Christopher T. Hanna
 
Christopher T. Hanna
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown, PA 18104
Phone: 610-704-8316
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Fax: 267-354-6842
channa@remaxcentralinc.com
 
RE/MAX Central  

My Blog

How to Have a Stellar Staycation

June 21, 2016 2:27 am

(TNS)—Finding your finances have fallen short of your vacation goals, but still want to have fun during your time off from work? Don't worry. Staycations don't have to be dull or dreary. By strategically balancing day trips and a few overnight splurges, you can still enjoy your down time and return to work feeling refreshed. Here are some of my favorite ways to do so.

Hikes

Easy-to-moderate day hikes are a great way to grab some quality family time, especially if the trails are acceptable for four-legged children to be included, as well. Recently, while staying at an exotic wildlife sanctuary outside of Tampa, we were invited on a day trip with the sanctuary founder and several seasonal college interns majoring in biology, zoology and other fields related to animals and the outdoors. Our destination? The Circle B Bar Reserve in the town of Lakeland for a day of trail hiking and wildlife spotting.

With the majority of the group being on a college budget, we pinched pennies by packing a picnic lunch and collecting digital photos as our chosen souvenir. The reserve has no entrance fee, and plenty of restroom options and covered pavilions. We were there for hours, spotting birds, turtles, snakes, alligators and more in their natural habitat. It was refreshing to see a group of young people so thrilled with a nature outing that they couldn't stop talking about it for the entire drive, especially since the only costs associated with the day trip were gas and picnic supplies, such as ice and bottled drinks.

History

It's always fun to learn a little something while you enjoy a day trip. Within striking distance of the house we recently sold in Florida, a number of historical tourism options exist for interested travelers. For example, St. Augustine's Castillo De San Marcos and Fort Matanzas National Monument are each worthy of a day trip in their own right. Similarly, the Tampa Bay History Center and the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park in Homosassa offer fun day outings for the whole family, as well. Hanging close to home for reasons of school schedules or air fare budget constraints doesn't mean you have to sit home every day. Period mansions, battlefield sites and historical re-enactments all make great excursions for enthusiastic staycationers.

Hotels

Overnights or multi-day getaways can easily be incorporated into a staycation, particularly if you book your accommodations midweek to avoid weekend price hikes. The money saved by traveling on less expensive days can be redirected for fun splurges such as spa treatments, happy hour snacks or even outlet shopping. By carefully choosing a hotel with plentiful amenities, breakfast service and evening manager's receptions, you can easily maximize the value of your expenditure for greater wow factor. During a two-week vacation, even one brief trip out of town can be incorporated for less than the cost of a single plane ticket. This splurge, combined with a few day trips and at-home indulgences, can help even the most modest budget feel more luxurious.

TrekHound.com founder Myscha Theriault has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Twitter via @MyschaTheriault.

©2016 Myscha Theriault
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Smart Home Wars: Is Google's Brillo Gaining on Apple's HomeKit?

June 21, 2016 2:27 am

When it comes to following the complex world of developing smart home technology, I rely on a pack of savvy experts to stay plugged in to the latest news.

There was a bubble of excitement in recent weeks, with Jordan Novet at VentureBeat.com reporting the launch of an early access program for Google's Brillo, an open-source, Android-based operating system intended for low-powered, Internet-connected devices.

Now that developers can sign up to try Brillo, it's pretty certain widespread usability won't be far behind. As Jamie Carter at TechRadar.com commented: "Who wants separate apps to control lighting, heating, security cameras, the TV and the hi-fi?

"Whether we need yet another wannabe 'Internet of Things' (IoT) platform promising to be the unifier is questionable," Carter says, "but there's no doubt Google's Brillo could be the platform that at last brings standardization to the IoT."

Another of TechRadar's contributors, Jamie Hinks, defined IoT as a growing network of objects that can communicate with each other and complete tasks without any human involvement.

