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

Consumer Confidence Index Increases After Four Consecutive Declines

August 1, 2012 2:48 am

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had declined in June, improved slightly in July. The Index now stands at 65.9 (1985=100), up from 62.7 in June. The Expectations Index improved to 79.1 from 73.4. The Present Situation Index, however, decreased slightly to 46.2 from 46.6 a month ago.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was July 19.

Consumers' appraisal of current conditions eased in July. Those claiming business conditions are "good" declined to 13.8 percent from 14.2 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" decreased to 34.2 percent from 35.9 percent. Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also mixed. Those stating jobs are "hard to get" declined to 40.8 percent from 41.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 7.8 percent from 8.3 percent.

On the other hand, consumers were generally more optimistic about the short-term outlook in July. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months rose to 18.9 percent from 16.0 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 14.6 percent from 15.8 percent. Consumers' outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat in July. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased to 17.6 percent from 14.8 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs edged down to 20.3 percent from 20.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes, however, declined to 14.2 percent from 15.3 percent.

Source: The Conference Board

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Why Homebuyers and Sellers Should Work with a Real Estate Agent

August 1, 2012 2:48 am

While it can be tempting to go it alone when buying or selling a home, the vast majority of real estate consumers ultimately recognize the many benefits of working with a professional real estate agent. According to Lexington, Mass.-based REALTOR® KristinBrown Orr,while it may initially seem appealing to save some money, pursuing a real estate transaction without the assistance of an experienced real estate professional could actually end up costing you money…and causing lots of unnecessary stress.

Orr offers the following important reasons for working with a credible real estate agent and what they’ll bring to the table:

• Professionalism. Agents work for brokerages and are licensed professionals, Orr explains, which means they have a broker to answer to and are bound by law to act in the best interest of their clients. “Licensed agents have access to the tools of the trade – such as The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Database –that is available only to professionals as well as the latest marketing techniques,” she explains. “They also have the benefit of a wide network of other real estate agents, mortgage brokers and attorneys from which to draw information.”

• Negotiation. Negotiating can be delicate or tedious between buyers and sellers, but real estate agents have specific experience in this arena, says Orr. “An agent can play the role of the ‘bad guy’ when it comes to negotiating, avoiding hard feelings between the buyer and seller. Real estate agents are skilled in conveying clients' concerns in a professional manner to ensure happiness for both parties – and ultimately that sale.”

• Knowledge. Real estate agents are highly knowledgeable when it comes to important information such as where the best neighborhoods are, what school is being closed or re-built, new developments or subdivisions popping up, and other critical local information. As Orr says, experienced agents know what comparable homes looked like, what they sold for and why. “A good agent knowsthe dirty little secrets and coveted features of different neighborhoods and communities. That agent may just have that ‘gem’ tucked up his or her sleeve that a buyer is looking for.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Rentals More Accepting of Furry Friends

July 31, 2012 2:48 am

Choosing an apartment to rent has a lot to do with its pet policy, according to a recent survey from Forty-three percent of respondents are current pet owners, with more than a quarter planning on getting a four-legged friend within the next year. However, renters need to do their homework first before bringing home a furry friend, as not all apartment buildings allow pets, and the ones that do often have fees associated with pet ownership.

Current and soon-to-be pet owners are in luck because property managers and landlords are recognizing that renting with pets is an increasing trend, and more buildings are starting to accommodate this demand. Nearly 70 percent of renters surveyed reported having no difficulties finding a pet-friendly apartment. More than half of respondents also reported having to pay a pet deposit at their current residence, with 36 percent shelling out more than $200 for their four-legged companions.

The survey also found that it is not just Fido and Fifi's owners who enjoy their pet's company; more than 34 percent of respondents said although they do not have a pet, they enjoy living in a pet-friendly building, and 20 percent of non-pet owning renters said they avoid buildings that allow pets.
The top five most popular pets for renters are:
  1. Small dog (Under 25 pounds): 35.5 percent
  2. Cat: 24.2 percent
  3. Large dog (More than 50 pounds): 13.6 percent
  4. Medium dog (26 to 50 pounds): 11.0 percent
  5. Fish: 4.3 percent

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Consumers Take Control of Banking Relationships

July 31, 2012 2:48 am

Today’s consumers are taking control of their banking relationships, increasingly likely to change banks and expecting to be able to choose between a range of service levels and costs, according to Ernst & Young's 2012 global consumer banking survey. The study, which questioned 28,560 banking customers across 35 countries, highlights how customers also expect to be financially rewarded for their loyalty.

