Cheryl A. Snyder
Phone:  610-346-7908Office:  215-538-4400
Email:  csnyder@remax440.comCell:  215-801-0583Fax:  267-354-6905
Cheryl A. Snyder
Cheryl A. Snyder

Cheryl's Blog

How Much Should New Homeowners Set Aside for Repairs?

May 5, 2016 12:49 am

Owning a home comes with its fair share of expenses, including mortgage and insurance payments and maintenance costs, but how much can a new homeowner reasonably expect to spend on unexpected repairs?

"My recommendation for homeowners is to take a few simple precautions before moving into their home," says Marianne Cusato, HomeAdvisor.com. "Complete a sewer inspection, check that the insurance policy covers water damage, and set money aside for home emergency projects. Homeowners should plan on spending 1 percent of their home's purchase price on repairs and emergencies each year."

According to HomeAdvisor.com data, more than half of homeowners encountered unexpected home projects within the first year of owning a home. More than half also spent more time on projects than originally anticipated, and less than half spent more money than anticipated.

The most frequently cited emergency projects include blocked toilets and pipes, a clogged drain, a broken heating or cooling system and water leaks. These unexpected repairs can cost homeowners anywhere from $199 to $2,068.

In the first year of homeownership, most new homeowners tend to focus on improvements that increase curb appeal, such as installing landscaping, a sprinkler system, wood fence or deck. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost of these outdoor projects is $12,850.

Source: HomeAdvisor.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Report: Retirees Happy "Just Getting By"

May 4, 2016 2:49 am

Despite economic progress, many retirees are still feeling the aftershocks of the recession—but that hasn’t dampened their spirits.

“Many American retirees are still recovering from the Great Recession while managing their households with modest retirement incomes,” explains Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS), which recently released a “State of Retirement” compendium. “The good news is that most retirees are enjoying life, but the concerning news is that many may be ill-equipped to deal with a financial shock, such as the possible need for long-term care.

“As a society, we frequently speak of the need for workers to save and prepare for retirement,” Collinson continues. “Unfortunately, the conversation often ends once people stop working and retire, which is when it becomes even more critical for them to have a financial plan that can last their lifetimes.”

Over one-third of retirees included in the TCRS compendium have only “somewhat” recovered from the recession—a finding reflected in the “just getting by” mentality prevalent in the report. Other financial priorities cited in the compendium include paying off a mortgage, saving for retirement and paying off credit card debt.

Retirees today are living on a modest income: a median of $32,000, according to the TCRS compendium. Social Security is the top source of retirement income, followed by savings and investments, company-funded pension plans, and 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs. Most retirees began collecting Social Security benefits at 62 years old.

Still, current retirees expect a long retirement, filled with meaningful activities outside of employment. These include spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, traveling, volunteering and caring for grandchildren.

Overall, the vast majority of retirees included in the compendium are “generally happy,” “enjoying life,” and “have a strong sense of purpose.”

Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies

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What Can Homeowners Do to Prevent the Spread of Zika?

May 4, 2016 2:49 am

Mounting concern over Zika and other mosquito-borne viruses has yet to motivate homeowners to take preventative measures, recent reports show, despite the urgency of the outbreak.

“Unlike Chikungunya and West Nile virus, Zika has been identified as a world health crisis,” says Scott Zide, co-founder of Mosquito Squad. “Removal of standing water is the most essential tactic in mosquito elimination, yet homeowners aren’t actively removing it, which is surprising given mosquito concerns are so high.

“Although Zika has yet to be transmitted by mosquitoes in the U.S., public health experts do expect that it soon will,” Zide adds, “and we're encouraging homeowners to walk their yards to check for ways to eliminate mosquitoes.”

Zide recommends these tips:

Stretch tarps taut. If you have items on your property covered by tarps, ensure they are stretched taut with bungee cords to eliminate the possibility of water accumulating. Inspect tarps over boats, grills, firewood piles, recycling cans and sports equipment, especially.

Toss any debris, including lawn clippings, leaves and twigs. Debris of any size can provide a prime breeding spot.

Tip over anything the collects or holds water. Since mosquitoes breed in standing water, dumping the water decreases their breeding ground. Yards with bird baths, catch basins, play sets, portable fire pits or fireplaces and tree houses are the most common collectors.

