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

Organizing Tricks for Every Season

April 1, 2013 9:40 pm

The start of a new season means that it's time to clean up the house, swap out clothes in your closets, and break out the seasonal tools in the garage. Check out the following tricks that will prepare any homeowner with the organizing skills necessary to keep everything tidy year-round.

Store it in the fall

1. Garden tools and pots: Hose off dirty gardening gear and stack pots in tiers. For pots with fragile surfaces, layer newspaper between vessels to protect from scratches and chips. Outdoor garden storage benches and cabinets are also great for storing tools and pots over the winter. To find gear easily come spring, group like items together.
2. Summer clothes: To free up precious closet real estate, measure the number of feet of hanging space your clothes take up and get a garment rack wide enough to accommodate it all. Stow in a dry basement or attic. And be sure to clean clothes before putting them away—even if they look spot-free. Stains that seem invisible can oxidize over time and be hard to get out if left untreated.
3. Beach towels, picnic blankets, outdoor linens, and tableware: Clear the linen closet of summer beach towels and outdoor tablecloths and place mats; stash in giant plastic tubs. Cradle outdoor dishes and cups on top. Park the bin in a basement or attic.

Store it in the winter
1. Garden rakes: Hang long-handled rakes and garden tools from a pegboard. Affix the board to any garage or shed wall, leaving about an inch of space between the wall and the board to accommodate hooks.
2. Seasonal decorations: Stow jack-o-lanterns and cornucopias in opaque bins—clear bins let in light, which can damage memorabilia. Seasonal bins, which can be found at discount stores, are a great way to store items for specific holidays so that you can quickly and easily tell what’s for Halloween or Thanksgiving.
3. Bikes: There are many types of bike racks; some mount into studs on the wall, others mount from a track system. Check out your options and choose one that works for your space. Hang it in an empty spot on a wall in the garage.

Store it in the spring
1. Boots: Stuff boots with boot forms to help them keep their shape. You can also use balled-up gym socks in a pinch. Lay each pair of boots flat in a plastic bin. Stack bins at the back of your closet or put under your bed.
2. Sleds and ice skates: Most sleds have holes for a steering rope; thread heavy rope through the holes, then hang sleds in the garage. Stash disc-type sleds in a large clear contractor bag. Tie a knot at the top and hang from a hook, flat against the wall of your garage.
3. Bulky coats and bedding: Wash or dry-clean throws, quilts, and duvets, then store in space bags in a linen closet. Short on closet space? Use a rolling garment rack with a zippered front closure to keep out moisture and moths. For bug protection, place cedar blocks at the bottom of the bag before putting it in the basement or attic.

Store it in the summer
1. Backpacks and lunch boxes: Clean backpacks and wash lunch boxes, then air them out in the sun before putting them away in a storage tote labeled "Back to School." Store the tote in the back of an entryway closet or in the attic. If you don't have a large storage area, use your child's closet: Put the lunch box inside the backpack and hang it on a hook in the side or rear of the closet.
2. Artwork and school papers: "Condense and preserve" is your mantra for children's school papers and projects. Condense what you need to store by weeding out items your child is no longer attached to. Preserve especially important projects by asking your child to pick out five pieces he/she wants to save. Put the rest in a portfolio labeled with your child's name and school year. Store it at the back of his/her closet or in the attic.
3. Wool rugs: Roll up cleaned and vacuumed rugs to keep them free of deep creases or bends, then wrap them in large plastic bags. Store them up high on a garage shelf or in your attic.

For more information, visit www.ShopSmartmag.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Majority of U.S. Homeowners Believe Now is a Good Time to Renovate

March 28, 2013 4:14 am

Significantly more U.S. homeowners are moving forward with renovation projects compared to this time last year, according to the second annual Houzz & Home survey that garnered more than 100,000 responses. A majority of the homeowners surveyed also believe now is a good time to remodel (53 percent), and 58 percent of those planning projects in the next two years will hire professional help. The study also found that three-quarters of homeowners believe that now is a good time to buy a home.

