RE/MAX 440
Faye Riccitelli
friccitelli@remax440.com
Faye Riccitelli
423 North Main Street
Doylestown  PA 18901
PH: 267-221-6840
O: 215-348-7100
TF: 800-360-7100
F: 267-354-6949 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

My Blog

Sick of Sky-High Energy Bills? Seal Your Home

December 30, 2015 12:24 am

(BPT)—We’re all inclined to crank the heat up when winter’s chill hits. But many of us are not inclined to look for areas that may be impacting the temperature of our homes—and our budgets.

Drafts and air leaks, for example, can lead to temperature fluctuation and higher than normal heating bills if left unresolved, according to the experts at Icynene (www.icynene.com). Gaps in insulation coverage can also be a major contributor, as well as inefficient performance of HVAC equipment.

Air leakage from walls, windows, ceilings and floors can account for up to 40 percent of the energy lost by your home, potentially costing thousands of dollars annually. Air leakage can also contribute to potential moisture problems that can affect occupant health and the home's durability, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

To reduce drafts and air leakage, have a certified HERS rater assess your home and identify problem areas. He or she can also help evaluate ventilation needs.

Once all sources of air leaks have been detected, apply air sealing techniques and materials. Caulking and weather-stripping are two of the most popular and common techniques that can help address air leaks, as well as high-performance spray foam insulation. Spray foam insulation works well in all climates to seal the building and fill every gap to stop air leakage and help reduce the strain on HVAC equipment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Time to Close a Loan Ticks Up

December 30, 2015 12:24 am

The time it takes to close a loan has gone up an average of three days, increasing to 49 days for both conventional and FHA loans and 50 days for VA loans, according to a recent Ellie Mae® report.

“We are beginning to see the anticipated impacts of the Know Before You Owe changes that went into effect in October,” says Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae. Know Before You Owe, or the RESPA-TILA regulation, is designed to inform consumers of their loan options, help them shop for the best mortgage and prevent mishaps on the road to close.

The Ellie Mae report also shows that the average FICO score on all closed loans fell to 721, marking the sixth consecutive month of decline. The driver of the FICO reduction appears to be average FHA refinance FICO scores falling for the second straight month to 648.

Source: Ellie Mae

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7 Tips to Save Smart for Retirement

December 29, 2015 12:18 am

Fact: It’s never too early to start thinking about retirement.

“Many consumers underestimate how much savings is needed to get by once they retire, and often it’s much more than they first realize,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “After paying off debt and bills, it can be a real challenge to make sure you are also saving enough for retirement, especially if you are already living paycheck to paycheck.”

To adequately save for retirement, it’s important to assess your goals, says Trumble. What age do you plan to retire? Where would you like to retire? Will you downsize or stay in your current home? These and other questions must be considered before moving forward with a savings plan.

Once those goals have been set, craft a realistic saving strategy. These tips can help:

• Adjust your budget as life priorities change. A household budgeting worksheet can help you stay organized and track your expenses.

• Start saving now. Savings add up no matter how big or small. Make sure to start saving as much as you are able to, as early as possible.

• Pay off all debt. Carrying debt into retirement will cause monthly bills—and interest—to pile up, which will drain your savings. Develop a plan that enables you to pay off debt before you retire so that you can use savings on other necessities, such as food, medical care and housing.

• Track your spending. Knowing exactly where your money goes every month will allow you to set some funds aside for your future goals, such as retirement.

• Cut unnecessary spending. Reduce spending money on things you do not need without feeling deprived. Start with something simple, like bringing your lunch to work rather than eating out every day.

• Check your retirement plan at your work place. Some 401(k) plans include benefits, such as direct deposit from your paycheck, which can automate the retirement saving process.

• Set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account. With each paycheck you receive, make sure a percentage goes into your savings account dedicated to your retirement funds.

