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

New Opportunities Open Up for First-Time Homebuyers

September 13, 2013 2:33 am

In the coming year, more than 1.5 million consumers will purchase their first home. How do they do it -- and how can you be one of them?

"First-timers now represent nearly 30 percent of all existing home purchasers," said Ray Brousseau, executive vice president of a nationwide lender. "That's a big percentage, but it could be a lot higher because there are many ways first-time purchasers can finance with little down and little hassle."

Many of these buyers are able to afford a new home because they know that the mortgage marketplace has two separate ways to help them: First, there are traditional loan options. Second, there are more than 1,500 mortgage assistance plans for buyers purchasing a first home.

No Need For 20 Percent Down

The big barrier for many first-time buyers is cash. It takes cash for a down payment, and it takes cash to close. Lenders are generally looking for buyers with 20 percent down, but given that the typical home sells for more than $200,000, there are a lot of first-time homebuyers who have not accumulated the $40,000 or more that lenders prefer.

The good news: There are many ways around the 20 percent requirement with traditional loan options.

"It doesn't take a lot of up-front cash to buy a home today," said Brousseau. "FHA and conventional financing are all available with little down, while VA borrowers can qualify for mortgages that require no down payment."

The way such programs work is that they substitute insurance for the 20 percent down that lenders would otherwise want:

• Conventional loans are available with as little as 3 percent down plus what is called "private mortgage insurance" or PMI.

• FHA mortgages require an up-front mortgage insurance premium (MIP), plus an annual MIP based on the outstanding loan balance. Mortgages backed by the FHA are available nationwide and typically require just 3.5 percent down.

• VA financing is available for those with qualifying service, such as military personnel, as well as officers in the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). VA loans are available with nothing down. There is an up-front "guarantee" fee, but no annual insurance cost.

"Instead of $40,000 for a down payment, many borrowers can get a $200,000 loan with $6,000 or $7,000 down, or even nothing down if VA-qualified," Brousseau said. "That means qualified first-time homebuyers can buy a house today instead of waiting years to save 20 percent down."

Mortgage Assistance Plans

According to DownPaymentResource.com, there are more than 1,500 assistance plans administered by more than 1,000 agencies nationwide for would-be buyers, many aimed specifically at first-time purchasers.

In looking at these programs it's important to understand what the term "first-time buyer" means. It typically does not mean someone who has never owned a home; instead the usual definition for program qualification purposes is someone who has not had title to a home during the past three years.

This definition is important because it provides a way for people to re-enter the housing marketplace. For instance, suppose the Smiths owned a home and sold it to move to a job in a new community. Three years later they are "first-time" purchasers under the guidelines used by most assistance plans.

"Another important point about mortgage assistance programs is that many are specifically designed to encourage local home purchases by public-sector employees such as teachers, police, firefighters, nurses, and corrections workers," said Brousseau. "There are millions of people who qualify for such assistance."

The benefits available through mortgage assistance plans vary. For instance, borrowers may be able to get financing at below-market interest rates. Down payment grants may be available, essentially meaning that little or nothing down will be required. Another approach includes programs that offer tax credits.

Mortgage interest is generally deductible, but a "tax credit" is arguably more valuable. With what are called "mortgage credit certificates" or MCCs, borrowers can deduct directly from their actual tax bill. For instance, if you have $8,000 in mortgage interest you might be able to directly reduce your taxes by $1,600 while the remaining $6,400 can be treated as an itemized deduction.

"Given low interest rates and a firming housing sector, this is a terrific time to consider entering the real estate market," said Brousseau. "With today's financing choices, many buyers can own their own home a lot quicker than they might have thought."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Global Study Reveals Americans are Planning to Travel More Domestically, but Steady Their Spending in 2014

September 12, 2013 2:33 am

TripAdvisor® announced the results of a recent survey called the TripBarometer. The survey reveals the leading travel and hospitality industry trends, according to over 19,000 travelers and over 10,000 accommodation business owners around the world. The study is conducted twice a year, and the results are analyzed independently by research firm Edelman Berland.

Themes from this season's TripBarometer include:
• Travelers vary considerably in their economic outlook, with those from emerging markets far more optimistic about the global economy.
• While U.S. travelers aren't planning to increase travel budgets next year, they are planning to travel more frequently and closer to home to discover the sights America has to offer.
• Despite the lack of confidence many travelers feel about the global economy, U.S. hoteliers remain confident about future profitability.
• Travelers are using credit to fund their holidays, particularly in emerging markets.

