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

Giving Season: Billions of Charitable Donations and Counting

December 25, 2014 4:39 am

As expected, Americans will continue to support their favorite causes this giving season, with TD Bank Group estimating over $570 billion in time and money donated. A recent report by the organization indicates that almost 95 percent of households donate to a charity each year, while half of Americans volunteer their time for a good cause.

"Americans are generous people, and nearly everyone gives to charity each year," says Craig Alexander, SVP and chief economist, TD Bank Group. "The benefits of giving are much more than that and have lasting impacts on local communities and society as a whole."

According to the report, Americans give almost 8 billion hours of their time volunteering each year. The vast majority of volunteers say they do it to make a contribution to their community, and because charitable giving inspires others to get involved. Many Americans volunteer as part of a group project with friends or colleagues, or join family members already helping others.

Source: TD Economics

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Alleviate Holiday Hosting Duties with Dishwashing Tips

December 24, 2014 4:36 am

(Family Features) ‘Tis the season is for enjoying time with friends and family – not being trapped in the kitchen for pre- and post-party cleaning. With a little planning, you can minimize time spent on daily chores and maximize time spent creating memories with guests. Here are a few quick tips to clean and prep your home for get-togethers this holiday.

Load the dishwasher first. When you’re hosting a party, the last thing you want is to open the dishwasher and find dirty dishes. Make sure to run the dishwasher the day before your guests arrive to ensure everything is clean when you need it.

Prepare dishes for the wash cycle. To ensure dishes come out clean and dry, scrape away large pieces of food and excess leftovers before loading, and let the dishwasher take care of the rest. Make sure your silverware gets the right water coverage by loading some pointing up and some pointing down, including knives. And remember, safety first, especially if kids are helping. If you don’t plan to run the dishwasher immediately, remember to rinse foods such as mustard, mayonnaise and tomato-based products, as they may cause discoloration of plastics if allowed to sit for a long period of time.

Fill the upper and lower racks properly.
Cups, glasses, stemware, small plates and bowls are all welcome in the top rack. Make sure any plastic items go on top, too. Be sure to load open-ended items into the washer facing down for the best cleaning and draining. Save your biggest items for the edge of the lower rack. Face everything else – plates, large bowls, etc. – toward the center of the rack for a thorough clean.

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Steer Clear of Family Disagreements over the Holidays

December 24, 2014 4:36 am

Do you and your family clash more than usual during December? If so, you’re not alone. It’s important to note that most holiday issues are rarely just about the holidays. They tend to be symptoms—signs of unmet needs or unresolved issues. Once you begin to realize arguments and bad feelings are signaling deeper misfires, the sooner you can start to address them together.

One reason families can feel blindsided by holiday blow-ups is that this time of year is “supposed” to be all colored lights, childlike wonder, love, and gratitude. This is, of course, a setup for failure. Depending on your holiday expectations, they can bring a unique set of pressures—forced family togetherness, ramped-up financial pressures, and jam-packed schedules, just to name a few.

To help ease the stress, consider these tips:

Be real about what you feel. This will allow you to head off recurring holiday issues. Most people can predict their relatives' problematic behaviors based on past experience. This year, instead of biting your tongue and then blowing up after the fact, speak up. Not only can you prevent the issue from occurring, you’re taking a step toward a healthier relationship.

Identify your limits. Watch out for overscheduling. Make choices about where to invest your energy and your time. Figure out which events mean the most and let some things go. Otherwise you are sure to spend all of your time stressed, resentful of your loved ones.

Look for rituals that have lost their meaning and eliminate them. Ask yourself, 'Where are we just going through the motions?' Maybe you’ve always driven across the country for the holidays because that’s where your partner’s parents live. But if you’re approaching the visit with a sense of dread rather than anticipation and joy, why not change it? You can always visit them mid-summer instead.

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5 Winter Fixes for a Warm Home

December 23, 2014 4:33 am

Financing the cost of the holidays with the cost of keeping your home warm and safe during the winter season may be more than many families' budgets can handle. But keeping your family warm doesn’t have to break the bank. Generac recommends these cost-effective fixes:

1. Top Off Your Attic Insulation

A high percentage of heat loss occurs through the roof because of poor insulation. Make sure your attic is insulated with the minimum R-value for your climate (up to R-49 for northern). Also, check the rim joist areas above the foundation walls in the basement and plug any gaps with fiberglass insulation.

