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

84 Percent of Refinancing Homeowners Maintain or Reduce Mortgage Debt in Fourth Quarter

February 5, 2013 2:30 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its fourth quarter refinance analysis showing homeowners who refinance continue to strengthen their fiscal house. This release also contains annual statistics on refinances for the ten largest metropolitan areas and four Census regions of the U.S.

News Facts

In the fourth quarter of 2012, 84 percent of homeowners who refinanced their first-lien home mortgage either maintained about the same loan amount or lowered their principal balance by paying-in additional money at the closing table; just shy of the record 85 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011. Of these borrowers, 46 percent maintained about the same loan amount, and 39 percent of refinancing homeowners reduced their principal balance.

The average interest rate reduction was about 1.8 percentage points, or a savings of about 33 percent in interest rate, the largest percent reduction recorded in the 27 years of analysis.

The net dollars of home equity converted to cash as part of a refinance, adjusted for consumer-price inflation, remained at a low volume. In the fourth quarter, an estimated $8.1 billion in net home equity was cashed out during the refinance of conventional prime-credit home mortgages, down from an estimated $8.2 billion in the third quarter and substantially less than during the peak cash-out refinance volume of $84 billion during the second quarter of 2006.

Property-value change, loan age, and rate reduction differed between refinancings under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and other refinances.

For loans refinanced during the fourth quarter through HARP, the median depreciation in property value was 29 percent, the prior loan had a median age of about 5.9 years (to be eligible for HARP, the prior loan had to be originated before June 1, 2009), and the HARP borrower with a 30-year fixed-rate refinance (no product change) had an average interest-rate reduction of 2.0 percentage points.

For all other (non-HARP) refinances during the fourth quarter, the median property had very little (0%) change in property value between the dates of placement of the old loan and the new refinance loan, the prior loan had a median age of 3.7 years, and borrowers who refinanced a 30-year fixed-rate into the same product had an average interest-rate decline of 1.5 percentage points.

In the ten largest metropolitan areas, those that experienced the more severe property value declines tended to have older loans, very little cash-out, and larger percentage declines in mortgage rate. For example, borrowers that refinanced in the Detroit metro area (and had experienced a 37 percent decline in property value between placement of loans) paid off loans that were about 7.4 years old, cashed-out equity in only 7 percent of loans, and reduced their mortgage rate by 30 percent. In contrast, borrowers that refinanced in the Boston metro area (and had about 4 percent value decline) paid off loans that were 2.9 years old, cashed-out equity in 19 percent of loans, and had reduced their mortgage rate by 24 percent.

"On average, borrowers who refinanced reduced their interest rate by about 1.8 percentage points. On a $200,000 loan, that translates into saving about $3,600 in interest during the next 12 months. Fixed-rate mortgage rates hit new lows during December, with 30-year product averaging 3.4 percent and 15-year averaging 2.7 percent that month, according to our Primary Mortgage Market Survey®," says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. "While all borrowers that refinance have benefitted, HARP has enabled many borrowers that traditionally would not have had access to refinance to obtain low rates and significantly reduce their interest rate and monthly payment. This increases the likelihood that these borrowers will continue to perform on their loan and remain homeowners."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keep Your Loved Ones Safe This Valentine's Day

February 4, 2013 2:30 am

To some people Valentine's Day is just a commercialized holiday and an excuse to eat sweets and candy until your heart is content. However, it is important to remember that it is also a time to celebrate and appreciate all those you love, especially your children. There is nothing quite like the love a parent has for their child and the desire to ensure that they are kept safe. While some safety measures are routine, there are some hidden dangers that you may be overlooking that can be dangerous for young children.

The Window Covering Safety Council wishes you a very Happy Valentine's Day and would like to provide a few tips to help parents practice window cord safety and continue to keep their little loved ones safe.

• Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children. Replace window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with today's safer products.
• Move all cribs, beds, chairs, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
• Make sure cribs are properly assembled and meet current safety standards, and that crib mattresses fit snugly.
• Remove crib toys with cords, strings and ties, which can present a strangulation hazard.
• Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords.
• Lock cords into position whenever horizontal blinds or shades are lowered, including when they come to rest on a windowsill.
• Support heavy furniture by using wall-angle brackets or anchors to make sure they are secure.
• Set up blockades around fireplaces, ovens, heaters and stairs.

