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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Mortgage Rates at or Near All-Time Record Low

May 6, 2013 1:08 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving lower for the fourth consecutive week continuing to support the ongoing housing recovery. The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage hit a new all-time record low at 2.61 percent for the week, as did the 5-year ARM at 2.58 percent. The previous record low for the 15-year fixed was 2.63 percent set the week of November 21, 2012.

Notable Highlights

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.40 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending April 25, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 3.41 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.88 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.61 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.64 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.12 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.58 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.60 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.85 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.62 percent this week with an average 0.3 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.63 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

"The housing market is getting a boost with mortgage rates hovering at or near record lows. For instance, existing home sales averaged an annualized pace of 4.94 million over the first three months of this year, the most since the fourth quarter of 2009,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “More impressively, new home sales topped 424,000 during the first quarter, which was the strongest since the third quarter of 2008. The sales pickup is helping to support house-price gains. For instance, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that February marked the thirteenth consecutive month that it has recorded an annual rise in its U.S. house price index, which rose by 7.1 percent in the twelve months through February, the most since May 2006. Even with these gains, this U.S. index is still 13.6 percent below its peak set in April 2007."

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Aging in Place? These Kitchen Design Trends Are Really Hot

May 3, 2013 1:06 am

As more homeowners are making the commitment to aging in place, I continue to seek out new resources to help folks with ways to transition their homes for the “'extended stay.” So it was great to discover aging in place expert Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD, CAPS (www.mjpdesign.com), a relatively close neighbor from Connecticut. She noted that design trends toward more open spaces and generous daylight have forced designers to use fewer wall cabinets and the response from consumers is tremendous.

Peterson also points out that more renovations include placing appliances at comfortable heights. Peterson says she used to be a lonely voice encouraging splitting double ovens so each might be placed at a more accessible height, but today, clients are asking for them.

She says beware, however, because this is one of those Universal Design concepts that only works when it fits into the design.

Another source, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Charlie Hudson of Hudson Remodeling in Lynden, WA offers these aging-in-place/universal-design tips:

• Install bath and shower grab bars. When properly installed, grab bars are effective in helping prevent slips and falls. Typically, they are the first item people turn to when looking to improve bathroom safety.

• Replace a traditional tub with a walk-in shower unit. Wonderful step-free shower units can be created in the same space currently used for a bathtub. Walk-in showers can be installed as prefabricated units or as a custom project using materials like tile and glass.

• Consider remodeling to add a ground floor master suite. This type of remodel not only allows seniors to stay in their own home as long as possible, it can also help those recovering from injury or illness.

• In the kitchen, relocate (or raise) the level of your dishwasher to make loading/unloading easier; install pull-out shelves in lower cabinets for easier access.

• Change hardware throughout the house; using levers or “D” pulls can make it easier for all abilities to open and close doors and cabinets.

• Install handrails along interior and exterior staircases; make sure those areas are well lit as well.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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A Seller's Guide to Multiple Offers

May 3, 2013 1:06 am

With the real estate market heating up for spring, if you're selling your home, you could find yourself in the position of receiving multiple offers on your house in a short span of time – even within one day. So, with the ball in your court, how do you decide which offer is most attractive to you?

If you are considering multiple offers, the first thing your real estate agent may want to do is to make it clear to all parties that you have or expect several offers, and that all prospective buyers should be putting forward their "best offer." Although you and your agent are under no obligation to disclose the existence of multiple offers, it will probably benefit you as negotiations begin. Since you and your agent are the only party with visibility to all of the offers, you have the upper hand – each prospective buyer, without visibility to the terms of competing offers, will be forced to put forth the very best that he or she can manage in the hope of winning the sale.

As you peruse the terms offered, here are a few things to think about that may make some of the offers more attractive than others:

• Price. At first glance, it seems intuitive that you would want to accept the offer for the greatest amount of money for your house. If you have multiple offers in front of you, you may be tempted to take the highest offer. And while a fair price is a large part of what makes an offer attractive, there are some additional terms that you should consider as well.

