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

Beyond Finances: Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

July 17, 2013 3:36 am

According to a recent PulteGroup Home Index Survey, more than half of renters aged 18-34 say their intention to buy a home has increased in the last year.

While their intentions are in many ways driven by personal, aspirational reasons – more space, family stability and the pride of homeownership – the low mortgage rate environment, increasing rental costs and scarcity of desirable rental options makes homeownership an even more attractive proposition for many.

"The propensity for young adults to test the waters of homeownership continues to increase and has become more evident as renters are seeing the overall value of owning a home," says Deborah Wahl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PulteGroup, Inc., noting that more than 50 percent of Millennials reported that the desire to own/build equity was the primary reason for purchasing a new home. "However, beyond finances, it is important for potential buyers to take several other factors into consideration."

Below are tips for first-time homebuyers looking for the right housing match:

Know Your Financial Situation
– Start saving for a down payment and talk with mortgage lenders about available loans well in advance of your purchase. Understand that there are special federal, state and locally administered financial programs for new homebuyers, such as FHA and HUD loan programs. Additionally, it's important to take into account other factors beyond your mortgage, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. By doing your homework, you will know what you can afford and comfortably make a decision about this important investment.

Compare Owning vs. Renting – Buying can be smarter than renting from a financial standpoint, but it has other advantages, as well. Owning a home provides you with a great deal of freedom and decision-making autonomy. No more will you have to worry about the noisy neighbor upstairs or accidental scratches on the wall from decorations. You'll have the power to select paint colors and plant flowers throughout the yard. Also, houses tend to offer more storage space.

Weigh New vs. Used – If you want to choose the floor plan and customize a home to fit your needs and lifestyle, building a new home may be the right choice for you. Popular options new homes offer today include more open, larger spaces, master bedroom suites, island-centric kitchens and bigger outdoor living space. Customizing a new home also provides the opportunity to design your home and include amenities that meet the needs of your growing family – if that's in your future. Additionally, new homes can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient and often come with a builder warranty. If you're handy and don't mind a fixer upper, resale can be an attractive route as well.

Examine the Location – Consider your surroundings when deciding upon where you want to live next. If you plan to start a family, research the local school district and other family offerings such as nearby parks and community centers. For fun, test out the local retail scene and entertainment options to see if it caters to your lifestyle. If you're a commuter, determine if the area is supported by adequate public transportation or provides easy access to major highways. Many in the housing market also care about ensuring they still live within close proximity to family and friends, as only 21 percent of homeowners are willing to move away from their families.

Select the Right Builder – If you decide on a new home, select a builder who has experience in the type of home and in the location you want. Make sure they have a history of building quality homes and are financially stable. Moreover, how easy are they to work with? Some builders today have gone digital to enhance customer service and help buyers stay on top of the latest with their new home. Look for online design centers that can help you make important design decisions, for example, or portals in which you can stay up-to-date on how your new home is progressing. Lastly, take time to check their references and talk to past customers.

Confide in Trusted Sources – More than 90 percent of home shoppers today are plugged-in to the Internet and use it as their main source of information. While this is particularly true with Millennials, don't forget to seek advice from two trusted groups: real estate agents and your personal network, including your parents. Approximately 60 percent of Millennials say they would rely on both sources, as each has extensive experience in purchasing homes and can provide personal guidance toward the successful purchase of their home.

"With third party data showing that 90 percent of Millennials plan to purchase a home at some point in their lives, it's important for first-time homebuyers to have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," adds Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Source: Centex

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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When the Doorbell Rings, Americans Want X-ray Vision

July 17, 2013 3:36 am

Since the invention of the electric bell ringer in 1831, Americans have relished the benefits of the ever-present doorbell to let them know someone's calling. A new nationwide survey shows that no matter how long we have doorbells as fixtures on front doors, we still have very strong and personal reactions to hearing them ring.

The 2,000-person survey was conducted by an independent market research firm and sponsored by VTech® Communications, Inc. Beyond turning into a superhero to see who's there (30 percent want X-ray vision), survey respondents said that an intercom to engage with the visitor (22 percent), followed by the immediate desire to continue activities unnoticed (16 percent), were their top spontaneous reactions to hearing the bell.

