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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Don't Eat Away Your Retirement

February 19, 2013 2:42 am

Saving is tough, and every now and then, it’s nice to splurge—especially on a meal out. Or maybe grabbing a mid-day meal is your preferred way of easing the stress of the workday. But if you go out for lunch four days a week, over the course of a 40-year working life, you've eaten away nearly $60,000!

Still not convinced that bringing lunch to work is a smart decision?

• It's healthier. Packing your own lunch gives you complete command over exactly what you eat and how much you eat. Think portion control.
• It's cheaper than eating out. A typical sit-down lunch at a restaurant can run you anywhere from $8-15. Add tax and tip on top of that, and you could be spending as much as $350 per month on lunch.
• You can make new friends. Since everyone shares the employee lunchroom, eating your lunch there (and not at your desk) may provide you the opportunity to have conversations with others that you may not typically interact with.
• Leftovers. Leftovers aren't just for dinner. The next time you make one of your favorite meals, prepare at least one extra, smaller, portion to take to work. Pasta typically heats up easily.
• Time is your friend. You aren't wasting precious minutes getting to your lunch destination, standing in line, or waiting for your order to be prepared.

Can't see yourself going cold turkey and bringing your lunch every day? Then start out small. Even taking it to the office twice a week will help build your savings.

You can save hundreds of dollars each year if you simply cut back on that morning latte or lunch trip. You'll be amazed how quickly the savings add up.

Source: BMO Harris

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Tips for Winter Concrete Care

February 19, 2013 2:42 am

With harsh temperatures on the inevitable horizon, a few hours of work now could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars later down the road.

Freezing rain, snow, ice and raw temperatures have been known to weaken concrete surfaces if left unattended. Saturation and freezing of concrete surfaces can lead to cracking and surface deterioration, but the spreading of various salts on the surface can also lead to larger structural issues and unprotected concrete.

Repairing and sealing cracks as they occur is a cost-effective way to prevent pricey projects in the future. According to Quikrete, waterproofing sealers are a great way to make these repairs, offering durable finishes for a variety of surfaces including concrete, masonry, stucco and brick. Acrylic sealers are highly water resistant and provide a coating that protects the surface from cold weather freezing and thawing - a common cause of cracking over time.

If properly maintained, concrete has the ability to last for generations, but homeowners should know what to look for around the home. Look for cracks and missing concrete in the driveway, garage and exterior walkways. Though cracks can be unobtrusively small to start, these eventual problem areas can spread and worse over time.

Concrete Treat recommends checking for spalling, which occurs when too much freezing and thawing causes water to erode the surface layer of the concrete. Salts cause further erosion of this surface area and can really compromise the structural integrity. The longer this problem is neglected, the bigger of a repair it will be. Visible water leaks on concrete walls are other signs that water is seeping in from the outside. If left unfixed, this water can cause extensive damage to interior surfaces. Be sure to check around your home for any potential concrete leaks.

By being aware of possible concrete issues, you may be able to prevent catastrophic damage to your property in the future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Airline Mergers Not Always Great News for Consumers

February 19, 2013 2:42 am

With recent news of a merger between American Airlines and US Airways, the airline industry seems to be headed toward four "super-airlines" dominating the market. Recent mergers have consolidated brands and routes across the country, but passengers do not benefit.

For the past three years of reports, US Airways has consistently ranked higher than American Airlines, based on the annual Airline Quality Rating conducted by Dr. Brent Bowen of Purdue University and Dr. Dean Headley of Wichita State University.

Recent airline mergers may jeopardize gains in industry performance because it can take years for two airlines to successfully synchronize their systems and culture the researchers confirm.

American Airlines' planned merger with US Airways will create an oversized bastion of mediocrity that will serve the public in far poorer fashion, according to Bowen.

Bowen says every merger over the past 25 years has resulted in each of the two airlines significantly declining across the board in key performance benchmarks such as late flights, lost luggage and reduced customer satisfaction.

"There will be no benefits to performance and consumers will not see better quality," Bowen said. "Employees of both airlines will be unhappy and destabilized for an extended period."

US Airways has consistently outscored American over the past five years in the AQR, but the smaller partner will not have the heft to bring up the performance of the larger company during the inevitable clash of corporate cultures and technology, Bowen said.

In the 2008 AQR report, American placed ninth overall. Since then, their performance in the rankings has steadily worsened, while US Airways' ranking has improved.

Following the United-Continental merger, the DOT reported that customer complaints increased, as did lost baggage. Headley suspects that the company's $3 billion merger with Continental Airlines is to blame. "Anytime you have two airlines trying to combine, one of those airlines is going to have a period of decline."

Along with performance fluctuations, mergers can have severe consequences for employees. Concerns about layoffs, future salaries, seniority, and pension plans can drive tension that damages employee morale and lowers the quality of customer service.

