Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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May 19, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 19, 2011--After you move into a new home and your family is settled, a housewarming party is the perfect way to introduce your home to your friends, extended family and new neighbors. In order to ensure a successful soiree, proper planning must be taken into account. Here are a few tips to help you through the process:
Decide on a budget. The very first step is to decide on a budget. Depending on the space, you may need to limit your guest list. If money is a bit of an issue, stick to close friends only and consider having a pot luck. Once a budget has been determined, you can continue making decisions from there.
What kind of party will it be? You can mold your party into any sort you'd like. Choose a theme or have a costume party, if you'd like, but be sure to tell your guests well in advance. In addition, plan some activities or games. If you are blending many different groups together, try a nice icebreaking game that will assist your guests in getting to know each other. If themes and games don't suit your taste, create the perfect playlist to set the perfect tone for your party. Music is a must.
Make your menu decisions early. Decide on the menu early so you can give yourself plenty of time to go shopping for food. Cook or prepare anything you can in advance to give yourself some breathing room on the day of the party. Have some vegetarian options available, and be sure to choose items that adhere to your budget.
Be a good host and introduce everyone early on. Be sure to introduce your guests to each other upon their arrival. If you are learning names for the first time yourself, introducing that person to someone else is a great way to make sure you remember the name. Walk your guests around the party when they arrive and be sure to offer and refill the guests' beverages.
As always, display gratitude for your guests' time. Be sure to send thank you notes, when appropriate, to thank your guests for their time and any gift they may have given you. Share any photos or videos you may have captured at the party or give out small favors the night of. If one of your guests has an event of their own in the near future, make a point to attend. A little bit of gratitude goes a long way.
It's not hard to make your housewarming event a great success, but planning is crucial toward achieving this goal. Start your planning as early as possible and enjoy!
Source: Relocation.com Blog
May 19, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 19, 2011-- Home sales are expected to stay on an uptrend through 2012, although the performance will be uneven with mortgage constraints weighing on the market, according to experts at a residential real estate forum at the REALTORS
Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said existing-home sales have been underperforming by historical standards and will rise gradually but unevenly. "If we just hold at the first-quarter sales pace of 5.1 million, sales this year would rise 4%, but the remainder of the year looks better," Yun says. "We expect 5.3 million existing-home sales this year, up from 4.9 million in 2010, with additional gains in 2012 to about 5.6 million
that's a sustainable level given the size of our population."
Mortgage interest rates should rise gradually to 5.5% by the end of the year and average 6.0% in 2012
still relatively affordable by historic standards.
"A huge volume of cash sales, supported by the recovery in the stock market, show that smart money is chasing real estate. This implies that there could be a sizeable pent-up demand if mortgages become more readily accessible for qualified buyers," Yun says. "The problem isn't with interest rates, but with the continuation of unnecessarily tight credit standards that are keeping many creditworthy buyers from getting a loan despite extraordinarily low default rates over the past two years."
Yun says that if credit requirements returned to normal, safe standards, home sales would be 15 to 20% higher. He added that some parents are buying homes with cash for their children, and offering them loans which provide better returns than bank accounts or CDs.
Yun projects the Gross Domestic Product to grow 2.5% this year and 2.7% in 2012, adding 1.5 million to 2 million jobs yearly over the next two years. The unemployment rate should decline to 8.8% by the end of 2011 and average 8.6% next year, returning to a normal level of 6% around 2015.
Housing starts are forecast to rise but remain below long-term trends, reaching 603,000 in 2011, up from 595,000 last year, and continue growing to 908,000 in 2012. New-home sales are seen at a record low 320,000 this year, rising to 487,000 in 2012. "A recovery in new homes will be slow because of the extra price discount in the existing home market," Yun notes. In March, the typical new single-family home cost $53,300 more than an existing home.
Inflation appears to be relatively modest for now, with the Consumer Price Index rising 2.9% this year. "We'll be closely watching the impact of fuel costs on consumer spending and inflation
that would slow economic growth, job creation and home sales," Yun says.
Apartment rents are trending up, and are likely to rise at faster rates as vacancies decline. Following the correction in home prices, it has now become more affordable to buy in most of the country. "Twice as many renters had enough income to buy a home in 2010 in comparison with 2005, so we have a much larger pool of financially qualified renters," Yun says. "Rising rents and excellent housing affordability conditions will encourage potential buyers who've been on the sidelines."
