RE/MAX 440
Dale Joy
dalejoy1@verizon.net
Dale Joy
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880
Skippack  PA 19474
PH: 610-584-1160
O: 610-584-1160
C: 215-460-5153
F: 267-354-6852 
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First-Time Homebuyers Perplexed by Lending Process

December 12, 2014 4:21 am

First-time homebuyers report challenges with understanding the mortgage process and the options that are available to them, according to the J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study(SM).

“From describing what will happen during the process in terms a customer can understand to explaining the benefits of different options, loan representatives set the tone of the experience,” says Craig Martin, director of mortgage practice at J.D. Power. “A potential challenge with first-time homebuyers is that they may be afraid to appear uninformed, so they won’t admit when they are confused or don’t understand something. For a lender to truly stand out, their staff must foster relationships that promote open and honest communication.”

The study reveals that first-time homebuyers want a transparent mortgage process; 43 percent of all first-time homebuyers indicate they do not completely understand the process. A lack of experience and uncertainty about the process may influence how they first inquire about a mortgage; 48 percent chose to meet with local lenders in person for advice tailored to their specific situations.

The study also found:
  • The majority (54 percent) of first-time homebuyers indicate they don’t fully understand the different loan options available to them. Just 41 percent reported thorough explanations of the types of loans, terms, special programs, fees and options to reduce their down payments.
  • Consistent communication is another important factor in a positive borrowing experience. Customer satisfaction falls significantly when loan representatives fail to call customers back as promised.
  • The closing experience is often confusing for first-time homebuyers. Forty-four percent indicate that the closing agent did not completely explain all of the closing documents.
While many mortgage customers obtain information and updates online and by using mobile devices, the study shows that the loan representative is still a key part of the equation. Interestingly, some of the most important things lenders can do to deliver a great experience remain heavily reliant on human interaction.

Source: J.D. Power

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Real Estate Transaction Roles Explained

December 12, 2014 4:21 am

Real estate transactions are complex and, at times, confusing. Clients can better understand this course of action by knowing who they’re working with and what role those individuals play. Whether seeking to buy or sell a residential home, expect several parties to be involved in the process. Brokers, agents and attorneys are among the most common:

Depending on whichever unique business model the firm utilizes, brokers typically have the same qualifications as an agent, but their roles are to primarily supervise other agents. Commissions from sales are often paid to the brokerage, then allocated to the agent involved in the transaction.

Agents
are at the forefront of the buying and selling process. Real estate agents work directly with clients to either secure a home at their desired price point and in a coveted location, or to generate buyer interest and ultimately find a new owner for your home. An agent can represent either a buyer or a seller, and both agents frequently communicate.

Once a transaction between a buyer and a seller is under contract, a real estate attorney facilitates a smooth close. The responsibilities of an attorney vary, but some common duties include explanation of the terms of the mortgage, review of purchase agreements and investigation of the backgrounds of properties.

Source: Zillow

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What's Under There? The Pros and Cons of Crawlspaces

December 11, 2014 4:21 am

In our last report, I got the down-low on the pros and cons of building on, or purchasing a home constructed on a concrete slab. So in this segment, we'll go back to Andrew M. Dennis at Donan Solutions, a third-generation engineering firm that began in 1947 in Madisonville, KY, for his take on crawlspaces.

Dennis says the long-term performance of a crawlspace is greatly affected by the critical aspects of the presence of proper lot grading, adequate site surface water drainage, and a proper landscaping plan. And he adds that concrete slabs and crawlspace foundations present about the same number of advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage of building or buying a home with a crawlspace, is the heating and air conditioning ductwork and plumbing can be installed in it and be easily maintained.  Any required repairs to these systems will be less expensive due to better accessibility.  

A crawlspace elevates a house, Dennis notes, making it less susceptible to termite damage. And crawlspaces can be constructed on sloped lots using tiered concrete footings; however, the lot’s grading plan must provide adequate drainage to prevent damage from adverse surface water drainage.

Excess moisture in a crawlspace is a common occurrence and can have severe consequences if not addressed in a timely manner, Dennis points out. Stormwater and gutter overflow slopes toward the house and into the crawlspace and are sources of moisture that must be prevented or can damage the wood floor system above.

Dennis says a sheet of plastic with seams overlapped and taped works well as a vapor barrier to prevent the upward transmission of ground moisture. Adequate ventilation of the crawlspace must also be planned for and implemented in order to prevent the harmful effects that condensation can cause to the wood floor system above.

Dennis says the design and construction of either a concrete slab or conventional crawlspace foundation should be tailored to the geography and climatic conditions that it is expected to perform under.

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Warm up Your Home in Style This Winter

December 11, 2014 4:21 am

With winter temperatures set to fall to frosty levels, many families will be spending time at home this season. Despite the weather, homeowners can create a warm atmosphere by tapping into the unexpected beauty found during the winter months.

