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

5 Ways to Ready Your Home Heating System for Winter

September 28, 2016 2:27 am


There are three words no homeowner wants to hear in winter: “The heat’s out.”

That’s exactly what can happen if you don’t maintain your heating system, say the experts at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). To ensure that doesn’t happen, AHRI’s experts recommend the following prep list.

1. Call the Pros – Have your heating system serviced ahead of winter to keep it operating efficiently all season long. Consult the database of certified professionals at NATEX.org (North American Technician Excellence [NATE]) for a technician in your area.

2. Clear the Pump – Remove debris that may have accumulated around the heat pump throughout the year—leaves and the like can block air flow through the outdoor unit, reducing its efficiency.

3. Install a Smart Thermostat – Set up a programmable thermostat to not only maximize energy savings, but also to keep your house’s structure and systems protected while you’re not home.

4. Remove Obstructions – Move furniture away from baseboards, radiators or vents to keep heat flowing freely throughout the home—obstructed airways can result in higher energy consumption.

5. Replace the Filter – Swap out the filter in your heating system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A clogged filter can muck up the heat exchanger with dust; a fresh filter can reduce energy consumption by as much as 15 percent.

Source: Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)

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Homeowners Ask: Will a Rise in the Key Interest Rate Impact My Mortgage Payment?

September 28, 2016 2:27 am


Approximately 90 million people could see an increase in their monthly debt payments, including their mortgages, should the Federal Reserve Board raise the key interest rate 0.25 percent, according to recently released research by TransUnion. Most of those people, however, would be able to afford the increase—in fact, 90 percent would see their debt payments go up by less than $10 per month, at an average $6.45.

“Most consumers have the financial capacity to absorb a $7 increase in their monthly payments, especially if they can plan ahead for the increased obligation,” said Nidhi Verma, senior director of Research and Consulting for TransUnion, in a statement.

Ten percent, however, do not. TransUnion researchers report that segment is susceptible to “payment shock,” a “change in monthly payment obligations.”

“Fortunately, we believe it is highly unlikely the Fed will raise rates more than 25 basis points at any one time over the near term,” said Verma. “This pace gives potentially impacted consumers an opportunity to adjust. In many cases, making minor changes to household spend would allow consumers to accommodate the payment shock.”

The key interest rate, or “benchmark,” informs the movement of mortgage rates, which, to date, remain attractively low.

Source: TransUnion

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Researchers: Retirement a 'Wobbly Three-Legged Stool'

September 27, 2016 2:24 am


Americans expect to encounter instability in retirement, as a “wobbly three-legged stool”—employer-sponsored benefits, personal savings and Social Security—teeters in the balance, according to recent research out of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS).

“Today's workers are grappling with retirement security and challenged by the wobbly three-legged stool comprising Social Security, employer-sponsored retirement benefits and personal savings,” explains Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS. “Although the Great Recession ended years ago, millions of Americans are still regaining their financial footing. As each year passes, people’s fears about our current retirement system come more sharply into focus.”

Seventy-one percent of Americans surveyed by TCRS expressed concern that Social Security will not be available when they are ready to retire, and just 16 percent “strongly” agreed that they are building a sustainable nest egg. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed reported expecting to continue to work in retirement, while 15 percent reported that work will be their primary source of income.

“Amid retirement savings shortfalls, American workers are attempting to prop up our system’s three-legged stool by adding a fourth leg: working during retirement," Collinson says.

“Baby boomers’ vision can only be achieved if they are proactive about staying employable and if employment opportunities are available to them. As part of their retirement planning, baby boomers should create a ‘Plan B’ if retirement happens unexpectedly due to job loss, health issues, or other intervening circumstances,” adds Collinson.

Of the baby boomers surveyed by TCRS, 78 percent reported expecting retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs) to be their primary source of income in retirement; 34 percent are expecting Social Security to be the primary source; and 33 percent are expecting a pension plan to be the primary source.

Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS)
 

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FHFA Tosses Refinancing Lifeline to High-LTV Borrowers

September 27, 2016 2:24 am


Mortgage borrowers with high loan-to-value (LTV) ratios now have more options when it comes to refinancing.

The offering, recently announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and to be implemented by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (“the Enterprises”), will provide much-needed liquidity to borrowers current on their mortgage but unable to refinance through conventional programs because their LTV ratio exceeds the Enterprises’ maximum limits.

FHFA Director Mel Watt says providing a sustainable refinance opportunity for high-LTV borrowers who have demonstrated responsibility by remaining current on their mortgage makes financial sense, both for borrowers and for the Enterprises.

In order to qualify for the new offering, borrowers:

• Must not have missed any mortgage payments in the previous six months;
• Must not have missed more than one payment in the previous 12 months;
• Must have a source of income; and
• Must receive a benefit from the refinance, such as a reduction in their monthly mortgage payment.

