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

Window Safety and Your Children

April 5, 2012 4:56 am

This week marks National Window Safety Week, presenting a good opportunity to consider safety guidelines regarding your windows…especially when it comes to children. The experts at Simonton Windows offer the following suggestions:
  • Remember the primary purpose of a window screen is to keep insects outside. Never push on screens, as they will not support the weight of a child or family pet.
  • Lock windows when not in use to protect against intruders and make it more difficult for curious young children to open them.
  • Do not paint or nail windows shut. Every window in the home that is designed to be opened should be operational in case of an emergency.
  • Refrain from nailing or attaching decorative lights to the interior or exterior of window frames.
  • Plant shrubs or grass, and place “soft landscaping” like bark or mulch, directly underneath windows to help lessen the impact should someone accidently fall out of a window.
  • Make sure windows in every room and on every floor have clear openings that meet egress requirements in the living spaces as required by state and local building codes. Egress windows provide emergency exits in your home during a fire.
  • Practice home emergency fire drills and make sure children know under what circumstances to use a window to exit a home. If a door is hot to the touch, then both children and adults should exit through an open window.
  • Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not to break the window glass. Doing so could cause injury. During family safety drills, show children how to operate windows and how to use chain escape ladders that should be kept in all bedrooms located above ground level.

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Lenders Expect Delinquencies to Drop, Credit to Expand

April 5, 2012 4:56 am

There is growing optimism among the lending community, which bodes well for would-be borrowers. FICO’s quarterly survey of bank risk professionals revealed a gradual reversal in the sentiment of U.S. lenders, as expectations for loan repayments and credit availability were more upbeat in the first quarter of 2012 than in the previous quarter. The survey, conducted for FICO by the Professional Risk Managers' International Association (PRMIA), found fewer lenders expecting a rise in delinquencies on home loans, car loans, and small business loans than at any time since FICO launched its survey in early 2010.

In the latest survey, the number of respondents expecting mortgage delinquencies to rise during the next six months was 12 percentage points lower than last quarter – dropping from 47 to 35 percent. The survey found 28 percent of respondents expected delinquencies on small business loans to increase, which is 11 percentage points lower than last quarter. And 20 percent of respondents expected delinquencies on car loans to increase, 13 percentage points lower than last quarter.

With regard to credit cards, 32 percent of respondents expected delinquencies to increase. That is an improvement of seven percentage points over last quarter and it is the lowest figure since the second quarter of 2011.

FICO analysts attribute the increase in positive expectations to the modest improvement in unemployment rates. Barring any unforeseen bumps in the near future, loan delinquencies are expected to continue declining.

One area that remains a cause for concern, however, is student lending, with 51 percent of respondents expecting delinquencies to rise. That is 16 percentage points lower than last quarter, but it is still the second-highest level recorded since FICO initiated its survey.

According to the survey, while the credit gap appears to be closing in most areas, there is still concern regarding housing—56 percent of respondents believed credit supply would not meet demand for residential mortgages.

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Car Experts Rate Top Hybrids

April 3, 2012 4:38 am

Cars.com, a popular online resource for buying and selling new and used vehicles, just released a list of the best "Hybrids for the Money," as ranked by the site's team of editors.

"Gas prices remain high as we approach the summer driving season, which adds even more relevance to our annual look at how much today's hybrids actually save buyers," explains David Thomas, Cars.com managing editor. "While high mileage figures may seem like they'd impact your family's budget in a positive way, you also have to look into the efficient car's sticker price to know if making the switch would be a wise decision."