“Though it is often overlooked, winter is the perfect season to draw inspiration from with a palette of rich, on-trend colors, adding a sense of warmth within in the home,” says Julie Richard, Ace Hardware design expert.

Ace’s design experts recommend pairing winter color trends with smart design for cozy indoor get-togethers:
  • Casual elegance is trending this winter. Create an accent feature in the kitchen by painting a set of mismatched breakfast room chairs in the same color for a unified, unrefined look that is both pulled together and relaxed.
  • For a timeless, layered look, mix and match different elements in the same color. Go for a glamorous neutral palette with a classic fur throw, a thick and luxurious white flokati or shag rug, knit wool throw pillows and classic tweed upholstery fabrics. This touchable palette is classic and chic in tones of gray, taupe and ivory and is the perfect warm up to the cold weather.
  • Try this chic, unexpected update to the outside of your home to catch every neighbor's eye this season: window frames, mullions and muttons painted in very dark colors.
  • Bring in tile accents. Rather than a glass accent tile, look for a hand-painted, glazed and natural tile to achieve a classic look. Concrete tiles with color and pattern are a great update for a modern treatment.
  • Comfort and coziness are a must as the weather cools down. Utilize natural materials throughout your home, such as wood and antiqued leather. Add cut white birch logs to your fireplace for a warm update and try an upholstery piece covered in an antique-style woven rug to add rustic flair.
Source: Ace Hardware

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Survey: Financing Hard to Come by for Remodels

December 11, 2014 4:21 am

How difficult is it for homeowners to get financing for a remodeling project?

Recent research from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) concludes that the majority of professional contractors place obtaining financing in a ‘neutral’ to ‘difficult’ range. NARI’s Remodeling Business Pulse, which monitors the health of the remodeling industry, indicates that just 30 percent of contractors believe it is either ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ for clientele to secure funds.

An overly cautious financing company creates the biggest barrier for homeowners, according to 38 percent of professional contractors surveyed. High-cost projects relative to the home’s value were also a factor, with 27 percent of professional contractors reporting that cost vs. value concerns also resulted in obstacles for homeowners.

Poor credit history followed, but only for a few – just 11 percent of professional contractors believe it to be an impediment to a remodel.

The research also reveals:
  • If cash or checks were not used, banks or credit unions were the dominant source of financing (72 percent). Credit card usage for renovations accounted for only 20 percent of responses.
  • Very few professional contractors arranged financing for their client (6 percent).
  • Ninety-six percent of professional contractors accepted checks as a form of payment; one-quarter accepted credit cards, home equity loans, bank home improvement loans or cash.
Source: NARI

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Five Ideas to Wrap up Holiday Decorating

December 10, 2014 4:21 am

With the holidays (and a house full of guests) fast approaching, lighten your load and wow visitors this year with these last-minute finishing touches to your décor.

Few things make a home feel more like the holidays than a spectacular display of lights. Provide a warm welcome to friends and family by using 100 lights for every foot and a half of tree or shrub you want to cover.

Line the staircase with potted poinsettias, which start as low as $6 each and come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Deck out the foyer by grouping scented candles or votives on a side table for some instant cheer as guests arrive.

Fill glass vases or jars with ornaments or pinecones, and string holiday cards or ornaments around a mirror or tuck cards into a frame for a classic twist on a festive favorite.

In the living room, single out one focal point to decorate. For fireplaces, frame your hearth with pre-lit, artificial or live Christmas trees, or hang a wreath above the mantle. If you choose live trees, water them daily and make sure the trunk is always submerged in water.

Source: Lowe’s

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HELOCs Go Beyond Home Improvements

December 10, 2014 4:21 am

While half of homeowners who have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) acquired the loan for home renovations, an increasing number of homeowners rely on the loan for other needs, according to a recent Consumer Borrowing Index survey from TD Bank. Research from over 1,350 U.S. homeowners with a HELOC provides insight into those needs, along with usage and perceptions of the loan.

"We're seeing an increasing interest in HELOCs this year, suggesting a rebound in consumer confidence related to rising home values," said Michael Kinane, Head of Mortgage and Consumer Lending Products, TD Bank. "Using this type of financing to add value to your property is a strategic move when it comes to today's real estate market. HELOCs currently offer consumers the convenience and flexibility to borrow what they need at a better interest rate than most other lines of credit."

A HELOC is secured by a consumer's home and typically requires 80 percent equity. According to the Index, 53 percent of homeowners report the value of their home has increased within the past few years, meaning consumers have more equity in their homes to borrow. The survey also revealed that 30 percent of homeowners are applying for a HELOC of $100,000 or more, though the average loan secured is only $87,000. Those who shopped around tended to get a higher value loan. Additionally, individuals who went with their primary financial institution but did consider other lenders secured an average HELOC of $92,000, or $5,000 more than those who only considered their primary financial institution.

