RE/MAX 440
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

3 Ways to Sell Your Home for More

April 16, 2012 2:30 am

Whether you plan to sell your home in the near or distant future, the right home improvement projects will not only boost your home’s appeal but also its value on the market.

Jeff Kaliner, founding partner of Power Home Remodeling Group, recommends beginning with your home’s exterior as it is responsible for making your home’s first impression. Power shares the following tips to stay on trend with home improvements this spring and summer:

Energize your exterior – Projects like updating siding, window replacement and refreshing entry doors can have a dramatic effect on your home's curb appeal for a relatively low cost. In fact, seven of the top 10 home improvement projects for 2012 are exterior projects garnering anywhere from 69 to 78 percent return on investment—the highest of any other projects this year.
Choose bold and bright finishes – Fiberglass entry and garage doors are a popular alternative to their pricey wooden counterparts in 2012. A fiberglass door is weather resistant, durable and, above all, maintenance free. This material allows you to achieve the stylish look of an elegant craftsman or rustic design with decorative glass at the fraction of the price. Bright, bold exterior colors are also popular this year. Make your curb appeal pop by choosing a shade of tangerine, yellow or deep purple for your entry door to give your home a cheery look heading into spring.
Energy efficiency is still supreme – The top green home trend for 2012 is renovating to reduce your home's heating and cooling costs. Making the most of an empty attic space by adding a bedroom, or at least finishing it with insulation, is a great way to keep conditioned air from escaping through the roof. Updating the attic also happens to be this year's third most cost effective home improvement, garnering a whopping 72 percent return on investment, and adding living space without increasing the home's footprint is an eco-friendly way to gain more square footage.

Source: http://www.powerhrg.com

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How to Safeguard Your Assets

April 16, 2012 2:30 am

With litigation becoming a fact of life in the U.S., legal experts recommend taking a careful look at safeguarding your assets. Hillel L. Presser, a lawyer specializing in domestic and international asset protection planning and author of Financial Self-Defense says, “Litigation is America’s fastest growing business, and why not? Plaintiffs have everything to gain and nothing but a few hours’ time to lose,” Presser says. “Even if a case seems utterly ridiculous, ldefendants are encouraged to settle just to avoid potentially astronomical legal fees.”

Presser advises seeking the expertise of an asset protection planner, but he also offers these steps you can take on your own. 

Take stock of your wealth. Inventory your assets – you probably own more than you think. Besides savings and retirement accounts, consider any money owed to you, anticipated inheritances and future assets. Property includes homes, vehicles, jewelry, and land. Don’t forget to consider intangible assets - those non-physical but valuable brands, trademarks, patents and intellectual property.
Put only assets that are exempt from seizure in your name. Federal and state laws protect some personal assets from lawsuits and creditors. Those assets typically include your primary residence; personal items such as furniture and clothing; pensions and retirement funds; and life insurance. State exemption laws vary; federal laws govern exemptions in bankruptcy.
Protectively title non-exempt assets. Putting the title to valuable assets in the names of corporations, limited partnerships, domestic trusts and other entities offers some protection. You still get to use and enjoy the asset but legal ownership is with an entity that’s not subject to your personal creditors’ claims. Which entities best shield which assets depends on the asset, your state laws, taxation and your estate plan, to name a few considerations. You can also combine protective entities, for instance, giving ownership of your limited liability company to a limited partnership. It’s best to get professional advice .

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15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Hits New All-Time Record Low

April 13, 2012 2:22 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey ® (PMMS®) yesterday, showing average fixed mortgage rates declining for the third consecutive week on the heels of a weaker than expected employment report. The 30-year fixed averaged just above its record low while the 15-year fixed averaged a new all-time record low of 3.11 percent, breaking its previous low of 3.13 percent on March 8, 2012. 

Other important findings from the PMMS include: 

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.88 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 12, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.98 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.91 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.11 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.21 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.13 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.86 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.78 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.80 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.25 percent. 

Source: Freddie Mac

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High Gas Prices Forcing Americans to Cut Back

April 13, 2012 2:22 am

With the approach of the warmer weather comes an expected increase in car travel as families hit the road for summer fun. However, higher gas prices may take a toll not only on road travel this summer but on other expenditures as well. 

According to a new Harris Poll, over half of Americans who own a vehicle (55 percent) say they have cut back on products and/or services in order to pay for the increased price of gasoline. As might be expected, those with lower household incomes are more impacted. Two-thirds (67 percent) of those with a household income of less than $35,000 a year have cut back on products or services because of higher gas prices compared to 37 percent of those who have a household income of $100,000 or more. 

According to the Harris Poll, there are many things people are cutting back on in order to pay for the increased price of gasoline. Three-quarters of those who have cut back have done so on dining out (75 percent) and driving in general (73 percent) while almost two-thirds have cut back on entertainment (65 percent) and weekend trips or day trips (65 percent). Three in five have cut back on reducing extras, such as luxury items (62 percent) and vacations (59 percent) while over half have cut back on clothing (55 percent) and movies (54 percent). Smaller, but still significant, numbers have cut back on groceries (38 percent), personal grooming, such as haircuts or manicures (37 percent), and auto repairs or upkeep (24 percent). 

