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

How to Apply for Disaster Assistance

July 14, 2016 1:28 am


Homeowners recovering from the effects of a disaster may be eligible to receive assistance funds from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Generally, these funds may be used to assist with financing home repairs, moving costs, rental or temporary housing, and more.

To be considered, those seeking assistance must register through FEMA. Applying for assistance is free, and registration is open to those with and without insurance.

Registration can be completed online at DisasterAssistance.gov, by phone at 800-621-FEMA (3362), or at a local disaster recovery center.

Applicants who have been granted assistance will be notified by FEMA through letter, and receive funds either by check or direct deposit. The letter will explain how the funds may be spent. The funds should not be used beyond their intended purpose—if they are, the grantee may be denied funds in the future, and may even be liable for repayment.

FEMA advises keeping all receipts related to spending of the granted funds for at least three years. If the applicant’s insurer later covers the expenses already paid for by FEMA funds, the grantee must reimburse FEMA.

Beyond housing needs, grantees are generally permitted to spend FEMA funds on medical care for a disaster-related injury, “necessary educational materials” and repair or replacement of a “flooded essential vehicle.”

Source: U.S. Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA)
 

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All in the Family: Boomer Parents House Boomerang Kids

July 14, 2016 1:28 am


Moving back home to live with parents after college no longer carries a stigma.

Boomers housing boomerang kids is the new normal, says blogger Mary Quigley in a recent AARP.org feature on the subject. Quigley cites one survey that found millennials believe it’s acceptable to live with parents for up to five years after completing college.

Mary Dell Harrington, another blogger featured in the AARP story, says the recession made moving home a necessity for unemployed college graduates, many of which continued to return to their folks’ homes after the recession receded. Harrington believes there's a “great practicality” to moving home, especially in high-rent urban areas.

I fall under both boomer and boomerang kid categories, having been born in the '60s and returned to live with, care for, and eventually take on my parents' pride-and-joy historic home. Boomers tend to re-establish independence once children leave the nest, so the prospect of welcoming back one or more “boomerangs” may be daunting.

Blogger Christina Newberry, also featured in the AARP piece, urges boomer parents to have an honest discussion with their adult children before they return or soon thereafter, as well as to draw up an actual contract about expectations. (A contract template is available on her website, AdultChildrenLivingatHome.com.)

Among the points for discussion, says Newberry:

Curfews and Privacy – Will he/she come and go as he/she pleases? Will you keep tabs on where he/she's going? What about overnight guests?

Expenses – Who pays for food, especially if the young adult wants a vegan, organic or other specialized diet? What about cell phones, cable TV, dry cleaning and gas?

Financial Contributions – If the grad has a job, will he/she pay rent? If not, will he/she get part-time work while looking for employment to pay rent and/or living expenses?

Length of Stay – What's the expectation—a few months? A year?

Responsibilities – Will he/she help with cleaning, errands, laundry or carpooling younger siblings?

The end goal, Newberry says, is not to kick them out as soon as possible, but to get them to the point where they're ready to leave.

For more resources on boomerang parenting, visit AARP.org.
 

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Surprise! Home Repairs a Common "Shock" for Retirees

July 13, 2016 1:25 am


Pre-retirees often underestimate the expenses they’ll encounter when their working years are over. One of the most common unexpected costs—“financial shocks”—are home repairs, according to a recent survey by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

“There is still a disconnect between what people think they will do in retirement to manage risks, compared to what approaches retirees actually used,” explained actuary Cindy Levering of the survey.

Most pre-retirees surveyed by the SOA carry mortgage, credit card and auto loan debt—some with $30,000 in addition to a mortgage. An unforeseen home repair, coupled with thousands in debt, could rapidly sap retirement savings.

Home repairs, unfortunately, are inevitable. Downsizing may offload some of that debt, while reserving more funds for unexpected repairs or replacements.

Changing homes in retirement may also be beneficial when considering life expectancy and aging-in-place accommodations. Many pre-retirees surveyed by the SOA expect they will live to age 85—younger than actuarial tables indicate.

“More than half of pre-retirees and retirees estimated their personal life expectancy well below actuarial estimates,” said actuary Anna Rappaport, chair of the SOA's Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks.

Whether 85 or beyond, diminishing capacity and limited mobility related to aging may make performing functions in the current home challenging.

Given the frequency of unexpected home repairs, and that most homes are inadequately designed for aging, changing homes may be the most prudent decision for those nearing retirement.

Source: Society of Actuaries (SOA)
 

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Log Homes Experiencing Revival

July 13, 2016 1:25 am


Log homes—an iconic symbol of Americana—are as sought-after as ever, partly because of their environmentally-conscious design and construction.