Globally only 44 percent of customers say their bank adapts products and services to meet their needs. 70 percent of customers would be happy to disclose personal information if it improved the level of service and products they were offered.

The survey also reveals that loyalty reward schemes are on the rise. Twenty-seven percent of customers are enrolled in a scheme, up 50 percent from 2011. However, customers expect more – the overwhelming majority agreed that if you have three products or more with a bank you should get better service (86 percent), and that you should be charged lower fees or given better rates on your savings accounts (91 percent).

Consumers are becoming less loyal and increasing the number of banks they use. Consumers who use only one bank have fallen from 41 percent to 31 percent. The number of consumers planning to change banks has risen from 7 percent to 12 percent year on year and attrition rates have increased in several major markets. Poor branch experience (31 percent) and lack of personalized contact or service (26 percent) are rising up the list of reasons for changing provider, although dissatisfaction with high fees continues to be the most commonly cited driver of attrition, cited by 50 percent of respondents.

Banks have made progress in improving their communication channels. Both call center and mobile banking services have improved, with customer satisfaction up 8 percent and 16 percent respectively year on year, however the power of the consumer voice has overtaken banks communication channels.

Personal recommendations from family and friends are the top source of information about banking products, with 71 percent of consumers relying on this information as their primary source. Fifty-five percent of consumers refer to online communities or social networks for advice and a third of customers who use social networking use it to actively comment on the service they receive from their bank.

Source: Ernst & Young

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Top 5 Mid-Year Tax Tips

July 31, 2012 2:48 am

With taxes in the news almost every day, and many important tax breaks having expired at the end of 2011 and more set to expire at the end of 2012, taxpayers would benefit from spending some time this summer reviewing their tax profiles and learning about possible changes. Jackson Hewitt Tax Service has honed in on the top five areas taxpayers should consider now, that may help put you in a better position when filing your tax returns next year:
  1. Know how any major changes happening in your life can impact a tax return: A wide range of common life occurrences may trigger tax considerations, which can result in a higher tax refund or a reduction to the amount of income taxes owed. For example, did you get married? Did you have or adopt a child? Buy a home? Move for a new job? Decide to go back to school? All of these life-changing events, and many others, may have related tax deductions and credits available and it is important to know what benefits exist and who is eligible.
  2. Check your withholdings to make sure they are correct: The Form W-4 determines the amount of withholding from a paycheck. In some cases, it is beneficial to consider changing a withholding status during the course of the year, such as when a child is born – leading to a new dependent to claim – or, if a taxpayer works multiple jobs during the year. Withholding can be changed at any time by completing a new Form W-4 for your employer.
  3. Think about what you are saving: Putting money away in an IRA account, or participating in a company sponsored 401(k) plan, can be an easy, tax-free way to reduce taxable income and start saving for the future. Taxpayers in lower income brackets may also qualify for a tax credit. For 2012, you can contribute up to $17,000 for a 401(k) plan if you are under age 50 ($22,500 if 50 or over) and up to $5,000 for an IRA if under age 50 ($6,000 if 50 or over).
  4. Beware of impending changes: A double whammy of problems for 2013 is expected to occur if provisions are not made by December 31, 2012. Taxpayers need to know what deductions and credits will be off the table – and what new considerations may be available to them that could improve their tax situation.
  5. The results of the election can influence your tax situation: By the middle of November, we will know who will set the course for taxes over the next four years. There are many proposals being considered from general tax rates to tax rates on specific types of income, as with capital gains and dividends, and various considerations related to business, including small businesses.
Source: Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc.

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Time-Saving Laundry Tips to Get You Out of the Laundry Room and Back to Family Fun

July 30, 2012 2:44 am

From messy meals to remnants of craft time creations, parents know that life is full of all kinds of stain-inducing—yet magical—adventures. But the great times should live on through cherished memories, not through permanently stained clothing. When it comes to removing those stains—from mud to markers and everything in between—knowing how to care for your child's garments means you can get out of the laundry room more quickly and focus on the activities your family enjoys.

Aside from letting your washer and dryer do the heavy lifting, there are a few tricks of the trade worth keeping in mind when it comes to protecting clothing items, according to laundry expert Tara Aronson. "There's more to prolonging the life of your garments than simply checking pockets and choosing the right cycle," offers Aronson.

Put these five tips to the test to help better care for your garments, so you can spend less time sorting and treating stains, and more time with the family.

1. Spot, Treat, and Check - If you spill something on a garment, immediately rinse or blot away the stain using cool water to prevent it from setting. Make sure to read fabric care labels and wash accordingly to help clothing last. And before you toss garments into the wash, be sure to double-check the pockets, as well as zip zippers and fasten buttons - this helps cut down on snags, holes, etc.

2. Sort, Sort, Sort - Sort laundry by color, wash cycle and water temperature required. Make it easier on yourself and your family by placing bins marked for whites, darks, mediums and delicates in your laundry room.

3. Choose the Right Cycle - High efficiency appliances can wash clothing on various cycles. This means you can launder sturdy items such as jeans on the permanent press cycle using warm water, causing less agitation, while washing swimsuits, fine knits and undergarments on the delicates cycle with cold water.

4. Double-duty - If your clothing is heavily soiled, extra-large, or you want to use the cold water setting, add extra laundry detergent when you start the cycle. Some high efficiency washers feature a sanitize setting, which uses the hottest water available to thoroughly get rid of germs and grime.

5. Quick Dry - Dry only full loads. Drying only a handful of garments prolongs the drying time by reducing the tumbling. If you have to dry a smaller load, add a few bath towels to help with tumbling.

"Remember that properly caring for your garments can help sustain your favorite clothing," says Aronson.

Source: Family Features

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Freedom from Debt an Achievable Goal for Every Family

July 30, 2012 2:44 am

American households are carrying an average of nearly $16,000 of credit card debt, which translates into more than $2,000 in finance charges and fees each year, according to the Federal Reserve.

Even with statistics like these, freedom from debt is an achievable goal for every family. The first step in regaining control is to take an honest look at your overall financial picture. The experts at Money Management International have developed a “debt test” to help consumers asses their financial standing.

The Debt Test:
- Is an increasing percentage of your income going toward paying down debts?
- Is your savings cushion inadequate or nonexistent?
- Are you near or at the limit of your lines of credit?
- Can you only make the minimum payments on your revolving charge accounts?
- Are you often late with bill payments?
- Are you paying bills with money earmarked for something else?
- Are you using credit to pay for items you used to buy with cash?
- If you lost your job, would you be under immediate financial strain?
- Are you unsure about how much you owe?
- Are you being threatened by collectors with possible legal action?

A ‘yes’ to any of these questions is a sign that you need to take a good look at your total debt levels, spending habits and plans for payoff. While a single red flag is not a sign of impending doom, it is an indication that you should take action to avoid future trouble.

The following tips should help you regain control and overcome the burden of debt:

Stop using credit temporarily.
You cannot borrow your way out of financial difficulty.
Create a budget. After allocating funds for ‘needs,’ such as rent, food and bills, set aside an amount to go into savings each month. Then, set aside an amount that you can spend on ‘wants,’ such as clothing and entertainment.
Assess your debt. Gather all of your statements and find out who you owe, how much you owe, and what interest rates you are paying. Being informed will help you make a good plan for payoff.
Adjust your spending. Write down each purchase you make for two weeks. Then, take a good look at your list. There is a good chance little purchases are taking a big bite from your budget.
Communicate with your family. It is important that all members of your family understand your financial goals, and the changes that are going to be made, so they can fully support those changes.
Get help. Career counseling, VA benefits, United Way agencies and nonprofit credit counseling organizations may all be of assistance.
Learn from your mistakes. An emergency savings account can protect you from future setbacks. Practice your new habits each day to ensure that you are improving your financial standing rather than harming it.

Source: Money Management International

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Beat the Heat: Simple Tips to Protect Your Lawn from Extreme Summer Heat

July 30, 2012 2:44 am

Record-setting heat and drought conditions this summer have prompted many homeowners to give up hope for a green lawn. The biggest threat to lawns this time of year is heat, not necessarily only a lack of water.

"The solution to a distressed lawn is not just more water but how you water," said John Eden, a lawn care specialist with Denver-based Revive, Inc. "Watering deeper and longer, not more frequently, results in stronger root systems."

Here are a few lawn care tips for homeowners to keep in mind in order to combat the extreme temperatures:

Avoid watering during daytime hours: Avoid evaporation by running sprinkler zones during the late evening and early morning; Water twice a day, splitting the zone times in half.

Check sprinklers for water output and coverage: Place a shallow container on the lawn to measure water intake. Lawns require about two inches of water per week during the peak summer temperatures.

Reducing heat stress: During hot daytime temperatures, sun-exposed areas that are stressed can be cooled off by wetting ("syringing") the turf for a few minutes with a hose. Syringing can reduce damage by cooling and refreshing heat-stressed areas.

Mow smarter, sharpen blades: Set the mower height level as high as possible. Leave lawn clippings behind and use a mulching mower to recycle moisture and nutrients back into the yard. Be sure to sharpen the lawnmower blade twice each summer.

Source: Revive

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Electronic Cigarette Considered Safer Way to Quit Smoking by Most Americans

July 27, 2012 2:42 am

Electronic cigarettes have been making a lot of headlines recently. In the United States, e-cigarettes are grabbing a lot of popularity among smokers who want to quit the habit of tobacco smoking.

A new study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that about 40 percent of individuals had heard of e-cigarettes, and awareness was highest among smokers. A majority of Americans consider electronic cigarettes to be effective for quitting smoking and a healthier, safer way of smoking.

Electronic cigarettes go by many names including e-cigarettes, electric cigarettes, smokeless cigarettes and vapor cigarettes. They are available in a variety of flavors and nicotine strengths and can be purchased on the Internet and in stores.

Jennifer Pearson, Ph.D., MPH and research investor at Legacy, an antismoking group in Washington, D.C. says, “We don't have data to say about long-term effects of e-cigarettes, but they are probably less harmful than combustible cigarettes.”

E-cigarettes resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes in many ways. They have a cartridge containing liquid nicotine, a vaporizer that vaporizes the liquid nicotine into vapor upon inhalation, an indicator light to give smokers a more real feel, and finally the mouthpiece. The cartridges can be purchased again in case the cartridge runs out of liquid.

Findings from recent studies of vapor cigarettes suggest that smokers are using them as smoking cessation tools. Also, many harm-reduction advocates say that the main selling point of vapor cigarettes is that they only contain nicotine sans the harmful carcinogenic products that are found in tobacco cigarettes. This suggests that they may be a safer cigarette.


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Five Quick Travel Safety Tips

July 27, 2012 2:42 am

Whether heading to the 2012 Olympic Games in London or escaping for a weekend getaway, vacationers should remember to take steps to protect their money, luggage and other valuables. Here are a few reminders you should take notice of in order to prevent thieves from ruining your vacation:

-Avoid bringing large amounts of cash. Carry one or two credit cards and use travelers checks when possible.
-Don’t bring valuable or irreplaceable jewelry, electronics or collectibles.
-Make sure each piece of luggage is labeled inside and out with your name, address and telephone number. This goes for carry-on luggage, too.
-Keep cash, credit cards, passports and airline tickets in the hotel safe. And keep your hotel door locked at all times.
-If you have to carry cash or credit cards, don’t keep them in handbags or outside pockets that are easy for thieves to access. Inside pockets and shoulder bags across the chest are safest.

It's also a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend who can contact you in the event of an emergency.

Here are a few other travel reminders from the website:

-Remember to bring a photo identification card and updated passport if you’re traveling outside of the United States.
-Contact your doctor to see whether you need any immunizations before you travel to a foreign country.
-Don’t forget to bring any prescription medications you may need. Keep them in their original, labeled containers and carry copies of your prescriptions, including the generic names.
-If you’re traveling by air, review the Transportation Security Administration’s list of prohibited items to bring on airplanes.

By using these simple safety tips, you can help protect yourself and your belongings, making your vacation more enjoyable for everyone.

Source: Amica Insurance

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