Diane Minguez
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RE/MAX 440   Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street  Lansdale, PA  19446
Office Phone: 215-362-2260    Phone: 267-575-6818  Fax: 267-354-6882  Cell: 267-575-6818
dminguez@remax.net

My Blog

Home, Smart Home with Wireless Technology

April 7, 2014 2:18 am

How smart is your home? You can make your home smarter and safer, and make your life easier, with these five simple switch-outs that make the most of emerging home technology, courtesy of Jack Thomasson, HGTV Smart Home House Planner.

• Entry level. You needn't throw away your key, but save it as a backup, and install a keypad at your front door instead. The latest keypads provide not only security, but also remote access via your smartphone. You'll never again have to wonder whether you locked the door; your smartphone, tablet or other Internet device will tell you if you did, and let you lock it if you didn't. Need to open the door for someone when you're not there? Keypads allow for that option as well.

• Perfect temperature. Want to come home to a cozy warm or comfortably cool house? Make the switch to a WiFi-accessible thermostat, and adjust the temperature of your home remotely.

• Guess-free garage. With wireless technology and your smartphone, you can check the status of your garage door and open or close it as needed.

• Who's there? Security cameras accessible from your smartphone let your house tell you who's making a delivery. In addition to viewing camera feeds, remote home monitoring systems allow you to arm or disarm your home security system and to receive specific notification by text, email or phone in case of emergency.

• Smart cookies. Preheat your oven while you're still at the grocery store. Certain apps and appliances will let you adjust and monitor your oven and other appliances remotely via your smartphone. You can adjust cooking temperature and set a timer, too.

Source: HGTV

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Home Prices Rise by 12.2 Percent Year-Over-Year in February

April 2, 2014 1:09 am

CoreLogic recently released its February CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI®) report. Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased 12.2 percent in February 2014 compared to February 2013. This change represents 24 months of consecutive year-over-year increases in home prices nationally. On a month-over-month basis, home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased by 0.8 percent in February 2014 compared to January 2014.

At the state level, including distressed sales, 14 states showed double-digit year-over-year growth in February; and Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas and the District of Columbia all reached new home price highs. Additionally, 22 states were at or within 10 percent of their price peaks.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationally increased 10.7 percent in February 2014 compared to February 2013 and 0.9 percent month over month compared to January 2014. Also, all 50 states and the District of Columbia showed year-over-year home price appreciation when distressed sales were excluded. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.

“As the spring home-buying season kicks off, house price appreciation continues to be strong,” said Dr. Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Although prices should remain strong in the near term due to a short supply of homes on the market, price increases should moderate over the next year as home equity releases pent-up supply.”

“February marks two straight years of year-over-year gains in national prices across the United States,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The consistent upward movement in home prices should ultimately prove to be an important stimulant for higher levels of sustained market activity and growth in the housing economy.”

Highlights:
• Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were California (+19.8 percent), Nevada (+18.5 percent), Georgia (+14.2 percent), Oregon (+13.8 percent) and Michigan (+13.5 percent).

• Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were California (+15.9 percent), Nevada (+14.6 percent), Florida (+13.1 percent), Washington (+11.5 percent) and Hawaii (+11.5 percent).

• Including or excluding distressed sales, no state posted home price depreciation in February 2014.

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Survey Shows More than Half of Homeowners Plan Home Improvements in 2014

April 2, 2014 1:09 am

With consumer confidence and the real estate market on the rise, many homeowners are ready to begin home remodeling or maintenance projects.

According to an online survey conducted on behalf of SunTrust Banks, Inc. by Harris Poll, 56 percent of homeowners plan to spend money on home improvement projects this year. More than a quarter of homeowners (27 percent) indicated they will invest in an outdoor area such as a patio, deck, pool or landscaping in 2014. Bathroom remodels (17 percent), home repairs such as a new roof or HVAC systems (16 percent) and kitchen remodels (11 percent) were cited next. About five percent of homeowners plan to add square footage, and another five percent intend to complete a basement/attic remodel.

