Monthly Archives: September 2013

Home Security Checklist

Here are several tips to keep your house as secure as possible:

  • Keep the shrubbery around your house trimmed. If the bushes and hedges are overgrown and tall, it provides the criminals with a perfect hiding place. You could even consider replacing them with thorny bushes or plants that deter people from walking through them. Also trim back trees so no one can climb the limbs into second floor windows/doors.
  • Keep the exterior of your home well-lit. Burglars prefer to work in the dark so they cannot be easily seen. Installing motion light sensors helps to keep these unwanted visitors away and also help you to enter your house quicker at night rather than fumbling for your keys in the dark.
  •  Get to know your neighbors. People are more likely to look out for their friends. Neighborhood watch programs are excellent at deterring crime. If your neighborhood doesn’t have one, consider starting a program in your community.
  • Make it seem like there is someone home at all times by using light and sound. Automatic timers and motion detectors can be great tools for people who are on vacation or are otherwise going to be away from their home for an extended period of time.
  • Rather than hiding an emergency key under your doormat, leave one with a friend or neighbor so it will not be easy for a potential intruder to find.
  • When you are going on vacation, have someone come over to bring in the mail and newspapers so they do not pile up and alert burglars to your absence.
  • Make sure you have locks on all your doors and windows.
  • Invest in a home security system. A home alarm that goes off when someone enters your home uninvited is one of the best ways to scare away intruders.
  • Keep your garage closed whether you are at home or not. This way, it will not be as obvious to burglars whether or not there is a car inside.
  • Document and insure your valuables so that they can be tracked and returned more easily if they are stolen
  • Be diligent about your home security. Do not slack off when it comes to protecting your home and your family. Be consistent and thorough.
  • Use bars on low level or otherwise easily accessible windows

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Home Energy Efficiency Checklist

Listed below are several actions you can take to make your home more energy efficient. Save some money and save the planet!

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To Do Today

  • Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.
  • Start using energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers.
  • Survey your incandescent lights for opportunities to replace them with compact fluorescents (CFLs). These lamps can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. The best targets are 60-100W bulbs used several hours a day. New CFLs come in many sizes and styles to fit in most standard fixtures.
  • Check the age and condition of your major appliances, especially the refrigerator. You may want to replace it with a more energy-efficient model before it dies.
  • Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.
  • If you have one of those silent guzzlers, a waterbed, make your bed today. The covers will insulate it, and save up to one-third of the energy it uses.

 

This Week

  • Visit the hardware store. Buy low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and compact fluorescent light bulbs, as needed. These can be purchased from any hardware or home improvement store. CFLs are now sold at some drug stores and grocery stores.
  • If your water heater is old enough that its insulation is fiberglass instead of foam, it clearly will benefit from a water heater blanket from the local hardware or home supplies store. (To tell the difference, check at the pilot light access (gas). For an electric water heater, the best access is probably at the thermostat, but be sure to turn off the power before checking.)
  • Rope caulk very leaky windows.
  • Assess your heating and cooling systems. Determine if replacements are justified, or whether you should retrofit them to make them work more efficiently to provide the same comfort (or better) for less energy.

 

 This Month

  • Collect your utility bills. Separate electricity and fuel bills. Target the biggest bill for energy conservation remedies.
  • Crawl into your attic or crawlspace and inspect for insulation. Is there any? How much?
  • Insulate hot water pipes and ducts wherever they run through unheated areas.
  • Seal up the largest air leaks in your house—the ones that whistle on windy days, or feel drafty. The worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes (“plumbing penetrations”), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Better yet, hire an energy auditor with a blower door to point out where the worst cracks are. All the little, invisible cracks and holes may add up to as much as an open window or door, without you ever knowing it!
  • Set your thermostat back (forward) when you can accept cooler (warmer) conditions. This generally includes night time and whenever you leave your home for several hours. Many people find it easier to use an ENERGY STAR programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the thermostat based on your time-of-day instructions.
  • Schedule an energy audit for more expert advice on your home as a whole, or learn how to conduct your own by visiting the Home Energy Saver Web site. A directory of available energy audit services by state is available at RESNET.

 

This Year

  • Insulate. If your walls aren’t insulated, have an insulation contractor apply blown-in insulation (cellulose or fiberglass) to the walls. Bring your attic insulation level up to snuff.
  • Replace aging, inefficient appliances. Even if the appliance has a few useful years left, replacing it with a top-efficiency model is generally a good investment.
  • Upgrade leaky windows. It may be time to replace them with energy-efficient models or to boost their efficiency with weather-stripping and storm windows.
  • Have your heating and cooling systems tuned up in the fall and spring, respectively. Duct sealing can also improve the energy efficiency and overall performance of your system (warm-air furnace and central air conditioners).