Turn over anything that holds water or trash. Items such as empty pots, light fixtures, pet bowls, plastic toys, plant saucers, portable sandboxes, or slides should be turned over or removed, if possible, to reduce risk.

Treat your home. A professional mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard can reduce the need for a DEET-containing spray.

Take care of your home. Regularly assess and clean out gutters, ensuring downspouts are attached properly. Frequently check irrigation systems for leaks, and keep your lawn trimmed and weed-free.

Talk to your neighbors. Homes in proximity to others, like those in developments or townhomes, may be at risk more so than those with more acreage. Discuss your concerns with your neighbors, and offer to assist with mosquito-repelling tasks as needed.

Source: Mosquito Squad

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Tornado Watch? 8 Safety Tips for Homeowners

May 4, 2016 2:49 am

Tornadoes threaten the safety of millions of homeowners, as well as damage to property, each year. Residents of areas in the path of the twister must be proactive ahead of its touch-down, starting with the following steps, courtesy of the Red Cross:

1. Build a disaster kit with enough supplies for at least three days. This kit should include:

• Battery-Powered or Hand-Crank Radio
• Copies of Important Documents
• Extra Batteries
• First-Aid Kit
• Flashlight
• Medications
• Multi-Purpose Tool
• Non-Perishable Food
• Sanitation/Hygiene Items
• Water

2. Develop an emergency plan in which each person knows how to reach other members of the household. Include an out-of-area emergency contact person in the plan, and designate a meeting area should you be unable to return home.

3. Select a safe room, preferably a basement, storm cellar or other window-less interior room on the lowest floor. Be sure all members of the household are aware of its location.

4. Move outdoor structures, such as hanging plants, lawn furniture or trash cans, inside to prevent wind-caused damage.

5. Watch for signs of a pending storm, such as darkening skies, green-ish clouds, hail and wind. If you can hear thunder, you may be at risk for lightning damage. Remember: If thunder roars, head indoors.

6. Know your community’s warning system, and be alert for its signals. Stay abreast of the latest information regarding the storm by listening to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio or your local news.

When a tornado hits:

• Go to the designated safe room, or an underground shelter. If you live in a mobile home, go to the nearest sturdy building. Do not seek shelter in the mobile home’s bathroom or hallway.

• If caught outdoors, seek shelter in a vehicle. Buckle your seat belt and try driving to the nearest sturdy building. Keep your head down below the windows, if possible. If you can, drive to an area lower than the level of the roadway, exit the vehicle and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

For more tornado safety tips, visit the Red Cross online at www.RedCross.org.
 
Source: American Red Cross

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Have Tips, Will Travel: Stay Healthy on the Road This Summer

May 3, 2016 12:49 am

‘Tis the season for summer travel—unless a health crisis derails your plans.

Of all the factors to consider when planning a trip, you are the most important, says Dr. Christopher Sanford, travel health expert and author of The Merck Manuals, a medical resource for practitioners and consumers.

“When preparing for a trip, most travelers closely consider hotels, restaurants and itineraries, but few plan for health contingencies,” says Dr. Sanford, who operates a travel clinic at the University of Washington. “Travelers should consult with their primary care doctor to make sure they're up to date on routine and travel immunizations.

“There are also some basic rules of thumb that travelers should keep in mind before every trip,” Dr. Sandford adds:

1. Pack a travel kit.

A basic travel kit should contain first-aid supplies, pain relievers, decongestants, antacids, antibiotics, hydrocortisone cream and an antibiotic cream. Pack any medicine you've used in the past year, and keep all medications in the original pharmacy packaging to avoid questions at security. Bring these on board instead of checking them in your luggage—you don't want your medications to end up on a different continent!

2. Gather medical documents.

Keep a full list of regular medications handy while you're traveling. If you have a chronic condition, bring copies of recent medical records. If you have a heart condition, for example, you may benefit from having had a recent EKG if you end up in the emergency room with chest pain on your trip.

3. Activate and hydrate.

If you'll be traveling in a cramped plane, train or car, you may be at risk for clots forming from long periods of inactivity. Reduce this risk by taking frequent breaks to walk and stretch, or even by doing simple calf movements and exercises in your seat. If you'll be flying to your destination, don't skip the beverage cart—dehydration is exacerbated by dry air and can lead to fatigue, headaches and digestive issues.

