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

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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

U.S. Economy Expected to Grow 2.9 Percent over Next Year, Says Report

April 11, 2012 8:18 am

The U.S., Japan and Australia are expected to escape recession over the next 12 months, with the U.S. economy now expected to expand by 2.9 percent over the period, according to the Spring Outlook report from Mellon Capital Management Corporation, part of BNY Mellon Asset Management, a global financial services company. 

Excluding the U.S., Japan and Australia, most developed countries are expected to experience a mild recession over the next year, with European countries at the highest risk, the report added. 

"The U.S. economy is continuing to strengthen and we now put the probability of anemic U.S. growth at less than five percent," explains Lex Huberts, president of Mellon Capital. "This is a significant improvement from September, when the probability was closer to 20 percent that the U.S. economy would grow at less than two percent over the next year. 

"Looking at our forward estimates of economic fundamentals, we are cautiously optimistic on stocks given the signs of economic recovery in the U.S., positive steps toward resolving the euro area debt crisis and the general stabilization of earnings forecasts in Europe," adds Huberts. "However, tensions with Iran are a concern." 

The report also notes that Mellon Capital is moderately positive on commodities, favors emerging markets equities and favors the Australian dollar and Canadian dollar among developed market currencies at this time. 

Source: BNY Mellon

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

'Mad Men' Effect Sparks Return of 'Secretaries'

April 10, 2012 2:18 am

A recent survey of administrative professionals witnessed a significant increase in the use of the term “secretary” to describe one’s job title. This shift marks a reversal of popularity for a job title that has been in decline for at least 20 years.

With the 60th anniversary of Administrative Professionals Day approaching on April 25, the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) conducted a biannual benchmarking survey of its members on a variety of topics, including job titles, responsibilities, salaries, job satisfaction, and technology.

Though the top two job titles for IAAP members were Executive Assistant (29 percent) and Administrative Assistant (25 percent), the third most common job title was Administrative Secretary (7 percent). That's the first time in several years that Administrative Secretary made it into the top three job titles. In fact, the number of admins with "secretary" in their titles nearly doubled in two years, going from 8 percent to nearly 15 percent.

It's unclear why there are more secretaries, though the IAAP believes it may be due to a "Mad Men Effect." The popular AMC series may stoke nostalgia for the classic image of the American corporate secretary.
Regardless of their titles, admins are professional and integral members of their office teams. In 2011, administrative professionals supported an increasing number of executives or managers. Approximately two-thirds report that their level of workplace autonomy and authority has increased in the last five years. About 80 percent say their overall contribution at work has also increased during the same period.

Source: International Association of Administrative Professionals

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Americans Leaning More Towards Home Buying

April 10, 2012 2:18 am

More consumers may be looking to purchase homes with a shift in several key housing market indicators, according to Fannie Mae's March 2012 consumer attitudinal National Housing Survey.

More Americans now expect both home rental and home purchase prices to increase over the next year. Nearly half of consumers expect higher rental prices, the highest number recorded since monthly tracking began in June 2010. Thirty-three percent expect home prices to increase, up 5 percentage points since last month, and the highest percentage recorded in over a year. In addition, confidence in consumers' views of their own finances is stabilizing—for three straight months—44 percent believe their personal finances will get better over the next year. These trends may be providing Americans with an increased sense of urgency to buy a home as 73 percent of Americans now believe it is a good time to buy a home, up from 70 percent in February.

"Conditions are coming together to encourage people to want to buy homes," says Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. "Americans' rental price expectations for the next year continue to rise, reaching their record-high level for our survey this month. With an increasing share of consumers expecting higher mortgage rates and home prices over the next 12 months, some may feel that renting is becoming more costly and that homeownership is a more compelling housing choice."

Here are several other important survey highlights:
  • 33 percent of respondents expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months, a five percentage point increase from last month, the highest level over the past 12 months.
  • On average, Americans expect home prices to increase by 0.9 percent over the next 12 months (up slightly since last month).
  • 39 percent of Americans say that mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months, a five percentage point increase from last month.
  • The percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to buy rose by three points to 73 percent, the highest level in over a year, while the percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell rose one point to 14 percent this month.
  • On average, respondents expect home rental prices to increase by 4.1 percent over the next 12 months, a significant increase since February, and the highest number recorded to date.
  • 48 percent of respondents think that home rental prices will go up, a three percentage point increase from last month and the highest number recorded to date.
  • 66 percent of respondents say they would buy their next home if they were going to move, up one point since last month, while 30 percent say they would rent, up one point versus last month.
  • The rise in confidence in the economy's direction leveled this month, with 35 percent responding that they think the economy is on the right track, consistent with February's total. The percentage who say the economy is on the wrong track rose slightly from 57 percent to 58 percent.
  • Only 12 percent think that their personal financial situation will worsen in the next 12 months, consistent with February as the lowest value in over a year, and tied with January 2011 for the lowest to date.
  • 21 percent of respondents say their income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, up 1 point versus February, while 63 percent say it has stayed the same - consistent with February's values.
  • 34 percent say their expenses have increased significantly over the past 12 months (a slight increase of one percentage point).
Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Ticks Down to 3.98 Percent

April 10, 2012 2:18 am

Freddie Mac has released the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey ® (PMMS®), showing average mortgage rates changing little from the previous week, with the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage remaining just below 4.00 percent for the second consecutive week.