Source: The Window Covering Safety Council

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6 Ways to Spend Less on Groceries

February 4, 2013 2:30 am

Household bills can get expensive. Between mortgage payments, insurance, home repairs and utilities, many homeowners might need to stretch those paychecks when times get tough. One easy area to save is at the grocery store. Grocery shopping is a large part of the family budget. The average family of four spends nearly $6,000 a year at the supermarket. Does your family need to scale back a bit on grocery spending? Here are six easy tips to help you save money as you’re aisle hopping.

Make a list before you go using your weekly flyer. If the store has a website, check to see what is on sale and what you think you’ll need for the week. By having a plan, you’ll do less perusing and more calculated shopping. Having a list will even save you time, too.

Always sign up for the club card. No matter what, always get the store’s savings card to guarantee that you’ll get all of the advertised sale prices. You’ll receive extra members-only specials as well. Stores that sell gasoline also award you with points towards gas purchases. These cards are free to get and will save you loads.

Know how to pace your purchases. If you time your purchases right, you rarely have to pay full price for things you buy every week. You’ll begin to notice how often certain products go on sale, and you can catch your favorite items on sale weeks. By grabbing what you need on Buy-1-Get-1 weeks, you’ll save immensely over time.

Buying store brands can also save. Most supermarkets offer their own brand labels, which cost around 25 percent less. Almost every product has its own store brand, even frozen veggies, baked goods and cold cuts—it’s not just limited to canned fruit and paper towels anymore. Look for these inexpensive products and be sure to compare prices to the name brands.

Always remember your coupons. Whether you clip them from the newspaper, or click and print from the Web, this one is a no-brainer.

Be a smart shopper. Stores use all sorts of tactics to get you to spend more. If something is “three-for-a-dollar,” it usually doesn’t mean you have to buy three. Only buy what you need and usually the discount is applied regardless. Also, don’t just buy things at eye level—stores often place the more expensive items there. Search high and low to find the good deals.

With some smart shopping, you can save your family a great deal of money just by changing your shopping habits. Plenty of bills come in each month. This saved money will be far more useful elsewhere.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Fire Prevention Week Checklist

February 4, 2013 2:30 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 3,000 Americans die each year in home fires. These deaths tend to increase in the winter months when everyone is lighting fires and cranking the heat in an attempt to stay warm and cozy indoors. Use this five-step checklist so that you can prevent a fire from happening in your home.

Check the alarms. Two-thirds of home fires occur in buildings with no working smoke alarms. Carbon monoxide poisoning also claims several hundred lives every year. Make sure to change the batteries in your smoke alarms often. If your smoke detectors start beeping due to a low battery, change them immediately. Don't put your family's safety at risk.

Have fire extinguishers nearby. Cooking is one of the leading causes of home fires and injuries. It is recommended that you have a full-floor extinguisher on each level of your home, as well as a smaller backup model for the kitchen. With these extinguishers handy, you can be prepared for any problem and might even be able to prevent a full structure fire.

Periodically clean your dryer vents. Lint filled dryer ducts are responsible for 4,500 home fires per year. Using a flexible or solid metal duct will lessen your chances of fires. Seal all joints and seams and remove and clean the duct regularly. As always, clean the lint filter after each load.

Make the appropriate room for space heaters. Space heaters are the cause of nearly 22,000 home fires. Some of these are caused by faulty space heaters, while others are simply the result of a poorly placed heater. Heaters should normally be placed three feet away from anything flammable. Always check for severed power cords and turn them off when leaving a room or going to sleep. Some models even have tip-over switches that turn the machine off if it happens to be knocked over. These models are highly recommended for this safety feature alone.

