RE/MAX 440
Susanne Porter ABR, CRS, GRI
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Susanne Porter ABR, CRS, GRI
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309
Quakertown  PA 18951
PH: 267-261-4608
O: 215-538-4400
C: 267-261-4608
F: 267-354-6883 
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8 Ways First-Time Homebuyers Can Prepare for a Mortgage

March 27, 2015 12:27 am

(BPT) - When it comes to buying your first home, a lack of knowledge and experience can lead to costly mistakes. One in four first-time homebuyers say they are completely unfamiliar with the mortgage financing process, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Even among those with an understanding of the overall process, the report found that many first-time homebuyers still had significant knowledge gaps in important areas such as available mortgage rates, closing costs, down-payment requirements and income required to qualify for a loan.

First-time homebuyers can become mortgage-ready with these tips.

1. Adjust your budget. A mortgage payment can increase your monthly housing expenses, so prepare by calculating what that amount will be and begin saving that same amount every month so you can get used to the budget change in advance.

2. Plan for a down payment. Nearly all home loans will require you to put some money down as a down payment. Some home loans may require as much as 20 percent of the purchase cost as a down payment, although some Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans may require less. Decide on the amount you think you'll need and create a savings plan to help you reach that goal.

3. Consider the location and type of home you want to buy. Many factors influence the cost of a home, including its location, size, style and more. A larger home in a high-income area will generally cost more, and property taxes will be higher on a bigger, newer, well-located home. Many first-time homebuyers find manufactured or mobile homes are a good option. Knowing the estimated cost of the type of home you want to purchase can help you better manage your budget.

4. Stay on top of your credit. Lenders will consider your credit score and report history when determining your mortgage eligibility and the interest rate they may offer you. Make sure to review your credit report in advance. You can download a free credit report once a year from all three major bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you're planning to apply for a mortgage, it's a good idea to review your report more frequently and to consider paying to obtain your credit score from at least one major bureau. If your report contains errors, work with the credit bureaus to have them corrected before you apply for a mortgage.

5. Keep current on monthly bills. While it's important to save toward a down payment, don't let monthly bills slide. Paying your bills on time every month can help increase your credit score, and a good payment history is something lenders look for when reviewing your credit report. Use online tools like email reminders and automatic payment options to help ensure you never miss or make a late payment.

6. Work on your debt. If you have delinquent balances, bring them up to date as quickly as possible. If you carry a lot of revolving credit card debt, you may want to work to reduce it by paying more than the monthly minimum payment. While it helps to have a report that shows no late payments, the most important thing is to not have any delinquent balances before you apply for a mortgage.

7. Plan for escrow. In addition to the amount you will need each month toward repaying your mortgage, you'll need escrow - an amount added to and collected with each monthly mortgage payment that is applied toward annual homeowners' insurance premiums and/or taxes. Estimating taxes and total insurance costs can help you better understand how much your escrow will be each month, and you'll be able to budget more accurately as you prepare for homeownership. Don't forget that this amount may adjust every 12 months if your insurance premium or taxes change for the next year.

8. Take advantage of educational resources. Check out resources like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protect Your Identity from Tax Fraudsters

March 26, 2015 2:24 am

As identity theft claims continue to rise, consumers must take extra precautions to prevent tax fraud when preparing and filing their tax returns, warn the experts at CreditSesame.com. Consider the following tips when filing taxes this year:

1. File Early
The best defense is to file early. The sooner you file your taxes, the less chance a thief has to file ahead of you and claim a refund. Victims of tax-related identity theft say they now have to wait a year or more to get their refund.

2. Monitor Your Mail
Watch your mailbox closely – identity thieves will be watching it, too. As the IRS increases its vigilance for detecting identity theft and bogus returns, thieves need as much information as possible about you to fool the IRS. The easiest way to get that information is from your mail.

3. Choose a Tax Preparer Carefully

Choose your tax preparer carefully. You risk handing over your most personal financial information to an individual or company whose commitment to security and privacy might not be what you expect.

4. Write Out ‘Internal Revenue Service’ on Checks

If you have to send a check to the IRS, make sure you spell out the words ‘Internal Revenue Service’. A common scam is to steal mail looking for checks made out to the IRS, change the ‘I’ to an ‘M’ or ‘T’, and simply deposit the check in an account opened in that name. It may be months before you discover the check has been stolen, and only after the IRS pursues you for non-payment.

