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

Insurance Options for the Long Term

April 3, 2012 4:10 am

While just 50 years ago the average life expectancy was 62.5 years, today that number has risen to 78.2 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More Americans are heading into their senior years than ever before, which means the need to make the right decisions regarding elder care is essential.

According to retirement income specialist, Steve Casto, author of “Is Your Retirement Headed in the Right Direction?” there are important questions and answers to consider before making critical decisions about a long-term care plan.

Casto says one of the most common issues is often the difference between what you think you’ll need and what you can actually afford. He offers the following questions and answers to help guide elder-care decisions:

Q. Should I opt for nursing-home or in-home care insurance?
A. When selecting insurance plans, protect against your worst risk first. In-home care is more about maintenance, while care outside the home is focused on crises. Home care is good for when a person needs help getting around. If you had a stroke, however, you’d need to be cared for outside the home initially, so there is a need for both.

Q. What should I select as my daily allowance?

A. If your health deteriorates, a daily allowance of $100 per day could cover all your care outside the home, but only a third of the care inside the home. Your home-care costs could rocket to more than $400 or more per day, so plan for the worst.

Q. What is an elimination period?
A. Sometimes referred to as the “waiting” or “qualifying” period, this refers to the length of time between the beginning of an injury or illness and receiving benefit payments from an insurer. With long-term care, the typical elimination period is 90 days, which means you are responsible for covering the first 90 days of care on your own. Most people believe that Medicare covers the first 90 days, which is incorrect. It only covers it under certain conditions, and not all patients meet those conditions, which include:
  • A nursing home stay that follows a three-day hospital stay
  • Admission to a nursing home within 30 days of hospital discharge
  • A Medicare-certified nursing home
  • Physician-certified need for skilled care on a daily basis
According to Casto, your best bet is to be insured through a long-term care policy for that first 90 days.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Housing Market Awakens

April 3, 2012 4:10 am

The housing market is awakening from its depression-like condition of the past few years and beginning to make a nascent recovery, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for March.
  • According to the report, several positive indicators bode well for the real estate market, including:
  • Stronger economic growth this year will translate into a further reduction in the unemployment rate below 8.3 percent.
  • With stronger economic growth, home sales and originations forecasts have been revised upward.
  • Expect 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to gradually increase throughout the year to about 4.5 percent.
  • New rental construction for 2012 is likely to be the highest since 2005 if the current pace is maintained.
  • Even with a 1 percent dip in new and existing home sales in February, median sales prices moved up 0.3 percent on a year-over-year basis, a hint that home values may be stabilizing in more markets around the nation.
According to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, “The housing market continues to struggle amid strong economic headwinds. However, a variety of encouraging indicators suggest that the housing market may be feeling a nascent recovery, and more neighborhoods may see a stabilization in overall demand and housing values this spring."

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Bringing Your Bucket List Online

April 2, 2012 4:10 am

While you might not be ready to share your bucket list with the world, a new app lets you share your life’s dreams and goals with your social network.

The My Bucketlist app from Remembered.com guides you through creating a list of goals you’d like to achieve in your lifetime, and then brings in friends and family to help you complete them. The app relies heavily on social media like Facebook to connect people from all over the world. Features include the ability to invite friends, create events, and share photos and videos. Once a goal is created, it is matched with connections in your network to assist, and also vendors who can offer discounts and group offers to help fulfill that goal. Of course, this also allows advertisers to reach key groups of potential customers.

"My Bucketlist allows the opportunity to become part of a community of friends and family that encourage, organize, accomplish and share their life goals," says Adolfo Espadas, lead developer at Remembered.com. "By connecting people with similar goals, we believe our users will have a better rate of success as they work together and support each other."

To learn more, visit mybucket-list.net.

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Did You File in 2008? More Than 1 Billion Dollars in Unclaimed Refunds Awaits

April 2, 2012 4:10 am

According to the Internal Revenue Service, there are still unclaimed refunds for those who did not file 2008 tax returns. More than one million taxpayers have yet to file a 2008 tax return and could be entitled to a refund. However, the window of opportunity closes on April 17, 2012.

