RE/MAX 440
Bill and Rachel Burke

Bill and Rachel Burke
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-453-7653
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6810

My Blog

How Often Are We Unplugging from Technology?

March 2, 2016 2:10 am

Disconnecting from technology is challenging, but not impossible. In fact, many Americans are actively unplugging, according to a recent Harris Poll®. The poll found that 45 percent of Americans cut back on screen time at least once a week, whether to enjoy quiet or “me” time, or to spend quality time with their families. For most, “unplugging” means avoiding the Internet, email, social media, calls, text messages, apps, videogames and/or television.

But is that enough? According to the poll, 60 percent of Americans wish their family members would unplug more often, and nearly 30 percent have been told to unplug by others. What’s more, almost 40 percent believe it is “unrealistic” to unplug for more than a few hours at a time, and have a fear of missing out (FOMO) if they’re disconnected for too long.

The poll also found that the device most difficult to detach from is also the device inducing the most anxiety: mobile phones. Over 40 percent of Americans—especially Gen Xers and millennials—feel anxious when they don’t have their phones with them.

Still, unplugging gives way to other enjoyable activities. Reading ranks number one, according to the poll, followed by spending time with family, sleeping, relaxing and gardening.

Ironically, nearly 20 percent of Americans cited in the poll make an announcement on social media when they’re going to unplug. Go figure!

Source: The Harris Poll®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Decoding Energy Efficiency Lingo, According to Home Builders

March 2, 2016 2:10 am

With so much science involved in contemporary homes, your RIS Consumer Confidant knows folks can sometimes get lost in the lingo. So it was great to see a recent post from the National Home Builders Association (www.nahb.org) that helps efficiency-minded homeowners decode a few of the most often used energy efficiency terms.

According to the NAHB, the following simple definitions can help you understand popular energy-saving options for your home:

“Energy-Efficient” Home – A home that uses less energy than a traditional home without compromising service to owners and occupants. Energy efficiency can be achieved through things such as improved thermal envelopes, solar-oriented construction, low-e windows and efficient appliances. Note that energy efficiency and energy conservation are different in that conservation efforts reduce or eliminate services to save energy. Learn how efficient your home is and ways to improve your home's efficiency with ENERGY STAR's Home Energy Yardstick, available at energystar.gov.

“Net Zero-Energy” Home – A home in which energy production and consumption are equivalent. That means the energy produced by the home must meet the household's needs. Rooftop solar panels are perhaps the most common way for homes to produce energy. To help achieve net zero-energy, the home should be designed using a holistic, whole-house approach that strives for efficiency and reduces energy consumption without sacrificing service or comfort.

“Net Zero-Energy-Ready” Home – A home that is outfitted with the necessary structural and technological support to install energy-producing technologies. Net zero-energy-ready homes are appropriate for homeowners who plan to install energy-producing technology in the future, but do not have the means or desire to do so at the current time. When the homeowner is ready to install such technology, it will be a much simpler process.

“Net Positive-Energy” Home – A home that produces more energy than the household needs. A homeowner could receive credit from their utility company for the excess energy returned to the grid that is produced by the energy technologies and saved by energy-efficiency measures.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renters Beware: Scams Pervasive on Craigslist

March 2, 2016 2:10 am

Apartment hunters in big cities know the drill: they spot a listing for a well-priced, attractive place and make an inquiry, only to be met with demands for an instant credit check or an upfront fee to access the full listing. Savvier home hunters spot these scams immediately, but others fall through the cracks, making popular rental listing sites like Craigslist a highly lucrative spot for fraud.

A recently released study by researchers at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering found that Craigslist fails to identify more than half of scam rental listings, and that suspicious postings often linger for as long as 20 hours before being removed—more than enough time to snare victims, especially in competitive housing markets.

The research team at NYU analyzed more than 2 million rental listings on Craigslist over a five-month period to gain an end-to-end understanding of how such scams are structured and which strategies may undermine them. The team detected and analyzed about 29,000 fraudulent listings in 20 major cities, ultimately mapping the listings into seven distinct scam categories, most of which involved credit card payments.

One of the most common was a credit report scam, in which a fraudulent poster instructs a would-be tenant to click a link and purchase a credit report. The scammer gets a referral commission from the credit reporting site even though there is no property for rent.

In another scheme, the "cloned listing" scam, rental listings from other sites are duplicated and posted on Craigslist at a lower price. Scammers make money by requesting a rent deposit via wire transfer from prospective tenants. By responding to these ads and analyzing IP addresses and banking wire information, the researchers learned that most of these schemes originate in Nigeria and are administered by a small group of "scam factories."

