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

Why Should You Buy a Home in December?

November 20, 2012 3:16 am

This is the time of year where many people begin shopping for the holidays. They purchase gifts for their friends, family and loved ones. But one item that you may want to consider buying for yourself this holiday season is a new home. There are many benefits to purchasing a home in December, like:

1. Less competition. Many consumers who are interested in purchasing a new home wait until after the holidays to start searching through the listings. While the malls have more customers this time of year, the real estate market actually experiences a decrease in shoppers during the holiday season. So, if you find a home that is perfect for you, you'll probably have fewer competing bids from other prospective buyers.

2. Good deals if a house has been on the market for a few months - and didn't sell during the late summer and fall seasons - the seller may reduce the price during the winter months. In fact, in many areas of the country, homes prices are typically at their lowest during the month of December.

Homeowners who are showing their homes during the holiday season are often hopeful to sell it before the end of the year because of tax purposes, so they may also be more willing to negotiate on the price.

3. It's a slow time of year for REALTORS® and lenders, too! Sellers aren't the only ones affected by the drop-off in home sales during the winter months. REALTORS® and lenders also feel the sting of their industry's slow season. That means you may get more personalized attention from your real estate agent, and a lender may shave a few points off your interest rate, just so they can get one final sale and home loan on their books before the year is over. Also, because they are juggling fewer deals in December than at other times of the year, it's likely your paperwork will be processed faster as well.

4. Tax deductions. We've already addressed that many homeowners are hoping, because of tax purposes, that their home will sell before the end of the year, but if you buy a home in December, it can also be to your benefit during tax season as well. Closing on a home before the end of the year means you can deduct certain settlement costs from your taxes for 2012. That includes any pro-rated property taxes and prepaid mortgage interest paid at closing. And, since discount points are considered prepaid interest, you can deduct those from your taxes as well.

There's one more thing to remember if you plan on house-hunting in December. Fewer homeowners may be showing their homes during the holidays, and REALTORS® may be on vacation during this time of year. However, if you can find a home you are interested in, and one where the seller and the real estate agent are willing to fit you into their holiday schedule, there are many benefits to purchasing a home before the end of the year.

Source: www.realtypin.com

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Dine Safely this Thanksgiving

November 19, 2012 3:12 am

Many people have ceased to cook our stuffing inside our birds, like grandma used to do it. But what are some other food safety tips you can follow? The National Restaurant Association (NRA) estimates that more than 30 million Americans enlist the help of restaurants for their Thanksgiving feast by dining out or using takeout, but cooking at home remains popular during this holiday. Preparing that meal safely will ensure an enjoyable holiday with family and friends, so the experts at the NRA offer food safety tips for holiday meals:

Thaw your turkey in the fridge
. While you can thaw a frozen turkey under running water or in the microwave, the best way is in the refrigerator overnight (or longer). Be sure to follow the instructions on the package.

Store raw turkey away from ready-to-eat food. Make sure your raw turkey is covered and stored in a leak-proof container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. You want to keep it away from foods that are ready to eat, such as desserts and salads, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.

Clean and sanitize your sink and counters. After rinsing your raw turkey thoroughly, properly clean and sanitize the sink and surrounding area before starting to prepare any other food.

Cook your turkey to safe internal temperature.
 Use a properly calibrated meat thermometer to check that your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Insert the thermometer to the dimple on the stem in the thickest part of the breast and thigh for accurate readings.

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. 
Prep salads, cranberries and other colds items first and store them in the fridge until ready to serve. Then prep your hot dishes closer to serving time so they stay hot. Keep all food items outside the "temperature danger zone" (41 to 135 degrees) as much as possible.

Safely reheat leftovers. Whether from a meal prepared at home or picked up from a restaurant, leftovers are part of the holiday tradition. Store each dish separately in clean, sealable, leak-proof containers and reheat to 165 degrees when you're ready to enjoy round two of your Thanksgiving meal.

