RE/MAX 440
David J Feinberg

David J Feinberg
4789 Route 309  Center Valley  PA 18034
Phone:  610-509-4358
Office:  610-791-4400
Fax:  610-791-9575

My Blog

Don't Get Burned By Furnace Repair Scams

January 21, 2013 6:50 am

By John Voket

I often write about improving your energy efficiency by selecting the right heating source and keeping it maintained in top performing condition. But this means possibly exposing yourself to furnace-cleaning scams, which are becoming a growing concern according to the Better Business Bureau.

While most furnace repair and oil company furnace maintenance services are honest, reputable and fair, others use fraud and scare tactics to get consumers to pay for new heating systems, even when they are functioning properly according to a recent report.

BBB offers these tips to help avoid getting fleeced by a furnace repair scam:

Always get a second or third opinion as to whether repairs or replacement are needed. All bids should be in writing and provide a full description of services provided and materials used.

When considering a bid, compare more than cost. Check the size and efficiency rating of the equipment each bidder proposes, and then ask how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. If you are told your furnace must be replaced because it is too small, think back to whether it has ever failed to properly heat your home.

Check the warranty on your heating system. Many of them come with long-term warranties.

If you determine repairs or replacement is necessary, select a contractor with a solid reputation for dependable, reasonably priced work.

In some cases, a serviceman may claim that your furnace has cracks inside, or is leaking dangerous fumes, and may write a report or estimate that stipulates “System unfit for safe operation. Unit shut off and left off.”

Soot on surfaces, on carpets and around air inlets is an indication of a malfunctioning unit, but may be caused by an old gasket rather than cracks in the furnace itself.

Finally, ask friends, neighbors and family members for recommendations, and check out any company you’d like to hire at www.bbb.org for a Business Review.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey Reveals Pet Owners Are Confused about Dog and Cat Nutrition

January 21, 2013 6:50 am

A recent petMD survey on the topic of pet nutrition revealed confusion among pet owners regarding the nutritional needs of dogs and cats. While 57 percent of respondents rightfully look to pet food labels for information about the ingredients in their pets' food, what is written on the labels is often misinterpreted.
"Understanding how to feed our pets properly is critical to their well-being," states Dr. Jennifer Coates, a spokesperson for petMD. "This knowledge gap is worrisome, but also represents an opportunity for improving the health and longevity of our beloved companion animals."

The survey's key findings include:
Misunderstood Terms: A majority of survey respondents said they believe that animal hair, teeth and hooves are included in meat by-products, when in fact, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) expressly prohibits these body parts from being included in a by-product used in pet food.

The Importance of Feeding Trials: While the majority of pet owners look to the label to learn about ingredients, they fail to look for other key quality information. According to the petMD survey, only 22 percent of respondents check to see if the diet has undergone a feeding trial. All AAFCO approved pet foods must display a statement indicating how the pet food manufacturer determined that particular diet would meet the needs of pets. This can be done in one of two ways: via a computer program or by actually feeding the food to dogs or cats. According to Coates, "feeding trials are a far superior method for determining whether or not pets will thrive on a particular diet."

Misidentifying Potential Allergies: More than 40 percent of respondents cited grain ingredients as the most common allergens in pet food, with more than 30 percent specifically implicating corn. However, some studies have shown that the protein or meat source in pet food is far and away the biggest culprit.

An Under-appreciation of Balanced Nutrition: Sixty-nine percent of respondents recognized that protein is a key nutrient for pets, yet only two percent named fats, three percent named carbohydrates, and less than 25 percent named vitamins and minerals. "To satisfy all the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, pet foods must provide all of these ingredients in the right balance," states Coates. "Too much of one or too little of another can be harmful to a pet's health.

Skepticism of Label Accuracy: More than 70 percent of pet owners surveyed believe pet food labels do not list all of the ingredients; however, AAFCO regulations mandate that every ingredient contained within a pet food be included in the ingredient list, in order from the biggest to the smallest contributor, by weight.

Misconceptions surrounding pet food and canine and feline nutrition can lead owners to make ill-informed choices about what to feed their companions. Veterinarians are the best source of information about what to feed pets. They can take into consideration a pet's unique combination of life stage, lifestyle, and health to make individualized diet recommendations.

Source: petMD

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Emergency Tactics to Get Rid of Your Home

January 21, 2013 6:50 am

Sometimes life throws you curveballs that put a chink in your plan—a job transfer, divorce, major illness or other unexpected urgency that needs attending. If you need to get rid of your home in a hurry, Bankrate offers these three suggestions.

A short sale or deed-in-lieu is the first option. A short sale allows the homeowner to sell for less than the amount owned on the mortgage. This may make your property appealing to homebuyers, but the downside is that your lender must approve it and transactions like these typically aren’t fast. A short sale could even take up to a year or longer.

If you are still struggling to sell, but don’t want to put your house on the market, you can try to negotiate a deed-in-lieu with your lender. With a deed-in-lieu, you sign over your ownership of the house to the lender to avoid foreclosure, but again, the possibility of this depends on the details of your situation and the lender’s permission to do so.

Both of these will hurt your credit score, and the lender may still be able to force you to repay some of the unpaid loan, even after the sale or loss of the house.

A strategic default occurs when a homeowner abruptly decides to stop payments because the home’s value has fallen dramatically below the loan balance. However, if time is a factor, a strategic default probably isn’t the answer. This option could also take a year or longer, depending on state laws and how quickly the lender is able to sell the repossessed home. The option is not without consequences though—tax consequences, ruined credit and difficulty getting a new mortgage loan are all inevitable.

You can also simply give the house away. The easiest and fastest way to unload your property is to give it away as a gift. The most common scenario is to give it to another family member. An attorney is still recommended, as is an appraisal, but gifting your house is a much quicker alternative than a short sale. This way, the entire extended family can still enjoy the property and it gets you out of your emergency bind.

By using one of these three options, you can unload your property in the most efficient way possible and move on with your life. Consult a professional real estate agent in your area to discuss what makes the best sense for you.

Source: Bankrate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Problems Caused by Winter Weather

January 18, 2013 6:48 am

Winter is in full swing, and because of it, some homes may need slight repair. Here are five problems generally caused by harsh winters and tips for how you can help alleviate the issues.

Leaky roofs are a huge problem for many homeowners every winter season. Search your home for signs of water damage or discoloration. Be sure to check all ceilings in addition to the siding under roof eaves. Inspect rafters for stains and check in the roof, around chimneys and also near skylights. Fixing leaks is a job best left for professionals. If you choose to hire a pro, have them inspect for missing shingles or other roofing issues you may be unaware of. Fixing a roof is critically important if you're planning on selling soon. If the damage is severe enough, look into your homeowner's insurance policy and see if some of that damage can be covered.

Clearing out gutters is a less severe, though just as important task. Make sure that water can properly flow through and out of your gutters. Also, check for areas of separation or corrosion. These spots will need to be fixed immediately. Gutter guards can be added for the most extreme cases.

In relation to damaged roofs and leaky gutters, decks should also be checked for safety's sake. Look for stains or other areas where wood may be decaying. Decaying wood weakens the deck's structure. Examine the area where the deck connects to the house, and remove any moss or mold. If there is any sort of extensive wood damage, a pro should be hired to repair the issue. Depending on the age of your deck, a replacement may be warranted. Either way, confirming the structural integrity of your deck is imperative for your family's safety.

Cracked foundations can also be a result of a rough winter. Cracks should be marked and observed over time. If the area worsens, then it's time to call for help. Make sure that the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house. For minor repairs, an epoxy injection could do the trick. For holes in siding and foundation walls, expandable foam might be the better choice. A structural expert would know the best solution.

Re-evaluating your home and searching for needed repairs is a great way to keep your home in tip-top shape, and the safety added as a result will be invaluable.

Source: Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Drivers Could be Stuck in an Emergency if They Only Have Junk in their Trunk

January 18, 2013 6:48 am

Finding yourself stranded in your car due to treacherous conditions only to discover you have junk in the trunk can place you and your family in jeopardy. According to a new survey by State Farm® and KRC Research, more than 60 percent of drivers had some sort of “junk” (non-emergency supplies) in their trunk ranging from extra clothes and shoes to used food or drink containers. While 99 percent of drivers had at least one emergency supply in their vehicle, such as spare tire or jumper cables, a mere nine percent carried all the essential emergency roadside supplies, including:

-Jumper cables
-Spare tire
-Hazard triangle/road flares
-Flashlight
-First aid kit
-Water
-Blanket

“Even on a relatively short trip, you can find yourself stranded for several hours. From icy waters splashing up on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago to fog covering the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, it’s important to be prepared,” said Robert Medved, safety expert, State Farm. “These new findings highlight the importance of having the right emergency equipment so people can safely get back on the road faster.”

Medved also recommends drivers check at least twice a year to ensure the equipment is in working order. This means spare tires are properly inflated, first-aid supplies are current, all other supplies are fully stocked, and the cell phone charger is compatible with either a power outlet or an USB port in your car. Communication capability can be the number one lifeline in some roadside emergency cases.

How Your Junk Stacks Up:

New survey findings also revealed that sedan drivers (63 percent) are less likely to carry emergency supplies compared to SUV and truck owners (75 percent and 73 percent respectively). Also, only two in five drivers said they check that the emergency supplies in their vehicle are working at least twice a year, in line with what State Farm recommends.

If you are stranded on the road, follow these tips:

-Pull off the highway (if possible), turn on your hazard lights and use a road flare or reflectors to signal attention.
-If you have a cell phone, call 911 and describe your location as precisely as possible. Follow any instructions from the dispatcher.
-Remain in your vehicle so help can find you.
-Run your vehicle’s engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm.
-Open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
-Don’t waste your vehicle’s battery power. Balance electrical energy needs – lights, heat and radio – with supply.
-At night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.
-Keep emergency supplies like road flares, a flashlight, blanket, windshield scraper, jumper cables, spare tire and a first aid kit in your vehicle or trunk at all times.
-Keep your fuel tank at least ½ full at all times during bad weather.

Source: State Farm

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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New Increase in FICA Tax Hitting Americans' Paychecks, Perfect Time for a Refinance?

January 18, 2013 6:48 am

As wage earners in the United States begin to receive their first paychecks in 2013, they'll likely notice their net pay has gone down. That's because a two-year payroll tax holiday expired on December 31, 2012, and was not renewed as part of the fiscal cliff deal, explains Barry Habib, chief market strategist of a nationwide mortgage lender. How can the average American offset the loss in take-home pay?

Refinancing a home mortgage is one strategy definitely worth thinking about, Habib says.

Every worker will see a two percent FICA tax increase now that the rate has reverted from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. The increase in the FICA tax, which is deducted from workers' paychecks, will cause take-home pay to decrease by $600 per year for workers with an annual income of $30,000. Workers with an annual income of $50,000 will bring home $1,000 less per year, while workers with an annual income of $100,000 will bring home $2,000 less per year.

"While two percent may sound like a modest increase, the toll it takes on discretionary spending is much greater," Habib adds. Consider a couple in which each partner earns $45,000 per year, earning $90,000 combined. They will likely pay $26,000 in taxes, and their living expenses may be in the range of $46,000 a year, he explains. "That leaves a couple earning $90,000 in combined income with $18,000 in discretionary spending. A two percent tax hike resulting in $1800 less per year will feel more like a 10 percent reduction, as they're losing 10 percent of their discretionary income," Habib says.

One practical solution to offset the decrease in income is to refinance a home mortgage, Habib notes. With rates at historical lows, many Americans could benefit by refinancing to a lower interest rate, he says. "Of course, not everyone is qualified to refinance, or is in a position where it makes sense. However, for many homeowners, refinancing their mortgage could more than offset the loss homeowners will feel from the increase in the FICA tax," Habib says.

Habib offers the following tips to consumers considering a refinance:

Know the Current Value of Your Home
A drop in your home's value may prevent you from being able to refinance if the equity in the property isn't enough to meet lenders' criteria. Speak to a couple of real estate agents on what similar homes in your neighborhood have been selling for to get an accurate valuation. Doing so allows you to make a well-informed decision about whether refinancing is feasible and makes sense, before you spend money on an appraisal or pay any of the other additional fees associated with refinancing.

An Assumable FHA Mortgage Will Make Your Property More Valuable and Easier to Sell
Homeowners may want to consider refinancing to an assumable Federal Housing Authority (FHA) mortgage, Habib says. With an assumable mortgage, the home buyer has the ability to take over the existing mortgage of the seller. An assumable mortgage typically raises the value of your home, and will certainly make it more sellable should you decide to sell, he notes.

Instead of Giving the Bank Money in Points, Pay Yourself
Think twice about paying points on a refinance, Habib advises. "It's tempting to see how low a rate you can get by paying more points, but you need to consider the cost of the money you're spending today," he says. Instead, Habib suggests homeowners think about using the money to reduce the principal on their mortgage. For example, on a $200,000 mortgage, rather than paying three points or $6000, the homeowner could pay their mortgage down to $194,000. "While your rate will be higher, your payment is based on a smaller principal amount, so you'll spend less on your mortgage in the long run," Habib says.

Refinance to a 15- or 20-Year Loan
Strongly consider refinancing to a 15- or 20-year mortgage. "With today's low interest rates, you may find that your mortgage payments are pretty darn close to what you're paying now," Habib says. "With a shorter loan term, so much more of your payment is going toward principal, that even after a couple of months, you're realizing a benefit. "Homeowners who are able to refinance to a mortgage with a shorter term build a much greater amount of equity in their homes as time goes on, he adds.

Source: Residential Finance Corp.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Making Roof Color Choices with Confidence

January 17, 2013 6:46 am

Standard slate gray or bold terracotta? Solid brown or a blend of three warm brown tones? For some homeowners, the question of what color to cap off their homes is more challenging than the decision of what roofing product to use.

According to color expert Kate Smith, CMG, people are often paralyzed at the idea of making a roofing color decision. "Selecting exterior building product colors can be daunting for some people specifically because of the long lifespan of those products," says Smith. With some roofs having as much as a 50-year warranty, it's a long-term color commitment to make. "While it's fairly easy and inexpensive to repaint the interior of a room, you want to maximize your roofing investment by selecting a color you can live with for many years. Many people need some support and guidance when making those larger color decisions."

Smith, a national color expert, offers these tips for homeowners trying to determine what roofing colors to select.

Tip #1 – Take time and do your homework. Don't rush a decision. Try to envision a home exterior that you will like next year, five years from now, and then 20 years from now.
Tip #2 – Consider your options. While a solid color roof may work for some home styles, a blend of several colors may offer a "softer" look with more accent options. Pre-bundled roofing color blends can be made with two, three, four or five different color blends that complement each other.
Tip #3 - Investigate the different roofing color options available to you. Use a Color Design tool to create your own custom color blends.
Tip #4 - Request life-sized samples of your favorite color roofing tiles to hold up against your current roof to see the change that a new color will make for your home.
Tip #5 – Look at the other homes in your neighborhood. Your home should blend in or stand out from other homes, but never clash with the rest of the homes in your community. A roofing color can help achieve a harmonious look.
Tip #6 – Get assistance from a professional. Just as selecting the roofing product is a big decision requiring the assistance of a professional, so is the choice of the roof color. Consult a color expert and use the color tools offered by experts and product manufacturers to gain a strong comfort level for your color choice.

Source: www.davinciroofscapes.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Window Film Is Eligible For Energy Tax Credit Approved By Congress

January 17, 2013 6:46 am

Congress has just given American homeowners a chance to keep more of their hard-earned money with tax credits for energy efficient upgrades planned for 2013, or made in 2012. Window film is eligible for the tax credits approved by Congress and the tax incentive can cover up to 10 percent of the cost of the installation of window film to a maximum of $500, states the International Window Film Association (IWFA).

"We are delighted that Congress recently enacted a bill, titled the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, that includes tax incentives for energy efficient home improvements, such as installing window film," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the nonprofit IWFA. "To make people more aware of this great opportunity, we are sharing this news through our Facebook and Twitter pages and we are also offering a free consumer booklet so consumers can learn more about window film," he added.

"While the 'greening' of our homes is a high priority, most of the new energy-efficient technologies require significant investment to reap long-term benefits, but window film has been shown to be a most cost-effective means of improving energy performance," said Smith.

As a long-term and cost-effective solution for saving energy, window film qualifies in the legislation as part of a building's "insulation envelope." It can reduce energy consumption from solar heat gain in summer or reflect interior heat back inside in winter, while allowing in natural light without the negative impact of UV exposure. Consumers should check with their window film installer or manufacturer to make sure their product qualifies under the law.

For more information on window film's many benefits the IWFA offers a free consumer booklet available that can be found at: http://www.iwfa.com/ConsumerInfo/IWFAWindowFilmBooklet.aspx.

Source: International Window Film Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Get Rid of Financial Stress

January 17, 2013 6:46 am

Finances are a major cause of stress and worry, which can lead to an unbalanced and unhappy life. Here are seven ways to get rid of financial stress to ensure that you are starting 2013 off right:

1. Money doesn't equal happiness - If we keep the mindset that we will only be happy when we have more money, then we are waiting for the impossible. Money only makes us a little happier. In the scheme of things, once we make enough money to have our basic needs met, we are fine. So, thinking more money will bring happiness is a myth.

2. Can't control - If we stay focused on our lack of money or debt, we will stay stressed out. Work on what you can control, which might be getting another part-time job, saving money, budgeting, cutting coupons, etc. Work on what you can control to move forward or you will get stuck in the "can't" mode and that will make you frustrated, angry and stressed out.

3. Take care of you - When you are stressed you need to make sure you take care of yourself. When we are stressed out about finances - or anything for that matter - we tend to forget about our health and then we get sick, fatigued and exhausted. This causes more stress. So make sure to eat right, drink plenty of water, exercise, etc.

4. Ask for help - If your finances are bad and it's a situation that is out of your reach, then go to a financial planner/advisor. Ask for help.

5. Live in the moment - Financial stress can come from our worries about tomorrow. How will I pay off this student loan, will I get the raise, will I get the job, etc. We don't have control over tomorrow so to worry about it is a waste of time. Focus on what you have today.

6. Add some fun - Preoccupy yourself, take a stress break, have fun with your kids, go for a walk, have lunch with a friend, do something that will make you feel better.

7. Take action - It's great to set goals, but without an action plan, they will just remain goals. So, set up on paper (so it's visual and concrete) your goals and action plan to get there. The goals don't have to be huge, they can start small. For example: Starting a budget, making lunch and coffee at home to save money, cutting coupons, etc.

Source: Diane Lang

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hold the Diet Soda? Sweetened Drinks Linked to Depression, Coffee Tied to Lower Risk

January 16, 2013 6:44 am

New research suggests that drinking sweetened beverages, especially diet drinks, is associated with an increased risk of depression in adults while drinking coffee was tied to a slightly lower risk.
"Sweetened beverages, coffee and tea are commonly consumed worldwide and have important physical—and may have important mental—health consequences," said study author Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, with the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved 263,925 people between the ages of 50 and 71 at enrollment. From 1995 to 1996, consumption of drinks such as soda, tea, fruit punch and coffee was evaluated. About 10 years later, researchers asked the participants whether they had been diagnosed with depression since the year 2000. A total of 11,311 depression diagnoses were made.

People who drank more than four cans or cups per day of soda were 30 percent more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda. Those who drank four cans of fruit punch per day were about 38 percent more likely to develop depression than those who did not drink sweetened drinks. People who drank four cups of coffee per day were about 10 percent less likely to develop depression than those who drank no coffee. The risk appeared to be greater for people who drank diet rather than regular soda, diet rather than regular fruit punches and diet rather than regular iced tea.

"Our research suggests that cutting out or down on sweetened diet drinks or replacing them with unsweetened coffee may naturally help lower your depression risk," said Chen. "More research is needed to confirm these findings, and people with depression should continue to take depression medications prescribed by their doctors."

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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