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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

Mortgage Rates Sink, Prompting Refis

September 12, 2016 2:15 am


Mortgage rates on average have moved lower, with the 30-year fixed-rate recently sinking to 3.44 percent, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) reports.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell two basis points to 3.44 percent [last] week,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti says. “As mortgage rates continue to range between 3.41 and 3.48 percent, many are taking advantage of the historically low rates by refinancing. Since the Brexit vote, the refinance share of mortgage activity has remained above 60 percent.”

The 15-year fixed-rate (FRM), conversely, averages 2.76 percent with an average 0.5 point, according to the survey. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate averages 2.81 percent with an average 0.4 point. The 30-year FRM has an average 0.6 point.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

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Home Improvements for Fall: A Checklist

September 12, 2016 2:15 am


Fall is one of the best times of year to knock out some home improvement projects, especially ones you may have been putting off. Vicki Payne, host of the television program “For Your Home with Vicki Payne,” says fall is also ideal for maintenance before colder temperatures set in.

“With cooler fall weather comes the realization that your home will soon experience [colder] weather,” Payne says. “To get your house ready, start by giving your exterior a thorough review. Everything should be checked, cleaned up and made ready to handle Mother Nature when she comes blowing in within the next few months.”

Payne’s checklist:

Assess the roof. Look for loose or missing shingles, as well as algae, deterioration, mold or splitting. If the roof is in poor shape, consider upgrading to a synthetic roof—the composite product resists elements like fire, high winds and impact. (Hot Product: DaVinci Roofscapes)

Check the doors. The weather stripping should be intact—this helps keep drafty cold air out.

Check the siding and trim. Make sure there are no insect infestations or rotting boards (if wood). Should these items need replacement, consider a low-maintenance alternative like fiber cement siding or PVC trim. (Hot Products: James Hardie, Ply Gem)

Clean the gutters. Remove leaves and debris to avoid back-ups or clogs come winter. Ensure, too, that gutters are securely attached to the home and sloped for proper drainage.

Evaluate the deck. If the deck looks worse for wear, consider replacing it with Western Red Cedar or composite decking—both stand up to the elements. (Hot Product: TAMKO)

Inspect the garage door(s). Make sure it is operating properly and has strong air filtration seals. A replacement may be in order if the door is not functioning or aesthetically outdated. (Hot Product: Haas Door)

Seal the windows. At the very least, ensure the windows have strong weather stripping. Consider installing energy-efficient panes (with the ENERGY STAR® label) to keep heating costs down.

Secure railings. Loose or unstable railings can be dangerous. Check all balusters and handrails for signs of damage. If it is time for a replacement, consider adding cable rails or glass balustrades for a contemporary finish. (Hot Product: Fortress Railing)

Spend time on landscaping. Rake leaves as they fall—remove them and any other underbrush from the property before frost or snow arrive. Re-mulch in areas that need it, and trim back bushes and trees.

“Homeownership means continually maintaining the exterior elements of a house,” says Payne. “With its cooler weather, autumn is the ideal time to evaluate, upgrade and improve those key exterior elements to ensure your home is ready for the winter months ahead.”

Source: For Your Home with Vicki Payne
 

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Is Your Workout Class Working?

September 9, 2016 2:09 am


More of us than ever are signing up for workout classes—and that’s a good thing. But, as the editors at Women’s Health point out, there’s a tendency for beginners to do too much, too soon, instead of gradually building strength. They caution signs of a too-strenuous workout:
 
Your Breathing Is Choppy
In any workout class (especially yoga, where rhythmic cadence is important), you must pay attention to your breath. If it’s getting shorter and shorter, or you start to gasp, slow down until you feel you’re breathing normally.
 
Your Heart Rate Is off the Charts
Monitoring your heart rate throughout your workout is a good way to ensure you’re training without overdoing it. If you’re not monitoring your heart rate, listen to your body—if you’re unable to string words together, or if you feel faint, rein it in.
 
Your Muscles Are Quaking
A little shaking is fine—it can be an indicator of the muscle fatigue your instructor is aiming for—but if you can’t control the quaking, you’ve likely gone too far and could be putting your joints at risk. Reduce your intensity, or rest, before attempting to join in again.
 
Your Technique Is Off
If you’re not performing exercises properly, the class may be too challenging for you—but a good instructor will provide modifications as needed so long as you are continuing to gain strength and endurance.

Fitness classes can support a healthier lifestyle, but don’t hesitate to dial back if these signs crop up in the first few sessions. Exercise to your capacity, and only push your limits when you—and your body—are ready.
 

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Hurricane Mid-Season Reminder: Check In on Insurance

September 9, 2016 2:09 am


Hurricane season presents insurance considerations for homeowners in many areas of the country. Midway through the season is an ideal time to check in with your insurance provider regarding coverage, advises the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“This is the midpoint of the season, and it's vital to remain vigilant,” says Lynne McChristian, a representative for the I.I.I. “If it's been a year since you last talked to your insurance professional about your coverage and options, then have the conversation now while you still have time to make changes.”

According to the I.I.I., many insurers, especially in Florida, will not permit changes to policies once a hurricane warning or watch is in effect. As such, it’s essential to consult with your provider before a storm strikes, if only to confirm you’re covered.

The I.I.I. recommends updating your policy if you’ve made improvements to or remodeled your home, or if you’ve obtained new belongings. Ensure your policy provides coverage not only to rebuild your home in the event of disaster, but also to replace your possessions.

“Ask about additional coverage you should consider,” McChristian says. “For example, does your policy cover sewer backup? If your home is more than five years old, you may also need building ordinance and law coverage, which covers the added costs to rebuild a damaged home up to the improved, latest building codes.”

Updating your home inventory, which is a list of your possessions and their value, can also be beneficial should you need to file a claim. According to the I.I.I., doing this not only hastens the claim process, but also makes filing for federal disaster aid simpler. A free home inventory app is available at KnowYourStuff.org.

Consider flood insurance, as well, the I.I.I. suggests. (More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims are paid to those living in low- to moderate-risk flood zones.) Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or through a private insurer.

Source: Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
 

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5 Macro Trends in Home Design

September 9, 2016 2:09 am


From health-centric workplaces to socially-connected shops, macro trends inform design in industries across the board. Macro trends in the home, however, have higher staying power.

The macro trends currently shaping the design in our homes are the “country chic/farmhouse,” “glamour/Hollywood regency,” “gold,” “industrial” and “mid-century modern” aesthetics, says Ted Roberts, manager of Industrial Design for Schlage®. Roberts, who ascertains trends through industry events and tradeshows, believes these movements are going nowhere soon.

“While home trends tend to stay relevant longer, with homeowners updating decor about every five years, our team is continually monitoring art and fashion trends to inform home decor,” Roberts says.

The country chic/farmhouse aesthetic, according to Roberts, has evolved from being rooted in dark-toned woods to supporting lighter wood finishes. Often, it overlaps with industrial-style products, such as exposed plumbing and light fixtures. The industrial trend, conversely, has transitioned from an all-encompassing theme to well-appointed accessories, like Edison bulbs and pulleys.

The hallmark of the glamour/Hollywood regency aesthetic, on the other hand, is geometric designs, seen in accent pieces, lighting and small furniture, Roberts explains. The trend has moved from clean, drastic contrast to black-and-gold and softer grays, with Art Deco elements.

The gold component in the glamour/Hollywood regency trend is echoed in the gold and satin brass finishes now standard in new home design, Roberts adds. The patina is now being paired with whites and tans, rather than dark shades.

The mid-century modern take, too, is as popular as ever. The aesthetic’s color palette, which conventionally popped with oranges and yellows, is now brimming with blacks, blues and grays. The trend, Roberts says, is one of the most of-the-moment designs, and will continue to be more so than any other macro trend.

Do these macro trends make an appearance in your home?

Source: Schlage®

 

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With Age Comes…Nevermind: Millennial Outlook 'Positive,' but 'Realistic'

September 8, 2016 2:06 am


Millennials expect healthy financial prospects, but hold no illusions for the long-term—a “positive,” “realistic” outlook atypical of their age, according to the recently released Northwestern Mutual Planning & Progress Study. The majority of millennials in the study were confident they will achieve their financial goals, though some expressed concern about retirement.

“It’s encouraging to see that millennials are striking a balance between being realistic about the implications of extended longevity and remaining positive about building a solid financial future,” says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of Planning for Northwestern Mutual.

Notably, the millennials in the study were more likely than any other generation to recognize a lack of planning as a hindrance to security in retirement, and many believed the availability of Social Security is “not at all likely.”

Most considered themselves “highly disciplined” financial planners, even though slim wages and student loan debt were causes for concern. The former, the study found, has a negative impact on their career goals.

“The early stages of a career can be rewarding in many ways, but not necessarily financially,” says Barsch. “With the right financial plan in place, millennials can alleviate some of the pressure and feel confident about pursuing their career aspirations, rather than just a paycheck.”

Just one in five of the millennials included in the study had a financial advisor.

The takeaway? Millennials maintain a financial disposition that belies their years: a rosy outlook tempered by faith in the economy, and foresight.

Source: Northwestern Mutual
 

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The Best Time for Deals on Patio Gear Is…Now!

September 8, 2016 2:06 am


We’re all familiar with annual end-of-season sales on patio equipment and furniture—but when, really, is the best window for savings?

For the answer, I turned to coupon clearinghouse LOZO.com, which finds reliable grocery coupons from hundreds of trustworthy brands and websites. (You may have seen reporting on them on Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show or TLC's Extreme Couponing.)