Sources: www.FoodSafetyMonth.com, www.restaurant.org

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Credit Worthiness - Know Fact From Fiction

November 19, 2012 3:12 am

These days, it seems easy for credit scores to be damaged and difficult to improve your scores even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Because scores can be so important to your buying power and even job fitness, and because every little factor counts in determining your scores, Forbes Magazine finance writer Erik Carter offers seven credit myths that could be hurting your scores and costing you money:
  • I’ve done nothing wrong–Some 70 percent of credit reports contain errors. So even if you think you’ve done everything right, you could be paying higher interest rates because a reporting error has not been corrected.
  • Checking my scores will hurt me – Checking your own scores once each year will not impact your credit rating.
  • Okay, I’ve checked – Remember, there are three credit reporting companies; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You need to check all three to be sure there are no errors.
  • The source doesn’t matter – Yes, it does. Some inquiry sites only give you access to one report. Others, like freecreditreport.com, ironically are not free. They charge a fee to see your report and then charge you a monthly fee unless you cancel. Go to annualcreditreport.com, which allows free access to each of your credit reports once every 12 months.
  • I’ve paid it off, so I’ll close it – Closing an account when you’ve paid it off can actually hurt your credit score. If it’s a card you’ve had for a while, closing it can reduce your credit history, which is about 15 percent of your score. Also, if you have any debt, closing a card can increase your debt utilization or the ratio of debt to credit available. Instead, you can always cut up the card and not use it.
  • Bankruptcy is the end of the world – It’s painful and can take seven to 10 years to be removed from your credit report, but many credit scores are practically recovered in far less time. If you can’t pay your debts, think of bankruptcy as a second chance that’s better than allowing the debt to continue hurting your score.
  • Maintaining a balance will increase my credit score – Opening and using a credit card can increase your score, especially if you’re starting to build or rebuild your credit. But keeping a balance will only increase your interest payments. Remember that having a lot of debt can hurt your score.

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10 Ways to Save on Heating Oil This Winter

November 19, 2012 3:12 am

Experts are predicting a harsh winter this year in certain areas of the country, a stark comparison to last year—one of the warmest winters in recent history. 

However, those who experience winter’s wrath who heat with oil can save on heating costs this upcoming season by being proactive and taking a few small steps to conserve energy.

Thanks to many advances made in heating oil technology, today’s heating oil equipment is more efficient than ever. However, to get the most out of your equipment, you need to pair it with the right efficiency and conservation measures.

The heating oil industry’s Energy Communications Council (heatingnews.org) recommends doing simple things to save energy and lower heating costs:

1. Fill in gaps around windows and doors with caulking
2. Cover older windows with weather-resistant plastic sheathing
3. Insulate your attic
4. Wrap exposed pipes with proper insulation to prevent both heat loss and freezing
5. Replace your manual thermostat with a programmable model, and lower it just a few degrees while at work or sleeping
6. Open shades and drapes when the sun is out to help warm your home. Close them when the sun goes down to reduce heat loss through drafty windows
7. Eliminate any gaps between your door and threshold by adding a seal to the bottom of the door – it should brush up against the threshold to fill any gap
8. Close your kitchen vent, fireplace damper and closet doors, and remove, cover or close air conditioning units and vents when not in use
9. Move furniture away from heating elements, as it can block heat from circulating
10. Remember that hot water uses fuel too. Take notice of how much you use while bathing and washing dishes, and make an attempt to reduce consumption

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Consumers Show a Little More Cheer this Holiday Season

November 16, 2012 3:08 am

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $521 on gifts this holiday season, The Conference Board reports today. Nearly 10 percent of consumers said they plan to spend more on holiday gifts this year, up from 7 percent last year. Approximately 31 percent plan to spend less than last year, down from 40 percent a year ago. 

The survey of holiday gift spending intentions, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The survey was conducted for The Conference Board in October. 

"As the holiday season approaches, consumers appear to be in better spirits than last year," says Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Our survey results show a slight boost in holiday spending intentions. Retailers are cautiously optimistic that this holiday shopping season will be better than last."

Consumers will be searching for bargains this holiday season, with more than one-third saying they expect more than half of their purchases to be on sale or discounted. Nearly 70 percent expect to purchase a portion of their holiday gifts online, with about 20 percent saying more than half of their gifts will be purchased online.

Source: The Conference Board Holiday Spending Survey, November 2012

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November 2012 U.S. Economic And Housing Market Outlook

November 16, 2012 3:08 am

Freddie Mac recently released its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for November showing what a healthy national housing market should look like taking into account recent trends, key housing indicators and the shifting demographic patterns that will define a new and realistic trajectory over the next five years. A healthy housing market should have activity below the levels recorded during the peaks of the prior decade.

