RE/MAX 440
Kathy B. Hayes
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-362-0800
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Cell: 215-498-7058
Fax: 267-354-6839 
kathy@kathyhayesrealtor.com
Kathy B. Hayes

My Blog

Spruce Up a Studio by Making the Most of Your Space

October 19, 2012 8:36 am

Many renters and first-time homebuyers often start out with a small studio or one-bedroom condo, which can result in a lack of space. However, there are ways around this. A starting point is to look at how you can save space and make your room look larger than it actually is.

Trick of the Eye - Make Your Room Look Bigger 

A tried and tested technique for making your space seem bigger - and brighter - than it is, is to use mirrors. One good large mirror can be a bit of an investment, but you can create a feature by using a number of smaller mirrors. Get a great minimalist look with mirrors that are all the same size and shape. Alternatively, for shabby chic, why not look out for some unique mirrors with character - check out antiques fairs, and vintage shops, which can be a real treasure trove.

Saving Grace - Space Savers

One thing that's sure to increase the usability of your lounge, while offering a show-stopping centerpiece, is a sofa bed. Sofa beds promise a great combination of style and substance, and should last through years of house moves and re-decorations. Create a great sense of space, an area to entertain guests and a spare bedroom for friends to stay over, however hobbit-like your home is!

Make Use of Vertical Space

Never forget about the space above. To accent vertical space, consider a tall, slender plant and place it strategically in your small space. If clutter is your main concern, purchase a tall storage rack, book case or other organizer that will draw attention in the room upward. The more people are aware of the space above, the roomier your small apartment or flat will feel.

Source: www.csl-sofas.co.uk

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Cruise Insurance Myth Busters and Other Helpful Tips

October 18, 2012 2:36 am

Despite a chilling start—cruise vacations in 2012 are climbing the popularity charts with travelers of all ages. From river cruises to cuisine cruises to the more familiar Caribbean cruise, there's no shortage of floating vacations to choose from. But whether you opt for spirited adventure on the high seas or restful and tranquil sailing, remember to protect your trip from things that go bump in the night with travel insurance.

Statistically, cruises are considered one of the safest forms of travel, but oftentimes things can and do go wrong. For protection against the unexpected, travel insurance is truly a traveler's best friend. Just like cruises and friends however, there are different kinds of insurance and choosing which one is right for you can be daunting. To clear up some of the mystery, here are five travel insurance myths debunked:

1. I Don't Need It, Nothing Will Go Wrong: Though we hope never to use or need it, travel insurance can provide a tremendous amount of security and peace of mind for a small fraction of the cost of your trip. Travel insurance provides coverage for a wide-range of travel risks, including:

• Trip cancellation (if you have to cancel)
• Trip interruption (if your travels are brought to an unexpected end while on your trip)
• Medical coverage (if you need emergency medical coverage or an augmentation of your current health benefits)
• Medical evacuation protection (air ambulance service)

2. All Insurance Plans Are the Same: There are hundreds of insurance policies to choose from and just like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. The key is to compare, compare, compare. Shop around to get the best plan for your needs at the right price.

3. There's No Best Time to Buy Insurance: The early bird isn't the only one rewarded for his timely action. To receive the most benefit from your travel insurance policy and be eligible for optional benefits like Cancel for Any Reason and Pre-Existing Medical Conditions, purchase your policy within 10 to 30 days of your first trip payment.

4. I Get All the Protection I Need with Insurance from the Cruise Line: Insurance from a third-party source is easy to buy but more importantly, it offers 1) greater choice of plans, 2) enhanced protection coverage, including Financial Default protection and missed connection benefits and 3) better reimbursement benefits that provide financial reimbursement for canceled trips rather than a cruise voucher or credit.

5. All of My Medical Needs Can Be Managed Onboard: It's true that all cruise ships have fully equipped medical facilities and staff onboard to handle most emergencies, still, medical evacuations - transporting a passenger from the ship to a hospital on shore - occurs more often than we realize. The cost of a typical evacuation to the nearest hospital can quickly exceed the limited coverage offered by most cruise lines and leave you with a hefty balance to pay. Medical evacuation policies offering up to $2 million coverage can be purchased from third parties as a stand alone policy or a benefit included in comprehensive travel policies. These plans provide evacuation to the nearest appropriate care facility or, in some cases, to your hospital of choice depending on the company and plan.

For more information, visit www.insuremytrip.com.

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68 Million Americans Believe It's OK to Strategically Default on Mortgages

October 18, 2012 2:36 am

Nearly 68 million U.S. adults (32 percent) believe homeowners should be able to strategically default on their mortgages without any consequences, according to recent survey results. The survey of 1,026 U.S. adults, conducted online by JZ Analytics last month also found that 28 million Americans (13 percent) would likely strategically default on a mortgage and 36 million Americans (17 percent) know someone who has strategically defaulted on a mortgage.