Yun expects the median existing-home price to remain near $170,000 over the next two years, which would mark four consecutive years of essentially no meaningful price change.
Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, holds similar views on the outlook. "Economic activity will accelerate this year
there will be no double dip in the economy," he says. Nothaft is more optimistic on job growth, expecting 2.0 million to 2.5 million jobs created in 2011 with unemployment dropping to 8.4% by the end of the year.
Nothaft expects the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to trend up to 5.25% by the end of the year, and for home sales to rise 5%. "National home price indices are close to a bottom and prices are likely to bottom sometime this year," he says.
Refinancing activity in 2011 will be only half of what it was last year. "As a result, banks may become more willing to lend to home buyers," Nothaft says.
May 19, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 19, 2011-Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan awarded more than $216 million to nearly 700 new homeless programs across the country.
The grants announced are $26 million more than last year's grants and, combined with renewal funding announced earlier this year, represents the most homelessness assistance ever awarded by HUD.
HUD is also continuing to confront rural homelessness by targeting a record $16.4 million to 87 never-before-funded programs in less populated areas of the country.
In January, HUD awarded more than $1.4 billion in Continuum of Care grants to renew funding to 7,000 existing local homeless programs. The funding announced today will invest in local projects that have never before received HUD homeless funds, providing critically needed housing and support services to an estimated 21,000 homeless individuals and families.
Though homelessness is largely an urban phenomenon, HUD is reserving record funding to meet the unique challenges faced by homeless individuals and families living in rural areas.
"Today, we build on the goal to prevent and end homelessness in America," says Donovan. "This funding will make a significant impact in the lives of thousands of people and provide resources to bring them towards the road of independence."
HUD's Continuum of Care grants fund a wide range of transitional and permanent housing programs as well as supportive services such as job training, case management, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and child care. Street outreach and assessment programs to transitional and permanent housing for homeless persons and families are also funded through these grants.
Continuum of Care programs include:
- Supportive Housing Program (SHP) offers housing and supportive services to allow homeless persons to live as independently as possible.
- Shelter Plus Care (S+C) provides housing and supportive services on a long-term basis for homeless persons with disabilities, (primarily those with serious mental illness, chronic problems with alcohol and/or drugs, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS or related diseases) and their families who were living in places not intended for human habitation (e.g., streets) or in emergency shelters.
- Single-Room Occupancy Program (SRO) provides rental assistance for homeless persons in one-person housing units that contain small kitchens, bathrooms, or both.
Last year, 19 federal agencies announced a plan to end all homelessness through Opening Doors-an unprecedented federal strategy to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015-and to end homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020. In addition to the Continuum of Care grant program, HUD's new Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing (HPRP) Program made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is making a major contribution to the Opening Doors strategy. To date, HPRP has allocated $1.5 billion to prevent more than 875,000 people from falling into homelessness or to rapidly re-house them if they do.
HUD's homelessness grants are reducing long-term or chronic homelessness in America. Based on the Department's latest Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), chronic homelessness has declined by 30% since 2006.
This decline is directly attributed to HUD's homeless grants helping to create significantly more permanent housing for those who might otherwise be living on the streets. It was also reported in the AHAR that the number of homeless families increased for the second consecutive year, almost certainly due to the ongoing effects of the recession.
For more information, visit www.hud.gov.
May 18, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011--For homes in dire need of a brightened d
cor, a large budget isn't necessary to give the property a fresh look.
"As real estate values have fallen, many people are concerned with how much money to put into their homes. Yet, discerning clients recognize that a dated interior really lowers the value of their home," says Donna Hoffman, a Philadelphia-based interior designer.
In fact, homeowners can update their interiors without starting from scratch and without incurring sky-high expenses. To reclaim enjoyment of your home, Hoffman offers five fool proof and fiscally prudent design secrets that are the budget-savvy penicillin for outdated interiors:
- Deconstruct the color palette. Don't throw out an existing color palette; deconstruct it. To do this, create a new color strategy that flips the existing main room color into the secondary position of "accent color." For example, if it's a blue and mauve interior that's at issue, turn the blue into the new accent color.
- Neutralize the room. Now that you've isolated your new accent color, remove all strong colors in the room except for your one accent. "This includes removing area rugs, throw pillows, accessories, dated wallpapers-anything that sings too loudly in the old color palette," Hoffman says. Keep only the 'new' accent color, letting everything else go neutral. By project's end, you'll be left with an 'accent' color that gorgeously pops amidst a new palette of neutrals.
