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

Finance Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

June 10, 2013 1:08 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," said 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."

Here are a few 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 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 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 into 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 first-time homebuyers have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," added Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Find the Perfect Retirement Destination

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

Searching for the perfect active adult community to enjoy during retirement creates all sorts of questions. Do you want to live somewhere else? If so, where? Do you want warmth and sunshine? Do you want to stay close to family? Do you want a condo or single family home? With questions like these, doing your homework is important, and so it's best to start early.

According to research conducted by ProMatura, a global market research and advisory firm specializing in 50+ consumers, active adult home buyers visit an average of 4.6 active adult communities before making a final purchase decision, and they visit the community that they ultimately choose an average of 3.8 times before making that final decision. Unless you’re Lori Rust and her husband Kevin Jordan.

Lori and Kevin began their search for the best retirement location at age 50. Six years, six states and thirty-five communities later, they believe they have found “home.” The two, living in Denver, Colo. at the time their search began, thought about the longevity of their careers and what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives.

“We’re both analytical people,” says Jordan, who is now working in real estate sales. “We needed to take the emotion out of the process and focus on things that would enhance our lives, and so we created a list of important characteristics and applied a weighted score.”

It wasn’t an easy process. Kevin, a New York native, wanted to be close to the action with cultural and retail offerings, while Lori, who grew up in Montana, wanted open spaces, beautiful views and clean air. “We started with a blank canvas,” says Kevin. We were willing to consider most everywhere in the country. We looked at the Carolinas, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. We had to decide what areas would we enjoy, and then drill down to what state, what area, what community, and then the home. It ultimately has less to do with the house and more to do with everything else,” he notes.

Also among their many considerations were a warm climate, access to quality golf and the ability to get on the course during peak season. Plus, they wanted a good value that allowed them to live within their means and still enjoy the extras. And, they wanted to be in an area attractive to fellow baby boomers.

For this couple, as they looked ahead to the next phase of their life, being in an area appealing to aging baby boomers was important. They knew they wanted to be working and interfacing with this huge demographic, the first of the 78-million boomers began turning 65 last year. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and 10,000 a day are now turning 65.

“When researching communities, one of the most illuminating things you can do is talk to the people who live there. You’ll learn more than you can imagine,” says Lori.

Below are some more important things to go over when searching for the perfect retirement destination:

-What are your weather and climate preferences?
-If interested, is there quality golf and the ability to get tee times in peak season?
-What is the average age of the residents?
-What is the proximity to commercial services, culture and restaurants?
-Is the cost of living reasonable?
-How well-built is the home?
-Do the onsite amenities, if any, match your lifestyle needs?

Source: ProMatura

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Real Estate Spending Trends - Grounds, Lawn and Landscape Care

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

A new U.S. online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape industry professionals, shows that consumers are looking to increase spending on hardscapes (outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, water features, and walkways) and other specialized services (irrigation and lighting). Hardscaping is comprised of outdoor living spaces and paved, non-living components of a landscape.

The study surveyed 2,219 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,830 have a lawn or landscape. Consumers were asked about their spending on professional lawn and landscape services from lawn care and landscape maintenance to tree care, water features, and outdoor lighting.

Overall Spending Trends

While overall consumer spending is expected to remain steady in most categories, landscape maintenance (mowing, edging, leaf cleanup) will see a modest increase in spending ($700 on average in the coming year vs. $600 in the past year), while spending will increase to hire a professional for hardscapes and specialty services ($2,300 on average in the coming year vs. $1,680 in the past year).

“Despite the sluggish economy, our core landscape maintenance services are holding steady, while consumers are deciding to increase their investment in projects that encourage ‘staycations’ and outdoor entertaining, and ultimately improve the resale value of the home,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP.

Who is spending the most on landscape services?

Men outpace women when it comes to hiring professional landscape help over the past year (39 percent vs. 32 percent), and younger adults, ages 18 to 34, stand out as most likely to have hired professionals for the building of outdoor living spaces, patios, and walkways over the past year (9 percent vs. 3 percent of those age 35+).

In general, 35 percent of those with a lawn/landscape have hired professionals to do lawn and landscape services over the past year, with those in the South (38 percent) and West (40 percent) being more likely to have hired a professional than those in the Midwest (29 percent.)

