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

Housing to Pick Up Steam

March 25, 2015 12:24 am

Much of the economic activity expected at the beginning of 2015 should shift into the second quarter, with growth strengthening in coming quarters, reports Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group. Despite downside risks, upbeat labor market conditions and positive consumer and business fundamentals should push growth to 2.8 percent this year.

"We continue to expect the economy to drag housing upward as we move into the second quarter,” says Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae chief economist. “The economy is getting a boost from the strong employment numbers we’ve seen last year and at the start of 2015. When this employment growth partners with income growth and consumers experience a rise in their personal household income, we should see a similar boost in the housing sector.

“Overall, we expect an improving 2015 with continued economic growth bringing housing above 2014 levels,” adds Duncan.

Source: Fannie Mae

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How to Claim the Home Office Deduction

March 25, 2015 12:24 am

Taxpayers with home-based businesses filing their 2014 federal income tax returns can choose a simplified method for claiming the deduction for business use of a home, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Nearly 3.4 million taxpayers claimed the home office deduction in tax year 2012, totaling more than $10 billion in deduction.

Normally, home-based businesses are required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions. Instead, taxpayers choosing the simplified method need only complete a short worksheet in the tax instructions and enter the result on their tax return. Self-employed individuals claim the home office deduction on Schedule C, Line 30; farmers claim it on Schedule F, Line 32; and eligible employees claim it on Schedule A, Line 21.

Introduced in tax year 2013, the optional deduction is designed to reduce the paperwork and recordkeeping burden for small businesses. The optional deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet.

Though homeowners using the simplified method cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method.

Business expenses unrelated to the home, such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees, are still fully deductible. Long-standing restrictions on the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office be used regularly and exclusively for business and the limit tied to the income derived from the particular business, still apply under the simplified method.

Source: IRS.gov

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Why Are We So Mad about March Madness?

March 24, 2015 2:18 am

In the world of sports and competition, March Madness holds a special place in the hearts of basketball fans. Millions of Americans are getting ready to take part in the chaotic tradition of betting on teams and fueling rivalries with colleagues, friends, and family. But what's behind this synchronized frenzy?

Dr. Pamela Vincent, psychology faculty at Ashford University, offers insight into the manic behavior that led to the term March Madness:

It's Only Natural – Humans have an innate drive toward competition, a leftover trait stemming from times when it was necessary to compete for food, shelter, and mates in order to survive. Although the need to hunt for food and safety aren't there to the same extent today (in most cases), we still enjoy that competitive spirit when it comes to things like sports.

A Slam Dunk – It's easy to throw $5 into an office pool during March Madness because there's the outside chance that you might win the whole pot without really having to do any hard work. It's even easier to understand why the person who won last year (or the person who is just coming down from the office's fantasy football season win) would throw some money into the game. He or she has already seen the rewards for joining in, and is therefore reinforced to try their luck again. Reinforcement suggests that when a behavior is rewarded, we are more likely to repeat it. So, if you take a gamble on a game and win, you are more likely to gamble on the next game.

The Thrill of the Chase – Betting is based on a variable partial reinforcement schedule, meaning that you can't really predict when you'll be rewarded again. Imagine that you knew you'd win every third year. Well, there's really no reward in playing during years one, two, four, or five because you know you won't earn a return on your investment. But with betting, you never know which bracket will be your lucky one or which year your team will to make it to the end, so you are even more likely to compete due to the inconsistent reward system.

The Ball's in My Court – So why do those who have no real stake in the games and perhaps choose teams based on fun mascots or colorful uniforms get involved in the tradition? First, if you are competing within a small office, you may be influenced by the "availability heuristic," which suggests that we tend to overestimate our likelihood of winning. You see 30 people in your office and figure, "Well, somebody has to win – why not me?" For the notorious annual "losers" who over-analyze, pick all of the wrong upsets and end up with only three out of the top 32 each year, there is the "gambler's fallacy" in which a person feels that he or she is overdue for a win despite all other factors in the game.

Very Superstitious – Another interesting aspect of gambling during March Madness is the superstition that comes into play. This behavior ranges from wearing the same socks while watching a favorite team to making your friend leave the room so your team can score. Logically, we know that these behaviors have absolutely no effect on whether or not a foul shot is made or a rebound is caught, but when things occur outside of our control, we either choose to avoid the anxiety-producing events or establish methods of coping with them. In other words, we create our own semblance of control and finding the most rational or predictable element in our environment.

So, will drinking a chocolate shake during every game help someone finally win this year? "Not likely," said Vincent. "But hey, there's no bad excuse for a chocolate shake and just maybe this time you'll have the lucky bracket."

Source: Ashford University

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Report: 1 in 10 U.S. Residents Want to Move

March 24, 2015 2:18 am

Nearly 10 percent of U.S. residents are dissatisfied with their current housing, neighborhood, local safety or public services to the point that they want to move, according to a recently released U.S. Census Bureau report, Desire to Move and Residential Mobility: 2010-2011. However, only 18.3 percent of the 11.2 million householders who wanted to move actually did so between 2010 and 2011.

"Fifty-six percent of people who didn’t move in 2010 but wanted to no longer wanted to move when interviewed again the following year. However, this does not necessarily mean that these residents were satisfied with where they lived,” said Peter Mateyka, an analyst with the Census Bureau’s Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch and the report author. “Some additional factors that influence if people move include time, money, health and suitable alternative homes, which may explain why many people change their minds about moving.”

Who wants to move?

Young householders: About 14.6 percent of householders age 16 to 34 reported a desire to move, com¬pared with 10.4 percent of house¬holders age 35 to 54, and 6.3 percent of householders age 55 and older.

Renters: 16.5 percent of all householders who rented desired to move, more than twice the rate for homeowners.

Householders living in impoverished areas: Of homeowners who desired to move, the average census tract (neighborhood) poverty rate was 13.7 percent. For all homeowners, the average neighborhood poverty rate was 10.3 percent.

Householders with children: 14.3 percent of households with children desired to move compared with 8.7 percent of households without children.

Householders with a disability: 12.5 percent of householders with a disability reported a desire to move versus 8.2 percent of those without a disability.

Source: Census.gov

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The Top 5 Spring Interior Design Trends

March 24, 2015 2:18 am

For the winter-weary of us, the spring season is a welcome change. Ring in some spring fever at home with these design tips from the experts at Ace Hardware.

1.
For a trendy kitchen update that won’t break the bank, remove outdated cabinet doors and paint the frames in a crisp white and the interior of the cabinets in a shade of bright green. To make a modern statement, display inexpensive white dishware in the open cabinets.

2. In the world of neutrals, gray walls are still king. To keep this trend chic as the warmer months approach, add artwork and accessories in pastel shades and go for an accent piece of furniture in a high gloss pastel. This is a unique look that will pop against gray walls.

3.
Floral patterns and designs will never go out of style and are the perfect complement to the spring season. Bring the look of fresh florals indoors by replacing your existing pillows with this timeless trend for a quick and easy update.

4. Go monochromatic with a smoky-toned color palette. Try layering four shades of the same hue within a room. Choose one color for the walls, a second color for the trim, a third for the ceiling and a final color for a piece of furniture in the space.

5. Utilize color in even the most unlikely of places by painting the inside of your credenza in a springy shade. Add a glass door and display your favorite glass and dishware for a one of a kind way to highlight the bold shade.

“Each year, spring awakens homeowners’ desire to update their homes,” says Nathan Fischer, design expert, Ace Hardware. “Whether they are inspired to add small pops of color, or take on a larger color project for a dramatic result, our tips were selected to inspire and help homeowners achieve a brand new, on trend look within their homes.”

Source: Ace Hardware

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Reducing Exposure to Produce Pesticides

March 23, 2015 2:18 am

Fresh produce is an important part of a healthy diet. Following a study on pesticides in produce, Consumer Reports determined that certain produce are best purchased organic to mitigate pesticide exposure. Those foods are:

Fruits
Peaches
Tangerines
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cranberries

Vegetables
Green Beans
Sweet Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Sweet Potatoes
Carrots

Universally, the study found that organic produce falls into the low- or very low-risk categories when it comes to pesticide exposure, so shoppers should choose organic fruits and vegetables when possible. If organic produce is too pricey or unavailable, there are often low-risk conventional options equivalent to organic.