• Closing date. When do you want the sale to close? If you are hoping for a quick close to the sale so that you can get into a new home or just to ensure that the sale is finalized and there are no surprises, you should take into consideration what each buyer is offering in terms of the closing and possession dates. Conversely, if you need to stay in your home a while longer while you are waiting on a new home or because you want to finish out a school year, it might be wise to accept a bid that will allow you to move out at a later date. You may want to also state which closing date you want, up front so that offers come in with dates that are attractive to you.

• Buyer's financing. If you are serious about accepting an offer, you're going to want to make sure that the sale will actually go through. Your buyer's financing is of paramount importance; if a buyer is a risk to secure financing, you may want to look elsewhere. How can you determine this? Always consider a pre-approval letter over a mere pre-qualification. Pre-approval suggests a very good bet that the buyer's lender will extend financing based on a completed assessment of the buyer's risk. A buyer who is willing to put down a large amount of earnest money should also be seen as serious about the offer they are making.

• Other contingencies. You will want to examine the contingencies listed in each buyer's offer. An offer contingent upon the buyer selling an existing home is far less attractive than an offer with no such contingency. Aside from a regular home inspection, a buyer may also request additional inspections for pests, air quality, asbestos, and other features of the property. A buyer with fewer of these requests may be more attractive to you than a buyer whose purchase is contingent upon multiple inspections.

Although it may seem like there is a lot to consider when comparing multiple offers, it's an enviable position to be in. The sluggish real estate market of the past few years has meant that fewer sellers have seen concurrent multiple offers. If you are fortunate enough to end up with multiple offers to choose from, consult your real estate agent and discuss which offer best fits your needs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top 10 Travel Insurance FAQs

May 3, 2013 1:06 am

With summer around the bend, many travelers will be heading out on much-needed vacations and should hopefully be seeking out travel insurance. Here is a list of the questions most commonly asked by travelers on the lookout.

1. Doesn’t my credit card have travel insurance?
No, not in the way most travelers want it to. Credit cards that have “travel insurance” provide little coverage, but nothing in comparison to a separate policy from a travel insurance company. Some cards provide cancellation coverage, but with an annual limit ($1,500-$2,500 per 12 month period), and the list of covered reasons is limited. Interruption coverage is limited as well, as is travel delay coverage. Most importantly though, is that almost no credit cards provide medical expense or evacuation coverage.

2. Won’t my regular health insurance cover me abroad?
Not completely. Most regular health insurance plans provide partial or no coverage while you are traveling in another country. For Medicare, there is never coverage abroad. Countries with “universal health care” might assist with minor needs, but they are under no obligation to do so. In the event of major or ongoing medical expenses, they would cease to help, and they would never pay to evacuate you or help you return home.

3. Will my cruise line refund me?
A little. It depends on when you cancel, but generally you won’t get much back. Most cruise companies have a declining refund schedule where they refund less and less the closer to the departure date, until they refund nothing at all. Generally within two weeks there is zero refund, and even canceling a month before will usually only get you a 25 percent refund.

4. Are hurricanes covered?
Yes, many plans cover hurricanes and weather under trip cancellation coverage. To be covered you need to 1) make sure it is listed as a covered reason, 2) buy before the storm is named, 3) insure for the full trip cost, and 4) some plans require that you buy soon after your trip payment to avoid the waiting period.

5. Are pre-existing conditions covered?
Yes, many plans offer a waiver that removes the pre-existing condition exclusion. To be covered you need to 1) buy your plan soon after your first trip payment, 2) insure for the full trip cost, 3) be medically cleared for travel at the time of purchase.

6. What does travel insurance cost?
Insurance costs 4-8 percent of the trip cost (pre-paid, non-refundable expenses). Basic plans can be very budget-minded at less than 4 percent, and premium vacation plans can be over 12 percent. Travel medical insurance is sold on a trip=length basis, and can be as little as dollars per day.

7. When should I purchase my plan?
Within days of making your initial trip deposit. There are many benefits to purchasing the plan sooner, including maximizing the period of cancellation coverage, and being eligible for pre-existing condition coverage and hurricane coverage.

8. How do I know I can trust the company?
The companies featured by Squaremouth.com are companies that have years of experience with solid AM Best ratings of financial stability, and they comply with a Zero Complaint Policy.