In ranking each hybrid, the site's editors looked at a vehicle’s average fuel economy and base sticker price. "We don't account for equipment levels, quality judgments, cost of ownership or any variances from EPA mileage estimates," says Thomas. "The goal here is to pay the least for the most mileage."
Here’s a list of the best-in-class hybrids, according to cars.com:
  • Subcompact: 2012 Toyota Prius c – MSRP: $18,950; 53mpg city/46mpg highway
  • Compact: 2012 Honda Insight – MSRP $18,350; 41mpg city/44mpg highway
  • Midsize: 2012 Toyota Prius – MSRP $24,000; 51mpg city/48mpg highway
  • Family Sedan: 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid – MSRP $25,900; 43mpg city/ 9mpg highway
  • Compact Crossover: 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid – MSRP $30,570; 34mpg city/31mpg highway
  • Midsize SUV/Crossover: 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid – MSRP $38,540; 28mpg city/28mpg highway
  • Full-size SUV/Crossover: 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid – MSRP: $51,970; 20mpg city/23mpg highway
  • Pick-up Truck: 2012 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid – MSRP $39,640; 20mpg city/23mpg highway
  • Luxury SUV: 2012 Lexus RX 450h – MSRP: $45,235; 32mpg city/28mpg
  • Luxury Car: 2012 Infinity M35h – MSRP: $53,700; 27mpg city/32mpg highway
Source: Cars.com

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Insurance Options for the Long Term

April 3, 2012 4:38 am

While just 50 years ago the average life expectancy was 62.5 years, today that number has risen to 78.2 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. More Americans are heading into their senior years than ever before, which means the need to make the right decisions regarding elder care is essential.

According to retirement income specialist, Steve Casto, author of “Is Your Retirement Headed in the Right Direction?” there are important questions and answers to consider before making critical decisions about a long-term care plan.

Casto says one of the most common issues is often the difference between what you think you’ll need and what you can actually afford. He offers the following questions and answers to help guide elder-care decisions:

Q. Should I opt for nursing-home or in-home care insurance?
A. When selecting insurance plans, protect against your worst risk first. In-home care is more about maintenance, while care outside the home is focused on crises. Home care is good for when a person needs help getting around. If you had a stroke, however, you’d need to be cared for outside the home initially, so there is a need for both.

Q. What should I select as my daily allowance?

A. If your health deteriorates, a daily allowance of $100 per day could cover all your care outside the home, but only a third of the care inside the home. Your home-care costs could rocket to more than $400 or more per day, so plan for the worst.

Q. What is an elimination period?
A. Sometimes referred to as the “waiting” or “qualifying” period, this refers to the length of time between the beginning of an injury or illness and receiving benefit payments from an insurer. With long-term care, the typical elimination period is 90 days, which means you are responsible for covering the first 90 days of care on your own. Most people believe that Medicare covers the first 90 days, which is incorrect. It only covers it under certain conditions, and not all patients meet those conditions, which include:
  • A nursing home stay that follows a three-day hospital stay
  • Admission to a nursing home within 30 days of hospital discharge
  • A Medicare-certified nursing home
  • Physician-certified need for skilled care on a daily basis
According to Casto, your best bet is to be insured through a long-term care policy for that first 90 days.

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Housing Market Awakens

April 3, 2012 4:38 am

The housing market is awakening from its depression-like condition of the past few years and beginning to make a nascent recovery, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for March.
  • According to the report, several positive indicators bode well for the real estate market, including:
  • Stronger economic growth this year will translate into a further reduction in the unemployment rate below 8.3 percent.
  • With stronger economic growth, home sales and originations forecasts have been revised upward.
  • Expect 30-year fixed-rate mortgages to gradually increase throughout the year to about 4.5 percent.
  • New rental construction for 2012 is likely to be the highest since 2005 if the current pace is maintained.
  • Even with a 1 percent dip in new and existing home sales in February, median sales prices moved up 0.3 percent on a year-over-year basis, a hint that home values may be stabilizing in more markets around the nation.
According to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, “The housing market continues to struggle amid strong economic headwinds. However, a variety of encouraging indicators suggest that the housing market may be feeling a nascent recovery, and more neighborhoods may see a stabilization in overall demand and housing values this spring."

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Bringing Your Bucket List Online

April 2, 2012 4:38 am

While you might not be ready to share your bucket list with the world, a new app lets you share your life’s dreams and goals with your social network.

