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

Get Into the Halloween Spirit Without Spending a Fortune

October 24, 2012 2:44 am

The 7-out-of-10 Americans who will celebrate Halloween this year are expecting to spend an average of nearly $80 dressing trick-or-treaters, feeding goblins and ghosts, and decorating their haunted houses, according to a recent survey. The largest portion of the holiday spend will be on costumes ($28.65), followed by decorations ($23.56) and candy ($23.27). Total consumer spending for this spooktacular holiday is expected to reach $8 billion.

You can still get into the spirit of the holiday without breaking the bank by employing these few simple tips:

Make, don't purchase, your costume – Who said you need to buy your costume? Remember how much fun it was rummaging through your parents' closet to create your customized outfit when you were a kid? With a little planning and creativity, you and your little ones can win the costume contest using items you have on hand. Turn a cardboard box into a life-size laptop, TV, or robot. With a few folds of a sheet you can become a shepherd, Roman royalty, or the ever-familiar ghost. Need more costume ideas? The Internet has several websites with inexpensive and last minute ideas for everyone from the baby to the family pet. Just search "inexpensive Halloween costumes."

DIY decorations – Pumpkins are plentiful and fairly inexpensive this time of year. It's easy to turn your yard into a graveyard by cutting out cardboard headstones from old boxes, painting them gray, adding your favorite saying, attaching a stake to the back, and placing throughout your yard. Change the color of your porch light to create an eerie glow. Check out lighting stores for inexpensive colored bulbs and blacklights.

Save on your treats – Hold off purchasing your candy until the last minute when many retailers will put it on clearance. Additionally, kids will get enough treats, so stick to bite-size candy bars that are easier on your wallet.

You can have an enjoyable holiday without spending a fortune. Keeping your costs down eliminates the stress and allows you to enjoy this fun family time.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

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Renovating Design Trends for Move In

October 24, 2012 2:44 am

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases a consumer can make. Whether purchasing a house to live in or use as an investment property, there are certain steps every new homeowner should take to customize his or her space and potentially increase the property’s resale value.

Exterior
With a new move-in likely comes the changing of locks. Well, if the locks have to change, why not the whole door? A new entry door can not only increase curb appeal and serve as a quick and easy facelift to the exterior of your home, it can also improve the safety and energy efficiency of the house. Masonite doors, for example, are built for durability and designed to impress. With endless styles in fiberglass and steel, Masonite entry doors can add beauty to any home while providing a secure, reliable passageway.

Indoors, two of the best investments that can improve the value of a home are kitchen and bathroom renovations. According to the 2010 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine, these two rooms provide the greatest return on investment, and as the saying goes, kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. If a pricey renovation isn’t in the budget, there are still simple steps to change the appearance of these rooms without the hassle or price tag of a full remodel.

Bathroom
An ugly bathroom can be a deal-breaker for potential buyers, so bathroom renovations are certainly a wise investment. According to Consumer Reports, nearly 30 percent of the 121 million adults who recently completed a home-improvement project were involved in a bathroom remodel. There are quick ways to upgrade a bathroom with a limited budget.

Choose a modern, high-efficiency toilet (HET)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average person uses about 100 gallons of water every day, and the largest culprit is the bathroom. The toilet alone uses 27 percent of household water. So, replace the most important seat in the house with a sleek and modern water-conserving model.
Upgrade the plumbing fixtures

The faucet and showerhead are two of the most used items in the bathroom. Beyond turning the water on and off, these fixtures can make a design statement. Replace the faucet and showerhead with new fixtures. Save money by keeping fixtures in the same spot and simply replacing them. A decorative bathroom faucet and stylish showerhead will not only increase the value of a home, but also “wow” your guests.

Save room in a small bathroom…upgrade to a glass shower enclosure
An ongoing trend among remodelers is the option to rip out the bathtub, as it frees up a lot of room when replaced with a glass shower enclosure. While usually a fixture of high-end bathrooms, a glass shower enclosure works well in small bathrooms because valuable floor space is not eaten up by the thickness of a shower/tub unit. Adding a customized shower glass door can add the dimension needed to make a small bathroom appear bigger, and can be installed in a configuration that will show off the space to its best advantage.

