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John F. O'Hara

John F. O'Hara
731 W Skippack Pike  Blue Bell  PA 19422
Phone:  610-277-4060
Office:  215-643-3200
Cell:  267-481-1786
Fax:  267-354-6973

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Outdoor Kitchens: Layout First, Design Second

May 18, 2015 12:48 am

(Family Features) One of the most popular features in backyard spaces is a fully-equipped kitchen suited for entertaining and outdoor living. But like its interior counterpart, designing an outdoor kitchen can be a challenge.

Your first consideration should be location. Pay attention to the prevailing winds, says Ken Kelly, Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly. "Wind direction and where the kitchen is located could cause smoke to blow into guests or even into the house through an open window," he says. "Keep the grill downwind of guests."

Your second consideration should be grill placement. “Do you want the cook to face the guests, or look at the scenery?” asks Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “When the cook can talk to the guests, the space becomes more social and enjoyable,” he says.

Once you’ve established a wind-friendly location and optimal grill placement, cordon off wet, cold, hot and dry zones, says Faulk. These zones will make prepping food, cooking and cleaning much easier.

"Keep the cold zone next to the wet zone. This makes it easier to move things from the cold zone refrigerator to the wet zone sink to wash them off and get them ready for the grill in the hot zone," he adds.

Zones are especially important if a pool is nearby. "Keep the cold zone nearest to the pool," says Faulk. "It will keep kids who want a cold drink from running past a hot grill."

Don’t forget counter space. Grills should have a minimum of 24 inches of uninterrupted space to one side and 12 inches to the other. This gives the cook room to place platters, cooking utensils and other essentials.

If an outdoor space lacks room for that amount of counter space, "incorporate an open-shelf cabinet below. You get additional 'counter space' by being able to put things on shelves," says Kelly.

With the right planning, homeowners and their guests can enjoy an outdoor kitchen for many years to come.

Source: Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homebuyers: 7 Ways to Prepare Finances

May 18, 2015 12:48 am

Did you know many homebuyers are financially unprepared to purchase a home? According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), almost half of respondents report being “least prepared” to buy a home – a sign that education is needed, especially for first-time buyers.

Prepare your finances well in advance of searching for a home. Here’s how.

1. Make a Financial Plan

Knowing where to start means conducting a complete review of how your household budget is managed. Comparing income and expenses, reviewing debt, and tracking savings are just a few of the ways to measure readiness for homeownership.

2. Review Your Credit Report and Score

Because a mortgage is the largest debt a person is likely to carry in their life, credit history can be a deal breaker or a dream maker. A credit report may be obtained without a score for free once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Once a copy is obtained, review it for discrepancies and dispute any differences. Do this at least six months in advance of applying for the loan, allowing time for inaccuracies to be corrected.

Along with the free credit report, a score can be purchased for a small fee. Because the score is critical to mortgage approval and competitive interest rates, it is worth taking a look before submitting the loan application. Lender guidelines vary, but a FICO score of 760 is typically the threshold for the most favorable interest rates.

3. Start Saving

A down payment is typically no less than 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, and coming up with the money may be a significant pain point. A down payment is essential to limit the amount borrowed, as well as increasing the chance of having more favorable mortgage terms.

4. Decide the Type of Loan


After you’ve selected a lender, decide whether to take on a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loan, which are the most common of the many different types of financing available. For those planning to remain in the home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage helps add stability by keeping the payment the same for the life of the loan. Those expecting their stay in the home to be no longer than five to seven years may be better served by an adjustable-rate loan, where they could benefit from lower rates in the short term.

5. Pre-Qualify for a Loan

It is important to know the limits of what is affordable before beginning to shop for a house. A good place to start is by becoming pre-qualified with a lender. This free service can typically be done in-person, online or by phone. The lender will need to gather some financial information and will offer a general idea of the amount of mortgage loan available based on the information provided. This non-binding estimate is the best way to know how much house would be affordable.

6. Become Pre-Approved for a Loan

Applying for a mortgage typically involves a cost and is done by supplying detailed financial documentation to the lender. The lender will use this information in conjunction with information obtained by pulling a credit report to determine the amount and terms for the loan. This is not a final approval for a loan, but is a significant step toward that outcome.

7. Lock in the Rate

If you like the interest rate being offered when pre-approved, lock it in by getting the commitment in writing. It can take time to find a home, negotiate a price and secure funding. Locking a rate for a reasonable period of time helps make room to complete the process without risking a less-favorable interest rate.

Source: NFCC.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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