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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

Low Mortgage Rates Continue

June 20, 2016 1:27 am

Mortgage rates are trending downward, and are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future.

According to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averages 3.54 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 15-year FRM, reports the survey, averages 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point.

“The 10-year Treasury yield continued its free fall this week as global risks and expectations for the Fed's June meeting drove investors to the safety of government bonds,” said Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement “The 30-year mortgage rate responded by falling six basis points for the second straight week to 3.54 percent—yet another low for 2016. Wednesday's Fed decision to once again stand pat on rates, as well as growing anticipation of the U.K.'s upcoming European Union referendum will make it difficult for Treasury yields and—more importantly—mortgage rates to substantially rise in the upcoming weeks.”

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), according to the survey, averages 2.74 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

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This Summer's Top Outdoor Living Trends

June 20, 2016 1:27 am

Summer’s all about the outdoors—and at a home, that means an outdoor space outfitted for the season.

This summer, three design trends are making a statement: aquamarine, concrete and teak, according to Zillow Digs® recently released Home Trend Forecast.

“Clean, simple and contemporary is the vibe for outdoor living in 2016,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. “Anything high-maintenance, intricate or over-styled will be replaced with materials that can both withstand the elements and transition beautifully between seasons. Natural wood outdoor furniture will take center stage, but will be modernized by concrete or stainless steel accent materials, which will pop up in anything from chair legs to coffee table tops.”

Aquamarine—a blue color in the cerulean family—is unexpectedly warm, pairing well with natural wood and slate, Zillow Digs experts say. The shade can be incorporated into an outdoor space through accents like patio umbrellas and all-weather throw pillows.

Concrete, newly introduced with fiberglass and resin, is making a comeback. Whether it’s a concrete coffee table or a stamped concrete patio, the material has been re-imagined as a contemporary—and practical—element, say Zillow Digs experts.

Teak furniture, such as Adirondack chairs or a dining set, is as popular as ever, this season updated with stainless steel. Zillow Digs experts suggest installing teak platform seating to take the trend from timeless to today.

Trends on their way out, according to the Zillow Digs Forecast, are floral patterns, high-maintenance lawns and wrought iron furniture.

Source: Zillow

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Stay Safe Online: What Is Ransomware and How Can I Avoid It?

June 17, 2016 1:15 am

Reports of ransomware—an invasive software that demands ransom to access unlawfully locked digital files—have risen in the last year, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) (StaySafeOnline.org).

Ransomware, which can attack any user, “kidnaps” a range of information, from financial records to photographs, in an attempt to gain ransom in exchange for the return of the information. Generally, it strikes through an attachment or link containing a ransomware code.

“As cybercriminals become more cunning and sophisticated, we must become more vigilant about basic digital hygiene and protecting our data and devices—including smartphones and tablets,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the NCSA, in a statement. “There are simple things everyone can do, like keeping all software updated, turning on two-factor authentication, backing up data in the cloud or other removable media and making strong passwords.”

To ward off attacks, update all software, including security programs, on every internet-enabled machine or device. Be sure to regularly back up important information to a secure location—ransomware criminals cannot demand payment if you can access your information by other means.

Setting a difficult-to-determine password is also wise. Aim for a password that is at least 12 characters. To further reduce your risk, consider adding two-step authentication, which is a process that requires two steps to log in to any password-protected account. This process, sometimes called “two-step verification” or “multi-factor authentication,” may include second steps like text message codes or fingerprint swipes.

Remember: always err on the side of caution. If an email, online advertisement or social media post appears even the slightest bit suspicious, delete or ignore it.

Source: National Cyber Security Alliance

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5 Principles of Lawn Care

June 17, 2016 1:15 am

Forget the HD TV.

Millennial homeowners would sooner have an enviable lawn than a top-of-the-line television—a preference in surprising contrast to that of older homeowners seasoned in lawn care.

Millennials’ affinity for their lawns—a finding from recently released research by John Deere—comes despite a lack of maintenance know-how.

Millennial homeowners who wish to make their lawn the best on the block should follow basic lawn care principles, says Mark Schmidt, principal scientist for John Deere.