5. Check Your Credit Report
If an identity thief has enough personal information to file a fraudulent tax return in your name, they also have enough information to open new accounts and take out loans in your name. Check your credit reports regularly.

Source: CreditSesame.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Organized Households Can Alleviate Stress

March 26, 2015 2:24 am

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Decluttr.com, 36 percent of homeowners think at least half of their home is disorganized. Not only could they feel more organized in their homes, but they could also save time and a great deal of stress, says Stephen Sumner, group marketing director of Decluttr.com.

"We want Americans to realize that organization isn't just about making sure your home looks clean," says Sumner. "It is also about peace of mind and actually ends up saving people a significant amount of time in their day when they know where things are in their home."

The NAPO/Decluttr.com survey also found that 37 percent of those who hired a personal organized felt less stressed at home. More than a third of respondents listed family living spaces as the most disorganized area of their home. Eighty-five percent of respondents believed they’d save up to an hour a day if they were more organized.

Source: Decluttr

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Designing Your Own Outdoor Oasis

March 26, 2015 2:24 am

(Family Features) Creating a perfect outdoor oasis requires careful planning for the entire space. While the arrival of spring is the perfect time to start thinking about landscape elements, don't overlook the details that truly bring an outdoor space to life. Whether you're looking to create a family-friendly space for entertaining, a serene poolside retreat or a secret garden that showcases your green thumb, have a clear idea of how you’d like your finished space will look and feel.

Though tastes and trends may change from one season to the next, selecting the right furniture pieces from the start will let you bring fresh new looks to your outdoor space in other ways. Sectional seating is an attractive option because it allows you to redefine your space in minutes. Hosting a party? Strategically placed sectional seating can open up your space and encourage an evening of mingling. Prefer a more intimate arrangement for poolside conversations or a date-night in? The sectional can be rearranged into a closer configuration.

To round out your furniture, consider the highly functional but often underrated garden stool. Place one in a quiet corner for meditative moments, pair them to create a one-of-a-kind coffee table, or pull one up when you need an extra seat. As an added bonus, when cooler weather returns, you can pull your garden stool indoors for a sweet reminder of summer.

Investing in the right pieces will save you time and money in the long run. When you're ready for a new look, you can easily change the feel of your patio with accessories or a new brightly colored accent piece, such as a tiled bistro table or outdoor Papasan chair.

Once your furniture is in place, you've got a blank slate to play with and most importantly, to accessorize! Accessorizing is where the decorating happens and your personal style shines through.

Add pillows, cushions, umbrellas, outdoor rugs and even outdoor curtains to your space, and what started as a dull patio will begin to transform into an extension of your home. To mix patterns like a pro, choose pillows and rugs in the same color family, vary the scale of your patterns and introduce textures to ensure that they don't compete with each other.

Be sure to layer in treasures that are uniquely you -- lanterns, wall decor, statues and wind chimes -- to establish a space bursting with personality.

Remember, small changes can make a big impact. Refresh last year's patterns with the new trends, or simply add a few new accessories into your existing decor for a budget-friendly way to satisfy your urge to update.

Source: Pier 1

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Jump into Spring 'Fitness New Year'

March 25, 2015 12:24 am

As spring begins and outdoor temperatures rise, Americans are more inclined to get on track with their fitness goals. Celebrated as a time of renewal, experts say that many Americans renew waning physical fitness resolutions as spring arrives in anticipation of warmer months ahead.

"After more than forty years of practicing medicine and helping patients commit to fitness regimens, I've seen time and again that the start of spring marks 'Fitness New Year,'" says renowned cardiologist and fitness expert, Dr. James Rippe, editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. "Warmer weather and longer days, combined with motivation to get in shape for summer activities and vacations, are now only weeks away, and people are more conscious of their appearance as they want to shake off winter fat, layers of clothes and cabin fever."

For those looking to "celebrate" Fitness New Year by renewing their exercise goals and committing to maintain personal health and wellness, Dr. Rippe recommends the following:

1. Set your motivation. Use spring and summer social events as "deadlines" for your goals. Whether it's a dress you want to wear to a wedding or a waist size you want to achieve before vacation or family reunion, setting a date will help keep you motivated and on-schedule.

