RE/MAX 440
Cheryl Goedeke
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA   18944
Phone: 267-664-2288
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Fax: 267-354-6833
email: cheryl@remax440.com
Cheryl Goedeke

My Blog

Economic Indicator: Prom Spending?

April 17, 2012 4:50 am

Despite continuing economic sluggishness, a new national survey by Visa Inc. shows that when it comes to high school proms, Americans appear to be willing to spend ever increasing amounts. American families who have teenagers will spend an average of $1,078 each on the prom, a 33.6 percent boost over the $807 spent in 2011.

"Prom season spending is spiraling out of control as teens continuously try to one-up each other," according to Jason Alderman, senior director of Global Financial Education, Visa Inc. "It's important to remember that the prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility."

The prom spending data also revealed some interesting regional and income level disparities. Families in the Northeast will spend twice as much as every other region of the country. Regionally, the survey found:
  • Northeastern families will spend an average of $1,944
  • Southern families will spend an average of $1,047
  • Western families will spend an average of $744
  • Midwestern families will spend an average of $696
One troubling statistic is that parents surveyed who fell in the lowest income brackets (less than $50,000) plan to spend more than the national average - $1,307. Breaking down the spending by family income, the survey found:
  • Parents who make under $20,000 will spend an average of $1,200
  • Parents who make $20,000-$29,999 will spend an average of $2,635
  • Parents who make $30,000-$39,999 will spend an average of $801
  • Parents who make $40,000-$49,999 will spend an average of $695
  • Parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $988
  • Parents who make over $75,000 will spend an average of $842
The Visa survey also found that parents are planning to pay for 61 percent of prom costs while their teens are only covering the remaining 39 percent.

"One of the reasons that prom spending may be running amok is that parents are paying the vast majority of the costs, giving teens little incentive to economize," Alderman added.

Visa offers the following tips for sensible prom expenditures:
  • Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. As with tuxedos, many outlets rent formal dresses and accessories for one-time use.
  • Have make-up done at a department store's cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.
  • Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or drive yourselves.
  • Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use cell phones or digital cameras for candid shots at various events.
  • Work out a separate prom budget with your child well in advance to determine what you can afford. Set a limit of what you will contribute and stick to it. If teens want to spend more than that, encourage them to earn the money to pay for it or decide which items they can live without.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Invest Your Tax Refund in Your Home

April 17, 2012 4:50 am

One way to give your tax refund legs is to invest it in your home. While the housing market may still be experiencing difficulties, real estate remains a great long-term investment. BMO Financial Group offers the following real estate-related options for your tax refund:

First-Time Homebuyers
Today's historically low interest rates along with more reasonable home prices make home buying a great opportunity and a tax refund can be used toward a down payment. There are a number of loan options along with grant and down payment assistance programs that are perfect if you are a first-time homebuyer. But, before you set out to buy a home, it's best to talk with a mortgage professional and be pre-approved.

Refinance Your Home
With rates at historical lows, refinancing may help a homeowner lower their rate or change the length of the loan's term, allowing them to pay off their loan quicker and save money on interest. It's best to check with a mortgage professional you trust who can help determine if a lower rate or different loan term makes the most sense for your personal situation.

When considering refinancing, people often worry that appraisals and closing costs will outweigh the minimal monthly savings gained. Determine how long you plan on staying in the home you're refinancing. Sometimes closing costs can be recouped in monthly savings over a longer period of time. An alternative is to use your tax refund to pay closing costs.

Pay Down Your Mortgage

Paying down your mortgage with your tax refund is also a great way to decrease your debt and increase equity in your home. If you plan on staying in your home for at least the next three to five years, consider investing your tax refund toward the principal of your mortgage.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Think Like a Burglar to Protect Your Home

April 16, 2012 4:50 am

As we move into peak vacation season, FrontPoint Security offers its top home burglary tricks along with tips to help consumers keep their homes safer from burglars.