4. Eat and drink right.

Evaluate the safety of local food in any country you visit—digestive issues are common throughout the developing world, for instance. Although it's not possible to eliminate the risk entirely, if you're traveling to a low-income area, try to avoid consuming food from roadside stands, ice, raw foods, salads and tap water.

5. Manage stress.

Airports and train stations can be high-stress environments, so get there early to avoid a last-minute rush to your gate or platform. If you're traveling with family and expecting prolonged contact with family members you don't see very often, plan regular breaks. Taking time to exercise or just have down time will reduce stress commonly associated with large family gatherings, as will eight hours of sleep per night.

Source: The Merck Manuals

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DIY and ROI: Pricing the Cost and Value of Garage Doors

May 3, 2016 12:49 am

Is that home improvement really worth its cost? New garage doors may be!

According to ContractorQuotes.us, a Web-based contractor referral service, a garage door replacement can increase your home’s value by an average of $1,410. The project costs an average of $1,595, recouping 88.4 percent of your investment.

One pitfall, however, can skew those numbers unfavorably. Homeowners should avoid making these common mistakes when selecting new garage doors, the site advises:

• Selecting a style that clashes with your home – Like the front door, garage doors are visible to passersby. Choose a design that complements your home’s exterior style.

• Neglecting the weather – Are strong winds common in your area? If so, make sure to select a solid garage door that withstands the elements.

• Installing a garage door without insulation – Insulated garage doors attached to the home lend greater energy-efficiency overall. They keep both cold and warm weather out, resulting in less expense on heating and cooling.

• Forgoing a professional – Seek the help of a professional to install the new doors. Dealing with the springs can be dangerous for inexperienced homeowners.

The site features more data related to other home improvements, as well, including how much you can expect to pay for a project, as well as how much of that investment you can expect to regain.

In our next segment, we'll take a look at the value of replacing entry doors. ‘Till then!

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Hoping to Buy a Home? 3 Ways to Up Your Credit Game

May 3, 2016 12:49 am

Planning to purchase a home in the next year? Don’t let poor credit dash your hopes!

Subprime credit—generally between 300 and 600 on the VantageScore scale—can inhibit a buyer’s ability to secure a mortgage. Recent research from TransUnion®, one of the three major credit bureaus, shows many first-time buyers, particularly millennials, are lacking in the credit department: 43 percent of would-be millennial buyers surveyed by the agency have a subprime credit score.

“Credit scores are a crucial component of the home-buying process, impacting everything from the size of a mortgage payment to the interest rate on a home loan,” says Ken Chaplin, TransUnion’s senior vice president. “People with subprime credit may face financial barriers to homeownership, making it difficult for their dream home to become a reality.

“The home-buying process begins well before you start looking for real estate,” adds Chaplin. “A credit score, which significantly impacts the home financing process, is built on good spending habits and a pattern of responsible borrowing established over a lifetime.”

To better your financial circumstances—and your chances of being approved for a mortgage—Chaplin advises the following tips:

Check your credit report first. Mortgage lenders will look at your credit report and score when you apply for a mortgage. To catch issues before they do, check your report three months before starting the home-buying process. Bear in mind your credit score is built over a lifetime of spending. Keep an eye on your score and track how your spending habits affect it.

Build credit. Those with low or no credit must build a healthy credit score. This includes paying all bills on time each month and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, which is a ratio of how much credit you use out of your available credit limit. Other ways to build credit include factoring existing payments into your report, such as student loans (automatically included) and rent.

Do your homework. Research mortgages and interest rates. While placing a larger down payment will lower your monthly mortgage payment, don’t put down more than you can afford. Keep in mind, also, that you will need money for closing costs, including a home inspection, before you can purchase your home.

Remember, Chaplin says, that improving your credit can take time. If your finances aren’t in shape for a home now, that doesn’t mean homeownership isn’t a realistic goal for the future. Keep an open mind!

Source: TransUnion®

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Money Tree: 3 Tips to Grow Healthy Financial Roots

May 2, 2016 2:46 am

Many of us are so out of shape financially, we pull a muscle just thinking about saving money, former Wall Street insider Eric McWhinnie observes. In fact, according to a recent study, just 37 percent of us have enough money saved to cover one of life’s unexpected expenses—no money trees here!

If McWhinnie’s observation seems too close for comfort, shore up your financial roots with these tips.