2. Dial Down the Thermostat
Tried and true, because most people can live comfortably with a lower temperature around 68 degrees. Setting it lower than that when you're away or asleep will also save energy. Consider purchasing a programmable thermostat that will lower the temperature automatically during off-peak times.

3. Replace or Insulate Drafty Windows

You can literally hear your money flying out the window when a winter wind blows on old windows. Consider replacing old windows with energy-efficient ones. Another option is to put up window insulating kits. The clear plastic film can increase coziness by reducing drafts, saving energy and avoiding the costs of window replacement.

4. Fill Gaps with Caulks and Sealants
Replace old caulk joints around your window and door trim (both inside and outside) that can shrink and leak energy over time. Use a spray foam sealant to fill in the gaps left around pipes, wires, TV cables or bath and dryer vents penetrating your foundation or siding.

5. Get an Energy Audit

Most local utilities can help arrange a home energy audit to pinpoint where to focus your winterizing efforts. One essential tool is a thermal-imaging camera, which uses infrared technology to show where heat is escaping the house. In many areas, the cameras are available to rent, so try one out before winterizing to know exactly what needs to be done to lower your heating bill.

Source: Generac

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10 Reasons to Add Life Insurance to Your Christmas List

December 23, 2014 4:33 am

(BPT) - You can't drive it around the block. You can't wear it for an evening out. You can't watch anything on it. And chances are it won’t elicit squeals of delight when opened. But of the many gifts you can give, life insurance might make the biggest difference to those you love. Here’s why.

1. It is a generous thing to do. Purchasing an insurance policy isn’t about you at all, because you won’t be around to benefit. It will, however, benefit your family, loved ones, and even organizations that are important to you.

2. Freedom from worry. Knowing that your family is prepared financially if you’re no longer around can provide an incredible sense of reassurance. It can help provide your loved ones a measure of security and stability.

3. It is a cornerstone of a sound financial strategy. Protecting yourself against risk is an important part of any financial strategy. People often underestimate the extent to which a premature death affects a family's income and assets. Life insurance helps protect your financial strategy.

4. It sets a good example. Being financially prepared for an unknown future can speak volumes to those around you—and as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

5. It may assist with paying final expenses. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of money needed to pay for final expenses. A life insurance policy can help ensure those don’t burden your loved ones.

6. It may help pay off debt. Funds from a life insurance policy can alleviate debt that might be hard to pay off in the event of an unexpected death. Your loved ones can use those funds to cover credit cards, car loans and even mortgage payments.

7. It may help pay for college. Leaving a legacy for your children or spouse through the gift of education might be one of the more meaningful ways benefits could be used. Your gift could open doors for them to build a solid financial future for themselves through a life-long career.

8. It may help provide for retirement. Depending on the financial circumstances of your loved ones, life insurance benefits can be invested in different ways to provide for retirement.

9. Leave a legacy. Life insurance benefits can help more than family members or loved ones. You can use the benefits to donate to charities or causes you care about and leave a legacy of generosity.

10. It demonstrates you care about your loved ones. With each bill that is paid, with each gift to charities that were important to you, with each act of financial generosity, those you loved will be reminded of the care you took to help ensure they were left with a healthy financial situation.

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What Happens When Property Owners Don't Agree

December 23, 2014 4:33 am

So, you want to sell your real estate inheritance, and your siblings don’t. How can you compromise?

When a piece of real estate has two or more owners and one wants to sell and the others don’t, a petition to partition may be the answer. This happens frequently among families when real estate is left in a will to heirs, but it can also occur when a couple divorces. How do you divide the property? What steps should be taken?

When the petition process is started, a notification is delivered from the court and given to all owners of the property, in addition to anyone who may have a legal interest such as lien or mortgage holders. The process can be expensive and time-consuming. Many owners will retain their own lawyer—anyone who doesn’t want the petition to move forward can file with the probate court seeking to stop the process.

When a family can’t agree on the terms of the sale itself, the petition to partition can force the co-owners to sit and negotiate. Everyone involved must understand that there will be unnecessary delays and the final sale price may be considerably lower if they take too long to come to an agreement.

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Nearly 100 Million Americans Will Travel at Year-End

December 22, 2014 4:33 am

According to AAA projections, the amount of travelers during the year-end holiday period (December 23 to January 4) will grow by 3.8 million this year, signaling positive economic circumstances for an increasing number of families. With almost 100 million Americans set to travel, this upward trend marks the highest growth rate since 2009.