Low- or very-low risk conventional produce items that are safe to consume include bananas, cherries, oranges, broccoli, lettuce and onions.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Make Spring Cleaning a Family Affair

March 23, 2015 2:18 am

Spring cleaning your home can be overwhelming without help. If you’re a parent, enlist your children with these creative (and fun!) ways to clean, courtesy of Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids.

• Host a Fashion Show

Go through closets and play dress up with the kids. Put away the show-stopping outfits and make piles of items that no longer fit to donate or discard.

• Skate Over Dust
Remove furniture and rugs from hardwood surfaces in your home and have your kids slide over the floor with microfiber cloths wrapped around their feet (supervision required). Have a trash bag on hand to collect dust afterwards.

• Celebrate Christmas in Spring
Help children sort through toys and games that are no longer being used for donations. Bonus - kids may re-discover items they love!

• Establish a Finders Keepers Rule
Entice little ones to help with cleaning under couch cushions or beds with a finders keepers rule, letting them know that any money found while cleaning is theirs for the taking. Hide coins in places that need the most attention, and provide each child with a jar to collect their spring cleaning savings.

Source: ServiceMaster

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Curb Appeal: 4 Ways to Attract Buyers

March 23, 2015 2:18 am

(Family Features) If you're planning to list your home for sale, curb appeal is a must. The exterior of your home sends an important message about its value, and the first impression can set expectations for both buyers and appraisers. Boost your home’s curb appeal with these tips.

1. Evaluate the Landscape - Curb appeal is about the big picture, which includes your lawn, shrubs and features such as flower beds and rock gardens. Keep grass neatly trimmed and prune vegetation for a well-kept look. Give your home a thorough assessment from the street. Are trees or shrubs obscuring an appealing architectural detail? Does vegetation dwarf your home, making it seem small? Would a pop of color from some flowering plants add to the overall look?

2. Beware of Dirt - Because you see your home every day, you may not realize the exterior has become dull with a layer of dust and dirt. An adjustable pressure washer can help you wash siding, garage doors and shutters without stripping paint, as well as delicate items such as glass top patio tables. Switch to high flow mode to clean second story windows, eaves and gutters or to blast away hard-to-reach cobwebs and insect nests.

3. Update with Paint - If a power wash isn’t enough, it may be time to revisit your home's exterior color scheme. Even modest adjustments, from pale beige to a deeper tan, for example, can completely alter the look. If a complete paint job isn’t in the budget, freshen up the trim, door and shutters.

4. Remember the Details - Decks, fences, mailboxes, birdbaths, gazebos and other decorative features all factor into your home's exterior image. Thoroughly clean these items, repair any loose or broken pieces such as fence slats, and apply a fresh coat of paint or stain, if needed.

Source: Briggs & Stratton

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Mortgage Rates Move Down in Time for Spring Buying Season

March 20, 2015 12:18 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) showing average fixed mortgage rates moving down across the board. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate continues to run below 4 percent – a good sign for the spring homebuying season.

“The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.78 percent this week following mixed housing data,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Housing starts dropped 17 percent to a seasonally adjusted pace of 897,000 units, below market expectations. However, housing permits increased 3 percent in February. As we head into spring, home builders remain positive about home sales in the near future although the NAHB Housing Market Index dropped another 2 points to 53 in March.”

Freddie Mac’s PMMS® found that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 0.6 point for the week ending March 19, 2015, down from last week when it averaged 3.86 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.32 percent.

The 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.06 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.10 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM average 3.32 percent.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.97 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.01 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.02 percent.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.46 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.49 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

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4 Signs of Leaky Plumbing

March 20, 2015 12:18 am

Did you know that the average home can lose roughly 11,000 gallons of water each month due to running toilets, dripping faucets and other household leaks? Find and eliminate wasteful leaks with these tips from the specialists at American Leak Detection.

1. Check for drips by leaving a glass underneath a faucet. Stopping these drips can easily save enough water for over 30 showers, and usually only requires replacement of an inexpensive washer or valve seat.

2. Are you regularly adding or refilling water in your pool or spa? This may be a sign of one or more leaks.

3. Leaky toilets can be spotted by adding a teaspoon of food coloring to the tank; if you see the color in the toilet bowl, then the flapper valve needs to be replaced.

4.
If your water bill has been creeping up recently, stop all running water in your home and check your water meter to see if it is moving.

Source: American Leak Detection

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