A Relentless Need-to-Know
No doubt, maintaining a sense of security is a top reason nearly all consumers (95 percent) say they won't open the door before checking to see who’s there. The majority (89 percent) said they sometimes hesitate to open the door when the bell rings, especially late at night (57 percent), when there's an unfamiliar face (42 percent) or when home alone (31 percent).

Other fun facts from the survey show:

• Mars and Venus reactions to a ringing doorbell. Women are more concerned about security than men – 60 percent of women check who is at the door due to safety worries compared to 45 percent of men. Men, instead, were more apt than women to peek out of curiosity or to screen visitors.

• Curiosity sparks the home dwellers. Emotions vary for an unexpected doorbell ring, with curiosity topping the list (43 percent), followed by annoyance (21 percent), surprise (12 percent) and anxiousness (12 percent).

• A ringing doorbell is worst during a snooze. Sometimes the doorbell rings at the most inconvenient times. The greatest bother to Americans is a doorbell ringing when they are asleep (40 percent), followed by when they are eating a meal (23 percent) and when they are in the shower (21 percent).

• Pets are the secret weapon for home security. The majority of consumers (69 percent) take some measure to protect their homes with 43 percent hoping the family dog will warn them of any trouble. Nearly one third (31 percent) use alarm systems and almost a quarter use motion-detecting lights (23 percent).

"We wanted to find out what Americans think about their doorbells and if this fixture on the front porch is still something people feel attached to," said Matt Ramage, senior vice president, product management, VTech Communications, Inc. "We saw that knowing who's at the door still provides a sense of comfort and security – while satisfying an equal desire for curiosity and convenience. As Americans embrace more digital solutions in the home, we can now take the doorbell concept a step further to accommodate all of those needs."

Source: VTech

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Summer Travel Safety Tips for your Hot Vacation Plans

July 17, 2013 3:36 am

As the economy continues to rebound, Americans are preparing for summer vacation trips around the country. According to PhoCusWright's U.S. Consumer Travel Report, six in ten U.S. adults traveled for leisure in 2012, the same number as in 2011. However, vacationing away from home can present safety risks as well as pleasures.

"You can help make family trips more enjoyable by taking a few simple steps to reduce the possibility you will become an easy target for thieves who prey on tourists, or that your home will be robbed in your absence," says Allstate Claims Director of Property Innovation Bryan Corder. "Following some simple precautions can make your family vacation a memorable one for all the right reasons."

To help you enjoy a safe family vacation:

Make sure your home is protected while you're away:
• Stop mail and newspapers, or ask a neighbor to pick them up every day.
• Put several household lights on timers so they turn on and off at appropriate times.
• Arrange to have grass mowed while you're gone.
• Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway overnight, or anything else that might suggest someone is home.

Make sure you don't pack unnecessary items and that your valuables are protected:
• Clean out your wallet or purse before you go; take only essential credit cards.
• Carry your purse close to your body, or wallet in an inside front pocket.
• Pack as lightly as possible. Lots of heavy, cumbersome bags will slow you down and make you more vulnerable to getting robbed.
• Keep a separate record of the contents of checked luggage. Keep anything of value such as medicine and jewelry in a carry-on that stays with you.

In unfamiliar locations, you and your family should try to blend in with the crowd and not look too much like tourists:
• Don't display expensive jewelry, cameras, bags and other items that might draw attention.
• Check maps before you go out so you can tour confidently.
• Stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets at all times.
• Leave an itinerary of your trip with someone at home in case you need to be contacted. Carry an extra passport photo with you just in case you need to replace a stolen passport.
• Don't use your home address on your luggage tags. You don't need to let anyone know where your empty house is located. Consider using your business card instead.