 

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Home Service Checklist

Maintenance Schedule

 Consider following a schedule for maintaining your home. A schedule will serves as a reminder of the inspections and maintenance you should perform each month and each season.

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was never more appropriate than when it comes to maintaining your home.

On the following pages, I’ve put together some maintenance pages that you can print out and use as regular checklists around your home. Use this maintenance schedule as a guide for maintaining your home.

A general maintenance schedule lists tasks to perform once a month or as needed. Seasonal maintenance schedules list tasks to perform in the spring, summer, fall and winter.

Many items listed on the schedules should be inspected as recommended but will need only occasional, if any, maintenance. You will soon develop a feel for what tasks should be performed when.

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General Maintenance

 

Perform every month or as needed

 

Safety

__ Inspect fire extinguishers to insure they are fully charged.

__ Check automatic garage door opener’s safety reverse.

__ Test smoke detectors.

__ Test Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters.

 

Heating & Cooling

__ Clean or replace air filters when the system is in use for heating or cooling.

__ Vacuum heat registers, vents and radiators.

__ Listen to your system for unusual noises.

 

Appliances

__ Drain water from the bottom of the water heater.

__ Grind ice cubes to clean garbage disposal. Flush with hot water and baking soda.

__ Clean dishwasher strainer and spray arm.

__ Clean range fan’s grease filter.

__ Clean frost-free refrigerator’s drain and drain pan.

 

Plumbing

__ Pour water down unused drains.

__ Clean debris from sink and tub drains. Inspect tub drain’s rubber seal. Rinse.

__ Clean faucet aerators and shower heads.

 

 

Spring

 

Exterior

__ Inspect roof materials & roof flashings.

__ Clean & inspect gutters & downspouts.

__ Have a chimney sweep clean & inspect chimney after burning season ends.

__ Inspect & clean siding.

__ Inspect vents, chimneys & other protected areas for bird & insect nests.

__ Clean window & door screens. Repair or replace damaged screens.

__ Inspect weather-stripping around doors, windows & garage doors. Repair as necessary.

__ Inspect caulking & re-caulk as necessary.

__ Inspect foundation for cracks, moisture & insects.

__ Clean debris away from home, utility equipment & other structures.

__ Trim trees & shrubs away from home.

__ Inspect wood decks, steps & rails for loose or damaged boards & raised nails.

__ Clean space between boards on wood decks, walks & steps.

Heating & Cooling

__ Have heat pump or air-conditioning system serviced before cooling season begins.

 

Appliances

__ Inspect water heater’s temperature pressure relief valve for signs of leaks or discharge.

__ Replace smoke detector batteries. Vacuum around smoke detector & its sensor.

 

 

Summer

 

Exterior

__ Clean & lubricate garage door hinges, rollers & tracks. Tighten screws.

__ Inspect paint & sealant on exterior & garage doors, particularly along bottom edge.

 

Interior

__ Inspect walls & ceilings for cracks, bows, sags & leans.

__ Clean & seal tile grout.

 

Appliances

__ Tighten garbage disposal’s drain connections & fasteners.

__ Inspect dishwasher for leaks.

__ Clean range fan blades & housing.

__ Clean & test refrigerator door gasket.

__ Vacuum refrigerator coils.

__ Clean clothes washer’s water inlet filters. Inspect hoses for leaks.

__ Vacuum lint from clothes dryer ducts & surrounding areas.

 

Plumbing

__ Inspect sinks & plumbing shutoff valves for leaks.

__ Test toilets for stability & inspect for leaks.

__ Inspect caulking around sinks, showers & bathtubs. Re-caulk as necessary.

 

Electrical

__ “Exercise” circuit breakers.

__ Check for frayed appliance cords.

 

 

Winter

 

Exterior

__ Inspect roof after large winter storms.

__ Inspect gutters and downspouts during a rain storm for leaks.

__ Keep gutters clean of ice and debris.

__ Check for drafts along doors and windows. Caulk and repair weather-stripping if necessary.

 

Appliances

__ Tighten garbage disposal’s drain connections and fasteners.

__ Inspect dishwasher for leaks.

__ Clean range fan blades and housing.

__ Clean and test refrigerator door gasket.

__ Vacuum refrigerator coils.

__ Clean clothes washer’s water inlet filters. Inspect hoses for leaks.

__ Vacuum lint from clothes dryer ducts and surrounding areas.

 

