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

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees…but Home Value Does

October 6, 2016 2:24 am


(BPT)—Money doesn’t grow on trees…but home value does.

Planting a tree boosts property value, as well as the overall value of the neighborhood around it. In fact, research sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation’s Alliance for Community Trees reveals homebuyers pay an average 18 percent more for a house with trees in its yard, believing trees “define” their “neighborhood’s character.”

“The presence of trees in a neighborhood is as important to homebuyers as proximity to good schools, accessibility to shopping and entertainment, and commutability to work,” says Dana Karcher, Alliance for Community Trees program manager.

According to Karcher and the Alliance, mid-August through mid-October is the best time for those in northern, cooler areas to plant trees; those in southern areas can plant into November. The cool air, warm soil and wet weather at these times of year promote root growth, which is necessary before the ground freezes.

The best species to plant, according to the Alliance, are varieties that can withstand colder temperatures—ash, crabapple, elm, hawthorn, linden, maple, pine, spruce and sycamore are all ideal.

These species may be purveyed as “bare root,” or with exposed roots, “containerized and balled,” typically from nurseries, or “burlap,” or wrapped in burlap. The latter two—the container and the burlap—must be removed before planting; bare roots need only be soaked, according to the Alliance.

It may be beneficial to discuss planting trees with a local arborist or nursery. Tree care experts familiar with the growing conditions in your area will be best equipped to advise you on the types of trees to plant, as well as the window in which to plant them.

Source: Arbor Day Foundation (ArborDay.org)
 

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7 Stress Relievers That Really Work

October 5, 2016 2:24 am


Juggling family, work and obligations can be enough to stress anyone out in today’s hectic world. If you need a breather now and then, the Mayo Clinic suggests seven ways to slow down, regroup and refocus:

1. Exercise – A quick jog in the midst of a chaotic day—or even a brisk walk around the block—can get feel-good endorphins going.

2. Connect – Your stress instinct may be to wrap yourself in a cocoon. Instead, reach out to family and friends—doing so can offer distraction and provide support.

3. Meditate – Close your eyes for a few minutes—visualizing places you enjoy can help quiet the competing thoughts crowding your mind and causing stress.

4. Journal – Writing down your thoughts can help release pent-up emotion. Don't think about what to write — just let it happen. Don't worry about grammar or spelling, either!

5. Flex – Try yoga—just 10 minutes of controlled poses can help you slow down and relax. Take a class, or research online for some guidance to get started.

6. Listen – Listening to (or playing) music is a stress reliever because it decreases stress hormones and reduces muscle tension. Set aside 15 minutes or so and let your mind absorb it.

7. Laugh – Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response. Get the giggles in by hanging out with friends in the break room, reading a few jokes (or telling some!), or watching a half-hour comedy.
 

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Fall Lawn Care: 5 Tips from 5 Experts

October 5, 2016 2:24 am


Weekend-in and weekend-out, we’ve spent our summer keeping up with lawn care. No wonder most of us let it fall by the wayside come the change of season!

The fact is, neglecting your lawn in fall can undo all of that hard work from summer. Fall, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, is when grass fortifies its reserves for winter, making maintenance during this time essential.

“Lawn care begins to change in the fall as your lawn tries to take in as much nutrients and moisture as it can in preparation for the dormant winter months ahead,” explains Ostlund. “Simple lawn care chores such as reseeding, weeding, aerating and fertilizing help a lawn immensely and show nearly immediate results come spring.”

These to-dos, Ostlund says, come from seven subject matter experts:

1. “Fall is a great time to seed! Lawns with poor density or bare areas will become infested with weeds if you do not add more turf grass. I would suggest a mixture containing perennial ryegrass for quick germination.” – Oregon State University Assistant Professor and Turf Specialist Alec Kowalewski

2. “It is important to purchase quality grass seed. Make sure the seed was tested in the last six months and check that the germination rate is 85 percent or better.” – University of Arkansas Associate Professor of Turfgrass Science Douglas Karcher

3. “Soil temperatures need to be greater than 60 degrees for good germination, so it is generally better to seed a bit early than later.” – North Carolina State University Professor of Turfgrass Sceience Grady Miller

4. “Have your soil tested. A soil analysis is inexpensive and provides important information about nutrient levels and soil type. Liming, fertilizing and seed selection may all depend on the results of a soil analysis.” – University of Tennessee Assistant Dean for College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources John C. Stier

5. “Start fertilizing grass to promote recovery and growth. Approximately 75 percent of the annual fertilization of the grass should be applied throughout the fall to extend the green color period and reduce dormancy of the grass.” – Texas Tech University Assistant Professor Joseph Young

For more from these experts and others, visit www.WeSeedAmerica.com/Lawn-Winterization-Tips.

Source: Grass Seed USA (WeSeedAmerica.com)
 

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Mom, Me and Junior: Insuring a Multigenerational Household

October 5, 2016 2:24 am


American households today are poles apart from those in recent years, as living arrangements continue shifting to accommodate adult children, aging parents, and the generation between them. This change, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), can impact your insurance needs.

“Longer life spans, decisions to marry later and the tight job market have forced many middle-aged adults to share their homes with family members across generations,” explains John M. Huff, president of the NAIC. “When there is an increased headcount under your roof, there are likely new insurance implications.”

Huff and the NAIC point to an “empty nest reversal” trend, in which baby boomers (and some in Generation X) have become responsible for housing an adult child and an aging parent—an arrangement that may require changes to insurance coverage.

In the case of adult children (“boomerang kids”), communicating expectations is essential, especially because housing an adult child can be costly. Some questions to consider, according to the NAIC:

• Will the adult child be solely responsible for health insurance?

• Will the adult child’s driving record result in a higher automotive insurance premium? Will the adult child be responsible for the additional cost?

• Will the adult child’s big-ticket items (e.g., electronics) result in a higher homeowners insurance premium? Will the adult child be responsible for the additional cost?

Moving in aging parents also requires consideration. According to the NAIC, questions to ask include:

• Is the aging parent covered by Medicare?

• Is the aging parent current on insurance premium payments (including those for life insurance, if applicable)?

• Is the aging parent in need of long-term care insurance?

These questions, though at times unsettling, can help you as a homeowner in a multigenerational arrangement obtain insurance coverage that aligns with the needs of your household. If you anticipate moving in an adult child or aging parent in the future, keep these questions in mind as you prepare for the change.

Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
 

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Weddings Get Social

October 4, 2016 2:21 am


Brides are using social media more than ever to announce their engagement, discover new ideas, connect with vendors, share moments throughout their wedding planning journey, and post their honeymoon experiences, according to a survey by The Knot.

First Comes the Ring…Then Comes the Post
Three out of five brides surveyed reported announcing their engagement on social media within the first 24 hours of saying "yes," and 86 percent shared their news within the first week. Sixty-two percent reported increasing their social media usage after their engagement, with seven out of 10 admitting to using social media for wedding planning more than anything else. The top three social media channels used during wedding planning are Pinterest (89 percent), Instagram (38 percent) and Facebook (38 percent).

Hashtagging the Big Day
Once the word is out, couples focus on creating a personalized wedding hashtag to share photos leading up to and throughout the wedding day. Sixty-six percent of couples (up 11 percent from 2014) plan on using or have used a personalized hashtag in conjunction with their wedding.

Snapping the Ceremony
Only 30 percent of brides surveyed reported being aware they could create and purchase a custom Snapchat geofilter for their wedding day and wedding-related events, but of those, 44 percent actually created one and used it. An additional 30 percent are considering it for their upcoming nuptials.

Leave It to the Guests…to Share Photos
Couples are leaving the posting to guests on the wedding day—three out of four couples (74 percent) reported wanting to be disconnected from social media on the big day.

Social Media Love on the Honeymoon
Seventy percent of brides surveyed admitted to sharing about their nuptials on social media within 24 hours of the wedding, and 70 percent reported posting throughout their honeymoon.

Source: The Knot
 

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Incentives Help Homeowners Go Solar

October 4, 2016 2:21 am


Solar energy is economical, effective and efficient—and solar incentives today, according to a recently released report, make it even easier to adopt.

The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA)’s “Incentivizing Solar Energy: An In-Depth Analysis of U.S. Solar Incentives” is a comprehensive quantification of solar incentives that analyzes the cost for a typical solar facility in 15 states. The publication also details the federal, state, and local incentives available for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

In many states, the incentives collectively exceed the total cost of installing a solar PV facility, particularly for third party-owned (TPO) facilities, according to the report. When a homeowner leases a solar PV facility (or purchases its energy output through a long-term contract), the TPO receives the federal ITC and 5-year accelerated depreciation, based on the fair market value of the facility, rather than its installed cost.

Balancing cost versus return continues to be a challenge, the report cautions—the non-incentivized cost of producing a kilowatt hour (kWh) of energy with residential solar PV is much higher than the non-incentivized cost of producing a kWh of energy with a large-scale solar PV; consequently, incentivizing residential solar PV may not be as economical as it should be.

For example, net metering programs, which pay homeowners with solar PV systems high rates for their excess electricity production, shift fixed utility infrastructure costs onto non-solar homeowners, who are typically less affluent than those with a solar PV system.

Still, on a dollar-per-kWh basis, even the least-incentivizing package exceeds the incentives provided for large-scale solar PV projects, the report shows.

More information on the incentives can be found at SolarEnergyFuture.org.
 