Source: Allstate

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Debunking Top Swimming Pool Myths

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

Don't pee in the pool or the water will change color and everyone will know. Parents have long used the story of a chemical that changes color in the presence of urine to keep their children from peeing in the pool. In reality, no such chemical is used, but a new Mason-Dixon survey found that 52 percent of people believe there is a chemical that is added to pools to turn a conspicuous color in the presence of urine.
While the use of a urine-detecting chemical may be the biggest pool myth, other common aquatic urban legends include:

Myth – Swimming is not good for children with asthma.
Truth – Medical experts say swimming in a healthy, well-maintained pool is an excellent physical outlet for swimmers with asthma. The Belgian Superior Health Council examined the relevant scientific studies and concluded that the available evidence does not support advising children against swimming in chlorinated pools. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other public health experts have asserted that swimming in a well-maintained pool is a healthy form of exercise for people with asthma.

Myth – Chlorine turns hair green.
Truth – An earlier survey by the Water Quality and Health Council discovered that nearly half of respondents believe that chorine is responsible for turning hair green. In fact, the presence of copper in swimming pool water is to blame. Copper may be introduced to pool water in several ways, including metal plumbing or algaecide.

Myth – Swimmer "red eye" is caused by too much chlorine in the pool.
Truth – Eighty-seven percent of respondents believed that chlorine in pools makes swimmers' eyes red and irritated. In reality, when nitrogen, found in urine and sweat, is combined with chlorine, irritants called chloramines are formed. It is these chloramines, not the chlorine itself, that irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system. In this case, more chlorine may actually need to be added to pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines.

Myth – When it comes to pool water, clarity means cleanliness.
Truth – Even when swimming pool water is clear, microorganisms too small to be seen with the naked eye can be present. While chlorine destroys bacteria that could put swimmers at risk for disease, it takes time to work. Most germs are killed within seconds in a properly treated pool, but some (such as Cryptosporidium) can survive for days and require more aggressive treatment.

Myth – The strong odor of chemicals indicates a clean, well-treated pool.
Truth – A faint smell is expected, but a strong scent of chemicals could mean trouble. When irritating chloramines are formed by the mixture of chlorine and pool contaminants, such as urine, body oils and other substances brought into the pool by swimmers, a strong smell is released. A healthy pool is one with little to no odor.

Test Your Pool
There are ways to make sure the pool you are swimming in is healthy. Experts recommend using a pool test kit or even use your five senses to know if the pool you're swimming in is healthy and well-maintained.

Sight – Make sure you can see clearly through the water to the floor of the pool.
Touch – Check for tiles that feel smooth and clean, not slimy.
Smell – Make sure there are no strong chemical odors.
Sound – Listen for the sound of the pool pump.
Taste – Avoid tasting and swallowing pool water!

Source: Water Quality and Health Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Canned Foods Stocked In 98 Percent of Americans' Kitchens

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

A new survey reveals that for a majority of Americans, a home-cooked meal means turning to their pantry. An overwhelming 98 percent of Americans currently have canned foods in their kitchens, with the average pantry stocked with 24 cans.

Canned corn is king, and vegetables top the list of America's most popular canned ingredients (present in 79 percent of American homes), followed by beans (74 percent), broths, stocks and condensed cooking soups (71 percent), fruits (67 percent) and meats and seafood (54 percent).

This provides insights into how Americans shop and put homemade meals on their family tables, day in and day out. Americans rely on canned foods for mealtime solutions, and are always looking for inspiration, with 68 percent agreeing that they need new canned food recipe ideas.

"These results demonstrate the integral role canned foods play in America's kitchen," said CMI President Robert Budway. "The can is one of the best ways to get food from the farm to the family table, and most consumers keep a healthy mix of canned fruits, vegetables, stocks and meats on hand, allowing for a wide variety of nutritious and delicious meals that can be prepared any time."

A closer look:

• The average number of canned food items used each week is five. That's a can each weekday!
• Canned corn is the most popular canned vegetable in America, with 63 percent of Americans reporting they stock it in their pantry.
• Busy parents streamline their meal prep with canned foods, and 86 percent agree they do not go a week without using cans.
• Among those who keep canned fruits in their pantry, canned peaches (67 percent) and canned pineapple (63 percent) are the most commonly found in America's pantry, followed by canned fruit cocktail (56 percent) and pears (52 percent).
• Among all Americans, the top four canned fruit and vegetable classics after corn are: green beans, tomatoes (whole, diced or pureed), peas and peaches.
• Nearly three in four Americans throw away spoiled fresh produce. On average, Americans throw away spoiled fresh produce twice a month.

