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RE/MAX 440
Mary Southern
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880
Skippack  PA 19474
 Phone: 610-207-2110
Office Phone: 610-584-1160
Cell: 610-207-2110
Fax: 484-991-1837 
mary@marysouthern.com
Mary Southern

Mary's Blog

Real Estate for Your World

EPA Rule Addresses Formaldehyde in Household Wood Products

August 16, 2016 12:12 am


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized a rule that extends protections over formaldehyde-laced wood products, such as cabinets, furniture and flooring. Exposure to formaldehyde, which is often used as an adhesive in household wood products, can be harmful to health.

The rule, established as directed by the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010, mandates that composite wood products manufactured, imported, sold and/or supplied in the U.S. be labeled TSCA Title VI compliant. The rule applies to products such as hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard.

The EPA cooperated with the California Air Resources Board to ensure the rule remained consistent with California requirements for composite wood products.

“We are carrying out important measures laid out by Congress to protect the public from harmful exposure of this widely-used chemical found in homes and workplaces,” said Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a statement on the rule. “We have worked with the state of California as a partner to help ensure consistency in our requirements. The new rule will level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the California standard and will ensure that imported products not subject to California’s requirements will meet the new standard and, thus, not contain dangerous formaldehyde vapors.”

The rule exempts products made with no-added or ultra-low formaldehyde.

For more on formaldehyde in the home, visit www.epa.gov/formaledhyde.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
 

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5 Tips to Preserve the Water Quality in Your Home

August 16, 2016 12:12 am


Managing the water quality in your home is important, especially when it comes to mitigating water waste. Poor water quality, use and disposal can not only adversely impact your household, but also your community.

“One thing to keep in mind: just because it disappears, doesn’t mean it goes away,” explains Ted Puzio, owner of Southern Trust Home Services, a Virginia-based HVAC, plumbing and electrical service provider.

Puzio says improper disposal is one of the leading causes of compromised water quality. Sewer treatment plants do not eliminate 100 percent of the chemicals commonly disposed of by drain—detergents, lotions, pharmaceuticals and soaps, for instance. These toxins inevitably end up in the water supply.

To prevent contamination, consider using eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaners and personal care items instead of chemical-containing products, as well as properly disposing of hazardous chemicals at a dedicated site in your community.

Pet waste is another culprit of poor water quality, says Puzio. Be sure to remove pet waste as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from entering the water supply.

Overwatering your lawn can also be detrimental to water quality, Puzio says. Overwatering displaces chemical fertilizers down to the groundwater level, which is where most drinking water is derived from. Not sure if your lawn needs watering? Walk on it—if footprints remain, it’s time to water it.

Don’t neglect natural occurrences, either, Puzio adds. Storm runoff is a major contributor to water pollution. A rain barrel will not only lessen runoff and preserve the quality of your water, but will also reduce the amount of water your household consumes.

Source: Southern Trust Home Services
 

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How Many Working Hours Does It Take to Afford a Mortgage?

August 16, 2016 12:12 am


A mortgage is more affordable than rent in many markets—sometimes, in more ways than one.

A recent study from GOBankingRates.com tallies the cost of a mortgage not in dollars, but in working hours—the amount of time spent working needed to afford a mortgage.

“It’s one thing to know the amount of money you’re paying each month to cover your mortgage, but thinking of it in terms of working hours gives that expense a whole new meaning,” says Kristen Bonner, research lead on the study.

According to the study, the states with the least amount of working hours needed to afford a mortgage are:

1. Ohio (30.76 hours per month)
2. Michigan (32.44 hours)
3. Indiana (32.72 hours)
4. Iowa (33.81 hours)
5. Missouri (34.13 hours)
6. Kansas (34.16 hours)
7. Nebraska (36.04 hours)
8. Wisconsin (37.20 hours)
9. Pennsylvania (37.41 hours)
10. Minnesota (38.26 hours)

Notably, the study found that a low home price or low mortgage rate does not equate to fewer working hours needed to afford a mortgage.

Is paying a mortgage in your state more financially sensible than paying rent? Visit GOBankingRates.com/mortgage-rates/many-hours-americans-work-pay-mortgage-state/ or contact your local real estate professional for more insight.

