RE/MAX 440
Tim Lugara

Tim Lugara
423 North Main Street  Doylestown  PA 18901
Phone:  215-348-7100 1632
Office:  215-348-7100
Toll Free:  800-360-7100
Cell:  215-917-8673
Fax:  267-354-6961

Tim's Blog

Could You Be Setting Yourself up for a Contractor Scam?

December 12, 2017 5:12 am

From simple maintenance to major renovations, millions and millions of hard-earned dollars will be spent with contractors this year.

So we turned to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for some advice on not only getting the best value for those dollars spent, but for ways to avoid throwing away good money on unscrupulous individuals posing as reputable contractors.

From post-disaster work going on from storm-related damage to wildfire ravaged communities in the west, the NAHB warns that many "fly-by-night" operators will continue pouring into these areas trying to scam distressed homeowners into paying for shoddy repairs or work that they will never show up to perform.

Here are a few warning signs the NAHB asks you to consider when searching for a contractor:

Asks you to sign anything before you've hired them. Look out - they may be trying to get you to sign what is an actual binding contract.

Vastly underbids all other contractors. Such contractors may cut costs on quality, which can end up costing you more when you have to have the substandard work redone.

Cannot provide customer references. Professional contractors should have current references and you should be able to reach those references, not just an answering machine.

Difficulty contacting the contractor. Verify the contractor’s business address, as true professionals have a physical office, mailing address, phone, and email. If they only have a PO box, be wary.

Tells you to obtain building or remodeling permits. Professional contractors go to the county or state offices and get permits for their work themselves. Asking a homeowner to do it is a sign that they are not a legitimate contractor.

The NAHB says if your state requires contractors to be licensed, look them up on the state licensing website even if you've seen a piece of paper that looks like a license. Make sure they don't have a record of consumer complaints lodged with your local Better Business Bureau.

You can find your local home builders association and contact them for a list of reputable contractors in your area. Or search NAHB’s Directory of Professional Remodelers to find a NAHB Remodelers member in your community.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To Avoid Customer Service Frustration

December 12, 2017 5:12 am

Whether you need to return that new pair of shoes you bought online, or the product you ordered is weeks late, contacting customer service can elicit dread in even the calmest of individuals.

"Contacting your retailer is not something that people look forward to, but it doesn't have to be as frustratingly painful as it used to be. Today, there are more ways than ever for consumers to connect with companies and advancements in technology that help you get faster service," says Rachel Faulkner of Genesys, an expert in customer experience solutions.

Here are five easy tricks that will help you get better, faster customer service:

Send a message instead. Contacting customer service doesn't require sitting on hold for 10 minutes. Dialing into a contact center to speak with a live agent remains popular, but companies also staff communication channels such as text messaging and web chat. You still get the human touch to resolve issues – just without the wait time.

Social channels aren't just for bad reviews. While it can be therapeutic to vent via social media, it's also a great way to reach support centers. Social channels such as Twitter and Facebook may be staffed by senior agents who are empowered to take action immediately on your problem. Feel free to post your positive comments, too!

Don't fear the chatbots. Great strides have been made in artificial intelligence that help systems recognize and quickly address your concerns. Use these advances to your benefit by messaging a chatbot to resolve routine or simple requests for super-fast response time.

Please hold? You don't have to anymore. If given the option, ask for a return call instead of waiting on hold when trying to access customer service over the telephone. It's usually more convenient and will allow you to move on to other things so you're not stuck listening to bad hold music.

Be nice. Customer service agents deal with hundreds of anxious customers a day — and are often on the receiving end of their frustration. Engaging in "small talk" allows agents time to review your case history. If you can be patient for 30 seconds, it may help the call go more smoothly and get your issue resolved faster.

Pro tip: Most agents aren't empowered to fix everything. Some issues need advanced support and can't be resolved by the average support agent. However, you can search the Internet for executive support contact information or ask for customer retention when you dial the main service line, which usually leads to more qualified agents.

Source: Genesys

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-To Survive Awkward Holiday Party Talk

December 12, 2017 5:12 am

Looking forward to that holiday party, but not having seven separate conversations about the weather? You're not alone. According to the experts at Toastmasters, "natural" conversations don't come naturally to many of us.

Below are a handful of Toastmasters tips for a more successful party experience.

Look for a friendly face. When arriving at the event or when you're feeling out of place, seek out the people you know and enjoy spending time with. Remember to navigate toward people who seem to be popular, because it's likely they're good communicators and will help you feel at ease.

Watch your body language. Be sure to face the individual who is speaking, make eye contact and nod to let them know you're paying attention, listening and understanding. Refrain from texting or repeatedly checking your phone, as this is disrespectful.