Together with last week’s Commerce Department report showing the rate of single-family home construction at its highest level in four and a half years, the results of this study point to a strengthening economy, housing and renovation market.

The number of homeowners who say they will delay their projects because of the economy has dropped to 45 percent from 52 percent last year, and homeowners are more likely to cut back in other areas, such as vacations and other big ticket purchases, rather than delay or decrease budgets for their home plans.

While improving the look and feel of the space is still the key driver for recently completed projects (83 percent), the number of homeowners who remodeled to increase their home value has increased to 54 percent from 47 percent in 2012.

Bathrooms and kitchens top America’s renovation project list again this year, with 28 percent of respondents planning a bathroom remodel or addition, and 23 percent planning a kitchen remodel or addition in the next two years. In terms of dollars spent, kitchens command the lion’s share. Over the last five years, nearly four in ten home improvement dollars have gone into kitchens and survey data indicates future spend is likely to follow the same trend.

Over the last five years, homeowners on average spent $28,030 to remodel their kitchens, however, spending varies widely at different budget levels. Homeowners spent an average of $54,942 nationwide for a high-end kitchen, $22,390 for a mid-range kitchen, and $7,133 for a lower-budget kitchen.

The study also found that homeowners renovating at the higher-end were more likely to go over budget than those doing more modest renovations, though a significant number reported going over budget at all project levels. Fifty-six percent of those doing a high-end renovation, 42 percent of those who did a mid-range renovation, and 31 percent of those whose renovation was lower-budget also spent more than expected on their projects.

Other Key U.S. Findings:
• Spending more time in a room does not necessarily correlate with decorating dollars. Homeowners report spending the most time in their family/TV rooms, but not the most money there. Nobody was willing to admit to spending significant time in their bathroom – but apparently the time we do spend there is worth significant investment. The percentage of money spent on kitchens and bathrooms far exceeds the percentage of time spent in these spaces.

• A majority of the homeowners surveyed who are planning to complete a project in the next two years will hire a general contractor (58 percent), and a third a kitchen/bath (36 percent) or carpet/flooring professional (34 percent). Twenty-three percent plan to hire architects and 22 percent plan to hire interior designers.

• When it comes to hiring a professional for their project, 67 percent of homeowners surveyed rated a “personality I can work with” as a 5 (very important) on a 5-point scale.

• 34 percent of U.S. homeowners cited making their home more energy efficient as a key driver for completing their most recent project.

Source: Houzz

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Six Pet 'Ick' Factors and How to Solve Them

March 28, 2013 4:14 am

Over one third of respondents from a recent Petco™ Facebook survey revealed that they vacuum up at least a basketball size ball of fur a month from their pet. That's definitely one ball guests won't want to toss around when they visit. From drool to hair to litter, Petco's survey confirmed what many of us already know… pets are messy! However, in spite of this, people love their pets, so what is one to do when friends avoid visiting due to all the "ick"? No need to lock yourself in a closet of shame, simply follow these spring-cleaning tips and reignite that social life!

Problem #1: Guests don't want a fur coat.

Solution: According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) 32 percent of pet parents said dog shedding and cat shedding is one of the major drawbacks to owning a pet and this is especially true for guests when they come to visit. No one wants to sit on a couch or stroke the family pet only to realize they are covered in hair that isn't theirs! Reduce shedding by brushing a pet's coat at least once a week. Not only will this help remove excess hair, but it also helps cultivate an emotional bond between the pet and pet parent. Proper nutrition can also assist in minimizing the amount of hair that is shed.

Problem #2: Do not enter the disaster zone.

Solution: One tenth of pet owners admitted cleaning up destroyed toys all around the house was their biggest pet peeve. It's often embarrassing when guests knock at the door and there's a last-minute dash to pick up toys and stuffing. Nobody likes to step foot into a disaster zone full of plush stuffing, squeakers and old, wet toys. Instead, use springtime to refresh and disinfect old toys. This helps a pet's complete health and diminishes the germs they are exposed to. It's also a good idea to wash a dog or cat's beds and stuffed animal toys. If they are completely destroyed, replace them before they cause harm to a pet's physical health and leave a mess around the house. Spring is always a great time to clean items for small animals like birds, guinea pigs and hamsters too! Simply wash the items with soap and water or for a deeper clean use liquid dish washing detergent.

Problem #3: No one wants to get slimed.

Solution: A fun evening of dinner with friends at home can easily be ruined when Fido slimes a guest. Not only can it hinder someone's appetite, but the gross factor of being drooled on is never pleasant. Although some dog breeds are prone to drooling, other breeds often salivate as a response to a certain situation. Some dogs may drool as a response to watching people eat. For a pet's safety, it's important to never feed table scraps and it may help reduce drooling if the pet leaves the room while the family eats. Keep them occupied and mentally stimulated with a puzzle toy or game that will keep them distracted from the food on the table. Reducing a pet's excitement will reduce drool, which can come in handy when guests raise the fun level. Many dogs love to interact with others and this is beneficial to their social health, however, all this can cause the dog to salivate. If excessive drooling is an issue, try separating dogs for a short period of time to relieve some of the excitement.

Problem #4: Smelly house

Solution: Walking into a house that smells of rodents, dogs or cats is never pleasant, especially for friends coming to visit. Regular bathing keeps a pet physically healthy while controlling pet dander and allergies, but bathing a dog once a week will also help eliminate dirt and debris on a pet's skin and coat helping to eliminate the smell. And, yes, even cats need baths sometimes. If an outdoor cat is dirty or needs a flea bath, water becomes a necessary evil for the kitty. Plus, bathing older cats can help clean the areas they are no longer able to reach. Small critters like hamsters and guinea pigs also need to be bathed. Although their baths don't contain water… a simple dirt or dust bath does wonders for their skin and coat. Remember to change small animal bedding to reduce smells throughout the house. Spring is also a great time to check expiration dates on shampoos and grooming sprays, as well as on food and treats.

Problem #5: The itch factor

Solution: Ankle bites from fleas not only itch, but are outright annoying. It may be hard to get guests to return if they leave with red and bitten skin! As the weather heats up in spring, fleas and ticks tend to be more of an issue. Take a three-pronged approach to fighting fleas. The first step is to protect your pet. Although bathing pets in a flea bath helps, many pet owners find it helpful to use an additional flea and tick medication. Topical, on the spot products, are successful in repelling fleas and killing those who have already made a home on a pet. For those who don't want to treat topically, try a flea repelling collar like one from Sentry, which lasts all season long. In addition to protecting the pet, it's also important to guard the home from these pesky creatures to avoid your pet being re-exposed. Lastly, treat the yard to ensure the house and pet are kept clean and pest free. Simply attach an outside spray, like Vet's Best Flea and Tick Yard and Kennel Spray, to a garden hose nozzle and spray the front and backyards of a house. These products not only kill fleas and ticks on contact, but are completely safe to use on turf grass and other outside surfaces.

Problem #6: Sand belongs at the beach.

Solution: The beach is a favorite destination as the weather warms up, but having one around a cat's litter box is less than pleasant. Petco Facebook fans admitted to cleaning a beach load of sand outside the litter box, which is less than flattering for guests who leave with sand in their shoes. Make the switch to a self-cleaning or fully contained litter box. These products help keep the litter where it's meant to be, in the box, and not on the floor. Plus, disinfecting a cat's litter box will keep it fresh and clean for even the most nit picky kitties. Also, avoid the mess from hamster cages and other small animal habitats with a cage that has an easy-to-clean feature.