“By learning best practices and using properly maintained equipment, homeowners will likely see an improvement in the overall appearance of their lawns,” Schmidt says.

These principles are:

1. Water – Water your lawn before the sun reaches midday, preferably before 10 a.m. Water for a long time once, instead of watering for a short amount of time more often. Avoid mowing the lawn if it is wet.

2. Food – Fertilize cool season turf in early spring and fall. Fertilize warm season turf in spring and summer.

3. Height – Mow the lawn no more than one-third of the grass blade down—any more can cause damage and an unsightly lawn.

4. Time – As with watering, mow your lawn around peak sun periods—in the morning or late afternoon is best. This minimizes stress to the lawn.

5. Maintenance – Tune-up your mower once each year according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. This may include sharpening the blade, inflating the tires and replacing the spark plug.

Following these principles to the letter will keep your lawn lush and thriving for years to come. Who says you need a television?

Source: John Deere

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Relocating? 3 FAQs on Safety, Schools

June 17, 2016 1:15 am

Relocating to a new city can be challenging, especially if you’re thoroughly unfamiliar with the area. Which neighborhood is right for me? How is the school system? What should I know as a resident?

ApartmentList.com answers these questions and more in their recently rolled out relocation educational series:

1. How can I qualify for an apartment?
If you’ll be renting in your new city, seek out rents appropriate for your salary in order to qualify. Generally, according to ApartmentList.com, this means you should earn at least two-and-a-half to three times the total amount of rent for the duration you plan to live in the unit.

If you’re looking at a monthly rent of $1,500, for example, and you plan to rent for 12 months, you need to provide proof that you’ll be earning (or have already saved) at least $45,000. Proof of this can be in the form of past pay stubs or an offer letter (with your salary included) from your new employer.

2. How do I ensure the neighborhood is safe?
Safety, ultimately, is subjective. ApartmentList.com advises relocators to contact the local police station, research statistics on websites such as CrimeReports.com, or tour the neighborhood for a first-hand perspective.

3. How can I find out more about schools?
Contact the local school district office, or the principal or a PTA member of a school you may be interested in, ApartmentList.com recommends. Consulting with someone who has experience with the school can be telling.

For more answers to your relocation questions, contact a real estate professional or visit ApartmentList.com.

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Want to Retire at 55? 3 Tips

June 16, 2016 1:15 am

Exiting the workforce early is a common dream—some might say fantasy—for many of today’s employees. It can be done, as MSN Money recently reported, so long as you plan ahead.

To retire at age 55, do:

Live Below Your Means – It’s tempting to upgrade from your starter home or buy a new car every few years, but, as The Millionaire Next Door author Thomas J. Stanley points out, retiring early happens for most people only after years of frugality. In general, it’s best to save 25 times your annual salary by retirement.

Stay Investment-Aggressive – Experts say it’s a misconception that conservative asset allocation is the only way to go. All but the very wealthy will need a healthy allocation to stocks for growth. Joe Heider, president of Cirrus Wealth Management in Cleveland, recommends that people within a few years of retirement scale back their portfolios to 60 percent stocks, and hold steady at that allocation into their retirement years.

Budget for Healthcare – Since you won’t be eligible for Medicare until age 65, you will need to secure health insurance. If you won’t have retirement health benefits, one option is to buy an individual or family plan from your state’s marketplace. Retiring couples can expect estimated healthcare costs of $17,000 per year until Medicare eligibility, according to a recent Fidelity study.

These strategies, coupled with a trip (or two) to a financial advisor, can pave the path to an early—still financially secure—retirement.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Highest-Ranking Home Improvement Stores in the Nation

June 16, 2016 1:15 am

Looking to stock up on home improvement supplies?

Look no further than Ace Hardware, which scored highest in customer satisfaction among home improvement retailers in J.D. Power’s widely recognized annual study. Ace has now landed the coveted top spot 10 years in row, ranking positively in areas such as staff “availability” and “knowledge.” Midwest retailer Menards was named second in the study, followed by Lowe’s in third.

Other high-ranking retailers include:

• The Home Depot (No. 4)
• True Value (No. 5)
• Sears (No. 6)

“The retailer's staff is most critical to differentiating the experience provided to customers, especially when it comes to the timeliness of greeting customers, answering their questions or providing advice,” said Greg Truex, senior director of the at-home practice at J.D. Power, in a statement about the study.

