RE/MAX 440
Diane Minguez
dminguez@remax.net
Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
PH: 267-575-6818
O: 215-362-2260
C: 267-575-6818
F: 267-354-6882 
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Mortgage Rates Move after Fed Hike

December 18, 2015 3:07 am

Fixed mortgage rates are ticking slightly higher in response to the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise short-term interest rates, but they will remain at historically low levels for some time to come, according to Freddie Mac’s recent Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®).

“As was almost-universally expected, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the Federal Reserve elected this week to raise short-term interest rates for the first time since 2006,” explains Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “We take the Fed at its word that monetary tightening in 2016 will be gradual, and we expect only a modest increase in longer-term rates. Mortgage rates will tick higher but remain at historically low levels in 2016. Home sales will remain strong, but refinance activity should cool somewhat.”

According to Freddie Mac’s survey, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) stands at 3.97 percent with an average 0.6 point; the 15-year FRM averages 3.22 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averages 3.03 percent, with an average 0.4 point, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averages 2.67 percent with an average 0.2 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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A Foolproof Plan for Financial Fitness in the New Year

December 17, 2015 3:07 am

Financial fitness is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions—and it’s one you can’t afford to give up on. But rather than set yourself up for failure with an unrealistic resolution, look to create a solid plan that will carry you through the year and beyond, suggests Katherine Forrester Schneewind, financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual.

"It's time to think differently about how to achieve long-term financial fitness," says Schneewind. "Like binge diets, taking a short-term view of your finances often leads to inconsistent results. You can resolve to spend less and save more, but the best way to achieve lasting results is by working with a financial advisor to create a plan that's tailored to your whole financial picture and unique goals."

To develop your plan, Schneewind says, simply remember the acronym PLAN:

Prepare – Start getting your financial house in order today so you can be better prepared to build (and stick to) a plan that will work for you. Consider scaling back your holiday spending by 20 percent to start your financial plan with a bang in the New Year.

Learn – The less we know about money, the more we stress about it. Learn the 50/20/30 approach to your income: 50 percent of your take-home pay should go toward essentials like your mortgage and utilities, 20 percent for investing in your future, and 30 percent for discretionary spending, like vacations, shopping and fun.

Act – It takes, on average, 30 days for a new habit to stick. Establish a daily routine of reviewing your checking account to see how you're performing against your budget. Each day, reflect on one thing you did to help build your financial confidence, like reading a money blog or talking to a friend for advice.

Network – We all know it's easier to stick to an exercise program with a buddy, and the same holds true for your finances. Use the brain trust around you and network your finances with friends. The more you talk about money, the more it can help you increase your overall financial confidence.

Source: Northwestern Mutual

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Tips to Improve Your Landscape, Boost Home Value

December 17, 2015 3:07 am

A home’s landscape can have a significant impact on its salability—in fact, over 60 percent of homeowners recently surveyed by Briggs & Stratton Corporation say the landscape, and the lawn in particular, influenced their decision to buy their home. Homeowners included in the survey also believe the condition of their lawn can add or detract from their home’s overall value, though many are unsure which improvements will boost that value.

"In our experience, the discrepancy is a combination of being intimidated by where to begin and the assumption it will be time-consuming," says Carissa Gingras of Briggs & Stratton. "But it doesn't have to be either."

According to Gingras, there are a number of small changes homeowners can make throughout all seasons that can have a big impact.

"Pops of colors from potted plants or evergreens and outdoor lighting are affordable ways to brighten up a yard or monotone exterior in any season," says Gringas. "Maintaining a tidy outdoor space with a clean-cut lawn and clearing away leaves, branches and snow can also vastly improve curb appeal."

Source: Briggs & Stratton

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Housing Set to Expand in 2016

December 17, 2015 3:07 am

Economic headwinds will be offset in the coming year by a tightening labor market and a renewed decline in gasoline prices, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group—a heartening forecast that could bode well for the housing market. The ESR Group expects the economy to grow 2.4 percent in 2016.

“After a year of modest improvement, we continue to believe economic growth will close out 2015 at 2.2 percent before gaining momentum early in 2016,” says Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Although consumers have been more cautious in recent months, preferring to save rather than spend, we believe they will pick up their spending pace next year amid solid job gains and resulting growth in incomes. The unsustainable third-quarter inventory investment will likely subtract significantly from economic growth in the current quarter as that stockpile unwinds, but the inventory correction should wrap up early in the year. The trade deficit also continues to weigh on growth, driven by a strong dollar and lackluster overseas growth, but recent housing data support our view that residential investment will help fill the void.

