RE/MAX 440
Maureen Fitzgerald
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 215-643-3200 1824
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Cell: 215-530-6438
Fax: 267-354-6880 
mfitzgerald@remaxcentralinc.com
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Maureen Fitzgerald

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The Top New Year's Resolutions for 2016

December 31, 2015 2:31 am

The New Year offers us an opportunity to improve—and for many of us, it’ll be as simple as enjoying life to the fullest, according to a recent survey of New Year’s resolutions by GOBankingRates.com.

“Who wouldn’t want to live life to the fullest?” asks Cameron Huddleston, columnist for GOBankingRates.com. “Unfortunately, the small things in life can get in the way of actually enjoying life. Perhaps that’s why so many people are resolving to enjoy life to the fullest—as a reminder to take advantage of the time they have.”

Per the survey, 2016 resolutions also include:

•Living a healthier lifestyle
•Losing weight
•Spending more time with family and friends
•Saving more and spending less
•Paying down debt

Survey respondents had the option to choose multiple resolutions, but more than half chose to adopt just one.

Source: GOBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Census: The World Gets a Little Bigger on the First Day of 2016

December 31, 2015 2:31 am

How big, you may ask? According to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau, the world’s population will be 7,295,889,256 on January 1, 2016, a 1.08 percent increase from New Year’s Day 2015.

Worldwide, the Census Bureau expects 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths every second of January 2016.

The U.S. population is also set to increase on January 1, up 0.77 percent to 322,762,018. In 2016, the U.S. population is expected to increase by one person every 17 seconds, thanks to a combination of births, deaths and net international migration, specifically one birth every eight seconds, one death every 10 seconds and one additional person every 29 seconds due to migration.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Fireplace Safety Tips

December 30, 2015 12:25 am

Fireplaces are one of the most coveted features in homes today—but they can be hazardous if precautions aren’t taken. Whenever you use your fireplace, keep in mind these safety tips, courtesy of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA):

1. Get an annual chimney check. Have chimneys inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a qualified professional chimney service technician. This reduces the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisonings due to creosote buildup or obstructions in the chimneys. 

2. Keep it clear. Keep tree branches and leaves at least 15 feet away from the top of the chimney. 

3. Install a chimney cap to keep debris and animals out of the chimney. 

4. Choose the right fuel. For burning firewood in wood stoves or fireplaces, choose well-seasoned wood that has been split for a minimum of six months to one year and stored in a covered and elevated location. Never burn Christmas trees, treated wood or wrapping paper in your fireplace or wood stove. 

5. Build it right. Place firewood or fire logs at the rear of the fireplace on a supporting grate. To start the fire, use kindling or a commercial firelighter. Never use flammable liquids. 

6. Keep the hearth area clear. Combustible material too close to the fireplace or to a wood stove could easily catch fire. Keep furniture at least 36 inches away from the hearth. 

7. Use a fireplace screen. Use metal mesh or a screen in front of the fireplace to catch flying sparks that could ignite or burn holes in the carpet or flooring. 

8. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Place detectors throughout the house and check batteries in the spring and fall. When you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time, remember to check your batteries. 

9. Never leave a fire unattended. Before turning in for the evening, be sure that the fire is fully extinguished. Supervise children and pets closely around wood stoves and fireplaces. 

10. Discard ashes in a closed metal container and place it away from the house until they have fully cooled. 

Source: CSIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sick of Sky-High Energy Bills? Seal Your Home

December 30, 2015 12:25 am

(BPT)—We’re all inclined to crank the heat up when winter’s chill hits. But many of us are not inclined to look for areas that may be impacting the temperature of our homes—and our budgets.

Drafts and air leaks, for example, can lead to temperature fluctuation and higher than normal heating bills if left unresolved, according to the experts at Icynene (www.icynene.com). Gaps in insulation coverage can also be a major contributor, as well as inefficient performance of HVAC equipment.

Air leakage from walls, windows, ceilings and floors can account for up to 40 percent of the energy lost by your home, potentially costing thousands of dollars annually. Air leakage can also contribute to potential moisture problems that can affect occupant health and the home's durability, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

To reduce drafts and air leakage, have a certified HERS rater assess your home and identify problem areas. He or she can also help evaluate ventilation needs.

Once all sources of air leaks have been detected, apply air sealing techniques and materials. Caulking and weather-stripping are two of the most popular and common techniques that can help address air leaks, as well as high-performance spray foam insulation. Spray foam insulation works well in all climates to seal the building and fill every gap to stop air leakage and help reduce the strain on HVAC equipment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Time to Close a Loan Ticks Up

December 30, 2015 12:25 am

The time it takes to close a loan has gone up an average of three days, increasing to 49 days for both conventional and FHA loans and 50 days for VA loans, according to a recent Ellie Mae® report.

“We are beginning to see the anticipated impacts of the Know Before You Owe changes that went into effect in October,” says Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae. Know Before You Owe, or the RESPA-TILA regulation, is designed to inform consumers of their loan options, help them shop for the best mortgage and prevent mishaps on the road to close.

The Ellie Mae report also shows that the average FICO score on all closed loans fell to 721, marking the sixth consecutive month of decline. The driver of the FICO reduction appears to be average FHA refinance FICO scores falling for the second straight month to 648.

Source: Ellie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Tips to Save Smart for Retirement

December 29, 2015 12:19 am

Fact: It’s never too early to start thinking about retirement.

