Local and National Real Estate News from your Doylestown PA Agent - Kim Bartells

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Most Manufactured-Housing Borrowers Have Costly Loans

October 7, 2014 12:50 am

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a report which found that manufactured-home owners typically pay higher interest rates for their loans than borrowers whose homes were built onsite. The report also found that manufactured-home owners are more likely to be older, live in a rural area, or have lower net worth.

“Manufactured housing is a critical source of affordable housing for some consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “These consumers may be more financially vulnerable.”

Manufactured homes are commonly referred to as “mobile homes” or “trailers.” They are a specific type of factory-built housing. After the homes are built in a factory, they are then transported on their framework to a retail center or the placement site if they have been purchased. Manufactured homes are required to be built and installed in accordance with standards set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The report concluded:
  • One out of seven homes outside of a metropolitan area is a manufactured home. Manufactured homes account for only about 6 percent of all occupied U.S. housing. Outside metropolitan areas, however, one out of every seven homes is a manufactured home. These homes are more prevalent in the southeastern and western states. South Carolina has the highest prevalence of manufactured housing in the country, followed by New Mexico.
  • Manufactured-home owners are more likely to be older: Nearly one out of five families that live in manufactured homes do not have children in the home and are headed by someone aged 55 or older—compared with less than 15 percent of families that live in site-built homes.
  • Manufactured-home owners are more likely to have lower net worth. Bureau research has found that manufactured home residents tend to have lower net worth than other families. The 2004–2010 Surveys of Consumer Finances indicate that the median net worth among households that lived in manufactured housing was just about one-quarter the median net worth of families living in all other types of housing.
One of the main differences between a manufactured home and a home built onsite is that manufactured homes may be titled as either real estate property or personal property. A home built onsite is almost always titled as real estate property. For a manufactured home to be titled as real estate property, the home generally must be set on a permanent foundation on land that is owned by the home’s owner. If a manufactured home is titled as personal property, it generally must be financed through a personal property loan, also known as a chattel loan.

Source: CFPB

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Organic Foods Best Option for American Families

October 6, 2014 12:16 am

Refuting prior claims to the contrary, conclusive evidence has been found that organic crops, and the food made from them, are nutritionally superior to their conventional counterparts.

A recent study by The Organic Center (TOC), a non-profit associated with the Organic Trade Association, serves to dispel consumer confusion about the benefits of organic. A 2012 Stanford University study claimed that organic foods were no healthier than non-organic, setting off a heated debate on the nutritional value of organic products.

“The nutritional differences between conventional and organic crops have always been a much debated topic,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for TOC. “This significant study reevaluates the issue from a more inclusive, statistically accurate standpoint and strongly shows that organic fruits and vegetables have definite health benefits to conventionally grown products.”

Key findings from the study include:
  • Organic crops and crop-based foods are up to 60 percent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. Antioxidants have been linked to a reduced risk of serious chronic diseases.
  • For the millions of health-minded individuals watching their caloric intake, the amount of extra antioxidants one would consume each day by eating the recommended five servings of organic fruits and vegetables would be equal to one to two additional servings of conventionally grown produce.
  • Conventional foods are four times more likely to contain pesticide residues than organic foods. Exposure to pesticides has been found to affect brain development, especially in young children, and pose a greater risk for pregnant women and men and women of reproductive age.
  • On average, organic crops had 48 percent lower cadmium levels than conventional crops. Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that can cause kidney failure, bone softening and liver damage. It can accumulate in the body, so chronic exposure is dangerous even at low levels.
These findings present a positive update for U.S. families – another recent survey from the Organic Trade Association revealed that eight out of ten now purchase organic products, and nearly half of those families do so out of concern for their children’s health.

Source: OTA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Majority of Millennials to Buy Home with Credit

October 6, 2014 12:16 am

The majority of millennials plan to purchase a home with credit, according to a recent survey of Americans and their credit behavior commissioned by BMO Harris Bank. The survey found that 81 percent of millennials will use a line of credit versus a mortgage or loan when purchasing a home, differing from attitudes expressed by the Sandwich Generation.

Millennials expect to turn to credit for other major future purchases, as well. When financing their entrepreneurial goals, 63 percent will primarily use some form of credit. Millennials were also more likely to use credit when paying for a wedding (29 percent) and to finance a big vacation (32 percent).

"It's not uncommon to use some form of credit for the major purchases in life,” said Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, Head of Retail Banking, BMO Harris Bank. “What's most important is having a plan in place before making the purchase of how you're going to pay it off. If it's on a credit card, sporadic, large purchases may harm your credit score by tipping the balance on your credit-to-debt ratio, which should stay under 35 percent. Interest accumulation is another factor to consider.”