Frequently inspect your heating equipment. Have your furnace inspected at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor. This will not only ensure that there is nothing faulty with your equipment, but will also make sure that your furnace is running at maximum efficiency as well.
With these preventative methods, you can cut down the chances of a fire destroying your home or apartment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Trending Higher

February 1, 2013 2:26 am

Freddie Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing mortgage rates continuing to trend higher amid a growing economy led in part by the recovering housing market. This marks the first week the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has averaged above 3.5 percent since September 13 of last year. The all-time record low for the 30-year fixed was set the week of November 21, 2012, when it averaged 3.31 percent.

News Facts
-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.53 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending January 31, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 3.42 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.87 percent.

-15-year FRM this week averaged 2.81 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.71 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.14 percent.

-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.70 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.67 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.80 percent.

-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.59 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.57 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.76 percent.

"Mortgage rates continued to trend upwards this week amid a growing economy led in part by the recovering housing market. For instance, new home sales totaled 367,000 in 2012, the most in three years and reflected the first annual increase in seven years," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. "Pending home sales in 2012 averaged its highest reading since 2006. And the S&P/Case-Shiller® 20-city composite house price index rose 5.5 percent over the 12-months ending in November 2012, the largest annual growth since August 2006. All of these factors helped residential fixed investment to add nearly 0.4 percentage points to real GDP growth in the fourth quarter alone."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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More Men than Women Would Prefer to Take a Romantic Trip with a Significant Other If They Could Take One More Vacation Per Year

February 1, 2013 2:26 am

Hotwire.com, a leading discount travel site, revealed results from its second annual American Travel Behavior Survey, conducted online on its behalf by Harris Interactive in October 2012 among over 2,000 U.S. adults. According to the survey, almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans who travel believe that their relationships with their loved one(s) would be better if they went on more leisure trips together.

Furthermore, two in five (38 percent) U.S. adults indicated that if they could afford to take one more leisure trip than they may have already planned, they'd first want to take a romantic trip with a spouse/significant other instead of a family getaway (25 percent), or a solo trip (13 percent) or a vacation with friends (16 percent). And in a surprising twist, this preference was significantly higher in men (42 percent) than in women (33 percent), making a spontaneous romantic trip the perfect Valentine's gift to give a boyfriend or husband.

Fortunately, this year, Valentine's Day lands on the Thursday before President's Day, Monday, February 18. Since President's Day is a holiday for many Americans, Hotwire suggests using the three-day weekend (or stretching it out into a four- or five-day weekend) to take a loved one on a romantic escape. And to get the destination ideas flowing, Hotwire has provided a list of the five most popular destinations for the long weekend.

Number one on the list is New York, and it has so much to offer amorous visitors, it's no surprise that the city has served as a backdrop in countless romantic movies, books and televisions shows. Significant others can rent paddleboats at Central Park's Loeb Boathouse, go ice skating in Rockefeller Center or enjoy sunsets on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. For sports loving couples, be sure to catch a game at Madison Square Garden.

Up next on the list is Orlando. While this Floridian city certainly offers fun for the whole family, it also serves up plenty of romance for two. Take a gondola ride through the downtown area, visit the Kraft Azalea Gardens in Winter Park at sunset or snuggle up and enjoy a chilled drink at ICEBAR Orlando. Newlyweds visiting the theme parks should be sure to stop by the Guest Relations office for a set of buttons that read "Just Married" for special perks and extras to complete their whimsical trip.

In at number three is Las Vegas. This desert destination might be Sin City to some, but there are plenty of sweet treats for couples spending a romantic weekend away. For the ultimate date night, visit Max Brenner at the Forum Shops and dive into a pot of chocolate fondue or buy some chocolate-covered strawberries before heading over to the Eiffel Tower to catch a glimpse of the Bellagio fountains across the street. Vegas is truly The Entertainment Capital of the World, so afterward, sit back and enjoy one of the dozens of amazing shows. Wrap up the night with a late dinner at one of hundreds of world-class restaurants and a gondola ride at the Venetian.

Rounding out the top five are Chicago and San Francisco. While in Chicago, visit the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, cruise on Lake Michigan or head to Sears Tower and hold hands while stepping on the glass floor. San Francisco visitors can have a wine and cheese picnic in Golden Gate Park or ride up and down the beautiful hills of San Francisco on one of the city's famous cable cars.