2. Walk before you run. Be smart in how you start your path to fitness. Walk before you run or try pushups before lifting weights. Taking on too much too quickly risks injury that can derail your routine and discourage you from meeting your goal.

3. Joint health is essential. Joint health is key to overall health and wellness. Remember to properly stretch and nourish your joints, so your knees, elbows and back are strong enough to help maintain your activity level.

4. Make a plan.
Before embarking on a new fitness journey, seek resources on which supplements can best support an active lifestyle. Consult a physician about your physical health and conduct further research on ways to keep motivated and kick-start a daily fitness routine.

Fitness New Year marks the beginning of spring and renewal of fitness goals. By focusing on activities that fit individual lifestyles, nourishing the body with a proper balance of food and supplements and becoming knowledgeable about the benefits of physical activity, people of all ages can kick-off and maintain their Fitness New Year resolutions for many springs to come.

Source: Osteo Bi-Flex

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housing to Pick Up Steam

March 25, 2015 12:24 am

Much of the economic activity expected at the beginning of 2015 should shift into the second quarter, with growth strengthening in coming quarters, reports Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group. Despite downside risks, upbeat labor market conditions and positive consumer and business fundamentals should push growth to 2.8 percent this year.

"We continue to expect the economy to drag housing upward as we move into the second quarter,” says Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae chief economist. “The economy is getting a boost from the strong employment numbers we’ve seen last year and at the start of 2015. When this employment growth partners with income growth and consumers experience a rise in their personal household income, we should see a similar boost in the housing sector.

“Overall, we expect an improving 2015 with continued economic growth bringing housing above 2014 levels,” adds Duncan.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Claim the Home Office Deduction

March 25, 2015 12:24 am

Taxpayers with home-based businesses filing their 2014 federal income tax returns can choose a simplified method for claiming the deduction for business use of a home, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Nearly 3.4 million taxpayers claimed the home office deduction in tax year 2012, totaling more than $10 billion in deduction.

Normally, home-based businesses are required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions. Instead, taxpayers choosing the simplified method need only complete a short worksheet in the tax instructions and enter the result on their tax return. Self-employed individuals claim the home office deduction on Schedule C, Line 30; farmers claim it on Schedule F, Line 32; and eligible employees claim it on Schedule A, Line 21.

Introduced in tax year 2013, the optional deduction is designed to reduce the paperwork and recordkeeping burden for small businesses. The optional deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet.

Though homeowners using the simplified method cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method.

Business expenses unrelated to the home, such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees, are still fully deductible. Long-standing restrictions on the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office be used regularly and exclusively for business and the limit tied to the income derived from the particular business, still apply under the simplified method.

Source: IRS.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Are We So Mad about March Madness?

March 24, 2015 2:18 am

In the world of sports and competition, March Madness holds a special place in the hearts of basketball fans. Millions of Americans are getting ready to take part in the chaotic tradition of betting on teams and fueling rivalries with colleagues, friends, and family. But what's behind this synchronized frenzy?

Dr. Pamela Vincent, psychology faculty at Ashford University, offers insight into the manic behavior that led to the term March Madness:

It's Only Natural – Humans have an innate drive toward competition, a leftover trait stemming from times when it was necessary to compete for food, shelter, and mates in order to survive. Although the need to hunt for food and safety aren't there to the same extent today (in most cases), we still enjoy that competitive spirit when it comes to things like sports.

A Slam Dunk – It's easy to throw $5 into an office pool during March Madness because there's the outside chance that you might win the whole pot without really having to do any hard work. It's even easier to understand why the person who won last year (or the person who is just coming down from the office's fantasy football season win) would throw some money into the game. He or she has already seen the rewards for joining in, and is therefore reinforced to try their luck again. Reinforcement suggests that when a behavior is rewarded, we are more likely to repeat it. So, if you take a gamble on a game and win, you are more likely to gamble on the next game.

The Thrill of the Chase – Betting is based on a variable partial reinforcement schedule, meaning that you can't really predict when you'll be rewarded again. Imagine that you knew you'd win every third year. Well, there's really no reward in playing during years one, two, four, or five because you know you won't earn a return on your investment. But with betting, you never know which bracket will be your lucky one or which year your team will to make it to the end, so you are even more likely to compete due to the inconsistent reward system.