Log homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Log and Timber Homes Council (LTHC) (LogHomes.org), are erected through a near-zero-waste process, with the entire log purposed in construction. Byproducts of their manufacture are mulch and sawdust, both of which can be used as fuel.

Log homes are also highly energy-efficient, especially if constructed with sealant, according to the LTHC. Logs by nature absorb and radiate heat at optimal times during the day, effectively regulating the home’s temperature—“thermal mass.”

The LTHC is one resource worth consulting for a log home build. LTHC log home builders not only adhere to a code of ethics, but also ensure structural integrity by grading their materials through third parties.

“The log and timber home industry emerged entirely out of consumer demand for this unique style of construction,” said Log and Timber Homes Council Chairman Doug Parsons in a statement. “This distinctive style of home can suit any homeowners’ needs, whether they’re looking for a small cabin for weekend getaways or a multi-million dollar estate.”

Source: National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
 

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Where on the Map Can You Find the Most Mansions?

July 13, 2016 1:25 am


Mansions are typically associated with luxury markets, but most of them exist outside high-end enclaves.

Utah, in fact, boasts the most mansions by metropolitan area—homes that have at least 15 rooms (excluding bathrooms and closets), five of which are bedrooms, according to an analysis by SmartAsset (www.smartasset.com).

Provo-Orem, Ogden-Clearfield and Salt Lake City, all in Utah, are the top three metropolitan areas nationally with the most mansions. In the Provo-Orem area, 2.42 percent of houses are considered mansions by SmartAsset’s definition—nearly double the amount in Ogden-Clearfield, which is 1.57 percent. Just over 1 percent (1.44) of Salt Lake City homes is considered mansions.

Rounding out the top 10 metropolitan areas with the most mansions are:

4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. (1.37 percent)
5. Washington, D.C. (1.11 percent)
6. Atlanta, Ga. (1.11 percent)
7. Honolulu, Hawaii (1.02 percent)
8. Orlando, Fla. (0.93 percent)
9. Raleigh, N.C. (0.84 percent)
10. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif. (0.77 percent)

In the market for a mansion? Contact your real estate professional for insight on the mansions available in your area.

Source: SmartAsset
 

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Dips, Sips and Spills: The Secret Lives of Partygoers

July 12, 2016 1:25 am


Every partygoer’s broken the rules of party-dom at one time or another. Turns out, a lot of us have secretly committed a party no-no at gatherings with our families and friends:

• One in four people in a recent poll by Boxed Wholesale admitted to double-dipping chips and crudités at a party. I dip, you dip, we all dip!

• More than one-fifth of people in that same poll admitted to spilling a drink on the floor at a party and not cleaning it up. Classic spill-and-run.

• Forty percent of people in the poll admitted to wiping their hands on something other than a napkin at a party. Caught orange-handed!

• Close to one-third of people in the poll admitted to drinking out of a cup they weren’t sure was their own. Let’s…raise our glasses?

Thankfully, these faux pas haven’t broken us of habits like bringing the host a gift, helping clean up and sending a thank-you note, according to the poll. Courtesies still exist!

Source: Boxed Wholesale
 

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Living Comfortably in These Cities Will Cost You

July 12, 2016 1:25 am


Hankering to wing off to Worcester, or relocate to Rochester? Wherever you’re considering moving, it’s important to know whether your income can sustain a “comfortable” life there.

Finder.com recently crunched the numbers to determine just that in close to 80 cities around the country.

Among the key findings of Finder.com’s analysis—and shocking no one—is San Francisco, Calif. at No. 1, requiring the highest salary of all the cities analyzed, and Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose in the top 10. In these cities, the salary required to obtain a mortgage for the average home is higher than the salary required for mortgage payments, average debt and average expenditures.

The salary needed to live comfortably in San Francisco, according to the analysis, is $180,600—the average home in the Golden Gate City costs $1,119,500. In Los Angeles, the salary needed to live comfortably is $90,244; in San Jose, $129,864.

The city with the lowest salary requirement is Jackson, Miss., where residents can live comfortably for $43,265.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports the average salary was $52,250 in 2013. In the Finder.com analysis, this figure is sufficient income to live in 36 of the 78 cities analyzed.

For its analysis, Finder.com defined living “comfortably” as:

• Having the ability to purchase an average home (with a 20 percent down payment);
• Having the ability to cover average per-person expenditures; and
• Having the ability to pay off annual non-mortgage related household debt.

