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Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

5 Ways Students Can Avoid Borrower's Remorse

July 20, 2015 1:30 am

With no end in sight for tuition rate hikes, funding a higher education has become one of the most challenging financial issues for Americans. Students relying on loans have the added burden of paying off debt after graduation – and many aren’t even sure where to begin. To avoid borrower’s remorse, keep in mind these tips from the experts at Edvisors.com.

1. Exhaust free money first. By the time loans are repaid in full with any interest, it typically costs students about two dollars for every dollar they borrow. Rely on free aid first, such as grants, scholarships and education tax benefits. Consider earned income, such as student employment, education awards for volunteer service, employer tuition assistance or military student aid as options, as well. If you must borrow, consider a short-term tuition installment plan, instead of long-term debt.

2. Avoid taking on too much debt.
Families should only take on as much debt as they can afford to repay student loans in ten years or less. A good rule of thumb is to keep student loan debt at graduation less than the student’s expected annual starting salary – ideally, a lot less.

3. Borrow federal student loans before private ones. Always borrow federal student loans first because the loans are less expensive, more available and have better repayment terms and conditions than private student loans.

4. Know the difference between fixed and variable interest rates. Fixed interest rates remain unchanged for the life of the loan, while variable interest rates may change periodically. Even if the interest rate on a variable-rate loan is initially lower than the interest rate on a fixed-rate loan, the variable-rate loan may ultimately be more expensive if the interest rate increases significantly over the life of the loan.

5. Understand the consequences of cosigning. Cosigning a loan may help the borrower qualify for a loan and may reduce the interest rate. But, a cosigner is also a co-borrower, equally obligated to repay the debt. The cosigned loan will be reported on the credit history of both the borrower and cosigner. This may affect the cosigner’s ability to qualify for other debt, especially if the borrower is late with a payment or defaults on the loan.

Source: Edvisors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Credit Seekers See More Approvals, Fewer Rejections

July 20, 2015 1:30 am

As the economy continues to stabilize, more Americans are experiencing improvement in credit application rates and credit rejection rates, including those of mortgages and mortgage refinances, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. According to the Bank’s recent SCE Credit Access Survey, there are now more successful applicants and fewer rejected and discouraged credit seekers. Thirty-four percent of survey respondents who were credit applicants in the last 12 months were granted credit; a mere 8.1 percent applied and were rejected. Approximately five percent of survey respondents were too discouraged to apply, despite indicating a need for credit.

Application rates increased slightly for all credit types: mortgage, mortgage refinance, credit card, credit card limit increase and auto loan. The most noticeable increase was seen in those aged 40 or younger.

In addition, survey respondents reporting a voluntary credit account closing or credit limit reduction in the past 12 months dropped to 13 percent. Involuntary (lender-initiated) credit account closings or credit limit reductions remained within the 3-4 percent range seen at the onset of the recovery.

Survey respondents indicating the likelihood of applying for a mortgage in the next 12 months increased to record highs. The likelihood of a credit application being rejected, conditional on applying, fell for mortgages and increased slightly for mortgage refinances.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Hottest Trends in Tile

July 20, 2015 1:30 am

(BPT) - New designs, styles and technologies are making tile the most versatile and accessible flooring material in homes today. Whether tiling up a wall or carrying tile throughout the home, builders, designers and homeowners are thinking outside the box when it comes to this trend, says The Tile Shop, purveyor of tile and natural stone at more than 100 retail showrooms across the country.

"Tile has always been durable and easy to maintain," says Kevin McDaniel of The Tile Shop. "Tile has a long lifespan and classic good looks, making it a favorite flooring of choice wherever homeowners need a floor material that's both practical and beautiful. Even more design options are available now, making tile a smart floor surface in virtually any room of the home."