Paint the walls in a rich neutral like latte or one of the new chameleon neutrals of 2011 for a crisp current look.
- Elicit the power of throw pillows. "Custom is ideal for variety and impact, but if it's beyond your budget, look for little jewels at retail," Hoffman explains. "Sprinkle mostly neutral accent pillows in varied shapes and sizes through the room to move classic color, create interest and reinvigorate older upholstery."
- Evaluate draperies. If draperies boast the old color scheme, look tired or overly sagged and dated, take them down. "Go bare if you must," Hoffman cautions, "because nothing in a room is better than something bad." If you can afford to do custom in the new color strategy, this is the place to invest. "Custom draperies give tremendous aesthetic return on the dollar," Hoffman explains. "But if custom is out, then to go for the best quality you can afford at retail, not the cheapest."
- Examine the sofa. Pillows can tone down a loud sofa, but they can't hide a worn eyesore or a thoroughly outdated silhouette. Opt to update a dated sofa, even if at a budget retailer. Select a solid in a classic style, like a Track Arm or English Arm. "These have the staying power of that little black dress. Keep it simple and dress it with accessories. In our case we're doing pillows instead of pearls."
For more information, visit www.InteriorsByDonnaHoffman.com.
May 18, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011--When our generation was growing up, we were taught about Social Security, and many of us had grandparents who were reasonably comfortable with a combination of their investment income and their government checks. Today, that may not be the case.
Over the last few years, we have seen the market waver, and Social Security is on its way toward doing the same. If we're scrambling to salvage our retirement income, imagine what it will be like for your kids.
That's why Rick Rodgers, a retirement counselor and author of the new book The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning believes that parents can help their kids safeguard their retirement by starting now.
"When we were just starting out in life, our parents told us to start saving money right out of the gate, but we didn't listen," he says. "Instead, we ran up our credit card debt, spent more than we earned and bought more house than we could afford. But our kids can and should learn from our mistakes and helping them to start saving now could give them a nest egg of millions instead of thousands."
Rodgers' advice includes:
- Start at 16
Just $5,000 contributed to a Roth IRA each year for five years starting at age 16 could be worth more than a million by the time they reach age 65. In a Roth IRA all that growth would be tax-free when withdrawn.
- 10% Rule
Everyone should save a minimum of 10% of their take-home pay.
- Shelter Early - Ideally, you should save in a Roth IRA account at the beginning of your career.
When you reach your peak earnings (usually around age 40), switch to a tax-deferred account like a 401(k).
- Fun or Fund?
Take half of what you have been spending on gifts (toys, games, etc.) and invest it in a mutual fund for your child.
- Birthday Booster - Encourage friends and relatives to contribute to the mutual fund account you've started instead of buying gifts for birthdays and holidays.
- Every Little Bit Helps
Contributing small amounts on a regular basis is a better strategy than waiting to accumulate a larger sum.
Get in the habit of saving something regularly.
- Use the Refund
Let the government help. Currently the child tax credit is $1,000 per child until they reach age 17. Discipline yourself to save the credit when it is returned to you as a refund.
"It doesn't take a lot to give your kids long-term security," Rodgers says. "The magic of compounded interest can do more of the heavy lifting as long as you start early and contribute often."
May 18, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011-Federal Housing Finance Agency Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) to align their guidelines for servicing delinquent mortgages they own or guarantee. The updated framework will establish uniform servicing requirements as well as monetary incentives for servicers that perform well and penalties for those that do not.
"FHFA's directive to align Enterprise policies for servicing delinquent mortgages should result in earlier servicer engagement to identify the best solution available for homeowners, given their individual circumstances," says DeMarco.
The updated guidelines also address the so-called "dual track" by requiring servicers to contact borrowers as soon as they become delinquent and focus solely on remediating that delinquency. The foreclosure process may not commence if the borrower and servicer are engaged in a good faith effort to resolve the delinquency. The servicer must conduct a formal review of each case to ensure a borrower has been considered for foreclosure alternatives before the loan is referred for foreclosure. Even after foreclosure processing begins, financial incentives are provided to encourage servicers to continue to help borrowers pursue a foreclosure alternative.