Plumbing

__ Inspect sinks and plumbing shutoff valves for leaks.

__ Test toilets for stability and inspect for leaks.

__ Inspect caulking around sinks, showers & bathtubs. Re-caulk as necessary.

 

Electrical

__ “Exercise” circuit breakers.

__ Check for frayed appliance cords.

 

 

Fall

 

Exterior

__ Inspect roof materials & roof flashings.

__ Clean & inspect gutters & downspouts.

__ Inspect siding.

__ Inspect caulking & re-caulk as necessary.

__ Inspect foundation for cracks, moisture & insects.

__ Clean debris away from home, utility equipment & other structures.

__ Trim trees & shrubs away from home.

__ Inspect wood decks, steps & rails for loose or damaged boards & raised nails.

__ Clean space between boards on wood decks, walks & steps.

__ Drain water from outdoor faucets & pipes. Remove & store outdoor hoses.

 

Heating & Cooling

__ Clean ceiling fan blades.

__ Clean bathroom exhaust fan grills & fan blades.

__ Have heating system serviced before the heating season begins.

 

Appliances

__ Inspect water heater’s temperature pressure relief valve for signs of leaks or discharge.

__ Replace smoke detector batteries. Vacuum around smoke detector & its sensor.

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Storm Water Management Sets An Example in Lower Moyamensing

In the Lower Moyamensing section of Philadelphia, the Water Department has implemented their latest storm water management project. Including three local elementary schools, this project will help educate kids and the community on the importance of rain water run off and where it leads.

This project, as of now, will plant 21 trees and install under ground water infiltration trenches. These trenches will collect rain water and more water will be absorbed by the tree roots rather than sent to our sewer system. Not only will these trees provide a benefit for the community but also create much needed shade around school zones. Here’s some photos of the project so far from lomophilly.org.

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Jenks Elementary is said to be planting 18 trees around the perimeter. Our Lady of Hope School will plant one tree while Key Elementary plans for two trees. This is just the beginning of a city wide project that needs to be expanded to all neighborhoods. This provides an example and learning benefit for these elementary school kids in hopes to make a greater impact in the community in which they live.

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A Headache for Queen Village Parents May Be Relieved

In  Queen Village, parents are having trouble finding decent and reliable child care for their infants and toddlers. These families have joined long waiting lists to deal with limited options when it comes to days, activities, food and education for their children. A headache for many residents, there is a shortage and demand for childcare.

At 420 Bainbridge Street, this 4,000 square foot location used to be the Life Management Medical Center. You will soon see Natalie Renn open her second location of The Giving Tree Infant and Toddler Center…if the license comes through. Her first location was specifically for daycare and preschool in the Logan Square area of Philadelphia.

logo-infants(Image Source: thegivingtreedaycare.com)

Their focus and mission is to provide exceptional child care for infants and toddlers under trained and professional supervision. Natalie trains her employees to focus on early childhood development, communication techniques, sleeping strategies and eating patterns.

They will offer a variety of learning and physical activities including; baby and me yoga classes, an inside mini gym, a backyard for play, trips to local playgrounds and parks. Just a few weeks away, they’re expecting to open their doors October but were talking about a license from the Department of Public Welfare. Hoping we do see them open soon, we need more Natalie’s in Philadelphia!

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Broad and Washington May See Some Changes.. We Hope!

Recently, a new proposal was heard for the huge vacant lot that sits at Broad and Washington, on the edge of Bella Vista and Passyunk Square. Remember the days of tents and Cirque du Soleil? Elisabeth Garson, a freelance creative director started with a big idea last year. A large scale, outdoor food and flea market with music and activities from March through September.

This proposed project “The Philadelphia Arts Market”, will host craft and flea market vendors, Philly’s favorite food trucks, a stage for local musicians, designated fitness areas and more. The mission is to create weekend ‘must-do’ activities for locals and visitors. Businesses can become engaged through sponsorships and funding while this attraction will be targeting families, young and old. This space is to be viewed as a weekend hot spot making use of this abandoned, eye sore lot.

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(Here’s a rendering from Passyunkpost.com)

Two alternate sites were mentioned in case this proposal is denied; one at Columbus and Reed and the other at Columbus and Oregon. Broad and Washington seem much more centralized that we are excited to follow this proposal. We hope to see this space transform into a weekend landmark for these neighborhoods.  To view more information on Elisabeth and her proposal click here.