"Our research into the consumer opinion of the economic crisis of 2008 found alarming results," says John Zogby, senior analyst at JZ Analytics. "What jumped out is how many Americans feel it is acceptable for homeowners to walk away from a mortgage and go into foreclosure. If Americans carry on with that mindset, it will continue to cause problems as the economy undergoes a slow recovery."

A strategic default is when a homeowner, who has the financial ability to make the payment on a house that is worth less than is owed on the mortgage, decides to walk away and let the house go to foreclosure. Some of the survey respondents feel homeowners should be able to strategically default on mortgages because they believe the mortgage market has been a scam for many years, built on false promises that took advantage of people that didn't understand what was happening and they never had a chance of paying the mortgage off.

Other Key Findings:

• Stretch the Truth—The survey found that 36 million Americans (17 percent) would exaggerate personal information to obtain credit.
• The New Normal—According to the survey, 77 million Americans (36 percent) believe it's socially acceptable to have a poor credit score.
• Fear of Identity Theft—The survey also discovered that 75 million Americans (35 percent) are more afraid of becoming an identity theft victim than five years ago.

Source: JZ Analytics

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Mortgage Rates Hit All-time Record Lows for Second Consecutive Week

October 18, 2012 2:36 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates falling to new all-time record lows for the second consecutive week on mortgage securities purchases by the Federal Reserve and indicators of a weakening economy. The Federal Reserve's purchase of long-term fixed mortgage securities allowed the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.69 percent to fall below the 5-year ARM's rate at 2.72 percent. The last time the average 15-year fixed was lower than the 5-year ARM was the week ending October 15, 2009.

News Facts

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.36 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending October 4, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.40 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.94 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.69 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.73 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.26 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.72 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.71 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.96 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.57 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.60 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.95 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Borrowers may still pay closing costs, which are not included in the survey.

"Fixed mortgage rates fell again this week to all-time record lows due to the mortgage securities purchases by the Federal Reserve and indicators of a weakening economy. The final estimate of growth in Gross Domestic Product was revised down to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, representing the slowest growth in a year," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac. "In addition, personal incomes rose only 0.1 percent in August, while July's increase was revised downward. And finally, pending home sales in August fell 2.6 percent, well below the market consensus forecast of a slight increase."

Source: Freddie Mac

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Pinterest vs. Facebook: Which Social Sharing Site Wins at Shopping Engagement?

October 17, 2012 2:34 am

Sixty-nine percent of online consumers who visit Pinterest found an item they've purchased, or want to purchase, compared to just 40 percent of online consumers who visit Facebook and found the same, discovers the latest study in the Bizrate Insights Image Sharing and Shopping Series.

While Facebook is far larger than Pinterest in terms of audience size—63 percent of online consumers have a Facebook account, while only 15 percent have a Pinterest account—the study, based on a survey of verified online buyers, finds that Pinterest provides a better experience for shopping discovery, purchase consideration, and deeper engagement with retailer content.

But this is not to say that all social attention should be diverted to Pinterest. Facebook and Pinterest each serve their online shopping communities with their preferred shopping activities, which vary by platform. For example, Facebook outpaces Pinterest in promotions (30 percent participate on Facebook vs. 9 percent on Pinterest), while Pinterest is stronger in sharing (55 percent re-pin an item on Pinterest vs. 37 percent who post an item on Facebook).

The Study, which contains results from over 7,000 verified online buyers in August 2012, compares Pinterest and Facebook engagement across a variety of shopping activities and usage occasions. This third study in the Series continues to provide deeper insight for retailers and marketers seeking to trend how online consumers are approaching Pinterest and other social media outlets.

All reports in this Series can be viewed at: http://bizrateinsights.com/blog/category/social-media/pinterest/.

Source: Bizrate Insights

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New Survey Sheds Light on Consumer Renting Behavior

October 17, 2012 2:34 am

Rent.com released its annual property managers’ report, which captures trends in the rental market by synthesizing the opinions of apartment property managers nationwide. In the 2012 survey, property managers provided insight on drivers for vacancy rates, expected rent increases, how rate increases are managed across tenants, and features which are most important to renters.

What Primarily Drives Vacancies?
Rent.com found that relocating and buying a home have taken the lead as the primary drivers of vacancy rates; this is a significant change from two years ago when job loss was the primary driver. Since 2010 there has been a 30 percentage point decrease in property managers who cited job loss as a primary driver of vacancy rates.

The decrease in property managers citing job loss makes sense in the context of the unemployment rate reports that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides. In August 2010, the unemployment rate was approximately 9.6 percent, but since then has dropped to 7.8 percent for September 2012.