Another pervasive scam involved "real estate service" companies, in which victims are asked to pay both an upfront fee and a monthly membership fee to access listings of pre-foreclosure rentals or rent-to-own properties. In the majority of cases, the companies leading the scams have no connection to the properties listed.

The cities included in the study were Austin, Texas; Boston, Mass.; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Detroit, Mich.; El Paso, Texas; Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Ind.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Los Angeles, Calif,; Memphis, Tenn.; New York, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Phoenix, Ariz.; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego, Calif.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Seattle, Wash.

Source: NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Common Money Mistakes Draining Your Funds

March 1, 2016 12:04 am

Everybody blows a little money now and then, but too many people make it a habit. To take control of your finances and keep more cash on hand, financial advisors suggest diligently avoiding these six common money mistakes:

1. Keeping up with friends – One way to get into financial trouble is trying to match someone else’s lifestyle. Sticking to a budget may mean missing out on a few indulgences, but the upside is a manageable credit card bill you can pay off in 30 days without paying interest fees.

2. Paying interest on credit cards – Speaking of interest rates, paying 20 percent on a credit card while earning 0.2 percent on your savings is costing you plenty. Leave yourself an emergency cushion, but use the bulk of your savings to pay off that credit card debt. If you don’t have savings to draw from, refer back to number one (above) and start living a cash-only lifestyle.

3. Buying new instead of used – These days, 100,000 miles is just the halfway point for a lot of cars, so buy one used that has already depreciated and comes with a lower monthly payment. Consider buying used for other goods as well, such as books, sports gear and appliances.

4. Signing up and spacing out – Be alert to automatic renewals and ongoing monthly charges for services you no longer use. Scan your monthly bills carefully. If you don’t want that extra phone service, gym membership, subscription or extra cable network you’ve been paying for, pick up the phone and cancel it.

5. Ignoring your employer’s 401(k) match – You’re throwing away money if you don’t claim every dollar your employer will contribute to your retirement plan. Find a way to pay in more of your own money, even if it means giving up that morning latte. (Wake-up call: That $5 coffee every day is costing you $150 a month, or $1,800 a year. Enough said.)

6. Letting bank fees drain your account – Switch to a bank that offers free checking. Avoid using out-of-network ATMs and stay on top of your balance to avoid overdraft fees. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Chinoiserie: 4 Ways to Try the Newest Décor Trend at Home

March 1, 2016 12:04 am

Chinoiserie—a style marked largely by Chinese motifs and techniques—is currently one of the hottest décor trends in homes in the Western Hemisphere. Originating in Europe in the 17th century, chinoiserie includes bamboo, cherry blossom or orchid accents, and shades of black, blue, gold, pink, red and white.

"Chinoiserie's elegant prints and colors can truly bring a room together," says Alissa Ahlman, chief merchandising officer for home décor superstore At Home®. "It's one of our favorite trends for 2016 as you can add it to your home in a big way via bright shades of pink or play it down with calming hues of blue."

To incorporate the trend in your home, the experts at home décor superstore At Home® recommend the following tips.

1. Punch up a seating area with chinoiserie throw pillows. Look for ones with tiger motifs or a pagoda-inspired design to drive home the aesthetic.

2. Introduce chinoiserie atop a dresser or bathroom countertop with black, rectangular boxes of varying sizes.

3. Mix in intricate chinoiserie patterns in neutral tones, such as a white side cabinet with lattice detailing in the guest bedroom.

4. Add a touch of glamour with gold accent pieces, such as a sparkling figurine on a mantel or marion votives as a tabletop centerpiece.

Despite its specific profile, chinoiserie design can be adapted to fit both traditional and modern spaces, and is ideal to complement an existing style. By implementing the trend thoughtfully, like in the tips listed above, you, too, can successfully integrate this new trend at home.

Source: At Home

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Do Baby Boomers Want in a Home?

March 1, 2016 12:04 am

Baby boomers are making their mark on housing once again, this time as they age toward retirement—and whether moving up, downsizing or purchasing a second home, their preferences are clear-cut across the board.

According to a recently released study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “Housing Preferences in the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers,” boomer homebuying activity hinges on everything from location to size and design:

• Sixty-three percent of boomers cited in the study would like to purchase a single-family detached home, a finding in line with the 65 percent of all buyers.

• Seventy-five percent of boomers prefer to purchase a single-story home.

• Fifty percent of boomers express interest in a full or partial basement. This preference appears to decline with age.