Newspapers. Burglars look for newspapers piling up on a front door, yard or porch. Make your newspaper vanish by having delivery stopped or a neighbor collect it daily if you plan to be away.

Mail. If burglars see mail accumulating in a mailbox, it tells them the homeowners are out of town and this is likely a good pick. Make your mail disappear by having it held by the post office or picked up by a neighbor.

Lawns. Hiring someone to keep your lawn mowed while you are gone will keep it from levitating higher than your neighbors’, and can be a good investment in home protection.

Lights. Burglars watch neighborhoods to see if any houses are consistently without lights. The best way to ensure your lights don’t go dark for an extended period of time is to remotely control your lights—giving off the natural appearance that someone is home.

Pets. If you have pets that are normally seen or heard around the home, a burglar casing a neighborhood may take note when these pets are suddenly absent. For homeowners with dogs, getting a dog-sitter to check in regularly may cost no more than boarding and keeps a presence in your home.

Privacy. Social media is the latest trick for burglars. Avoid posting your travel plans or posting comments that say you are away from home. It is better to post those vacation photos after you return home.

Noise. When a burglar suspects that a home is unoccupied, he may still listen for the sound of activity once he gets close the house itself. Consider leaving a radio playing while you are away or, like lights, controlling your television remotely through home automation.

For more information, please visit http://www.FrontPointSecurity.com

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3 Ways to Sell Your Home for More

April 16, 2012 4:50 am

Whether you plan to sell your home in the near or distant future, the right home improvement projects will not only boost your home’s appeal but also its value on the market.

Jeff Kaliner, founding partner of Power Home Remodeling Group, recommends beginning with your home’s exterior as it is responsible for making your home’s first impression. Power shares the following tips to stay on trend with home improvements this spring and summer:

Energize your exterior – Projects like updating siding, window replacement and refreshing entry doors can have a dramatic effect on your home's curb appeal for a relatively low cost. In fact, seven of the top 10 home improvement projects for 2012 are exterior projects garnering anywhere from 69 to 78 percent return on investment—the highest of any other projects this year.
Choose bold and bright finishes – Fiberglass entry and garage doors are a popular alternative to their pricey wooden counterparts in 2012. A fiberglass door is weather resistant, durable and, above all, maintenance free. This material allows you to achieve the stylish look of an elegant craftsman or rustic design with decorative glass at the fraction of the price. Bright, bold exterior colors are also popular this year. Make your curb appeal pop by choosing a shade of tangerine, yellow or deep purple for your entry door to give your home a cheery look heading into spring.
Energy efficiency is still supreme – The top green home trend for 2012 is renovating to reduce your home's heating and cooling costs. Making the most of an empty attic space by adding a bedroom, or at least finishing it with insulation, is a great way to keep conditioned air from escaping through the roof. Updating the attic also happens to be this year's third most cost effective home improvement, garnering a whopping 72 percent return on investment, and adding living space without increasing the home's footprint is an eco-friendly way to gain more square footage.

Source: http://www.powerhrg.com

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How to Safeguard Your Assets

April 16, 2012 4:50 am

With litigation becoming a fact of life in the U.S., legal experts recommend taking a careful look at safeguarding your assets. Hillel L. Presser, a lawyer specializing in domestic and international asset protection planning and author of Financial Self-Defense says, “Litigation is America’s fastest growing business, and why not? Plaintiffs have everything to gain and nothing but a few hours’ time to lose,” Presser says. “Even if a case seems utterly ridiculous, ldefendants are encouraged to settle just to avoid potentially astronomical legal fees.”

Presser advises seeking the expertise of an asset protection planner, but he also offers these steps you can take on your own. 

