RE/MAX 440
Peter Patkos
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-327-7491
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Fax: 267-354-6879 
peterpatkos@remax440.com
Peter Patkos

My Blog

HELOCs Go Beyond Home Improvements

December 10, 2014 4:21 am

While half of homeowners who have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) acquired the loan for home renovations, an increasing number of homeowners rely on the loan for other needs, according to a recent Consumer Borrowing Index survey from TD Bank. Research from over 1,350 U.S. homeowners with a HELOC provides insight into those needs, along with usage and perceptions of the loan.

"We're seeing an increasing interest in HELOCs this year, suggesting a rebound in consumer confidence related to rising home values," said Michael Kinane, Head of Mortgage and Consumer Lending Products, TD Bank. "Using this type of financing to add value to your property is a strategic move when it comes to today's real estate market. HELOCs currently offer consumers the convenience and flexibility to borrow what they need at a better interest rate than most other lines of credit."

A HELOC is secured by a consumer's home and typically requires 80 percent equity. According to the Index, 53 percent of homeowners report the value of their home has increased within the past few years, meaning consumers have more equity in their homes to borrow. The survey also revealed that 30 percent of homeowners are applying for a HELOC of $100,000 or more, though the average loan secured is only $87,000. Those who shopped around tended to get a higher value loan. Additionally, individuals who went with their primary financial institution but did consider other lenders secured an average HELOC of $92,000, or $5,000 more than those who only considered their primary financial institution.

According to the Index, the top motivators behind acquiring a HELOC are:
  • Debt consolidation (29 percent)
  • Major home purchases (24 percent)
  • Emergency funds (19 percent)
  • Education costs (20 percent)
The Index also found that consumers are often using HELOC funds for expenses beyond those originally intended. For instance:
  • While 24 percent of HELOC borrowers used the loan for emergencies, a smaller 19 percent actually anticipated using it that way.
  • Twenty-seven percent purchased a new vehicle, while only 21 percent reported they intended to use the loan for this reason.
  • Although 18 percent of borrowers used their HELOC for medical and healthcare expenses, a slightly smaller 14 percent had actually anticipated using the loan for this reason.
Despite the popularity of HELOCs, there is still uncertainty and misunderstanding among many homeowners regarding the terms and conditions of their loan. The Index found:
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers are paying some form of HELOC fee, such as an annual fee (30 percent), origination fee (30 percent) or prepayment fee (15 percent). However, one in five homeowners are unsure if they are paying fees.
  • Half of those surveyed do not know if they have any fixed-rate opportunities during their draw period, which on average is between five and 10 years.
  • The majority of millennials (59 percent) surveyed think that a HELOC interest rate is higher than interest rates for a student loan; 43 percent believe HELOC rates are higher than credit card interest rates.
Source: TD Bank

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Four Tips for Optimal Lighting at Home

December 10, 2014 4:21 am

With each passing year, everyone requires more light to see properly. In a Catch-22 scenario, the amount of light required to sustain visual performance increases with age, and, over time, human eyes become more sensitive to glare – with more light often leading to increased glare, how can homeowners ensure they’re getting adequate lighting at home?

The American Lighting Association (ALA) encourages homeowners to consider user age as a factor when designing a lighting concept at home. A few simple lighting adjustments that will benefit aging eyes include:
  • Turning on one or two table lamps while watching television to reduce the contrast between the bright screen and surrounding darkness
  • Using a torchiere for uplighting along with downward illumination for versatility
  • Installing a fixture with a separate, pivoting task light attached, or one with a glass bowl at the top to shine light downward
  • Exposing yourself to bright light, such as daylight, early in the morning and sleep in a dark room at night
“As people get older, it isn’t just the amount of light – it is also when it is applied that is key to regulating things such as circadian rhythm and REM sleep cycles,” says Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering for the ALA.

Source: ALA

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Childproof Your Home's Holiday Decor

December 9, 2014 4:21 am

Decorating your home for the holidays can be one of the most enjoyable family traditions, with children often forming lasting memories of holidays spent at home. During the excitement, it’s important to remain vigilant and identify potential safety hazards while decorating.