"People may no longer be as nervous about investing in their homes," said Gary Miller, business head of LightStream, a national online lending division of SunTrust Bank. "With the economy picking up and homes beginning to increase in value, the home improvement loan category has been energized."

Paying for Home Improvement Projects

Of those who plan to spend money on home improvements this year, 20 percent plan to spend $10,000 or more, according to the survey. "Although many people will use money from savings or from tax refunds, we're seeing a strong market for home improvement loans. Customers are telling us they're using loan proceeds to fund deferred maintenance projects as well as pool installations, solar energy systems, landscaping, and kitchen, bath and basement remodels," said Miller.

Television personality and high-end contractor Stephen Fanuka recommends having funds on hand before starting any home improvement project. "To help manage timelines and costs, have a signed contract detailing agreed-upon construction milestones," said Fanuka. "Payments should be made as benchmarks are completed. Keep a clear, ongoing record of the products and services you've purchased," said Fanuka. "That means, however, you'll need money in the bank to cover everything."

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How to Buy a House with Less than 20 Percent Down

March 28, 2014 2:45 am

When many people start the process of buying a house they assume putting 20 percent down is required. However, this is not the case and many lenders and mortgage brokers offer options for borrowers looking for mortgages that have a small down payment. Don Frommeyer, CRMS, President of NAMB (The Association of Mortgage Professionals), shares his advice for potential homeowners searching for mortgages with less than 20 percent down payment.

“There are a couple of things you’ll want to make sure you have before researching mortgages, including solid credit standing and a steady income,” says Frommeyer. “The options are out there and exist to make sure that people have the ability to buy and invest in real estate, even in today’s competitive housing market and tight credit environment.”

Frommeyer suggests the following tips when buying a house with a low down payment:

- Maintain a Strong Credit Score: Credit score is one of the first things lenders look at when determining who is a qualified borrower. Make payments on time and keep in mind that even small mistakes may take some time to clear from credit scores.

- Look Beyond Your Local Banks: There are many options available outside of traditional bank mortgages. Mortgage brokers offer a wide range of mortgage loans with zero down payments; an example is VA Loans. Veterans of the military and qualified retired veterans are eligible to use this benefit for a 100 percent loan. They also offer FHA loans to qualified borrowers for as little as 3.5 percent down. And in rural areas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers low down payment options with financing to 100 percent. A good mortgage broker will have all of these options available and will have a variety of lenders that they can put these through to stay competitive in the market. And even conventional loans have the ability to do loans with 5 percent down payment.

- Document Income and Assets: Lenders look for a steady income and sufficient savings to ensure borrowers can meet monthly payments. Make sure to have all account statements ready to establish proof of funds; lenders look for savings accounts that indicate the borrower will be able to cover a few months of payments. In addition, hold jobs for at least two years or within the same industry to demonstrate longevity and stability.

- Be Prepared to Pay More Monthly: When you do loans with limited funds down, most will require some sort of mortgage insurance to complete the loan. Conventional loans require Private Mortgage Insurance on loan to values above 80 percent. FHA loans have Mortgage Insurance on all of their loans and the VA only has a funding fee.

- Explore Options: Frommeyer suggests going to at least two lenders to be able to compare good-faith estimates. This allows you to look at two completely different options and this will help talking to more than one source when looking for a mortgage. Compare the fees, estimates, closing costs, etc. thoroughly before selecting any loan.

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Why Invest in Insulation during a Renovation?

March 28, 2014 2:45 am

(BPT) - When it comes to enhancing the value and comfort of a home, most homeowners will opt to address the cosmetic features of a home when completing a renovation project. Yet, it's often the things that homeowners don't consider that can have the biggest impact on the value of a home.

Across the country, the cost of heating and cooling a home has sharply increased. The price of gas, oil and electricity has driven up the cost of living for many homeowners. With this in mind, more homeowners are seeking budget-friendly solutions that provide not only consistent performance over the long-term, but also help keep costs down.