Source: American Consumer Credit Counseling

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Report: Buying Beats Renting in More than Half of Markets

December 29, 2015 12:18 am

Buying a home remains more affordable than renting one in more than half of housing markets, according to a recent RealtyTrac® report. This comes as home prices appreciate and rent outpaces wages, says RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist.

“Renters in 2016 will be caught between a bit of a rock and a hard place, with rents becoming less affordable as they rise faster than wages, but home prices rising even faster than rents," says Blomquist. "In markets where home prices are still relatively affordable, 2016 may be a good time for some renters to take the plunge into homeownership before rising prices and possibly rising interest rates make it increasingly tougher to afford to buy a home."

Across all 504 counties analyzed by RealtyTrac, average wage earners will need to spend 37 percent of their income to pay rent each month. In contrast, average wage earners across all 504 counties will need to spend 38 percent of their income to pay housing costs—but that includes mortgage, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance. (This assumes a 3 percent down payment on a median-priced home.)

RealtyTrac estimates rent for a three-bedroom property will increase an average of 3.5 percent in the New Year.

Source: RealtyTrac®

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Moving Next Year? Standard Mileage Rate Announced

December 29, 2015 12:18 am

Moving in 2016? You may be able to deduct some of the expense. Beginning January 1, 2016, the optional standard moving mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost will be 19 cents per mile driven, according to the IRS.

The mileage rate, based on variable costs, applies to moving via car, van, pickup or panel truck.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates. Other requirements for taxpayers to use the standard mileage rate for moving purposes are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-10-51.pdf).

Notice 2016-01 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-16-01.pdf) contains the standard mileage rates and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Source: IRS.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Want to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions? Buddy Up!

December 28, 2015 12:12 am

We get by with a little help from our friends—and as it turns out, friends play a big role when committing to New Year’s resolutions, too.  According to a recent survey by SKOUT, goals involving fitness, finance or fashion have a greater chance for success with the support of a friend.

When it comes to fitness, for instance, nearly 85 percent of survey respondents say they get a better workout when they exercise with a friend, and more than half prefer friendly encouragement over gadgets like fitness bracelets to help them achieve their goals.

Those who make resolutions to improve their financial situations also fare better with friends—over half of survey respondents who have seven or more good friends say they’ll set aside more money for retirement.

Those planning a wardrobe makeover in the New Year benefit from friendships, as well. Nearly three-quarters of female survey respondents say they’ll feel confident about their new look if friends pay them compliments. That’s the understatement of 2016!

Source: SKOUT

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowners: Fire Risk Higher after the Holiday

December 28, 2015 12:12 am

Did you know the risk for home fire increases after Christmas Day? Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that the days with the highest average number of fires are after the holiday ends, often due to a ‘sigh-of-relief’ syndrome that occurs the day after Christmas.

"For many families, preparing for the holiday season is a very busy time," says Sue Steen, CEO of SERVPRO Industries, Inc. "Come December 26, it’s tempting to relax and stop watering the Christmas tree, replacing bulbs in outdoor lights and tucking indoor garlands back into place. Dry greens, open sockets and decorations that slip dangerously close to light sockets or fireplaces can all increase the risk of fire in the days after the Christmas holiday."

Christmas trees remain the primary cause of holiday fires, according to the NFPA. Steen urges those who decorate with a live Christmas tree to be diligent about watering following the holiday.

“When a Christmas tree dries out, it takes only a single spark from the fireplace, a draft that blows a candle flame too near, or a carelessly held cigarette to turn your holiday celebration into a tragedy," says Steen . "Beyond the damage from the fire itself, a Christmas tree fire, like any fire, can result in extensive smoke and water damage throughout your home, and can even be deadly."

Steen also recommends other common sense precautions, such as properly disposing of light strands with frayed wires and keeping lights or candles a safe distance from flammable materials or objects.

