RE/MAX 440  
Colleen Gular


Colleen Gular
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880 | Skippack, PA 19474
Phone: 610-584-1160 | Office Phone: 610-584-1160 | Fax: 267-354-6836
Cell: 267-266-2084 | email: cgular@remax.net

My Blog

5 Rules for Saving Money on your Travel Insurance Plan

March 28, 2013 4:14 am

1. Don’t ‘opt-in’ on booking sites.

It looks easy, but skip the checkbox for travel insurance on booking sites like Orbitz, Expedia, or cruise line sites. Why? You won’t read the policy details because you are focused on something else. The language used to sell the policy will not explain everything fully. It’s likely that you won’t have access to a range of plans or potentially necessary upgrades either.

Rule #1: You’ll have more focus, selection, and ability to purchase upgrades if you use a travel insurance comparison engine instead.

2. Avoid insuring refundable trip costs.

Some trip costs are refundable and some aren’t. Because travel insurance only lets you recover nonrefundable cash losses, these costs should not be included in your travel insurance coverage because it’s unnecessary and simply raises the price of your premium.
If your flight is cancelled, for example, but the airline offers you a full cost voucher for future travel, that loss is considered to be recovered and travel insurance has no obligation to provide further reimbursement.

Rule #2: Only cover the trip costs that are non-refundable and pre-paid.

3. Avoid multi-millions in evacuation coverage.

Many travel insurance policies offer several million dollars of evacuation coverage, but it’s too much. It is rare for an evacuation to cost more than a couple hundred thousand (and that’s for extreme cases). To be fair, evacuations are expensive exercises and not something a traveler wants to put on their credit card, but there’s no benefit to being over-insured either. It only serves to unnecessarily raise the price of your travel insurance premium.

Rule #3: Avoid over-insuring your emergency medical evacuations ($250,000 to $500,000 is adequate).

4. Don’t buy car rental coverage unless you really need it.

Many travel insurance plans include car rental coverage as an optional upgrade, but it’s very likely that you don’t need it. Automobile insurance companies often cover their members’ rental cars with the same coverage they have back home. Warning: rental coverage through your auto insurance provider doesn’t usually include ‘loss of use’ fees imposed by the rental agency while the vehicle is being repaired. If you think about this, it makes sense. Back home, you’d have a spouse or friend drive you around while your car is fixed or you’d get a rental for a few days. Check with your automobile insurance company to understand your coverage for rental cars.

It’s also likely that your credit card will have rental car protection too if you use the credit card to rent the vehicle. Many credit card agreements also cover ‘loss of use’ charges and have coverage for vehicles up to $30,000 or $50,000.

Rule #4: Avoid car rental coverage – use your auto insurance or credit card instead.

5. Avoid ‘cancel for any reason’ unless you really need it.

Many travelers assume they need "cancel for any reason" simply because they don’t understand the covered reasons for trip cancellation in their policy. "Cancel for any reason" is an upgrade option (meaning it costs extra) that lets travelers cancel a trip without explanation for 50-100 percent of their insured trip costs.

The covered reasons for trip cancellation provide coverage for a number of cancellation reasons, including terrorism, traffic accidents, job loss, hurricanes, and more. Each travel insurance company and plan has their own list of covered reasons, so by spending a little time with your policy – use the free look review period – most travelers will find that their trip cancellation worries are covered.

Rule #5: Don’t buy "cancel for any reason" unless it’s necessary.

Source: www.travelinsurancereview.net

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Tips for Purchasing NCAA Tournament Tickets

March 27, 2013 4:14 am

Are you a basketball lover? Planning on purchasing tournament tickets?

"The NCAA Tournament is one of the most exciting dates on the sports calendar," says Gary Adler, NATB General Counsel and Executive Director. "It's important that March Madness fans do their due diligence to make sure that the tickets they buy are legitimate. Consumers need to know the following tips to ensure a great experience from the time they purchase a ticket to the time they sit down in the arena to watch their favorite college team in action," Adler adds.

5 Tips for Safely Purchasing Tickets to NCAA Tournament Games:

1. Check to see if the reseller is a member of the NATB at www.natb.org.
2. Know the difference between a ticket broker (legitimate and accredited reseller) and a ticket scalper (unregulated and unlicensed ticket seller).
3. Check the ticket broker's refund policy. Only buy from a ticket reseller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction.
4. Always use a credit card-do not use cash.
5. Always ask for section, row and seat number to avoid obstructed view seats or seats that do not exist.