• Thirty-seven percent of boomers are willing to purchase a home without a living room. This preference appears to decline with age.

• Just 13 percent of boomers are willing to pay more for a home out of concern for the environment.

• Only 7 percent of boomers prefer to purchase a home in a central city location. Approximately two-thirds prefer to purchase a home in the suburbs (close-in or outlying), and just over one-quarter prefer to purchase a home in a rural area.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Savings Success Higher with a Plan, Report Finds

February 29, 2016 2:04 am

There’s no arguing we’ve made strides financially since the economic downturn. A recently released report by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) reveals just how far we’ve come: 70 percent of Americans cited in the report have made at least some progress in meeting savings needs; 66 percent say they save at least some of their income.

Those with a savings plan, the report shows, have a much higher saving success rate than those without. In comparison:

• Sixty-one percent of those with a savings plan know their net worth; 33 percent of those without a savings plan know their net worth.

• Eighty-five percent of those with a savings plan are reducing their debt or have no debt at all; 64 percent of those without a savings plan are reducing their debt or have no debt at all.

• Eighty-four percent of those with a savings plan are spending less than their income, and saving the difference; 46 percent of those without a savings plan are spending less than their income and saving the difference.

• Seventy-nine percent of those with a savings plan have sufficient emergency savings; just 46 percent of those without a savings plan have sufficient emergency savings.

“The research clearly demonstrates that those with a plan are nearly two times as likely to spend less than they earn and save the difference,” says Nancy Register, director of America Saves.

Savings plans, however, are not foolproof, according to the report. Only about half (52 percent) of non-retired Americans included in the report are saving enough to support a desirable standard of living in retirement.

“It’s a common theme to see expenses and debt get in the way of retirement savings,” says Kathy Stokes, director of the American Savings Education Council, “but even saving just a small amount can add up over time.”

Source: Consumer Federation of America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Retreat toward Year Low

February 29, 2016 2:04 am

Mortgage rates reversed course last week, falling back to the second-lowest point of the year. According to Bankrate.com’s weekly report, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate declined to 3.80 percent, making the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan $931.91.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate slipped as well, to 3.09 percent. The larger, jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.70 percent. The 5-year adjustable mortgage rate decreased to 3.24 percent, and the 10-year adjustable mortgage rate lowered to 3.61 percent.

The rate retreat can be attributed to lowering oil prices, stock indices and bond yields, which unwound much of the previous week’s rate increase.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Flood Season: 3 Tips to Prevent Water Damage

February 29, 2016 2:04 am

Homeowners spend thousands on flood damage repair each year, often hoping for minimal damage after it has already occurred. But wishful thinking can end up costing more money in the long run, says Michael Petri, owner of Brooklyn-based Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

"Homeowners know that there is a chance for flood damage during this season, but often think that this chance of damage will miss them or won't affect their home,” says Petri.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with a few small-scale actions, homeowners can prevent large-scale water damage.

"Taking the time to prepare a home for potential flooding helps reduce additional expenses caused by water damage, so it's important to take preventative action," adds Chris Petri, assistant operations manager at Petri.

The Petris recommend the following preventative measures:

1. Remove debris from your home promptly.
Regularly inspect gutters and drains for leaves, sticks, or other debris that may have piled up. Remove debris from gutters to allow rain to properly flow through.

2. Reduce runoff from your home that can cause flooding.
Collecting water in rain barrels and cisterns can keep rain from accumulating in certain areas of your home.

3. Seal openings or cracks in your home.
Hire a professional plumber to inspect your home thoroughly for potential sources of water damage. If cracks or other openings are found, seal them as soon as possible to lessen the chance of damage.

Source: Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Communities with a High Level of Well-Being

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

Communities in California, Colorado, Florida and Texas boast the highest levels of well-being, with Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla., recently named the top community by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The Index ranks communities based on numerous indicators, including individual sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, access to basic healthcare and relationship to the community.

“U.S. communities are in many ways on the front lines of American well-being,” says Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. “From the influence of local leadership, to the vibrancy of good jobs and job creation, to an ability to influence infrastructure changes, cities are able to engender a culture of well-being among residents in ways that can effect meaningful and positive change.”

Rounding out the top 10 communities are:

2. Salinas, Calif.
3. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
4. Fort Collins, Colo.
5. Barnstable Town, Mass.
6. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
7. Boulder, Colo.
8. Charlottesville, Va.
9. Anchorage, Alaska
10. San Luis-Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Source: Gallup/Healthways

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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