Share your stories. When the timing is appropriate, share your humorous and happy holiday memories. People like to share their own holiday experiences, so this conversation should go over quite well during this time of year.

Set your expectations. It's difficult to have in-depth conversations at holiday gatherings, so prepare for others to join in and even interrupt at times. Conversations will typically be brief so don't expect to resolve any pressing business or personal matters at the event.

Know when and how to exit. Before leaving the event, navigate your way around and try to say a brief hello to the people you haven't had the chance to converse with. Be sure to say thank you to the hosts of the party. They likely put in a great deal of effort in the hopes that you would enjoy yourself.

Source:  www.toastmasters.org/findaclub.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pros and Cons of Listing Your Home During the Holidays

December 11, 2017 5:12 am

This time of year, the last thing most folks are probably thinking about is selling or buying a home. That is, except for the thousands of people who are in a position where they need to sell or buy a home.

While this presents a somewhat limited range of opportunities for both home sellers and motivated prospects, there are a number of things to consider if you are among that small but no less important demographic.

At FortuneBuilders, Konrad Sopielnikow blogs that by selling a home during the cold, winter months of the holidays, you can unearth lucrative opportunities that would be difficult to find the rest of the year.

Sopielnikow says the cyclical and seasonal lack of competition, greater flexibility of scheduling for sellers and buyers, and the ability to achieve a quick and profitable outcome are just a few advantages.

He also notes that the end of the year is typically when many businesses offer positions to new employees. As a matter of fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics posted a gain of 151,000 jobs in January of 2016.

Sopielnikow suspects in many cases, these were jobs in which the employee relocated. And if there’s one sector of holiday homebuyers who are highly motivated, he says it’s the individual and/or family relocating due to a new job.

So anyone ready to move on from a property quickly can gain the advantage by tapping into this powerful, psychological motivator.

Elizabeth Weintraub at thebalance.com says sellers face a measurably higher challenge at year's end because they will be appealing to a much smaller inventory of buyers who have very specific needs.

Also, both parties' agents might be on vacation or otherwise unavailable in December as markets move into a seasonal slowdown.

But Weintraub counters that this could be a perfect opportunity for anyone marketing a hard-to-sell home, which might rise to the top when there are fewer homes for sale over the holidays.

And if you are selling through to the New Year, she says don't block or cover up important selling features such as fireplace mantels, stairs, stained-glass windows with decorations.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Get Scammed by a Faulty Cashier's Check!

December 11, 2017 5:12 am

When selling a big-ticket item like a vehicle or electronics, accepting a cashier's check may seem like a safe bet. However,  Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann warns consumers to be privy to a current Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam.

Wiessmann explains how this scam works:

This scam targets individuals selling expensive items through classified advertising or online auctions.

The counterfeiter, who is often in another country, poses as an interested buyer and offers to pay with a fake cashier's check. After the victim presents the fake check to the bank, the buyer suddenly backs out of the deal and asks for a refund. Because the funds from the check are available from the bank after a few days, the victim assumes the check has cleared and agrees to return the money.

By the time the bank discovers the forgery – which could be up to 60 days later -- the bogus buyer is long gone and the victim must now repay the bank for the amount of the fake cashier's check.

In other cases, the counterfeiter may send a cashier's check for more than the asking price of the item and then ask the victim to wire the "overpayment" back or to a third party.

"There was a time when cashier's checks were considered the next best thing to cash," Wiessmann says. "Today, sophisticated forgeries of this once trusted payment method are being used to bilk private sellers out of large sums of money, and consumers need to be vigilant about the people with whom they are doing business."

Wiessmann points to five tips that can help consumers avoid being robbed by the counterfeit cashier's check scam:

- Understand that although the bank may allow you to withdraw money soon after depositing a cashier's check, that does not mean the check has cleared.

- You are responsible for the funds you deposit until your bank has received the money from the institution where the check originated or the true account holder of the originating check reports the fraud (this could take more than 60 days).

- Be cautious of transactions with strangers who pay with cashier's checks. Make sure to tell the buyer that you will send the item only after the check has cleared.

- Avoid any situation where someone overpays for an item and demands that the extra money be returned.

- Contact the issuing financial institution to verify the check is authentic, being careful not to rely on the contact information printed on the check itself as it may be false. They may be able to more reliably detect a fraudulent check.

Source:  http://www.state.pa.us

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Prep Your Home for a Winter Away

December 11, 2017 5:12 am

Whether you're snow birding it or just jetting to a place with palms for a long weekend, there may be things you should do to protect your home - and save some hard-earned dollars - while you're sipping cool drinks in the sun.