Lastly, feel free to ask questions to make certain you get all the answers you need to feel comfortable with your ticket purchase.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Finding the Right Neighborhood for Your Family

March 27, 2013 4:14 am

When making the decision to move your family, it's imperative that you find a neighborhood that best suits your family's lifestyle, needs and wants. Researching a new neighborhood before getting too far into the buying process is crucial in order to ensure a smooth settling. While you're considering a new location, keep the following in mind:

Keep your eyes peeled: Observing the neighborhood at various times of the day is a good way to get a feel for the overall safety of the neighborhood. Be sure to visit at night as well as during the day. Pay attention to things like noise, traffic and parking. Though these may not be the first things you would think about when visiting, they will be highly important to you should you decide to move there.

Research the local hospitals: How far away will your potential new home be from a hospital? Is that particular hospital well established? Conducting some online research about the hospital's reputation is a good idea as well, especially for families with ailing members.

Check up on the school system: For those with children or those who may have them in the future, the school system should be one of the top areas of concern when considering a move. School ratings can be viewed online, along with various forums of parental commentary. What are others saying about the town's teachers, education, after school programs, etc.? If you can, ask others in your neighborhood about the schools. By doing so, you'll ensure that you are comfortable with where you will be placing your children.

There are many other aspects that would warrant research. Crime rates in the town or city are a large concern for many new homeowners. Visit the local parks both during the day and at night. How safe are they? What kinds of stores are in the neighborhood and do the store hours match your lifestyle? Will you need any sort of public transportation? Look into schedules for busses, trains or taxis, if necessary.

A successful move doesn't solely depend on the property you purchase. To increase your family's chances of successfully settling into your new home, research the neighborhoods and towns that the property is located in. The more you know, the better your transition will be.

Source: Relocation.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Protect Your Blossoming Plants from Deer and Other Hungry Animals

March 27, 2013 4:14 am

With spring weather just around the corner, your yard and garden are wide open for deer, rabbits and other problem animals to feast upon. It's important to know that these animals can potentially destroy gardens resulting in costly financial loss, and one thing gardeners should always consider is that an animal will eat just about anything, if it is hungry enough.

"If food is scarce, deer and other animals can lose up to a quarter of their body weight over the winter months, and that means that they're hungry come spring, so it is prime time for problem animals to feast on your yard," says Bob Reynolds, CEO of Shake-Away, Inc. "The best way to get these pests away from your valuable plantings is to take advantage of the predator-prey relationship animals have. By using coyote urine granules to recreate the predator scent, you can naturally deter animals from the area where it is applied."

According to Reynolds, the top garden offenders that can be damaging your garden this spring and summer are:

1. Deer/elk
2. Rabbits
3. Domestic cats
4. Squirrel
5. Chipmunks
6. Groundhogs
7. Possums
8. Rats
9. Shrew
10. Vole

"No gardener wants deer munching on their vegetables or cats romping through that prized flower bed," says Ron Boyce, research scientist, Shake-Away, Inc. "Unsightly fences only solve the problem until the pests find a way around them. In addition, chemicals could potentially harm both animals and the plants, however, when animals smell a predator, their instinct is to stay as far away as possible."

Garden-safe and pet-friendly, predator granules (such as coyote or fox) are 100 percent non-toxic and cause prey animals to instinctively leave an area where they detect a predatory threat. They are also 100 percent natural and certified organic with no lingering yard or garden odor that is detectable by humans.

Source: www.shake-away.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Staying Safe When Lightning Strikes

March 26, 2013 4:10 am

While the chances of being struck by lightning are slim, with stormy weather coming our way in spring, it’s good to be prepared. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an average of 54 people are reported killed each year by lightning. Hundreds more survive strikes but suffer from a variety of symptoms, including memory loss, dizziness and other ailments.

Although lightning can happen during anytime of the year, most lightning strikes and lightning fires occur most often in the summer. Michael Pruitt, fire safety expert, presents the following safety tips:

• Look for shelter inside a home or large building.
• Stay away from windows or doors.
• Do not hide under tall trees for shelter.
• Unplug appliances and other electrical items, like computers and electronic equipment.
• Avoid washing your hands, doing laundry or washing dishes.
• If a person is hit by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately.

As we know, no safety tip is 100 percent safety proof, but being aware can help increase your safety during severe weather come summer.

Source: Michael Pruitt and Associates

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Stage for Start of Spring Home Buying Season

March 26, 2013 4:10 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates reversing course from the previous week and heading lower with the start of the spring home-buying season. As of this week, the 30-year fixed has remained below four percent for a year.