Before beginning a home improvement project, homeowners should consider the whole building envelope rather than just the cosmetic features such as chrome fixtures or granite countertops. High-efficiency windows are an excellent investment for any home to help drive down excessive energy waste and high utility costs. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that traditional windows contribute as much as 10 percent of the total air escaping from a typical home, while improperly sealed doors can contribute 11 percent.

Investing in an effective insulation solution also can make a significant impact on reducing utility costs. Building experts suggest that homeowners completing a home improvement project should be as involved as possible in determining the best insulation type for their home. This means that homeowners should actively research the types of materials available and how well they perform over the long term. While building code requirements and standards were much more lax in the past, recent amendments to the building code mandates that homes must meet certain criteria for insulation levels, heating management and carbon emissions.

One insulation solution that can meet and exceed the newest building code requirements is spray foam insulation. As a modern insulation solution, the benefits of spray foam insulation can have a significant and positive impact on a home. Available in a variety of densities, spray foam insulation combats against air leakage and works well in all types of homes across the country, regardless of climate. More information on the effectiveness of spray foam insulation is available online at www.icynene.com.

Traditional insulation materials are overly permeable allowing moisture and fluctuations in temperature to pass through the home's envelope easily. Yet, spray foam insulation both air seals and insulates to keep allergens and irritants at bay and eliminates air leakage to keep the conditioned air inside without the HVAC system working overtime to compensate.

Spray foam insulation performs for the life of the property, ensuring that homeowners can enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures year-round without overrunning their heating and cooling equipment. Insulation experts from Icynene note that quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 50 percent.

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Perfect the Art of Grilling Juicy, Tender Pork Chops

March 27, 2014 2:30 am

(Family Features) A recent survey by the Heart, Patio and Barbecue Association found that seven out of 10 home grillers consider themselves to be “better than average” at grilling. With warmer weather on the horizon, there’s no better time to put your skills to the test and perfect the art of pork chops on the grill. An incredibly flavorful, juicy and tender choice, pork chops – with cuts like Porterhouse, Ribeye and New York – are perfect for casual backyard entertaining and easy family dinners alike.

Tips for Tender Chops
Mastering grilled pork chops is easy no matter your skill on the grill. It’s all about selecting the right recipe, preparing the grill correctly and grilling your pork chops like a steak using a digital thermometer to ensure the proper range of doneness – between 145°F (medium rare), followed by a three-minute rest and 160°F (medium). To prep your grill:
• Arrange hot coals evenly on the fire grate of the grill or use all gas burners on medium-hot heat.
• Place pork directly above the heat source.
• Follow suggested cooking times – 3/4 inch chops should be cooked for 8-9 minutes and 1 1/2 inch chops for 12-16 minutes -turning once during cooking.

For a deliciously sweet and spicy recipe like Sweet Fire Pork Chops, seasoned with hot chipotle chile, zesty orange, garlic and sweet honey – choose 3/4-inch Porterhouse (bone-in loin) chops to create your new favorite masterpiece. For a complete meal, serve them with a side of mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed green beans.

Visit www.PorkBeinspired.com to learn about ways you can win with pork and to find more inspiring recipes that will keep your grill hot all summer long.

“Sweet Fire” Porterhouse Pork Chops
Servings: 4

Ingredients
4 Porterhouse (bone-in loin) pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
Grated zest of 1 large orange
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/3 cup honey

Cooking Directions
In a small bowl, stir oil, ground chipotle, salt, orange zest and garlic together into a paste. Using a rubber spatula, spread chipotle mixture over both sides of pork. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in grill. Place chops on grill and close lid. Grill over direct heat, turning once, about 4-5 minutes per side, until the internal temperature of the pork on a meat thermometer measures between 145°F (medium rare) and 160°F (medium). During the last 2 minutes, brush chops on both sides with honey. Remove from grill and let rest for 3 minutes.