If you’re thinking of renovating your home, McDaniel suggests incorporating some of the hottest trends in tile, such as:

Rustic, Real Wood - Many of the larger-format, faux wood tiles mimic the look of real hardwood floors. Less expensive and more durable than real wood, these tile floors are practical yet beautiful choices for active households with children and pets. Details evoke the character of real wood, right down to the nails.

"Rustic faux wood is making a huge splash because of its warm, earthy coloring and unusual time-worn finishes such as aged paint, a finish hard to achieve with real wood. I foresee it continuing to be a very popular design trend," McDaniel says.

Longer Planks - While standard square tile sizes will always have their place in home decor, rectangular tiles - otherwise known as planks - are gaining popularity. New 12-by-24-inch tiles are ideal in bathrooms and 6-by-36-inch tiles or 8-inch by 8-feet planks (often in wood-grained looks) are a favorite for living areas.

"Using longer planks can help smaller spaces look larger, and create an appealing consistency across multiple rooms," says McDaniel. "While consumers may be familiar with traditional tile shapes such as square or hexagon, these longer tiles offer exciting new design flexibility."

Poured Concrete - While concrete is a trendy design material right now, it's not practical for every household or application. New tile styles create the look of poured or stained concrete at a fraction of the cost, and with all the durability, versatility and ease associated with tile. Tile options range from long rectangular 8-by-18-inch or 12-by-24-inch planks to 18-by-18-inch squares. Tiles are rectified (the edge is cut completely straight) and grout joints are very narrow to create the look of seamless concrete.

Heated Floors - While heated floors were once a luxury option for homeowners, they're becoming increasingly mainstream. Tile lends itself to radiant heat beneath the floor. Some retailers, including The Tile Shop, carry thermostats to control the heated floor.

High-Contrast Grout
- Using a high-contrast grout color can make the floor pop, and it's a tactic that works well with mosaic designs. Choosing the right grout color is just as important as the tile you select. Also popular is the concept of mosaic designs that mimic an area rug within a larger section of tile flooring and create the look of custom art within the floor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Ways to Guarantee a Returned Security Deposit

July 17, 2015 1:27 am

(Family Features) Moving out of a rental home or apartment often unveils inevitable wear-and-tear from living in the space. What can be even more challenging is restoring the rental to its original condition in order to get your security deposit back.

Before paying professional handymen and cleaning services for repairs, there are several areas you can address on your own. "Do-it-yourself projects and repairs don't have to be overwhelming or require paid professionals," says PrettyHandyGirl.com blogger Brittany Bailey. "All it takes is the right tools and a boost of confidence to DIY your rental to tip-top condition."

Bailey recommends these 10 tips for repairing minor damages.

1. Allow fresh air to circulate through the space by opening windows for as long as possible and using exhaust fans while cleaning.

2. Clean garbage disposal blades and freshen the drain by placing a few pieces of lemon peels in the garbage disposal and running water as you turn it on.

3. Patch small holes and cracks with spackle or putty to ensure a smooth finish.

4. Paint walls back to their original color and use blue painter's tape to avoid splashing color on your trim and baseboards.

5. Tackle scuff marks and wall stains without sprays or cleaners by using an erasing pad and water to gently buff away dirt and residue.

6. Lift carpet stains by creating a homemade cleaner using dishwashing liquid, white vinegar, water and baking soda.

7. Fill mild scratches and hide blemishes on laminate countertops by using color-matched repair pens.

8. Get rid of tough stains on kitchen surfaces with nail polish remover on a clean white rag and gently scrub surfaces. (Be sure to test a small area before taking on the entire surface.)

9. Leave on good terms with the landlord by taking out trash and cleaning as much as possible once all your belongings are packed away.

10. Stick around for the move-out inspection and confirm with the landlord when you can expect to receive your security deposit.

Source: 3mdiy.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Homebuyers Today Reap Rewards Quickly

July 17, 2015 1:27 am

Though some homebuyers who bought 10 years ago have not broke even on their investment, buyers today can break even in two years or less, according to a recent Zillow® analysis. Nationally, homebuyers today can break even in an average of 1.9 years.