Source: Hotwire

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Extended Foreclosure Relief for Hurricane Sandy Storm Victims

February 1, 2013 2:26 am

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who serves as President Obama’s Chairman of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac will extend expiring protections against foreclosure actions against homeowners whose properties were damaged or destroyed due to Hurricane Sandy.

The additional 90-day foreclosure moratorium applies to homeowners with properties in states where the President issued major disaster declarations following Hurricane Sandy. The extended moratoriums announced today apply to the initiation of foreclosures and foreclosures already in process.

“It’s all too clear that families need more time to get back on their feet without having a foreclosure or eviction hanging over their heads,” said Donovan. “As we work to rebuild after this historic storm, we’ll do everything we can to ease the crushing burden being faced by those homeowners, many of whom have been forced from their homes.”

“Given the magnitude of this disaster, extending the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions will allow homeowners in the affected areas, and their servicers, the time needed to assess individual circumstances and options,” said DeMarco.

FHA is extending moratoriums for another 90 days on the initiation of foreclosures and foreclosures already in process. FHA is also suspending evictions of persons from properties secured by FHA mortgages in these affected counties through April 30, 2013.

After consultation with FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will also extend the suspension of foreclosure sales and eviction lockouts for borrowers impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The new 90-day extension applies to homeowners with properties or employment within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared disaster area eligible for individual assistance. This follows an earlier 90-day suspension of foreclosure sales and evictions in the impacted areas. In addition to the foreclosure sale and eviction moratorium, homeowners impacted by Hurricane Sandy may be eligible for forbearance, loan modifications or waived late payment charges.

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency

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Living Large! Bigger Breeds Shake Up Top 10 on Most Popular List

January 31, 2013 2:26 am

Proving that bigger really is better, the American Kennel Club (AKC®) announced that the Bulldog has muscled its way into the top 5, becoming the fifth most popular dog in the U.S., according to AKC Registration Statistics, bumping the tiny Yorkshire Terrier into sixth place for the first time since 2003.

The Golden Retriever also pushed its way back to the top, overtaking the Beagle for third place, and Rottweilers continued their climb up the top 10 list by taking ninth place away from the Dachshund, both adding to the bigger breed trend. Labrador Retriever lovers have again spoken – the playful, family friendly breed remains the number one most popular breed in the U.S. for the 22nd consecutive year, tying with the Poodle for the longest reign in the top spot.

"Bigger breeds are making their move," said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "The popularity of the pint-sized, portable pooch just gave way to a litter of larger breeds in the Top 10. These predictable, durable, steady breeds, like Labs and Goldens, are great with kids and offer the whole family more dog to love."

2012 Most Popular Dogs in the U.S.

1. Labrador Retriever
2. 2. German Shepherd
3. Golden Retriever
4. Beagle
5. Bulldog
6. Yorkshire Terrier
7. Boxer
8. Poodle
9. Rottweiler
10. Dachshund

Most Notable Dog Trends in 2012 Include:

• Mastiff-type breeds have risen in rank, with the Mastiff going from 34 to 26 and the Bullmastiff from 47 to 39 over the past decade, and the Cane Corso (67 to 60), Neapolitan Mastiff (116 to 112), and Dogue de Bordeaux (69 to 67) all making gains since the year they became recognized.

• "Bully" breeds have pawed their way into people's hearts over the past decade with the Bull Terrier (79 to 51), Staffordshire Bull Terrier (91 to 76), and Miniature Bull Terrier (132 to 126) all making strong gains.

• Dog owners are showing their love for Sporting Breeds over this past year as the Spinone Italiano (123 to 114), Boykin Spaniel (138 to 116), and Welsh Springer Spaniel (130 to 125) have all made their way up the list.

• Small dogs that are on the rise this year are the Havanese (31 to 28) and Affenpinscher (139 to 138), while the Chihuahua (14 to 18), Pomeranian (17 to 19), and Pug (26 to 30) seem to have fallen out of favor.

