RE/MAX 440
Patty Jo Anzivine
pattyjovine@gmail.com
Patty Jo Anzivine
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
PH: 610-390-0415
O: 610-398-8111
F: 267-354-6902 
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Less Home, More Impact

February 17, 2012 3:38 am

The building industry is placing increased focus on designing smaller homes, but with maximum impact.

According to an article by Claire Easley, senior editor at Builder, recent presentations at the International Builders’ Show discussed the trend toward less square footage but greater emphasis on maximizing space for lifestyle purposes.

As Easley’s article states, the trick to getting smaller homes right, according to consultant Gale Steves who spoke at the show, is to not only use every space in the home, but also to customize the allocation of space so that the owners’ priorities are reflected in where square footage is bestowed.

Building experts agree that today’s buyer wants a home with flexible space—a dining room that can easily be converted to a home office, for example. Or, for those in need of a complete home office, a spare room can be outfitted with a Murphy bed, so that it can act as a work space most of the time while accommodating guests when necessary.

Easley’s article also points out that homebuyers are shying away from redundant spaces, such as an eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room, and that builders are placing greater emphasis on areas of the home that are truly used the most, such as a side-door entrance as opposed to a front door that’s rarely used. Even “forgotten spaces,” such as hallways, can be transformed into useful and/or eye-catching areas by turning them into photo galleries or designing them with built-in storage cabinets.

Not to be overlooked, the smaller-home trend also has significant green implications, as builders strive to create a less-is-more environment with features such as WaterSense appliances that use less water while still looking as good and operating as well as other products.

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Need for Dog Adoption Rises Due to Foreclosures

February 16, 2012 3:36 am

Among the biggest victims of the economic recession are the once beloved family pets surrendered to shelters as their owners deal with extended joblessness, losing their homes, and renting properties that don’t accept pets. The U.S. Humane Society estimates 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year— and 3 to 4 million are euthanized.

Inga Fricke, director of sheltering issues for the U.S. Humane Society, says that while the majority of the public is in favor of adopting pets from shelters, the reality is, only about 20 percent actually do.

Fricke and retired police officer Irvin Cannon, a confirmed dog lover whose new book, “For the Love of Dog Tales” (www.FortheLoveofDogTales.com), have teamed up to promote pet adoption. They offer the following pointers regarding breeds:
  • Among the breeds known for intelligence: Shetland sheepdogs, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, poodles, Australian cattle dogs, Papillons and Doberman pinschers.
  • Bulldogs, beagles and Basset hounds all start with ‘B’ but get much lower grades for smarts.
  • It’s a myth that mutts have fewer health issues than purebred dogs. Because some breeds have tendencies toward problems such as deafness, blindness or hip dysplasia, remember, these are genetic issues that are inherited. So if you’re mixed-breed includes some German shepherd, it may also have hip dysplasia (a problem with the joint’s bone structure).
  • If you’re in the market for a purebred dog, you have a 25 percent chance of finding one – although maybe not the breed you want – at a shelter. If your heart is set on a specific breed, check your area for a rescue group specializing in that breed.

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Choosing a Bank that Works for You

February 16, 2012 3:36 am

Choosing a Bank that Works for You
Finding the right bank means assessing your needs first, says the American Bankers Association (ABA). The ABA advises asking yourself the following questions when evaluating a banking relationship:
  1. What is your goal in establishing a banking relationship? Answers may include "to save money," "to have a checking account," "to get a loan," or all of the above.
  2. How much money can you keep on deposit each month and how many checks will you write? This will help you figure out how complex or simple an account you might need. "Packaged" or "multi-service" accounts offer a variety of services for one fee, while "no frills" accounts offer a minimum number of services at an extra-low price. Other accounts might be designed cafeteria-style: you choose from a variety of services and pay as you go.
  3. Will you be buying a home or car or making another large purchase in the near future? You'll want to find out about the variety of loan products offered.
  4. If you hope to save for a big expense or toward your child's (or your own!) future education, you'll also want to find out how many savings products are offered. Many banks now offer uninsured investments, such as mutual funds, as well as the more traditional insured deposit accounts.
  5. What time of day do you expect to do most of your banking? Some people prefer to visit the bank during their work hours, while others prefer a bank located close to home that they can visit over the weekend.
  6. Do you like the convenience of automated teller machines and other types of electronic services—like banking through your personal computer, or do you prefer to deal directly with bank personnel? Answering this question will help you determine if you'd be happier at a bank with an extensive branch network emphasizing regular, evening, or weekend hours, or one that focuses more on electronic services like ATMs and PC banking.
Once you’ve answered these questions, the ABA recommends visiting or at least calling the banks in your area. Compare fees and service charges at the banks you're considering, as well as interest rates on loans and deposit accounts. What does each charge for services like cashier’s checks, safe deposit box rental and ATM use?