9. What is the refund policy?
A 100 percent refund of premium within the Free Look Period is guaranteed by all companies. This allows travelers to review their policy and return it for any reason within the time period (less a small administration fee $5-$8).

10. How do I buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be quoted and purchased instantly online using a credit card. Since travel insurance is a temporary insurance product, there is generally no underwriting period or medical examination required. You can get a quote online, buy with a credit card, print your email confirmation, and you’re all done.

Source: www.travelinsurancereview.net

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More People Will Be Building with Recycled Building Materials This Spring

May 2, 2013 1:06 am

Every spring, more and more people start home improvement projects. Good news for the earth: This spring, many of those people will be building with recycled building materials.

In a recent poll by Hometalk.com, 91 percent of respondents said that they had either used recycled building materials this year, or were planning to. You can see the growth in use of recycled building materials in these numbers:

• Consumption of composite lumber made from recycled plastics increased by 58 percent in recent years, according to Recycling Today.
• The primary market for recycled plastics is the composite lumber industry, according to The American Chemistry Council.
• According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, 88 percent of today's structural steel is made from recycled materials.
• The Harvard Graduate School of Design reports a sharp increase in the use of sustainable roofing materials.

While recycled lumber and composite decking lead the pack in popularity, other recycled building materials are seeing an increase in consumer demand. For instance, Hometalk.com member Brooks Custom, a fabricator of unique upscale counter tops, has expanded his line of counter tops to include recycled woods, metals, and concretes in order to meet customer demand for these materials.

"At Brooks we are experiencing an increased demand for Antique Chestnut and Southern Yellow Heart Pine from barn beams. These woods are very attractive and include lots of distress marks and imperfections. Our stainless steel countertops look crisp and new but steel is one of the most recycled metals in the world. Over 80 percent of waste steel is recycled and turned into new products, including countertops. Glass is another highly-recyclable material that has gained popularity, and we've seen an uptick in glass specialty tops," said Todd Costello.

"Many of the most popular projects on Hometalk.com are projects that incorporate recycled building materials. People seem to get extra enjoyment out of remodeling and building with these materials. I expect to see even more Hometalk.com members posting projects that involve recycled building materials as the spring remodeling season heats up," said Miriam Illions, Director of Community Development at Hometalk.com.

Source: Hometalk, LLC

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Prevent House Fires and Boost Home Safety with a Few Key Tips

May 2, 2013 1:06 am

Every year home electrical problems cause more than 28,000 house fires and massive property damage. Electrical wiring is the root cause of many of these fires, of which countless could have been prevented. To ensure electrical safety in your home, Constellation, an independent energy provider, is encouraging everyone to review key electrical safety tips.

Faulty or fixed wiring or improper use of electrical cords and other electrical items cause most home fires. Heed the following tips to maximize your home's safety:

• Pay Attention: Flickering lights, buzzing noises, and faceplates that are warm to the touch are all signs that a circuit may be overloaded or wiring may be wearing thin. Each one of those signs is cause for immediate attention from a licensed professional electrician.

• Listen to Your Breaker: If you are continually tripping a switch and having to reset your breaker box, your house is trying to tell you something. There may be a fixture with faulty wiring or too high an electrical load on the breaker. Again, seek professional help.

• Review and Replace: Frayed electrical cords, wobbly ceiling fans, and loose faceplates are more than mere annoyances. You should routinely inspect your home and replace or repair items in need of attention.

• Safety First: Even the best preparation and newest equipment is not a guaranteed protection against fire. Working smoke detectors on all levels of your home is an absolute must. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and you know the proper way to use it.

For more information and safety tips, visit www.esfi.org and www.constellation.com.

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Spring Pest Season Is Upon Us

May 2, 2013 1:06 am

Spring has sprung! As we begin cleaning, it’s important to keep a look out for pets, as ants, roaches, spiders and other pests that overwinter will likely start to become more active in the next few weeks.

"Now that spring has officially begun, and once temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees, pests will begin making their way out in full force," says Matt Peterson, Orkin's Southeast Division technical services manager. "Insects stay in a hibernation-like state during the winter since cold temperatures slow down their metabolism and reproduction cycles, but as the weather begins to warm, their systems start moving again."