Low gas prices continue to help boost disposable income this holiday season, with today’s national average price of gas at $2.55 per gallon, 69 cents less than a year ago. Nearly 91 percent of all travelers (89.5 million) will celebrate the holidays with a road trip. Just 5.7 million will use airplanes as their main mode of transportation.

The calendar is also having a positive effect on the number of travelers expected this year. Because Christmas lands on a Thursday, travel season is one day longer than last year’s, offering more options for departures and return trips. This flexibility makes it possible for more people to fit holiday travel into their schedules.

"'Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will join with friends and family to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA President and Chief Operating Officer. "While the economy continues to improve at an uneven pace, it seems more Americans are looking forward with increasing consumer confidence, rather than looking back at the recession.”

Source: AAA

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Stay Organized at Home over the Holidays

December 22, 2014 4:33 am

Holiday parties, travel and shopping leave little room for keeping a household in order. Before the guests (and gifts!) arrive, stay organized by setting up smart solutions in key areas of your home.

Kitchen
– To avoid cluttering up your counter, get into the habit of immediately displaying, filing or recycling holiday mailings. Store papers you want to keep in a central location so that you will remember to revisit them later. If desired, create a space for displaying holiday cards.

Living Room
– When unpacking and packing your holiday decorations, eliminate items that you no longer use from your inventory. Keep your decorations in clear, plastic containers with other seasonal decor so that they can be easily identified next year. If you don’t have a space for storing gift wrap, use a narrow workstation with wheels so that it can be carted away and kept in a closet.

Mudroom
– Prepare for mess from winter weather conditions and a steady stream of holiday visitors by installing coat and shoe storage. Consider using vertical solutions to keep your floor free of clutter.

Garage – Stock up on items essential for winter weather, including salt, firewood, de-icer and shovels. Take advantage of wall space by installing a hanging pegboard.

Source: HomeFinder.com

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Plumbing in Pre-Owned Homes: What Buyers Need to Know

December 22, 2014 4:33 am

While shopping for a home, most buyers can easily point out peeling paint, outdated appliances or a dirty carpet. What most buyers won’t notice are plumbing issues. Though a standard home inspection will cover the basics, like water damage and water heater safety, other common issues often go unreported. Buying a home with a history, in particular, can present sewer-related challenges for potential new owners.

If you’re in the market for a pre-owned home, keep in mind these four factors when evaluating the home’s plumbing.

1. If it happened once, it will happen again.
Homes with past plumbing issues have a high probability of failure in the future. “The roots from the same problem tree will continue to grow back,” says Larry Rothman, director of Plumbing Services for Roto-Rooter, citing a common example. Re-occurring problems should be resolved before completing the sale of the home.

2. Sump pump problems can go unnoticed.
Despite being a standard requirement for new construction, not all pre-owned basement homes have sump pumps to prevent flooding. If it hasn’t rained recently, any sump pump issues may remain hidden. A thorough inspection of the sump system, water heater and sewer line can save a prospective buyer thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement.

3. Sewer line inspections are not generally included in standard home inspections.
Homebuyers regularly waive this extra inspection in the purchasing process because it requires an additional cost of anywhere from $250 to $550. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Whatever the reason for skipping a sewer line inspection, buyers should reevaluate foregoing this important step when making a deal.

4. Sellers do not have to disclose information about plumbing problems.
Ask questions! Learn when the home was built; if it is 25 years or older, it is more likely to have non-plastic pipes that may be deteriorated. Take note of mature trees, visible root growth and cracked concrete and ask if they are related to any persistent pipe problems.

Source: Roto-Rooter

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Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers Spike on ‘Super Saturday

December 19, 2014 4:27 am

More than half of holiday shoppers have gifts left to purchase by the time ‘Super Saturday’ arrives – the last Saturday to shop for holiday gifts before Christmas, according to a survey from RetailMeNot.com.

For many of these last-minute holiday shoppers, it’s not simply a matter of running to the store to purchase one remaining gift. Nearly 1 in 5 shoppers surveyed admitted to waiting until Super Saturday to begin shopping for all of their presents.

The survey also found:
- Financial reasons are less likely to spur last-minute holiday shopping, with less than 25 percent reporting that they weren’t waiting due to lack of savings.

- Nearly half of consumers (43 percent) report waiting until the 11th hour because they didn’t know what to get their intended recipient.

- Thirty percent of consumers waited to shop because they received an unexpected gift and felt the need to reciprocate.

- Forgetfulness is also a factor, with more than a third of consumers reporting that they forgot to buy a gift.
Source: RetailMeNot.com

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