Travelers Plan to Lower Their Budgets
• Only one-third of U.S. travelers are optimistic about the economy.
• Americans are the least likely to spend more on travel in 2014 compared to other regions.
• Sixty-one percent of global travelers and 65 percent of U.S. travelers plan to spend the same amount or less in 2014.
• Travelers in emerging markets are the ones who plan to spend more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Survey Reveals Nation's Exercise Habits

September 12, 2013 2:33 am

While many people say that they want to get in better shape and exercise more, how many are really doing it? To help showcase how, when and where Americans are working out, Timex released the results of a survey detailing the nation's exercise habits. The Timex/SodaHead.com survey reveals that while the perception may be that most Americans are not exercising, the reality is that 73 percent of respondents are working out at least once a week.

Key highlights of the survey include:

• Twenty-nine percent spend between 30 minutes and one hour on their physical activities and 18 percent are spending between one and two hours exercising.
• Sixty-one percent of respondents don't go to a gym to exercise. If they do go to the gym, they want to stay close—only 11 percent drive more than 15 minutes to their exercise destination.
• Working out at lunch may not be for everyone, but 27 percent of respondents are finding time to get in a workout during the work day.
• When it comes to finding time to exercise, it is apparent that many in America are not "morning people," as nearly half of Americans say that they don't exercise in the morning. For those that do work out in the morning, 6 a.m. is the most popular time.
• The most popular type of exercise is running (18 percent), followed by lifting weights (13 percent) and biking/hiking/outdoor activities (13 percent).
• Once Americans finish exercising, it is time to hit the showers. Forty-three percent of survey respondents spend at least 10-15 minutes in the shower, 25 percent spend a whopping 20-30 minutes and 10 percent spend more than a half-hour.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Prepare Your Yard and Garden for Winter

September 12, 2013 2:33 am

As temperatures drop and autumn colors arrive, a new season of gardening is upon us. In order to properly prepare your lawn and garden for the colder months ahead, you should be thinking about fall cleanup procedures so that you can enjoy your yard once the warm weather returns.

"Fall is the most important gardening season," says Elizabeth Licata, gardener-in-chief for Troy-Bilt®. "Tasks like cleaning up the garden are really about creating the beginnings of a productive garden for the next season."

By creating a fall to-do list, you can make fall cleanup easy and manageable. Troy-Bilt suggests that you do the following:

Clear away dead debris by getting rid of plants that have stopped blooming or have been killed by the lack of warm weather. Remove dead limbs on trees and trim overgrown areas.

Make sure to fertilize your lawn. As we usher in fall, and the cooler weather and rainfall associated with the season, reduce the height on your mower to two or two-and-a-half inches. Fertilize, reseed and repair bare spots before winter hits and you can maximize your green potential for next spring. Water the lawn one inch per week to saturate fertilizer and stimulate root growth.

Removing leaves often is also a crucial step. If leaves pile up, it can suffocate your grass, therefore killing it. Leaf blowers, especially backpack leaf blowers, can provide comfort and get the job done quickly and efficiently.

Spreading compost
over your yard is a great way to provide nutrients. The natural soil bacteria and microorganisms in the compost will treat the soil and grass, making it healthier and more bountiful for the next season. You can collect waste materials such as grass clippings, leaves and leftover fruits and veggies from your own garden to create your own organic compost.

By following these simple steps, you’re guaranteeing a lush and lavish yard for seasons to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Safe Home: Fire Prevention Starts with a Plan

September 11, 2013 2:30 am

(Family Features) The cooler temperatures of fall may be on their way, but cooler weather also brings an increase in home fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than half (54 percent) of home structure fire deaths occur in the cooler months of November through March.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) recommends that every household have an escape plan in place, yet, in a recent survey by Omnibus, 44 percent of people reported that they did not have an escape plan for their home.

On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire.

“Every second counts when it comes to escaping a home fire,” said Chief Metcalf, president and chairman of the IAFC. “That’s why families need to have an escape plan in place, and ensure they have working smoke alarms to provide those critical early warning signals in the event of a home fire.