The Window Covering Safety Council recommends these child-safe decorating tips to ensure your home remains both safe and beautiful for children this season.
  • Inspect both new and old lights for broken sockets or frayed wires, and discard any damaged sets.
  • Switch off all holiday lights when your family goes to sleep or leaves the home.
  • Place your tree or menorah away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters.
  • Always keep burning candles within sight and extinguish them before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, or ones with small pieces.
  • Do not use decorations that resemble candy or something a child would attempt to eat.
  • Keep hot food and liquids out of reach of children.
  • Make sure that tasseled pull cords on window coverings are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords.
Source: WCSC

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Six Ways to Relieve Workplace Neck Pain

December 9, 2014 4:21 am

Chronic osteoarthritis conditions result from extended periods of sitting and poor posture – both of which occur in an office setting. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 27 million Americans suffer from some form of osteoarthritis, with the majority reporting increases in neck pain after spending hours hunched over a computer screen.

The next time you sit down at work, prevent or ease neck pain with these tips:

1. Take standing breaks.
Don’t be afraid to step away from your keyboard during the workday. Go outside to get some fresh air, stretch, or visit a coworker’s desk instead of sending an email.

2. Keep feet flat on the floor. This technique prevents your back from arching, straightening your posture.

3. Use a headset to talk on the phone. If you spend the majority of your day using the phone, reduce strain on your neck with a headset.

4. Avoid carrying heavy items on one shoulder. Alternate shoulders when carrying heavy items, such as a purse or briefcase, to avoid aggravating the muscles in your neck and upper back.

5. Disconnect during the evening. With the average full-time office employee spending more than 40 hours per week in front of a computer screen, consider unplugging your electronic devices and spending time relaxing.

6. Stay active. Movement helps reduce stiffness, increase flexibility and strengthen joints.

Source: Massage Envy Spa

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Holiday Home Concerns Differ between Men and Women

December 9, 2014 4:21 am

Men and women have slight differences in what concerns them most when protecting their home or apartment during the holidays, according to a recently released survey by Protect Your Bubble. Theft and burglary top the list of concerns overall, but men and women have different views when it comes to home appliances.

“Millions of people look forward to the holidays all year because it’s a joyous time to be with friends and family,” said David Anderson, Director of Product at Protect Your Bubble. “Conversely, the holiday season also amplifies anxiety for many since there is a multitude of ways harm can find us, from increased travel headaches and damaged devices in the snow to malicious identity threats during times of increased online shopping.”

Among the highlights of the survey:

Home Security Concerns

Overall, the majority of respondents (68 percent) said they are most worried about a theft or burglary during the holidays. Fire damage while home or away represented 17 percent of concerns, while water damage while home or away represented 13 percent of concerns. In addition:
  • More men are concerned with theft from their apartment or home, while most women are concerned with damage from pests or water.
Identity Theft Concerns

In response to all the recent attention on data breaches, most women say they do not plan on changing their shopping habits when it comes to identity theft (51 percent), while most men (38 percent) say the recent data breaches concern them and they will step up their efforts to protect their identity this holiday season. In addition:
  • Most men say they would use mobile payments about 50 percent of the time if it was as widely accepted as credit cards, while most women say they are still unsure of mobile technology.
Home Appliance Concerns
  • Most women are concerned with mechanical problems, while most men are concerned with getting prompt, in-home repairs.
  • Women are more concerned with protecting the refrigerator and washing machine, while men are concerned about protecting the microwave. Women are also slightly more concerned with food spoilage in their refrigerator should mechanical problems or power surge occur.
Source: Protect Your Bubble

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Housing Program Enhancements to Help Struggling Homeowners

December 8, 2014 4:21 am

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced enhancements to programs under Making Home Affordable (MHA) to better assist struggling homeowners and communities still recovering from the effects of the financial crisis. The enhancements are designed to motivate homeowners in MHA to continue making their mortgage payments on time, strengthen the safety net for those facing continuing financial hardships, and help homeowners in MHA programs build equity in their homes.

"[This] announcement signals our commitment to helping more hardworking families continue the American dream of homeownership," said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro. "These enhancements will expand the opportunity for more folks to stay in their home, stabilizing local communities and continuing our nation's positive economic momentum."

The Treasury and HUD established HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program®) in 2009 to provide relief to homeowners facing financial hardship. Through a combination of lowered interest rates and modified loan terms, monthly payments are reduced to affordable levels. In addition, many homeowners who remain current following their modification are eligible to earn up to $5,000 over the first five years of their modification, which is applied in repayment of their outstanding principal balance.

Under the revised guidelines, all homeowners in HAMP will now be eligible to earn $5,000 in the sixth year of their modification, which will reduce their outstanding principal balance by as much as $10,000. Homeowners will also be offered an opportunity to re-amortize the reduced mortgage balance, which will have the effect of lowering their monthly payment. Currently, approximately one million homeowners with HAMP modifications are eligible to earn the increased HAMP incentive.