"It can be refreshing to spend winters in a warmer environment, but it's important to remember that your home will stay behind in the cold," says Mike Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

"Taking care to prepare your home to properly withstand the long absence is important during what could be a severe winter. The last thing you want to do is come back from vacation to a home that is flooded because of a broken supply line or appliance malfunction."

Nicholson offers the following as important steps toward winterizing a home:

Save electrical energy. Make sure that all electronics remaining behind such as televisions are not only turned off but are unplugged with any power strips being disconnected as well. This will eliminate any trickle charges and consumption that can add up over long periods. Large appliances, when possible, should be unplugged as well as small appliances such as coffee pots and toasters. Take a walk around the home to inspect the windows and doorframes, searching for any gaps in seals or deteriorated weather stripping that could allow warmth to escape. Finally, figure out what temperature setting will walk the line best between saving money and keeping the home at a safe temperature. A programmable thermostat is a great solution for maintaining the proper temperature within the home.

Prevent potential sanitary issues. Any perishable food items left on counters or inside the refrigerator should be used immediately, taken with, or properly disposed of outside the home. Do not leave behind unemptied trash bins, especially containing food, as these can attract any pests that may infiltrate the home to stay. Flushing out sink traps and disposals is a great way to avoid finding terrible odors upon returning.

Protect the plumbing. Shut off the water at the main valve, and open all faucets to allow them to drain. Leaving faucets open, especially outdoor spigots, will give more room for possible expansion from freezing and may prevent bursting. Make sure to shut off outdoor spigots and protect them with proper insulated covers. Don't forget to disconnect the supply hoses from the washing machine, and drain the water heater and water softener if one is present. Enlisting the aid of a home service professional may be useful if the lines need to be blown out or if there is worry that ancillary items like a sprinkler system may not be properly winterized.

Play it safe. Make sure the home seems occupied throughout extended absences. Forward the mail or ask a friend or relative to pick it up and check in on the home periodically. Arrange in advance to have the driveway plowed in the event of snow or ice to create an occupied appearance. Another great tip is to set a couple of lights on timers - preferably visible to the entrances - so that they will turn on for periods of time and give the illusion of occupancy.

Source: www.nicholson-hvac.com/.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Make an Impact on Children

December 7, 2017 5:12 am

(Family Features)--When looking for opportunities to make an impact on the lives of others, selecting a cause to support can be an overwhelming task with so many options to choose from. However, considering opportunities that can change the lives of kids is one way to make a lasting impact for generations to come.

Helping children early on can change the trajectory of their lives, set them up for success and empower them to achieve their dreams. This is especially important for kids living in poverty who are not guaranteed access to things like medical care and quality educations. According to global humanitarian organization Children International, nearly half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day and 1 in 5 kids in the United States lives in poverty.

Consider these ideas to make an impact on children in need now and well into the future:

Become a mentor or coach. A positive role model can make a life-changing difference for a child from disadvantaged circumstances. As a mentor or coach, you can help children explore and nurture their unique talents and guide them toward a successful future.

Volunteer at a local school. Families increasingly rely on two incomes to support their households, which means parents are less available to lend their time to their children's classrooms or schools. At the same time, public school funding is shrinking. As a volunteer, you can help fill these gaps and contribute to bettering the learning opportunities for children in your community.

Sponsor a child. You may be surprised to learn how far a monetary donation can go. For example, Children International supporters can join a monthly giving program and sponsor a child in poverty for $32 per month. Your donation establishes a connection with an individual child who receives access to life-changing benefits like medical care, educational support and life-skills training. The institution is a CharityWatch top-rated organization that serves 250,000 children in 10 countries. If a recurring donation is not right for you, the organization also accepts one-time donations. Learn more at children.org.

Host a foreign exchange student. Education is an important tool that can set kids up for success and help shape available opportunities in the future. Through a foreign exchange program, you can provide opportunities to youths who are working to better themselves through learning. As an added bonus, you and your family can have the chance to learn more about another culture and part of the world you may not be exposed to otherwise.

Donate new or used items. Service organizations such as shelters generally operate on tight budgets and rely on contributions from the community. Gently used items in good condition such as children's clothing of all sizes and warm bedding are generally welcome. Other options include watching for sales to stock up on new items to donate or assembling kid-friendly packages of travel-size toiletries.

No matter how you approach it, putting kids front and center as you look for opportunities to give back can make a difference not only in the short term, but potentially for a lifetime. You can also feel good knowing your gift can have a positive impact on a child's life.