Source: Dr. Brent Bowen

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Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer

February 18, 2013 2:38 am

Approximately 60 percent of Americans enlist the help of a paid tax professional to file their income tax returns, as stated by the Internal Revenue Service. According to Jackson Hewitt Tax Service®, one of the nation's largest privately held tax preparation firms, even more consumers may turn to a tax preparer this year to determine how the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 impacts their individual situations. But what are the advantages of working with a paid preparer, and what credentials should consumers look for when selecting a tax professional?

"With the sweeping last-minute tax law changes, even taxpayers who have filed their own returns in past years with do-it-yourself software should think twice this time around," says Mark Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. "Many taxpayers may benefit from engaging a paid professional to ensure their returns are accurate, but need to know what questions to ask and what to look for in a tax preparer. A skilled preparer who understands your tax situation, including all the tax deductions and credits available to you, can provide you with the best possible outcome, because if you miss claiming certain tax benefits on a return, they are off the table - the IRS doesn't claim them for you."

When choosing a paid tax preparer, Steber encourages consumers to consider these five tips:

Engage now — The IRS began accepting 2012 tax returns on January 30. You may need some time to find a tax preparer who best meets your needs, so you'll want to start your search as soon as possible. It is important to ensure that your tax preparer is well-versed in all of the recent tax law changes and tax codes. The sooner you find the right preparer, the sooner you can start the filing process and ultimately get your refund, if you are owed one.

Check the preparer's background — Make sure to go with someone who is qualified and credible, so check your tax preparer's history. You can conduct your own research through various sources such as the Better Business Bureau and state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants. You can also ask friends, family or co-workers for references to get a first-hand account of their experiences.

Make sure the preparer is knowledgeable — Make sure your preparer understands how tax law changes may affect you. Jackson Hewitt offers a comprehensive tax preparer training curriculum, including basic, intermediate and advanced courses, as well as ethics and ongoing update training.

Avoid preparers who ask you to sign a blank return — It is important to review your tax return completely and ask questions before signing it. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for what is reported on your tax return. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return. Check for errors such as incorrect social security numbers and addresses; these common mistakes can delay IRS processing of your return.

Use tax preparers who e-file — The majority of taxpayers today electronically file (e-file) their tax returns. E-filing is safer than filing a paper return, offers faster processing time, greater accuracy and confirmation the IRS has received your return.

"Taxpayers who have purchased off-the-shelf tax software and plan to prepare their own returns should confirm that these products are up-to-date, as many late-breaking changes have occurred that may not have been integrated by the time of purchase. Similarly, if you are using a trained tax professional, confirm that their software is current and up-to-date as well," adds Steber.

Source: www.jacksonhewitt.com

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Spring Cleaning Shortcuts

February 18, 2013 2:38 am

(Family Features) Spring brings a sense of fresh beginnings, and for many, that includes the annual ritual of spring cleaning. A survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute found that 62 percent of people engage in spring cleaning each year, and their top three priorities are the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.

This year, spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a long, dreaded process. Follow these quick tips to not only get your house clean in no time, but keep it clean in the long run.

Dealing with Dust
Dust buildup not only looks bad, but it can also be bad for allergies.
—Skip the feather duster - it just spreads dust around. For fast dusting, use multi-surface cleaning wipes to pick up dust from furniture and electronics. When you dust, work from the top down.
—Cut back on dust by making sure your vacuum cleaner bags and filters are clean and in good working order. This will keep dust and debris from being blown out into the air as you vacuum.
—Change your furnace filter regularly and dust or vacuum vents to keep buildup to a minimum.

Kitchen
—Use steam to clean the inside of the microwave. Bring two cups of water to a boil in the microwave, keep the door closed and let the water sit for a few minutes. The steam loosens dried-on food particles, making it easier to wipe them away. For a fresh scent, drop a slice or two of lemon in the water before boiling. Keep it clean by using food covers to prevent food splatters.
—Keeping the sink, counters and appliances clean and sanitized is fast and easy with a multi-purpose cleaner. A quick pump onto a paper towel, rag or sponge and you can wipe away messes and kill 99.9 percent of common household bacteria in no time. Use a cleaner that works on a variety of hard, non-porous surfaces.
—Don’t forget to clean the outside of the refrigerator and freezer. Clear off the clutter of notes, coupons and photos, and then clean the doors, handles and seals.

Bathroom
—To keep the counter clean of little messes and smudges, use an antibacterial product. Dab the cleaner onto a rag or tissue and wipe down the counter, faucet and any other hard, non-porous surfaces to clean and sanitize quickly.
—To get rid of soap scum, clean the tub and shower with a foaming cleanser that does most of the work for you, and simply rinse it off. Wash shower curtains and liners according to label instructions.
—To help prevent soap scum buildup in the future, try switching to a liquid shower gel. Bar soaps have binders that are a primary cause of soapy residue. You can also use a towel to quickly wipe down the tub and faucets after each shower.