LOZO.com points out that with fall and the holiday season approaching, the closer retailers get to their seasonal inventory change-over, the greater the discounts—that's why you can count on end-of-season sales for just about every seasonal item.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are particularly eager to move patio furniture, because it’s big, bulky, and takes up valuable store space. Unlike some seasonal items that gradually progress through sales (25 percent off, 40 percent off, 50 percent off, and so on), patio furniture quickly discounts.

According to LOZO.com, the best course of action is to carefully track the store(s) you might buy from and check stock and discounts. Don’t hesitate to ask a salesperson for details on how much inventory is still available, when it will be discounted, and for how much. Check back regularly to see if the sales have gotten any sweeter—LOZO.com recommends springing for the patio purchase when it reaches 75 percent off or more.

For more guidance on savings for your household, visit LOZO.com.
 

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Is a Fixer-Upper Worth It?

September 8, 2016 2:06 am


Fixer-upper homes tend to be less expensive than top-to-bottom remodels, but the markdown may not equal the cost of a basic renovation, according to a recently released report by Zillow Digs®. The report’s findings show median fixer-uppers list for 8 percent less than market value, which allows for a reno budget of just $11,000.

“Fixer-uppers can be a great deal, and they allow buyers to incorporate their personal style into a home while renovating, but it’s still a good idea to do the math before making the leap,” explains Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist. “While an 8-percent discount or $11,000 in upfront savings on a fixer-upper is certainly a good chunk of change, it likely won’t be enough to cover a kitchen remodel, let alone structural updates like a new roof or plumbing, which many of these properties require.”

The margins vary by market, with fixers in more expensive areas yielding the highest upfront savings—prices for median fixers in San Francisco, according to the report, are marked down 10 percent, which, due to high property values, affords buyers $54,000 for renovations.

Fixer-upper market snapshots included in the report:

New York/Northern New Jersey
Markdown: 4.4 percent
Reno Breakeven: $12,000

Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim, Calif.
Markdown: 2.7 percent
Reno Breakeven: $12,000

Chicago, Ill.
Markdown: 13.8 percent
Reno Breakeven: $19,000

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Markdown: 5.4 percent
Reno Breakeven: $6,000

Philadelphia, Pa.
Markdown: 13.7 percent
Reno Breakeven: $17,000

Is a fixer-upper worth it? As Gudell notes, it’s best to do the math—and discuss your options with your real estate professional.

Source: Zillow Digs®
 

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Eyewear Safety: 'In Sight' from Regulators

September 7, 2016 2:03 am


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report cautioning against improper use of eyewear, specifically contact lenses. Improper care, however, can also be detrimental, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Cleaning your contact lenses properly is crucial to maintaining optimal eye health—but lens wearers who use over-the-counter cleaning solutions containing hydrogen peroxide may be at risk for vision damage, the FDA warns. Safe handling of these types of solutions is essential.

“Over-the-counter products are not all the same,” says Bernard P. Lepri, an FDA optometrist. Before using a product, it is best to consult with your eye care provider, he advises—he or she may recommend a hydrogen peroxide-containing cleaning solution if you have an allergy or sensitivity to preservatives found in other types of solutions.

If you have been instructed to use a hydrogen peroxide-containing product, read and understand all instructions and warnings (typically in red boxes on the label) before use. The FDA mandates you follow the disinfecting process with a neutralizer, which is included with the product at purchase. A neutralizer will convert the hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water.

Neutralization can be one-step or two-step: the one-step process involves neutralizing your lenses while disinfecting; the two-step process involves neutralizing your lenses after disinfecting with a tablet. Lenses should be left in the solution for at least six hours to allow time for neutralization to complete.

“You should never put hydrogen peroxide directly into your eyes or on your contact lenses,” Lepri cautions. “That's because this kind of solution can cause stinging, burning and damage—specifically to your cornea.”

It is paramount not to share a product that contains hydrogen peroxide with other contact lens wearers, either, the FDA states.

To learn more about lens safety, visit www.FDA.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm487420.htm.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
 

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Moving? 5 Tips to Relocate the Garden

September 7, 2016 2:03 am


Moving itself is strenuous—moving fragile belongings, like plants, can be even more challenging.

Relocate the garden with these tips, courtesy of Ferguson Moving & Storage:

• Prepare plants for the move with a liberal dose of water. Damp roots and moist soil will help keep them thriving while being transported, and watered stems will hold up better during the move.

• Plant smaller flowers and shrubs in lightweight, temporary pots—this will make them easier to re-plant at the new home.

• Reduce the weight of heavy planters during the move by partially filling them with packing peanuts.

• Pack plants in the primary vehicle, if possible—not a moving truck or van.  If they must be packed in the truck, load them last so that they can be removed and tended to upon arrival.

• Make the moving company aware of the plants (to mitigate erratic driving) and request that they be unloaded as soon as possible at the new home.

Source: Ferguson Moving & Storage
 

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