“Many consumers underestimate how much savings is needed to get by once they retire, and often it’s much more than they first realize,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “After paying off debt and bills, it can be a real challenge to make sure you are also saving enough for retirement, especially if you are already living paycheck to paycheck.”

To adequately save for retirement, it’s important to assess your goals, says Trumble. What age do you plan to retire? Where would you like to retire? Will you downsize or stay in your current home? These and other questions must be considered before moving forward with a savings plan.

Once those goals have been set, craft a realistic saving strategy. These tips can help:

• Adjust your budget as life priorities change. A household budgeting worksheet can help you stay organized and track your expenses.

• Start saving now. Savings add up no matter how big or small. Make sure to start saving as much as you are able to, as early as possible.

• Pay off all debt. Carrying debt into retirement will cause monthly bills—and interest—to pile up, which will drain your savings. Develop a plan that enables you to pay off debt before you retire so that you can use savings on other necessities, such as food, medical care and housing.

• Track your spending. Knowing exactly where your money goes every month will allow you to set some funds aside for your future goals, such as retirement.

• Cut unnecessary spending. Reduce spending money on things you do not need without feeling deprived. Start with something simple, like bringing your lunch to work rather than eating out every day.

• Check your retirement plan at your work place. Some 401(k) plans include benefits, such as direct deposit from your paycheck, which can automate the retirement saving process.

• Set up automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account. With each paycheck you receive, make sure a percentage goes into your savings account dedicated to your retirement funds.

Source: American Consumer Credit Counseling

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Report: Buying Beats Renting in More than Half of Markets

December 29, 2015 12:19 am

Buying a home remains more affordable than renting one in more than half of housing markets, according to a recent RealtyTrac® report. This comes as home prices appreciate and rent outpaces wages, says RealtyTrac Vice President Daren Blomquist.

“Renters in 2016 will be caught between a bit of a rock and a hard place, with rents becoming less affordable as they rise faster than wages, but home prices rising even faster than rents," says Blomquist. "In markets where home prices are still relatively affordable, 2016 may be a good time for some renters to take the plunge into homeownership before rising prices and possibly rising interest rates make it increasingly tougher to afford to buy a home."

Across all 504 counties analyzed by RealtyTrac, average wage earners will need to spend 37 percent of their income to pay rent each month. In contrast, average wage earners across all 504 counties will need to spend 38 percent of their income to pay housing costs—but that includes mortgage, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance. (This assumes a 3 percent down payment on a median-priced home.)

RealtyTrac estimates rent for a three-bedroom property will increase an average of 3.5 percent in the New Year.

Source: RealtyTrac®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Moving Next Year? Standard Mileage Rate Announced

December 29, 2015 12:19 am

Moving in 2016? You may be able to deduct some of the expense. Beginning January 1, 2016, the optional standard moving mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost will be 19 cents per mile driven, according to the IRS.

The mileage rate, based on variable costs, applies to moving via car, van, pickup or panel truck.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates. Other requirements for taxpayers to use the standard mileage rate for moving purposes are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-10-51.pdf).

Notice 2016-01 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-16-01.pdf) contains the standard mileage rates and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Source: IRS.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Want to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions? Buddy Up!

December 28, 2015 12:13 am

We get by with a little help from our friends—and as it turns out, friends play a big role when committing to New Year’s resolutions, too.  According to a recent survey by SKOUT, goals involving fitness, finance or fashion have a greater chance for success with the support of a friend.

When it comes to fitness, for instance, nearly 85 percent of survey respondents say they get a better workout when they exercise with a friend, and more than half prefer friendly encouragement over gadgets like fitness bracelets to help them achieve their goals.

Those who make resolutions to improve their financial situations also fare better with friends—over half of survey respondents who have seven or more good friends say they’ll set aside more money for retirement.

Those planning a wardrobe makeover in the New Year benefit from friendships, as well. Nearly three-quarters of female survey respondents say they’ll feel confident about their new look if friends pay them compliments. That’s the understatement of 2016!

Source: SKOUT

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowners: Fire Risk Higher after the Holiday

December 28, 2015 12:13 am

Did you know the risk for home fire increases after Christmas Day? Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) show that the days with the highest average number of fires are after the holiday ends, often due to a ‘sigh-of-relief’ syndrome that occurs the day after Christmas.

"For many families, preparing for the holiday season is a very busy time," says Sue Steen, CEO of SERVPRO Industries, Inc. "Come December 26, it’s tempting to relax and stop watering the Christmas tree, replacing bulbs in outdoor lights and tucking indoor garlands back into place. Dry greens, open sockets and decorations that slip dangerously close to light sockets or fireplaces can all increase the risk of fire in the days after the Christmas holiday."

Christmas trees remain the primary cause of holiday fires, according to the NFPA. Steen urges those who decorate with a live Christmas tree to be diligent about watering following the holiday.

“When a Christmas tree dries out, it takes only a single spark from the fireplace, a draft that blows a candle flame too near, or a carelessly held cigarette to turn your holiday celebration into a tragedy," says Steen . "Beyond the damage from the fire itself, a Christmas tree fire, like any fire, can result in extensive smoke and water damage throughout your home, and can even be deadly."

Steen also recommends other common sense precautions, such as properly disposing of light strands with frayed wires and keeping lights or candles a safe distance from flammable materials or objects.

Source: SERVPRO®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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