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
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Maureen Fitzgerald

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Home Buying Tips for New Parents

January 29, 2015 1:18 am

Many expectant parents upgrade to larger homes when baby’s on the way. If you’re thinking of buying a new home to accommodate your growing family, it’s important to assess certain factors you may not consider otherwise, including:

Master Bedroom Proximity – Is the master bedroom on a separate floor from the others? Will you want to be adjacent to your baby’s nursery, or are you comfortable with sleeping down the hall? Always consider the layout of the bedrooms before buying.

Pool Safety – If you’re seeking a home with a pool, keep in mind that your child will likely venture outside before he or she knows how to swim. Is the pool appropriately gated, with no holes or gaps in fencing? Are all latches and locks in proper working order? Is the door leading outside secure?

Property Hazards – Evaluate the home for any potential dangers, including stairs, tree roots or uneven pavers. These can be easily overlooked by a curious child and lead to unnecessary injury.

Street Location – Take into account how far your home is from a busy area. Is the home located on a congested street? What is the posted speed limit in the area and how fast do cars typically drive through the neighborhood? Are there streetlights and crosswalks nearby?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding the Most Important Mortgage Documents

January 29, 2015 1:18 am

Obtaining a mortgage for your first home can be a daunting task, especially when you consider the amount of paperwork required. Though your lender should explain all of the steps in the loan process clearly, it’s wise to have a basic understanding of the most important mortgage documents you’ll be signing.

Promissory Note
Contrary to popular belief, the promissory note is your actual mortgage contract, spelling out all terms associated with the loan – interest rate, payment intervals and more. The promissory note will also include a provision that states what will happen in the event that you do not repay the loan.

Settlement Statement
Also known as “the HUD,” the settlement statement spells out line-item fees, such as real estate agent, lender and title fees, prorated items like prepaid homeowners insurance and inspection costs or association dues.

Deed of Trust
The security provision in the promissory note will point to the deed of trust, which supports the lender’s claim to your property should you fall short on payments. The deed of trust also indicates specific occupancy policies associated with your specific mortgage, such as move-in date and second home use.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Flood Insurance: Your Property's Safety Net

January 28, 2015 1:18 am

Floods are a year-round hazard, even in cold weather. According to FEMA, it’s important to understand the unique flood risks associated with winter and prepare an emergency plan well in advance of any snowstorm and subsequent flooding.

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that their insurance policy covers flooding, but only flood insurance financially protects properties from damage. It typically takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to take effect, so residents should not wait for a storm to strike before purchasing coverage. It only takes a few inches of water in a home or business to cause thousands of dollars of damage – between 2006 and 2010, the average flood claim was nearly $34,000!

While no one wants a flood to impact their home, federally-backed flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers a financial safety net to help cover repair or replacement costs.

If your home has experienced flooding, file a claim by contacting your insurance agent, documenting your damaged property and filing a Proof of Loss form within 60 days of the flood. Keep in mind as you go through this process that you do not need to wait for a Presidential Disaster Declaration to file a flood claim, and your policy cannot be canceled for making a claim.


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Easiest Home Fixes with the Most ROI

January 28, 2015 1:18 am

Whether you’re planning to sell your home, or you simply want a more updated look, there are any number of cheap, simple fixes, from new paint to new curtains, that will improve its overall appearance. But, said home contractor Scott McGillivray, host of HGTV’s Income Property, these seven relatively inexpensive fixes can give you more return on investment (ROI) than many – both in terms of home improvement value and easy-on-the-eye enhancement you can enjoy.

Start with these, McGillvray blogged:

Kitchen hardware – Today’s drawer and cabinet pulls come in dozens of styles and finishes. Installing a style that appeals to you can immediately make a dated kitchen look more modern and functional.

Refinished hardwood deck – An attractive deck is high on the list of improvements with proven ROI – especially if the deck is more than 100 square feet in size.

Heated floors and towel racks
– In cold weather regions, heated tile floors and/or heated towel racks in the bathroom can add a surprising amount of value – especially is there is no other heat source in the room.

Chic moldings - One of the easiest ways to get a high-end look at a reasonable price is with applied moldings on living room and dining room baseboards and ceilings.

New front door – Dollar for dollar, a new front door delivers a terrific ROI – as are other exterior updates like new windows and siding, which are highly appealing to future buyers looking for security and insulation.

Garage storage
– Shelves, organizers, and work benches in the garage can make any homeowner’s life easier. No need for custom work. You’ll find all you need at home improvement stores.

Neatness counts
– Nothing ensures curb appeal and improves a home value more than thorough and consistent maintenance, McGillvray said. So mow the lawns, clean the gutters, and keep the windows clean.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Tips for Retiring Out of State

January 28, 2015 1:18 am

Retirees flock to Florida and Arizona for year-round sunshine and golf, but all things considered, they’re not the best states for happy golden years, according to a new survey.

Along with average number of sunny days, factor in cost of living, residents’ sense of well-being, quality of health-care, crime and, yes, humidity, and the best destination is (surprise!) South Dakota, according to a 2014 Bankrate report.

“As this report correctly suggests, pre-retirees need to consider a lot more than snow days and tradition,” says Rodger Friedman, founding partner and wealth manager at Steward Partners Global Advisory and author of “Forging Bonds of Steel,” a guide to developing an excellent working relationship with your financial advisor.

“Different states have different tax laws and other regulations that can have a major impact on your retirement funds. You need to be aware of these as you plan for where you want to live and how you want to live.”

Whether you’re considering one of the other top four “best states to retire” – Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming, in that order – here are five tips for planning ahead:
  • New state – new income tax rules. Get to know them! Familiarize yourself with the tax laws of the state you’re considering for your new home. Two of the top five on Bankrate’s list – South Dakota and Wyoming -- have no state income tax, along with five others: Nevada (No. 18 on the list), Texas (19), Washington (22), Florida (39), and Alaska (48.).
Also, an itemized deduction in one state may not be an itemized deduction in another. If you use the long form (1040) to file federal income taxes, hire a reputable, experienced CPA for guidance.

Look into how your new state taxes retirement income. States differ on taxing interest income from tax-free municipal bonds. Some states give tax credits; treat public and private pensions differently; or offer federal, military or blanket exclusions.

The following states are community property states: Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Louisiana, and Washington. Speaking with an estate planning attorney regarding how this issue may affect you may be money very well spent.
  • If you’re married, are you moving to a community property state? There are nine community property states – those that divide all martially-acquired assets and debt 50:50 in the event of divorce. (Exceptions include an inheritance or gift received by one spouse and maintained separately in that spouse’s name.) Community property states are Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Louisiana, and Washington. Speaking with an estate planning attorney regarding how this issue may affect you may be money very well spent.
  • Have a lawyer review your estate planning documents. Your existing estate planning documents should be reviewed by a lawyer in your new state of residence because statutes differ on the types of documents required and the powers bestowed upon each. For example, states are all over the map regarding the validity of a power of attorney document and the powers that may or may not be conveyed.
“During their careers, their acquiring wealth years, many people live in places that have lots of jobs – and the higher cost of living that goes along with that,” Friedman says. “In retirement, many they want to move to a state where they can enjoy the same or an even better lifestyle with less money.

“For that, it’s essential to consider not only the cost of living but the state laws that affect your accumulated wealth and income.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.