Christopher T. Hanna
 
Christopher T. Hanna
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown, PA 18104
Phone: 610-704-8316
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Fax: 267-354-6842
channa@remaxcentralinc.com
 
RE/MAX Central  

My Blog

5 Ways to Get–and Stay–Debt-Free

July 10, 2015 12:51 am

Part of the American Dream for many is financial independence. Even with an improving economy, several households still carry debt that can create challenges when seeking a loan, say the experts of the non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

“Excessive debt can harm relationships, ruin retirement plans, and limit the chances of taking out a car or home loan,” says ACCC President and CEO Steve Trumble. “No one scripts financial disarray as a part of their life plan. Fortunately, there is a way out from under the oppressive weight of debt. Make this the year you tighten up your own personal spending and sharpen your long-term money plans.”

Whether you are struggling to erase debt or want to maintain debt-free finances, the ACCC recommends the following:

1. Don’t live beyond your means. You can’t always control the amount of money you make, but you can control the money you spend. One way to avoid overspending is to carry cash instead of a debit or credit card. It's harder to overspend when you carry cash. Unlike credit or debit cards, which can go over the limit or into a negative balance, you can't slide past zero when you carry cash. If you decide to carry a card, limit spending to only what you can afford to pay off at the end of the month.

2. Pay more towards your monthly minimum. If you are struggling to pay off a credit card with a high interest rate, make sure to pay more towards your monthly minimum. One way to quickly plan out your payments is to use an online debt payoff calculator to give yourself an idea of the date in which you will be finished paying it off.

3. Invest in the future. One of the best ways to plan a financially free future is to save toward your own retirement through an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. If you don't participate, you're missing a golden opportunity to save for retirement while lowering your tax burden on those savings.

4. Keep an emergency fund. Always prepare for an emergency. Set aside a portion of each paycheck and save a minimum of 9-12 months of expenses in a separate interest-earning account. The funds will help cover expenses in the event of a job loss, car accident, house repairs or other unforeseen events.

5. Insure yourself.
Even if your job does not supply it, make sure your medical, disability, home and automobile insurance policies are in order. Disaster could take any form – a car breaks down, a major home fire, or an automobile accident that leads to pricey legal action. Insurance gives you peace of mind. With it, you know that if anything happens to you, your family or your business that you will be financially secure.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Overseas Volatility Pushes Mortgage Rates Down

July 10, 2015 12:51 am

Mortgage rates recently dropped in response to global uncertainty, helping to keep buyer activity strong toward the close of the homebuying season, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®).

The results of the survey found the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaging 4.04 percent, and the 15-year FRM averaging 3.20 percent. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.93 percent. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.50 percent.

"Yields on Treasury securities declined this week in response to investor concerns about events in Greece and China,” explains Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “Mortgage rates fell as well, although not by as much as government bond yields.

“Overseas volatility is likely to persist for some time, providing some restraint on potential U.S. rate increases. In addition, the minutes of the June meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee suggest the Federal Reserve will proceed cautiously–monitoring events both overseas and in the U.S. to ascertain the appropriate moment to begin raising short-term interest rates. As a result, mortgage rates may remain in the neighborhood of 4 percent for a while."

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Aging in Place Remodels Most Popular

July 10, 2015 12:51 am

As the housing market continues its recovery, homeowners are increasingly seeking more square footage and accessibility in and out of the home, suggesting an aging in place trend, reports a recent American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey. Popular design requests by homeowners also include single-floor plans and informal, open-space layouts.

“An increase in home square footage with the rising popularity of accessible design concepts points to a population that is preparing to age-in-place, or, perhaps, is anticipating responsibility for caretaking of older relatives in the future,” says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “As homeowners prepare to stay in their current homes, investment in outdoor living spaces has also increased.”

In outdoor spaces, homeowners most covet low-irrigation landscaping, exterior security lighting and blended indoor-outdoor living, according to the survey.

The remodeling industry as a whole has seen a slight uptick in the last year, particularly when it comes to remodeling custom or luxury homes, move-up homes, second homes or vacation homes. First-time homes and affordable homes saw little increase in remodeling. Kitchen and bathroom projects, as well as projects in townhouses and condos, remained relatively unchanged.

Source: AIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is That Garden Guest a Friend or Foe?

July 9, 2015 2:48 am

It pays to know what’s what in your backyard. According to Gardener’s Supply experts, crawling, buzzing, flying and diving insects can either be pests or pollinators, and it’s important to know the difference.

Often mistaken for a paper wasp, hornet or bumblebee, the honeybee is responsible for pollinating flowers and food alike and should be a welcome guest in your garden. Honeybees generally don’t sting unless threatened.

Yellow jackets, however, are much more likely to sting without provocation, but they also do good for your garden – yellow jackets feed on pest insects including houseflies, caterpillars and grasshoppers.

If a yellow jacket appears threatening, hang a lantern-style object that looks like a wasp's nest to trick it into splitting the scene.

Source: Gardener’s Supply Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Tips for Choosing a Locksmith

July 9, 2015 2:48 am

When it comes to service industries, the best deals aren’t always best for consumers – and security services are certainly worth the cost. One security service homeowners may call upon is the help of a locksmith, but it’s important to seek out a reputable and reliable professional. According to America’s Lock experts, here’s how.

1. Consider dealing with a local company
that has roots in the community they serve. A local locksmith service is preferable to national chains who may farm out work. This is also an excellent way to reduce the wait time and travel expenses.

2. Check references; ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers who they used and check on-line reviews.

3. Make sure that the locksmith can perform the job.
Some locksmiths may be great for an automotive lock-out emergency, but they may not do residential work. Check the company's website or Yellow Pages.

4. Ask for an address
(this may not apply to a mobile locksmith service) and check to see that it is a legitimate address. It is really important to check the signage of a mobile locksmith vehicle. A reputable company will have good signage on service vehicle.

5. Make sure that the company is licensed and check to see what professional organizations the locksmith company belongs to. Always ask for proper identification and check it with the locksmith office. Make sure that the company runs background and criminal checks on their employees.

6. Always use a company that is fully insured and bonded.
This will protect your property should something go wrong.

7. Always ask for proper identification and check it with the locksmith office.

8. Get a written estimate. A telephone estimate should be available in an emergency, but make sure that the telephone estimate and the one you receive in writing are the same. Ask for all charges, including travel charges, minimum fees and after-hours work. Never sign a blank work authorization form.

Source: America’s Lock

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeless Fare Better with Housing Vouchers

July 9, 2015 2:48 am

Homeless families offered housing vouchers experience significantly better outcomes than families assigned other options, according to findings from a recent report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The report reveals families offered a Housing Choice Voucher are less likely to experience housing instability than others offered community-based rapid re-housing, project-based transitional housing, or “usual care,” such as an extended stay in an emergency shelter.

“The results of this study demonstrate the wide-ranging benefits of supporting families experiencing homelessness with stable and enduring rental assistance—such as the assistance provided through our Housing Choice Voucher Program,” says HUD Assistant Secretary of Policy Development and Research Kathy O’Regan. “We will continue to study the efficacy of these interventions to see if the longer term outcomes mirror those we see in the short term.”

According to the report, emergency shelter programs have the highest average per-family monthly costs of approximately $4,800, compared to transitional housing at $2,700, a voucher at $1,160 per month, and rapid re-housing at $880 per month.

An estimated 150,000 U.S. families experience homelessness each year. Intervention options offered include a permanent housing subsidy (generally the Housing Choice Voucher), which assists with locating housing but does not offer additional supportive services; community-based rapid re-housing, which provides temporary rental assistance and limited services; project-based transitional housing, which provides temporary housing in agency-controlled units and intensive services; and “usual care,” which is defined as any housing or services a family accesses in the absence of immediate referral to other interventions.

Source: HUD.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Personal Data Has Been Compromised – Now What?

July 8, 2015 12:21 am

When larger organizations face a breach of their customer or employee data, they often offer free credit monitoring services to affected individuals. If you are faced with a personal data compromise and don’t receive this offer, there are still several options to help you recover from a personally identifiable information (PII) breach, say the experts at Wombat Security Technologies.

It’s important to be proactive about minimizing the impact of breach, whether yours is one of many compromised records or you are the victim of a limited-scope breach. With the latter, if you have the motive and the means to enroll in a credit monitoring service on your own dime, it could be well worth the peace of mind to know that someone is looking out for you. Regardless, the following do-it-yourself activities will help you mitigate some of the damage caused by a breach -- as well as prevent future damage.

If you’ve been alerted to an account breach -- or you suspect you’ve fallen for a phishing email that prompted you to reveal credentials for a login-protected site like webmail, online banking, or social media -- change your password posthaste. If you happen to use that same password on other sites, be sure to update those logins as well. Hackers will often cross-check stolen passwords on multiple sites in hopes of getting a hit.

For cases in which you personally discover or suspect a data security breach, contact the help lines for affected accounts right away. Be sure to use trusted customer service channels, such as phone numbers from your credit cards or billing statements.

In many cases, it’s not just account numbers that hackers and scammers scoop up. They often grab names, email addresses, and phone numbers to use in follow-up attacks. In these attacks, fraudsters will put together multiple pieces of information they have about individuals to make their messages and calls seem more legitimate and more believable. It’s important to be on high alert once you know your data is already in the hands of hackers.

