RE/MAX 440
Margaret Schickling

Margaret Schickling
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack  PA 19474
Phone:  610-584-1160
Office:  610-584-1160
Cell:  610-802-0891
Fax:  267-354-6252

My Blog

A Picture of Household Debt in America

December 10, 2015 1:52 am

Household debt—including mortgages, credit cards, student and auto loans—has reached $11.9 trillion, a sign of progress for the economy, according to a recent report by NerdWallet (www.nerdwallet.com). Though many connote debt with a negative financial situation, certain kinds can be beneficial to building credit, including mortgages and auto loans.

“It's alarming that household debt is on the rise, but it's also important to recognize that not all debt is created equal," says Sean McQuay, credit card associate at NerdWallet. “Under the right circumstances, mortgage, student and auto loan debt can be helpful in building a bright financial future. That said, it's critical for Americans to understand their debt and recognize that certain types of debt are unnecessarily costly.”

Mortgage debt owed by the average household totals $165,892, according to the report. Credit card debt owed by the average household totals $15,355; student loan debt owed by the average household totals $47,712; auto loan debt owed by the average household totals $26,530.

The report also finds the average household is paying $6,658 in interest, which equals approximately 9 percent of the average household income ($75,591).

Source: NerdWallet

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Is Your Roof Reindeer-Ready?

December 10, 2015 1:52 am

The holidays are fast approaching! Amid the gift-giving, gathering with loved ones and decorating, the season serves as an important reminder for homeowners to make their roofs “reindeer-ready,” or review their roofs.

To do that, the experts at the Metal Roofing Alliance advise completing the following 10 checks, which can be done without a ladder:

1. For homes with asphalt shingles, look for black areas indicating cracking shingles.

2. For homes with shake or shingles, look for pieces that are curled upward, split, broken off or missing.

3. For homes with slate roofs, look for black areas that indicate slate is missing.

4. Look for heavy wear around the valleys, the areas where water runs off the roof into the gutters.

5. Look at the materials around the chimney and vent pipes and check for cracks, gaps and missing or fractured caulking.

6. Check eave overhangs for water damage.

7. Use binoculars to check around the chimney, trim and other flashings for signs of cracks, shingles that are coming up off the roof and general wear.

8. Conduct an interior inspection for stained or discolored ceilings, which most likely indicates roof problems.

9. Check your gutters for asphalt shingle granules.  Lots of granules mean less coverage on your roof. 

10. Remove branches, twigs and leaves from gutters and clear out down spouts to allow for snow and ice run off.

Source: Metal Roofing Alliance

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Caregivers: 5 Signs of Declining Financial Capability

December 9, 2015 1:52 am

(Family Features)—If you've been entrusted to assist an elderly relative, you may struggle with knowing when it's time to take on a greater role. It is likely that at some point your loved ones' financial capability will be challenged as they age, making it more difficult to competently handle money-related matters on their own.

To best gauge their level of need, Ted Beck, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), recommends watching for the following signs:

1. Is the aging person taking longer to complete financial tasks? Does he or she struggle with everyday efforts like preparing bills for mailing, reconciling bank statements or organizing paperwork?

2. Is the person missing key details in financial documents? Are bills piling up and has he or she missed a payment? Is he or she able to prioritize his or her regular responsibilities?

3. Is your aging relative experiencing problems with everyday arithmetic? Maybe you recently went out to dinner with mom and dad, and while paying, they took an inordinate amount of time to calculate the appropriate tip.

4. Have you noticed a decreased understanding of financial concepts with your loved ones? Are they having increased difficulty comprehending health care matters like deductibles, or are they having a hard time understanding the bank statements they receive?

5. Are they having new difficulty identifying investment risks? Are they able to minimize the risks in potential investments? Did they recently fall victim to fraud or a scam because they could not spot the liabilities?

For both parties, approaching these discussions with candor and an open mind is critical, adds Beck.

"Especially if you're accustomed to handling money matters privately, learning to talk more candidly about your finances may be uncomfortable," says Beck. "However, allowing trusted individuals to take a closer look at your accounts can help you establish a realistic plan for the future, and help flag any potential concerns."