Full details will be available in the coming months through the Enterprises, but the offering will make use of the lessons learned from the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and its streamlined approach to refinancing. The new offering is more targeted than HARP, but as with HARP, eligible borrowers are not subject to a minimum credit score, there is no maximum debt-to-income ratio or maximum LTV, and an appraisal often will not be required. Unlike HARP, however, there is no eligibility cut-off date. Borrowers with existing HARP loans are not eligible for the new offering unless they have refinanced out of HARP using one of the Enterprises traditional refinance products.

The new high-LTV refinance offering will be available to borrowers until October 2017.  For more information, visit HARP.gov, follow @FHFA on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, or consult with a real estate professional.
 

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Teaching the Value of a Dollar: Average Allowances for Household Chores

September 27, 2016 2:24 am


One of the more effective methods of teaching financial responsibility to children is offering an allowance in exchange for household chores. Providing a reasonable amount, however, is key to ensure the child has a realistic understanding of “the value of a dollar.”

The going rates for the most common chores, according to the COUNTRY Financial Security Index, are:

Making the Bed - $1.18
Setting the Table - $1.31
Taking Out the Trash - $1.90
Doing the Dishes - $2.03
Cleaning the Bedroom - $2.07
Cleaning Surfaces - $2.20
Cleaning Floors/Vacuuming - $2.55
Taking Care of a Pet - $2.66
Cleaning a Common Area - $2.72
Doing Laundry - $2.82
Cleaning the Garage - $5.20
Mowing the Lawn - $6.28

When is the best time to start offering these allowances? Survey respondents say as early as age 5, and ideally when the child reaches age 8.

Source: COUNTRY Financial
 

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Flying Is Not Fun—but These Fail-Safe Tips Can Help

September 26, 2016 2:24 am


Flying is not fun.

That’s the consensus from a recent Consumer Reports survey assessing air travelers’ attitudes toward flying—in fact, zero of the airlines evaluated in the survey came close to receiving affirmative feedback across the board.

“It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when flying was fun, even glamorous, but today’s flyers face a labyrinth of fees and lackluster services,” said Mandy Walker, Consumer Reports’ Money Content Development senior editor, in a statement on the survey.

Survey feedback on coach/economy for American, Delta and United—the largest airlines in the U.S.—came in poor for factors such as cabin cleanliness, in-flight entertainment and refreshments.

Booking sites were not well-received among survey respondents, either. CheapOair.com, which touts inexpensive airfares, had the highest average fares and not one lowest fare when compared to the five other sites investigated by Consumer Reports.

“We recommend doing multiple searches over multiple days to increase your chances of finding the lowest fare—you will notice that persistence pays off in the quest for the best price on travel booking sites,” Walker said.

There’s a silver lining in the clouds: survey respondents gave Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America decent marks for coach/economy, citing ease of check-in and staff service.

Fliers should take these findings into account on their next excursion, according to Consumer Reports. Make the cabin a bit more comfortable with a blanket or sweater and noise-cancelling headphones, and keep a disinfectant on hand to reduce exposure to germs. Consider travel insurance, too, to protect your expense and possessions.

For more from the survey, visit ConsumerReports.org.

Source: Consumer Reports
 

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Study: Is Relocation the Solution for Houses Impacted by Climate Change?

September 26, 2016 2:24 am


Climate change threatens to reshape the residential development landscape—so much so that policymakers are exploring the possibility of relocating residences out of vulnerable areas.

Recent research out of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Regional Plan Association presents an option for residents in flood-prone areas, who will experience more impactful weather events as climate change progresses. That option, a managed retreat buyout program, detailed in “Buy-In for Buyouts: The Case for Managed Retreat from Flood Zones,” could “allow residents to forge new beginnings on safer ground and helps create public amenities by acquiring homes in the flood-prone areas and restoring the land to natural floodplain functions.”

Buyout programs are not novel. They are often overseen by the local municipality, though usually funded by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In most buyout scenarios, the municipality acquires properties from homeowners and converts them to “a less risky use, usually open space or parkland.”

The buyout solution proposed by the researchers aims to keep homeowners with federally subsidized flood insurance out of flood-prone areas—these subsidies will be phased out in the near-term, leading to spikes in premiums for some, the researchers point out. The benefits, they state, are manifold.

“Restricted land use coupled with new amenities can increase property values and, in turn, increase local revenue,” the researchers state. “If local governments plan properly, homeowners can relocate within the municipality and thereby maintain, and even enhance, the tax rolls.”

Asking homeowners or even entire neighborhoods to uproot is “is laden with social and political difficulties,” the researchers add, which is why many municipalities have dismissed managed retreat. The unavoidable impacts of climate change, however, beg otherwise. The researchers conclude a buyout program is one of the most prudent solutions.

Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
 

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Kitchens in 2016: What's Hot and What's Not

September 26, 2016 2:24 am


The kitchen can be the highest selling point of a home, considerably contributing to its value. The hottest trends in kitchen design now, according to a recent Zillow Digs® forecast, are on-target for homebuyers in the marketplace today—and are worth considering if you’re planning to sell soon.

“Homeowners today want an open and thoughtfully designed kitchen that blends seamlessly with the rest of the home's design aesthetic,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. “From hidden appliances to beautifully painted cabinets in complementing colors, homeowners want their kitchen to be stylish enough for entertaining, yet welcoming and functional for everyday use.”

The Zillow Digs forecast pegs the hottest trends:

Hidden Appliances – More and more homeowners are tucking away appliances, integrating them seamlessly visually with surrounding cabinetry—think covered refrigerators or behind-closed-door microwaves.

Tuxedo Cabinetry – Tuxedo cabinets are two-toned—the top and bottom rows are painted in complementary colors, often white and black (like a tuxedo!) or white and soft gray, creating an open, yet grounded space.

Wood Paneling – The farmhouse aesthetic is as popular as ever, wood elements included. Wood paneling, especially shiplap painted white, has become more commonplace on backsplashes or ceilings.

What’s not hot? The Zillow Digs forecast reports:

Dark Colors – Dark wall paint and rich woods (like cherry cabinets) can make a kitchen feel cramped, even if the square footage says otherwise. Count on dark colors fading out in the next year or two.

Short Cabinetry– Cabinets that stop just short of the ceiling are on their way out, and cabinets flush with the ceiling are on their way in—the latter adding height and openness.

Speckled Granite – Granite countertops were once the mainstay, but with more, low-maintenance options now available (like butcher block, marble and quartz), granite (specifically speckled) will be retired soon.

Source: Zillow Digs®
 

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Saving $1,000 in Just 6 Steps

September 22, 2016 2:21 am


Whether you’re new to the working world or have been employed without a budget, the first $1,000 you save may be the most important money you ever sock away. It’s the cushion you need against unexpected expenses, and the cornerstone for building a savings habit. From The Motley Fool come six simple steps to get there:

“Snowball” Your Debt – Attack your debt with gusto, paying as much as you can on your highest interest credit cards, moving on to the next-highest as you go. As your debt decreases, you will naturally have more cash to stow away.

Renegotiate Rates – Most credit card providers will lower your rate if you ask (and have a good payment record). If one provider won’t lower your rate, move the balance to a lower-cost provider.

Cut Spending on Stuff You Won’t Miss – Whether it’s a gym membership you aren’t using, a magazine or cable TV subscription or more cell phone data than you need, rein in what you’re spending each month and redirect that cash to savings.

Find Lower-Cost Alternatives – Fast food coffee can taste as good as high-priced options, and you may decide to brown-bag your lunch four days a week and eat out only on Fridays. Look for savings pathways you can live with.

Sell Stuff You Don’t Use – Try Craigslist, eBay, or an old-fashioned garage sale to sell the stuff you no longer want. Use the cash to speed up your debt snowball, or stash it away in the bank.

Work a Little More – Put in overtime. Take on an extra shift. Find a part-time second job, or use your talent to create and sell your goods or services online or at local craft fairs. Working more leaves less time to spend, and the extra income will help you build that first nest egg of $1,000.
 

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Foundation to Roof: Energy-Efficiency from the Ground Up

September 22, 2016 2:21 am


“I start construction with precast concrete wall panels and then add an insulated basement slab to give my homes a head start on their high performance energy efficiency package. I'm building homes that are more than twice as efficient as a standard home built to ‘code.’”

So says Shawn Jessup, owner of S.D. Jessup Construction, Inc. in North Carolina. Jessup and builders like him are making strides in the energy efficiency arena, constructing new homes with energy-saving features from the foundation to the roof.

The foundation, Jessup notes, sets the “energy tone” for the entire home, calling for add-ons like extra insulation, foam-backed siding or structural insulated panels.

Entry points outfitted with ENERGY STAR®-qualified products also contribute to a home’s overall energy efficiency, adds Jeffery Nofziger, president of Haas Door.

“Advances in steel and aluminum bring both strong insulation factors and beauty to the garage door offerings for the home,” says Nofziger. “Mother Nature can throw some pretty nasty weather at a home, and a garage door takes the brunt of that weather.”

The roof, too, can be an energy-saver. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), roofs are exposed to direct sunlight more than any other feature, which can damage certain roofing materials over time. Jessup recommends using a synthetic tile roof to not only help deflect sunlight (and heat) from the home, but also to stave off roof repair or replacement.

For more on building an energy-efficient home from the ground up, visit Energy.gov or EnergyStar.gov.
 
Source: Superior Walls
 

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