Because price isn't the only—or even most important—factor for most people in choosing a bank, the ABA also advises taking a minute to think about how comfortable you feel at each institution. Are your questions answered quickly and accurately? Do customer service personnel offer helpful suggestions? Will the hours and locations save you time and meet the demands of your lifestyle?

Finally, look for an institution that is federally insured. This means your deposits will be protected by the FDIC. The FDIC has raised its coverage amount to $250,000 per depositor per insured bank. Look for FDIC stickers on bank doors and teller windows.

Source: The American Bankers Association

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Sales and Affordability Increased in Fourth Quarter Metro Area Home Prices

February 16, 2012 3:36 am

Housing affordability conditions improved in most metropolitan areas from softer existing-home prices and record-low mortgage interest rates in the fourth quarter, with rising sales and lower inventory creating more balanced conditions, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Introduced with this release is a new annual metro-level housing affordability index, with historically favorable conditions dominating across the country.

The median existing single-family home price rose in 29 out of 149 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the fourth quarter from a year earlier; two were unchanged and 118 areas had price declines.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the figures reflect greater home sales activity at lower price points. “Sales have risen strongly in lower price ranges from one year ago, while sales at the upper end remain sluggish,” he said. “More importantly, we’re seeing a consistent trend of declining inventory, which means supply and demand conditions are becoming more balanced in more areas, which will help stabilize home prices.”

The national median existing single-family home price was $163,500 in the fourth quarter, down 4.2 percent from $170,600 in the fourth quarter of 2010. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes—foreclosures and short sales, which sold at discounts averaging 15 to 20 percent—accounted for 30 percent of fourth quarter sales; they were 34 percent a year earlier.
At the end of the fourth quarter there were 2.38 million existing homes available for sale, which is 21.2 percent lower than the close of the fourth quarter of 2010 when there were 3.02 million homes on the market.

NAR’s national Housing Affordability Index rose to a record high 184.5 in 2011, based on the relationship between median home price, median family income and average mortgage interest rate. The higher the index, the greater the household purchasing power; recordkeeping began in 1970.

Between 2010 and 2011, in markets where comparisons are available, all but 2 out of 148 areas showed improvement in housing affordability, and 69 MSAs had double-digit increases in affordability conditions.

Source: The National Association of REALTORS®

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Choosing the Right Vacuum

February 15, 2012 3:34 am

The wide variety of models and price ranges can make vacuum shopping a confusing process for many homeowners. Fortunately, Consumer Reports recently tested 100 models and identified nine worthwhile picks priced under $200.

In Consumer Reports' tests, Hoover's WindTunnel T-Series UH30300, $140, and Pet UH30310, $150, both whisked away embedded grit and pet hair, and are two additions to a long list of picks that include models priced at $200 or less. For those who prefer a canister, Kenmore's Progressive 21614, $300, did well on carpets and is among the lower-priced bagged models that scored high in Consumer Reports' Ratings.

For those willing to invest in the possibility of never having to buy another vacuum in their lifetime, Consumer Reports recommends the Kirby Sentria, $1,350—an upright, bagged model that was a top-performer in tests and comes from a brand that scored high in Consumer Reports' brand-repair survey.

Consumer Reports reminds shoppers to be wary of manufacturers' claims as they may not tell the whole story, and to be aware that lighter-weight vacuums may also be light on performance.
According to Consumer Reports' tests, uprights do better overall on carpets, while canisters are easier to maneuver, especially on stairs. Here are some other points to keep in mind when shopping:
  • Check the features. Look for a brush on/off switch to safeguard bare floors and prevent scattered debris. Another major feature to look for is a motorized brush, rather than suction alone. Manual pile-height adjustment is also a plus, as is suction control for drapes and edge tools for corners.
  • Consider bagless carefully. Bagless vacuums eliminate the expense of buying bags but still require filters, which require maintenance and regular replacement. For those with asthma or allergies, the dust and mess of emptying their bins is an added concern.
  • Try it out. Even shoppers who plan to buy their vacuum online should visit a store to push, pull, turn, and lift the models they are considering and check out the model's controls and features. Also, it's worth asking whether or not the store is willing to meet or beat the lowest online price.