Source: Can Manufacturers Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Keep Kids Safe While Around Lawn Mowers

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

The lawn mower is one of the most dangerous household tools. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, each year 68,000 people are treated in the emergency department for lawn mower related injuries, and 9,400 of them are children under the age of 18. Most childhood injuries due to lawn mowers are related to riding mowers, and most are injured in their own yard.

"One important statistic to remember is that a significant number of these accidents occur among family members," says Junichi Tamai, MD, Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery. "Most families think that if the child stays with a family member, everything will be okay, but that is not always the case."

Most common injuries associated with mowers can include lacerations, amputations, fractures, infections and skin defects.
Dr. Tamai and the American Academy of Pediatrics give the following tips for staying safe around lawn mowers.

SAFETY TIPS
• Children younger than 15 should not be in the yard when someone else is mowing.
• Children younger than 12 should not use walk-behind mowers.
• Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers.
• Children or adults should never be allowed as passengers on ride-on mowers.

The Safe Lawn Mower
• Allows automatic blade disengagement when the mower is placed in reverse
• Has a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is released
• Has a blade safety device for ride-on mowers that disconnects the blade from the power source when the operator leaves the operating position

Operating the Mower
• Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
• Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.

Protecting Yourself and Others
• Wear hard-soled, sturdy shoes around mowers (no sandals or sneakers).
• Wear hearing and eye protection when operating a mower.
• Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.

Source: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Continue Trending Higher

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates continuing to trend higher for the week on more market speculation that the Federal Reserve will reduce future bond purchases following June's strong employment report.

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.51 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending July 11, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 4.29 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.56 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.53 percent with an average 0.8 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.39 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.86 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.26 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.10 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.66 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.69 percent.

"June's strong employment led to more market speculation that the Federal Reserve will reduce future bond purchases causing bond yields to rise and mortgage rates followed,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “The economy gained 195,000 jobs in June, above the market consensus forecast, while revisions to the prior two months added 70,000 on top of that. Moreover, hourly wages rose by 2.2 percent over the last 12 months and represented the largest annual increase in nearly two years. However, the minutes of the June 18th and 19th Federal Reserve's monetary policy committee meeting, released July 10th, stated that many members indicated further improvement in the outlook for the labor market would be required before it would be appropriate to slow the pace of bond purchases."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Secret to Making an Old House Look (and Feel) Young

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

There are many practical reasons for home painting every few years. Providing that first layer of protection for the home is often the main motivation for homeowners when it comes to getting their house paint updated every 3-5 years. But who says you have to wait that long if you just want to add a little bit of flair to your home? One of the best ways to drastically change the look of your home is to not paint the entire home, but update your home's accents with new colors.

Rather than waiting for house painting until your home is in desperate need, try painting some of its accenting design features to provide a feeling of freshness to an otherwise stagnate home. Get creative and test out how different front door colors would look in place of the one you have now. Giving your front door a bold blast of color makes a statement that will be the first thing people see when arriving to your abode. Changing your front door to a new color that complements your home's exterior color is a great way to cheaply give your home a new look and quickly adds curb appeal.

If you are looking for more ways to spruce up your home's aesthetic and market value with some mini projects and exterior painting¸ consider these small tasks that can go a long way:

• Replace or repaint your home's address numbers.
• Give the mailbox its own exterior painting project.
• Install outdoor lighting along the path to your front door.
• Add an instant garden with a collection of flora in containers of your choice.
• Consider adding shutters to your exterior, if you already have shutters, try painting them a bright, bold color that complements your home's exterior paint (maybe match it with your new front door?).
• Include some outdoor art in your yard; a wind chime, fountain or water sculpture is perfect.
• Replace or repaint gutters and downspouts.
• While not a small task, rebuilding your walkway can do wonders for adding a new feeling to your home.
• Repaint your railings a different color to match or complement your new front door color.