For more information on keeping pets clean and healthy visit: www.petco.com/wholepets.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Rules for Saving Money on your Travel Insurance Plan

March 28, 2013 4:14 am

1. Don’t ‘opt-in’ on booking sites.

It looks easy, but skip the checkbox for travel insurance on booking sites like Orbitz, Expedia, or cruise line sites. Why? You won’t read the policy details because you are focused on something else. The language used to sell the policy will not explain everything fully. It’s likely that you won’t have access to a range of plans or potentially necessary upgrades either.

Rule #1: You’ll have more focus, selection, and ability to purchase upgrades if you use a travel insurance comparison engine instead.

2. Avoid insuring refundable trip costs.

Some trip costs are refundable and some aren’t. Because travel insurance only lets you recover nonrefundable cash losses, these costs should not be included in your travel insurance coverage because it’s unnecessary and simply raises the price of your premium.
If your flight is cancelled, for example, but the airline offers you a full cost voucher for future travel, that loss is considered to be recovered and travel insurance has no obligation to provide further reimbursement.

Rule #2: Only cover the trip costs that are non-refundable and pre-paid.

3. Avoid multi-millions in evacuation coverage.

Many travel insurance policies offer several million dollars of evacuation coverage, but it’s too much. It is rare for an evacuation to cost more than a couple hundred thousand (and that’s for extreme cases). To be fair, evacuations are expensive exercises and not something a traveler wants to put on their credit card, but there’s no benefit to being over-insured either. It only serves to unnecessarily raise the price of your travel insurance premium.

Rule #3: Avoid over-insuring your emergency medical evacuations ($250,000 to $500,000 is adequate).

4. Don’t buy car rental coverage unless you really need it.

Many travel insurance plans include car rental coverage as an optional upgrade, but it’s very likely that you don’t need it. Automobile insurance companies often cover their members’ rental cars with the same coverage they have back home. Warning: rental coverage through your auto insurance provider doesn’t usually include ‘loss of use’ fees imposed by the rental agency while the vehicle is being repaired. If you think about this, it makes sense. Back home, you’d have a spouse or friend drive you around while your car is fixed or you’d get a rental for a few days. Check with your automobile insurance company to understand your coverage for rental cars.

It’s also likely that your credit card will have rental car protection too if you use the credit card to rent the vehicle. Many credit card agreements also cover ‘loss of use’ charges and have coverage for vehicles up to $30,000 or $50,000.

Rule #4: Avoid car rental coverage – use your auto insurance or credit card instead.

5. Avoid ‘cancel for any reason’ unless you really need it.

Many travelers assume they need "cancel for any reason" simply because they don’t understand the covered reasons for trip cancellation in their policy. "Cancel for any reason" is an upgrade option (meaning it costs extra) that lets travelers cancel a trip without explanation for 50-100 percent of their insured trip costs.

The covered reasons for trip cancellation provide coverage for a number of cancellation reasons, including terrorism, traffic accidents, job loss, hurricanes, and more. Each travel insurance company and plan has their own list of covered reasons, so by spending a little time with your policy – use the free look review period – most travelers will find that their trip cancellation worries are covered.

Rule #5: Don’t buy "cancel for any reason" unless it’s necessary.

Source: www.travelinsurancereview.net

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Tips for Purchasing NCAA Tournament Tickets

March 27, 2013 4:14 am

Are you a basketball lover? Planning on purchasing tournament tickets?

"The NCAA Tournament is one of the most exciting dates on the sports calendar," says Gary Adler, NATB General Counsel and Executive Director. "It's important that March Madness fans do their due diligence to make sure that the tickets they buy are legitimate. Consumers need to know the following tips to ensure a great experience from the time they purchase a ticket to the time they sit down in the arena to watch their favorite college team in action," Adler adds.