Kitchen
Modest kitchen updates can be a homeowner’s best bet for a big return on investment, netting on average 80 to 85 percent. According to Remodeling Magazine, high-end kitchen remodels don't return as much as mid-range or minor kitchen renovations. Replacing kitchen countertops are one of the easiest ways to make a visual impact and give your kitchen an entirely new look. Two of the most popular and affordable countertop choices are acrylic solid surfaces and quartz surfaces.

Source: Kleber and Associates

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Tips for Moving Cross-Country

October 23, 2012 2:42 am

For homeowners planning to move cross-country, a few extra steps might be necessary before you can successfully relocate. While having all the necessary packing materials handy is important, having a complete plan is a must for a move so far. Here are a few tips for those making the move:

Make sure to conduct thorough and complete research on the new town or city you are moving to. Investigate the safety of the neighborhood and area, and ask plenty of questions about home prices and valuation in the area. You can never be too careful, and you want to make sure that your family will be safe and that your home won't depreciate in value.

Hiring professional movers is a great idea for those uprooting their entire lives. For some, this step might not be necessary if you plan on buying mostly new belongings once in your new home. For those with lots of items, a mover might be the best way to go. Make sure to do some comparison shopping when searching for a professional mover.

While any move is a big one, going across the country requires a hefty amount of planning. Experts recommend planning two to three months in advance before the planned move date in order to give you proper time. This way, moving families have plenty of time to research, plan, and maybe even have a yard sale to sell some of their stuff before deciding what to move with them. Depending on the distance of the move, consider taking a pre-move trip out to your destination in order to visit a few different neighborhoods and scout out the local area. One can never be too prepared when moving across the country.

Source: Relocation.com

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Keeping Safe when Cycling in the Winter

October 23, 2012 2:42 am

The winter months are drawing closer and most of us will have already noticed it getting colder and darker. A number of cyclists will be thinking about putting their bike away until the weather perks up. However, a large number of cycling enthusiasts will not want to give up cycling just yet. Winter cycling can push your endurance, but can be very enjoyable and liberating.

It's essential that cyclists ensure that their bicycles are maintained properly, and now is a good time to do this. It is important to make sure the brakes are correctly adjusted and responsive and the tires are checked more regularly for surface cuts as well as pressure. It is also best to clean the bike more often to prevent corrosion from the salt and slush on the road.

Cyclists should also keep themselves safe on the roads by wearing bright and reflective clothes in order to ensure they are visible. It would also be good to wear the correct layers including a wicking base layer, warm mid-layer and a windproof jacket - and don't forget your extremities, so windproof cycling gloves and overshoes are a good addition to the wardrobe.

It's also essential to make sure that the bicycle lights are working. Legally, bike users must have a white front light, a rear red light as well as a rear red reflector and amber reflectors on the pedals, when cycling at night or in poor visibility.

Ice and snow is usually where commuters will draw the line and use public transport, but if you still don't want to put your bike away, shops will usually stock special winter tires with metal inserts to help with traction.

There are many benefits to carrying on cycling during the winter. Cold weather cycling is generally at a lower intensity, ideal for building endurance levels and burning body fat. It can even boost your vitamin D levels, which offers a whole host of physical and mental health benefits. Most of all, cyclists can enjoy themselves all year round.

Source: Cycle Stuff Direct

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HARP Loans Continue Strong Pace in August

October 23, 2012 2:42 am

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released its August Refinance Report, which shows that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans refinanced through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) accounted for nearly one-quarter of all refinances in August. Nearly 99,000 homeowners refinanced their mortgage in August through the HARP program with more than 618,000 loans refinanced since the beginning of this year. This continues the strong pace of HARP refinancing with the program on target to reach a million borrowers in 2012. The continued high volume of HARP refinances is attributed to record-low mortgage rates and program enhancements announced last year.

Also in the report:

-Since the program’s inception in 2009, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have financed more than 1.6 million loans through HARP.

-In August, borrowers with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios greater than 105 percent continued to account for more than half the volume of HARP loans as HARP enhancements were fully implemented in the second quarter of 2012.

-In August, nearly 18 percent of HARP refinances for underwater borrowers were for shorter-term 15- and 20-year mortgages, which help build equity faster.