Outlook highlights - what a healthy housing market should look like:
  • Housing starts increasing to about 1.7 to 1.8 million dwellings per year compared with 2.1 million in 2005.
  • Home sales increasing to about 5 percent of the housing stock, or about 6.5 to 7.0 million homes per year, compared with sales of 7 percent of the stock in 2005.
  • U.S. house price appreciation rising gradually to about 3 percent per year compared to 11 percent of 2005.
  • Vacancy rates easing further to about 1.7 percent on for-sale homes and 8 percent for rental homes, down from peaks of about 3 percent in 2008 and 11 percent in 2009, respectively.
  • Serious delinquency rates nearing 2 percent, down from a peak of 9.5 percent in early 2010.
  • "What a healthy housing market should look like will dismay those who keep comparing housing to what it was during its peak years,” explains Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac, vice president and chief economist, However, taking into account recent trends, key housing indicators and the shifting demographic patterns that will define a new and realistic trajectory toward a healthy housing market, the long-term prognosis is promising – just don't expect the housing market to wake up at 98.6 degrees tomorrow morning."
Source: Freddie Mac

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Mortgage Delinquency and Foreclosure Rates Decreased During Third Quarter

November 16, 2012 3:08 am

The delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties fell to a seasonally adjusted rate of 7.40 percent of all loans outstanding as of the end of the third quarter of 2012, a decrease of 18 basis points from the second quarter of 2012, and a decrease of 59 basis points from one year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) National Delinquency Survey. The non-seasonally adjusted delinquency rate increased 29 basis points to 7.64 percent this quarter from 7.35 percent last quarter. Delinquency rates typically increase between the second and third quarters of the year.

The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans in the process of foreclosure. The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started during the third quarter was 0.90 percent, down six basis points from last quarter and down 18 basis points from one year ago. The percentage of loans in the foreclosure process at the end of the third quarter was 4.07 percent, down 20 basis points from the second quarter and 36 basis points lower than one year ago. The serious delinquency rate, the percentage of loans that are 90 days or more past due or in the process of foreclosure, was 7.03 percent, a decrease of 28 basis points from last quarter, and a decrease of 86 basis points from the third quarter of last year.

The combined percentage of loans in foreclosure or at least one payment past due was 11.71 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, a nine basis point increase from last quarter, but a 92 basis points decrease from the same quarter one year ago.

“Mortgage delinquencies decreased compared to last quarter overall, driven mainly by a decline in loans that are 90 days or more delinquent,” observes Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Vice President of Research and Economics. “The 90-day delinquency rate is at its lowest level since 2008, and together with the decline in the percentage of loans in foreclosure, this indicates a significant drop in the shadow inventory of distressed loans - a real positive for the housing market. The 30-day delinquency rate increased slightly, but remains close to the long-term average for this metric. Given the weak economic and job growth in third quarter, it is not surprising that this metric has not improved.”

“The improvement in total delinquency rates was accompanied by a further drop in the foreclosure starts rate, which hit its lowest level since 2007. Moreover, the foreclosure inventory rate decreased by 20 basis points over the quarter, the largest quarterly drop in the history of the survey. The level however, is still roughly four times the long-run average for this series as we continue to see back logs of loans in the foreclosure process in states with a judicial foreclosure system. The foreclosure rate for judicial states decreased slightly to 6.6 percent and the foreclosure rate for non-judicial states showed a steeper drop to 2.4 percent. The difference in the foreclosure rates of the two regimes is at its widest since we started tracking this metric in 2006.”

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)

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Keep Holiday Cooking and Decorating Safe

November 15, 2012 3:08 am

Cooking and decorating, both long standing holiday traditions, help make the season merry and bright. However, these activities can also increase the chances of home fires. In fact, cooking remains the number one cause of home fires, with incidents increasing during the festive season ahead. According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency), fires involving holiday lights and decor result in $25.5 million in property damage each year.

In an effort to help prevent home fires, UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a global science safety company, is encouraging families to follow a few important safety tips this holiday season.

"In the kitchen, even the most experienced chefs make mistakes," says UL Consumer Safety Director, John Drengenberg. "Trying to do too many things at once while cooking can potentially lead to accidental fires and related injuries. Protect your family by being a smart and safe chef."

UL offers the following safety guidelines to help prevent accidents in the kitchen.

Watch the Heat:
  • When simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check regularly
  • Never put metal in the microwave
  • Keep kids at least three feet from the stove and other areas where hot food is cooked
Clear Clutter:
  • Keep the cooking area clean and clear of anything that can catch fire, such as potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking, as loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner .
  • When cooking, it's also a good idea to turn the handles of pots inward, in case small kids enter the kid-free zone and reach for the handles.
Avoid Overloading Sockets & Check Cords:
  • Kitchens are particularly susceptible to overloaded outlets. Always pay attention to the recommended wattage for cords and power strips
  • Remember to remove the plug by reaching up and pulling it out of the socket rather than yanking on the cord. Cords should also not be placed underneath anything that is heavy nor should they be tacked to a wall to get them out of the way
Around the Home
According to the NFPA, holiday trees, lights and decor cause an average 390 fires resulting in 21 civilian deaths and 41 injuries per year. Fire research conducted by UL found that today's residential fires burn hotter and faster due to the combination of open floor plans and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings and decor.

Each year, UL engineers and scientists perform thousands of rigorous tests on products such as holiday lights and electric decorations and is offering the following safety guidelines to help families identify and prevent hazards that too often result in accidents or tragedy.

Check Your Lights, Check Them Twice:
  • Inspect all of your electric lights and decorations for damage or wear
  • Cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires and loose connections may pose a fire or shock hazard
Decorate with a Safe Eye:
  • Cords should not be run under carpets or tacked up with metal nails or staples
  • Small decorations can be a choking hazard for small children or pets and should be kept out of reach
  • Keep flammable materials "three feet from the heat" of lit candles or fireplaces
Indoor or Outdoor? Look for the UL mark:
  • Indoor-use-only light strings are marked with UL's green holographic label
  • Indoor- or outdoor-use light strings are marked with UL's red holographic label
  • Only use light strings and other electrical decorations that bear the UL mark. The UL mark indicates that samples of that product have been tested to UL's safety standards
Source: UL

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Green Building Accelerates through Economic Downturn, Says Study

November 15, 2012 3:08 am

Around the world, the green building marketplace is accelerating, according to a new study recently released by McGraw-Hill Construction in partnership with United Technologies at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

The study indicates a shift in the global construction market, now viewing green as a business opportunity rather than a niche market. Overwhelmingly, firms report that their top reasons to do green work are client demand (35 percent) and market demand (33 percent) - two key business drivers of strategic planning. The next top reasons were also oriented toward the corporate bottom line - lower operating costs (30 percent) and branding advantage (30 percent). In contrast, the top reason in 2008 motivating the green building market was doing the right thing (42 percent) and market transformation (35 percent), followed by client and market demand.

In the next three years, the sectors with the largest opportunity for green building around the world include new construction and renovation projects. Sixty-three percent of firms have green work planned in new commercial projects and 45 percent in new institutional projects by 2015, and 50 percent have plans for green renovation work. In the United Kingdom and Singapore, green renovation projects were planned by the greatest number of firms at 65 and 69 percent respectively. In Brazil and UAE, new projects pose the largest opportunity. In Brazil, 83 percent of firms are planning to work on new green commercial projects over the next three years, and in the UAE, 73 percent have new green institutional projects planned.

Green buildings are also expected to garner business benefits for building owners. For new green building projects, firms report median operating cost savings of eight percent over one year and 15 percent over five years, as well as increased building values of seven percent (according to design and construction firms) and higher asset valuation of five percent (according to building owners).

Other significant findings include:
  • Human factor benefits are driving green building more today compared to three years ago - 55 percent cite greater health and well-being as the top social reason for green (tied with encouraging sustainable business practice), up from only 29 percent in 2008.
  • Energy use reduction tops the environmental reasons for green building - 72 percent say it is the important environmental reason to engage in green building.
  • Water use reduction is more important today - 25 percent of study respondents cite reduced water consumption as the top reason, up from only four percent in 2008. It is particularly important in the UAE (64 percent cite it as a top reason), Brazil (39 percent), and the U.S. (32 percent), ranking as the second most important environmental factor in these countries.
  • Improved indoor air quality is also more important today - 17 percent cite it as a top reason to engage in green building, up from only three percent in 2008.
  • For firms not currently doing any green project work, the primary driver that they think will motivate future green activity is the desire to do the right thing. This is in sharp contrast to those involved, suggesting this market is not as familiar with the business case for green building.
The study also revealed that approximately 48 percent of the work by U.S. respondents was green, with that share expected to increase to 58 percent by 2015. These results are consistent with McGraw-Hill Construction's 2013 Dodge Green Construction Outlook that sized the green building share of new construction starts in the U.S. to be 44 percent by value, and up to 55 percent by 2015.

The findings are drawn from a McGraw-Hill Construction survey of firms across 62 countries around the world. Firms include architects, engineers, contractors, consultants and building owners.

Source: McGraw-Hill Construction

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'Black Friday' a Good Time to Launch Remodeling Plans

November 15, 2012 3:08 am

With the holidays fast approaching, you probably aren’t putting much thought into home improvement—except, perhaps, to grumble about the fact that you’ll have to cook another Thanksgiving meal in your outdated kitchen, or steer guests toward your home’s only bathroom with its leaky faucet.

If those complaints sound annoyingly familiar, you may not want to put off thinking about a remodel until the spring. According to Dan Fritschen, a golden opportunity to get a head start on planning the house of your dreams is right around the corner, and it goes by the name “Black Friday.”

“When many people think about Black Friday, they have visions of sale-crazed hordes trampling each other in pursuit of merchandise, claustrophobia-causing crowds, and a shopping experience that’s so horrible it’s not worth the savings,” acknowledges Fritschen, founder of www.remodelormove.com. “But if you have a remodeling project in mind, you might want to conquer your fears and revise your post-Thanksgiving plans.”

Most remodeling projects aren’t cheap—even if you’re going the DIY route. And the super sales that are offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday could realistically take your expenses from budget-busting to reasonable. If you aren’t convinced, consider the cost of a kitchen remodel in which appliances can easily account for 30 percent of the total. Saving just 10 percent on those purchases might bring down your expenditure by thousands of dollars.

“Plus, at this time of year, remodeling supplies aren’t as sought-after,” Fritschen shares. “So you’ll often find that home improvement retailers discount them that much more in order to get consumers’ attention.”

If you’re planning on remodeling your home in the foreseeable future, here’s what Fritschen says you should do now to get the most for your money:

Make a list and check it twice. According to Fritschen, most homeowners are shocked by how complicated remodeling actually is. For instance, if you’re redoing your kitchen, you might naively focus the majority of your planning on picking out appliances, cabinets, and countertops…and once work commences, be blindsided by the amount of details you’ve overlooked (think drawer knobs, paint colors, lighting, cabinet hinges, faucet types, disposals, etc.).

“Now’s the time to educate yourself on everything you’ll need for your remodel,” Fritschen says. “Try to formulate as complete a list as possible, including photos so that you won’t accidentally miss any discounts or sales. Years of experience have taught me that autumn and winter are some of the best times to buy, since remodeling ‘season’ usually takes place in the spring and summer.”

Go shopping with a strategy.
Most retailers publish the details of their post-Thanksgiving sales well in advance, so take a little time to map out where and when to get the best deals. Keep in mind that, thanks to modern technology, you might save the most money if you do your shopping from your trusty laptop.
Read up on return policies. If you aren’t planning on starting your remodel immediately, check and double-check return policies before buying materials. Especially on big-ticket items, you’ll want to make sure you’re not making an irreversible commitment.

“A thousand little things could change between now and next summer, for example,” Fritschen says. “You might need to change your plans because of budget issues. The product you bought might turn out to be defective. You might simply change your mind and decide that you’d like to go with a different style of light fixture. Make sure you don’t accidentally lock yourself into something you’ll later regret buying.”

Surf the ’Net—but be smart about it. As Fritschen has mentioned before, you may be able to find some of your remodeling supplies online—it’s called Cyber Monday for a reason! But before you whip out the credit card and click away, do a little preparation. If possible, Fritschen suggests scoping out big-ticket items in person. For instance, it’s well worth your time to measure the refrigerator you’ve been eyeing and look at it next to the paint and countertop samples you’re considering.

“Pay special attention to shipping fees and, again, return policies,” he adds. “If you have to send something large or heavy back and pay return shipping, it could eat up your savings and more.”
Remember that there’s an app for that! According to an NRF.com holiday spending survey, 33 percent of consumers will use their smartphones to research products and compare prices in the coming month. And if you’re remodeling, you have a great incentive to join them.

“So, even if you usually stay home, watch football, and graze on leftover turkey on Black Friday, consider changing those plans if you have a remodel coming up,” concludes Fritschen. “Braving the crowds can save you a surprising amount of time, money and stress when it’s time to start tearing down walls and installing new appliances next year.”

Source: remodelormove.com

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