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Mud Rooms, Offices Rank High for Homeowners

October 4, 2016 2:21 am


A mud room and an office come in at the top of homeowners’ wish lists—and a gym and a movie theater have dropped off it, according to the recently released American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey.

“Heavy investment in outdoor living spaces, mud rooms and home offices indicate that consumers are placing a premium on practicality and functionality,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, in a statement on the survey. “Things have changed a lot from a decade ago, when home theaters and exercise rooms were some of the most popular ‘special function’ rooms in homes.”

In addition to a mud room, an office and outdoor living space, homeowners are remodeling for a designated guest room (e.g., an Au Pair or in-law suite) and a sun room or three-season porch, according to the survey.

Remodeling for accessibility is also common, though somewhat less so as more new homes are being designed to accommodate “aging in place.” Popular accessibility projects, the survey found, include adding a first-floor master bedroom, an elevator and handles.

“Although accessibility features remain an important issue to homeowners, demand for some of these features has leveled off in the custom residential arena,” Baker said. “As more homes become equipped to handle an aging population of homeowners, less custom work needs to be done to address specific accessibility issues.”

Automated features are in-demand, as well, some with the dual benefit of convenience and energy efficiency. Up-and-coming features that homeowners have begun to request, the survey found, include an air purification system, a backup power generator, an electrical car docking station, solar panels and “super” insulation.

Source: American Institute of Architects (AIA)
 

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Want to Get to Know Your Neighbors? Take Fido for a Stroll

October 3, 2016 2:21 am


Every one of us believes we’re a good neighbor—99 percent of the homeowners recently surveyed by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), that is. According to the CAI survey, most of us believe we possess neighborly characteristics, including being “friendly,” “helpful,” “quiet” and “respectful” of privacy.

Being neighborly goes beyond a passing wave, however. The survey found neighborly behaviors foster a sense of community, with 86 percent of respondents having pride in their neighborhood, and recommending it to those in their circle. Seventy-four percent of respondents routinely participate in social gatherings in their community, as well, while 54 percent volunteer for neighborhood activities and 30 percent take part in neighborhood recreation.

“Across the nation, Americans are demonstrating how to make home more enjoyable—they're volunteering, taking part in their local government, and participating in neighborhood social activities,” says Thomas Skiba, CEO of CAI. “As champions of building better communities, we know there is usually a strong correlation between the level of homeowner involvement and the long-term success of a community.”

Interestingly, 83 percent of respondents become acquainted with their neighbors not at neighborhood events, but while walking their dog. Remember that the next time you move to a new neighborhood!

Considering a move to a new community? Contact me for assistance today!

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)

 

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Just In: Credit Report Change Could Benefit Buyers

October 3, 2016 2:21 am


An upcoming change on credit reports could be beneficial for homebuyers.

Equifax, one of the nation’s three leading credit reporting bureaus, recently announced the addition of up to two years of debt balance and repayment history on its credit reports. The change became effective Sept. 24, 2016.

The change, Equifax stated in a release, will impart heightened understanding of creditworthiness as it relates to approval of a loan. Recent research out of Fannie Mae shows that borrowers who pay off their credit card debt every month are 60 percent less likely to become delinquent on their mortgage, compared to borrowers who only make the minimum payment. Including debt balance and repayment information in the report will give mortgage lenders deeper insight when evaluating an application, beyond assessing the applicant’s credit score.

“For nearly three decades, mortgage lenders have used the same static formula to determine whether or not someone receives a home loan,” stated Craig Crabtree, general manager of Equifax Mortgage Services, in the release. “Leveraging trended credit data to evaluate how borrowers actually manage and pay off their credit debt could have enormous potential in terms of opening up credit and providing many Americans with access to mortgage loans that they previously may not have qualified for.”

Planning to buy a home soon? Contact me today to discuss your credit and lending options.

Source: Equifax

 

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What's Good for Homebuyers Is Good for the Housing Market

October 3, 2016 2:21 am


What’s good for homebuyers is good for the housing market.

That’s the takeaway from two recently released reports from Freddie Mac—one that confirmed mortgage rates at a 10-week low, and one that revealed two more metropolitan areas have transitioned to normal levels of housing activity. Both indicators bode well for homebuyers.

“Investors flocked to the safety of government bonds, causing the 10-year Treasury yield to continue its descent following the FOMC's decision to leave rates unchanged,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage responded by dropping six basis points before landing at 3.42 percent—a 10-week low.”

The average rate of the 15-year fixed mortgage also declined, down to 2.72 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s mortgage survey.

Freddie Mac’s Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®), on the other hand, showed that housing activity in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Ind. has picked up—overall, housing in 38 states (plus the District of Columbia) is at normal levels.

The metropolitan areas with the most marked improvement in housing over the last month, according to the Index, are Lakeland, Fla., Youngstown, Ohio, Chicago, Ill., Orlando, Fla. and Las Vegas, Nev.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

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