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

15 Safety Tips when the Power’s Out

February 19, 2016 4:03 am

Severe storm conditions may threaten structural damage to your home, but they can also result in electrical hazards. These dangers are most often associated with the use of portable generators and space heaters, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), and may exist long after the storm has ended if a power outage occurs.

When operating a portable generator, keep in mind these tips: 

• Do not operate a portable generator in your home, basement, or garage. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. 

• Be sure the generator is used with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. 

• Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring without an appropriate transfer switch installed. The power from the generator can back-feed along power lines and harm anyone who comes into contact with them, including utility line workers making repairs.  

• Make sure there is at least one working carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test the batteries at least twice a year, at the same time smoke detector batteries are tested.

When operating a space heater, keep in mind these tips: 

• Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory. 

• Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully. 

• Inspect space heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater. 

• Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you're leaving a room or going to sleep, and don't let pets or children play too close to a space heater. 

• Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes. 

• Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs. 

• Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire. 

• Place space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways, where they may pose a tripping hazard. 

• Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. 

• Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. 

• Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use. 

Source: ESFI

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How Paint Colors Set the Tone—and Mood—of Your Home

February 19, 2016 4:03 am

Repainting a room in your home? Don't overlook the psychological impact of color. Studies have shown that different hues create different moods, and can even affect behavior, says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert at the Paint Quality Institute.

"There are lots of good reasons to select a particular paint color, including personal preferences and design considerations, but often overlooked is the psychological power certain colors exert on mood, attitude, and outlook," says Zimmer.

"Even before you go to the paint store or start to look at color cards, think about the mood you'd like in your surroundings," continues Zimmer. "Do you want the space to be relaxing or invigorating? Once you make that decision, the color choice becomes easier.”

If your goal is to create a tranquil space, then look for a soft green or pale blue. These are the most calming colors, so they're ideal for rooms where you rest and relax, such as the family room or bedroom.

Other go-to colors for rooms where you rest include certain beiges, browns, and taupe. More enveloping than blues and greens, these quiet tints and shades impart warmth and coziness to a space.  

At the other end of the psychological spectrum are paint colors that can inject energy into your surroundings. Yellow is the best example. Like a splash of sunshine, yellow walls can lift the spirit and brighten your outlook. What better color to use in a kitchen or breakfast area where you start the day?

Shades of orange—tangerine and apricot, for example—are also energizing, so they too are good choices for rooms where you spend your mornings.

Reds are energizing, too, but they need to be used sparingly, since their bold appearance can literally increase heartbeat. But if you're seeking a great dining room color, look no further: studies show red can actually increase appetite, which is why it is used in so many restaurants. 

Aside from the color of the paint you choose, keep in mind that tone also plays a role in setting the mood. Brighter tones invigorate, while those that are muted ("toned down") tend to be more relaxing.

After choosing the perfect color, make sure it continues to look just so by applying the highest quality paint. Products that are 100 percent acrylic resist fading, so the color you apply is the color you'll continue to enjoy for years to come, says Zimmer.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

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Remodeling Spending to Surpass Pre-Recession Level

February 18, 2016 4:00 am

Home improvement spending will increase as 2016 moves forward, up to 7.6 percent before the year’s out, suggests the latest Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), recently released by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

“2016 is looking to be a stronger year for home renovation activity compared to 2015 thanks to the continued recovery in the owner-occupied housing market,” says Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center. “In most markets across the country, rising house prices are bringing more homes to the market and increasing sales, which is a large driver of home improvement activity.”

The LIRA projects that by the third quarter of 2016, the level of annual spending in nominal terms will surpass the previous peak set in 2006.

“The remodeling market has steadily improved in recent years with homeowners incorporating larger, more discretionary projects into their home improvement priorities,” adds Abbe Will, a research analyst in the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center.

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

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Redecorating Your Home? Go Nordic!

February 18, 2016 4:00 am

(BPT)—Nordic-inspired interiors are having a moment. Echoing traditional Scandinavian design, the Nordic theme can lend a sense of balance and beauty to your home—and you can achieve the look without spending designer dollars.

To embrace the Nordic trend:

Start with a Clean Slate – When building the foundation of Nordic design, it’s important to select the right hue of white for the walls. Take a cue from colors inspired by natural, fine-textured stone. Alabster, for example, is a natural, flattering white suited especially for bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens.

Turn on the Light – Long, dark winters in Nordic countries foster a desire for natural light. Take advantage of the daylight you do have—and create an ethereal effect—with sheer window treatments. Incorporate transparent, shiny and reflective elements, like paper lanterns or copper pendant lighting, to maximize “lightness” when the sun goes down.

Mix in Natural Tones – Nordic design favors natural, live-well tones. To achieve this look and feel, use earthy, natural materials, such as Carrera marble, in the kitchen or bathroom. Add birch or maple cabinets and furniture to help balance stone grays and blush petal pinks of the natural elements.