Source: GOBankingRates.com
 

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Homework for Parents: A Back-to-School Health Checklist

August 15, 2016 12:09 am


Parents are stocking up on clothes, equipment and supplies ahead of the new school year—one item, however, may have slipped to the bottom of their to-do lists: their child(ren)’s health.

“For many, the focus is on back-to-school clothes and supplies, which is important,” says Dr. Jay Kaplan president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), “but it's equally, if not more, important to also take time to schedule routine doctor visits and to make sure your child's health information is organized.”

Parents still have time to get their child(ren)’s health in check, Kaplan says. According to ACEP, parents should:

• Schedule the child’s medical and dental check-ups before school starts. Consider vision and hearing tests, since impairment can adversely affect learning, and a sports check-up, if needed.

• Organize the child's medical history records and emergency medical contact information.

• Complete a consent-to-treat form* for the child and provide copies of it to the school nurse or day care provider.

• Coordinate with the child's physician and school nurse to develop action plans for issues such as asthma or food allergies.

• Review and practice with the child his or her route to school, explaining potential hazards along the way. Establish a safe, visible pick-up/drop-off area, preferably with a group of children.

• Post emergency contact numbers by every telephone in the home, and ensure the child knows where to locate them. Have the child practice how to call 911 and give his or her name and address, and a brief description of the issue.

• Develop a family emergency plan in case an incident occurs on the way to or from and while at school. Be aware of the emergency and evacuation plans for the child's school.

*To download a free form, visit www.emergencycareforyou.org/Be-Prepared/Organize-Your-Important-Medical-Information.

Source: American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

 

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Investing in Land? Don't Go at It Alone

August 15, 2016 12:09 am


(BPT)—Savvy investors know a diversified portfolio can protect against volatility in the market. Land ownership, especially forestland, can be one of the most advantageous investments during swings—but as with any other potential asset, it is important to begin with a few considerations.

According to Bird & Crawford Forestry (BirdandCrawford.com), some of these considerations include:

• When should you plant trees?
• How can you protect wildlife?
• How should you manage vegetation?
• Should you harvest any timber?

An expert forest consultant can assist in answering these questions—foresters offer broad-based knowledge about the characteristics of forestland and economics of timberland management, as well as sensitivity to the issues important to forestland owners. According to Bird & Crawford, forest consultants are experienced in management strategies, which include obtaining knowledge of the existing and/or potential natural resources on the property; developing plans for long-term upkeep, e.g., planting and/or harvesting schedules, conservation efforts, hunting lease management; and establishing goals for the property, e.g., protecting family assets.

A real estate professional specializing in forestland is also an important ally—he or she can assist in not only locating property, but also in determining the best investment course of action.

Hiring both of these professionals will not only widen the potential for profit in the near-term, but also help forge a lasting legacy for family in the future.

For more information on forestland investment, contact a real estate professional or visit BirdandCrawford.com.

Source: Bird & Crawford Forestry
 

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Ranking the Most Profitable Markets for Flips

August 15, 2016 12:09 am


Flipping houses is once again a viable avenue for investors, with last year seeing the most flippers in the market since before the recession. Investors in flipped houses currently average $55,000 in gross profit.

Some markets, however, offer returns that exceed the average—and then some. Personal finance website WalletHub.com recently ranked the most profitable markets for flips, where factors like median purchase price and remodeling costs lead to lucrative outcomes.

Pittsburgh, according to WalletHub’s ranking, posts the highest average gross return on flips at 129.5 percent—six times higher than Austin, Texas, which has the lowest average gross return at 21.2 percent.

Per the ranking, San Jose, Calif. has the highest median purchase price for flips at $580,000; Cleveland has the lowest at $45,000.

The lowest remodeling costs for flips are in Little Rock, Ark., averaging $75,888, according to WalletHub’s ranking. The highest remodeling costs are in Boston, at an average $377,598.

Weighing all factors, the top 20 in the ranking are:

1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
2. Fort Wayne, Ind.
3. El Paso, Texas
4. Oklahoma City, Okla.
5. Lincoln, Neb.
6. Lubbock, Texas
7. Tampa, Fla.
8. New Orleans, La.
9. Boise, Idaho
10. Laredo, Texas
11. Tulsa, Okla.
12. Corpus Christi, Texas
13. Nashville, Tenn.
14. Peoria, Ariz.
15. Cape Coral, Fla.
16. Gilbert, Ariz.
17. Des Moines, Iowa
18. Pembroke Pines, Fla.
19. Springfield, Mo.
20. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Source: WalletHub.com
 

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The 10 Priciest Vacation Areas

August 12, 2016 12:03 am


Travel costs are high come peak season, but in some vacation areas, they exceed those of even the most expensive international destinations.

According to a recent CheapHotels.org survey, the priciest accommodations, at the basic cost level, are in:

• Saratoga Springs, N.Y. ($332 per night)
• Nantucket, Mass. ($329 per night)
• Montauk, N.Y. ($326 per night)
• Santa Monica, Calif. ($271 per night)
• Portland, Maine ($267 per night)

The Northeast markedly contains the majority of the most costly vacation accommodations, with visitors to Saratoga Springs spending an average $332 per night for the least expensive double room.

Cape May, N.J. ($246), Newport, R.I. ($234), Provincetown, Mass. ($232), Calistoga, Calif. ($227) and Beverly Hills, Calif. ($221) round out the top 10 vacation areas with the priciest accommodations, according to the survey.

Source: CheapHotels.org
 

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Veteran Homelessness Down by Half

August 12, 2016 12:03 am


Over the past five years, the amount of homeless veterans has dropped by close to 50 percent, marking significant progress in the Obama Administration’s initiative to end veteran homelessness. Less than 40,000 veterans are homeless, as of the beginning of this year.

The reduction comes as a result of the Opening Doors program, which involved the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and other agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

The HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program has been instrumental in the success of the initiative, as well as the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness charge, which has helped eradicate veteran homelessness in two states and nearly 30 communities to date.

“We have an absolute duty to ensure those who’ve worn our nation’s uniform have a place to call home,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a statement. “While we’ve made remarkable progress toward ending veteran homelessness, we still have work to do to make certain we answer the call of our veterans, just as they answered the call of our nation.”

HUD urges veterans who are experiencing homelessness (or are at risk of becoming homeless) to call 1-877-4AID-VET, or their local VA Medical Center.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
 

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Mortgage Rates Circle Low

August 12, 2016 12:03 am


Mortgage rates continue to circle historic lows, extending opportunity for homebuyers and refinancers, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), which found the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaging 3.45 percent.

“A surprisingly strong July jobs report showed 255,000 jobs added and 0.3 percent wage growth from last month, exceeding many experts’ expectations,” said Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement. “In response, the 10-Year Treasury yield rose to its highest level since June and the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased 2 basis points to 3.45 percent.”

According to the survey, the 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage averages 2.76 percent, and the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averages 2.74 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

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5 Ways to Start Saving Without Feeling the Pinch

August 11, 2016 2:03 am


Saving money is challenging when your sole focus is on paying the bills—but financial planners concede there are at least five ways to get savings underway, no matter your circumstances:

Start a Budget Based on Fact, Not Fantasy – The first step toward a workable budget (and savings plan) is knowing where your money goes. For 30 days, track every single daily expense, from paying the gas bill to picking up the dry cleaning to the ice cream cones you bought for the kids. Once you’ve added it all up, compare the total to your income.

Find and Trim the Fat – What can you live without? Cull any services you really don’t need—the all-inclusive cable plan, a rarely-used gym membership, a morning latte every day on the way to work.

Save Your Change – Get into the habit of emptying your pocket or purse each night into a piggy bank. You’ll never miss it, and you'll be amazed at how quickly the change adds up.

Boost Your Income – There are many ways to make extra pocket money these days, from getting a part-time job, to selling items on eBay, to participating in a paid online survey. You may even be able to channel your talents—photography, ad writing, Pie-baking, Babysitting—into a lucrative sideline.

Start with an Emergency Fund – Place your initial savings into an emergency fund. Determine a safe balance to work toward—once you've met that balance, move your savings into an interest-bearing account.
 

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