In looking at who to blame for the rise in gas prices, over one-third of Americans (37 percent) say they blame the oil companies the most while one-quarter (25 percent) blame unrest in the Middle East. Political figures are also blamed by some; 17 percent blame President Obama the most; 5 percent blame Republicans in Congress the most; and 4 percent blame Democrats in Congress the most. 

So, who can best stop rising gas prices? Just over one-third of Americans (37 percent) say the oil and gas industry while three in ten (30 percent) believe the federal government can best stop rising gasoline prices. Fewer people believe consumers can stop rising gas prices (14 percent) while 4 percent say state and local governments can, 2 percent say the automotive industry, and 14 percent are not sure.

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Creating Your Homebuyer Wish List

April 13, 2012 2:22 am

If you’re embarking on the exciting process of searching for your first home, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. After all, from choosing the right location to securing the necessary financing, there are many important details to tackle.

These details can often cloud your judgment when looking at prospective homes to buy. However, in order to be happy in your new home for years to come, you must choose a property that embodies what’s most important to you. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends answering the following questions as a guide to selecting your first home:

1. What part of town/neighborhood do you want to live in?
2. What price range would you consider? Establish the maximum price you’d consider.
3. Are schools a factor and, if so, what do you need to take into consideration (i.e., the school system’s ranking, whether the kids can walk to school, etc.)?
4. Do you want an older home or a newer home (less than five years old)?
5. What kind of houses would you be willing to see (i.e., ranch, two-story, split level, condo, etc.)?
6. What style house appeals to you most (i.e., contemporary, traditional , colonial, etc.)?
7. How much renovation would you be willing to do?
8. Do you need to be close to public transportation?
9. Do you have any physical needs that must be met, such as wheelchair access?
10. Do you have any animals that will require special facilities?
11. What criteria does the lot the property sits on have to meet (i.e., acreage, fenced yard, two-car garage, patio/deck, views, etc.)?
12. What criteria does the interior of the home need to meet (i.e., number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, etc.)?
13. What features of the home are most important to you? Consider must-haves vs. would-like-to-haves:
• Air conditioning
• Wall-to-wall carpet
• Hardwood floors
• Eat-in kitchen
• Separate dining room
• Formal living room
• Family room
• Separate den or library
• Basement
• Fireplace
• “In-law” apartment
• Lots of windows (light)

Answering the above questions will help you hone in on what’s most important to you and what you can let go of. This exercise will also help you narrow your home search and find your new home much sooner.

Source: hud.gov

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How to Travel Productively

April 12, 2012 2:22 am

If you’re a frequent business traveler, chances are you’ve probably honed your strategies for traveling comfortably and productively. A recent article from Inc. magazine online offers six great tips from seasoned road warriors for making the most out of travel time:
  1. Stay Connected. Carry extra batteries, and battery powered chargers and adapters. Bring a high-quality hands-free set for your phone so that you can answer calls in noisy places and still be heard. Also consider getting a long-battery-life laptop with an extended battery, which can provide you with six to seven hours of battery life.
  2. Bring back-up. When you can’t connect to the Internet, be ready with reserves. Since you can’t always get to everything you need from your laptop or smartphone, print back-ups and/or put important documents on a memory stick.
  3. Travel light. Minimize the stress of last minute packing by keeping toiletries, technology kits and other basics ready to grab and go. Consider investing in a tablet, which gives you access to books, magazines, newspapers, games, movies, music and more all in one convenient, easy-to-carry place.
  4. Appoint a troubleshooter. Designate someone to coordinate what you can’t manage while traveling and have set times to check in and deal with questions. This will give you peace of mind that things are moving smoothly back at the office and help you avoid dealing with a fire drill while on the road.
  5. Tune in to your time zone. Seasoned travelers recommend changing your watch at take-off when traveling to another time zone. This will put you in the right mindset from the get-go. Once you arrive at your destination, try and stay up until the hour you’d normally go to bed. This will help your internal body clock reset more quickly.
  6. Plan time to recharge. Pushing relentlessly can be counter-productive, so be sure to make time to recharge, whether that be going for a run or taking in a local sight.
Source: Inc.com

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Check Your Temperature When Grilling

April 12, 2012 2:22 am

As the weather warms up and cooking duties move outside to the grill, don’t forget to take your meat thermometer with you. A staple of traditional oven cooking, the meat thermometer is just as important when grilling outdoors, preventing you from overcooking or undercooking meat.

According to Consumer Reports, not all grills cook evenly, so it's important to take the temperature of your meat. Just remember these three numbers: 145 degrees F for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry. A good meat thermometer costs only $15 to $40, and the most accurate in Consumer Reports’ testing were made by Polder, Oxo and Maverick.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its rules for cooking pork, saying that you can now cook it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, instead of 160, followed by a three-minute rest before carving. That's the same as beef, lamb and veal. According to the National Pork Board, this new standard temperature results in pork that is tender and juicy as opposed to tough and dry.