With all the ado about cyber security attacks, it can be easy to become complacent about snail mail. But consider the prior point about email addresses and phone numbers and you’ll see that the leap to a mail-based attack isn’t hard to make. If scammers obtain your name, address, and other identifying information, it can be easy for them to send compelling and seemingly genuine letters, bills, payment notices and other mailers. It’s critical that you verify the validity of unsolicited mail that asks for any type of remittance.

Source: WombatSecurity.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Freezer Hacks That Save Money

July 8, 2015 12:21 am

(Family Features) Did you know $165 billion in unconsumed food is wasted every year? A little planning – and these freezer hacks – can help lessen waste and save your hard-earned dollars, say the experts at Frigidaire. Here’s what you can do.

1. Make Room to Save More – Consumers annually save $750 on their food bill when buying in bulk. An additional freezer provides more storage space, giving you the flexibility to store larger quantities of food out of the way while you keep items for immediate use close by.

2. Designate a Meal Prep Day – You can ensure you always have healthy, home-cooked meals on hand by taking a few hours once a week to prep and cook your meals. Meals that you'll eat early in the week can be kept in the fridge until mealtime. Dishes you plan to eat later in the week can be placed in storage containers and frozen until use. After some practice, you'll be able to work efficiently and prep meals that work best for your family.

3. Prepare for the Unexpected
– Power outages can and do happen. Your freezer can be your biggest ally to combat food and money loss due to unexpected and uncontrollable events. To protect the investment you made in your family's meal plan, purchase a freezer with thicker walls that will keep foods frozen for an extended period of time.

4. Find a Bulk Buddy
– While you may not need a 10-pound bag of cheese, you probably have a friend or neighbor who would split the cost with you. Make it a date – buy in bulk together, then split the goods with the proper food storage containers.

5. End Freezer Burn – Reduce excess air in storage bags or containers, which toughens textures and worsens flavors. Note, however, that you'll need to leave space in containers that hold soup or sauce as liquid expands when frozen and could potentially crack your storage containers.

Source: Frigidaire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Benefits of Log Home Living

July 8, 2015 12:21 am

The American household has a long and storied history of log home living, but today’s log home construction is far from that of past. According to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Log and Timber Homes Council (LTHC), log homes today boast features found in contemporary construction.

"Log homes vary in size and style from tiny cabins in the woods to grand, multi-million dollar estates. There are no limits to what log home construction can provide,” says Log and Timber Homes Council Chairman Mark Elliott of Coventry Log Homes in Woodsville, N.H.

There are numerous practical benefits of log homeownership, especially for those interested in a green home. The modern manufacturing process uses every portion of the log, resulting in far less waste on the job site than conventional construction. The waste that is created is typically turned into mulch or sawdust that then can be converted into fuel. There are also fewer manmade materials in a log home than a conventional one.

Log homes also can be highly energy-efficient due to the fact that the logs used are solid and uninterrupted, coupled with the modern sealant materials and building techniques. Logs absorb heat energy during the day and radiate it at night to even out the temperature. This principle, called “thermal mass,” can make occupants feel more comfortable while using less energy over the life of the home.

To ensure the highest quality log home, homebuyers should seek out companies that are members of the LTHC. These log home professionals abide by a strict code of ethics, provide free information to consumers, grade their logs and timbers by third party agencies to ensure structural integrity, provide detailed construction manuals to ensure correct construction techniques, and sponsor studies that advance log building technologies.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to 'Gamify' Your Yard

July 7, 2015 12:21 am

Did you know that nearly half of U.S. homeowners host outdoor activities and games in their backyards? All that outdoor fun can wreak havoc on your grass or turf, say TruGreen experts. Here, TruGreen shares three ways you can ‘gamify’ your yard without sacrificing a lush lawn.

1. With plenty of inspiration online, personalized, DIY games are gaining popularity in American households. One way to do this is with a backyard bowling set made of empty soda or juice bottles, a little water and a soccer ball. If you happen to spill paint on your lawn while adding color to the bottles, rinse it off immediately before it seeps into the soil. Not doing so can deprive the leaf blade of precious sunlight.

2. From corn hole to volleyball, team-based games can foster fun and friendly competition among family, friends and neighbors. To boost that sense of team spirit in your neighborhood, host a classic kickball game with homemade scoreboards. If all that running and sliding disrupts your lawn, take care to re-seed those areas come springtime.

3. Water-based activities are a summer staple. Create your own wet zone in your backyard with a water balloon toss or sprinkler party. If your lawn becomes saturated during the fun, adjust your watering schedule and irrigation pattern to avoid the areas that are overly-wet.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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