"The IRS offers a three-year window for filing a federal tax return, and for the 2008 tax year, the cut-off date is coming soon," explains Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. "Approximately half of the refunds available are for $637 or more, so it's wise to spend the time filing for 2008 now, as you are tackling this year's preparation and filing."

The IRS has taxpayers in every state who are potentially owed refunds from 2008. States with the highest number of unclaimed refunds are California (with 122,500 individuals who did not file a 2008 return), Florida (70,400) and New York (60,300).

There are several reasons why a taxpayer may have neglected to file, including having too little income to require filing. But even if someone's income was too low, they likely had money withheld from their employment that is now available to them as a refund. In addition to receiving money that was withheld, filing a 2008 tax return also allows those who are eligible to claim certain credits, such as the Recovery Rebate Credit, the First-Time Homebuyer Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.

To claim a 2008 refund, taxpayers must have filed for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. Taxpayers will not incur any late filing penalty and will be able to receive their refund if they file a return by April 17, 2012.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Credit Criteria Loosens for Sub-prime Borrowers

April 2, 2012 4:10 am

For the first time in over four years, banckcard credit lines increased, reaching $163 billion in 2011. In fact, sub-prime origination growth across all lending sectors is continuing to show notable increases, according to recent U.S. consumer data from Equifax's March “National Consumer Credit Trends Report” and CreditForecast.com, a joint product of Equifax and Moody's Analytics.

For example, the number of bank credit card accounts increased from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011, a product of lenders more aggressively seeking new customers and consumers’ increasing demand for new credit. New credit in 2011 ($782 billion) remained below pre-recession levels, but gained more than 10 percent over 2009 and 2010 levels ($695 and $709 billion, respectively).

Increases in credit limits were also seen in 2011, as total retail credit card limits increased 6 percent year-over-year from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 and total bank credit card limits jumped 24 percent from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011.

Other notable findings from the Equifax report include:

Bank Credit Cards

  • Lending to sub-prime consumers showed a 41 percent increase from 2010 to 2011 as sub-prime borrowing hit a four-year high in Dec. 2011 with 1.1 million new bank credit cards issued.
  • New sub-prime card limits grew 55 percent from 2010 to 2011. At $12.5 billion in 2011, bankcard limits are at their highest level since 2008 ($27.4 billion).
  • Bank credit card growth continues, but is still well below pre-recession levels. In 2011, 39.9 million bankcards were opened, an 18 percent increase from 2010 and the highest total since 2008.
  • The increase in total bank credit card originations was accompanied by a 31 percent increase in total credit limits from 2010 to 2011. 2011 marked the first time in over four years that credit lines increased, reaching $163 billion.
Retail Credit Cards
  • In early 2009, the share of retail card balances held by low-risk borrowers started increasing markedly. Today, low-risk borrowers hold just below 42 percent of retail card balances, followed by high-risk borrowers who now make up nearly 26 percent of balances outstanding.
  • From 2010 to 2011 there was a 4.7 percentage point increase in retail card originations to sub-prime borrowers, making up 31 percent of 2011 retail credit card originations.
  • Retail credit card limits grew almost 6 percent in 2011, totaling $60 billion for newly originated cards.
  • The decline in total retail card limits appears to be nearing a bottom as delinquency rates and write-offs show continued declines.
Consumer Finance
  • New consumer finance loans originated in 2011 (20.2 million) were up over 4 percent from 2010 (19.4 million), and the highest since 2008 (24.8 million).
  • Consumer finance delinquency rates are on the decline, dropping to 7 percent in February 2012, the lowest level since July 2007.
  • From 2007 to 2010, consumer finance loan originations were falling, but the trend reversed in 2011, with $1.2 billion of new loan amounts added.
  • New consumer finance originations for the month of December reached $5 billion in 2011; the last time December originations were that high was in 2008 ($5.1 billion).
  • Consumer finance loans have typically served high-risk consumers, but in February 2011, low-risk borrowers became dominant in the segment; as of February 2012, just over 33 percent of consumer finance loans (by dollars) were to high-risk borrowers while 39 percent were to low-risk borrowers.
Source: Equifax

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Home Trends: Rechargeable Mower

March 30, 2012 4:08 am

Eco-friendly appliances have been popular inside homes for the past several years. But this spring, the Energy Star rated Recharge Mower G2 may be one of the hottest lawn-care trends of 2012.