Here are some additional tips from the IAFC and Energizer to help protect your family room by room.

Make a Plan
Draw a floor plan of your home and find two ways out of every room. Sketch the exit routes clearly on the floor plan. If an upstairs window is one of the escape options, make sure you have a fire escape ladder long enough to reach the ground. Make sure every adult knows how to use it. Adults should be responsible for helping younger children. Assign an outside meeting place so if the family escapes from different routes, you can quickly locate each other.

Use the following checklist to eliminate as many fire hazards in your home as possible:

Bedrooms

In a recent study, almost half (44 percent) of families did not know the peak time for home fire fatalities is when most people are asleep (between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.). So, in addition to making sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within hearing distance of your bedrooms, take the below steps to fire-proof the bedrooms themselves:

—Do not trap electrical cords against walls. Heat can build up, posing a fire hazard.
—Use only lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Make sure cords are not worn or coming apart. Do not leave electric blankets switched on all night unless they are marked “suitable for all night use.”
—Keep bedding, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
—Never smoke in bed.
—Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. By law, mattresses made since then are required to be safer.
—Have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom and outside each sleeping area.

Living Room
—Do not overload electrical outlets.
—Never run electrical cords under carpets.
—Check all electrical cords for fraying or other signs of damage.
—Only light decorative candles when adults are in the room. Use stable candle holders that will not catch fire. Blow candles out when you leave.
—During a power failure, do not use candles or oil lamps for light. Keep battery-operated flashlights and lanterns in easily accessible places. Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power cause one-third of fatal home candle fires.
—Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in each room, including the living room.

Kitchen

Cooking is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States, according to research by the National Fire Protection Agency.

—Never use extension cords to plug in cooking appliances. They can overload the circuit and start a fire.
—Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
—Keep anything that can catch fire away from the cooktop. This includes potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and curtains.
—Keep the cooktop, burners and oven clean.
—Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire. Wear short, close-fitting clothing or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
—Have a fire extinguisher installed in or near your kitchen, and be sure every adult family member knows how to use it.

Garage

—Store all combustible materials away from regular sources of heat, such as water heaters, space heaters, boilers and furnaces.
—Keep wood finishes, spray paint, paint thinners and other flammable products in a dedicated storage container with a closed door.
—Store all combustible materials in their proper containers and be sure they are clearly marked.
—Keeping the garage tidy can also help keep it safe. Get rid of stacked boxes, newspapers, recycling and trash. They can be instant fuel for a fire.

Source: Energizer

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Winterizing Summer Cottages and Vacation Homes

September 11, 2013 2:30 am

The weather is getting cooler and the leaves are changing color, so many people will be closing their summer homes for the season within the next few weeks. It's important to make sure cottages and vacation homes are properly secured to help protect them during the winter months.

Many vacation homes and cottages are located in areas that experience freezing temperatures in the winter, notes Lisa St. Onge, an assistant vice president with a nationwide insurance company. “This causes the potential for frozen pipes and other headaches for homeowners.”

That’s why it’s important to take the time to make sure your vacation home is properly secured for winter, St. Onge notes. “Preparing your home in advance will save you time and money and make it easier for you to open your home for the summer next year.”

Here are a few tips and reminders:

-Unplug all appliances.
-Drain the water system to prevent pipes from freezing.
-Secure windows and doors, inspect for other openings and remove all food to keep rodents out.
-Adjust the thermostat. In colder climates, thermostats set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit will help to prevent pipes from freezing. In warmer climates, air conditioning should be turned on to prevent humidity damage.
-Clean gutters and downspouts.

“Checking these items off your list as you close up for the season can make a huge difference and prevent little things that may be undiscovered or unrepaired for months from becoming much more serious, very costly problems,” St. Onge says.

Many vacation homeowners don’t return until the following summer, so it’s also important to make sure your home looks lived in. Here are a few tips to make your home look occupied while you’re away for the season:

-Put interior and exterior lights on timers or motion detectors.
-Stop mail and newspaper service.
-Hire someone to clear snow from your driveway.