In addition, the AKC expanded its litter of recognized breeds on January 1 to include the Chinook and Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, growing AKC's family to 177 breeds.

Source: AKC

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Squeaky Clean Tips to Simplify Your Laundry Routine

January 31, 2013 2:26 am

(Family Features) If it seems that you can never quite diminish the size of your laundry pile, you’re not alone. Laundry is a part of everyday life and the more people in your household, the bigger the pile and the more often you need to wash. Designate one place in your home to be the laundry zone and sort through these time-saving tips to make your laundry routine faster and easier, leaving you with more time to do the things you love.

De-clutter and reorganize. Clear some space from your shelves to give yourself more room to work in the laundry room. Get rid of old containers, trash and even those stray socks missing their pair. Place a small basket or tray near the washer for collecting small items and loose change found in pockets. This prevents clutter as well as accidents in the wash. Larger baskets labeled delicates, lights and darks help to keep clothes easily sorted and off of the floor.

Essentials at-the-ready. Keep frequently used items easily accessible by placing them on a shelf designed to fit on top of your washing machine. Store smaller items in stackable baskets or bins so they aren’t in the way. Make sure your detergent is placed high enough so that little hands can’t grab it, but within reach for older kids to take over their own laundry chores.

Get rid of hassle and bulk. Save yourself from the trouble of heavy bottles and messy spills. Choose a multi-purpose detergent that comes pre-measured. These single-use, pre-measured packs can remove stains and eliminate tough odors. Just toss one in the washer with your laundry and go.

Sort and go. Give everyone in the family their own small mesh laundry bag for items that tend to get lost and mixed-up such as socks and underwear. Collect the bags and throw them in the washer and dryer together so that everything stays sorted.

Prep for final steps. Save time from ironing by pulling clothes directly from the dryer after the cycle is complete. Keep a stack of hangers nearby to hang clothes immediately for a wrinkle-free wardrobe. Designate an area of nearby countertop or a table to make folding and organizing clothes out of the dryer quicker.

Source: Arm & Hammer

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Bad Neighbors Can Reduce Property Values

January 31, 2013 2:26 am

The Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers, cautioned homeowners and potential homebuyers that bad neighbors can significantly reduce nearby property values.

Bad neighbors can include homeowners with annoying pets, unkempt yards, unpleasant odors, loud music, dangerous trees and limbs, or poorly maintained exteriors. A homeowner or prospective homebuyer should visit a street on several days at various times to learn more about what is happening in the neighborhood. A home’s proximity to a bad neighbor also can impact the rate of potential decline in value.

“I’ve seen many situations where external factors, such as living near a bad neighbor, can lower home values by more than 5 to 10 percent,” says Appraisal Institute resident Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA. “Homeowners should be aware of what is going on in their neighborhood and how others’ bad behaviors could affect their home’s value.”

Appraisers refer to this as external obsolescence, which is depreciation caused by external factors not on the property. According to The Appraisal of Real Estate,13th Edition (Appraisal Institute, 2008), external obsolescence may be caused by economic or locational factors, and may be temporary or permanent, but it is not curable by the owner, landlord or tenant.

The Appraisal Institute urges homeowners to take the following steps when dealing with troublesome neighbors:

1. Speak with other neighbors. Get consensus when identifying issues, and approach the bad neighbor together.

2. Look up original and updated subdivision restrictions. If talking to the neighbor doesn’t work, see if they’re violating any restrictions. If so, writing to the code office of the municipality and reporting the bad neighbor could spur an investigation into the nuisance. Depending on the offense, a call to the local health department also may be warranted.

3. Hire an attorney. If all else fails, the cost of an attorney likely will be less than the home’s potential loss in value.

“Even though homeowners do have some recourse, it’s important for prospective homebuyers to carefully examine the neighborhood where they’re considering living,” Borges says. “That way they can hopefully prevent any problems in the first place.”

Potential homebuyers also should be aware of a property’s proximity to commercial facilities, such as power plants and funeral homes, as these also can negatively affect a home’s value.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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