Why do consumers find value in hiring landscape services?

The most often cited reasons for hiring a professional for lawn/landscape services are as follows: “They don’t have the knowledge, skills or physical ability” (42 percent), and “they don’t have the right equipment” (42 percent) to do the landscape work themselves.

Interestingly, younger adults (18 to 34) were more likely than their older counterparts to say “don’t have the patience” as a reason to hire a professional.

“Eighteen to 34 year olds might be more digitally connected than their parents, but they are still putting a high priority on outdoor entertainment areas. They are looking to landscape professionals to take on work that is not only time-consuming, but also requires a high degree of expertise to be done well,” added Hickman.

Source: www.loveyourlandscape.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Easy Ways to Tackle Interior Project Planning

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

Home remodeling and redecorating can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be an awful lot of hard work. Among the many areas of focus for project work are stages of planning, getting any required licenses or permits, interviewing subcontractors and getting proposals with bids, looking over materials and making selections and making sure the entire project is on track and remains that way through completion. And many people find enjoyment as well as fulfillment with making material selections: choosing just the right color combinations and patterns, the best products and service for the budget and top quality providers to help build your projects. Consider the following suggestions when planning your interior project plans:

1) Budgeting Basics--Start by seeing if you have to completely remodel or if perhaps you can redecorate instead, and save money and time. Remodeling often means ripping apart old structures and then building new ones; like for extra space for a new window or set of shelves or a new room, ceiling or floor. However, with redecorating, you can frequently add simple new structures to those in your existing environment like a new bookcase, new curtains and plush carpeting, or new textured ceiling paint with all paper plus new hanging pictures and plush cushions.

2) Contractors, Invoices, Project Materials and More—Next, you will have a lot of decisions to make: which project materials to buy, which vendors to use, which subcontractors to hire, how to agree to payments, how to handle problems and other important issues and emergencies along the way, etc. So start a project notebook with an accompanying folder specifically for this project. Keep all important documents, receipts, bids, business cards, designs, paint colors, fabric swatches and other info there, to ensure that everything is in one place.

3) Project Parts - Some areas of your project may have sub-categories or basic design elements that will involve work with different areas of focus for each part. For example, you may be remodeling one floor, so you'll have several main areas of focus under this heading like: bedroom walls, hallway and bedroom floors, all window treatments, upgraded lighting and new wood furniture. Use dividers in your notebook, extra folders or extra see-through sleeved pocket folders that fit into your binder to handle these separate areas of focus, so you can concentrate on specific tasks within each area.

With the proper planning, you can choose the easiest and most affordable redecorating or remodeling options that best suit your home's needs.

Source: MyHomeImprovementTips.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Things Parents Should Know before Paying for College

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

From $20,000 to $65,000 a year – that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.

“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”

Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:

The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.

Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.

Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.

Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid; CSS profile – College Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fannie Mae Takes Additional Steps to Streamline Short Sale Process

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

Fannie Mae introduced a new tool to help real estate professionals successfully close short sales. Listing agents are now asked to register accepted short sale offers with Fannie Mae to provide greater transparency into the process and allow Fannie Mae to proactively work with the mortgage servicer to finalize the sale. This process is the next step in Fannie Mae’s effort to work more collaboratively with real estate agents on short sales.

“Fannie Mae recognizes the very important role real estate professionals play in the short sale process and we want to work closely with them to get short sales done,” said Jay Ryan, vice president for real estate sales, Fannie Mae. “Our objective is to help stabilize neighborhoods by completing short sales as close to fair market value as possible. We believe this new process will help ensure all parties are in communication early on and are able to come to an agreeable and appropriate sales price. At the end of the day, Fannie Mae wants to get short sales done so that we can prevent foreclosures and help neighborhoods recover.”

Moving forward, agents are asked to provide short sale offer information, such as the property address, MLS listing information, offer details, and subordinate lien information, through Fannie Mae’s Homepathforshortsales.com website. Agents will also be asked to upload scanned copies of the sales contract, estimated net sheet or HUD-1 settlement statement and borrower authorization form. REALTORS are also encouraged to proactively reach out to Fannie Mae early in the short sale process to request list price guidance to aid in marketing efforts.