“Winterizing your home properly—and making sure it looks lived in while you’re away—will make coming back in the spring and summer more enjoyable,” says St. Onge.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Lungs for Your House

September 11, 2013 2:30 am

Stale air, lingering odors and high humidity can happen in the best of homes and sometimes, simply opening a window can bring relief. When it's mild outside and there is a breeze, opening a window can be beneficial. However, in a hot and cold climate this is not always practical or possible. Leaving a window open in mid-winter will add to your space heating costs, cause uncomfortable drafts and the window may freeze open. You also can't filter the dust out of the air nor can you recover any of the heat that flows out an open window. Sometimes leaving a window open is a security or noise concern. Finally, you can't control how much air enters through an open window or where it goes once it's in your house.

Fortunately, there is another way of bringing fresh air into your home that is energy efficient, secure and highly effective - a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). HRVs are suitcase-sized appliances that typically have one fan to bring in outdoor air and another fan to push out the stale air. Heat is transferred from the outgoing air to the incoming air by passing the two air streams through a heat-exchange core, helping to reduce heating costs. As the two air streams are kept separated, only the heat is transferred to the incoming air. In a sense, an HRV can act as the lungs for your home.

In houses with baseboard or radiant heating, the fresh air from the HRV is delivered directly to the bedrooms and the main living areas through a dedicated duct system. At the same time, the HRV draws stale air from the kitchen and bathrooms and sends it outside. In houses with furnaces, it's not uncommon to find HRVs connected to the furnace ductwork system. The furnace then operates continuously to circulate the fresh air around the house, while bathroom fans and kitchen range hoods provide back-up ventilation as needed. HRVs have multi-speed settings to deal with varying ventilation needs. Automatic controls are available as well to modulate the operation of the HRV as needed.

HRVs are built into energy efficient new houses to reduce air leaks and heating and cooling costs, and to keep your home more comfortable. Cutting down on uncontrolled air leakage also helps protect your roof, walls and basement from moisture damage. However, the better sealed a house is, the more it needs controlled, energy efficient, mechanical ventilation to provide the indoor-outdoor air exchange needed to maintain healthy indoor air quality. By eliminating random air leaks in existing houses and adding heat recovery ventilation, you reduce your heating bills while maintaining as good, or better, indoor air quality.

Installation
Although you can buy an HRV at some home improvement stores, it may be preferable to have it designed and installed by a qualified contractor. It is very important to measure and balance the supply and exhaust airflows to ensure the HRV does not cause potentially create dangerous house depressurization or pressurization problems. This should be carried out when the HRV is first installed and should be checked regularly afterwards by a qualified contractor in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Look for units with lower energy usage and high energy efficiency in the heating season, preferably choosing from those with an ENERGY STAR® rating.

Placement Tips
Deciding where to install the HRV is important:

-The outdoor fresh air intake and exhaust outlet hoods must be carefully located away from dryer vents, vents and air intakes serving fuel-fired space or water heating devices, and windows and doors.
-The intake and outlet hoods must be at certain heights above the ground to avoid being covered by snow.
-They cannot be located under decks as they need to be regularly inspected and cleaned.
-They can't be located in garages or in attics because it is unsafe to get your air from these locations. It is also unsafe to exhaust air into there.
-For fire safety reasons, HRVs cannot be connected to range hoods, cooktops or clothes dryers.

For these reasons, furnace or boiler rooms are commonly used.

While there will always be times when opening a window to allow a refreshing breeze to air out your home is desirable, HRVs offer an effective and efficient way to get the ventilation you need.

Source: CMHC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Taking out the Trash: Finding a Home for the Hazardous

September 10, 2013 2:24 am

Trying to figure out how to properly dispose of hazardous waste can oftentimes be frustrating. From construction waste to old paint cans, there always seems to be materials sitting around the house because your local town or city won’t accept them with the weekly collection.
Many cities have hazardous waste disposal days, which is usually a great place to start unloading. Another recommended resource is the website Earth911.com. Earth 911 has a searchable directory of drop-off programs for various materials so you can learn the details before loading up. In addition to this site, Consumer Reports’ Home & Garden Blog suggests the following for disposing your junk:

Lightbulbs. Big-box retailers, such as Home Depot and Ikea, often take used compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) runs a website called Lamp Recycle (found at www.lamprecycle.org) that contains a full list of lightbulb-accepting retailers. If you have a plethora of old lightbulbs, don’t just mix them in with the trash. Recycle them properly.