Consistent with statements recently issued by federal and state regulators, this initiative is intended to deal with identified problems in mortgage servicing. The updated framework will streamline and expedite borrower outreach, align mortgage modification terms and requirements, and establish a consistent schedule of performance-based incentive payments and penalties. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will each issue detailed guidelines to their servicers in the second and third quarters of 2011.
"Once fully implemented by the servicing industry, the Enterprises' aligned policies should give homeowners a greater understanding of the process and faster resolution by requiring earlier contact, more frequent communication, and prompt decisions," says DeMarco. "Equally important, the newly aligned policies will minimize taxpayer losses by ensuring that Enterprise loans are serviced efficiently and fairly."
For more information, visit www.fhfa.gov.
May 17, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011- Nearly 600 real estate professionals were polled nationwide in a study conducted by HomeGain.com, configuring a list of the top 10 do-it-yourself home improvements that cost under $5,000 and benefit sellers most when they sell their homes.
According to the findings, the top five home improvements that real estate professionals recommend to home sellers based on average cost and return on investment (from highest to lowest ROI) are:
1. Cleaning and de-cluttering - ($290 cost / $1,990 price increase / 586% ROI)
2. Lightening and brightening - ($375 cost / $1,550 price increase / 313% ROI)
3. Home staging - ($550 cost / $2,194 price increase / 299% ROI)
4. Landscaping - ($540 cost / $1,932 price increase / 258% ROI)
5. Repairing electrical or plumbing - ($535 cost / $1,505 price increase / 181% ROI)
Cleaning and de-cluttering continues to rank as the top suggested home improvement (since the survey was originally conducted in 2000), recommended by 99% of real estate professionals, costing less than $300 and returning a value of nearly $2,000 to the home's sale price, or a 586% return on investment.
"Sellers need to prepare their homes for sale before putting them on the market," says Louis Cammarosano, general manager at HomeGain. "Homes that have initial appeal have a better shot at selling faster and closer to the asking price than homes rushed to the market with no improvements."
Rounding out the top 10 low cost, do-it-yourself home improvements include: updating electrical systems and/or plumbing, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, replacing or shampooing carpets, painting interior walls, repairing damaged floors, and painting the outside of the home.
The home improvement projects with the highest price increases to a home's resale value are updating the kitchen ($1,265 cost / $3,435 price increase), followed by painting the outside of the home ($1,467 cost / $2,222 price increase) and home staging ($550 cost / $2,194 price increase).
For more information, visit www.homegain.com.
May 17, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-- A proposed rule to define qualified residential mortgages (QRM) under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the Dodd-Frank Act) would unnecessarily restrict access to homeownership. REALTORS
at the Real Estate Services Forum
The Impact of Dodd-Frank on Real Estate session at the REALTORS
Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo gained insights into the implications of a narrowly defined QRM.
"As the leading advocate for housing and homeownership, NAR firmly believes Congress intended to create a broad QRM exemption
strong evidence shows that responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower's ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk, and not high down payments," says NAR President Ron Phipps. "Saving the necessary down payment has always been the principal obstacle to buyers seeking to purchase their first home. Proposals that require high down payments will only drive more borrowers to FHA, increase costs for borrowers by raising interest rates and fees, and effectively price many eligible borrowers out of the housing market."
The Dodd-Frank Act was enacted on July 21, 2010. A provision in the Act requires that financial institutions retain 5% of the risk on loans they securitize. The purpose is to discourage excessive risk taking and create strong incentives for responsible lending and borrowing. Exempt from the requirement are certain QRMs; FHA and VA mortgages are also exempted.
Six agencies are developing the risk retention regulation
the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The proposed rule narrowly defines QRMs, requiring an 80% loan-to-value, which necessitates a 20% down payment. The rule would also limit mortgage payments to 28% of gross income, a very tight standard.
According to NAR Research, 60% of recent home buyers made less than a 20% down payment, and it would take 14 years for a typical person to save up a 20% down payment to buy a median-priced home.
NAR wants federal regulators to honor Congressional intent by crafting a QRM exemption that includes a wide variety of traditionally safe, well-underwritten products such as 30-, 15-, and 10-year fixed-rate loans; 7-1 and 5-1 ARMs; and loans with down payments in the 5- to 20-percent range with mortgage insurance, where required, and with other features found in low-risk loans such as no prepayment penalties or balloon payments.