According to the Index, the top motivators behind acquiring a HELOC are:
  • Debt consolidation (29 percent)
  • Major home purchases (24 percent)
  • Emergency funds (19 percent)
  • Education costs (20 percent)
The Index also found that consumers are often using HELOC funds for expenses beyond those originally intended. For instance:
  • While 24 percent of HELOC borrowers used the loan for emergencies, a smaller 19 percent actually anticipated using it that way.
  • Twenty-seven percent purchased a new vehicle, while only 21 percent reported they intended to use the loan for this reason.
  • Although 18 percent of borrowers used their HELOC for medical and healthcare expenses, a slightly smaller 14 percent had actually anticipated using the loan for this reason.
Despite the popularity of HELOCs, there is still uncertainty and misunderstanding among many homeowners regarding the terms and conditions of their loan. The Index found:
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers are paying some form of HELOC fee, such as an annual fee (30 percent), origination fee (30 percent) or prepayment fee (15 percent). However, one in five homeowners are unsure if they are paying fees.
  • Half of those surveyed do not know if they have any fixed-rate opportunities during their draw period, which on average is between five and 10 years.
  • The majority of millennials (59 percent) surveyed think that a HELOC interest rate is higher than interest rates for a student loan; 43 percent believe HELOC rates are higher than credit card interest rates.
Source: TD Bank

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Four Tips for Optimal Lighting at Home

December 10, 2014 4:21 am

With each passing year, everyone requires more light to see properly. In a Catch-22 scenario, the amount of light required to sustain visual performance increases with age, and, over time, human eyes become more sensitive to glare – with more light often leading to increased glare, how can homeowners ensure they’re getting adequate lighting at home?

The American Lighting Association (ALA) encourages homeowners to consider user age as a factor when designing a lighting concept at home. A few simple lighting adjustments that will benefit aging eyes include:
  • Turning on one or two table lamps while watching television to reduce the contrast between the bright screen and surrounding darkness
  • Using a torchiere for uplighting along with downward illumination for versatility
  • Installing a fixture with a separate, pivoting task light attached, or one with a glass bowl at the top to shine light downward
  • Exposing yourself to bright light, such as daylight, early in the morning and sleep in a dark room at night
“As people get older, it isn’t just the amount of light – it is also when it is applied that is key to regulating things such as circadian rhythm and REM sleep cycles,” says Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering for the ALA.

Source: ALA

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Childproof Your Home's Holiday Decor

December 9, 2014 4:21 am

Decorating your home for the holidays can be one of the most enjoyable family traditions, with children often forming lasting memories of holidays spent at home. During the excitement, it’s important to remain vigilant and identify potential safety hazards while decorating.

The Window Covering Safety Council recommends these child-safe decorating tips to ensure your home remains both safe and beautiful for children this season.
  • Inspect both new and old lights for broken sockets or frayed wires, and discard any damaged sets.
  • Switch off all holiday lights when your family goes to sleep or leaves the home.
  • Place your tree or menorah away from fireplaces, radiators and portable heaters.
  • Always keep burning candles within sight and extinguish them before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, or ones with small pieces.
  • Do not use decorations that resemble candy or something a child would attempt to eat.
  • Keep hot food and liquids out of reach of children.
  • Make sure that tasseled pull cords on window coverings 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.
Source: WCSC

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Six Ways to Relieve Workplace Neck Pain

December 9, 2014 4:21 am

Chronic osteoarthritis conditions result from extended periods of sitting and poor posture – both of which occur in an office setting. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 27 million Americans suffer from some form of osteoarthritis, with the majority reporting increases in neck pain after spending hours hunched over a computer screen.

The next time you sit down at work, prevent or ease neck pain with these tips:

1. Take standing breaks.
Don’t be afraid to step away from your keyboard during the workday. Go outside to get some fresh air, stretch, or visit a coworker’s desk instead of sending an email.

2. Keep feet flat on the floor. This technique prevents your back from arching, straightening your posture.

3. Use a headset to talk on the phone. If you spend the majority of your day using the phone, reduce strain on your neck with a headset.

4. Avoid carrying heavy items on one shoulder. Alternate shoulders when carrying heavy items, such as a purse or briefcase, to avoid aggravating the muscles in your neck and upper back.

5. Disconnect during the evening. With the average full-time office employee spending more than 40 hours per week in front of a computer screen, consider unplugging your electronic devices and spending time relaxing.

6. Stay active. Movement helps reduce stiffness, increase flexibility and strengthen joints.

Source: Massage Envy Spa

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