"It's very clear that when it comes to maximizing gains from an investment in real estate, timing really does matter a great deal," says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. "However, timing isn't everything, and trying to time the market perfectly is incredibly difficult, even for professionals.

“There are any number of factors to consider when purchasing a home, only one of which is the potential for financial gain,” Humphries adds. “Potential buyers should always place their personal needs and their family's needs first, and make the decision to buy only when they are ready to make a significant investment of both their time and money. Just because the math might say to buy or rent in a given area, personal preferences and situations vary greatly, and there is no one answer that is right for everybody."

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Traveling with Your Tablet? Protect Devices with These Tips

July 16, 2015 1:27 am

Technology is a vital vacation companion for many travelers, but your plans can go awry if your mobile devices become lost on your trip. According to mobile device insurance provider Asurion, more than half of travelers store boarding passes, driving directions, confirmation numbers, itineraries and more on portable devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops. To avoid scrambling to recover a lost device and important information, the experts at Asurion suggest vacationers follow these tips.

• Use hotel room safes when possible.
Put tablets and other electronics in the safe during the day when they are not in use to protect them from damage, loss or theft.

• Double-check your surroundings when exiting public transportation. Lots of phones are accidently left in cabs, planes and buses. Check the seat, seat back pockets and floor one last time before leaving.

• Don't leave belongings unattended in public spaces. Avoid leaning backpacks, bags and purses against a chair or over the back of a seat. This gives potential thieves easy access to the valuable electronics inside.

• Get a good carrying case, and use it. When not in use, store portable electronics like cameras, phones and tablets in a sturdy case. This will help protect against scratches, dents and water damage.

And most importantly – if you don’t need it, don’t bring it!

Source: Asurion.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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3 Earthquake Safety Tips

July 16, 2015 1:27 am

Disaster films like “San Andreas” may appear to depict real-life scenarios, but most earthquakes are not all doom and gloom, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). In fact, there are three ways to prepare for an impending quake that are relatively simple:

1. Earthquake-Proof Your Home

Falling objects cause the majority of injuries during an earthquake. Using museum wax or putty, anchor bolts and earthquake straps to secure objects within your home will prevent injuries and save lives. Take a Saturday afternoon and have your kids help put museum wax or putty under all your breakables and collectibles.

2. Be Financially Prepared

Earthquakes are not covered under standard homeowners or renters insurance policies, so look into purchasing a supplemental policy for earthquake damage. Earthquake coverage is available from private insurance companies and, in California, where quakes are most common, from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The CEA coverage limit is the insured value of the home as stated on the companion homeowners insurance policy with a deductible of 10 or 15 percent. Cars and other vehicles are covered for earthquake damage under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

3. Plan for Evacuation

The whole family can—and should—participate in creating and practicing your evacuation plan. Consider downloading the Know Your Plan app to better protect yourself, your family, your home and even your pets.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Steps to Take before Refinancing a Mortgage

July 16, 2015 1:27 am

Refinancing your mortgage can lower your monthly payments and save money, but it’s important to review your circumstances carefully before doing so. According to a Zillow survey cited by the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), many homeowners are misinformed about the refinancing process – nearly half incorrectly believe they must wait at least one year between refinancing, and one-fifth incorrectly believe underwater borrowers are not eligible for refinancing.

“Too many homeowners are unaware of the opportunities to refinance and save money,” says ACCC President and CEO Steve Trumble. “As people work through their careers and continue to increase their salary, they are more likely boost their credit score. With this increase in credit comes the ability to procure home loans at lower rates. A lower interest rate can have a significant effect on monthly mortgage payments, potentially saving homeowners hundreds of dollars a year.”

Before refinancing a home loan, ACCC advises homeowners to:

1. Beware of Increased Terms - Borrowers should be aware that increasing the term of the loan repayment means more payments and more interest paid. Borrowers can use an online home refinance calculator to help calculate monthly payments under these repayment plans.