In addition, in an effort to bolster the safety net for homeowners who face difficulty making their payments in HAMP Tier 1 or similar non-HAMP modifications, Treasury and HUD have introduced enhancements to HAMP Tier 2 and the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives® (HAFA) Program.

HAMP Tier 2 is an alternative modification that provides a low fixed rate for the life of the loan to homeowners who do not qualify for or cannot sustain a HAMP Tier 1 modification. The enhancements include reducing the interest rate for HAMP Tier 2 by 50 basis points, which will enable more homeowners to qualify for a modification, and extending the $5,000 pay-for-performance incentive to HAMP Tier 2 borrowers in good standing at the end of the sixth year of their modification.

HAFA assists homeowners who need to transition to a more affordable living situation through a short sale or deed-in-lieu. Treasury and HUD also announced that they have increased the amount of relocation assistance provided to homeowners to $10,000 to better reflect increased rents and the cost of moving in many parts of the country.

If you are a homeowner in need of mortgage assistance, please visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov to explore all options available to help you avoid foreclosure.

Source: HUD.gov

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Tips to Keep Household Tools in Tip-top Shape

December 8, 2014 4:21 am

(BPT) - From painting supplies to gardening and handheld tools, buying well-made home improvement tools can have an impact on project results. The tools you use may be an investment, so you'll want to take care of them to ensure they last for more than just one project.

Painting tools – Painting is the easiest and most cost-effective way to transform a space or revive an outdated piece of furniture. It's important to clean paint brushes and reusable rollers immediately after use. A mixture of warm water and mild soap suds is the best cleaning solution for latex- or water-based paints. When cleaning oil-based paints, varnishes, lacquers and shellacs, closely follow the manufacturer's instructions to select the proper cleaning solvent, such as paint thinner or denatured alcohol. Consider using one set of synthetic brushes or rollers for oil-based products and another set for latex products.

Avoid soaking paint brushes in solvent or water as this can damage the bristles. A paint brush comb is an easy way to keep your brushes in tip-top shape after cleaning. For best results, comb both the edge and center of the brush to prevent paint buildup during use and extend the life of any brush.

It's also important to hang brushes when storing them; never store a paint brush on its tip, which can result in "curling." After washing used roller covers, string them on rope or dowels to aid in drying. To ensure a nice, smooth finish the next time you have to paint, don't stand the paint roller on its end or lay it down.

Gardening tools – After a day spent doing yard work, it's important to clean off any shovels, hoes or rakes. Moist soil on metal surfaces can result in rust, so hose off tools and towel dry them after each use. Use a wire brush or wire-steel pad attached to a power drill to remove rust or other debris from metal tool parts. Make the most of your storage space or garage and hang garden tools by their handles to prevent damage and avoid clutter.

Store smaller garden tools like shears, trowels and soil scoops in a sand-filled trough. Fill a 13-inch by 15-inch plastic or galvanized container with sand to within an inch of the top, pour in 1/4 cup of motor oil and stir. Place the tools in the sand with the handles out. The sand helps the tools stay clean and sharp while the oil prevents any rust buildup. Keep the container in your garage or shed to avoid the elements.

Handheld workshop tools - Quality hammers, screw drivers, cordless drills and the like can be costly. Given enough time, rust will damage metal permanently. For rust removal on handheld tools and corroded nuts and bolts, soak them in vinegar for a few days and rinse with warm water. Another way to remove rust is to gently scrape the tool with a wire brush.

When cleaning power tools, wear heavy duty gloves and disconnect all power cords. With a toothbrush, clean around any switches that may interfere with the proper operation of the machine. If you are cleaning a chainsaw, jigsaw or similar power tool, use an air compressor to blow out any sawdust that's collected within the crevices.

A little extra time spent cleaning and storing tools after a home improvement project can keep them looking and working their best. Protect your tool investments and be the ultimate weekend warrior with proper storage and organization.

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The 3 Ps of Holiday Decorating

December 8, 2014 4:21 am

'Tis the season to transform family living spaces with holiday lights, trees, candles, poinsettias and more. To help minimize the risks from accidents associated with this cherished time of year, keep in mind the “3 Ps of holiday decorating,” recommended by the Hanover Insurance Group – prepare, prevent and protect.

Prepare
  • First and foremost, be sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home. Ideally the alarms should be interconnected so when one sounds, they all sound.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby so you are prepared for a quick response to potential sparks or flames from lights, candles and fireplaces.
  • Establish a home fire escape drill that includes two ways out of every room and an outside meeting place.
Prevent
  • Use caution when climbing on ladders to hang lights and decorations. Thousands of people are treated at emergency rooms each year for falls associated with holiday decorating. Be sure someone else is home to assist if something goes wrong.
  • Do not connect more than three light strands together. Turn off all holiday lights and decorations when you are not home or when you are asleep. One in three Christmas tree fires is due to an electrical failure.
  • If you are lighting candles, and especially candles that must burn continuously, such as a menorah, place them on a tall, sturdy surface like a kitchen counter with a piece of aluminum foil underneath to catch wax drippings or a falling candle. If you must leave a candle unattended, consider placing it in a kitchen sink to minimize risks. Candle fires cause 45 percent of holiday decoration fires.
  • Be careful where you place your Christmas tree. One in six tree fires are started when a tree is too close to a heat source. Also, make sure your tree does not block an exit.
  • Be sure to use non-flammable or flame resistant decorations.
Protect
  • Check with your independent insurance agent to ensure your home is adequately covered in the event of a loss. Most experts recommend a policy with a guaranteed replacement cost provision so you can rebuild to the same quality, regardless of rising material or labor costs.
  • Some insurance policies cover the cost to recharge or replace a fire extinguisher used to fight a fire in a covered home, with no deductible. This is helpful if you have used your fire extinguisher and want to be sure it is still fully charged.
  • Consider an umbrella policy if you plan to host holiday parties in your festively decorated home. Umbrella policies may extend your policy's liability limits, generally by $1 million to $5 million, in the event you are sued by a guest.
"Holiday decorating is one of the best ways to create a festive atmosphere," said Richard W. Lavey, president, Personal Lines at Hanover. "However, some holiday decorations and the task of decorating a home can pose risks and lead to losses and injuries. Fortunately, if you prepare, prevent and protect, you will be more likely to safely enjoy the season in peace."

Source: Hanover Insurance Group

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Holiday Goods You Can Buy at a Thrift Store

December 5, 2014 4:21 am

It’s the time of year when we begin to worry about how much we can spend for the holidays. But good ideas from enterprising shoppers can help us bring smiles to family and friends while staying in control of the cost.

Savings.com editor Susan Yoo-Lee, whose Mommas in the House blog seeks to help Moms find where the bargains are, suggests five holiday costs you can keep way down by shopping at the local thrift store:

China, flatware, and glasses – These days, mixing patterns is not only acceptable, it’s chic. So if you need more pieces for your holiday table, check the thrift store first. You may also find that extra platter or the soup tureen you’ve always wanted.

Holiday décor – When it comes to Christmas and Hannukkah decorations, you can’t beat thrift store prices. You may find ornaments in their original packing at less than a third of original prices – as well as stockings, menorahs, and even centerpieces that need only minor refreshing.

Gifts – If you need a gift for someone who has everything, you may find answers in the thrift shop. For collectors or hobbyists, you can pick up vintage jewelry, old vinyl records, comic books, and charming little knick-knacks. Browse the aisles with an open mind and you may be surprised at what you find.

Clothing – Whether you’re looking for ugly holiday sweaters or an old-fashioned slip to wear under that new silk dress, check the thrift store for holiday duds for every member of the family. There may be no better buy than that little velveteen dress that was worn only once and outgrown.

Extra furniture – If you need extra holiday seating or a night table for the guest room, think thrift shop first. You can find great prices on vintage pieces as well as newer models still in good condition.

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Three Ways to Boost Home Air Quality

December 5, 2014 4:21 am

Because most Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, the air in their home is a significant component to their overall health and wellbeing. Occasionally, indoor pollutants can accumulate to levels that pose health and comfort issues when too little outdoor air enters a home. These pollutants may include mold, bacteria, tobacco smoke, pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), radon, various allergens, elevated levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and other potentially hazardous substances.

One approach to lowering the concentration of indoor air pollutants in a home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming in. Outdoor air enters and leaves a house by infiltration, natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation.

With infiltration, outdoor air flows into the house through openings, joints and cracks in walls, floors and ceilings, as well as around windows and doors. Air may also move out of the house in this manner and this is known as exfiltration.

During natural ventilation, air moves through opened windows and doors. Air movement associated with infiltration and natural ventilation is caused by air temperature differences between indoors and outdoors and by the wind.

Finally, there are a number of mechanical ventilation devices, from exhaust fans that remove air from a single room, such as bathrooms and kitchens, to air handling systems that use fans and duct work to continuously remove indoor air and distribute filtered and conditioned outdoor air throughout the house. The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. When there is little infiltration, natural ventilation, or mechanical ventilation, the air exchange rate is low and pollutant levels can rise.

Source: EMSL

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