Source: NEFE

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5 Themes to Inspire a Kitchen Upgrade

December 9, 2015 1:52 am

The kitchen is the heart of the home—and whether you’re listing today or in the near future, it will be the prime selling point for buyers. To attract offers, it’s important your kitchen play into a cohesive theme that’s not only stylish, but also functional.

Not sure which theme is right for you? Get inspired with the ideas below, courtesy of the experts at Cornerstone Design and Remodel.

1. Minimalist – For fans of simplicity, minimalism thrives on light colors like eggshell or taupe, which help open up the kitchen. These muted tones work well as a wall color or in a floor tile. To continue the clean look throughout the space, install floating shelves and built-in storage spaces over cabinets, and avoid a kitchen island, if possible. For a finishing touch that breathes life into the design, add a house plant, herbs or other greenery.

2. Rustic –Rustic design is centered on natural finishes and accents. Install a dark, natural wood or stone tile on the floor, and look for deep, rich colors, like mahogany, for your cabinets and kitchen table. Warm light complements this style best, so avoid fluorescent bulbs in your lighting fixtures. Create a sense of quaint comfort with wall-mounted pots and pans and an in-kitchen fireplace.

3. Modern – Modern designs revolve around metallic and monochromatic color schemes. Think stainless steel appliances with white cabinets and a black-tiled floor, along with pendant lighting and well-organized countertops, to bring this theme to life.

4. Southwestern – For those who aren’t afraid of color, Southwestern-style design boasts artistic flair with cheerful yellows, oranges and reds. To carry this theme through your kitchen, install warm-colored tile, hang folk art or display pottery. Keep your appliances neutral to avoid “color clutter.”

5. Utilitarian – In utilitarian design, aesthetics are second to functionality. Focus on creating ample counterspace and storage. Add accessories that foster organization, like a wall-mounted spice rack, and one or two well-placed art pieces for personality.

Source: Cornerstone Design & Remodel

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Homeowner Handbook: What to Do If the Pipes Freeze

December 9, 2015 1:52 am

From ice dams to broken branches, winter weather can damage your home and property in more ways than one. One of winter’s most destructive effects is frozen pipes, which can burst and cost thousands to repair.

If your pipes have already frozen, shut off the water main leading into the home, say the experts at Roto-Rooter. This will reduce pressure on the pipes and minimize flooding if the pipes burst. This is particularly important if you are going to be away from home.

Even with the water main turned off, there will be enough pressure to reveal leaks once the pipe has thawed. Inspect for leaks regularly.

If the frozen pipe is exposed and visible, use a hair dryer or space heater to thaw the ice blockage. Do not use an open flame!

If you’d prefer the help of a professional, hire a plumber equipped with pipe-thawing equipment to get your pipes flowing again. The plumber can also assess any damage and make repairs if necessary.

If no leaks are found, a qualified plumber will examine pipes that experienced a hard freeze. Keep in mind some may need to be replaced because the material has experienced stretching and fatigue, putting the pipes at risk for future failure.

Source: Roto-Rooter

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Are Chevy Malibus Popular in Malibu? Geocentric Vehicles Debunked

December 8, 2015 1:46 am

Geocentric vehicles—cars with a location in their name—are not always popular in the city or state of their namesake, according to a recent report by Edmunds.com. In fact, if the names were to reflect the areas where the cars are most popular, they’d look a little something like:

Buick Kincaid – Only 0.2 percent of new cars purchased this year in La Crosse, Wis., were a Buick LaCrosse. The largest concentration of Buick LaCrosse sales are actually located about 400 miles south toward Kincaid, Ill., where the sedan made up 8.9 percent of all new car registrations this year.

Chevrolet Montana – The Chevrolet Colorado is a top choice for Coloradoans navigating the rugged Rocky Mountain terrain—right? Wrong. Colorado is actually the 34th most popular state for the compact pickup, which makes up just 0.5 percent of the state's new vehicle registrations so far this year. Head two states north to Montana instead, where the truck has made up 2 percent of all new vehicle purchases this year.