Ants
Many homeowners consider ants to be one of the most serious pests. There are more than 10,000 species worldwide, and about 50 of those in the United States. Ants can infest homes by coming in through the tiniest of cracks, and controlling them is difficult because they leave an invisible pheromone trail for others to follow once they find a food source. There are three main categories of ants: nuisance, health (such as fire ants) and structural (such as carpenter ants).

"Another common sign in the spring is a group of ants with wings which can be confused with termite swarms," said Peterson. "It's a common misconception because of their similar appearance. Correctly identifying an ant infestation determines the best treatment method."

Roaches

In addition to entering a home through cracks and crevices, vents and pipes, other items like grocery bags, boxes and purses can transport cockroaches and their eggs. Because cockroaches are nocturnal, if you see one during the day, that means they were likely forced out by overcrowding—a possible sign of a severe infestation.

Cockroaches are filthy pests. They pick up germs on their legs and bodies and can spread disease, contaminate food and cause allergies and asthma. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roaches can also carry organisms that cause diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever and viral diseases.

"Roaches burrow in mulch or bark for the winter," said Peterson. "But since the ground temperature has been getting warmer, you may start to see more and more of them as the temperatures begin to increase."

Spiders
According to a recent Omnibus survey, the biggest concerns with spiders are that "they could bite, sting or attack me" (50 percent) and "they're creepy" (44 percent). However, there are only two species of spiders in the U.S. that are harmful to humans – the brown recluse and the black widow. Most other spiders are just nuisance pests and like to feed on other insects, so if you see spiders around the inside of your home, that could be a sign of a larger pest problem.

"Sanitation is really the most important factor when it comes to helping to prevent spiders," said Peterson. "Some spiders like moisture and others like dry, warm areas."

Peterson recommends the following tips to help prevent ants, roaches and spiders from being attracted to your home:

  • Remove all unnecessary food and water sources.
  • Seal cracks and crevices around doors and windows.
  • Clean up spilled food and drinks immediately.
  • Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home.
  • Thin vegetation and do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide access for ants and roaches to enter your home.
Source: www.orkin.com.

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Get the House Ready for Guests in 20 Minutes or Less

May 1, 2013 1:06 am

The spring and summer entertaining season has arrived. From Mother's Day brunches and Father's Day barbecues to bridal showers and graduation parties, people host an endless string of events in their homes during this time. However, busy schedules can often make it difficult to prepare for guests and give the house a thorough cleaning from top to bottom.

To help hosts get their homes in order, Bissell partnered with home and lifestyle expert Evette Rios to share quick and easy tips that will have a house guest-ready and fresh in no time.

Rios advises starting with the following tasks: do the dishes, make the bed, clear clutter, and vacuum and sweep high-traffic areas, like the kitchen and living room, to clear up dirt, crumbs and hair. Sprinkle some deodorizing powder on carpets, wait for a few minutes and vacuum as usual. Not only does the powder clean up to three times better than vacuuming alone, it also eliminates odors and leaves behind a light fresh scent.

"While these tasks may seem very small, they make a huge impact on the home's appearance and create a sense of order," Rios said. "It will give the impression that you've spent a lot of time and energy on chores when you've only used a few minutes of your day."

Everyday household items can also double as effective tools for cleaning and freshening. Old socks, pantyhose, cotton swabs and vanilla extract are just a few of the items that Rios cites as her must-haves when she needs to tidy up quickly. An old sock is great for dusting blinds; inexpensive pantyhose from the drug store wipe away residue that collects on decorative candles; and a cotton swab dipped in vinegar cleans hard-to-reach grime in window tracks.

"Some of these tips may seem unconventional, but they really work wonders," Rios said. "One of my favorite tricks to freshen a room is to put a few drops of vanilla extract on an unlit light bulb. When it's turned on, the bulb heats up the extract and lets off a delicious scent. Guests love that the house smells so sweet!"

Whether entertaining last-minute guests or planning an all-out party, hosts with the most will be able enjoy all their events when the stressful task of rigorous cleaning beforehand is made simpler.