Floors
—If you have the time and money to rent and use a carpet cleaner, now’s the time to do it. If not, target stains with a carpet cleaner and give all your carpets a good vacuuming. Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and rugs to absorb odors.
—Steam mops are a great way to quickly clean multiple flooring surfaces without a mop and bucket. You can do a whole room in just a few minutes.
—A lot of the dirt and dust in a home is brought inside on the soles of your shoes. To keep carpets and flooring clean, place doormats inside and outside each entrance and always take your shoes off when entering.

Source: Windex

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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80 percent of Americans Support New Postal Service Delivery Schedule

February 18, 2013 2:38 am

The U.S. Postal Service released the results of a new survey today showing 80 percent of Americans support the new six-day package, five-day mail delivery schedule announced last week that the Postal Service intends to implement the week of Aug. 5, 2013. The survey, commissioned for the Postal Service, was completed by Ipsos, a leading independent market research company.

"These survey results illustrate the strong public support for our new delivery schedule in communities across the country," said Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe. "The American public understands the financial challenges of the Postal Service and supports this new delivery schedule as a prudent, responsible and reasonable approach to address our urgent financial situation."

The survey, conducted between February 8-11, shows consistently high support for the new six-day package, five-day mail delivery schedule among urban, suburban, and rural communities as well as among all age groups and income levels.

Support rose to 85 percent among all respondents when asked if they would support the new delivery schedule if it helped stabilize the financial situation of the Postal Service.

Market research previously conducted by the Postal Service and independent research by major news outlets indicated that nearly seven out of ten Americans (70 percent) supported the switch to five-day delivery as a way for the Postal Service to reduce costs in its effort to return the organization to financial stability. By maintaining six-day package delivery, support for the new delivery schedule increased to 80 percent, according to the recent survey results. While recent surveys conducted by major news outlets again show seven out of ten Americans support moving to a five-day mail delivery schedule, the USPS poll results are slightly higher because it emphasized the continued six-day delivery of packages and that the new delivery schedule would help improve the financial footing of the Postal Service.

Source: USPS

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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List of Improving Housing Markets Expands to 259

February 15, 2013 2:36 am

The number of improving housing markets expanded for a sixth consecutive month to a total of 259 metropolitan areas on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI). This total is up from 242 markets listed as improving in January.

Notably, the IMI list now contains markets from all 50 states, suggesting that the housing recovery has substantial momentum.

The IMI identifies metro areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. A total of 20 new metros were added to the list and three were dropped from it this month. Newly added metros include such geographically diverse locations as Rome, Ga.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Racine, Wis.

Just over 70 percent of the 361 metros covered by the IMI are listed as improving in February. That marks a significant improvement from when the index was initiated with just 12 improving metros in September of 2011.

The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top improving Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau. NAHB uses the latest available data from these sources to generate a list of improving markets. A metropolitan area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months following those measures’ respective troughs before being included on the improving markets list.

A complete list of all 259 metropolitan areas currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in February, is available at www.nahb.org/imi.

Read this original post on NAHB's Eye on Housing blog.

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Homeownership Remains an Essential Part of the American Dream

February 15, 2013 2:36 am

In a recent survey of 1,060 homeowners conducted online by Research Data Technology, Inc. from November 16 to November 27, 2012, 79 percent believe that homeownership remains an essential part of the American dream. Additionally, 76 percent remain confident that if they wished to purchase a new home in the future that they would be able to sell their current home, obtain a mortgage and afford a down payment despite the recent recession and housing market crash.

Of those surveyed, slightly more than half believe the housing market will take 12 months or less to recover and only 19 percent are postponing a home purchase or sale because of a weak housing market.

"Low rates, affordable home prices and a recovering housing market have created a unique window of opportunity for potential homebuyers. The good news is that the housing market is steadily improving and upcoming lending regulations will hopefully provide the clarity needed for lenders to have renewed confidence," said Doug Lebda, chairman and CEO of LendingTree. "Consumers still value owning a home and despite a few difficult years, they remain optimistic that homeownership is a possibility. Now is a great time to invest in a home and make the American Dream reality, if purchasing a home aligns with your financial situation, goals and priorities."

Consumer confidence is even stronger when it comes to home-loan refinancing with 89 percent of those surveyed being confident that they will be able to refinance their mortgage with only 11 percent being uncertain. One in three surveyed had already refinanced their current mortgage, 28 percent still plan to do so and a remaining third are unsure of their plans to take advantage of the historically low interest rates.

Source: LendingTree

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Small Changes You Can Make to be More Heart Healthy

February 15, 2013 2:36 am

Do more. Eat right. Know your numbers. It can't be that simple, right? Northwestern Medicine® cardiologist Clyde Yancy, MD says it is that simple, and has some other little known facts that can help all of us improve our heart health.