"The definition of QRM is important because it will determine the types of mortgages that will generally be available to borrowers in the future," says Phipps. "Borrowers with less than 20% down will have to choose between higher fees and rates today, up to 3 percentage points more, or a 9-14 year delay while they save up the necessary down payment. REALTORS
are working hard to make sure that this doesn't happen, and that those creditworthy buyers who are able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home can continue to achieve their homeownership dreams."
May 17, 2011 2:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-According to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI), the remodeling market is heading into recovery with an increase to 46.5 in the first quarter of 2011 from 41.5 in the fourth quarter of 2010. This marks the highest level for the RMI since the fourth quarter of 2006. An RMI below 50, however, indicates that still more remodelers report market activity is lower (compared to the prior quarter) than report it is higher.
The overall RMI combines ratings of current remodeling activity with indicators of future activity like calls for bids. Current market conditions for the first quarter of 2011 rose to 46.1 from 43.3 in the previous quarter. Future market indicators climbed to 46.8 from 39.7 in the previous quarter.
"Remodelers report a jump in activity so far this year and have been receiving more calls for work and appointments," says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bob Peterson, CGR, CAPS, CGP, a remodeler from Ft. Collins, Colo. "However, many homeowners are still slow to commit to remodeling due to feeling uncertain about the economic recovery and difficulty obtaining loans."
Regional break downs for current remodeling market conditions showed growth in all but one area: Northeast 46.1 (from 38.8 in the fourth quarter), South 46.1 (from 45.8), and West 46.1 (from 39.7). Only the Midwest experienced a decline to 47.1 (from 54.3).
All current remodeling market indicators increased: major additions to 50.3 (from 48.6 in the fourth quarter), minor additions to 48.0 (from 43.9), and maintenance and repair to 39.5 (from 37.0). Future market indicators also improved across the board: calls for bids rose to 53.1 (from 47.2), appointments for proposals to 52.4 (from 43.1), backlog of remodeling jobs to 49.7 (from 42.6), and amount of work committed for the next three months to 32.1 (from 25.9).
In an additional special question remodelers reported the top reasons prospective customers are holding back from remodeling their homes:
Customers think it is hard to get financing (90% of remodeler respondents);
Customers have lost equity in their homes (81%);
Customers are uncertain about their future economic situation (74%);
Reluctance to invest in home when not sure home will hold its value (67%);
Negative media stories making customers more cautious (62%); and
Inaccurate appraisals are making financing more difficult (54%).
"Home remodeling continues to slowly increase and continued growth through the year is expected," says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "The fact that some indicators are breaking 50 means remodelers are seeing improving activity in their markets. While credit scarcity and economic uncertainty continue to weigh down remodeling, signs of increasing consumer interest are promising."
For more information about remodeling, visit www.nahb.org/remodel.
May 16, 2011 1:29 pm
RISMEDIA, May 16, 2011-People are living longer today. The century-long expansion in the world's population that is 65 and older is the product of dramatic advances in medical science and health lifestyles. Currently, 13% of the U.S. population is 65 and older, up from 4% in 1900. As Baby Boomers turn 65 in high and higher annual numbers, it is estimated that one in five Americans will be over age 65 and about 5% over 85. All this calls for growing care and services for the elderly population and pre-planning for lifestyles in the future.
The senior housing industry has been growing dramatically over the last 15 years as many adult children are now in the workforce and unable to provide the attention to their parents' needs, whether physical or social. There are a number of things to be considered when choosing lifestyle alternatives.
-Location. Keeping your parents close to home should not be the number one consideration. Although it is important that the community be convenient for family and friends to visit, being close to amenities they need and trust will make their senior living experience rewarding and more fulfilling.
-Type of community. Visiting to make sure the current residents have similar interests, backgrounds and values will allow for a more enriching life in the golden years. Many communities invite prospective residents to tour their community and enjoy lunch with the community which is a wonderful way to ascertain if the culture is a fit. Many communities offer a weekend stay to experience more fully what the community has to offer.
-Staff. Is the staff appropriately dressed, personable and outgoing? Do the staff members treat each other in a professional manner? Does the staff call residents by name and interact warmly? The answers to these questions will determine quite a bit toward whether the community is right for your loved one.
-Medical needs. Does the community have on site medical supervision? If not, is there an agency that is associated with the community that can help when needed?
Finding and choosing a housing option for an aging loved one can be a difficult process. Be sure to keep seniors' needs as your top priority in order to find a community that properly suits them.
For more information, visit www.alternativeforseniors.com.