Sharpen the Details – Complex shapes, angles and patterns in vibrant colors are also present in Nordic décor. Hang boxy frames or multilevel, open shelving units for symmetry, and include a strategically-placed, whimsical element, like zebra-striped pillows, multicolored candleholders, or red counter stools.

Source: Sherwin-Williams

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4 Interior Design Themes Taking Off This Year

February 18, 2016 4:00 am

Trends in interior design are often dictated by the current culture. Themes taking off this year are a subtle nod to 2016, with bold furnishings mixed with soft patterns, according to a recently released report from the Delta Faucet Company.

The report forecasts these trends will manifest at home in the following ways. Get inspired by these looks when revamping your own home!

1. “Colorful Contemporary”

Soft, geometric shapes accompany bright hues and natural fabrics for a cheerful, modern look. Influenced by Mid-Century aesthetics, this design sits squarely at the intersection of urban and suburban. Stylized subway tile and playfully shaped furniture in loud colors, like coral or bright yellow, will become more popular. Homeowners with a desire for additional natural elements may want to consider lightened, walnut wood accents or copper-framed storage units with pale ash shelving.

2. “Delicate Victorian”

Graceful patterns, subtle pastel hues and white-washed woods work together to create a timeless Victorian-era aesthetic with a softer touch. This classic design has a place in modern spaces when traditional accents, like delicate filigree patterns, and soft colors are placed in open-concept designs. Homeowners can accessorize through feminine-shaped vases, rose-gold accents, brass finishes and patterned textiles. Within this trend, expect an emphasis on floral and hexagonal patterns to bring this understated, elegant style to life.

3. “Jeweled Luxury”

Deep purple and navy hues, angular patterns and polished chrome finishes all create a luxurious look. Taking elements from both modern and traditional design, this trend incorporates clean, geometric shapes and open, wirework furniture with faceted surfaces and marble flooring. Jewel-inspired details and finishes in buffed gold with subtle iridescences add a sense of long-lasting opulence.

4. “Reclaimed Rustic”

Cool metals combine with warm botanical patterns to create the perfect blend of strong, industrial design with country comfort. Tarnished metals and textured stone juxtaposed against repurposed wood, nubby linens or country silks create rugged, yet comfortable spaces. Reclaimed wood accents, bursts of poppy and browned brass finishes bring a balance of warmth to the cool, modern metals.

Source: Masco Corporation

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Taxes and Retirement: The Ins and Outs of the Saver's Credit

February 17, 2016 4:00 am

Have you stepped up your retirement-saving game? Don’t leave that money on the table! According to a recently released survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS), only one-quarter of low- to moderate-income workers are aware they’re eligible for the Saver’s Credit offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

"The Saver's Credit is a tax credit,” explains Catherine Collinson, president of the TCRS. “It reduces an eligible taxpayer's federal income tax, making it an important incentive for low- to moderate-income individuals and households to save for retirement in a 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or new myRA. Unfortunately, many eligible workers may be missing out on the Saver's Credit simply because they don't know that it exists."
 
The Saver's Credit may be applied to the first $2,000 of voluntary contributions an eligible worker makes to a 401(k), 403(b) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan, or an IRA. The maximum credit is $1,000 for single filers or individuals and $2,000 for married couples.

"The Saver's Credit is a tax credit above and beyond the advantage of tax-deferred savings when contributing to a 401(k), 403(b), or IRA,” adds Collinson. “Because this double benefit sounds too good to be true, many eligible savers may be actually confusing the two incentives.”

The credit is available to workers aged 18 years or older who have contributed to a company-sponsored retirement plan or IRA in the past year and meet the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) requirements. These are:

• Single filers with an AGI of up to $30,500 in 2015 or $30,750 in 2016 are eligible.
• For the head of a household, the AGI limit is $45,750 in 2015 or $46,125 in 2016.
• For those who are married and file a joint return, the AGI limit is $61,000 in 2015 or $61,500 in 2016.

Additionally, the filer cannot be a full-time student or be claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return.

Most workers who are eligible to claim the Saver's Credit are also eligible to take advantage of the IRS Free File program for taxpayers with an AGI of $62,000 or less. Thirteen software companies make their tax preparation software available for free through Free File at www.irs.gov/FreeFile. Bear in mind certain restrictions may apply.

If you are using tax preparation software to prepare your tax return, including those programs offered through the IRS Free File program, use Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR. The credit is not available with Form 1040EZ. If your software has an interview process, be sure to answer questions about the Saver's Credit, also referred to as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit or the Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.

“Workers who are eligible to receive the Saver's Credit are at risk of missing it if they use the wrong tax form. The Saver's Credit is not available on Form 1040EZ," says Collinson. “If you are eligible to claim the Saver's Credit, you should use Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR.”

If you are preparing your tax returns manually, complete Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to determine your exact credit rate and amount. Transfer the amount to the designated line on Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR. If you are using a professional tax preparer, be sure to ask about the Saver's Credit.