Making your old home feel new again doesn't have to be a wallet draining process that leaves you feeling robbed; performing small tasks like painting your home's exterior accents is a great way to cheaply update your home.

Source: College Pro Painters

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Make Sure Your Home is Air-Tight

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

Space heating can account for up to 60 percent of most homeowners' energy bills. This is especially true with older homes, which can often be drafty, lightly insulated and may still have older, less energy efficient windows, doors and heating systems. This can add up to substantially higher home heating costs.

One of the best ways to cut down on your bills and keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer is by making sure your home is well sealed. CMHC offers the following tips on how to improve the airtightness of your home, to help you save money, reduce your environmental footprint and make your house more comfortable to live in:

• Air sealing not only cuts heat losses and gains, it also improves comfort by reducing drafts, helps improve the performance of the insulation in your walls and attic by stopping cold winter wind from washing through it, and, it can help prevent moisture build-up in your walls and attic.

• Finding air leaks can often be a challenge. Sometimes they are detectable by feeling for cold drafts in suspect locations. Other times, you may be able to see daylight shining in through unwanted openings. Blackened insulation is often another sign. For a more thorough assessment, consider hiring a qualified residential energy service provider to perform a "blower door" test of your house. During this test, your house is forced to leak, making it easier to find air leakage locations with smoke emitting devices or a special thermographic scanner.

• A blower door test can also tell you the size of the hole all the leakage areas would add up to if they were all located on one location. This is helpful when you want to know how leaky your house is relative to other houses. If a blower door test is done before and after air sealing, you can also find out how much you have reduced the air leakage of your home.

• Some of the more common air leakage points can include ceiling pot light fixtures installed through ceilings into attic spaces, electrical boxes in ceiling and exterior walls; inside to outside wiring, plumbing and duct penetrations; bathroom exhaust fans installed in attic ceilings; older windows and doors; the joint between windows and the surrounding walls; and floor-wall joints.

• Once you have located the leaks, you can use a variety of different approaches to seal them. For instance, leaky windows and doors can be sealed with gaskets or new weatherstripping. Gaps around wiring, pipes and ducts can be sealed with caulking or spray foam. Electrical boxes can be sealed with special gaskets that fit behind the box plate covers. Joints between walls and floors and around the top of your foundation may be sealed with caulking or spray foam depending on the size of the gap. To find out the right options for your home, be sure to consult a contractor with expertise in air leakage control.

• If you are replacing your exterior siding, it's a good time to add an exterior air barrier (and more insulation) that wraps your house in a draft proof cover from the basement to attic.

• While air sealing is always a good idea, you might have to add mechanical ventilation in the form of a bathroom fan, a range hood, or better yet, a heat recovery ventilation system, to help maintain healthy indoor conditions. Air sealing can also adversely affect the ability of some fuel-fired furnaces, boilers and hot water tanks to safely vent combustion products so an additional source of outdoor air may be needed. Consult a qualified mechanical contractor for guidance on ventilation system options and combustion air needs for your home before you start.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Six Safety Tips when Working Around Electricity

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

Safety should always be a priority when working outside near overhead power lines. Safe Electricity reminds everyone to do the following when working outside:

• Look up and around you. Always be aware of the location of power lines, particularly when using long tools like ladders, pool skimmers, and pruning poles. Be especially careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep in mind that wind can blow large objects out of your control.

• Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet from power lines. Even if you do not come in contact with a power line, the electricity can arc to close objects and people.

• Be careful when working on or around your roof—installing or cleaning gutters, installing rooftop antennas and satellite dishes, or doing repair work. Never use water or blower extensions to clean gutters near electric lines. Contact a professional maintenance contractor.

• Never climb trees near power lines.

• Never trim trees near power lines. Leave that to the professionals.

• Always follow safety procedures, no matter how boring and mundane they seem.

Source: SafeElectricity.org

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