Take stock of your wealth. Inventory your assets – you probably own more than you think. Besides savings and retirement accounts, consider any money owed to you, anticipated inheritances and future assets. Property includes homes, vehicles, jewelry, and land. Don’t forget to consider intangible assets - those non-physical but valuable brands, trademarks, patents and intellectual property.
Put only assets that are exempt from seizure in your name. Federal and state laws protect some personal assets from lawsuits and creditors. Those assets typically include your primary residence; personal items such as furniture and clothing; pensions and retirement funds; and life insurance. State exemption laws vary; federal laws govern exemptions in bankruptcy.
Protectively title non-exempt assets. Putting the title to valuable assets in the names of corporations, limited partnerships, domestic trusts and other entities offers some protection. You still get to use and enjoy the asset but legal ownership is with an entity that’s not subject to your personal creditors’ claims. Which entities best shield which assets depends on the asset, your state laws, taxation and your estate plan, to name a few considerations. You can also combine protective entities, for instance, giving ownership of your limited liability company to a limited partnership. It’s best to get professional advice .

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15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Hits New All-Time Record Low

April 13, 2012 4:34 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey ® (PMMS®) yesterday, showing average fixed mortgage rates declining for the third consecutive week on the heels of a weaker than expected employment report. The 30-year fixed averaged just above its record low while the 15-year fixed averaged a new all-time record low of 3.11 percent, breaking its previous low of 3.13 percent on March 8, 2012. 

Other important findings from the PMMS include: 

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.88 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 12, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.98 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.91 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.11 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.21 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.13 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.86 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.78 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.80 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.25 percent. 

Source: Freddie Mac

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High Gas Prices Forcing Americans to Cut Back

April 13, 2012 4:34 am

With the approach of the warmer weather comes an expected increase in car travel as families hit the road for summer fun. However, higher gas prices may take a toll not only on road travel this summer but on other expenditures as well. 

According to a new Harris Poll, over half of Americans who own a vehicle (55 percent) say they have cut back on products and/or services in order to pay for the increased price of gasoline. As might be expected, those with lower household incomes are more impacted. Two-thirds (67 percent) of those with a household income of less than $35,000 a year have cut back on products or services because of higher gas prices compared to 37 percent of those who have a household income of $100,000 or more. 

According to the Harris Poll, there are many things people are cutting back on in order to pay for the increased price of gasoline. Three-quarters of those who have cut back have done so on dining out (75 percent) and driving in general (73 percent) while almost two-thirds have cut back on entertainment (65 percent) and weekend trips or day trips (65 percent). Three in five have cut back on reducing extras, such as luxury items (62 percent) and vacations (59 percent) while over half have cut back on clothing (55 percent) and movies (54 percent). Smaller, but still significant, numbers have cut back on groceries (38 percent), personal grooming, such as haircuts or manicures (37 percent), and auto repairs or upkeep (24 percent). 

In looking at who to blame for the rise in gas prices, over one-third of Americans (37 percent) say they blame the oil companies the most while one-quarter (25 percent) blame unrest in the Middle East. Political figures are also blamed by some; 17 percent blame President Obama the most; 5 percent blame Republicans in Congress the most; and 4 percent blame Democrats in Congress the most. 

So, who can best stop rising gas prices? Just over one-third of Americans (37 percent) say the oil and gas industry while three in ten (30 percent) believe the federal government can best stop rising gasoline prices. Fewer people believe consumers can stop rising gas prices (14 percent) while 4 percent say state and local governments can, 2 percent say the automotive industry, and 14 percent are not sure.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Creating Your Homebuyer Wish List

April 13, 2012 4:34 am

If you’re embarking on the exciting process of searching for your first home, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. After all, from choosing the right location to securing the necessary financing, there are many important details to tackle.