Other important details from the PMMS:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.98 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 5, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.99 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.87 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.21 percent with an average 0.7 point down from last week when it averaged 3.23 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.10 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.86 percent this week, with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.90 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.72 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.78 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, unchanged from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.22 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

How Birth Order Affects Financial Decisions

April 9, 2012 2:16 am

Does birth order really influence financial behavior? A new survey from CouponCabin.com reveals that some of that theory rings true when it comes to how first borns, middle borns, last borns and only children stack up financially. The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin from March 13 - March 15, 2012, among 2,211 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

According to birth order theorist Alfred Adler, first borns are likely to be power-hungry conservatives, highly responsible and organized, as they've been expected to lead by example during their formative years.

This theory is supported when it comes to overall financial responsibility, as the survey found 87 percent of first borns said they consider themselves extremely/very/fairly financially responsible. This figure was only slightly smaller than middle borns, with 88 percent reporting that they consider themselves extremely/very/fairly financially responsible. Last borns came in at 85 percent.

Later borns, including middle and last borns, according to Adler, are usually considered to be the most open to new experiences.

On the contrary, only children, who in theory often share many characteristics with first borns, reported the highest instance of taking financial risks at least sometimes (39 percent) such as borrowing for short-term investments or investing in risky ventures. They were closely followed by first borns at 38 percent, and then middle (36 percent) and last borns (35 percent).

Adler also theorized that middle borns are typically competitive, as they sometimes have to compete for the same attention that their older and younger siblings receive. Middle borns are competitive when it comes to saving, as they reported the highest instance (65 percent) of putting money into their savings accounts each month. This bucks the theory that first borns are the conservative ones, as first borns with a savings account were the least likely (57 percent) to report they put money into it each month. Sixty percent of last borns who have a savings account said they put money into it each month.

Middle borns, who report they are the most financially responsible, are also the most likely to be asked to lend money to their siblings. Nearly half (49 percent) of middle borns said they have been asked by their older or younger siblings for dough. First borns (36 percent) and last borns (29 percent) report the lowest instances of being asked to lend money.

When asked about birth order and their beliefs on how it affects personality, 75 percent of only children agree that birth order affects people's personality traits, with 73 percent of first borns, 69 percent of last borns and 64 percent of middle borns agreeing.

Source: CouponCabin.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

U.S. Private-Sector Jobs Increase in March

April 9, 2012 2:16 am

Private-sector employment increased by 209,000 from February to March on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the recently released ADP National Employment Report®.

The report, created by Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP®), in partnership with Macroeconomic Advisers, LLC, is derived from actual payroll data and measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month. Estimated gains for previous months were revised higher; the gain from December to January was revised up by 9,000 to 182,000, and the gain from January to February was revised up by 14,000 to 230,000.

According to the report, notable employment gains were seen in the following areas:
  • Total employment: +209,000
  • Small businesses:* +100,000
  • Medium businesses:** +87,000
  • Large businesses:*** +22,000
  • Goods-producing sector: + 45,000
  • Service-providing sector: +164,000
According to today's ADP National Employment Report, employment in the nonfarm private business sector rose 209,000 from February to March on a seasonally adjusted basis. Employment in the private, service-providing sector increased 164,000 in March, after rising a revised 183,000 in February.

Employment in the private, goods-producing sector rose 45,000 in March. Manufacturing employment increased 23,000, while construction employment advanced 13,000 and the financial services sector added 8,000 jobs during that period.

"During the first quarter of this year, monthly gains in employment shown in The ADP National Employment Report averaged 207,000 jobs, compared to 156,000 per month over all of 2011," explains Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of ADP. "This is a positive development, and I would hope that job growth will be even more robust for the remainder of the year."

According to Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, LLC, "Labor market conditions continue to improve at a moderate pace. Employment grew in all the major sectors of the economy tracked in the report, and across payrolls of all sizes. Today's data marks the twenty-sixth consecutive monthly gain in private employment as measured in the report.

* Small businesses represent payrolls with 1-49 employees
** Medium businesses represent payrolls with 50-499 employees
*** Large businesses represent payrolls with more than 499 employees

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: