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

My Blog

How to Know When Debt is a Four Letter Word

October 22, 2012 3:44 am

Debt is a four letter word. For many people it has the same connotation as many other four letter words. However, not all debt is bad. For example, most people could not afford to pay cash for a home, but instead must acquire a mortgage loan. Because a home will most likely increase in value during the time it takes to pay off the mortgage, mortgage debt is considered a good investment. In general terms good debt is defined as debt that allows someone to invest in the future such as business loans, student loans, mortgages and real estate loans.

Bad debt is generally defined as debt acquired for something that immediately loses value or has no potential to increase in value. Using that definition, a car loan would be considered bad debt. Many people purchase vehicles and are upside down (owe more than the car is worth) in their loans mere months after purchasing. It is also a common practice to purchase a meal with a credit card that has a balance that may not get paid off for three months or more. The meal that was enjoyed at the time and forgotten later ends up costing more because it is not paid for when consumed. Paying interest for dinner, even a nice dinner, charged to a credit card is bad debt.

Here are a few tips to avoid and reduce bad debt:

• Don't carry balances on your credit cards. If you do purchase something that cannot be paid off at the end of the month, make certain you can pay it off in 90 days or less.
• Purchase a used or less expensive new vehicle and make sure you make a substantial down payment. A smaller loan will help assure you do not become upside down in your auto loan.
• Don't use credit cards to purchase clothing or consumables unless you will be paying the balance off each month.
• Be wary of spending more than you can pay off each month on rewards credit cards. Paying interest charges will negate the promised benefit of the rewards.

For consumers who have more bad debt than they can handle, certified credit counselors can be sought to help develop a plan to pay off the debt and avoid future bad debt.

Source: Money Management International (MMI)

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Moving Into a New Home? Here's What You Should Do and Know

October 22, 2012 3:44 am

Whether you are a first-time homebuyer or simply moving up, when you first arrive to your new home, there are certain things you should do and know.

1) Consider changing the locks. You never know who really has keys to your home, so changing the locks is always a smart idea. Add a deadbolt for a little additional protection. It won't cost you much, but the peace of mind will be invaluable.

2) Check for leaks. Although home inspections should take care of this, checking for leaks never hurts. Check all faucets, toilets and the water heater for any signs of leakage and fix them right away.

3) Wipe down your cabinets. Before unpacking your dishes, be sure to give your cabinets a good scrub down. Use a non-toxic cleaner and replace any contact paper, if necessary.

4) Search and evict unwanted houseguests. This means mice, termites, roaches, or any other creepy crawly that you don't want in your home. Hopefully, you can go it alone, but if you need to hire a professional, do so. Some problems, like termites, can get worse the longer you wait. Nip it in the bud.

5) Get cozy with the circuit breaker box and main water valve. Knowing where these two things are and how to use them is crucial when you own a home. Know what fuses control which parts of your house and label them clearly. This can prevent accidents or injury if you're ever working on the house's electrical system or wiring.

Source: HouseLogic

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How Do I Sell My Timeshare? 5 Top Tips

October 22, 2012 3:44 am

If you're looking to sell a timeshare or vacation ownership, make the right decision when it comes to listing these properties. Here are a few tips and points to keep in mind when you're trying to sell.

How many years of experience does the company you've chosen to list with have within the resale sector?

This is one of the most important factors when choosing a company to help you with the sale of your ownership. Companies with many years of expertise within the resale sector are always the best companies to deal with. If they have been selling timeshares for longer than a decade, then they must have a tried and tested method for finding timeshare buyers for ownerships worldwide.

Make sure the company is fully compliant with governmental law.

There are many companies out there to choose from, however, very few comply with the strict timeshare laws put it place by their respective governments. Some companies will state they are members of certain industry governing bodies; however, this is not enough in some cases. Make sure that the company's paperwork complies with National and International law in the areas they are trading from.

Place your ownership where buyers are looking.

This may seem a logical thing to do, however, too many owners pay for marketing and do not get any exposure whatsoever. This can be checked very easily by searching Google.com for relevant terms pertaining to your ownership i.e., "timeshare resales at Marriott Son Antem." Always check results on Google as this gives the widest search, greatest traffic and best possible chance of selling.

Beware of exit programs!

Over the last few years, many exit companies have sprung up offering owners the chance to alleviate their ongoing worldwide timeshare membership for an initial cost. This gives owners expectations of removing themselves from their ongoing yearly commitments and the impression that they will not receive any further maintenance bills. Sadly, in most cases, this is not the case.

Pricing your ownership to sell.

When pricing your ownership to sell, be realistic with the timeshare resale value. There are many companies within the industry that will over-value your ownership. If you over-value your ownership, it doesn't matter how many potential clients see it for sale -no one will inquire.

Source: Visions of the World Ltd

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Cruise Insurance Myth Busters and Other Helpful Tips

October 18, 2012 3:38 am

Despite a chilling start—cruise vacations in 2012 are climbing the popularity charts with travelers of all ages. From river cruises to cuisine cruises to the more familiar Caribbean cruise, there's no shortage of floating vacations to choose from. But whether you opt for spirited adventure on the high seas or restful and tranquil sailing, remember to protect your trip from things that go bump in the night with travel insurance.

Statistically, cruises are considered one of the safest forms of travel, but oftentimes things can and do go wrong. For protection against the unexpected, travel insurance is truly a traveler's best friend. Just like cruises and friends however, there are different kinds of insurance and choosing which one is right for you can be daunting. To clear up some of the mystery, here are five travel insurance myths debunked:

1. I Don't Need It, Nothing Will Go Wrong: Though we hope never to use or need it, travel insurance can provide a tremendous amount of security and peace of mind for a small fraction of the cost of your trip. Travel insurance provides coverage for a wide-range of travel risks, including:

• Trip cancellation (if you have to cancel)
• Trip interruption (if your travels are brought to an unexpected end while on your trip)
• Medical coverage (if you need emergency medical coverage or an augmentation of your current health benefits)
• Medical evacuation protection (air ambulance service)

2. All Insurance Plans Are the Same: There are hundreds of insurance policies to choose from and just like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. The key is to compare, compare, compare. Shop around to get the best plan for your needs at the right price.

3. There's No Best Time to Buy Insurance: The early bird isn't the only one rewarded for his timely action. To receive the most benefit from your travel insurance policy and be eligible for optional benefits like Cancel for Any Reason and Pre-Existing Medical Conditions, purchase your policy within 10 to 30 days of your first trip payment.

4. I Get All the Protection I Need with Insurance from the Cruise Line: Insurance from a third-party source is easy to buy but more importantly, it offers 1) greater choice of plans, 2) enhanced protection coverage, including Financial Default protection and missed connection benefits and 3) better reimbursement benefits that provide financial reimbursement for canceled trips rather than a cruise voucher or credit.

5. All of My Medical Needs Can Be Managed Onboard: It's true that all cruise ships have fully equipped medical facilities and staff onboard to handle most emergencies, still, medical evacuations - transporting a passenger from the ship to a hospital on shore - occurs more often than we realize. The cost of a typical evacuation to the nearest hospital can quickly exceed the limited coverage offered by most cruise lines and leave you with a hefty balance to pay. Medical evacuation policies offering up to $2 million coverage can be purchased from third parties as a stand alone policy or a benefit included in comprehensive travel policies. These plans provide evacuation to the nearest appropriate care facility or, in some cases, to your hospital of choice depending on the company and plan.

For more information, visit www.insuremytrip.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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68 Million Americans Believe It's OK to Strategically Default on Mortgages

October 18, 2012 3:38 am

Nearly 68 million U.S. adults (32 percent) believe homeowners should be able to strategically default on their mortgages without any consequences, according to recent survey results. The survey of 1,026 U.S. adults, conducted online by JZ Analytics last month also found that 28 million Americans (13 percent) would likely strategically default on a mortgage and 36 million Americans (17 percent) know someone who has strategically defaulted on a mortgage.

"Our research into the consumer opinion of the economic crisis of 2008 found alarming results," says John Zogby, senior analyst at JZ Analytics. "What jumped out is how many Americans feel it is acceptable for homeowners to walk away from a mortgage and go into foreclosure. If Americans carry on with that mindset, it will continue to cause problems as the economy undergoes a slow recovery."

A strategic default is when a homeowner, who has the financial ability to make the payment on a house that is worth less than is owed on the mortgage, decides to walk away and let the house go to foreclosure. Some of the survey respondents feel homeowners should be able to strategically default on mortgages because they believe the mortgage market has been a scam for many years, built on false promises that took advantage of people that didn't understand what was happening and they never had a chance of paying the mortgage off.

Other Key Findings:

• Stretch the Truth—The survey found that 36 million Americans (17 percent) would exaggerate personal information to obtain credit.
• The New Normal—According to the survey, 77 million Americans (36 percent) believe it's socially acceptable to have a poor credit score.
• Fear of Identity Theft—The survey also discovered that 75 million Americans (35 percent) are more afraid of becoming an identity theft victim than five years ago.

Source: JZ Analytics

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Mortgage Rates Hit All-time Record Lows for Second Consecutive Week

October 18, 2012 3:38 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates falling to new all-time record lows for the second consecutive week on mortgage securities purchases by the Federal Reserve and indicators of a weakening economy. The Federal Reserve's purchase of long-term fixed mortgage securities allowed the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at 2.69 percent to fall below the 5-year ARM's rate at 2.72 percent. The last time the average 15-year fixed was lower than the 5-year ARM was the week ending October 15, 2009.

News Facts

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.36 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending October 4, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.40 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.94 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.69 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.73 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.26 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.72 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.71 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.96 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.57 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.60 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.95 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Borrowers may still pay closing costs, which are not included in the survey.

"Fixed mortgage rates fell again this week to all-time record lows due to the mortgage securities purchases by the Federal Reserve and indicators of a weakening economy. The final estimate of growth in Gross Domestic Product was revised down to 1.3 percent in the second quarter, representing the slowest growth in a year," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac. "In addition, personal incomes rose only 0.1 percent in August, while July's increase was revised downward. And finally, pending home sales in August fell 2.6 percent, well below the market consensus forecast of a slight increase."

Source: Freddie Mac

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Pinterest vs. Facebook: Which Social Sharing Site Wins at Shopping Engagement?

October 17, 2012 3:38 am

Sixty-nine percent of online consumers who visit Pinterest found an item they've purchased, or want to purchase, compared to just 40 percent of online consumers who visit Facebook and found the same, discovers the latest study in the Bizrate Insights Image Sharing and Shopping Series.

While Facebook is far larger than Pinterest in terms of audience size—63 percent of online consumers have a Facebook account, while only 15 percent have a Pinterest account—the study, based on a survey of verified online buyers, finds that Pinterest provides a better experience for shopping discovery, purchase consideration, and deeper engagement with retailer content.

But this is not to say that all social attention should be diverted to Pinterest. Facebook and Pinterest each serve their online shopping communities with their preferred shopping activities, which vary by platform. For example, Facebook outpaces Pinterest in promotions (30 percent participate on Facebook vs. 9 percent on Pinterest), while Pinterest is stronger in sharing (55 percent re-pin an item on Pinterest vs. 37 percent who post an item on Facebook).

The Study, which contains results from over 7,000 verified online buyers in August 2012, compares Pinterest and Facebook engagement across a variety of shopping activities and usage occasions. This third study in the Series continues to provide deeper insight for retailers and marketers seeking to trend how online consumers are approaching Pinterest and other social media outlets.

All reports in this Series can be viewed at: http://bizrateinsights.com/blog/category/social-media/pinterest/.

Source: Bizrate Insights

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New Survey Sheds Light on Consumer Renting Behavior

October 17, 2012 3:38 am

Rent.com released its annual property managers’ report, which captures trends in the rental market by synthesizing the opinions of apartment property managers nationwide. In the 2012 survey, property managers provided insight on drivers for vacancy rates, expected rent increases, how rate increases are managed across tenants, and features which are most important to renters.

What Primarily Drives Vacancies?
Rent.com found that relocating and buying a home have taken the lead as the primary drivers of vacancy rates; this is a significant change from two years ago when job loss was the primary driver. Since 2010 there has been a 30 percentage point decrease in property managers who cited job loss as a primary driver of vacancy rates.

The decrease in property managers citing job loss makes sense in the context of the unemployment rate reports that the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides. In August 2010, the unemployment rate was approximately 9.6 percent, but since then has dropped to 7.8 percent for September 2012.

Is the Rent Too High?
Most (62.6 percent) of the property managers surveyed predicted that rents will rise over the next 12 months and 72.3 percent of property managers surveyed said they are actually planning to increase rental rates at their properties over the next 12 months. If the past year is any indication, tenants moving into a new property will face steeper rate increases than renters who choose to renew their existing leases. Apparently, it pays to stay! According to property managers, the average rental rate increase for new tenants in the past 12 months was 20 percent greater than the average increase for renewing tenants.

The survey also looked at exactly how much property managers expect rents to increase for both new and existing tenants over the next year. Not surprising, for new tenants, the percentage of property owners indicating a significant price increase of $100 or more per month was much larger. In fact, it was double. Twelve percent of property managers said they raised rents by $100 or more for new tenants as compared to just 6 percent of property managers for renewing tenants.

What a Property Manager Wants

When vetting a potential tenant, we learned that 46 percent of property managers reported that the minimum acceptable gross income to rent ratio for standard applicants is three times or more the monthly rental rate; while 30 percent will accept a gross income of 2.5 times the monthly rental rate.