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Magic Beyond the Gardens Gala This Saturday

This Saturday, September 21st you can join your local art crowd at the Philadelphia Magic Garden to celebrate their 5th annual Magic Beyond the Gardens Gala. From 6-10pm you can help support this annual fundraiser by purchasing a ticket and enjoying live music, dancing, a silent auction, food and an open bar. The silent auction will offer prizes to several high praised establishments in Center City. Located at 1020 South Street,  squarely between Bella Vista and Washington Square West, this event is expected to draw a crowd of near 300 locals and inspiring artists and supporters.

Image(Image Source: phillymagicgardens.org)

Philadelphia’s Magic Garden has been educating individuals of all ages for years. Offering workshops, education programs and self-guided walk throughs, this event will feature founder and artist Isaiah Zagar. So join in the fun this Saturday and help support local businesses, keep artists thriving and educate our community on the importance of art and self expression. For more information and tickets click here.

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Philadelphia Housing Market Quarterly Update Q2 2013

 Philadelphia Housing Market Picks Up in Q2.  By Kevin Guillen

Despite high-profile concerns over AVI and tax delinquencies, both sales and prices increase across the city.

July 15, 2013: After hitting bottom just over a year ago and struggling to rebound, Philadelphia’s housing market finally exhibited some signs of vitality this past spring.

The average house value in Philadelphia increased by 3.1 percent in Q2, according to the latest data from the City’s Recorder of Deeds. This increase comes on the heels of several years of bumpy declines before the market bottomed out last winter.

House price gains were generally experienced citywide, with only two exceptions. From smallest to largest, the average change in house prices by neighborhood in Q2 were: University City (-7.8%), West Philadelphia (-5.9%), Upper Northeast Philadelphia (+1.2%), Lower Northeast Philadelphia (+2.6%), Kensington/Frankford (+3.8%), Center City/Fairmount (+3.8%), Northwest Philadelphia (+3.9%), South Philadelphia (+5.4%), and North Philadelphia (+7.9%).

The median house price in Philadelphia increased to $132,000 in Q2, a 6.3% increase over the median price of $124,000 in the previous quarter and a 5.5% increase over the median price of $125,000 one year ago.

These most recent gains in house values seem to indicate that Philadelphia is finally making significant inroads in regaining the value lost since the housing bubble burst. From peak to trough, house values in Philadelphia declined an average of 21%. This quarter’s recent gains have recovered 8% of the lost value, implying that house values need to appreciate another 13% to return to their pre-bust levels.

Home sales activity also showed some gains this past quarter. There were 3,614 arms-length transactions in Q2, up from 2,849 in the previous quarter and up from 3,079 sales that took place in the same quarter last year. This was the strongest second quarter for home sales since 2010 Q2.

The recovery also appears to be becoming more democratic and widespread. While house prices and sales began to recover in the higher-end segment of the market over a year ago, this recovery had—until now—been confined to the relatively upper-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia. In most neighborhoods, prices and sales had remained stagnant. In Q2, there were 16 sales at a price point of $1m or more, up from 13 sales in Q1, and well above the quarterly average of just 9. However, the largest price jump this past spring was in North Philadelphia (+7.9%); which is historically Philadelphia’s lowest-priced and lowest-income neighborhood. Moreover, the lower-priced segment of the market also saw the biggest percentage price increase in Q2. From Q1 to Q2, the bottom fifth of the market (i.e. the 20 percent lowest-priced homes in Philadelphia) saw their average price increase from $25 per square foot to $50 per square foot; a doubling in value.

This recovery is especially notable in light of the citywide property re-assessment (known as the Actual Value Initiative, or AVI) and the increase in Philadelphia’s property tax delinquency rate; both of which were the subject of vocal criticism from many community groups, public officials and activists this past spring1. The predicted exodus of households and subsequent decline in house values that many critics contended would be the outcome of the (supposedly) flawed assessments and lax tax collection practices not only didn’t materialize, but if anything, the market seems to have largely reacted positively to both the new assessments and the City’s announced intention to improve its collection of delinquent taxes.

While Philadelphia’s long-awaited housing recovery is still lagging the recovery that is already well underway in most other U.S. cities, leading indicators continue to indicate a positive near-term outlook:

  • The average price-to-rent ratio for Philadelphia homes has begun to trend upwards again, after declining for several years since the housing bubble burst. After falling from a peak of 13.3 in 2007 to a low of 9.5 in early 2012, the ratio has since increased to 10.0. A rising price-rent ratio is typically associated with a bullish outlook on house prices.
  • The inflation-adjusted house price index has also begun to trend upwards, after declining for several years. This suggests that the recent house price gains are not just due to general price inflation in the overall macroeconomy.
  • Days-On-Market, which is the average number of days it takes for a listed home in Philadelphia to sell, is down to 70 days from its peak of 95 days just over one year ago.
  • A particularly notable threshold was crossed by the National Association of Homebuilders Housing Market Index this past spring. Based upon a scale of 0 to 100, the index recently crossed 50, indicating that for the first time since 2006, more homebuilders are optimistic than pessimistic about the near-term outlook for housing.

