RE/MAX 440
Susanne Porter ABR, CRS, GRI
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309
Quakertown  PA 18951
 Phone: 267-261-4608
Office Phone: 215-538-4400
Cell: 267-261-4608
Fax: 267-354-6883 
SuePorteratREMAX@aol.com
Susanne Porter ABR, CRS, GRI

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Debt a Concern for Holiday Gift-Givers

December 1, 2015 1:40 am

Gift-givers this holiday season are concerned about accumulating debt—even though nearly half plan to use credit for purchases, according to a recent Experian survey. Shoppers plan to spend an average of $806 on gifts, survey responses indicate.

“The holidays can prove to be a challenging time for many consumers trying to manage their finances,” says Rod Griffin, director of Public Education at Experian. “Credit is a useful tool if it is used wisely, but it’s best to create a budget and determine how much one can afford using credit so there are not overwhelming bills to pay in the New Year.”

Some survey respondents have taken that insight to heart, based on these credit-related New Year’s resolutions:

• Pay off a credit card
• Pay the full credit card balance each month
• Pay credit card debt on time
• Check credit report and credit score more often

In addition, nearly half of shoppers relying on credit to purchase gifts will use a major credit card provider; just 18 percent will use a store credit card. The other half of survey respondents not using credit for gifts will pay cash.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Safety Tips for Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and More

December 1, 2015 1:40 am

In winter, many homeowners rely on alternative sources for warmth to offset high heating costs, including fireplaces and wood and pellet stoves. While these methods are acceptable under safety standards, a lack of maintenance can render them unsafe for use, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

“We are raising the flag that if people have not yet had their chimney or vents inspected, now is the time to take this precautionary step,” says Mark McSweeney, executive director of the CSIA. “Most people who use their stoves or fireplaces on occasion don't realize that creosote buildup or blocked vents—due to leaves or animals nests—can cause dangerous problems, such as chimney fires and or carbon monoxide seeping back into a home. We want people to stay safe while they work hard to stay warm."

Aside from having your chimney and vents inspected annually, McSweeney and the experts at the CSIA also recommend:

• Making sure alternative heat sources are properly installed and operating correctly
• Using fuel specified for the alternative heat source (i.e., wood for wood stoves and pellet for pellet stoves)
• Installing a carbon monoxide detector
• Replacing smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries 

Source: CSIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowners: Have You Regretted a DIY Project?

December 1, 2015 1:40 am

Done correctly, do-it-yourself projects can improve the functionality and aesthetic of a home—even add value, in some cases. Unfortunately, according to a recent Zillow Digs® survey, nearly 40 percent of homeowners who have completed a DIY project wish they hadn’t.

"With seemingly endless DIY tips and how-to videos available today, home improvement projects appear easier and more accessible than ever before," says Kerrie Kelly, home design expert for Zillow Digs. "While some DIY projects can save you money, involving a professional for larger-scale projects, especially those that require specialized skills, can help eliminate headaches and costly mistakes."

The biggest regret? Attempting to add or expand a room in the home, such as a bedroom or bathroom, according to survey findings. Other DIY regrets cited in the survey include:

• Re-facing or refinishing kitchen or bathroom cabinetry
• Refinishing a basement or attic
• Replacing or reinstalling new carpeting
• Refinishing, or installing new, hardwood floors
• Installing new kitchen or bathroom cabinetry
• Retiling a floor or shower
• Adding or replacing a kitchen or bathroom backsplash
• Building or installing a deck
• Installing new kitchen or bathroom countertops

But DIYers shouldn’t throw in the towel altogether. The survey also ranked the least regretted projects, including:

• Replacing lighting fixtures
• Replacing kitchen or bathroom cabinet hardware
• Painting one or more rooms
• Installing new kitchen appliances
• Replacing plumbing fixtures for a bath, sink or toilet

Source: Zillow Digs®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Bill Management a Financial Priority for Most

November 30, 2015 1:34 am

With the exception of those earning $75,000 or more per year, catching up—or staying current—on bills remains the top financial priority for the majority of Americans, according to a recent Bankrate.com report. Paying down debt remains a distant second (though higher-income households cite it as their top priority), followed by saving.

“As Americans await the appearance of sustained income growth, the top priority of staying current or getting caught up on bills is testament to the tightness of household budgets,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
 
These findings, however, underscore improved financial security overall, particularly when it comes to employment. Both men and women, and those under age 50, especially, report feeling more secure in their jobs than one year ago.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Protect Credit This Holiday Season

November 30, 2015 1:34 am

Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s important for shoppers to make informed decisions about holiday spending when taking advantage of Black Friday and other deals. According to the experts at Credit Sesame (www.creditsesame.com), shoppers should keep in mind the following tips.

1. Avoid opening new retail store cards. Retail store credit cards often have very high interest rates and very low credit limits, which means that even modest balances can harm your credit score.