Agents who have challenges such as valuation disputes, delays by servicers or uncooperative subordinate lien holders may also use the short sale escalation process on the website to request assistance. Once a case is escalated, Fannie Mae will directly engage with the agent or servicer to address challenges. Since the escalation tool was announced in February 2013, over 10,000 short sale cases have been submitted and successfully closed. In 2012, Fannie Mae completed 73,528 short sales.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Two-thirds of Engaged Couples Express Negative Attitudes Toward Discussing Money

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

The recent poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that 68 percent of respondents held negative attitudes toward discussing money with their fiancé, with 5 percent indicating the discussion would cause them to call off the wedding.

“It is telling that two people who intend to spend the rest of their lives together would see a conversation about money as so disconcerting,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “The ability to have open and honest discussions is key to a successful marriage. With many brides and grooms walking down the aisle in June, regardless of how difficult it may be, the conversation about personal finances is one that should be neither ignored nor postponed. As a matter of fact, to increase the odds of making ‘happily ever after’ a reality, the discussion should take place before the ‘I do,’ not after.”

The NFCC recommends the following Do’s and Don’ts for that much-needed financial conversation:

Don’t spring the conversation on the other party. Instead, set a time to talk that is convenient for each.

Do make it a casual conversation about a serious subject, respecting the fact that each person has valid opinions and concerns.

Do be honest about the current financial situation. If the courtship phase of the relationship has painted a financially unrealistic picture, it’s time to be honest about what the long-term lifestyle will look like.

Do probe to understand long-held financial attitudes, often present since childhood and likely ingrained by observing how parents addressed money issues.

Do acknowledge that one may be a saver and one a spender, understanding that there are benefits to both approaches and agreeing to learn from each other’s tendencies.

Don’t hide income or debt. This is known as financial infidelity. Instead, in the spirit of openness, bring financial documents, including a recent credit report, pay stubs, bank statements, insurance policies, existing debt obligations and investments to the table.

Don’t point the finger of blame. That’s a real conversation stopper.

Do make a plan in advance to deal with any skeletons that come out of the financial closet. Such surprises can potentially compromise access to future credit. Now is the time to deal with surprises.

Do construct a budget that includes savings. When just getting started, money is often tight, making it tempting to delay beginning to save. However, when every cent counts, it is even more important to have a financial safety net in the form of savings.

Do decide which person will be responsible for paying the monthly bills. It is likely that one spouse will be a good fit for this task, while the other finds it burdensome.

Do allow each person to have independence by setting aside money to be spent at his or her discretion.

Do decide upon short-term and long-term goals. It’s appropriate to have individual goals, but having family goals is important, too.

Do talk about loaning money to family members and friends. Decide if it’s something each is comfortable with, or should be avoided.

Do talk about caring for aging parents, and how to appropriately plan for their financial needs, if necessary.

“The fact of the matter is that people bring financial baggage into a relationship, but often don’t deal with it until problems arise. Baggage can come in the form of a poor credit rating, significant debt, or no experience managing money. Regardless of the issue, the time to address money differences is up front, before the financial bottom falls out. Court records show that financial stress is one of the main causes of divorce. Taking action now could prevent a disaster later,” continued Cunningham.

For professional assistance bringing two incomes, two lifestyles and two financial attitudes together, or for help in working through financial problems that have never been addressed, consider an appointment with a certified consumer credit counselor at an NFCC Member Agency. To find the agency closest to you, call (800) 388-2227, or en Español call (800) 682-9832), or go online to http://www.DebtAdvice.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Create Your Own Summer Vacation Hot Spot Right at Home

June 5, 2013 3:08 am

Not going away this summer? Home can be the perfect place for summer fun, as long as you’re ready for the heat. With summer around the corner, it’s not too late to revamp your house into an excellent summer hang-out spot. With a few minor changes and additions, you’ll be enjoying some fun in the sun in no time.

Be ambitious – add a new deck. Choosing the right material is the most important factor when building a deck. Synthetic decking materials and tropical hardwoods (like mahogany) are initially pricier, but they are also easier to maintain and more durable. Traditional wood decks cost less initially, but require way higher maintenance such as annual cleaning and resealing maintenance. This may get expensive over time.