Millennials relying on credit should follow these guidelines:
  • Think big picture. Credit card use is one piece of the puzzle in building your credit score. Using a loan or line of credit for major purchases also plays into your rating. Paying down these loans in a timely manner will be beneficial.
  • Opt for low-rates. If you are carrying a balance on a higher rate credit card, consider moving your balances to a low interest-rate loan or line of credit, or a lower-rate credit card.
  • Travel smart. Using a credit card to pay for a vacation (or part of one) can be an opportunity to build up rewards points. Certain cards will also provide insurance for travel-related mishaps, like lost luggage.
  • Consolidate your debt. If eliminating the debt is not possible in the short-term, amalgamate the debt you do have to minimize interest. If you have too many cards, consider getting a line of credit to help clear the balance.
Source: BMO Harris Bank

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13 Household Fire Safety Tips

October 6, 2014 12:16 am

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 17,500 Americans are injured in fires each year. Given that statistic, families must develop a fire escape plan. Aside from practicing fire drills with everyone in the household, take these steps to ensure safety.
  • Identify fire safety risks inside your home and immediate surroundings. Equip your garage with smoke detectors since garage fires can start easily and spread quickly.
  • Identify two exits -- designate two exits from every room in your home -- a door and a window. Make sure doors and windows open quickly and easily to help ensure a quick exit; if not, replace them for safety's sake.
  • Keep exit routes free of clutter to help reduce tripping or falling hazards, as you may be crawling through smoke or in the dark in a power outage to exit in an emergency.
  • Create a home fire escape plan and practice it at least twice a year with everyone in your household. Make sure house sitters or babysitters are also familiar with your plan.
  • To make your own plan, download a fire escape grid from Pella and draw a floor plan of each level of your home.
  • Install and regularly test smoke alarms in bedrooms and near sleeping areas on each level of your home.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children, preferably in a cabinet with a child-resistant lock.
  • Keep candles at least one foot away from anything that can burn. Blow out candles when you leave the room, or before you go to sleep. Consider replacing traditional candles with electric candles, especially in homes with children and pets.
  • Completely extinguish outdoor fires like fire pits or grills when you're done with them, and never leave outdoor fires unattended.
  • If your home features more than one story, equip it with a fire escape ladder, easily accessed from upper-level bedrooms. Mark their location on your home fire plan and share this information with your family.
  • Keep fire extinguishers in your home, especially in the kitchen where many home fires start. Replace expired extinguishers.
  • Stay in the kitchen while cooking. If you must leave for a short time, turn off the stove. When baking, check the oven regularly, and use a timer to help make sure it's shut off when cooking's done.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet from things that can burn. Turn off heaters when you leave the room, or before you go to sleep. Keep flammable objects, like rugs, bedding, clothing, furniture, curtains and decorations, away from portable heaters.
Source: Pella Windows and Doors

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Conduct a Safety Assessment in Your New Home

October 3, 2014 1:16 am

Moving into a new home can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Amid unpacking boxes and getting organized, set aside time to walk through your home and evaluate features that impact security. Keep these three areas in mind during your your assessment.

Doors
– All deadbolts should be inspected immediately upon arrival. Ensure that the bolt is made of steel or other durable material, and at least one inch in the length to deter intruders. In addition, check that exterior entryways are protected with solid core doors, rather than the hollow version found in a home’s interior.

Lighting
– More is better than less when it comes to outdoor lighting. Alert you and your family before an incident occurs by installing motion sensor lights along walkways and near the corners of your home.

Plantings – Overgrown shrubs provide the ideal hiding spot for criminals. Prune plantings regularly around access points, such as windows and doors. Alternatively, plant thorny bushes to eliminate the hiding spot altogether.

Source: Safewise

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Four Ways to Save this Halloween

October 3, 2014 1:16 am

(Family Features) As many families with small children know, Halloween is a highly anticipated holiday packed with clever costumes, yummy candies and spirited parties.

But for many parents, the costs associated with this much-loved occasion can be downright frightful. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $72 on Halloween this year, which comes to $7 billion in spending nationwide. With so many ghoulish get-togethers taking place, many parents are looking for ways to stretch their dollars without missing out on any of the fun.

Enjoy more thrills this season with these money-saving tips.

Choose costumes with options. Going to several Halloween parties, but don't want to spend money on extra costumes? Check out costumes that serve a dual purpose, or choose one costume that can be re-used with different accessories.

Save on ghostly gatherings. There are many ways to celebrate without emptying your pocketbook. Invite friends over for a Halloween potluck and encourage each guest to bring a dish to share with a spooky name. Rent or download classic horror films for an after-dinner movie marathon everyone will enjoy.

Shop from home. Save time and avoid the headache of running around town looking for the perfect costume by shopping online. Buy from retailers that allow shoppers to browse and purchase online, and then pick up in-store for no additional fee.

Trick or treat locally. Many parents spend Halloween evening carting children around to various locations across town. Save gas money by only allowing your little goblins to trick or treat within your neighborhood. This will help you get to know your neighbors and get a little exercise in, too.

Source: Kmart

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FICO 9 Changes Could Impact Credit Score

October 3, 2014 1:16 am

With the rollout of FICO’s updated scoring system slated for the near future, it’s important for consumers to continue to practice good credit habits. The Better Business Bureau advises that FICO 9 will result in these three changes, which may impact your credit score.

1. Lack of credit history will be a non-factor. FICO 9’s new algorithm assesses loan risk instead of history, eliminating challenges for young adults or those with little to no credit.