Remember to have any refund you receive directly deposited to an IRA to further boost your retirement savings.

Source: TCRS

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Mortgage Rates Circle Last Year's Lows

February 17, 2016 4:00 am

Mortgage rates have moved lower for the sixth week in a row, prodded by ongoing market volatility, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®).

“The 30-year mortgage rate dropped another 7 basis points [last] week to 3.65 percent,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac. “[Last] week's drop leaves the mortgage rate just 6 basis points above last year's low of 3.59 percent.”

The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 2.95 percent with an average 0.5 point, according to the survey, and the average 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.83 percent with an average 0.4 point—both decreases.

“In a falling rate environment, mortgage rates often adjust more slowly than capital market rates, and the early-2016 flight-to-quality has run true to form,” Becketti says. “The 30-year mortgage rate has dropped 36 basis points since the start of the year, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury has dropped 59 basis points over the same period. If Treasury yields were to hold at current levels, mortgage rates might well sink a little further before stabilizing.” 

Source: Freddie Mac

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Scam Alert: There's No Such Thing as a Free Energy Audit

February 17, 2016 4:00 am

Are you looking for ways to reduce your energy expenses? Concerned as you may be, don’t accept a free energy audit. Audits billed as “free” are often perpetrated by scammers hoping to make off with thousands of dollars from unsuspecting homeowners.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), most of these cons start with a knock on the door from someone offering free home energy audits. The person then suggests touring the home in order to pinpoint areas that are contributing to high utility bills.

Don’t be fooled—this first interaction is actually a set-up for another scam. Following the tour, the fraudster may ask for payment upfront, claiming it is needed to finance a government grant that will earn the homeowner a rebate, or pressure the homeowner into paying for slip-shod construction work or highly marked-up energy-efficient products.

To avoid becoming a victim of an energy audit scam, remember to:

Never allow any one into your home who claims to be from the utility company or the government, unless you requested the visit.

Ask the person for identification. Inspect their identification card thoroughly, and compare it to the identity labeled on their uniform and given in their story.

Listen for red flag words, such as “prepaid debit card” or “wire transfer.” These are tell-tale signs of a scam.

Keep your cool. If you suspect a scam, remain calm. If the fraudster is pressuring you for information or payment, call your utility company (use the number on your bill) to verify.

Use common sense. Some scammers may seek payment to repair or replace your electrical meter. The meter on your home is the property of the utility company, and it is never your responsibility to maintain, repair or replace it.

Source: BBB

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5 Tips to Get a Handle on Debt

February 16, 2016 4:00 am

Be it a mortgage, student loan or unpaid credit card, the majority of households hold some form of debt. Not all debt is detrimental, but for the sake of your financial future, it pays to have a handle on it.

Better manage your debt with these tips, courtesy of American Consumer Credit Counseling, a national non-profit organization.

1. Determine exactly what you owe.
Do not live in denial and allow your debt to pile up. Write down every debt you have, as well as the amount you owe. With this information, create a plan on how to best go about paying off each debt.

2. Get organized.
Pull all those bills out of the drawer and get your finances in order. Organization will help motivate you to manage—and ideally, erase—debt.

3. Set up a calendar.
Create a calendar devoted to payments. Mark when each bill is due on your calendar and cross it off once it has been paid.

4. Look for ways to cut costs.
Carefully examine your bills to see if there are ways you can reduce them.

5. Reduce your spending.
Shrink your monthly spending to help you get out of debt at a faster rate. Review your credit card statements to see where your money has been going each month. Create a budget with a budgeting worksheet and stick to it each month. 

Source: ACCC

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Can Homeownership Status Affect Auto Insurance Rates?

February 16, 2016 4:00 am

Recently released research has shed light on a startling statistic: auto insurance costs for renters may be up to 50 percent higher than those for homeowners.

According to an analysis by the non-profit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), auto insurance premiums average 7 percent higher—about $112 per year—for a 30-year-old safe driver who rents a home instead of owning it. The CFA argues that weighing homeownership status when determining auto insurance rates disadvantages low- and moderate-income drivers—Federal Reserve Board data show the median income of renters is $27,800 and $63,400 for homeowners.

To conduct the analysis, the CFA solicited premiums for a basic policy from eight of the nation’s largest insurers, across 10 cities, for a 30-year-old, female motorist with a perfect driving record operating a 2005 Honda Civic. The CFA altered homeownership status during the test, discovering that premiums assigned to renters were significantly higher—even by double-digit percentages in some areas, like Baltimore, Md., Louisville, Ky., Newark N.J., and Tampa, Fla.

Notably, Geico was the only insurer tested that did not consider homeownership status in any city analyzed.

Consumer protection laws in California prohibit auto insurance companies from considering homeownership status or other socio-economic factors when setting premiums.  The CFA confirmed compliance through a separate analysis focused in Oakland, Calif.

Source: Consumer Federation of America

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