Is the Rent Too High?
Most (62.6 percent) of the property managers surveyed predicted that rents will rise over the next 12 months and 72.3 percent of property managers surveyed said they are actually planning to increase rental rates at their properties over the next 12 months. If the past year is any indication, tenants moving into a new property will face steeper rate increases than renters who choose to renew their existing leases. Apparently, it pays to stay! According to property managers, the average rental rate increase for new tenants in the past 12 months was 20 percent greater than the average increase for renewing tenants.

The survey also looked at exactly how much property managers expect rents to increase for both new and existing tenants over the next year. Not surprising, for new tenants, the percentage of property owners indicating a significant price increase of $100 or more per month was much larger. In fact, it was double. Twelve percent of property managers said they raised rents by $100 or more for new tenants as compared to just 6 percent of property managers for renewing tenants.

What a Property Manager Wants

When vetting a potential tenant, we learned that 46 percent of property managers reported that the minimum acceptable gross income to rent ratio for standard applicants is three times or more the monthly rental rate; while 30 percent will accept a gross income of 2.5 times the monthly rental rate.

Additionally, 74 percent of property managers ranked gross income to rent ratio as an important or very important factor in order for a renter to secure an apartment in one of their communities. Just edged out of the top spot was credit profile and payment history, which 72 percent of property managers ranked as important or very important. Surprisingly, nearly 60 percent of property managers told us that a high credit score is actually not important. Renters take note. When it comes to qualifying for your next apartment it’s best to have your financial house in order with a qualifying income level and a credit profile showing a good history of on time payment, but don’t sweat it if your credit score isn’t 750.

What’s the simplest way to negotiate savings on your monthly rental rate? Half (50 percent) of all property managers said sign a longer lease agreement, for example, 18-24 months vs. 12 months. Just over 8 percent said that setting up automatic debit payments can help as well which ensures that they are paid early or on time each month. This can also help you avoid ugly late fees which will save you money. Lastly, it’s clear that renewing your existing lease may just keep more money in your pocket this year.

Preferred Features

The survey found that 45.1 percent of property managers say according to feedback from prospective renters, allowing pets is the most important feature in their next property; as compared to 28.4 percent who say a dedicated parking space takes priority for renters. This is notable considering nearly 30 percent more American households have cars than pets.

Additionally, 47.5 percent of property managers said according to feedback from prospective renters that a washer/dryer in the unit is the most important apartment amenity while just 9.2 percent said good closet space was on the top of renters’ wish lists.

Source: Rent.com

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Avoid Costly Mistakes by Investing in Home Performance Testing

October 17, 2012 2:34 am

By the end of 2012, homeowners across the country will have spent over $400 billion on home improvement projects, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Since 49 percent of homeowners are planning to stay put in their homes for at least the next six years, according to a poll by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the home improvement market has become much busier than in the housing rush of the mid-2000's.

Investing in home improvements without third-party assessments has led to a number of costly side effects including carbon monoxide poisoning from the HVAC systems, sweating windows, moisture problems in attics, and temperature fluctuations. Testing your home's performance can help you avoid some of these costly issues.

The secret to making your home improvement dollars count is comprehensive third-party testing. Taking your home to the doctor before investing in a potentially misguided surgery is a necessary part of any home renovation. A third-party test can help you invest in only the improvements that are assured to make your home more healthy, comfortable, and durable, rather than those that are the most profitable or convenient for contractors to sell you (and which might cost you even more money to overhaul down the road).

Additionally, there are many local and utility-based incentive programs trying to lure homeowners with the promise of a "$99 assessment," which often doesn't give a homeowner any test data with which to make an educated investment. These programs have goals they must achieve, and their $99 lure seems like a good deal. As with any contracted help, make sure to check the company's credentials and/or secure a solid testimonial from a trusted source.

Source: Illinois Association of Energy Raters

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58 Percent of U.S. Consumers Will Wait for Travel Deals during 2012 Holidays

October 16, 2012 2:34 am

While 56 percent of respondents have begun saving for their holiday travel, more than half said they will still wait for travel deals before booking and planning their winter escapes, according to a recently released report entitled "Holiday Travel Buy-havior." The survey, which includes close to 2,000 individual responses, was conducted in late September.

The 2012 Holiday Travel Buy-havior Report points out the following:

-43 percent of consumers aren't traveling this holiday season, almost double to those expecting to travel more than 200 miles (28 percent).
-Of those who responded that they weren't traveling, 50 percent cite not enough vacation time, traveling with children, and expenses as deterrents from making travel plans.
-Only 17 percent of consumers are able to take longer than a week of vacation for holiday travel.
-Almost 60 percent of respondents said if they had the chance, they'd escape the urban jungle and go to a tropical paradise (43 percent), a snow-covered location (12 percent) or national park (5 percent).
-Only 12 percent of those that responded will spend over $1,000 on holiday travel. 52 percent expect to spend between $100-1,000 on travel between now and the New Year.
-11 percent aren't waiting for deals because they want their travel plans locked down and booked.

In light of these survey results, here are some tips for consumers looking to gain an edge over the holiday travel season:

Travel on non-shopping days—similar to the shopping crush and congested retail parking lots, more people are going to be traveling after work hours and Fridays through Sundays. If you can, opt instead to travel on Tuesday through Thursday.

Go online, instead of in line—if you're traveling out of town for the holidays, then buy those gifts online and ship ahead to your destination.

Find parking and transportation coupons—many people aren't aware that there are coupons and discounts through travel sites for parking lots, shuttle services, and rental cars.

If your suitcase is full, gift card it—if you know that you won't have room for those gifts in your suitcases before you buy them, then save yourself the hassle and just buy gift cards.

Stop at the roadside shops—for those traveling by car, the quirky little shops off the highways usually offer one-of-a-kind items that make a lasting impression.

Source: www.ShopAtHome.com

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10 Tips to Prevent the Winter Blues

October 16, 2012 2:34 am

It's almost that time of year again -- cold weather, snow, ice, clouds and days with less sunlight. For parents, winter is a tough time -- finding activities that are always inside, worrying about snow days and delays and making sure kids get plenty of physical exercise even though the weather is cold and the days are shorter. On top of that some parents (and non parents) have to deal with a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression usually happens in the winter months due to the weather and shorter periods of daylight. Being that this type of depression is seasonal, the symptoms usually come back the same time every year and go away around the same time. The symptoms usually start late fall or early winter and the symptoms start to disappear when the warmer weather and longer days of sunlight return.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
If you are feeling under the weather during the cold winter months but are not sure if you are having seasonal affective disorder, here are some of the symptoms associated with it.

1. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiety during the winter months
2. Feeling fatigue, loss of energy, trouble concentrating and unmotivated
3. The feelings of sadness, fatigue, isolation, etc., start out mild and become more severe as the winter progresses
4. Change in appetite and sleeping habits
5. Social withdrawal - loss of interest in social activities and hobbies

The cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is still unknown, but we know environmental factors plays a role.

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder - 10 Tips to Prevent the Winter Blues

There are treatment options for SAD so you can stay happy during the longer, darker and colder winter days. Here are some tips to help prevent the winter blues:

1. Get as much light as you can even when you're indoors. Open the shade, roll up the curtains, move your desk near the windows, etc.

2. Spend time outdoors during the daylight hours. The weather is cold and snowy but we do know that being outside in the winter months is beneficial. Go outside for quick walks and sit in the sun to help lift your spirits. After a few days of spending some time outdoors, you will start feeling a little better.

3. Add exercise into your daily routine - even just walking produces endorphins and reduces stress hormones at the same time so you get a boost of happiness.

4. Make sure to add some fun into your life. Even though the weather keeps us homebound, it doesn't mean you can't have fun! Instead of feeling trapped inside, find ways to engage in things you love.

5. Be social even in the winter months. Adding more social activities where you will be surrounded with family and friends can give the extra support you need.

6. Take a vacation. Some clients feel a sense of isolation and loneliness in the winter months. If this is the case setting up vacation time in warm, sunny spots can help and give you something to look forward to.

7. Try "Light Therapy." We know that increased sunlight helps improve the symptoms of SAD. There are certain lights you can buy called "Light Therapy Boxes," which mimics outside light and helps you lift your mood and spirits.

8. See a counselor before winter starts. If you have a mild case, you can take preventive methods such as seeking a counselor right before late fall to start talking to someone who can help.

9. Medications - Doctors have prescribed anti-depressants that have worked well for some patients.

10. Psychotherapy is another great option. The therapist can help you identify your negative thoughts and behaviors and help change them. A therapist can also help you find good coping skills to feel better.

Source: Diane Lang, www.dlcounseling.com

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Feds Announce Radon Awareness Week

October 16, 2012 2:34 am

October 15-21 is Federal Radon Action Week according to The Surgeon General. Health agencies throughout the United States have joined forces to promote awareness of the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a national health problem and encourage radon testing during the October awareness drive.

Radon is a naturally-occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas. One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. In fact, a recent study by Harvard University ranks radon as America’s No. 1 in-home hazard. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix if necessary, this health hazard can be avoided.

Radon gas is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. Radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. It caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires, and handguns combined. If a home hasn't been tested for radon in the past two years, EPA and the Surgeon General urge you to take action. Contact your state radon office for information on locating qualified test kits or qualified radon testers.

The federal commitment made by EPA, the General Services Administration, and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on radon reduction and mitigation in homes, especially those of low-income families, many of whom do not have the resources to make the simple fixes necessary to protect their homes and loved ones.

Learn more about the Federal Radon Action Plan at www.RadonPlan.org.

Learn more at www.RadonWeek.org.

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