-In August, HARP refinances represented nearly half or more of total refinances in states hard-hit by the housing downturn – Nevada, Arizona and Florida – compared with 24 percent of total refinances nationwide.

-Also in August, HARP refinances for borrowers with LTV ratios greater than 105 percent accounted for more than 70 percent of HARP volume in Nevada, Arizona and Florida and more than 60 percent of the HARP refinances in Idaho and California.

Source: FHFA

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How to Know When Debt is a Four Letter Word

October 22, 2012 2:40 am

Debt is a four letter word. For many people it has the same connotation as many other four letter words. However, not all debt is bad. For example, most people could not afford to pay cash for a home, but instead must acquire a mortgage loan. Because a home will most likely increase in value during the time it takes to pay off the mortgage, mortgage debt is considered a good investment. In general terms good debt is defined as debt that allows someone to invest in the future such as business loans, student loans, mortgages and real estate loans.

Bad debt is generally defined as debt acquired for something that immediately loses value or has no potential to increase in value. Using that definition, a car loan would be considered bad debt. Many people purchase vehicles and are upside down (owe more than the car is worth) in their loans mere months after purchasing. It is also a common practice to purchase a meal with a credit card that has a balance that may not get paid off for three months or more. The meal that was enjoyed at the time and forgotten later ends up costing more because it is not paid for when consumed. Paying interest for dinner, even a nice dinner, charged to a credit card is bad debt.

Here are a few tips to avoid and reduce bad debt:

• Don't carry balances on your credit cards. If you do purchase something that cannot be paid off at the end of the month, make certain you can pay it off in 90 days or less.
• Purchase a used or less expensive new vehicle and make sure you make a substantial down payment. A smaller loan will help assure you do not become upside down in your auto loan.
• Don't use credit cards to purchase clothing or consumables unless you will be paying the balance off each month.
• Be wary of spending more than you can pay off each month on rewards credit cards. Paying interest charges will negate the promised benefit of the rewards.

For consumers who have more bad debt than they can handle, certified credit counselors can be sought to help develop a plan to pay off the debt and avoid future bad debt.

Source: Money Management International (MMI)

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Moving Into a New Home? Here's What You Should Do and Know

October 22, 2012 2:40 am

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or simply moving up, when you first arrive to your new home, there are certain things you should do and know.

1) Consider changing the locks. You never know who really has keys to your home, so changing the locks is always a smart idea. Add a deadbolt for a little additional protection. It won't cost you much, but the peace of mind will be invaluable.

2) Check for leaks. Although home inspections should take care of this, checking for leaks never hurts. Check all faucets, toilets and the water heater for any signs of leakage and fix them right away.

3) Wipe down your cabinets. Before unpacking your dishes, be sure to give your cabinets a good scrub down. Use a non-toxic cleaner and replace any contact paper, if necessary.

4) Search and evict unwanted houseguests. This means mice, termites, roaches, or any other creepy crawly that you don't want in your home. Hopefully, you can go it alone, but if you need to hire a professional, do so. Some problems, like termites, can get worse the longer you wait. Nip it in the bud.

5) Get cozy with the circuit breaker box and main water valve. Knowing where these two things are and how to use them is crucial when you own a home. Know what fuses control which parts of your house and label them clearly. This can prevent accidents or injury if you're ever working on the house's electrical system or wiring.

Source: HouseLogic

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How Do I Sell My Timeshare? 5 Top Tips

October 22, 2012 2:40 am

If you're looking to sell a timeshare or vacation ownership, make the right decision when it comes to listing these properties. Here are a few tips and points to keep in mind when you're trying to sell.

How many years of experience does the company you've chosen to list with have within the resale sector?

This is one of the most important factors when choosing a company to help you with the sale of your ownership. Companies with many years of expertise within the resale sector are always the best companies to deal with. If they have been selling timeshares for longer than a decade, then they must have a tried and tested method for finding timeshare buyers for ownerships worldwide.

Make sure the company is fully compliant with governmental law.

There are many companies out there to choose from, however, very few comply with the strict timeshare laws put it place by their respective governments. Some companies will state they are members of certain industry governing bodies; however, this is not enough in some cases. Make sure that the company's paperwork complies with National and International law in the areas they are trading from.

Place your ownership where buyers are looking.

This may seem a logical thing to do, however, too many owners pay for marketing and do not get any exposure whatsoever. This can be checked very easily by searching Google.com for relevant terms pertaining to your ownership i.e., "timeshare resales at Marriott Son Antem." Always check results on Google as this gives the widest search, greatest traffic and best possible chance of selling.

Beware of exit programs!

Over the last few years, many exit companies have sprung up offering owners the chance to alleviate their ongoing worldwide timeshare membership for an initial cost. This gives owners expectations of removing themselves from their ongoing yearly commitments and the impression that they will not receive any further maintenance bills. Sadly, in most cases, this is not the case.

Pricing your ownership to sell.

When pricing your ownership to sell, be realistic with the timeshare resale value. There are many companies within the industry that will over-value your ownership. If you over-value your ownership, it doesn't matter how many potential clients see it for sale -no one will inquire.

Source: Visions of the World Ltd

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Increasing Home Equity Revolving Credit Reaches Three Year High

October 19, 2012 8:36 am

Signaling growing confidence in housing, new home equity revolving lines of credit totaled more than $44 billion year-to-date through July 2012, a three-year high — according to Equifax's October National Consumer Credit Trends Report. Revolving home equity credit experienced a 9 percent increase from the recession low for the same period set in 2010 of $40.6 billion.

 

In addition, write-off rates among home equity revolving lines fell 1.3 percent in September to 2.15 percent, the lowest level since April 2009. 

 

Other highlights from the most recent data include:

 

Home Equity Revolving

The number of new revolving home equity lines of credit year-to-date through July 2012 stood at 495,000, a three-year high, though more than 76 percent lower than the seven-year high of more than 2 million through July 2006.

Home equity revolving lines of credit fell 20 percent to $537 billion in September 2012 after peaking at $680 billion in May 2009.

Since November 2007, the total number of home equity revolving accounts has declined more than 34 percent, from 14.7 million to 11 million in September 2012.

 

First Mortgage

The total balances of severely delinquent mortgages through September 2012 ($419 billion) have decreased 41 percent since peaking in March 2010 ($714 billion). Of note is that more than 76 percent of severely delinquent balances among home equity revolving credit balances are sourced from originations between 2005-2007.

First mortgage balances of $7.85 trillion in September 2012 decreased 3.4 percent from the same month a year ago.

Severely delinquent balances among agency sourced first mortgages (FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) have fallen more than 13 percent to $125 since peaking in March 2010 ($145 billion). In that same time, however, non-agency sourced (private investors and banks) first mortgage balances showed a 48 percent decrease.

First mortgages opened between 2005-2007 comprise 68 percent of severely delinquent mortgage balances yet they represent just less than 27 percent of all first mortgages outstanding.

 

"Increasing new home equity revolving credit indicates homeowner confidence and momentum towards an improved market," said Craig Crabtree, senior vice president and general manager, Equifax Mortgage Services. "While the levels are significantly lower when compared to pre-recession peaks, the recent stability has given way to consistent growth. Total first mortgages are still contracting, however the decreasing debt and delinquencies are positive signs of a stable foundation towards recovery."

 

Source: Equifax

 

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Brick Options Rise with Housing Upswing

October 19, 2012 8:36 am

As the U.S. housing market reports a cautious rebound, genuine clay brick manufacturers continue to invest in progressive technology for sustainable exteriors in more textures and colors at a wider price range. Historically a provider of steady jobs, brick manufacturers continue to increase environmental efficiency with environmentally-friendly plants to offer Made-in-America quality and endless green building design options.

Over the course of 100 years, the American brick industry has provided good-paying jobs with employees working 15, 20 or even 30-plus years — often in small and rural communities where the plants are based. Genuine clay brick is made from local resources with at least two brick plants located within 500 miles of 49 of the country's top 50 metropolitan areas.

While some other exterior options may cost less initially, genuine clay brick offers a superior value through benefits including low- to no maintenance, superior durability, enduring beauty, superior moisture control, design flexibility with many color choices, patterns, textures and custom blends. Genuine clay brick is also free of volatile organic compounds with virtually no waste and is inherently fire resistant.

Source: Brick Industry Association

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