 An especially notable sign of improvement in Philadelphia’s housing market are the significant improvements in both the market’s housing inventory and absorption rate this past spring. After declining markedly since the market bottomed last winter, the number of home listed for sale in Philadelphia is down to approximately 8,000 from its all-time peak of just over 12,000. Such a large supply relative to demand had been placing significant downward pressure on house prices over the last several years. Moreover, the absorption rate—which measures the percent of listed homes that sell in a given period—increased sharply this past to nearly 16%, up from its all-time low of 6% two years ago. Both indicators suggest that supply and demand are returning to a relative balance that is in line with their historic averages.

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While this most recent data suggest that the long-awaited recovery is finally happening in Philadelphia, there is growing concern in many other cities that the news is actually too positive. House prices have been rebounding sharply in many other cities over the past year, at a rate that significantly exceeds not only inflation, but also their fundamentals, such as population, income and rents. Combined with an outlook for higher mortgage rates in the near term, many economists are forecasting a ‘cool down’ in housing market activity over the course of the next year. But, given that good news about housing has taken so long to arrive to Philadelphia, and that it came at a critical time in reforms to the city’s housing policy (i.e. AVI, delinquencies), it would seem that most Philadelphia households would be justified in at least momentarily savoring the good news before beginning to worry again.

 

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Recent Projects for Washington Square West

Recently, Washington Square West has received some TLC from the community and Trust organization. Washington Square West Trust is an educational and charitable organization that helps to support programs and activities in the community. Their goal is to enhance life in the neighborhood and make this area attractive for local residents as well as new city dwellers. Neighbors and community activists have worked with the WSWT organization to launch their latest project – a video history of what the neighborhood is and what is has to offer. Prominent individuals voice their opinion on how the neighborhood has changed, what it has to offer and the comfort and convenience of living in Washington Square West. This video attracts locals as well as visitors and allows the community to see neighborhood changes take place to better their living experience. I think other neighborhoods should take note of this project. What a sincere and informative way to educate new city dwellers or even locals looking to relocate to a different neighborhood. Check it out!

(Video Source: washwesttrust.org)

Washington Square West has been busy! Aside from their ‘video history’ launch, the Washington Square West Civic Association has started a project with PHS to restore and maintain tree canopy’s. You can join in by becoming Tree Tender Certified at the Philadelphia Horticultural Society. A hands on training session will leave you with the knowledge and benefit to help plant and care for dozens of trees in Washington Square West. You must attend all three classes in October (2nd, 9th and 16th) to become certified.  Meet at 5:45pm and plan to stay about 3 hours. Once certified, you can join your fellow Tree Tenders on November 23rd to plant more than 2 dozen trees. The planting and caring will continue through Spring 2014. Scholarship opportunities are also available through Washington Square West Trust and PHS. The Virginia Trosino Tree Tender Scholarship is awarded to an individual who is certified, applies, a resident of WSW and expresses interest and knowledge to benefit the neighborhood. Scholarship winners have already been determined for this year, but don’t let that discourage you! Plan your tree tending classes now for 2014!

41(Image Source: washwestcivic.org)

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New Beginnings in Pennsport & Queen Village

At 108 Titan Street in the Pennsport section of Philadelphia sits a slab of concrete surrounded by metal guardrails. This has been a site for sore eyes for more than a year. Early construction plans included talk of making this plot into homes. Good news… green is on the way! The Community Design Collaborative recently received a grant for the redesign project of Titan Park over the next 6 months. Volunteers and community members are urged to help participate in speeding this process along. Volunteers will have the chance to meet with the Community Design Collaborative two times to discuss design ideas and plans. We look forward to following this project and finally seeing some green grass.. maybe?!

Titan-now2(Image Source: passyunkpost.com)

Just north of Pennsport, over Washington Avenue, Queen Village and Meredith School are proud to announce the first annual Meredith School 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, September 21st. At 9AM, you can join in the community with friends and neighbors and run or walk through the Queen Village neighborhood as well as surrounding areas. There are several ways you can get involved. Become a Sponsor. Show off your kicks and run. Organize a team and walk. You can also participate by being a volunteer. Individual tickets are $35 and all proceeds of this run support Meredith School programs and help preserve the excellence of their students. Find out more details and register here.

Meredith-On-The-Run-jpeg-poster(Image Source: qvna.org)

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