Appliances. Appliances can often be tricky things to get rid of, but there are plenty of options for properly recycling them. If you’re buying new, most retailers will take your old one away (if this is not offered, you should inquire about this before purchasing). Some states have state-run programs for free pickup and/or cash rewards for old appliances, called the Cash for Appliances program. The federal government also has a program called the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, which recycles appliances containing ozone-depleting gases. Lastly, some appliances can be tax write-offs if donated to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army.

Unused building materials. ReStore, a project by Habitat for Humanity, accepts extra building materials and then resells them. ReStore sells to the general public at a fraction of the retail price, and proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within their communities. It’s a win-win-win for donors, consumers and communities.

Construction waste. The U.S.-government sponsored Construction Waste Management Database website will direct you to recyclers within your zip code that will get rid of your wasted carpeting, ceiling tiles, flooring and more. If you are working on a large, at-home project, keep track of your waste materials and check the website. You can properly dispose of each item with ease and know-how.

Using the Internet as a resource, homeowners can find out how to dispose of many different types of waste, much of which can surely be recycled somehow. Using the aforementioned websites as tools will help you clear out your garage, and may sometimes even put a little cash in your pocket as well.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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A Film to Make You Cozy

September 10, 2013 2:24 am

As cooler temperatures return, many homeowners complain about living spaces that are too cold or too warm. In response to this concern the International Window Film Association offers advice on how to make interiors cozier and save money.

"Sunlight streaming through windows can have a warming effect, but it can also be overdone," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA), a nonprofit group. "The sunny side of a building can become unbearably hot, causing temperature imbalances and health concerns," he added.

"With larger windows to let in more natural light, a popular consumer and commercial trend, there are also problems that arise," said Smith. Examples include glare, fading of furnishings and floors, heat build-up and Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Glass, or new windows do not block UVA, unless they are specially treated and worst of all, UVA rays are widely viewed by medical research authorities as linked to skin cancer. A report in the Clinical Interventions in Aging suggests protecting skin even when indoors.

With window film applied, a home's interior temperature can be made cozier without shutting out natural light. Window film delivers a transparent "solar shield" and can reject up to 80 percent of the sun's heat. In cooler months, some window films reflect room heat and in summer, the home's interior can be cooler and more comfortable. All quality window films will block up to 99 percent of UV rays and reduce the impact of sunlight to cut down on fading and health concerns.

Window film offers a cozy outlook for budget-conscious consumers. For example, a single family home spending $3,000 annually for heating and cooling, will on a broad average basis, potentially see a savings of between $450 to $900 annually after quality window film is professionally installed. Location, weather and energy costs can impact the savings result.

Another bonus of professionally installed window film is its eligibility for tax credits approved by Congress that offer up to 10 percent of the cost of window film installed in 2013, or in 2012 up to a maximum of $500.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Low Maintenance Fence and Deck Tips to Make the Most of Outdoor Living Spaces

September 10, 2013 2:24 am

Would you be proud to show off your backyard, including the fence and deck? Now is a good time to update and upgrade to a low-maintenance vinyl fence and composite deck.

Homeowners can now create the most comfortable, sustainable and low-maintenance outdoor living spaces on the block. To get the most out of an outdoor space this fall, North Texas Fence and Deck provides the following tips:

Make the deck area into an inviting space for entertaining by adding comfortable furniture like a double glider for that old-time porch swing feeling, and a coffee table to place snacks on. Create separate zones for grilling, dining and lounging. Installing a shading feature like an arbor or pergola can keep the area cool and comfortable.

Outdoor lighting goes a long way toward setting a mood and creating a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Homeowners will improve safety and add visual appeal with solar powered lights installed along steps and walkways. Hang strings of energy efficient LED Christmas lights from the arbor and along the perimeter of the fence.

Most wood fence, deck and railing products require ongoing painting or staining and can rot or warp when exposed to inclement weather. Consider rebuilding your deck with low maintenance composite decking and railing.

Upgrade to a vinyl fence for years of beauty and enjoyment without the splitting and warping and constant painting and staining required of wood. These new building products are virtually maintenance-free and can beautifully withstand the elements, leaving homeowners with more time to enjoy it.

Fire pits are becoming a popular and relatively affordable way to create a central gathering spot in a backyard or patio. For larger spaces, a full-size outdoor fireplace might be an option.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can extend the season for your outdoor space and enjoy your home even more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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