5 Tips for Safely Purchasing Tickets to NCAA Tournament Games:

1. Check to see if the reseller is a member of the NATB at www.natb.org.
2. Know the difference between a ticket broker (legitimate and accredited reseller) and a ticket scalper (unregulated and unlicensed ticket seller).
3. Check the ticket broker's refund policy. Only buy from a ticket reseller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction.
4. Always use a credit card-do not use cash.
5. Always ask for section, row and seat number to avoid obstructed view seats or seats that do not exist.

Lastly, feel free to ask questions to make certain you get all the answers you need to feel comfortable with your ticket purchase.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Finding the Right Neighborhood for Your Family

March 27, 2013 4:14 am

When making the decision to move your family, it's imperative that you find a neighborhood that best suits your family's lifestyle, needs and wants. Researching a new neighborhood before getting too far into the buying process is crucial in order to ensure a smooth settling. While you're considering a new location, keep the following in mind:

Keep your eyes peeled: Observing the neighborhood at various times of the day is a good way to get a feel for the overall safety of the neighborhood. Be sure to visit at night as well as during the day. Pay attention to things like noise, traffic and parking. Though these may not be the first things you would think about when visiting, they will be highly important to you should you decide to move there.

Research the local hospitals: How far away will your potential new home be from a hospital? Is that particular hospital well established? Conducting some online research about the hospital's reputation is a good idea as well, especially for families with ailing members.

Check up on the school system: For those with children or those who may have them in the future, the school system should be one of the top areas of concern when considering a move. School ratings can be viewed online, along with various forums of parental commentary. What are others saying about the town's teachers, education, after school programs, etc.? If you can, ask others in your neighborhood about the schools. By doing so, you'll ensure that you are comfortable with where you will be placing your children.

There are many other aspects that would warrant research. Crime rates in the town or city are a large concern for many new homeowners. Visit the local parks both during the day and at night. How safe are they? What kinds of stores are in the neighborhood and do the store hours match your lifestyle? Will you need any sort of public transportation? Look into schedules for busses, trains or taxis, if necessary.

A successful move doesn't solely depend on the property you purchase. To increase your family's chances of successfully settling into your new home, research the neighborhoods and towns that the property is located in. The more you know, the better your transition will be.

Source: Relocation.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Protect Your Blossoming Plants from Deer and Other Hungry Animals

March 27, 2013 4:14 am

With spring weather just around the corner, your yard and garden are wide open for deer, rabbits and other problem animals to feast upon. It's important to know that these animals can potentially destroy gardens resulting in costly financial loss, and one thing gardeners should always consider is that an animal will eat just about anything, if it is hungry enough.

"If food is scarce, deer and other animals can lose up to a quarter of their body weight over the winter months, and that means that they're hungry come spring, so it is prime time for problem animals to feast on your yard," says Bob Reynolds, CEO of Shake-Away, Inc. "The best way to get these pests away from your valuable plantings is to take advantage of the predator-prey relationship animals have. By using coyote urine granules to recreate the predator scent, you can naturally deter animals from the area where it is applied."

According to Reynolds, the top garden offenders that can be damaging your garden this spring and summer are:

1. Deer/elk
2. Rabbits
3. Domestic cats
4. Squirrel
5. Chipmunks
6. Groundhogs
7. Possums
8. Rats
9. Shrew
10. Vole

"No gardener wants deer munching on their vegetables or cats romping through that prized flower bed," says Ron Boyce, research scientist, Shake-Away, Inc. "Unsightly fences only solve the problem until the pests find a way around them. In addition, chemicals could potentially harm both animals and the plants, however, when animals smell a predator, their instinct is to stay as far away as possible."

Garden-safe and pet-friendly, predator granules (such as coyote or fox) are 100 percent non-toxic and cause prey animals to instinctively leave an area where they detect a predatory threat. They are also 100 percent natural and certified organic with no lingering yard or garden odor that is detectable by humans.

Source: www.shake-away.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Staying Safe When Lightning Strikes

March 26, 2013 4:10 am

While the chances of being struck by lightning are slim, with stormy weather coming our way in spring, it’s good to be prepared. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an average of 54 people are reported killed each year by lightning. Hundreds more survive strikes but suffer from a variety of symptoms, including memory loss, dizziness and other ailments.