These details can often cloud your judgment when looking at prospective homes to buy. However, in order to be happy in your new home for years to come, you must choose a property that embodies what’s most important to you. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recommends answering the following questions as a guide to selecting your first home:

1. What part of town/neighborhood do you want to live in?
2. What price range would you consider? Establish the maximum price you’d consider.
3. Are schools a factor and, if so, what do you need to take into consideration (i.e., the school system’s ranking, whether the kids can walk to school, etc.)?
4. Do you want an older home or a newer home (less than five years old)?
5. What kind of houses would you be willing to see (i.e., ranch, two-story, split level, condo, etc.)?
6. What style house appeals to you most (i.e., contemporary, traditional , colonial, etc.)?
7. How much renovation would you be willing to do?
8. Do you need to be close to public transportation?
9. Do you have any physical needs that must be met, such as wheelchair access?
10. Do you have any animals that will require special facilities?
11. What criteria does the lot the property sits on have to meet (i.e., acreage, fenced yard, two-car garage, patio/deck, views, etc.)?
12. What criteria does the interior of the home need to meet (i.e., number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, square footage, etc.)?
13. What features of the home are most important to you? Consider must-haves vs. would-like-to-haves:
• Air conditioning
• Wall-to-wall carpet
• Hardwood floors
• Eat-in kitchen
• Separate dining room
• Formal living room
• Family room
• Separate den or library
• Basement
• Fireplace
• “In-law” apartment
• Lots of windows (light)

Answering the above questions will help you hone in on what’s most important to you and what you can let go of. This exercise will also help you narrow your home search and find your new home much sooner.

Source: hud.gov

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How to Travel Productively

April 12, 2012 4:34 am

If you’re a frequent business traveler, chances are you’ve probably honed your strategies for traveling comfortably and productively. A recent article from Inc. magazine online offers six great tips from seasoned road warriors for making the most out of travel time:
  1. Stay Connected. Carry extra batteries, and battery powered chargers and adapters. Bring a high-quality hands-free set for your phone so that you can answer calls in noisy places and still be heard. Also consider getting a long-battery-life laptop with an extended battery, which can provide you with six to seven hours of battery life.
  2. Bring back-up. When you can’t connect to the Internet, be ready with reserves. Since you can’t always get to everything you need from your laptop or smartphone, print back-ups and/or put important documents on a memory stick.
  3. Travel light. Minimize the stress of last minute packing by keeping toiletries, technology kits and other basics ready to grab and go. Consider investing in a tablet, which gives you access to books, magazines, newspapers, games, movies, music and more all in one convenient, easy-to-carry place.
  4. Appoint a troubleshooter. Designate someone to coordinate what you can’t manage while traveling and have set times to check in and deal with questions. This will give you peace of mind that things are moving smoothly back at the office and help you avoid dealing with a fire drill while on the road.
  5. Tune in to your time zone. Seasoned travelers recommend changing your watch at take-off when traveling to another time zone. This will put you in the right mindset from the get-go. Once you arrive at your destination, try and stay up until the hour you’d normally go to bed. This will help your internal body clock reset more quickly.
  6. Plan time to recharge. Pushing relentlessly can be counter-productive, so be sure to make time to recharge, whether that be going for a run or taking in a local sight.
Source: Inc.com

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Check Your Temperature When Grilling

April 12, 2012 4:34 am

As the weather warms up and cooking duties move outside to the grill, don’t forget to take your meat thermometer with you. A staple of traditional oven cooking, the meat thermometer is just as important when grilling outdoors, preventing you from overcooking or undercooking meat.

According to Consumer Reports, not all grills cook evenly, so it's important to take the temperature of your meat. Just remember these three numbers: 145 degrees F for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry. A good meat thermometer costs only $15 to $40, and the most accurate in Consumer Reports’ testing were made by Polder, Oxo and Maverick.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its rules for cooking pork, saying that you can now cook it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, instead of 160, followed by a three-minute rest before carving. That's the same as beef, lamb and veal. According to the National Pork Board, this new standard temperature results in pork that is tender and juicy as opposed to tough and dry.

Consumer Reports also suggests checking the USDA's website for the proper cooking temperature, however, if your grill cooks unevenly, arriving at the right temperature will be a challenge. This is a key feature that Consumer Reports tests—technicians test cooking evenness at both low and high temperatures and recommended grills are those that ace these tests. Among Consumer Reports’ Best Buys for medium-sized grills are models from Char-Broil, Kenmore, Brinkmann and Aussie that range in price from $200 to $400.

Source: Consumer Reports

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