily learn about the quality of the schools in the district. Go to org to review the ratings of each school, including private, charter, and magnet schools.
  4. Check out the neighborhood. If you’re new to the area you’re searching, it’s important to learn about the neighborhoods. Sites like Neighborhood Scout show you statistics on crime, average income levels, public school test scores, and home value trends. HomeFair has a tool that lets you compare the population’s demographics, including cost of living, between two cities. Go to Google Maps to get a satellite view of the area, with locations of nearby schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other services. If you’re unsure about the weather in the new area, visit The Weather Channel’s website.
  5. Check out the social, cultural, and recreation scenes. The city or regional Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for identifying popular local attractions, historical sites, and activities. Visit Facebook pages for those areas, and also search in to see what’s happening.

Of course, there’s only one way to truly get the feel for a home, a street, a neighborhood, and a town. Go for a drive, look around, stop and talk to people—you know, the old-fashioned, “manual” method.

Tips for choosing a mover

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 25, 2017

Moving to a new home is exciting. However, packing up your home and making the move can be stressful. You can make your life much easier by knowing how to choose a moving company that is reliable and affordable.

Here are some useful tips for choosing a mover that will safely transport your belongings to your new location.

  1. Ask for recommendations. Talk to family, friends, neighbors, real estate agents, and co-workers about their experiences with movers. What did they like or dislike about the mover they chose? Did the mover show up on time, deliver as promised, safeguard their property, and stick to its estimate?
  2. Check reviews. Do an online search of each mover you’re considering. Check the reviews on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, com, and MovingScam.com. Be sure to look at any responses and resolution offered by the movers when there was a negative review. If they made amends, they are trying to live up to a standard.
  3. Get in-home estimates from at least three movers. No mover can give you an accurate estimate over the phone, and don’t hire a mover who estimates by cubic feet. They need to see your home and your belongings. Do they need to maneuver heavy furniture from an upper floor? Is access a problem? Once a mover has actually seen what you want to move, he can’t complain later that he didn’t know you had a piano on the second floor or a lot of breakables to be packed.
  4. Clearly communicate your needs and expectations. Surprises are wonderful at birthdays, but not when you’re moving. Tell the mover what you need and want—the date of the move, desired delivery, amount of packing to be required, and the type and frequency of communication with the driver along the route. If it’s critical that they movers arrive at a specific time, be sure that’s clear. Make no assumptions that what you want is a standard practice with every mover!
  5. Know the mover’s credentials, safety record, and insurance. Get the mover’s Department of Transportation (DOT) license, and verify it with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Ask which type of liability insurance they offer to customers, such as full value or released value. The FMCSA also has a website where you can check the safety record of a mover. Visit “Company Snapshot” on org.
  6. Know who is actually moving you. Some movers use subcontractors. Do you feel comfortable with this third-party approach? Also, take the time to visit the mover’s office. Look at the condition of the trucks and ask to see their storage facility. You’re trusting them with your life’s possessions, so they should respect your wish to know where and how your items will be handled, transported, and stored.
  7. Study the estimate. Carefully review each moving estimate so you understand what you will be agreeing to. Is there a “not to exceed” price? Is it a binding estimate? What are the possible additional costs? How much insurance is included? Are all the services you requested, like packing and unpacking, included? Finally, be clear about the payment process. When is payment required? What forms of payment are accepted? What is the cancellation policy?

Whether you are moving across town or across the country, you need a mover that will reliably handle the critical task of getting your belongings from your current home to your new one. Be sure you’re placing your trust in the right company.

 

Tips to prepare your home for the summer

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 18, 2017

Do you feel it? That sudden urge to throw open the windows and escape from your winter hibernation? Summer is coming soon. You’re ready for months of sunshine, cookouts, and entertainment, but is your home?

Before the temperature climbs much higher, prepare your home for the summer season by doing these important chores.

Prevent water damage. Spring and summer bring their share of rain. Make sure your home is protected. Clean the gutters so the water can flow freely and direct the water away from the house, where it can pool and cause damage. Look for cracks and breaks in the gutters and downspouts. Also, inspect your foundation for cracks that could allow water to leak into your home.

Check the caulking around your doors and windows. If there are any cracks, replace the caulk so that those leaks don’t cause mold or wood rot.

Clean the driveway and walkways. Pressure wash these surfaces and then inspect them for damage. Replace broken pavers. Repair cracks or holes in your driveway to prevent them from getting worse.

Check the deck. Your deck might have taken a beating over the winter, from the cold temperatures, snow, and ice. Before you start your deck inspection. clean it. Use a brush with low pressure—a pressure washer can damage the wood’s fibers. Next, inspect the wood for cracks and splinters, including along the joists, posts, and railing. Make sure the attachment of the deck to the house is secure. Although decking material is treated to resist ants and termites, the wood on your home isn’t. Look at the hardware to see if any is missing or needs replacement. Then apply deck sealant or wood stain.

Touch up the greenery. Trim the shrubs to spark healthy growth. Cut branches that could cause damage, either by scraping your home or low-hanging limbs that might hurt a passerby. Rake out your garden beds and lawn. Fertilize the lawn early in the season and seed any areas that have become bare. While you’re doing your yardwork, be sure to scrub the bird baths and any empty containers or pots, to ensure no bacteria or bugs survived over the winter.

Get ready for watering. Bring out your hoses (assuming you stashed them safely in the garage and not under the snow). Make sure there are no cracks or leaks in the hoses and nozzles. Replace any faulty ones. Walk around the yard and check the sprinkler heads to make sure they’re intact and ready to water your lawn.

Inspect the HVAC. You’ll probably rely on your air conditioning shortly. Before you’re battling the heat inside your home, check the HVAC. Clear away any debris on or around the compressor outside. Make sure the condenser unit is level, so that it doesn’t work harder than it should. Clean or replace the air filters (which should be done monthly).

Prep for outdoor living. Clean your outdoor furniture. If the cushions were left out during the winter, consider replacing them. Clean the grill and make sure the propane tanks are full, or you have a supply of charcoal.

By investing a little time now, you can enjoy many months of comfortable summer fun.

Selling Your Home? – How to appeal to the Millennial homebuyer

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 11, 2017

There’s a new generation of homebuyers out there, and they are distinctly different than those who came before them.

Millennials—a total of about 80 million people born between 1980 and 2000—constitute about 35 percent of today’s homebuyers, according to a 2016 National Association of Realtors study. Although many of them have school loan and credit card debt, they’re also living with their parents longer (a lot longer) to save money. It’s a market segment you can’t ignore, but you also can’t overlook the fact that they have strong preferences in their home choices. If you want to successfully sell to this generation, you need to learn how to appeal to the Millennial homebuyer. Here are some home staging tips.

They live lightly. Millennials aren’t clutterbugs. They aren’t likely to be weighed down by possessions, as they prefer to feel unencumbered, to pick up and go on a whim. They like simplicity in their surroundings. When you’re preparing to sell your home, be sure to remove all the extra décor and furnishings. What you might think of as “cozy” or “charming”, they might perceive as “mom’s house”.

DIY doesn’t cut it. This is a generation that has been accustomed to instant gratification. They want a home to be move-in ready. That means updated and clean. They want stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Carpets are passé to this group; they prefer the natural look of wood flooring, so even manufactured wood, laminate, or wood-like tile is a plus.

Open spaces are preferred. This generation of homebuyer is looking for something more modern than their parents’ home. They want an open floor plan that is conducive to the frequent entertaining they anticipate. They prefer multi-purpose space to defined areas (like dining rooms). Show them how to use a space as a media room (with Internet connectivity, please) and you’ll get their attention.

Go for the green. Millennials are more committed to eco-friendly living than any other generation. They want energy efficiency in the construction (insulation, windows), systems (HVAC), appliances, and fixtures (toilets, showers, LED lighting). Be sure to point out any repurposed or recycled materials used in the home (cork or bamboo flooring, recycled glass surfaces).

Every year, more Millennials will prepare to buy a home. Are you ready to sell to them?

7 Tips to Prepare Your Home For the Summer Months

Categories: Blog | Posted: May 4, 2017

Do you feel it? That sudden urge to throw open the windows and escape from your winter hibernation? Summer is coming soon. You’re ready for months of sunshine, cookouts, and entertainment, but is your home?

Before the temperature climbs much higher, prepare your home for the summer season by doing these important chores.

Prevent water damage. Spring and summer bring their share of rain. Make sure your home is protected. Clean the gutters so the water can flow freely and direct the water away from the house, where it can pool and cause damage. Look for cracks and breaks in the gutters and downspouts. Also, inspect your foundation for cracks that could allow water to leak into your home.

Check the caulking around your doors and windows. If there are any cracks, replace the caulk so that those leaks don’t cause mold or wood rot.

Clean the driveway and walkways. Pressure wash these surfaces and then inspect them for damage. Replace broken pavers. Repair cracks or holes in your driveway to prevent them from getting worse.

Check the deck. Your deck might have taken a beating over the winter, from the cold temperatures, snow, and ice. Before you start your deck inspection. clean it. Use a brush with low pressure—a pressure washer can damage the wood’s fibers. Next, inspect the wood for cracks and splinters, including along the joists, posts, and railing. Make sure the attachment of the deck to the house is secure. Although decking material is treated to resist ants and termites, the wood on your home isn’t. Look at the hardware to see if any is missing or needs replacement. Then apply deck sealant or wood stain.

Touch up the greenery. Trim the shrubs to spark healthy growth. Cut branches that could cause damage, either by scraping your home or low-hanging limbs that might hurt a passerby. Rake out your garden beds and lawn. Fertilize the lawn early in the season and seed any areas that have become bare. While you’re doing your yardwork, be sure to scrub the bird baths and any empty containers or pots, to ensure no bacteria or bugs survived over the winter.

Get ready for watering. Bring out your hoses (assuming you stashed them safely in the garage and not under the snow). Make sure there are no cracks or leaks in the hoses and nozzles. Replace any faulty ones. Walk around the yard and check the sprinkler heads to make sure they’re intact and ready to water your lawn.

Inspect the HVAC. You’ll probably rely on your air conditioning shortly. Before you’re battling the heat inside your home, check the HVAC. Clear away any debris on or around the compressor outside. Make sure the condenser unit is level, so that it doesn’t work harder than it should. Clean or replace the air filters (which should be done monthly).

Prep for outdoor living. Clean your outdoor furniture. If the cushions were left out during the winter, consider replacing them. Clean the grill and make sure the propane tanks are full, or you have a supply of charcoal.

By investing a little time now, you can enjoy many months of comfortable summer fun.

Take your spring cleaning outside: Exterior maintenance checklist

Categories: Blog | Posted: April 27, 2017

Spring cleaning is not just an indoor sport. The outside of your home needs some sprucing up this time of year, too.

Follow this exterior maintenance checklist and take your spring cleaning outside.

  1. Wash the walls. You might be surprised at how much dirt has built on your home’s exterior walls. Use a pressure washer to clean it, but be careful if you have vinyl siding or damaged shingles. The best way to clean vinyl siding is with soapy water and a long-handled brush.
  2. Inspect the roof. Snow and ice might have caused damage to your home’s roof. Check for cracked, loose, or missing shingles, and replace any that you find. Also, look for water stains on your ceilings. Melting snow might have left marks where you have roof leaks.
  3. Clean the windows and screens. No one enjoys washing windows, but you’ll enjoy the results of a better view. The best window cleaning solution is a mixture of equal parts of white vinegar and water. And don’t waste paper towels. Use crumpled newspaper, which doesn’t leave lint behind.

Scrub your screens with warm, soapy water and a soft brush. Small holes can be repaired by pressing the mesh back in place and applying a few coats of clear nail polish to hold them there.

  1. Clear out the gutters. Twice a year (spring and fall), you should remove all the debris from your gutters and flush out the gutters and downspouts with a hose. Build-up can lead to water damage to your home. Inspect your gutters for cracks and make sure they’re firmly attached.
  2. Refresh your patio, porch, and deck. Get ready for outdoor entertaining by pressure washing your outdoor living space surfaces. Reseal the decking. Check the steps and railings to be sure everything is firmly in place.

The upside of this side of spring cleaning is that you can enjoy the outdoors while you’re working through your exterior maintenance checklist!

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