Although lightning can happen during anytime of the year, most lightning strikes and lightning fires occur most often in the summer. Michael Pruitt, fire safety expert, presents the following safety tips:

• Look for shelter inside a home or large building.
• Stay away from windows or doors.
• Do not hide under tall trees for shelter.
• Unplug appliances and other electrical items, like computers and electronic equipment.
• Avoid washing your hands, doing laundry or washing dishes.
• If a person is hit by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately.

As we know, no safety tip is 100 percent safety proof, but being aware can help increase your safety during severe weather come summer.

Source: Michael Pruitt and Associates

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Stage for Start of Spring Home Buying Season

March 26, 2013 4:10 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates reversing course from the previous week and heading lower with the start of the spring home-buying season. As of this week, the 30-year fixed has remained below four percent for a year.

News Facts
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.54 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending March 21, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 3.63 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.08 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.72 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.79 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.30 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.61 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, the same as last week. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.96 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.63 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.64 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.84 percent.

"Low and stable inflation is placing downward pressure on fixed mortgage rates. Annual growth in the consumer price index has remained at or below two percent for the past four months, and for the producer price index even lower," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

"This, in part, is why the Federal Reserve monetary policy committee on March 20 lowered the upper end of its inflation forecast for 2013. In addition, our March Outlook calls for 30-year fixed mortgage rates to remain below 4 percent throughout this year."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Appraisal Institute Provides Homeowners with Property Tax Appeal Tips

March 25, 2013 4:10 am

Homeowners who are considering property tax appeals should be prepared with all the necessary information. As many U.S. homeowners begin receiving their local property tax bills, the Appraisal Institute offered suggestions to make the appeal process easier, particularly in working with assessors.

“Don’t assume that the assessor is out to get the property owner,” said Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA. “In a perfect world, the assessed value of a particular property would match market value if that is the regulatory intent of the particular jurisdiction’s property assessment law. But assessors aren’t able to look at each property individually every year as an appraiser might for mortgage financing, employee relocation, or other single-property appraisal assignments.”

In most situations, the assessment process uses a value model to produce what is called a mass appraisal for a universe of properties, which is typically many. This differs from an individual appraisal, such as one performed for a lender, which focuses only on a particular property. Sometimes the assessor’s value is higher than market value, while in other cases the assessor’s value is lower than market value.

Borges said homeowners should consider having an independent appraisal prepared and present the appraisal report to the assessor because appraisers are third-party experts who provide credible, reliable opinions of value. Also, he noted, many appraisers collaborate with property tax consultants and attorneys who specialize in tax appeal matters, which could provide the best opportunity for a property owner to increase the chances of a successful tax appeal.

There can be different stages of tax appeals based on the municipality, and Borges suggested that homeowners check with their assessor’s office or a local appraiser who can provide expertise. An experienced local appraiser can also shed light on the local appeals process, he said; however, this does not mean that appraisers should advocate an unreasonably low value for their clients because this would be an ethical violation. Appraisers are to act in an independent, objective and impartial manner, and advocate only for their expertly developed value opinions.

“Assessors’ offices generally have become more precise due to their use of technology that allows them to gain access to the same data as a property owner, appraiser, tax appeal consultant or attorney,” Borges said. “However, differences of opinion can arise over how the data is used. That’s why it’s typically best to start with an appraisal.”

He noted that consumers should keep in mind that assessors are usually adept at spotting faulty valuations and “hired guns” who provide values that appear to be unreasonably low. That is why it is very important to choose an appraiser whose work not only conforms to accepted industry standards, but to a strict code of ethics such as the one governing the actions of Appraisal Institute Designated members, he said.

Homeowners should be sure to hire a highly competent, well qualified appraiser, such as a Designated member of the Appraisal Institute.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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