Source: National Pork Board

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Which Upgrades Are Worth It to Help You Sell Your House?

March 26, 2014 2:12 am

Is it finally time to sell your house?

That's the question on homeowners' minds as house prices just posted their largest annual gain since 2005. Congrats to those no longer "underwater" on their mortgages, even as interest rates remain tantalizingly low. But here's the catch: Those same higher prices can make buyers as choosy as a restaurant reviewer.

"A house with a $1,600 mortgage payment last year now has a $2,000 mortgage payment," one broker told the Wall Street Journal. "Buyers are saying, 'I better like it.'"

To increase your home's "like" quotient, read on to see which upgrades are worth making and which aren't.

Worth It: A new front door. Strictly in terms of return on investment, a steel one topped the list of Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014 - recouping 96.6 percent of the average price. But a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, too.

Not Worth It
: A home-office remodel. We know what you're thinking: With so many more people working from home, wouldn't it be brilliant to rewire the space for electronic equipment, say, and install commercial-grade carpeting? Not really. The magazine gave it the lowest return on investment (48.9 percent), and the guy who oversaw the study says, "Home offices don't sell houses."

Worth It: A back-up power generator. It's the biggest gainer in the study, jumping 28 percent over last year, and plays especially well in areas brutalized by storms.

Not Worth It: Major bathroom work. "You could install the most spectacular jetted tub, and it still might not suit a buyer," says Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate in Montclair, N.J. "Meanwhile, you'd have spent tens of thousands of dollars."

Worth It: Roofing replacement. There's a reason this ultimate "curb appeal" enhancer consistently makes Remodeling's list and is up 11.2 percent over even last year: A roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars, and you can kiss that sale good-bye if yours looks like it's been through hell.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Again, the key word is "major," and again it's a "taste" issue.

Source: GAF

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Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Are in the Dark on the Cost-Effectiveness of Energy Savings from Window Film

March 26, 2014 2:12 am

With climatologists predicting a hotter than normal summer, the International Window Film Association (IWFA) is filling a need in the market as both a consumer resource and a window film advocate by helping to establish National Window Film Day on April 30.

The IWFA released new data from a national survey conducted online by Harris Poll in late February 2014 among 3,034 U.S. adults ages 18+ that reveals the cooling benefits of window film are only familiar to 54 percent of Americans. Window film can make a tremendous impact by regulating interior temperatures and cutting heat transmission through windows in hot, sunny weather and may reduce cooling costs by 30 percent.

"April 30 is being designated to support awareness of window film and to shine a spotlight on the spectrum of benefits it provides consumers," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the nonprofit IWFA. Educational information on National Window Film Day can be accessed at www.iwfa.com.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), cooling and heating accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most consumers. And roughly 40 percent of unwanted heat that builds up in a home comes in through windows, states the DOE.

Window Film has been proven as one of the most cost-effective means of reducing solar heat gain and it provides more natural lighting, to avoid closing shades and turning on electric lighting. However, 53 percent of Americans are unaware that window film allows natural light to enter a home's interior, while offering energy savings, interior comfort and safety. Window film has a wide spectrum of shades, from barely noticeable, to smoky greys that can enhance the aesthetic appeal of windows or increase privacy if desired.

Additionally, 54 percent of Americans are unaware that window film can reduce the sun's harsh glare throughout the home and only 43 percent know that it can reduce the penetration of UV rays through windows by 99 percent. This benefit can reduce the fading of furnishings, artwork and other precious decor due to UV exposure through windows and it may also protect skin and eyes from cancer and cataracts.

Another benefit of window film a majority of Americans are unaware of is its safety properties. Only 27 percent know window film can help hold shattered glass together to reduce the chance of injury due to sharp shards of glass.

Source: International Window Film Association

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18 Trillion Gallons of Water Saved during 20 Years of Low-Flow Toilet Regulations

March 21, 2014 1:12 am

Americans have saved more than 18 trillion gallons of water — roughly the volume of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay — by embracing low-flow toilet technology over the past two decades since the U.S. enacted the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct) that mandated less water per flush, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). That's hard to imagine, but it is enough water to fill 27 million Olympic size swimming pools.

Since 1994, when the 1992 EPAct legislation took effect, innovative toilet technology has transitioned the nation from a water-guzzling 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) to a low-flow 1.6 gpf toilet diet and, more recently, toward high efficiency 1.28 gpf models. In the process, the amount of water consumed has been reduced by more than half, with usage rates down by 54 percent and 63 percent, respectively. These savings have been impactful, as toilets represent the single largest source of water consumption in a home, accounting for nearly one-third of residential water use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The estimated 18.2 trillion gallons in cumulative water savings that has resulted from the use of low-flow toilets highlights how water conservation policies, such as the 1992 EPAct, impact and help sustain the nation's water supplies, noted Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO of Chicago-based AWE, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water.

"These toilets help save an estimated 4.6 billion gallons of water each and every day in the U.S.," said Dickinson. "When you add in the further water reductions achieved by high efficiency 1.28 gpf toilets, the savings are even more outstanding. Water is the critical resource issue of our time, and smart water conservation policies work to ensure that we have sustainable supplies for the future."

The Road to High-Performing Toilet Technology

During the early 1990s, when water use restrictions first took effect, plumbing product manufacturers struggled to produce low-flow toilets that could effectively remove all waste with only 1.6 gallons of water, prompting frustration among users who resorted to counterproductive double-flushing. However, by 1998, toilet manufacturers had successfully modified flushing systems to remove waste using less water.

As the first decade of low-flow technology drew to a close, a flushing evaluation system would be introduced that changed the industry. Maximum Performance (MaP) testing was implemented in 2003 to measure the amount of solid waste removed per flush. This independent testing program inspired toilet producers to strive for the highest rating of successfully flushing 1,000 grams (2.2 lbs.) of solid waste.

In 2006, to drive even greater water savings, the EPA created WaterSense, a partnership program modeled after the EnergySTAR labeling program to help assure consumers that products will conserve and perform as promised. WaterSense-certified toilets use 20 percent less water than low-flow models, while providing strong flushing power. Commode makers were motivated to create high efficiency toilets (HETs) that used only 1.28 gpf while delivering strong flushing performance.

For homeowners looking to save further on their water bill, make sure all your home’s toilets are low-flow models.

Source: American Standard Brands

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Valuable Fraud Prevention Tips for Homebuyers and Homeowners

March 21, 2014 1:12 am

March is Fraud Prevention Month. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips to protect yourself against becoming a victim of mortgage fraud.

Be an informed consumer! Be wary of anyone who approaches you with an offer to make "easy money" in real estate. Remember: if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Protect yourself and your family from becoming victims of or accomplices to mortgage fraud. This means:

• Never deliberately misrepresent information when applying for a mortgage.

• Never accept money, guarantee a loan or add your name to a mortgage unless you fully intend to purchase the property. If you allow your personal information to be used for a mortgage you could be held responsible for the entire debt if the mortgage defaults.

• Always know who you are doing business with and never sign anything without understanding exactly what you are signing.

• Use licensed or accredited mortgage and real estate professionals.

• Get independent legal advice from your own lawyer/notary and talk to them about title insurance and other methods of protection.

•Contact the local provincial land titles office to obtain the sales history of any property you are thinking about buying and consider having it inspected and appraised. An accredited appraiser will provide the property sales and MLS history.

• Find out from your lawyer if anyone other than the seller has a financial interest in the home or if there are any outstanding liens or tax arrears.

• If a deposit is required, make sure the funds are payable to and held "in trust" by the vendor's realty company or by a lawyer/notary.

You can also help to protect yourself by inspecting your credit report at least annually.

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