With no chokes, belts, oil changes, filters or gas needed, homeowners can simply charge this mower up, enabling it to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge. By avoiding the ongoing service issues inherent to gas mowers, the Recharge Mower G2 can consumers time, money, and stress.

Spruce up your lawn for your next party or showing. Spend more time enjoying the warm weather this year, and less time fiddling with your mower. “Manicuring your lawn is what a riding mower is designed to do”, says President Allan Hechtman. “The Recharge Mower G2 is built for users and not mechanics.”

Source: http://www.rechargemower.com

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Calculating Solar Costs

March 30, 2012 4:08 am

Installing solar electrical generating panels in your home is a growing trend for both helping the environment and saving on energy costs. According to residentialsolarpanels.org, homeowners should calculate up-front costs vs. the long-term savings you could enjoy.

For nearly everyone, the upfront cost of a photovoltaic solar system will be a major factor. However, with the yearly utility savings and the government incentives, it can be well worth the initial investment.

Considering a single solar panel can generate 21.294 kWh/month, if your electricity company charges an average of 20 cents per kWh, you would save about $512 per year. If that system costs $20,000, solar Government rebates / Tax Credits could cut that cost as much as 50 percent, so you’ll have to pay back $10,000.

That means it will take you about 19.5 years for 10 x 2 m² solar panels to pay off the system and begin truly saving. And if you consume 1,000 Kw /Month it will reduce your typical energy bill by about half.

Finally, if all the numbers work out— it's time to plan your photovoltaic system placement. A good rule of thumb to use when determining the correct tilt of solar panels is to find out the approximate latitude of your area and set the panels at an angle equal to that latitude.

This should maximize the amount of solar radiation absorbed all year. If the southward facing roof on which the panels will be installed is slanted beyond the angle of your area’s latitude, then the panels should be lifted at the bottom edges, in order to achieve the best radiation angle, whenever possible.

For flat roofs, any of the four sides can be elevated to match the latitude angle.

Finally, to start a power purchase agreement with your local utility, you will have to start filling out paperwork to get approved. One of the first things that you will have to submit is your current electric bills. This is to show what your normal consumption is. If you get approved, you could get some solar renewable energy credits for every megawatt hour you are producing.

If your state offers money for these credits, it could add up to some nice pay for you, according to the folks at residentialsolarpanels.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Lead Paint Hazards and Older Windows

March 30, 2012 4:08 am

If your home was built before 1978 and you still have the original windows, it's time to seriously consider replacing them—especially if you have young children or a pregnant person living in the home.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the routine opening and closing of windows in homes built prior to 1978 can disturb lead-based paint around the windows, causing paint dust and chips to be released into the air. These lead particles are so potentially dangerous that the EPA now requires contractors to be trained and certified before they can perform any renovation, repair or painting projects that may have previously applied lead-based paint.

"Research indicates that the everyday activity of opening and closing windows creates friction that then allows invisible lead dust to enter the air," says Rick Nevin, a consultant to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). "Young children, who crawl on the floor where the lead dust has settled, can be especially at risk. Toddlers put their hands in their mouths…and after playing on the floor near a window, they can easily transfer the lead dust into their mouths. The ingested lead travels through the bloodstream to a child's developing brain, causing many types of neurobehavioral damage."

According to Nevin, one of the most important long-term investments a homeowner can make for the overall safety of a family is to replace older windows, using the EPA-approved lead safe renovation guidelines. "Replacing older windows is one of the best ways to reduce lead risks," says Nevin. "Make sure to use only a contractor that is certified in lead-safe work practices and strongly consider the use of ENERGY STAR® qualified windows. These windows are a healthy choice for replacing older single-pane units. They're energy-efficient and a good value for the investment."

Nevin explains that, according to his research funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), homeowners need to understand there are four key steps to completing a "lead-safe window replacement strategy" for the home. "First, they advise replacing all single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR® qualified windows," says Nevin. "Second, stabilize any significantly deteriorated paint. Third, perform specialized cleaning to remove any lead-contaminated dust. And finally, perform dust wipe tests to confirm the absence of lead dust hazards after the clean up."

Research results can be obtained at www.ricknevin.com/windows.html.

Source: Simonton Windows

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Quick Ways to Think Spring at Home

March 29, 2012 4:08 am

From our wardrobes to our attitudes, spring makes us want to start fresh. The designers at Lamps Plus offer these easy ways to refresh your home in time for the warmer weather: 

Update Colors
Break out of winter by adding the new colors of spring to your home. Advises Lamps Plus design expert and Corporate Interior Design Manager Lynda Gould, “Look to nature for organic color tones to bring to indoor rooms. I love adding tones of green through pillows and glass accents. For brighter pops of color, I really like using yellows and hot oranges.”

Redecorate Your Porch
“I love relaxing on the porch during those first days of spring,” says Gould. “The front porch is such an underutilized part of most people’s homes. With just a little accessorizing it can become a real focal point with great curb appeal.” To maximize the use of the porch, Gould suggests adding a new outdoor rug to help define the space and add comfort under-foot. “I like to arrange outdoor furniture around the rug to create a cozy conversation area. You can add planters to the area for a bit of color and greenery that will look good all season long.”

Make a Bright Impression with Lighting
New lighting can totally remake and revitalize an outdoor space or a room, notes Gould. ”You can instantly restyle a porch area with new outdoor lighting which will also help you enjoy the area longer into the night. If you have a larger covered porch, consider installing an outdoor ceiling fan. These add a real sense of luxury and comfort to a seating area.”

Take the Indoors Outside
Make the transition from the front porch to your inside rooms smooth and flowing with coordinating colors and décor accents, advises Michael Murphy, designer and Style Illuminated design blog writer. “If the colors and textures of the porch and indoor furniture share similar elements, you’ll be able to tie the two living spaces together. This helps bring the outside world of spring inside, refreshing your indoor living areas, and it helps take your indoor style to the great outdoors.” Murphy likes to use pillows, indoor rugs, wall art and accessories to blend the looks of the two areas. “This is a great tip no matter what the season, but it is especially wonderful to do in the spring.”

Re-Style the Backyard Patio
For many of us the more private space of the backyard patio is a natural place to relax and entertain. Not only do most patios extend from kitchen and dining room areas, but they also are a gateway to garden areas and lawns. You can make your patio spring-ready by adding just a few key accessories, says Marcia Prentice, Lamps Plus designer and blogger. “The same ideas that apply to porches will also work with backyard patios, but the scale is a little different. On the patio you want comfortable outdoor seating ideas for eating and entertaining larger groups. I like having lots of umbrellas on hand because even in the spring sitting, in the sun can be uncomfortable, and I also love adding table accents for serving drinks, lighting for BBQ cookouts and other accessories for entertaining.”

Source: LampsPlus.com

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How to Remove Mold from Walls

March 29, 2012 4:08 am

The increased amount of rain that usually accompanies spring can lead to problematic mold problems for homeowners. 

Mold is the single most common byproduct of water damage, appearing in as little as 72 hours following a water damage event (sooner if the water is sewage based), and proving extremely difficult to remediate. Even worse, mold can be the cause of all kinds of health problems, ranging from mild allergic reactions and skin irritation to more serious neurological disorders and respiratory problems.

RestorationLocal.com, a provider of water damage restoration and mold removal services, offers the following steps for alleviating minor mold issues on your walls and ceilings: 

• Start at the top of the wall and work your way down. This will prevent any contamination of clean areas with drips or runs as you move down the wall.
• Wear proper protective gear. Long pants, sleeves, rubber gloves, and a filtration mask are necessary items in order to prevent exposure to mold spores.
• Don’t even try to clean porous surfaces. You will not be successful. Mold gets down inside the surface and cannot be reached. Porous surfaces affected by mold will need to be cut away and replaced.
• Make sure all cleaned surfaces are properly dried out. Moisture is the single most important factor in mold growth.
• Removing mold is never just as easy as killing off the growth. The environment must be properly treated to make sure the problem doesn’t return. This involves disinfecting, sanitizing, improving the ventilation, and reducing humidity and moisture levels. Appropriate humidity levels in any residence should be maintained at 40-45 degrees.

Source: RestorationLocal.com

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