2. Use credit over debit and cash. Data breaches have become a common occurrence, so choose your payment methods wisely. If your credit card information is hacked in a data breach, you won’t be held liable for any unauthorized charges on the card. You can’t say the same in your debit card information, prepaid debit card information or cash is stolen.

3. Don’t spend more than can be paid in full… by January. Don’t go into debt when you’re shopping for the holidays. Consumers should aim to spend an amount lower than what they can comfortably pay off by the due date of their December statement – usually around mid to late January.

4. Check credit reports before December 31. Use online resources to check your credit report and get your credit score for free. As the New Year approaches, consumers often set resolutions to improve their credit scores or financial situations. One cannot improve their score without first knowing what’s on their credit report.

5. Use the credit card with the highest limit for holiday shopping. The credit score protection strategy focuses on keeping the credit card balance to credit limit ratio, or revolving utilization, low. Credit scoring models like to see balances that do not eat up too much of the credit limit.

Source: CreditSesame.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Money Pit: Fixers vs. Total Rehabs

November 30, 2015 1:34 am

Considering buying a home that needs a little TLC? It can be a worthwhile investment—if you know what you’re looking for. Homes that require renovation run the gamut between fixer-uppers and total rehabs. The difference? Fixers tend to lean toward cosmetic upgrades, whereas total rehabs likely need a structural overhaul.

If you’re unsure which category a prospective property falls into, a good rule of thumb is to determine its livability. If you can safely and comfortably live in the home while renovating, it’s likely a fixer-upper. For total rehab homes, the opposite is true.

Don’t count out a rehab yet, though. Many investors see serious profit when renovating a home top-to-bottom—rehab homebuyers may find themselves in a less competitive and less expensive market with unique funding options, often making the reward greater than the risk.

Whichever direction you head in, keep in mind both types of properties should be evaluated by a qualified inspector. He or she can provide a list of potential repairs and replacements, helping you gauge the resources you’ll need to commit to the project.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Weird Ways to Clean Up Kitchen Messes

November 27, 2015 1:19 am

Everyone seems to gather in the kitchen, and that may be one reason why it’s ground zero for major messes. You may already rely on vinegar and water to wipe down countertops and other areas, but, notes home projects guru Bob Vila, there is a world of other and more surprising cleaning options out there just perfect for making KP duty a snap:

Ketchup Magic – The acid in tomatoes does a great job of cleaning brass knobs or copper pot bottoms. Squeeze a dollop of ketchup onto a cloth and buff, then rinse with plain water and dry. For baked-on grime on stainless steel pots and pans, apply ketchup with steel wool and a little elbow grease.

The Glass Sandwich – When a glass tumbler hits the floor, soft, spongy packaged bread works like a magnet to pick up even the smallest slivers of glass. Place a slice or two over the accident area and press lightly, then discard. (But be careful: splinters can really travel.)

Soda, Please – Help restore a scuffed stainless steel sink to its former luster with plain club soda. Moisten a cloth with the bubbly or pour it directly on dingy spots – then buff with a cloth and rinse with plain water. Club soda will also loosen cooked-on crud from a cast iron skillet.

Spritz Away Stained Containers – Want to store leftover spaghetti sauce in a plastic container, but don’t want red residue to stain the plastic? Spritz a little cooking spray into the container before filling it, and there will no tell-tale stain later.

Rub-a-dub Rhubarb – If pots and pans are looking shabby, rub a rhubarb leaf over the exterior to bring back the shine. To banish burn marks inside your cookware, add some cut-up stalks to water and boil for just a few minutes.

Draw the Line on Ants – Ants in the kitchen? Find the point of entry and draw a line with chalk or talcum powder. Once a few ants cross over the chemical compound (calcium carbonate), their brothers will turn tail and run the other way.

Fresh, Clean Fridge – A box of baking soda in the fridge helps keep it smelling fresh. For a sweet refresher, pour a bit of vanilla on a sponge and keep that at the back of a shelf.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Struggling to Get out of the House? Make a Launching Pad!

November 27, 2015 1:19 am

I envy individuals who seem to just flow through each day with everything they need for home, family and work magically located exactly where they need it, when they need it.

But it wasn't until a blog from Taylor Flanery at home-storage-solutions-101.com defined how to overcome one of the most frustrating difficulties many of us have - simply getting ourselves out of the house on time every morning.

One way to solve this dilemma, Flanery says, is to create a launching pad for each family member. A launch pad is a designated space close enough to the door to keep the daily stuff you and your family members will need when they leave the house.

Examples of common items frequently included in a school kids' launching pad include:

• Backpacks (Get these off the floor where you're prone to tripping over them by having them hang on hooks or from a rack.)
• Lunch box and/or snacks, drinks
• Permission slips and other papers to return to school
• Books, including library books
• Sports equipment, or other hobby equipment needed for school or after school activities
• Coats and other winter or weather gear

For an adult's launching pad, consider including:

• Keys
• Mobile or smart phone (Make sure it is charged by keeping a charging station nearby.)
• Mail, such as in your home mail organizer
• Purses and briefcases, and/or diaper bag
• Coat and other weather gear (gloves, hat, umbrella, etc.)
• Packed lunch for work
• Items to return, or for errands
• Dry cleaning

Create a space for all these items around the exit to your home using cubbies, hooks and pegs, baskets, or whatever else you can think of that can compartmentalize each launch pad.