“Home sales will likely remain subdued in the near term, but private residential construction spending started the fourth quarter on a strong note and housing demand is looking up as we head into next year,” continues Duncan. “The rebound in purchase applications suggests that sales will gain momentum in the first quarter after retreating slightly in the current quarter. For all of 2016, total home sales are projected to rise 3.9 percent. We believe that further easing of mortgage lending standards will combine with a positive household formation outlook to help the housing sector expand.”

Source: Fannie Mae

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A Simple Year-End Money Checklist

December 16, 2015 3:07 am

To ring in the New Year with a measure of fiscal confidence, it’s a good idea to review where you stand at year’s end and resolve to do whatever it takes to improve your financial status by the end of next year. Consumer finance consultant Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, suggests taking these five steps before you ring out this year:

Review your spending patterns – With credit card statements in front of you, take a good, hard look at your expense patterns over the course of the year. Too many dinners out? Too much impulse spending? Resolve to do a better job of reining in expenses next year.

Know your net worth – Add up what you own (home, car, savings, investments, etc.) and subtract what you owe (mortgage, loans, etc.) Use the number as a personal framework for making financial decisions going forward.

Rethink credit card usage – If your credit cards are causing you to spend too freely, or spend more than you would without them, put them in the very back of your wallet and resolve to cut back on your use of them.

Create an emergency fund – If you haven’t already, start building a fund that will cover 3-6 months’ worth of essential living expenses in the event you lose your job or cannot work. Try paying into that fund first each month, before you pay your other bills.

Be sure you’re on track for retirement – Re-commit to making retirement savings a priority in your financial plan. Do the math, or check with a financial planner, so you know how much you should be putting away in your IRA, 401(k) or other business retirement plan each month, and make adjustments as needed.

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4 Tips to Make Home Maintenance Easier

December 16, 2015 3:07 am

(Family Features)—Some home maintenance jobs require a significant investment of time and specialized equipment, but there are many projects you can accomplish efficiently with basic tools and the right approach. Follow these tips to get started.

Update your toolbox. Take inventory to ensure your collection is complete, and replace damaged or rusted tools. Your toolbox is also a good place to store common repair items such as adhesive.

Get ahead of potential problems. For example, have a plunger on hand to prevent clogged sinks and toilets from causing water damage, and keep gutters and filters clean to prevent structural damage or fire. You can also protect your home and valuables from damage by using adhesive to secure precious items from getting knocked over, and protect floors from traffic damage by securing rugs and felt pads to furniture.

Take a helping hand. Most phones have levels and flashlights that can help with minor jobs, and your phone’s calendar can be set with recurring reminders so that you’ll never miss a maintenance date. In addition, find creative ways to make tasks easier.

Get organized. Daily home maintenance tasks like cleaning are easier when they are done along the way rather than letting them pile up, creating a bigger job. Store everyday needs in each room, or on each floor. For maximum efficiency, keep cleaning supplies in both the bath and the kitchen, and a broom and vacuum on each floor.

Source: GlueDots.com

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What to Know about Title Insurance

December 16, 2015 3:07 am

Purchasing a home is the single largest investment most will make in their lifetime. That investment is protected by title insurance—the cost of which varies across the country. To determine title insurance policy premium costs in your area, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) recommends consulting with a local title company to get detailed information.

In order to make sure a homeowner has clear rights to a property, the title agent will review prior deeds or mortgages, divorce decrees, court judgments, delinquent taxes and child and spousal support payments, utility or other easements and more. This work is necessary to issue the insurance policy and often includes the cost of conducting a title search, examination, correcting errors, issuing the policy, and, frequently, the settlement or closing for consumers.

When comparing fees, it’s important to get detailed information about what services are included in a fee to help ensure equal comparisons. In some states, the seller pays for the owner’s title insurance policy. Some rates may or may not include other services provided by the title company, such as conducting the closing, preparing and notarizing documents and other services. When comparing one rate to another, be sure to get detailed information on what is included in that rate, so you are comparing equally.

Many choose to rely on their real estate agent or mortgage lender for a recommendation for a title company; however, it is important to remember that you have the right to shop for title insurance and to choose your own title agent or company, says the ALTA. There are many factors to consider when selecting a title insurance company, such as local expertise, service standards, market conduct and commitment to the community.

Source: ALTA

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Tradition Trumps Mobile when Holiday Shopping

December 15, 2015 12:07 am

It’s no secret mobile shopping has become more popular than ever, and with the holiday shopping season in full swing, the convenience of mobile stands to drive an increase in browsing and buying via smartphone—but not for every shopper, says Mike Sands, CEO of marketing technology leader Signal.