The Ball's in My Court – So why do those who have no real stake in the games and perhaps choose teams based on fun mascots or colorful uniforms get involved in the tradition? First, if you are competing within a small office, you may be influenced by the "availability heuristic," which suggests that we tend to overestimate our likelihood of winning. You see 30 people in your office and figure, "Well, somebody has to win – why not me?" For the notorious annual "losers" who over-analyze, pick all of the wrong upsets and end up with only three out of the top 32 each year, there is the "gambler's fallacy" in which a person feels that he or she is overdue for a win despite all other factors in the game.

Very Superstitious – Another interesting aspect of gambling during March Madness is the superstition that comes into play. This behavior ranges from wearing the same socks while watching a favorite team to making your friend leave the room so your team can score. Logically, we know that these behaviors have absolutely no effect on whether or not a foul shot is made or a rebound is caught, but when things occur outside of our control, we either choose to avoid the anxiety-producing events or establish methods of coping with them. In other words, we create our own semblance of control and finding the most rational or predictable element in our environment.

So, will drinking a chocolate shake during every game help someone finally win this year? "Not likely," said Vincent. "But hey, there's no bad excuse for a chocolate shake and just maybe this time you'll have the lucky bracket."

Source: Ashford University

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Report: 1 in 10 U.S. Residents Want to Move

March 24, 2015 2:18 am

Nearly 10 percent of U.S. residents are dissatisfied with their current housing, neighborhood, local safety or public services to the point that they want to move, according to a recently released U.S. Census Bureau report, Desire to Move and Residential Mobility: 2010-2011. However, only 18.3 percent of the 11.2 million householders who wanted to move actually did so between 2010 and 2011.

"Fifty-six percent of people who didn’t move in 2010 but wanted to no longer wanted to move when interviewed again the following year. However, this does not necessarily mean that these residents were satisfied with where they lived,” said Peter Mateyka, an analyst with the Census Bureau’s Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch and the report author. “Some additional factors that influence if people move include time, money, health and suitable alternative homes, which may explain why many people change their minds about moving.”

Who wants to move?

Young householders: About 14.6 percent of householders age 16 to 34 reported a desire to move, com¬pared with 10.4 percent of house¬holders age 35 to 54, and 6.3 percent of householders age 55 and older.

Renters: 16.5 percent of all householders who rented desired to move, more than twice the rate for homeowners.

Householders living in impoverished areas: Of homeowners who desired to move, the average census tract (neighborhood) poverty rate was 13.7 percent. For all homeowners, the average neighborhood poverty rate was 10.3 percent.

Householders with children: 14.3 percent of households with children desired to move compared with 8.7 percent of households without children.

Householders with a disability: 12.5 percent of householders with a disability reported a desire to move versus 8.2 percent of those without a disability.

Source: Census.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top 5 Spring Interior Design Trends

March 24, 2015 2:18 am

For the winter-weary of us, the spring season is a welcome change. Ring in some spring fever at home with these design tips from the experts at Ace Hardware.

1.
For a trendy kitchen update that won’t break the bank, remove outdated cabinet doors and paint the frames in a crisp white and the interior of the cabinets in a shade of bright green. To make a modern statement, display inexpensive white dishware in the open cabinets.

2. In the world of neutrals, gray walls are still king. To keep this trend chic as the warmer months approach, add artwork and accessories in pastel shades and go for an accent piece of furniture in a high gloss pastel. This is a unique look that will pop against gray walls.

3.
Floral patterns and designs will never go out of style and are the perfect complement to the spring season. Bring the look of fresh florals indoors by replacing your existing pillows with this timeless trend for a quick and easy update.

4. Go monochromatic with a smoky-toned color palette. Try layering four shades of the same hue within a room. Choose one color for the walls, a second color for the trim, a third for the ceiling and a final color for a piece of furniture in the space.

5. Utilize color in even the most unlikely of places by painting the inside of your credenza in a springy shade. Add a glass door and display your favorite glass and dishware for a one of a kind way to highlight the bold shade.

“Each year, spring awakens homeowners’ desire to update their homes,” says Nathan Fischer, design expert, Ace Hardware. “Whether they are inspired to add small pops of color, or take on a larger color project for a dramatic result, our tips were selected to inspire and help homeowners achieve a brand new, on trend look within their homes.”

Source: Ace Hardware

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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