News Facts
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.54 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending March 21, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 3.63 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.08 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.72 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.79 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.30 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.61 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, the same as last week. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.96 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.63 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.64 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.84 percent.

"Low and stable inflation is placing downward pressure on fixed mortgage rates. Annual growth in the consumer price index has remained at or below two percent for the past four months, and for the producer price index even lower," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

"This, in part, is why the Federal Reserve monetary policy committee on March 20 lowered the upper end of its inflation forecast for 2013. In addition, our March Outlook calls for 30-year fixed mortgage rates to remain below 4 percent throughout this year."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Appraisal Institute Provides Homeowners with Property Tax Appeal Tips

March 25, 2013 4:10 am

Homeowners who are considering property tax appeals should be prepared with all the necessary information. As many U.S. homeowners begin receiving their local property tax bills, the Appraisal Institute offered suggestions to make the appeal process easier, particularly in working with assessors.

“Don’t assume that the assessor is out to get the property owner,” said Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA. “In a perfect world, the assessed value of a particular property would match market value if that is the regulatory intent of the particular jurisdiction’s property assessment law. But assessors aren’t able to look at each property individually every year as an appraiser might for mortgage financing, employee relocation, or other single-property appraisal assignments.”

In most situations, the assessment process uses a value model to produce what is called a mass appraisal for a universe of properties, which is typically many. This differs from an individual appraisal, such as one performed for a lender, which focuses only on a particular property. Sometimes the assessor’s value is higher than market value, while in other cases the assessor’s value is lower than market value.

Borges said homeowners should consider having an independent appraisal prepared and present the appraisal report to the assessor because appraisers are third-party experts who provide credible, reliable opinions of value. Also, he noted, many appraisers collaborate with property tax consultants and attorneys who specialize in tax appeal matters, which could provide the best opportunity for a property owner to increase the chances of a successful tax appeal.

There can be different stages of tax appeals based on the municipality, and Borges suggested that homeowners check with their assessor’s office or a local appraiser who can provide expertise. An experienced local appraiser can also shed light on the local appeals process, he said; however, this does not mean that appraisers should advocate an unreasonably low value for their clients because this would be an ethical violation. Appraisers are to act in an independent, objective and impartial manner, and advocate only for their expertly developed value opinions.

“Assessors’ offices generally have become more precise due to their use of technology that allows them to gain access to the same data as a property owner, appraiser, tax appeal consultant or attorney,” Borges said. “However, differences of opinion can arise over how the data is used. That’s why it’s typically best to start with an appraisal.”

He noted that consumers should keep in mind that assessors are usually adept at spotting faulty valuations and “hired guns” who provide values that appear to be unreasonably low. That is why it is very important to choose an appraiser whose work not only conforms to accepted industry standards, but to a strict code of ethics such as the one governing the actions of Appraisal Institute Designated members, he said.

Homeowners should be sure to hire a highly competent, well qualified appraiser, such as a Designated member of the Appraisal Institute.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Moving Out and Sprucing Up

March 25, 2013 4:10 am

Americans are on the move. Fifteen percent of Americans, or approximately 35 million people, expect to move in 2013, a 50 percent increase from last year. Of these, 43 percent plan to purchase a new home, condo or apartment, while 47 percent will rent. Moving or not, the vast majority (72 percent) of Americans have at least one home improvement project on their to-do list this year, expecting to spend an average of $4,000.

A Seller’s Market
Overall, homeowners are more optimistic about the real estate market, with 57 percent feeling confident they could sell their home for their asking price today, a 36 percent increase from 2012.

Nearly half of consumers (45 percent) think the best time to buy is within the next six months. To speed up the process, most homeowners (70 percent) say they’re willing to make certain concessions to sweeten the home buying deal, a trend that’s increased 13 percent since 2011. Concessions include: throwing in appliances (46 percent), making requested repairs (32 percent) as well as paying closing costs (18 percent, up 64 percent since 2011).

Before concessions can be agreed upon, sellers will woo potential buyers by putting their house’s “best foot” forward. The most important fixes and upgrades, according to consumers include: making small repairs, like leaky faucets and damaged plaster (69 percent), organizing and de-cluttering (66 percent), painting (63 percent), improving landscaping (49 percent), updating bathrooms (33 percent), replacing out-of-date appliances (24 percent) and hiring professionals to stage or clean (23 percent).

Not everyone is packing up and moving; 25 percent of Americans are looking to take advantage of low interest rates to re-finance. Among them, 38 percent will use their refinancing savings to pay down debt and bills, 23 percent will put the extra cash in a piggy bank and 12 percent will put the money toward home improvement projects.