Chevrolet Garciasville – As it turns out, there isn't a whole lot of Southern California love for the Chevrolet Malibu—only 0.1 percent of new car registrations in its namesake community carried the Malibu nameplate this year, ranking the beachside city as the 10,789th most popular locale for the vehicle. If you want to find the top town, you'll have to travel 1,600 miles to Garciasville, Texas, where more than 15 percent of all new car registrations this year were Chevy Malibus.

Dodge Castle Dale – The folks in Durango, Colo., aren't responding to the Dodge Durango—in fact, only 0.5 percent of car buyers in this picturesque mountain town opted for the Dodge SUV. One place where this vehicle is most appreciated is less than one gas tank away in Castle Dale, Utah, where 7.7 percent of all new car purchases this year were Durangos.

Hyundai Clements – Santa Fe might be the capital of New Mexico, but it's far from being the capital of its eponymous SUV. Only one-tenth of 1 percent of all new car purchases in this city were Hyundai Santa Fes year-to-date. One place where the Santa Fe SUV is truly appreciated, though, is Clements, Md.—5.6 percent of all new car sales in this unincorporated town were Santa Fes.

Hyundai Wilmington or Hyundai Fort Garland – There’s not much enthusiasm for the Hyundai Tucson in Tucson, Ariz. Only four-tenths of 1 percent of all new cars registered there this year were Hyundai Tucsons. Both Wilmington, N.Y., and Fort Garland, Colo., boast the largest share of Tucsons—6.7 percent of all new sales.

Kia Cedar Grove – Where's the "Sedona Spirit" in Sedona, Ariz.? Not a single new Kia Sedona has been registered in its namesake town this year. In Cedar Grove, W.V., however, nearly 13 percent of all new car purchases registered were Kia Sedonas.

Toyota Kilauea – Almost 2 percent of vehicles registered this year in Tacoma, Wash., were Toyota Tacomas, which is relatively impressive—except when you consider that 5,492 other cities and towns have a better showing. The town with the highest rate of Toyota Tacoma purchases this year is 2,600 miles of ocean away in Kilauea, Hawaii, with one out of every four new cars registered this year being a Toyota Tacoma.

Source: Edmunds.com

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5 Steps to a Home Fire Safety Plan

December 8, 2015 1:46 am

Did you know you may have just two minutes to exit your home in the event of a fire?

According to a recent survey by the American Red Cross, many have a false sense of security when it comes to fire safety, with some believing they have as much as 10 minutes to leave their home if a fire breaks out. Most parents believe their children know what to do in case of fire, despite only half discussing fire safety with their families—just 10 percent of families have actually practiced home fire drills, and only about 25 percent have identified a safe place where family members can meet outside the home, the survey found.

To keep your family safe from home fires, the Red Cross advises the following tips:

• Test your smoke alarms every month and replace the batteries when needed.
• Develop a fire escape plan and practice it several times a year and at different times of day.
• Ensure there are two ways to get out of every room and consider escape ladders for sleeping areas or homes on the second floor or above.
• Pick a place outside of the home for everyone to meet and make sure everyone knows where it is.
• Practice the home fire drill until everyone in the household can do it in less than two minutes.

Source: American Red Cross

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10 Years in Housing: What's Changed?

December 8, 2015 1:46 am

From the recession to new regulation, the housing market has seen unprecedented change in the last 10 years. In that time, the United States Census Bureau has documented those changes through the American Community Survey, the nation’s largest ongoing household survey that produces statistics annually at all levels of geography.

"The American Community Survey is how America knows what America needs," Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson says. "From its beginning 10 years ago, it immediately proved to be a vital tool in providing a portrait of Gulf Coast communities recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Today, it is the premier source of statistics for anyone needing detailed local information for small towns, neighborhoods and communities both rural and urban."

Survey highlights over the past 10 years include:

• Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, median monthly housing costs for owners with a mortgage increased in 177 counties and decreased in 1,163 counties. In 1,798 counties, the change was not statistically significant. In 171 counties, owners with a mortgage had a median monthly housing cost greater than $1,750, with 63 of these counties located in the Northeast.

• Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, median gross rent increased in 719 counties and decreased in 204 counties. The change was not statistically significant in 2,217 counties. In 182 counties, renters had a median gross rent of more than $1,000, with 65 of these counties located in the South, 62 counties located in in the West, 49 counties located in the Northeast and six located in the Midwest.

• Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, the percent of housing units that were owner-occupied increased in 115 counties and decreased in 931 counties. The change was not statistically significant in 2,096 counties. In 136 counties, more than 80 percent of the housing units were owner-occupied, with 73 of these counties located in the Midwest.

• Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, median household income increased in 187 counties and decreased in 991 counties. The change in median income was not statistically significant in 1,964 counties. 260 counties had median household income greater than $60,000, and 223 had median household income of less than $35,000. Counties surrounding Washington, D.C. and New York City had among the highest median household incomes, along with counties in the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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Holiday Shopping? 7 Bad Spending Habits to Avoid

December 7, 2015 1:43 am

Holiday shopping may be fun, but it can also negatively impact your finances if gone unchecked. Avoiding debt, says American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation Executive Director Corey Carlisle, is the goal.

“The holiday season is an exciting and inspiring time of the year that promotes giving, but spending within your means is the best gift you can give yourself,” says Carlisle. “Managing a realistic budget and developing a shopping list that compliments it will help you start the New Year with a clean financial slate."

Below, says Carlisle, are seven bad spending habits to avoid:
 
• Forgetting to Plan Ahead – Before you start shopping, develop a realistic budget. Consider your income, subtract your normal monthly expenses and then add any savings to whatever cash is left over. If you need to use your credit card, think about what you can afford to pay back in January.  
 
• Losing Track of Other Costs – Don’t forget costs beyond gifts, like postage, gift wrap, decorations, greeting cards, food, travel and charitable contributions.
 
• Winging It – Make and list and check it twice. Keep your gift list limited to family and close friends, noting how much you want to spend on each. 

• Waiting until the Last Minute to Shop – Avoid shopping while rushed or under pressure, which can lead to overspending.  Make sure to comparison shop online first, or download an app that lets you compare prices before you buy anything in a store. Before you head to the cashier (or online checkout), make sure your purchase is within the budget you set.

• Shopping Impulsively – Finding a spectacular sale on something you’ve been wanting can easily throw you off course.  Stay strong and stick to your budget.  And don’t apply for store credit cards you don’t need just to get a one-time discount.

• Using Credit Recklessly – Limit the use of credit for holiday spending.  If you must use credit, use only one card—preferably the one with the lowest interest rate—and leave the rest at home.  Pick a date when you can pay off your holiday credit card bills, and commit to paying off the balance by that time.  Be sure to check statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately.

• Throwing Away Your Receipts – Not only will you need them for possible returns, you’ll need them to keep track of what you’ve spent and to compare with your credit card statement.  Knowing how much you spent will help you plan for next year, too.

Source: ABA

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Revamp Your Home with Double the Color in 2016

December 7, 2015 1:43 am

Planning to revamp your home next year? Draw color inspiration from “Serenity” and “Rose Quartz,” the colors selected by world-renowned color authority Pantone for 2016. When paired together, “Serenity,” a wispy, blue-gray, and “Rose Quartz,” a pale, coral pink, meld into a palette that embodies tranquility and inner peace.

“With the whole greater than its individual parts, joined together Serenity and Rose Quartz demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “This more unilateral approach to color is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumers’ increased comfort with using color as a form of expression which includes a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged, and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.”

In the home environment, these shades encourage relaxation, whether they are paired together or with other tones. An ideal choice for rugs and upholstery, “Serenity” and “Rose Quartz” also work well in paint and for decorative accessories. Coupling solid and patterned fabrics, throws, pillows and bedding in these colors provides a comforting respite and feeling of well-being in the home. Incorporating texture enhances the duality and kinship of these hues.

“Serenity”- and “Rose Quartz”-colored kitchen items and tableware, as well as home accessories like candles, decorative bowls, vases and florals, add subtle color accents while contributing to a welcoming and peaceful space. To complement these color choices, translucent, glazing, matte and metallic shine are key finishes.

Source: Pantone®

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