Finally, as with most organizational systems, Flanary says a launching pad won't actually help in the mornings if you don't use it. So get yourself and your family members into the habit of actually placing their stuff in this space as they come in the door, and taking it with them when they leave the house.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Mistakes that Decrease Your Home's Value

November 27, 2015 1:19 am

Keeping up your home’s curb appeal shows more than pride of ownership. It shows respect for your neighbors – and when or if you decide to sell, a well-maintained home means it will sell faster and likely for top dollar. Similarly, maintaining your home’s interior is likely to pay off in the end.

Real estate experts told House Beautiful Magazine these eight missteps could cost you in the long run:

Landscaping without thinking ahead – Trees planted too close to the house or driveway without much thought about how big they will get can cause major problems later – like roots causing breaks in the pavement or interfering with sewer or water lines.

Letting the entryway languish - Unkempt shrubbery around the front entry, or a door that needs updating makes people wonder what else has been let go inside.

Choosing funky paint colors - Don’t choose an exterior paint color that is too far afield of neighbor homes – and stay away from contrasting trim colors that distract instead of attract the eye.

Neglecting the small stuff – Watch out for dirty windows, torn screens or broken light fixtures that show a distinct lack of care.

Hanging on to old appliances – Pay attention to the age and quality of your kitchen appliances. A stovetop too old and scratched to be cleaned properly is a turn-off – and appliances that aren’t energy-savers are costing too much money to run.

Skipping a deep clean – Details matter when it comes to home care. Look out for dirt in the window tracks, dirty grout in the tile or badly stained carpets.

Thinking too small – A small bathroom will seem smaller tiled with small tiles than with larger ones. Peruse décor magazines for ideas that help to open your space.

Neglecting wood floors – Water and vinegar dulls them over time. If you can’t afford to refinish them, have them buffed every few years.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let These Financial Blunders Leave Your Wallet Empty

November 26, 2015 1:19 am

To err is human, but when mistakes affect your pocketbook, it’s not exactly divine.

Don’t feel alone if you’ve committed a financial blunder, though. Two-thirds of Americans have made a significant money mistake somewhere along the way, says Jim Chilton, founder and chief executive officer of the non-profit Society for Financial Awareness (www.sofausa.org).

“One thing I always tell people is that you can’t let your emotions get in the way when you are trying to meet your financial goals,” Chilton says. “When it comes to finances, there is always going to be at least a little uncertainty.”

He says people can go a long way toward financial stability if they avoid these common blunders:

•  Living without a ‘net.’ Bad things happen in life, even to the best people who are trying to do the right things. That’s why you need to set aside savings that will serve as an emergency fund in case you suddenly have major medical problems or lose your job, Chilton says. He recommends a six to 12-month cushion that would cover your mortgage, groceries, utilities and the other necessities of day-to-day living.

•  Failing to check credit reports. More than 70 percent of credit reports contain some sort of error, Chilton says. Meanwhile, identity theft is on the rise. You should check your credit reports annually to make sure you are not a victim.

•  Giving little thought to retirement. Many people fail to properly prepare for retirement. If you think Social Security will take care of you, think again. Social Security is designed as supplemental income, not something that can replace your entire paycheck, Chilton says. You need to plan and save to make sure you can lead the lifestyle you want in your later years.

•  Racking up credit card debt. Credit seems to rule, but cash should be your real king, Chilton says. Americans are carrying more than $800 billion in credit card debt, he says. Making a conscious effort to use cash will help wean you off your reliance on plastic. “If you are struggling with credit card debt, you need to start making a plan to get rid of that debt,” he says.

•  Seeking advice in the wrong places. Uncle Felix may mean well, but he’s not necessarily the ideal person to offer you advice on the stock market. A trained professional is your best bet, Chilton says. Sure, word of mouth can be helpful, but it can be equally hurtful. Before you pick someone to help you with investments, do your homework because you want someone with a good reputation, Chilton says. Check with the Better Business Bureau and do a Google search to see what else you can learn.

•  Trying to do too much, too quickly. Financial problems that took years to create aren’t going to be fixed overnight, Chilton says. So ease into your new financial plan. Instead of a dramatic overhaul that could leave you frustrated, try to make small changes that will lead to larger commitments.

“Even as we get older and presumably know more, we are still bound to make a misstep here or there,” Chilton says. “We simply can’t know it all, especially when it comes to our finances. But if we realize our limitations, we can at least learn to make fewer mistakes and do a better job of setting and meeting the goals we have for our money.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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