House Call: Upgrades Add Value
Whether selling or staying put, consumers say they’ll spend an average of 14 percent more on home improvement projects this year than last. Seventy-two percent of Americans, on par with last year, will spend an average of $4,000 on fixing and sprucing up their homes.

“Consumers are investing in their homes this year across nearly every category from DIY to new home furnishings,” said David Rabkin, SVP U.S. Consumer Lending Products, American Express. “Whether they’re redoing one room or the whole house, there is a significant bump in spending that should bode well for many merchants.”

Homeowners plan to spend an average of $4,000 this year, up from $3,500 in 2012:

• 62 percent have plans to purchase new home accessories or furniture.
• 63 percent are remodeling their interiors, spending an average of $3,300.
• 39 percent are remodeling outdoors or landscaping, spending an average of $1,800.
• 39 percent are re-doing a single room, spending an average of $2,900, and,
• 33 percent are updating their appliances, spending an average of $1,033.

Source: American Express

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Truth about Cellphones and the National Do Not Call Registry

March 25, 2013 4:10 am

by Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Do you get aggravated by the constantly ringing phone during meal times and at night? Plenty of email forwards are sent every day with rumors about the National Do Not Call list, yet even after registering, sometimes those pesky calls still remain. Here are a few facts about the National Do Not Call Registry to help consumers save some sanity.

Contrary to re-circulating email:

• There is no new cellphone national do not call database. There is only one National Do Not Call Registry. It is operated by the Federal Trade Commission and covers both cell and landline phone numbers.
• Registering your cell or landline phone number is free. Once registered, a number stays on the Do Not Call Registry until the registration is canceled or service for the number is discontinued.
• There is no deadline for registering a phone number on the Do Not Call Registry.
• No numbers on the Do Not Call Registry are being released to telemarketers.

1. Why would I register my phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry?

The National Do Not Call Registry gives you an opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls you receive. Once you register your phone number, telemarketers covered by the National Do Not Call Registry have up to 31 days from the date you register to stop calling you.

2. Who manages the National Do Not Call Registry?

The National Do Not Call Registry is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency. It is enforced by the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and state law enforcement officials.

3. When I register my phone number, how long until it shows up on the National Do Not Call Registry?

After you register, your phone number will show up on the registry by the next day. Telemarketers have up to 31 days to get your phone number and remove it from their call lists.

For more information, visit http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0108-national-do-not-call-registry

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste and Ocean Pollution

March 22, 2013 4:06 am

It’s a growing problem in the northern Pacific Ocean and one that could change life on our planet within the next 20 years.

“I remember the first time I felt it; I was paddling out on my surfboard and noticed a mushy, plastic-like substance sliding through my fingers. That’s what started my obsession with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” says charity fundraiser and environmentalist Veronica Grey. “The patch is located between Hawaii and California in the northern Pacific Ocean, where millions of small bits of plastic have gathered in a vortex of ocean currents known as a gyre.”

As someone with ample experience raising awareness for worthy causes, Grey paired her professional skills with her personal passion for the ocean, creating the award-winning documentary “Aqua Seafoam Shame,” (www.Pacific-TV.com), which spotlights the mess in the ocean that has garnered precious little media attention, she says.

“Fifteen years ago The Patch was the size Texas, but now it’s the size of the continental United States,” says Grey, who used her iPhone to shoot the documentary, which features renowned scientists, journalists and environmentalists.

Plastic in the ocean has far-reaching implications that, if not addressed within 20 years, could change life on this planet, she says. To date, 177 species of sea life are known to ingest plastic; other species feed on those creatures, extending the chain of damage.

“People eat the seafood that eats plastic, and the planet gets its rain from the oceans, which are being polluted at an exponential rate,” she says. “We use significantly more of our planet’s surface as a dump than for growing food; this has to change.”

To begin addressing plastics pollution, Grey encourages people to use alternatives:

• Americans buy 2 million bottles of water every five minutes; ditch plastic bottles and use glass or recyclable cans.
• Carry a cost-effective canvas bag instead of getting disposable plastic bags at the grocery store. We waste 10 billion plastic bags every week!
• Do not line your trash cans with plastic bags. Use paper bags or nothing.
• Skip the lid on your to-go drinks. The paper cup is normally recyclable but the lid usually isn't.
• Remember that each and every time you flush; it all ends up in the ocean. Be mindful of what you toss in your toilet!

Source: Veronica Grey

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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