1. Pay Yourself First – After paying bills first for most of your life, it can be tough to break the habit. Instead of paying yourself last—assuming there is anything left over at the end of a pay period—start paying yourself first. Use an automatic deposit plan to draw 10 percent out of every paycheck and deposit it into savings before you pay the bills. Chances are, you won’t even miss it.

2. Track Your Spending – We tend to ignore our financial health in favor of convenience. Tracking every dollar you spend for at least one month will show you exactly where you could—and should—cut expenses. In turn, look at your fixed expenses, and start negotiating with service providers (think auto insurance or cable) for better rates.

3. Make Your Own Rules – Personal finance is aptly named. You get to decide what’s best. Recognize the insight that sound financial advice can give you, but bend it to make it work for you. Pundits advise, for example, spending around 30 percent of your income on housing, but you may be able to spend less than that and save the difference. The “rules” are to avoid credit cards, but if you use them responsibly, you can benefit from the cash-back, air miles or other perks they offer.

Above all, the key, says McWhinnie, is to set your goals and then find the best ways to meet them. With that philosophy in mind, you’ll have a money tree ripe for financial health—on your terms.

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Fight the Mold: Must-Know Prevention Tips

May 2, 2016 2:46 am

Mold is both hazardous to health and damaging to property. Identifying and removing it can be challenging for homeowners without experience in remediation and restoration.

“Mold isn't something most people think about until they experience it in their own home,” says Peter Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore and The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). “It's important to beat mold at its own game. This means taking steps to prevent mold from growing, or calling in an expert right away to stop mold in its tracks once it begins to grow in your home.” 

Many homeowners wrongly believe they can eliminate mold with bleach.

“Many retail products will change how mold looks, and you might think it's gone because you don't see it,” Duncanson explains. “The only way to get rid of mold completely and safely—and to be sure you're protecting your property and health from additional risk—is to have trained professionals physically remove it from the affected area.”

Duncanson says there are many steps homeowners can take before the need arises for a professional. These are:

• Eliminate food sources. Vacuum frequently to keep dust—a primary mold food source—to a minimum. Bear in mind that plants and terrariums may also be sources.

• Ensure adequate airflow and reduce moisture. To control ventilation and lessen moisture in the bathroom, open the door and windows or run an exhaust fan while showering. Invest in a dehumidifier for the remaining rooms in the home, if possible. You may need more than one if you live in a large home.

• Clean vents. Each month, clean HVAC baseboards and/or floorboards and bathroom vents with a HEPA-filtration vacuum. If you spot a section of mold, do not use the vacuum to remove it—this can exacerbate the issue.

If you come across larger swaths of mold, refrain from using a fan to dry it out—this can release spores into other areas of your home. To prevent costlier damage, call a professional as soon as possible.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore

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The 3 Ds of Staging

May 2, 2016 2:46 am

(BPT)—Staging your home ensures a speedy, profitable sale—if the senses are considered. Prospective buyers interpret a potential home through all of their receptors, and that includes senses like sight and smell.

To stage to this effect, remember the three Ds:

Deep-Clean the Selling Points

Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes—but they must be immaculate to do so. In the kitchen, clean inside appliances that are staying put: the dishwasher, oven and refrigerator. Replace the filter in the range hood, if you have one, and polish windowpanes to a sparkling finish. In the bathrooms, de-scale glass shower doors and showerheads and scrub the grout. Clean metal drain grates, and add in a few drops of sweet-smelling essential oils to maintain a “freshly-cleaned” aroma.

Deter Odors

Most households have their own unique scent, likely indistinguishable to the seller, but potentially a turn-off to buyers. Neutralize smells, malodorous or otherwise, with a naturally-derived fragrance, such as lemon or eucalyptus. If possible, warm up a buyer-friendly combination of scents (think cinnamon, clove, orange and vanilla) on the stove just before a showing—it’s low-cost, fast, and heightens the “welcome home” atmosphere.

De-Clutter “Invisible” Areas

Many sellers fall into the trap of staging only the “visible” areas of their home—but a discerning buyer will look at the “invisible,” too, such as cabinets, closets, drawers and the garage. Disorganized, full-to-bursting invisible areas can read cheap, cramped or poor-quality to buyers, which can lead to low-ball offers, or, worse, no offers at all. De-cluttering is particularly paramount in the garage, where buyers are seeking a sense of spaciousness. If your garage is loaded with moving boxes, consider storing them in a rental unit while your home is on the market.

Source: Aura Cacia

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