If you already have a deck, try some simple care techniques. Give it a close inspection for cracked boards or protruding nails. Cut back nearby trees or bushes to prevent mold and rotting. Sweep and wash the deck; afterwards, when it’s completely dry, follow that up with some sealer or stain. A beautiful deck is a great spot for patio furniture, tanning and grilling. Build a deck and get great use out of it. It will only help your resale value.

If you have a pool, consider chlorine alternatives. Chlorine is the standard because it’s cheap and keeps pools clean by sanitizing, oxidizing and deterring algae. On the flip side, it has a strong odor, reddens eyes and causes allergic reactions in some swimmers. Alternatives include bromine, ionizers, water ozonators or PHMB. They may be a little more expensive, but if you have an allergic child, one of these choices can keep the entire family swimming. With these major summer necessities out of the way, it’s time to accessorize. Volleyball nets and reclining pool floats are great additions as well.

Fire up that grill and start cooking! Summer’s on its way.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Survey Shows People Would Love To Install Drywall Themselves but Fear They Wouldn't Know How or What to Buy

June 5, 2013 3:08 am

"’Do you drywall?’ is not a question most people ask or answer every day, but with rebuilding, remodeling and new home starts on the rise – and a growing number of people wanting to install drywall themselves – maybe it should be," says Anitra Mecadon , host of DIY Network's Mega Dens.

In a nationwide survey of 1,000 homeowners conducted last month by Priority Metrics Group, nearly 40 percent of them have remodeled their homes or built a new one in the past two years, and 80 percent did all or a portion of the construction themselves.

"I'm not surprised that so many people are becoming do-it-yourselfers when it comes to their homes, and with recent natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy or tornadoes in Oklahoma, I think do-it-yourself rebuilding and remodeling will only increase," said Mecadon.

The survey found that more than half of homeowners would consider installing drywall themselves, and those a little less confident were concerned they wouldn't know how to install drywall. They also thought it would be too difficult to install or they wouldn't know what kind of drywall to buy.

Based on the survey, nearly eight in 10 homeowners recognize that walls are more important than most people think – and compared to other features, such as roofing and flooring – walls and ceilings were cited by the majority of those surveyed as providing the most long-lasting value to their homes.

"When people are remodeling or building a new home, they usually focus on the types of countertops, appliances, fixtures and flooring they want, and rarely think about the kind of drywall they should use, but they should," said Mecadon. Drywall products provide unparalleled resistance to moisture, mold, mildew, scratches and dents, and can even reduce the noise you hear between rooms.

When asked whether men or women would be better at home improvement tasks such as installing and finishing drywall:

• Nearly six in 10 said men and women would be equally good.
• Generally speaking and depending on the task, nearly a third thought men would be better.
• Only seven percent of those surveyed – mostly men – thought women would be better than men at home improvement tasks.

Source: Purple

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Best Colors for Front Doors

June 5, 2013 3:08 am

For homeowners seeking to spruce up their homes this summer, one of the best and most noticeable modifications to any home is a freshly-painted front door, but according to College Works Painting, the color of paint chosen could either make or break the entire house.

"There are many homeowners who would love to paint the entire exterior of their house, changing the very look and style of the home and breathing new life into an old structure," the company says. "This is a major commitment, of course, but a much easier and less intensive DIY project is to simply paint the front door. This can go a surprisingly long way toward changing the feel of the entire home."

Homeowners might consider repainting their doors red. Red is listed as a particularly bold hue, one that grabs the attention of anyone looking at the house. It’s also an especially good compliment for homes that are white, blue, and gray.

Indigo is also named as an especially good paint color for front doors. "The great thing about indigo is that it almost seems to change colors, depending on the time of the day," opines College Works Painting. "By day it is crisp and bold, but when night comes it appears dark, dramatic, and dusky."

Orange is also a solid contender. This not-to-be-ignored hue will draw people right inside. It’s especially attractive on charcoal-colored homes.

Meanwhile, black is listed as a color that can command attention, and that looks good with any other color scheme or door frame style.
Lime green, on the other hand, is a potential "show-stopper," but only on homes with certain colors. Try lime green as a good selection for homes that are brown or gray, College Works Painting recommends.

No matter what color you decide on, changing the color of your front door is a quick and easy way to totally revitalize the exterior of your home.

Source: College Works Painting

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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