While many of us may be focused on maintaining New Year's resolutions after overindulging during the numerous festivities of the holiday season, Dr. Yancy says there are some treats to be enjoyed throughout the year, if done in moderation and part of an overall healthy diet.

"Chocolate can be healthy because it's rich with cocoa and flavonoids," explained Yancy. "The cocoa increases blood flow, which can help mood and maybe even make you smarter, and flavonoids reduce inflammation, promoting healthy arteries and help fight aging by preventing and repairing cellular damage."

Flavonoids may also protect against dementia, Alzheimer's disease and some cancers. Before rushing off to eat a pound of dark chocolate, Yancy reminds us that moderation is the key. While chocolate may have healthy components, the high levels of sugar and fat can be detrimental to heart health if consumed in high quantities.

Another surprisingly heart healthy item is wine, red or white, but Yancy says it is likely not because of the alcohol. "A substance in wine known as resveratrol, which is found in the skins and seeds of grapes, may possess a number of benefits that protect the heart," said Yancy. Since red wines often have extended contact time with the grape's skins, they will naturally have higher levels of resveratrol. But, white wines also have healthy elements. Again, moderation is the key issue – too much wine will limit any health benefits of moderate consumption.

"While treats like chocolate and wine are fine, they must be part of an overall healthy diet that includes foods rich in nutrients," claims Yancy. One item that no diet should lack is fiber, specifically soluble fiber, which is shown to lower both bad cholesterol and risk of diabetes. We often think of oatmeal when we talk about fiber, but Yancy says that fiber can be found in some other surprising places. An apple a day keeps the doctor away is true because of the high fiber content in apples, and there's even more fiber in raspberries. The tip here is to eat the most colorful fruit to get the most fiber.

Beyond eating nutritious foods, exercise is a necessary part of any heart healthy lifestyle. All exercise is good for your heart, especially cardiovascular or aerobic activity sessions lasting 30 minutes, at least three to four times per week. Yancy says women shouldn't be as worried about eliminating a little extra bottom fat, but should focus more on fat around the organs, like belly fat. "Yes, fat is bad, but some kinds of body fat are not quite as bad as others," explained Yancy. "To keep a check on dangerous belly fat, we can measure this using the waist-to-hip ratio. With a ratio above 0.8 for women and 1.0 for men, the risk of heart disease increases."

Yancy believes that rather than just adopting the same resolution to lose weight, think more about the overall commitment to health with a balanced diet and exercise. "When you lead a healthy lifestyle that is focused on improving your overall wellbeing, the weight loss will come naturally," said Yancy. "Not only will you feel and look better, but your heart will be stronger and healthier."

Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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27 Percent of Borrowers That Refinance Shorten Mortgage Term During Fourth Quarter

February 14, 2013 2:36 am

In the fourth quarter of 2012, 27 percent of borrowers that refinanced an existing mortgage chose to shorten their loan term, based on the Freddie Mac Quarterly Product Transition Report released today. Further, refinancing borrowers clearly preferred fixed-rate loans, regardless of whether their original loan was an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a fixed-rate.

News Facts
Of borrowers who refinanced during the fourth quarter of 2012, 27 percent shortened their loan term, while 69 percent of borrowers kept the same term as the loan that they had paid off; 4 percent chose to lengthen their loan term.

More than 95 percent of refinancing borrowers chose a fixed-rate loan. Fixed-rate loans were preferred regardless what the original loan product had been. For example, 83 percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM chose a fixed-rate loan during the fourth quarter, the highest share since the second quarter of 2010, while the remaining 17 percent chose to refinance back into a hybrid ARM.

Those borrowers who refinanced under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) were more likely to take out a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. For example, of HARP borrowers who were refinancing out of an ARM, more than 95 percent chose a fixed-rate mortgage; in contrast, of borrowers that had an ARM but did not refinance through HARP, more than one-third opted for another ARM.

Based on 2012 calendar year data for twelve large metropolitan areas, borrowers who lived in lower-priced metropolitan areas were generally more likely to shorten their term compared to borrowers living in very high-cost housing markets. For the U.S. as a whole, 29 percent of borrowers shortened their loan term when refinancing. Whereas, 43 percent of borrowers in the Dallas metropolitan area shortened their term, compared with 14 percent of those in the San Francisco metropolitan area.

"Fixed mortgage rates averaged 3.36 percent for 30-year loans and 2.67 percent for 15-year product during the fourth quarter in Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, the lowest quarterly averages recorded in our survey," says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. "For borrowers motivated to refinance by low fixed-rates, they could obtain even lower rates by shortening their term. Further, a shorter-term, fully amortizing loan reduces the loan balance faster and builds home equity sooner."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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