Using those controls, Finder.com analyzed factors such as the state’s median home price, average interest rate for a 30-year, 20-percent-down mortgage, and average non-housing expenditure.

To learn income requirements for a comfortable life in your desired city, visit Finder.com.
 

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What's Behind the Gates? Higher-Priced Homes

July 12, 2016 1:25 am


Homeowners behind gates can expect an average $30,000 more for their home come sale—a premium, however, that can be offset by costly community amenities, according to research from the American Real Estate Society (ARES). The premium is due to actual and perceived benefits, such as privacy and safety, on the part of the buyer.

“This [research] provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” said ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson in a release. Johnson is a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

The premium may be less in gated communities where amenities like a clubhouse, pool or tennis court drive up maintenance costs for residents, ARES researchers found. Examining a sample of gated communities, researchers discovered a $19,500 decrease in sale price in communities with these types of amenities.

“Additional maintenance costs associated with these amenities often outweigh their benefits, and it appears that while a gate has value, additional neighborhood amenities do not always provide additional value,” explained Mark A. Sunderman, one of the ARES researchers.

“From the perspective of both the buyer and the seller, this information should help each to better price property,” Sunderman continued. “A good understanding of what adds value and what does not should help create increased marketability of gated homes.”

“The long-held belief that gates add value is supported by the data, as long as the impact of the amenities is properly factored in,” Johnson added. "This should set buyers' minds to rest as to whether or not they are actually receiving a boost in value when they purchase inside a gated community.” 

Source: Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
 

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Vacationers: Protect Your Dream Trip with Travel Insurance

July 11, 2016 1:25 am


Vacation…it’s all we ever wanted!

Nearly $90 billion will be spent on vacations this summer, with the average trip—defined as a one-week leisure excursion at least 100 miles from home—costing travelers $1,798.

Time off is worth every penny—according to the Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, many individuals not only believe a vacation is important, but also feel confident that they can afford one. Most vacationers, the Index found, are allocating their budgets for one memorable getaway, rather than spreading the spend over several trips.

The Index revealed a “Vacation Deficit,” as well—the percentage of individuals who believe a vacation is important but do not feel confident they’ll be able to take one. The Deficit is slightly up this year compared to last.

Those spending more on one dream vacation this summer should consider budgeting for travel insurance, says Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.

“With vacation spending up, travel insurance should be near the top of the trip planning checklist,” Durazo said in a statement. “The right travel insurance policy will protect a consumer's pre-paid travel expenses when they have to cancel their trip due to certain unexpected situations, such as a covered illness or injury, and will provide reimbursements for things like medical emergencies, delayed travel and lost or delayed baggage.”

Source: Allianz Global Assistance USA
 

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What Not to Buy at Home Improvement Stores

July 11, 2016 1:25 am


Many shoppers assume large home improvement stores have the best prices—and they often do, on some products. But not on everything, says Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com.

According to Shelton, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s will net you savings on big-ticket items like kitchen appliances, lawn and garden equipment, and home repair or remodeling products. A one-stop shopping trip to these stores, however, can do the opposite, Shelton says.

Better buys are available at stores like Costco, Target, Walmart—or online—in these five categories:

Batteries – The proof is in the savings. FatWallet.com data show Costco was selling a 40-battery, 2-pack of AA Duracells for $14.99 (less than 38 cents per battery), while Home Depot’s offering was limited to a 10-pack selling at $7.98 (nearly 80 cents per battery), and Lowe’s a 24-pack for $12.47 (nearly 52 cents per battery).

Cleaning Supplies – It’s tempting to pick up cleaning supplies along with paint and nails at a home improvement store, but products like Clorox wipes or floor cleaner are almost always cheaper at the regular big-box stores. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, for instance, was $10 at Home Depot and Lowe’s, compared to $8.50 at Walmart. Big-box stores also often carry generic alternatives that cost even less, Shelton adds.

Home Décor – If you’re looking for rugs, picture frames, wall art or other décor items, make the trip to stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Ross. Case in point: Shelton found the same framed piece of art for $31 at Home Depot, $22 at Home Goods.

Small Appliances – Unless they’re on sale at a home improvement store, small appliances like food processors or microwaves are a better buy at any of the warehouse stores or online, where the selection is often bigger. Shelton recommends Amazon.com for these purchases.

Grilling Accessories – Online retailers are your best bet for grilling accessories. A Chef Buddy 20-Piece Stainless Steel Grill Toolset, for example, came in at $35.22 at Home Depot and $24.95 on Amazon.com, according to FatWallet.com data.

For more savvy shopper secrets for homeowners, visit FatWallet.com.
 

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