The My Bucketlist app from Remembered.com guides you through creating a list of goals you’d like to achieve in your lifetime, and then brings in friends and family to help you complete them. The app relies heavily on social media like Facebook to connect people from all over the world. Features include the ability to invite friends, create events, and share photos and videos. Once a goal is created, it is matched with connections in your network to assist, and also vendors who can offer discounts and group offers to help fulfill that goal. Of course, this also allows advertisers to reach key groups of potential customers.

"My Bucketlist allows the opportunity to become part of a community of friends and family that encourage, organize, accomplish and share their life goals," says Adolfo Espadas, lead developer at Remembered.com. "By connecting people with similar goals, we believe our users will have a better rate of success as they work together and support each other."

To learn more, visit mybucket-list.net.

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Did You File in 2008? More Than 1 Billion Dollars in Unclaimed Refunds Awaits

April 2, 2012 4:38 am

According to the Internal Revenue Service, there are still unclaimed refunds for those who did not file 2008 tax returns. More than one million taxpayers have yet to file a 2008 tax return and could be entitled to a refund. However, the window of opportunity closes on April 17, 2012.

"The IRS offers a three-year window for filing a federal tax return, and for the 2008 tax year, the cut-off date is coming soon," explains Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. "Approximately half of the refunds available are for $637 or more, so it's wise to spend the time filing for 2008 now, as you are tackling this year's preparation and filing."

The IRS has taxpayers in every state who are potentially owed refunds from 2008. States with the highest number of unclaimed refunds are California (with 122,500 individuals who did not file a 2008 return), Florida (70,400) and New York (60,300).

There are several reasons why a taxpayer may have neglected to file, including having too little income to require filing. But even if someone's income was too low, they likely had money withheld from their employment that is now available to them as a refund. In addition to receiving money that was withheld, filing a 2008 tax return also allows those who are eligible to claim certain credits, such as the Recovery Rebate Credit, the First-Time Homebuyer Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.

To claim a 2008 refund, taxpayers must have filed for the 2009 and 2010 tax years. Taxpayers will not incur any late filing penalty and will be able to receive their refund if they file a return by April 17, 2012.

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Credit Criteria Loosens for Sub-prime Borrowers

April 2, 2012 4:38 am

For the first time in over four years, banckcard credit lines increased, reaching $163 billion in 2011. In fact, sub-prime origination growth across all lending sectors is continuing to show notable increases, according to recent U.S. consumer data from Equifax's March “National Consumer Credit Trends Report” and CreditForecast.com, a joint product of Equifax and Moody's Analytics.

For example, the number of bank credit card accounts increased from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011, a product of lenders more aggressively seeking new customers and consumers’ increasing demand for new credit. New credit in 2011 ($782 billion) remained below pre-recession levels, but gained more than 10 percent over 2009 and 2010 levels ($695 and $709 billion, respectively).

Increases in credit limits were also seen in 2011, as total retail credit card limits increased 6 percent year-over-year from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011 and total bank credit card limits jumped 24 percent from Dec. 2010 to Dec. 2011.

Other notable findings from the Equifax report include:

Bank Credit Cards

  • Lending to sub-prime consumers showed a 41 percent increase from 2010 to 2011 as sub-prime borrowing hit a four-year high in Dec. 2011 with 1.1 million new bank credit cards issued.
  • New sub-prime card limits grew 55 percent from 2010 to 2011. At $12.5 billion in 2011, bankcard limits are at their highest level since 2008 ($27.4 billion).
  • Bank credit card growth continues, but is still well below pre-recession levels. In 2011, 39.9 million bankcards were opened, an 18 percent increase from 2010 and the highest total since 2008.
  • The increase in total bank credit card originations was accompanied by a 31 percent increase in total credit limits from 2010 to 2011. 2011 marked the first time in over four years that credit lines increased, reaching $163 billion.
Retail Credit Cards
  • In early 2009, the share of retail card balances held by low-risk borrowers started increasing markedly. Today, low-risk borrowers hold just below 42 percent of retail card balances, followed by high-risk borrowers who now make up nearly 26 percent of balances outstanding.
  • From 2010 to 2011 there was a 4.7 percentage point increase in retail card originations to sub-prime borrowers, making up 31 percent of 2011 retail credit card originations.
  • Retail credit card limits grew almost 6 percent in 2011, totaling $60 billion for newly originated cards.
  • The decline in total retail card limits appears to be nearing a bottom as delinquency rates and write-offs show continued declines.
Consumer Finance
  • New consumer finance loans originated in 2011 (20.2 million) were up over 4 percent from 2010 (19.4 million), and the highest since 2008 (24.8 million).
  • Consumer finance delinquency rates are on the decline, dropping to 7 percent in February 2012, the lowest level since July 2007.
  • From 2007 to 2010, consumer finance loan originations were falling, but the trend reversed in 2011, with $1.2 billion of new loan amounts added.
  • New consumer finance originations for the month of December reached $5 billion in 2011; the last time December originations were that high was in 2008 ($5.1 billion).
  • Consumer finance loans have typically served high-risk consumers, but in February 2011, low-risk borrowers became dominant in the segment; as of February 2012, just over 33 percent of consumer finance loans (by dollars) were to high-risk borrowers while 39 percent were to low-risk borrowers.
Source: Equifax

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Home Trends: Rechargeable Mower

March 30, 2012 4:32 am

Eco-friendly appliances have been popular inside homes for the past several years. But this spring, the Energy Star rated Recharge Mower G2 may be one of the hottest lawn-care trends of 2012.

With no chokes, belts, oil changes, filters or gas needed, homeowners can simply charge this mower up, enabling it to cut up to 2 acres on a single charge. By avoiding the ongoing service issues inherent to gas mowers, the Recharge Mower G2 can consumers time, money, and stress.

Spruce up your lawn for your next party or showing. Spend more time enjoying the warm weather this year, and less time fiddling with your mower. “Manicuring your lawn is what a riding mower is designed to do”, says President Allan Hechtman. “The Recharge Mower G2 is built for users and not mechanics.”

Source: http://www.rechargemower.com

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Calculating Solar Costs

March 30, 2012 4:32 am

Installing solar electrical generating panels in your home is a growing trend for both helping the environment and saving on energy costs. According to residentialsolarpanels.org, homeowners should calculate up-front costs vs. the long-term savings you could enjoy.

For nearly everyone, the upfront cost of a photovoltaic solar system will be a major factor. However, with the yearly utility savings and the government incentives, it can be well worth the initial investment.

Considering a single solar panel can generate 21.294 kWh/month, if your electricity company charges an average of 20 cents per kWh, you would save about $512 per year. If that system costs $20,000, solar Government rebates / Tax Credits could cut that cost as much as 50 percent, so you’ll have to pay back $10,000.

That means it will take you about 19.5 years for 10 x 2 m² solar panels to pay off the system and begin truly saving. And if you consume 1,000 Kw /Month it will reduce your typical energy bill by about half.

Finally, if all the numbers work out— it's time to plan your photovoltaic system placement. A good rule of thumb to use when determining the correct tilt of solar panels is to find out the approximate latitude of your area and set the panels at an angle equal to that latitude.

This should maximize the amount of solar radiation absorbed all year. If the southward facing roof on which the panels will be installed is slanted beyond the angle of your area’s latitude, then the panels should be lifted at the bottom edges, in order to achieve the best radiation angle, whenever possible.

For flat roofs, any of the four sides can be elevated to match the latitude angle.

Finally, to start a power purchase agreement with your local utility, you will have to start filling out paperwork to get approved. One of the first things that you will have to submit is your current electric bills. This is to show what your normal consumption is. If you get approved, you could get some solar renewable energy credits for every megawatt hour you are producing.

If your state offers money for these credits, it could add up to some nice pay for you, according to the folks at residentialsolarpanels.org.

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