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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Filing a Claim for Winter Storm Damage? What You Need to Know

February 3, 2015 1:21 am

With winter weather set to hit a large swath of the country over the coming weeks, damage to property is likely to occur. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) advisers homeowners to be mindful of these insurance factors following severe weather conditions.

Standard homeowners insurance covers:
  • Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property. Also, wind-driven snow or freezing rain that gets into the home because the home was damaged by wind.
  • Tree limbs that fall on a house or other insured structure on the property—this includes both the damage the tree inflicts on the house and the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500.
  • Damage from ice and other objects that fall on the home.
  • Damage to the house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice that creates a collapse is covered.
  • Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams, a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls. However, there is generally a requirement that the homeowner has taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining the pipes and drains.
  • Additional living expenses (ALE)—in the event that a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster. This would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed.
Damage caused by flooding is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, and a few private insurers. Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters.

Source: I.I.I.

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4 Ways to Keep Clutter from Overtaking Your Life

February 2, 2015 1:18 am

Are your closets brimming with household items? Are you using your garage to store anything but your vehicle? Has every nook and cranny become a catch-all for clutter? Many homeowners believe the solution to clutter is to purchase more – baskets, coat racks, storage units and anything else that will help them stay organized.

"It's easy for homeowners to accumulate an abundance of items over the years. In order to keep your home clean and contented, it's important to edit out unnecessary objects," says Karen Powell, founder and CEO of Decor&You. "Especially after the holiday gift giving and receiving season, now is a great time to consider donating unwanted items to local charities and help others in your community."

Rather than bringing more items into the chaos, evaluate the items currently overcrowding your home and de-clutter your existing storage spaces. Here’s how to do it.

Create a habit: By setting aside designated dates throughout the year to sort through storage spaces, you'll eventually form a new habit. Whether you decide to de-clutter biannually or bimonthly, establish realistic times based on your household and lifestyle. For some, it might be best to align your 'editing out' days with the change of each season. Remember to pencil these specific tasks into the calendar. Doing so will increase the likelihood that they are completed on a regular basis.
Make it a family affair: While the de-cluttering process isn't always considered fun, sorting through storage and buried objects can be very nostalgic. For items holding sentimental value, having the family together for one last reflection can provide closure and make it easier to donate or discard. Including your family, especially children, will help them to develop a clutter-avoiding habit, too.
Reflect, and then make a purchase: When you’re shopping and you spot something of interest, it's easy to immediately justify the purchase. Consider its purpose instead. Is it serving as an aesthetic piece? Is it replacing something outdated? What about its placement -- will it be in the open on your fireplace mantle or end up shoved in a storage bin? Use these reflections to dictate whether a purchase should be made, and establish a rule to refrain from buying excess goods. A good rule of thumb: for every two items purchased, one pre-loved item in the same category must be donated or discarded.
Take 10 minutes a week: Beyond the designated times per year, take ten minutes each week to quickly evaluate what areas of your home need to be tackled and if there is anything simple you can do now to relieve the process in the future. Checking your kitchen pantry or refrigerator for expired goods will save you an enormous amount of time when the big clean-up rolls around.

Source: Decor & You, Inc.

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Mortgage Rates in Holding Pattern

February 2, 2015 1:18 am

Mortgage rates were mixed last week, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate reversing last week's move and settling at 3.80 percent, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.29 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.13 percent, down 3.18 percent from last week. The 30-year fixed mortgage was down 3.81 percent from the previous week at 3.80 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were mostly higher, with the 7-year ARM climbing to 3.37 percent and the 10-year ARM rising to 3.65 percent.

Mortgage rates remain at the lowest levels since May 2013, despite an improving U.S. economy. The economic sluggishness overseas and increased stimulus from other central banks around the globe have kept the Federal Reserve 'patient' about raising interest rates and helped bring both bond yields and mortgage rates lower. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

One year ago, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.50 percent. At that time, a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,013.37. With the average rate now at 3.80 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $931.91, a savings of approximately $81 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Source: Bankrate

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How to Choose a Remodeling Contractor

February 2, 2015 1:18 am

(BPT) – Trusting a contractor with both your home and money can feel overwhelming. Spare yourself time, expenses and sanity by following these steps for choosing the best remodeling contractor.

1. Decide what you want out of your newly remodeled home. Start thinking about goals, amenities and a rough timeline, making sure you can clearly articulate your ideas to a contractor. Idea centers such as Houzz.com can serve as inspiration for kick-starting your remodeling project. This phase is also ideal for researching sustainable building products. By using green products, homeowners save money on heating and cooling costs, and builders can decrease the construction's carbon footprint.

2. Ask for advice. You're not the first person to remodel your home, so don't go through the process alone. Talk to friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers about their remodeling experiences. In addition to collecting referrals, ask targeted questions about how those contractors communicated throughout the process and mitigated any setbacks. If you know a building inspector, ask which contractors regularly meet code requirements.

3. Research and contact businesses. Start gathering information on your referrals and local prospects by visiting their websites or making phone calls. Make sure these remodeling contractors have the required licenses, liability insurance and ability to obtain local permits for your project. Most will also tell you if they belong to a professional association such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or National Association of Homebuilders. The Better Business Bureau also issues warnings about those that might not be trustworthy. Through your research, select three to five potential contractors.

4. Set up meetings with contractors.
After identifying your top candidates, schedule face-to-face meetings with each to discuss your project. Ask questions and make sure communication is fluid and straight-forward. How many projects does the contractor handle at one time? Are his or her past projects similar in scope to yours? If you find a particular meeting goes especially well, ask for references and a bid on your project.

5. Compare bids and references. Think of this step as putting the finishing touches on your selection process. When contacting references, ask them to rate their satisfaction with the project. Did the contractor meet time and budget requirements? As soon as the bids come in, look at the cost breakdown of labor and building materials. The best contractor is not always the cheapest. Now's the time to find out if a contractor uses the best quality products that meet your budget.

6. Choose your contractor and sign a contract. With all of your research on hand, select the best contractor for your project. After confirming with the contractor, draw up a contract that includes a description of the work, products to be used, cost and completion dates and let the project begin.

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Keep Food Items Safe during Power Outages

January 30, 2015 1:03 am

Power outages can happen at any time. Aside from the discomfort of living without electricity, refrigerated or frozen food items may spoil if power is out for a number of days. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends taking the following precautions when an outage occurs.
  • Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer. Check before an outage to ensure that the refrigerator temperature is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer is at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Know where you can get dry or block ice. Make ice cubes and freeze containers of water or gel packs to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers. Keep coolers on hand to store refrigerated food if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.
  • Freeze refrigerated items that you may not need immediately and group food together in the freezer.
  • Stock your pantry with a few days worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration.
  • When the power does go out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours, and a full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if unopened.
  • When power is restored, check the temperatures inside your refrigerator and freezer before consuming any food.
  • If the power was out for no more than 4 hours, refrigerated food should be safe as long as the doors were kept closed. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, eggs, or leftovers) that has been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more.
  • If the freezer thermometer reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, food is safe and may be refrozen. If you did not have a thermometer in the freezer, check each package to determine its safety; you can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals, it is safe to refreeze or cook. Be aware that perishable foods that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause foodborne illness if consumed, even after they are thoroughly cooked.
Source: FDA.gov

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Staged Homes Can Sell for a Higher Price

January 30, 2015 1:03 am

Are you listing your home this year? Better call a stager, says the National Association of REALTORS®. According to NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Staging, REALTORS® believe that buyers offer between 1 and 5 percent more for a home that’s staged. That percentage, some Realtors® believe, can be up to 10 percent.

Nearly half of surveyed REALTORS® who work with buyers believe staging usually has an effect on the buyer’s view of the home. Staging, they report, makes an impact by helping buyers visualize the property as a future home (81 percent), and by making buyers more willing to walk through a home they saw online (46 percent).

Just over a third of REALTORS® on the seller’s side (34 percent) utilize staging on all homes – the majority utilizes staging as a tool in at least some instances.



The median cost spent on staging a home is $675. Sixty-two percent of REALTORS® representing the seller offer home staging services to their clients, while 39 percent say the seller pays before listing the home. REALTORS® on both the buyer and seller sides agreed that the living room is the most important room to stage, followed by the kitchen, master bedroom, dining room and bathroom.

Source: NAR

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Avoid Unclaimed Refunds This Tax Season

January 30, 2015 1:03 am

Toward the end of last year's tax filing deadline, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that more than $760 million in unclaimed refunds would disappear after April 15 – so many dollar bills that, if stacked, they would reach higher than 187 Empire State Buildings! A larger portion of this missed opportunity comes from failing to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

"One in four people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit should be getting up to $6,143 in additional tax refunds, but they miss out because it's complicated to tell if you qualify," said David Prokupek, CEO of Jackson Hewitt®.

One-third of the EITC-eligible population changes each year based on marital, parental and financial status, and many Americans may not know they qualify for this credit. The IRS allows these individuals to catch up, offering a three-year window for filing federal tax returns.

To claim the EITC, taxpayers must be employed or self-employed and have a Social Security number. They will need to show proof of having less than $3,350 in investment income and have earned income and adjusted gross income lower than the following:



Single, Head of Household, Qualifying Widow(er)

No Children - $14,590

1 Child - $38,511

2 Children - $43,756

3 Children - $46,997



Married Filing Jointly

No Children - $20,020

1 Child - $43,941
2 Children - $49,186

3 Children - $52,427

For example, a married couple filing jointly with three children and a combined earned income of $23,000 could qualify for the maximum EITC of $6,143. If the couple overlooked the EITC the past three years, they possibly could claim thousands of dollars more for each year for a total refund approaching half their annual income.

Source: Jackson Hewitt®

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Your Vehicle: To Idle or Not to Idle

January 29, 2015 1:00 am

It’s that time of the year when many motorists let their vehicle "warm up,” or idle, before driving. Did you know that today’s cars are ready to drive in cold temperatures without excessive idling?

"Unless you are trying to defrost the windshield or warm the interior of your car, idling is not required for today's vehicles," says Rich White, Car Care Council. "In most cases, idling longer than 30 seconds is unnecessary. The best way to warm up your car's engine is to drive gently at the start. Remember, a vehicle gets zero miles per gallon when idling and the result is lower fuel economy and wasted money."

The EPA cautions that idling your car longer than 30 seconds increases air pollution, wastes fuel and siphons your gas dollars. It can also lead to engine damage and create issues with cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system.

The idea of idling before driving dates back to when cars were built with carburetors. With new fuel-injection technology, complex computer systems and thinner synthetic oils, drivers don't need to warm up their cars before hitting the road.

Source: Car Care Council

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Home Buying Tips for New Parents

January 29, 2015 1:00 am

Many expectant parents upgrade to larger homes when baby’s on the way. If you’re thinking of buying a new home to accommodate your growing family, it’s important to assess certain factors you may not consider otherwise, including:

Master Bedroom Proximity – Is the master bedroom on a separate floor from the others? Will you want to be adjacent to your baby’s nursery, or are you comfortable with sleeping down the hall? Always consider the layout of the bedrooms before buying.

Pool Safety – If you’re seeking a home with a pool, keep in mind that your child will likely venture outside before he or she knows how to swim. Is the pool appropriately gated, with no holes or gaps in fencing? Are all latches and locks in proper working order? Is the door leading outside secure?

Property Hazards – Evaluate the home for any potential dangers, including stairs, tree roots or uneven pavers. These can be easily overlooked by a curious child and lead to unnecessary injury.

Street Location – Take into account how far your home is from a busy area. Is the home located on a congested street? What is the posted speed limit in the area and how fast do cars typically drive through the neighborhood? Are there streetlights and crosswalks nearby?

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Understanding the Most Important Mortgage Documents

January 29, 2015 1:00 am

Obtaining a mortgage for your first home can be a daunting task, especially when you consider the amount of paperwork required. Though your lender should explain all of the steps in the loan process clearly, it’s wise to have a basic understanding of the most important mortgage documents you’ll be signing.

Promissory Note
Contrary to popular belief, the promissory note is your actual mortgage contract, spelling out all terms associated with the loan – interest rate, payment intervals and more. The promissory note will also include a provision that states what will happen in the event that you do not repay the loan.

Settlement Statement
Also known as “the HUD,” the settlement statement spells out line-item fees, such as real estate agent, lender and title fees, prorated items like prepaid homeowners insurance and inspection costs or association dues.

Deed of Trust
The security provision in the promissory note will point to the deed of trust, which supports the lender’s claim to your property should you fall short on payments. The deed of trust also indicates specific occupancy policies associated with your specific mortgage, such as move-in date and second home use.

Source: Zillow

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