2. Meet Qualifying Criteria - Before deciding to refinance, borrowers should be sure to meet all of the qualifications. To refinance, homeowners should have regular income, at least 10 to 20 percent equity in their homes, and a FICO credit score of 740 or better. Borrowers with scores as low as 620 can qualify for a Federal Housing Administration mortgage, which are available through banks, credit unions and other lenders.

3. Look at Short-Term Loans
- If you're not going to stay in your home for over 10 years, you should consider a hybrid loan that is fixed for 5, 7, or 10 years and then converts into a 1-year adjustable rate mortgage. These loans reduce the amount of interest paid, but if you stay beyond the fixed period, your rate could rise.

4. Know Your Options - Before refinancing, weigh your options. Compare monthly payments, interest savings, length of mortgage, refinancing costs, eligibility, etc. Speak with your current lender and see what types of options are available and let the lender know you are shopping around for the best deal.

All homeowners have their own unique and personal financial situation, but taking advantage of refinancing can be rewarding – particularly when consumers take the time to properly research and make educated decisions on the timeliness of their repayments.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Path to Purchase: Shoppers Rely on Tech More Than Ever

July 15, 2015 1:27 am

Shoppers today harness connected technologies more than ever to simplify their shopping experience, with nearly three-quarters relying on information from a smartphone to make a purchase, according to a recent survey by Blackhawk Engagement Solutions (BHEngagement.com). This habit and others illustrate the profound effect technology will continue to have on consumer spending.

After the smartphone, shoppers obtain product or retailer information through a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. Over half of consumers shop while watching television at home, and over 35 percent shop while at work. They survey pointed to peak shopping hours between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Other survey findings include a trend called “showrooming,” in which a shopper purchases a competitor’s product while standing in the store after comparing prices on sites like Amazon. The majority of consumers will buy at a physical store that matches online prices with price-match rebates. Nearly 90 percent of shoppers would consider buying online and picking up in store to save just five percent on a purchase.

Mobile wallets are also gaining popularity. According to the survey, more than half of shoppers are likely to use a mobile wallet over a traditional wallet if it is universally accepted. One-fifth would stop carrying a traditional wallet altogether.

Source: BHEngagement.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Save Money with 5 Energy-Efficient Improvements

July 15, 2015 1:27 am

Utility costs, especially HVAC expenses, can eat up your household budget if your home falls short on energy efficiency. A top-to-bottom energy audit may not be feasible, but there are areas of your home you can make more energy-efficient with relatively little time and money. The experts at HomeAdvisor.com recommend:

Sealing Air Leaks
: Whether heating or cooling your home, escaped air is literally dollars out the window. To keep HVAC bills low, check for leaks around all entry points to the home, including windows, doors and in your attic or basement, where holes may have formed in the insulation. Simple weatherstripping will suffice to seal up windows or doors, but if your insulation is leaking air, hire a professional to remedy the problem.

Cleaning Air Vents
: A dirty HVAC system consumes more energy, leading to higher monthly bills. It can also release dusty air into your home. For anywhere between $250 and $450, a professional can clean all vents and ducts to ensure your system is operating efficiently.

Changing Air Filters
: While having your system cleaned, be sure to swap out air filters, too. A filter with enough build-up can block air from entering your home, costing you more money each month. This is an easy DIY project that can be done in a half-hour or less.

Upgrading the Thermostat: Programmable thermostats effectively regulate the temperature in your home, automatically or manually. Upgrading to one can save at least 10 percent in monthly energy costs. The best part? They’re a cinch to set up.

Installing Ceiling Fans: It sounds counterproductive, but a ceiling fan typically costs far less than air conditioning and can be installed for a mere $150. The investment will pay back dividends in lower utility bills in no time at all, and is a great way to cool your home in warm, but not hot, months.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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