2. Medical debts will hold less weight. Incurring debt from a medical circumstance is often unavoidable. Once FICO 9 goes into effect, experts estimate that those with medical debt and an otherwise good credit history will see a 25-point increase in their score.

3. Collected debt will not be heavily evaluated. Debts paid to a collections agency will have much less of an impact thanks to a forgiveness policy that could result in the addition of 100 points or more to your score.

Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Find a Qualified Roofer

October 2, 2014 1:16 am

Many homeowners may opt to bring in a roofing contractor instead of performing a roofing evaluation themselves. So in this report, we'll tap Clement and the experts at DaVinci Roofscapes for some additional advice on finding a good roofing contractor.

First, check to make sure the roofer you are considering is insured and licensed. Then, ask for a written job estimate and references along with warranty information for both the roof you select and the roofer's installation services.

Here are some other recommendations to help find qualified installers in your area:

1. Go to a roof manufacturer’s website to see if they have a preferred installer program. Many manufacturers have special designations for roofing contractors that are skilled at installing their roofs.

2. Ask your local lumberyards, distribution centers and building product dealerships for recommendations on quality roofing installers in your area. You can also ask architects and general contractors if they have a recommendation for a roofer they feel does exceptional work.

3. Visit a website like 1800contractor.com, Home Advisor or Angie’s List. Let them match you up with installers in your specific geographic area to receive installation quotes. And, make sure to check the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce for roofer listings in your area.

4. Ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations of reputable roofers they’ve used in the past. Select those whose services have been stand-out top quality with your friends.

5. Visit the National Roof Contractors Association (NRCA) website. In the "Consumers" section on the homepage there's a "Find a Contractor" button - plug in your zip code to find an NRCA member roofer in your area.

You'll also find other valuable information on this website regarding your roofing project.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save on Thanksgiving Travel with These Tips

October 2, 2014 1:16 am

Holiday travelers looking for the best deals online should book before late October, according to Priceline.com, a leader in online and mobile travel. With flight and seat reductions creating more competition for available seats over the holidays, booking sooner rather than later is key. To narrow down the best deals, follow these tips.

Depart and return on less expensive days. For Thanksgiving travelers, the best days to depart are November 20, 21, 24, 25 and 27. For returning trips, the best days to book are November 27 or 28, or Dec. 2

Pick times of the day that are normally less busy. Keep in mind the time of day that you'll be flying. Travelers will find the most affordable seats departing early in the morning (5 to 7 a.m.) or late evening (after 8 p.m.). Mid-day (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is a bit more expensive, but still reasonable. Most expensive are the peak business travel hours (8 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.).

Send those presents on ahead. Gifts for loved ones can mean extra baggage fees, not to mention the security screeners will not be happy to see those wrapped boxes. Save yourself the hassle by mailing or shipping presents in advance (after you've wrapped them, of course).

Weigh and measure your baggage. Check your airline's maximum requirements for checked and carry-on bags to make sure you won't incur extra fees. Note: baggage fees are charged separately for your outbound and return flights.

Source: Priceline.com

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Five DIY Projects to Complete before Winter

October 2, 2014 1:16 am

(BPT) - The leaves are starting to fall off the trees, the birds are flying south and you can feel the temperature dropping. Winter is on its way and while squirrels pack away food before the first snow fall, you'll be relieved to know that you still have time to finish some projects listed below to get your home ready for winter.

Tackle the yard.
Your yard will fall into dormancy during the winter, but a little prep now can help your green space bounce back in the spring. Fertilize your lawn using a lawn spreader from your local rental store to turn this all-day chore into a task that takes just a couple of hours. And don't waste the rest of your day raking the yard; instead, rent a leaf blower to finish this task in a fraction of the time.

Seal the gaps. Find the places where cold air sneaks into your home and you will drastically reduce your heating bills throughout winter. Feel along your windows and doors for any drafts. Seal larger cracks with caulk and cover your windows in plastic wrap for comprehensive protection. If you have a real chimney, don't forget to close the damper to prevent cold air from billowing down the chimney.

Clean the carpets. The winter season can be hard on your carpets as snow, salt and dirt get tracked in from outside. Cleaning them before winter begins puts them in the best possible shape for the colder months ahead. You can hire a professional carpet cleaner or rent one to conquer the task yourself.

Protect pipes from freezing. A ruptured pipe can ruin your home and everything in it. Ruptured pipes occur during winter when the pipes freeze and the frozen water inside expands. You can protect against this by never letting your home's temperature fall below 65 degrees. Wrap pipes running along the exterior walls in heat tape, and be sure to check pipes on those bitterly cold nights.

Empty the gutters. If left unchecked, falling leaves and other debris will clog your gutters and downspouts, which can cause ice dams in the winter. Start by trimming or removing trees and hedges near the gutters. If you lack the tools to complete this project, you can rent a brush cutter, tree trimmer or ladder to do the job. Once obstructions have been removed, clear the gutters to prevent a future home disaster.

These simple steps will help you winterize your home so you can enjoy a happy, hazard-free holiday season.

Published with permission from RISMedia.