Source: SERVPRO®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ultra Modern Fixtures for a Futuristic Bathroom

December 28, 2015 12:12 am

(BPT)—As a homeowner, one of the most worthwhile investments you can make is to upgrade your home’s bathroom. Bathroom renovations enhance not only real estate value but also your overall enjoyment of the space, and appointments these days are light years ahead of the materials used in other types of remodels.
If you’re considering an upgrade, go for one (or all!) of these ultra modern, futuristic fixtures:

• Space-Age Showers – From showers with dual spray and steam functionality to smart showers that “customize the clean,” a variety of high-tech, luxury upgrades are transforming the simple shower into a spa-like experience. Smart showers, which can be programmed based on temperature and pressure, can also be controlled remotely, allowing you the ability to start the water flow and set the temperature before stepping in. Shower technology has also expanded to include waterproof sound systems that stream your favorite music through a shower head speaker.

• Mind-Blowing Mirrors – If you're a bathroom multitasker, intelligent mirrors keep step with the busy pace of your lifestyle. Low-end varieties, such as an anti-fog mirror, use heat or special coatings to ensure the surface remains free of condensation even after showering. On the higher end are digital mirrors that incorporate a touchscreen display, WiFi, TV and Internet functionality.

• Far-Out Faucets – Touch-free faucets have been around for some time, but modern digital electronic faucets do far more than turn on sans touch. Electronic faucets use infrared technology to turn off when a user's hand moves away, and allow users to program the temperature of the water and the duration of the flow. Some faucets even feature software embedded in touchscreen technology that helps monitor your water usage! 

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8 Tips for Charitable Holiday Giving

December 25, 2015 2:12 am

It’s an unfortunate reality – the potential for giving scams becomes greater during the holiday season. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, donors should take care when giving to organizations this time of year. If you’re considering making a donation, remember to:

Give Thoughtfully – Take the time to check out the charity to avoid donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities.

Check Registration – About 40 of the 50 United States require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.

Verify Where Donations Go – How will your donation help? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. In addition, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

Look for Transparency – After funds are raised, it’s important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available.

Exercise Caution with Assistance Funds – Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately.

Avoid Unfamiliar Links – Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.

Opt for Established Organizations – This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may mean well, but may not be well managed.

Review Tax Deductibility – Not all organizations are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these entities if desired. Contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual or family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

Source: BBB.org

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Property Tax Primer: Is Your Assessment Correct?

December 25, 2015 2:12 am

There are millions of articles out there on the best ways to prepare your home for sale. But what about preparing to stay, and dealing with a reassessment or revaluation that may be inaccurately boosting your local property taxes?

For some answers, I turned to Vision Government Solutions, a supplier of land management software technology and services to local government organizations, enabling efficient assessment, billing, collections, mapping, and permitting.

According to Vision, the following four questions and accompanying information can help you to decide if your assessment is correct.

1) Can I sell my property for that amount?

The first thing that you should do is ask yourself if you could sell the property for approximately that amount.

2) Do assessment officials have the correct information on my property?

You can review the information that the assessing department has collected on your property to make sure the data is accurate either online, or at your local assessor's office. While reviewing your property, make sure that all measurements on the sketch are accurate. Note that all measurements are taken from the exterior. You should also check the land size and interior data to ensure accuracy.

3) How much are similar properties in my neighborhood selling for?

If your city or town has property information available on the Internet, you can do a sales search by going to the appropriate website. Make sure that you choose recent sales that are similar to your own property. For instance, if you owned a 2,000 square foot colonial that is assessed for $350,000 and has one-half acre of land, you would fill out the choices as shown below.

4) How much have similar properties in my neighborhood been assessed for?

If you do not have any recent sales activity in your local area, you can look up the assessed value of similar parcels that are located near your property. Be aware that what may appear to be a similar parcel may in fact be very different from your property.

Whether it's just a few, or hundreds of dollars in taxes saved, it often pays to confirm the agency handling your property information has the most accurate and up-to-date data.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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