Additionally, 74 percent of property managers ranked gross income to rent ratio as an important or very important factor in order for a renter to secure an apartment in one of their communities. Just edged out of the top spot was credit profile and payment history, which 72 percent of property managers ranked as important or very important. Surprisingly, nearly 60 percent of property managers told us that a high credit score is actually not important. Renters take note. When it comes to qualifying for your next apartment it’s best to have your financial house in order with a qualifying income level and a credit profile showing a good history of on time payment, but don’t sweat it if your credit score isn’t 750.

What’s the simplest way to negotiate savings on your monthly rental rate? Half (50 percent) of all property managers said sign a longer lease agreement, for example, 18-24 months vs. 12 months. Just over 8 percent said that setting up automatic debit payments can help as well which ensures that they are paid early or on time each month. This can also help you avoid ugly late fees which will save you money. Lastly, it’s clear that renewing your existing lease may just keep more money in your pocket this year.

Preferred Features

The survey found that 45.1 percent of property managers say according to feedback from prospective renters, allowing pets is the most important feature in their next property; as compared to 28.4 percent who say a dedicated parking space takes priority for renters. This is notable considering nearly 30 percent more American households have cars than pets.

Additionally, 47.5 percent of property managers said according to feedback from prospective renters that a washer/dryer in the unit is the most important apartment amenity while just 9.2 percent said good closet space was on the top of renters’ wish lists.

Source: Rent.com

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Avoid Costly Mistakes by Investing in Home Performance Testing

October 17, 2012 3:38 am

By the end of 2012, homeowners across the country will have spent over $400 billion on home improvement projects, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. Since 49 percent of homeowners are planning to stay put in their homes for at least the next six years, according to a poll by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the home improvement market has become much busier than in the housing rush of the mid-2000's.

Investing in home improvements without third-party assessments has led to a number of costly side effects including carbon monoxide poisoning from the HVAC systems, sweating windows, moisture problems in attics, and temperature fluctuations. Testing your home's performance can help you avoid some of these costly issues.

The secret to making your home improvement dollars count is comprehensive third-party testing. Taking your home to the doctor before investing in a potentially misguided surgery is a necessary part of any home renovation. A third-party test can help you invest in only the improvements that are assured to make your home more healthy, comfortable, and durable, rather than those that are the most profitable or convenient for contractors to sell you (and which might cost you even more money to overhaul down the road).

Additionally, there are many local and utility-based incentive programs trying to lure homeowners with the promise of a "$99 assessment," which often doesn't give a homeowner any test data with which to make an educated investment. These programs have goals they must achieve, and their $99 lure seems like a good deal. As with any contracted help, make sure to check the company's credentials and/or secure a solid testimonial from a trusted source.

Source: Illinois Association of Energy Raters

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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58 Percent of U.S. Consumers Will Wait for Travel Deals during 2012 Holidays

October 16, 2012 3:38 am

While 56 percent of respondents have begun saving for their holiday travel, more than half said they will still wait for travel deals before booking and planning their winter escapes, according to a recently released report entitled "Holiday Travel Buy-havior." The survey, which includes close to 2,000 individual responses, was conducted in late September.

The 2012 Holiday Travel Buy-havior Report points out the following:

-43 percent of consumers aren't traveling this holiday season, almost double to those expecting to travel more than 200 miles (28 percent).
-Of those who responded that they weren't traveling, 50 percent cite not enough vacation time, traveling with children, and expenses as deterrents from making travel plans.
-Only 17 percent of consumers are able to take longer than a week of vacation for holiday travel.
-Almost 60 percent of respondents said if they had the chance, they'd escape the urban jungle and go to a tropical paradise (43 percent), a snow-covered location (12 percent) or national park (5 percent).
-Only 12 percent of those that responded will spend over $1,000 on holiday travel. 52 percent expect to spend between $100-1,000 on travel between now and the New Year.
-11 percent aren't waiting for deals because they want their travel plans locked down and booked.

In light of these survey results, here are some tips for consumers looking to gain an edge over the holiday travel season:

Travel on non-shopping days—similar to the shopping crush and congested retail parking lots, more people are going to be traveling after work hours and Fridays through Sundays. If you can, opt instead to travel on Tuesday through Thursday.

Go online, instead of in line—if you're traveling out of town for the holidays, then buy those gifts online and ship ahead to your destination.

Find parking and transportation coupons—many people aren't aware that there are coupons and discounts through travel sites for parking lots, shuttle services, and rental cars.

If your suitcase is full, gift card it—if you know that you won't have room for those gifts in your suitcases before you buy them, then save yourself the hassle and just buy gift cards.

Stop at the roadside shops—for those traveling by car, the quirky little shops off the highways usually offer one-of-a-kind items that make a lasting impression.

Source: www.ShopAtHome.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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