Source: BISSELL

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REALTORS Urge Preserving of Homeownership Tax Policies

May 1, 2013 1:06 am

As Congress pursues comprehensive tax reform it should focus on doing no harm to housing and America’s 75 million homeowners by maintaining current tax laws for homeownership and real estate investment, the National Association of REALTORS® said.

NAR President Gary Thomas testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee concerning Federal tax provisions that affect residential real estate. Thomas said that homeownership has had long-standing support in the country because of its many benefits to individuals and families, communities and to the nation’s economy.

“REALTORS® know that homeownership is an investment in your future and for many people, owning a home helps them gain a foothold into the middle class,” said Thomas. “NAR remains committed to preserving the current tax measures for homeownership so that millions of Americans can continue to build the kind of financial security that owning a home can provide.”

In his testimony, Thomas said the current tax code contains housing-related provisions that help facilitate homeownership, build wealth for families and provide stability to communities. Altering these policies could marginalize current and future home buyers as well as jeopardize the nascent housing recovery and the overall economy.

Thomas urged specific support for maintaining the current deduction for home mortgage interest. The mortgage interest deduction helps many families become homeowners, which is the foundation for a healthy middle class, and it is vital to the health and stability of housing markets.

The mortgage interest deduction primarily benefits middle- and lower income families. Sixty five percent of families who claim the deduction earn less than $100,000 per year, and as a percentage of income, the biggest beneficiaries are younger middle-class families.

“The mortgage interest deduction makes sustainable homeownership more affordable for millions of middle-class families; these families are the nation’s backbone,” said Thomas. “Protecting these hard-working Americans should be Congress’ top priority as it pursues comprehensive tax reform. On behalf of our one million REALTOR® members and millions of homeowners, we urge Congress to do no harm to housing.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Real Estate Spending Trends - Grounds, Lawn and Landscape Care

May 1, 2013 1:06 am

A new U.S. online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape industry professionals, shows that consumers are looking to increase spending on hardscapes (outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, water features, and walkways) and other specialized services (irrigation and lighting). Hardscaping is comprised of outdoor living spaces and paved, non-living components of a landscape.

The study surveyed 2,219 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,830 have a lawn or landscape. Consumers were asked about their spending on professional lawn and landscape services from lawn care and landscape maintenance to tree care, water features, and outdoor lighting.

Overall Spending Trends

While overall consumer spending is expected to remain steady in most categories, landscape maintenance (mowing, edging, leaf cleanup) will see a modest increase in spending ($700 on average in the coming year vs. $600 in the past year), while spending will increase to hire a professional for hardscapes and specialty services ($2,300 on average in the coming year vs. $1,680 in the past year).

“Despite the sluggish economy, our core landscape maintenance services are holding steady, while consumers are deciding to increase their investment in projects that encourage ‘staycations’ and outdoor entertaining, and ultimately improve the resale value of the home,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP.

Who is spending the most on landscape services?

Men outpace women when it comes to hiring professional landscape help over the past year (39 percent vs. 32 percent), and younger adults, ages 18 to 34, stand out as most likely to have hired professionals for the building of outdoor living spaces, patios, and walkways over the past year (9 percent vs. 3 percent of those age 35+).

In general, 35 percent of those with a lawn/landscape have hired professionals to do lawn and landscape services over the past year, with those in the South (38 percent) and West (40 percent) being more likely to have hired a professional than those in the Midwest (29 percent.)

Why do consumers find value in hiring landscape services?

The most often cited reasons for hiring a professional for lawn/landscape services are as follows: “They don’t have the knowledge, skills or physical ability” (42 percent), and “they don’t have the right equipment” (42 percent) to do the landscape work themselves.

Interestingly, younger adults (18 to 34) were more likely than their older counterparts to say “don’t have the patience” as a reason to hire a professional.

“Eighteen to 34 year olds might be more digitally connected than their parents, but they are still putting a high priority on outdoor entertainment areas. They are looking to landscape professionals to take on work that is not only time-consuming, but also requires a high degree of expertise to be done well,” added Hickman.

Source: www.loveyourlandscape.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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