Customers are happiest when staff members understand the questions they ask and provide product or purchase advice, according to study findings.

More homeowners are taking on improvements to their houses this year, partly in response to a rosier economic outlook. The Home Improvement Research Institute estimates home improvement spending will jump to $332 billion in 2016.

Source: J.D. Power

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From Obstacle to Opportunity: 10 Markets for First-Time Homebuyers

June 16, 2016 1:15 am

First-time homebuyers today face many obstacles on the path to homeownership—but in some markets, there are less obstacles and more opportunities.

According to recently released research by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), some metropolitan areas have surpassed others in terms of feasibility for first-timers, due to increased housing affordability and promising employment growth. These areas, listed alphabetically, are:

Austin, Texas
Charleston, S.C.
Denver, Colo.
Minneapolis, Minn.
Ogden, Utah
Portland, Ore.
Raleigh, N.C.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Seattle, Wash.
Washington, D.C.

“Even with potentially higher incomes, prospective millennial homebuyers residing in some of the most expensive cities in the country face the onerous task of paying steep rents while trying to save for an adequate down payment,” explains Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, for those currently living in or looking to move to a more affordable part of the country, there are metro areas right now with solid job growth and that offer a smoother path to homeownership.”

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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Shoppers: June Deals for Dads, Homeowners

June 15, 2016 1:15 am

For shoppers on the hunt for a bargain this summer, June sales offer discounts on everything from dad-approved duds to home improvement supplies.

“Shopping in June is prime for homeowners,” says Brent Shelton, online shopping expert with FatWallet (FatWallet.com). “Thanks to June's big Father's Day sales, smart savings on a variety of items for dads, and most anyone, help to ease spending woes for needs and wants this summer.”

FatWallet recently compiled a list of the top on-sale items this month. They are:

4K TVs – Expect to see price drops on 4K televisions this month, especially during Father's Day sales, from retailers like Best Buy, Dell and eBay. Watch, too, for “halfway to Black Friday” sales, which will price 4K TVs between $500 and $800.

Home Improvement Supplies – This month, Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears and other home improvement retailers will offer discounts on building materials, hardware, paints and stains, and more.

Menswear – Seasonal apparel for men—mostly geared toward outdoor activities—will be on sale for at least part of the month at retailers like Backcountry, REI and Patagonia.

Smart Technology – This month, smart gadgets for the home and outdoors will be offered at a steal compared to the rest of the year. Look to score on Bluetooth-enabled headphones and speakers and smart home devices.

Tools – Dads and handypeople alike can expect savings on cordless and power tools and storage sets this month. Look for 50 percent-plus discounts on products by Black & Decker, Craftsman and Milwaukee.

For more scoop on summer sales, visit FatWallet.com.
 
Source: FatWallet

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3 Safety Tips for Garages and Gates

June 15, 2016 1:15 am

Gates and garage doors are two of several access points intruders may use to gain entry into a home. With one out of every 15 garage doors lacking up-to-date security features, it’s worth assessing the safety of your own garage, gates or openers.

“At LiftMaster, safety is our top priority,” says John Villanueva, vice president of marketing at LiftMaster. “To help those at home ensure their operators are working as they should, we developed a simple 3-Step Safety Check that can be done in a matter of minutes and should be conducted throughout the year when checking other home safety devices, like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.”

The 3-Step Safety Check:

1. Ensure “photo eyes,” or black sensors, are installed on the sides of the garage door, no higher than 6 inches from the ground.

2. Block a photo eye with an object taller than 6 inches. Try to close the garage with the opener—the door should remain open.

3. Place an object in the path of the door. Try to close the garage with the opener—the door should reverse once it touches the object.

If the garage door opener fails, consult with a professional as soon as possible. He or she will solve the problem with recommendations and/or service.

A professional should also be called whenever the garage doors or gates require maintenance, or if you plan to install new doors or gates.

For more on garage door and gate safety, visit www.LiftMaster.com/For-Homes/Garage-Safety.
 
Source: LiftMaster

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