Of course, Google is never far behind a smart new Apple development (or ahead, depending on the day/hour).

A recent Forbes.com feature unpacked Brillo's early access invitation while reminding readers that Apple still has quite a headstart with its HomeKit platform.

Forbes contributor Janakiram MSV recalled that the HomeKit SDK and developer program was announced almost a year ago, and that mature home-automation platforms such as Insteon already support it.

But Android users could be enticed by one of Brillo's pre-eminent components, Weave, which helps devices securely connect to networks while enabling users to connect and collect usage data from mobile and desktop hardware.

Data can be viewed and analyzed in the console to understand consumer usage patterns; crash reports can be analyzed to debug remote devices deployed in the field; and administrators can push patches and the latest version of the software through over-the-air (OTA) updates.

We'll continue to keep an eye on Brillo and touch base again as new developments with this, Apple's HomeKit and other smart home platforms vie for consumer, homeowner and home builders' attentions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Goods Worth Buying Second Hand

June 21, 2016 2:27 am

Moving into your first home is an exciting time. The space is all yours. It’s a blank slate. You can decorate it any way you like. But that doesn’t mean you need to go overboard with expensive housewares and furnishings.

“Buying second hand goods is an inexpensive and functional way to get your new home up and running,” says Trent Hamm, founder of the consumer website TheSimpleDollar.com. “They can serve you for a long time if necessary, but they are replaceable any time you are ready.”

Hamm suggests steering clear of used mattresses and stuffed furniture unless they come from a trusted source, as they can harbor fleas or bedbugs. Do check out garage sales in better neighborhoods, as well as dollar stores, Craigslist, or second hand stores, for these items:

Bed Frame – You can move beyond the ‘mattress on the floor’ stage with an inexpensive used bed frame. There’s no beauty involved here, as the frame is always covered, so why not shop for second hand?

Cookware – Lucky you if you find a well-used iron skillet in good condition, or a few good saucepans, skillets, and baking accessories in assorted sizes.

Décor – It’s easy to find things like picture frames and wall hangings that appeal to your sense of style—as well as a huge variety of vases and other décor items that add a homey touch to your living space.

Dining Table and Chairs – Buy an in expensive used starter set that you can upgrade whenever you are ready.

Dishes, Glasses and Silverware – They may not match, but eclectic mixes are all the rage these days—
and you will have a great variety to choose from. You may even find a matching set, if that’s what you prefer.

Lamps – A great variety of used lamps from floor lamps to table top models are always readily available at very pleasing prices.

Toaster Oven – Better than a traditional toaster, these readily available ovens are great for toasting bread or bagels, and for heating small items or grilling sandwiches.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Rental Property Managers: Take Note of Online Security

June 20, 2016 2:27 am

More rental seekers are turning to online applications to secure housing—but as this method gains popularity, rental property managers must contend with online security concerns.

“In today’s online and mobile era, residents expect quick approvals and smooth application processes, but property managers must remain cognizant of the potential fraud threat,” says Mike Doherty, senior vice president of TransUnion’s Rental Screening Solutions Group. TransUnion recently surveyed a sample of property managers, finding close to 70 percent with concerns about fraud and identity theft, and nearly 40 percent unsure of the accuracy of information submitted by rental seekers in applications.

“This [40 percent] is a significant number because the survey also revealed that about one in four property managers said the cost of evictions has increased when identity theft or online fraud has occurred,” Doherty says.

For the property managers surveyed, income and employment information are the most important factors when screening applicants. Criminal background checks, rental and eviction history and credit history also play a role in the decision to approve or deny an application.

“Credit history, prior rental payments and other screening techniques allow property managers to make smarter and better objective decisions on leasing to prospective residents,” says Doherty. “As an emerging issue in the multifamily industry, property managers should pay additional attention to their online fraud and identity theft protocols to protect their business while allowing strong applicants through the rental application process faster.”

Approximately 80 percent of rental property managers have increased rent on their unit(s) in the last year, according to the survey, and more than half increase rent once a year.

Source: TransUnion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Low Mortgage Rates Continue

June 20, 2016 2:27 am

Mortgage rates are trending downward, and are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future.

According to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averages 3.54 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 15-year FRM, reports the survey, averages 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point.

“The 10-year Treasury yield continued its free fall this week as global risks and expectations for the Fed's June meeting drove investors to the safety of government bonds,” said Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement “The 30-year mortgage rate responded by falling six basis points for the second straight week to 3.54 percent—yet another low for 2016. Wednesday's Fed decision to once again stand pat on rates, as well as growing anticipation of the U.K.'s upcoming European Union referendum will make it difficult for Treasury yields and—more importantly—mortgage rates to substantially rise in the upcoming weeks.”

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), according to the survey, averages 2.74 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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This Summer's Top Outdoor Living Trends

June 20, 2016 2:27 am

Summer’s all about the outdoors—and at a home, that means an outdoor space outfitted for the season.

This summer, three design trends are making a statement: aquamarine, concrete and teak, according to Zillow Digs® recently released Home Trend Forecast.

“Clean, simple and contemporary is the vibe for outdoor living in 2016,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. “Anything high-maintenance, intricate or over-styled will be replaced with materials that can both withstand the elements and transition beautifully between seasons. Natural wood outdoor furniture will take center stage, but will be modernized by concrete or stainless steel accent materials, which will pop up in anything from chair legs to coffee table tops.”

Aquamarine—a blue color in the cerulean family—is unexpectedly warm, pairing well with natural wood and slate, Zillow Digs experts say. The shade can be incorporated into an outdoor space through accents like patio umbrellas and all-weather throw pillows.

Concrete, newly introduced with fiberglass and resin, is making a comeback. Whether it’s a concrete coffee table or a stamped concrete patio, the material has been re-imagined as a contemporary—and practical—element, say Zillow Digs experts.

Teak furniture, such as Adirondack chairs or a dining set, is as popular as ever, this season updated with stainless steel. Zillow Digs experts suggest installing teak platform seating to take the trend from timeless to today.

Trends on their way out, according to the Zillow Digs Forecast, are floral patterns, high-maintenance lawns and wrought iron furniture.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Stay Safe Online: What Is Ransomware and How Can I Avoid It?

June 17, 2016 12:21 am

Reports of ransomware—an invasive software that demands ransom to access unlawfully locked digital files—have risen in the last year, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) (StaySafeOnline.org).

Ransomware, which can attack any user, “kidnaps” a range of information, from financial records to photographs, in an attempt to gain ransom in exchange for the return of the information. Generally, it strikes through an attachment or link containing a ransomware code.

“As cybercriminals become more cunning and sophisticated, we must become more vigilant about basic digital hygiene and protecting our data and devices—including smartphones and tablets,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA, in a statement. “There are simple things everyone can do, like keeping all software updated, turning on two-factor authentication, backing up data in the cloud or other removable media and making strong passwords.”

To ward off attacks, update all software, including security programs, on every internet-enabled machine or device. Be sure to regularly back up important information to a secure location—ransomware criminals cannot demand payment if you can access your information by other means.

Setting a difficult-to-determine password is also wise. Aim for a password that is at least 12 characters. To further reduce your risk, consider adding two-step authentication, which is a process that requires two steps to log in to any password-protected account. This process, sometimes called “two-step verification” or “multi-factor authentication,” may include second steps like text message codes or fingerprint swipes.

Remember: always err on the side of caution. If an email, online advertisement or social media post appears even the slightest bit suspicious, delete or ignore it.

Source: National Cyber Security Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Principles of Lawn Care

June 17, 2016 12:21 am

Forget the HD TV.

Millennial homeowners would sooner have an enviable lawn than a top-of-the-line television—a preference in surprising contrast to that of older homeowners seasoned in lawn care.

Millennials’ affinity for their lawns—a finding from recently released research by John Deere—comes despite a lack of maintenance know-how.

Millennial homeowners who wish to make their lawn the best on the block should follow basic lawn care principles, says Mark Schmidt, principal scientist for John Deere.

“By learning best practices and using properly maintained equipment, homeowners will likely see an improvement in the overall appearance of their lawns,” Schmidt says.

These principles are:

1. Water – Water your lawn before the sun reaches midday, preferably before 10 a.m. Water for a long time once, instead of watering for a short amount of time more often. Avoid mowing the lawn if it is wet.

2. Food – Fertilize cool season turf in early spring and fall. Fertilize warm season turf in spring and summer.

3. Height – Mow the lawn no more than one-third of the grass blade down—any more can cause damage and an unsightly lawn.

4. Time – As with watering, mow your lawn around peak sun periods—in the morning or late afternoon is best. This minimizes stress to the lawn.

5. Maintenance – Tune-up your mower once each year according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This may include sharpening the blade, inflating the tires and replacing the spark plug.

Following these principles to the letter will keep your lawn lush and thriving for years to come. Who says you need a television?

Source: John Deere

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Relocating? 3 FAQs on Safety, Schools

June 17, 2016 12:21 am

Relocating to a new city can be challenging, especially if you’re thoroughly unfamiliar with the area. Which neighborhood is right for me? How is the school system? What should I know as a resident?

ApartmentList.com answers these questions and more in their recently rolled out relocation educational series:

1. How can I qualify for an apartment?
If you’ll be renting in your new city, seek out rents appropriate for your salary in order to qualify. Generally, according to ApartmentList.com, this means you should earn at least two-and-a-half to three times the total amount of rent for the duration you plan to live in the unit.

If you’re looking at a monthly rent of $1,500, for example, and you plan to rent for 12 months, you need to provide proof that you’ll be earning (or have already saved) at least $45,000. Proof of this can be in the form of past pay stubs or an offer letter (with your salary included) from your new employer.

2. How do I ensure the neighborhood is safe?
Safety, ultimately, is subjective. ApartmentList.com advises relocators to contact the local police station, research statistics on websites such as CrimeReports.com, or tour the neighborhood for a first-hand perspective.

3. How can I find out more about schools?
Contact the local school district office, or the principal or a PTA member of a school you may be interested in, ApartmentList.com recommends. Consulting with someone who has experience with the school can be telling.

For more answers to your relocation questions, contact a real estate professional or visit ApartmentList.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Want to Retire at 55? 3 Tips

June 16, 2016 2:21 am

Exiting the workforce early is a common dream—some might say fantasy—for many of today’s employees. It can be done, as MSN Money recently reported, so long as you plan ahead.

To retire at age 55, do:

Live Below Your Means – It’s tempting to upgrade from your starter home or buy a new car every few years, but, as The Millionaire Next Door author Thomas J. Stanley points out, retiring early happens for most people only after years of frugality. In general, it’s best to save 25 times your annual salary by retirement.

Stay Investment-Aggressive – Experts say it’s a misconception that conservative asset allocation is the only way to go. All but the very wealthy will need a healthy allocation to stocks for growth. Joe Heider, president of Cirrus Wealth Management in Cleveland, recommends that people within a few years of retirement scale back their portfolios to 60 percent stocks, and hold steady at that allocation into their retirement years.

Budget for Healthcare – Since you won’t be eligible for Medicare until age 65, you will need to secure health insurance. If you won’t have retirement health benefits, one option is to buy an individual or family plan from your state’s marketplace. Retiring couples can expect estimated healthcare costs of $17,000 per year until Medicare eligibility, according to a recent Fidelity study.

These strategies, coupled with a trip (or two) to a financial advisor, can pave the path to an early—still financially secure—retirement.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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