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Money Management for Couples

February 15, 2012 3:34 am

Arguing over financial issues is not uncommon for many couples. In fact, according to a study conducted by Money Magazine, 13 percent of couples say they fight about money several times a month.

Financial expert Kara Kaiser advises that agreeing on certain financial points is essential for couples. She suggests that every couple discuss the following four topics:
  • Budget: Establishing a budget for certain monthly items like dining out, entertainment purchases, and grocery spending can help make future arguments disappear. At least once a month, there should be a regular "budget night" where you and your partner get together to discuss your joint financial status. You can review spending and savings activities, and then make financial adjustments and decisions together.
  • Prior debt: Coming into a relationship, you or your partner may have student loans, a car loan, credit cards, overdraft lines of credit, etc. Cash flow can be greatly affected by previously accumulated debt. Additionally, a big influence on your financial health as a couple is the way you each handle your debt obligations. Knowing your partner's credit history can offer a glimpse into the future. If either or both of you have had problems making payments in the past, that can have a negative impact on your ability to rent an apartment, get a joint loan, and will result in higher rates charged by utility and insurance companies. Developing a plan to improve upon past mistakes can remove a lot of strain from your relationship.
  • Savings goals: Whether you want to save for a trip around the world or want to put money in your 401(k), financial goals need to be established up front. For most, the top three financial goals include buying a home, saving for retirement and building up an education savings account. Making your wishes known to your partner can help the two of you establish a financial plan that incorporates what is important to both of you.
  • Major purchases: Be open and honest about major purchases. Simply discussing a purchase beforehand can save you from a potential fight.
Financials do not have to become a stress point within a relationship. By discussing financial topics and handling resources as a team, managing money as a couple can be a little easier.

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Green Homes to Exponentially Increase by 2016

February 15, 2012 3:34 am

As home builders and homeowners become increasingly aware of the quality design and cost value associated with environmentally-sound construction, production of green homes will rise significantly over the next several years. In fact, according to a survey released at the 2012 International Builder’s Show in Orlando, Fla., green homes—which comprised 17 percent of the overall residential construction market in 2011—are expected to grow to between 29 percent and 38 percent of the market by 2016. By value, this equates to a five-fold increase, growing from $17 billion in 2011 to $87-$114 billion in 2016, based on the five-year forecast for overall residential construction.

According to the Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study, conducted by McGraw-Hill Construction, a part of The McGraw-Hill Companies, construction industry professionals report an even steeper increase in green home remodeling: 34 percent of remodelers expect to be doing mostly green work by 2016, a 150 percent increase over 2011 activity levels. Many home builders have shifted to the remodeling market due to the drastic drop in new home construction. In fact, 62 percent of the builders who do both new and remodeling work verified that the economy has increased their renovation work.

By 2016, many more builders anticipate that they will be dedicated to green building work on over 90 percent of projects— 33 percent expect to be dedicated to green work in 2016, up from 17 percent in 2011. Remodeling will grow even more dramatically—22 percent of remodelers report that they anticipate they will be dedicated to green work in 2016, nearly triple the 8 percent who report being dedicated to green work in 2011.

Many factors are driving the green homes market, with "higher quality" and "increases in energy costs" topping the list, indicating that today's green homebuyer is not just a green consumer. Buyers recognize that green homes have lower bills due to higher building performance. The reported costs of building a green home have also gone down significantly. Builders report that the cost to go green is now 7 percent, as compared to 10 percent in 2008 and 11 percent in 2006.

While green is growing across the U.S., three regions are seeing higher than average growth. The West Coast has seen the highest green growth; the Midwest's northern region, west of the Mississippi, is second highest; and New England ranks third.

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Zillow Launches Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Android App

February 14, 2012 3:34 am

Real estate information source Zillow® recently announced the launch of the free Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Android™ App, giving home shoppers on-the-go access to the loan shopping experience of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace. Also available for the iPhone®, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace offers personalized loan quotes, lender ratings, real-time rates and mortgage calculators all in one place.

The Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Android App gives home shoppers access to:
  • A payment calculator that helps consumers estimate what their monthly payment will look like for a particular home.
  • An affordability calculator that helps shoppers narrow their home search to homes within a specific price range, based on income, down payment and monthly debt information.
  • A refinance calculator that allows consumers to compare their current loan and new loan quote to estimate potential savings if they refinance.
  • A mortgage shopping experience that enables users to request and receive personalized loan quotes, read lender reviews and connect with a lender.
  • Sharing functionality that allows shoppers to share current mortgage rates, calculator results and loan requests via email, Twitter or text message.
The Zillow Mortgage Marketplace apps are available for download for free in the Android Marketplace and iTunes® App Store.

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How to Make Cohabitation Work

February 14, 2012 3:34 am

The majority of couples marrying today cohabited first, with the 2011 U.S. Census report revealing there are about 7.6 million unmarried couples living together. In light of this news, Apartments.com asked their 2011 Roommate of the Year Jesse McLaughlin—who recently turned his cohabitation into a happily-ever-after by proposing to his girlfriend Lisa Harbin—for his advice on successfully sharing space with a significant other. McLaughlin, who has lived with Harbin for the past year, offers five tips to make living with your sweetheart a success:
  1. Talk money before the move. Discuss finances up front–even before you start looking at apartments. Before the apartment becomes something tangible, make sure you establish what each person is comfortable contributing financially. When you have this discussion, remember to include the cost for Internet, utilities, parking, and any other fees that may arise.
  2. Respect personal space. When you move in, make sure you each give yourselves some space that is your own, especially if this is the first time you are moving in with a significant other. As crazy as you are about each other, spending every minute in the apartment together may drive you both a little batty. Ensure each person still has some alone time carved out for themselves.
  3. Discuss décor. Hand in hand with respecting your significant other's personal space is respecting their personal decorating style—or lack thereof. Before either of you hang (or purge anything), sit down and talk about your decorating styles and how you can make them blend harmoniously.
  4. Don't forget dates. Once you live together, it's easy to mistake seeing each other around the apartment for quality time. Be sure to make time for a night out on the town together or plan a special evening at home. Remember, this is your potential soul mate, not just a roommate you split the bills with.
  5. Consider going halfsies on large purchases. Shared purchases are an interesting issue. To fill your apartment, you may need a new couch or dining room table—or you may just want that new big screen TV. So, who pays for this major expense? Consider splitting it 50/50 (or in whatever way makes financial sense for you as a couple). Making these purchases together shows your partner you're committed to the relationship and investing in your future together.

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Americans Spending Less this Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2012 3:34 am

According to a new survey from Visa, Inc., even love is on a budget these days—Americans are spending less on Valentine's Day gifts, flowers, dining and other items this year. Americans plan on spending $117 this Valentine's Day, down 3 percent from $121 in 2011. The biggest culprit? Women.

The drop can largely be explained by the plummeting enthusiasm among women for spending on Valentine's Day, falling from $101 in 2011, to a meager $87 in 2012—a 14 percent drop. In contrast, men are actually planning on spending more this year, $149, compared to $140 in 2011, an increase of 6 percent. The gulf between what men and women now spend on Valentine's Day is dramatic. Men will spend 71 percent more than women on what has now become a one-way holiday.

Indicating a generation gap in enthusiasm for the holiday, younger people (18-24 years old) plan on spending the most of any age group at $132, while those 25-34 expect to spend $124. Consumers between the ages of 35 and 49 will spend an average of $123 and people 50-64 years of age plan to spend just $98.

Significant regional disparities continue to exist in Valentine's Day spending. In 2011, the Midwest came in dead last in spending for February 14, but in a surprising result this year, the region led the pack at $139. Bringing up the rear in 2012 is the South at $97. In addition, consumers in the Northeast plan on spending an average of $137 while people in the West expect to spend $112.

The survey found that people in the lowest income bracket—who earn less than $20,000 per year—plan to spend more than consumers earning between $20,000 to $50,000 on Valentine's Day.

"Those who try to impress by overspending on Valentine's Day may find it has the opposite effect," says Jason Alderman, Visa's senior director of financial education. "The key is to know what you can afford and stick to your budget."

Source: Visa, Inc.

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