Source: Children International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Psychology of Holiday Gift-Giving

December 7, 2017 5:12 am

There's no arguing that deciding what gift to give someone can be a bit of a brain workout, especially if that loved one is someone you see infrequently. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University fused economics and psychology to determine how we locate the "perfect gift." Here are four science-backed tips to help during the holiday shopping season.

Avoid Guessing. Projection bias is a phenomenon that describes how people believe others hold the same beliefs and values as they do—and will in the future. When gift giving, shoppers often try to predict what the recipient would like, thinking recipients will share their same tastes.

"If you like dark chocolate and loath milk chocolate, it's very tempting to give dark chocolate, even if the gift recipient's tastes are opposite to yours; it's very difficult to imagine that another person would enjoy receiving a gift that you would hate," says George Loewenstein, the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and co-founder of the field of behavioral economics.

Be Aware of Your Shopping Environment. Kareem Haggag, assistant professor of economics in the Social and Decision Sciences Department, studies attribution bias, and his work shows that the past experiences of gift-givers will influence their opinion of a product.

He advised gift givers to be careful and think about past experiences with an item they are considering purchasing.

Consider Whether Past Holidays Are an Influence. If you were not thanked by a recipient in the past, you may be less likely to put time and effort into gift-giving for that person in the future, according to Shereen J. Chaudhry (DC'13, '16).

Chaudhry says that words of thanks are more than "cheap talk" and help keep relationships healthy.

Focus on the Long-Term. Researchers led by the Tepper School of Business' Jeff Galak found that gift givers tend to focus on the moment of exchange when selecting a gift, whereas gift recipients are more focused on the long-term utility or practical attributes of the gift.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Dos and Don'ts for Job Interview Follow-Ups

December 7, 2017 5:12 am

If you're hunting for a new job, you likely know that sending a "thank you" note post-interview can be a huge deciding factor as to whether or not you land the gig.

Research from Accountemps provides the following dos and don'ts for giving thanks:

Do add value. Instead of writing a generic note, customize the message by mentioning a skill that wasn't brought up during the interview or expounding on a topic that was discussed.

Don't delay. Send a thank-you note within 24 hours. Some employers make hiring decisions shortly after the round of interviews is complete, and you don't want to risk sending your note after that window has closed.

Do proofread. Sending a thank-you message can backfire if you go about it the wrong way. Typos and grammatical mistakes may come across as a lack of attention to detail. Take the time to review, revise and refine your thank-you note.

Don't be pushy. If you don't hear from the employer within a week of the interview, it's appropriate to follow-up with a phone call or another email. But do so in moderation. Persistence is laudable, but pestering can get you removed from the short list.

Source: Accountemps

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Steps for a Home Remodel

December 6, 2017 5:12 am

(Family Features)--As a homeowner, there is nearly always a laundry list of projects with time and budget constraints when it comes to a home remodel.

This step-by-step guide from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) can help ensure you get the maximum return on your investment and make the most of your remodel.

Step 1: Identify Reasons for Remodeling
Deciding whether to undertake simple aesthetic changes or a full remodel can be difficult. One of the best ways to decide is to figure out why you are remodeling in the first place, whether it's to make your new house feel more like home or to update a 1950s-era kitchen.

Step 2: Set Your Budget
Every home is unique in structure, age, quality and craftsmanship, which all impact the price of a remodel. Since no one can see through walls before demolition, the quote you receive will likely not be 100 percent accurate. However, a qualified remodeling company will be open and honest about the issues and challenges it might face during the process. Account for these adjustments by planning for any "surprises" with a 10 percent cushion, just in case.

Step 3: Hire the Right Team
To help ensure you find the right company for the job, you should do your research. Referrals from friends and family are one way to find a remodeler. National associations like NARI provide unbiased information and resources that can help you find qualified, certified remodelers in your area. With more than 6,000 members, the organization represents professional remodelers who adhere to a strict code of ethics. Many hold certifications in remodeling, kitchen and bath design and lead carpentry. Find more information and resources at NARI.org.   

Step 4: Understand the Plan  
Communication is key in a successful remodeling project. Keep the lines of communication open between you, the remodeling contractor and the work crew. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Let them know your family's schedule and whether you have pets confined somewhere. Make sure to specify the best way to reach you, such as phone, in-person or email, and how often you wish to communicate with your remodeling contractor about your project.

Step 5: Complete the Project
While the dust is settling and the remodel is almost finished, take a moment to walk through your project and note any adjustments that need to be made while the contractor is still on site. Contractors often provide guarantees of workmanship, so find out what they cover and for how long, then include this information in your work agreement. You should also take another look at the contract and confirm you have signed permits, receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturer’s guides at your disposal.

Remodeling a space can be a major project, but with the right help, resources and information, you can make your dream home come to fruition.

Source: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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