"Mobile is critical during the holiday season because of the convenience it offers to time-crunched shoppers who can browse or buy the perfect gift for a loved one anytime, anywhere," says Sands. "But even today's busy, always-on consumers still want to enjoy the festivity of the season, and for many, browsing in stores is an important part of getting into the holiday spirit."

As such, many shoppers will endeavor on a cross-channel shopping experience, says Sands.  In fact, according to a recent Signal survey:

• 85 percent of respondents plan to shop from desktops or laptops;
• 82 percent of respondents plan to shop in stores;
• 60 percent of respondents plan to shop on smartphones or tablets.

Why is mobile taking a backseat? According to the survey, security concerns top the list of reasons why respondents are hesitant to make purchases via mobile. Respondents also cited concerns over viewing products on smaller screens and entering information on mobile devices.

Source: Signal

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Your Property: Signs of a Hazardous Tree

December 15, 2015 12:07 am

Hazardous trees pose a danger to people and property. When storms or high winds hit, limbs, and often whole trees, fall to the ground.

"Many fatal accidents and millions of dollars in property damage can be averted if homeowners heed the warning signs of a hazardous tree," says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). "By not paying attention to your trees, you are potentially placing your property, even your life, in jeopardy."

Fortunately, one can often read the clues that indicate a tree is prone to failure. For instance, if a tree has large branches attached with tight, V-shaped forks, you should consider having those branches removed or lightened. Other warning signs of structural instability include cracks in the trunk or major limbs, hollow and decayed areas, or the presence of extensive dead wood. Mushrooms growing from the base of the tree or under its canopy may also be a sign of root decay. Remember to be thorough in your evaluation; the absence of fungus growth does not necessarily mean the tree is healthy.

"It also pays to be highly suspicious of any tree that has had construction activities, such as trenching, addition or removal of soil, digging or heavy equipment movement, anywhere under the spread of its branches," says Andersen.

These activities can cause root death, which, in turn, could lead to the structural instability of the tree. The sign most people recognize is a hollow in a tree. Filling of hollow trees, a process called "cavity filling," was practiced by arborists for many years, but recent research shows it is not needed to support or improve the health of hollow trees.

In fact, cavity filling with cement can actually damage a tree. According to Andersen, "the column of cement created in the tree by a cavity fill doesn't move, just like a column on a building, but the tree is always moving. It sways with the wind constantly. The rubbing created by the swaying tree and the solid column of cement can further damage the tree."

Wood decay fungi that created the hollow in the first place may take advantage of new injuries created by the rubbing and invade the remaining healthy tissue of the tree. If cavity filling is desired for aesthetic reasons, there are new synthetic foams that can be sprayed into the cavity by professional arborists. These materials will bend with the swaying tree, reducing injury.

However, there is really no reason to fill a cavity other than for aesthetic reasons; it doesn't improve the tree's health and doesn't offer extra support. If structural support of a tree is required, a professional arborist will recommend cabling, bracing, propping, tree guying or removing the tree.

Source: TCIA

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Tis the Season to Prepare Your Home for Cold Weather

December 15, 2015 12:07 am

Approximately one-fifth of homeowners insurance claims are brought on by damage caused by water or cold temperatures—much of which comes as a result of snowy conditions, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). Although standard homeowners and renters policies cover winter-related damage, such as that caused by burst pipes, ice dams and wind, as well as damage caused by either the weight of ice or snow, there are a few steps homeowners can take to protect their homes before winter kicks in. These include:

Cleaning out the gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris so melting snow and ice can flow freely, which prevents damming, a condition in which water seeps into the house, potentially damaging ceilings and walls.

Installing gutter guards. This prevents debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

Trimming trees and removing dead branches. Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.

Adding extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt and then re-freeze on the roof, resulting in an ice dam that can cause significant roof damage. Well-insulated basements, crawl spaces and unfinished rooms, such as garages, protect pipes from freezing.

Providing a reliable back-up power source. In the event of an electrical outage, continuous power will help prevent frozen pipes. Consider purchasing a portable generator to ensure your household’s safety.
 
Keep in mind that coverage for flooding, including flooding caused by melting snow, is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurance companies.
 
Remember also that melting snow can overburden sewer systems, causing raw sewage to back up into the drains in your home. Backed up sewers can cause thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewer back-up coverage can be purchased either as a separate product or as an endorsement to your homeowners or renters policy.

Source: I.I.I.

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