Consumer Reports also suggests checking the USDA's website for the proper cooking temperature, however, if your grill cooks unevenly, arriving at the right temperature will be a challenge. This is a key feature that Consumer Reports tests—technicians test cooking evenness at both low and high temperatures and recommended grills are those that ace these tests. Among Consumer Reports’ Best Buys for medium-sized grills are models from Char-Broil, Kenmore, Brinkmann and Aussie that range in price from $200 to $400.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Debt Collector Calling? How to Spot a Fake

April 12, 2012 2:22 am

Consumers across the country are reporting creditor calls on loans they never received or on amounts they do not owe, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is warning consumers to be on alert for scam artists posing as debt collectors.

However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake one. Sometimes a fake collector may even have some of your personal information, like a bank account number. According to the FTC, the caller may be a fake debt collector if they:
  • Are seeking payment on a debt for a loan you do not recognize
  • Refuse to give you a mailing address or phone number
  • Ask you for personal financial or sensitive information
  • Exert high pressure to try to scare you into paying, such as threatening to have you arrested or to report you to a law enforcement agency
If you suspect that a caller may be a fake debt collector, the FTC advises you to ask the caller for their name, company, street address, and telephone number. Tell the caller that you refuse to discuss any debt until you get a written "validation notice." The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If a caller refuses to give you all of this information, the FTC stresses that you should not pay. Doing so may only prolong the scam to pressure you into paying even more money. Here are the steps you should take instead:
  • Stop speaking with the caller. If you have the caller's address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you, and keep a copy for your files. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
  • Do not give the caller personal financial or other sensitive information. Never give out or confirm personal financial or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number unless you know whom you're dealing with. Scam artists, like fake debt collectors, can use your information to commit identity theft – charging your existing credit cards, opening new credit card, checking, or savings accounts, writing fraudulent checks, or taking out loans in your name.
  • Contact your creditor. If the debt is legitimate – but you think the collector may not be – contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
  • Report the call. Contact the FTC and your state Attorney General's office with information about suspicious callers. Many states have their own debt collection laws in addition to the federal FDCPA. Your Attorney General's office can help you determine your rights under your state's law.
Source: ftc.gov/credit

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Private Social Network for Neighborhoods Facilitates Safety

April 11, 2012 8:18 am

Nextdoor, the free and private social network for neighborhoods, recently added an Urgent Alerts feature. This new alert system allows Nextdoor members to immediately notify neighbors of important, time-sensitive information in 110 characters or less via mobile phone text, as well as by email. 

Research has shown that social networks within a neighborhood can lower crime and improve public health. Nextdoor was created with this goal in mind. With the release of Urgent Alerts, Nextdoor is reinforcing their commitment to help make neighborhoods safer places to live. 

Normally, when a member posts a message via Nextdoor, neighbors receive that message through an email, either immediately or in a daily digest. However, for especially urgent matters such as suspicious activity, a missing child, fires, floods and other disasters, a simple email may not be enough. Intended for use in time-sensitive cases, having access to these updates in real-time gives neighbors the ability to act fast, notify friends and family, and respond quickly to the situation at hand. 

To send an Urgent Alert message, a member simply needs to sign-in to their account and click the "Send alert" icon above the post box on the homepage. Members have the option of receiving the alert via email alone or along with an SMS text message. It is important to note that mobile numbers are not made public within a neighborhood unless members elect to share that information themselves in their Nextdoor profile. 

For more information, visit Nextdoor.com.

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Survey Shows What Deck Owners Pine For

April 11, 2012 8:18 am

Many homeowners’ dreams of a fully loaded, beautifully designed deck remain out of reach, according to a recent study conducted by Thompson Companies via Facebook. 

More than 2,000 people responded to the query, "What would you do if you won $15,000 to spend on your deck?" Facebook fans were asked to rate how strongly they felt about 11 different options, with one being the least interested and 10 being the most interested. The number one answer, with 47 percent of respondents rating it a 10, was to tear out the current deck and start over. 

The survey found that alterations that improve both beauty and functionality were the most popular choices. Next in line, chosen by 43 percent of respondents, was to add lighting. Improving the landscaping and adding built-ins, like benches and storage, tied at 41 percent each. Rounding out the top five improvements, at 40 percent, was the choice to enlarge an existing deck. 

Outdoor kitchens have been a popular project, but only 28 percent of those taking the survey would spend their dollars here – possibly underscoring a shift toward practicality over luxury. Other possible ways to spend the windfall were to get new furniture (34 percent), change to composite or exotic wood (29 percent), repair damaged wood (25 percent), change the color (24 percent) and add a water feature. 

The last question asked participants to list anything else they'd add to the deck of their dreams. While many named hot tubs or fire pits, others asked for shade and enclosures, reinforcing the finding that homeowners want their decks to be a comfortable outdoor living space that can be used as often as possible. Many people stated simply that having a place for friends and family to gather would be enough. 

Enter Thompsons “Deck of Your Dreams” Sweepstakes at the company's website (www.thompsonswaterseal.com), running now through October.

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