RE/MAX 440
Gail Ruth

Gail Ruth
4550 W. Tilghman Street  Allentown  PA 18104
Phone:  610-398-8111
Office:  610-398-8111
Cell:  610-390-5434
Fax:  267-354-6263

My Blog

The Top Baby Boomer-Approved Remodels

August 10, 2015 1:00 am

A recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found a growing number of 55-plus Americans plan to remodel their homes. “Many are focusing on accessibility and opening up the home,” says Sergei Kaminskiy, owner of Kaminskiy Design and Remodeling.

“We are seeing many remove a room or two and opening the size of the main living areas with a kitchen remodel and a master bedroom remodel,” Kaminskiy says. “We have had a number of clients remove a formal dining room or child's bedroom on the main floor and convert it to another master bedroom with fully accessible bathroom.”

Aside from creating open-floor plans and increasing accessibility, baby boomers are also seeking to boost energy-efficiency and update appliances, add greater curb appeal and raise the home’s value.

Source: Kaminskiy Design and Remodeling

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Insurance Mistakes Homeowners Make

August 10, 2015 1:00 am

Though saving money is important, shaving off key protections in order to reduce homeowners insurance premiums can be costly in the event of a disaster, especially a hurricane. “The best way to avoid living the cliché of being ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ is to know what less-than-full coverage will cost you,” says Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “Talk with an insurance professional before the winds kick up to understand the difference between smart shopping and possible costly mistakes.”

Those potentially costly mistakes include:

1. Going “bare.”
Homeowners without a mortgage are not required to have home insurance—but going without insurance protection means the risk of losing what you’ve invested in what is likely one of your most important assets. For most people, setting aside a pool of money large enough to rebuild a home or replace all their possessions is too much of a financial challenge, leaving them with insufficient funds in the event of a total loss
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2. Eliminating windstorm and contents coverage.
While a residential property insurance policy typically includes this protection, homeowners may choose to send a handwritten and signed letter to their insurer asking that such coverage be excluded and acknowledging they will pay for any losses. Excluding windstorm and/or contents coverage can save you hundreds of dollars a year on insurance. “But the downside is you will need to pay thousands of dollars—or even hundreds of thousands of dollars—out of your own pocket if a hurricane strikes,” says McChristian.

3. Declining Building Ordinance or Law coverage.

Homes age and building codes improve. That often means that there can be a big difference in the structural strength of a newly built home and one that is 10 or more years old. If a home is damaged or destroyed, rebuilding to current building codes will raise the cost of reconstruction. Building Ordinance or Law coverage pays for this additional expense.

4. Choosing a high hurricane deductible.

High deductibles lower the cost of insurance, but they also mean higher out-of-pocket costs after a storm. For example, a homeowner with a house insured for $200,000 with a 10 percent hurricane deductible would have to contribute $20,000 toward rebuilding costs. Lowering the hurricane deductible to 2 percent would cut that amount to $4,000.

5. Insuring for less than the rebuilding cost.

Most insurance companies will allow a homeowner to insure for less than what it costs to rebuild–though never below 80 percent of the home’s replacement cost. Homeowners who choose this option would be responsible for paying both their deductible and the additional cost to cover the gap in their rebuilding coverage. In hurricane-prone areas, it is worth considering a homeowners policy that provides broader coverage, called extended replacement cost coverage. After a major natural disaster, construction professionals may be in short supply and building materials in great demand. This combination increases the cost to rebuild. Extended replacement cost policies will pay an additional 20 percent or more above the policy limits to account for such increases.

6. Forgoing flood insurance.
A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood damage. Because it can rain hard —and for extended periods—even during a regular storm, every homeowner should consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or from a private insurance company. Excess flood insurance is also available from private insurance companies if more coverage is needed than the amount available from the NFIP.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Growing Credit Card Debt Encouraging for Economy

August 7, 2015 1:00 am

Americans are showing signs of recovery from the Great Recession by steadily increasing their credit card debt, according to data from a recent National Consumer Credit Trends report released by Equifax. The rate of growth for credit card debt more than doubled year-over-year in many of the metro areas hit hardest by the housing market crash, and more than tripled in other less affected cities. Total credit card debt jumped five percent to $634 billion.

“Every major market has seen increases in credit card debt, even those cities where the housing market issues are not completely resolved,” says Assad Lazarus, interim unit leader of Equifax Personal Information Solutions. “This shows that American consumers are more confident about their financial futures, and that means the U.S. economy has entered an expansion mode.”

Source: Equifax

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Trickle Down

August 7, 2015 1:00 am

As uncertainty about the economy pushes Treasury yields lower, average fixed mortgage rates have moved down for the third week in a row, according to the recent Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). Dipping just below four percent, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.91 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 15-year FRM averaged 3.13 percent, also with an average 0.6 point.

In addition, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.95 percent with an average 0.4 point. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.54 percent with an average 0.3 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Damaged by Flood? Test for Airborne Pollutants

August 7, 2015 1:00 am

Homes damaged by floodwaters can present issues long after storms end. Depending on the extent of flooding, homes can be left with damp floors, walls or even ceilings containing potentially harmful pollutants and microorganisms, say the experts at indoor environmental quality firm Pure Air Control Services.

“Receding floodwaters are typically tainted with sewage and other toxins, which can contain a number of harmful microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, molds and other detrimental pollutants,” says Pure Air Control Services’ Francisco Aguirre. “Mold and bacteria can begin growing within 24 to 48 hours following flood and rainwater damage.”

Even structures that appear unaffected by floodwaters could contain microorganisms that have propagated in small spaces invisible to the naked eye. Microbial remediation may be required if the flood has caused discoloration in the walls or behind flooring or carpets, says Aguirre. Environmental concerns associated with this damage include E. coli, salmonella, listeria, fungi and bacteria – all of which can be carried through the air in the home.

To determine the presence of harmful pollutants following a flood, residents and property owners should have a professional perform a health check. The specialist will conduct an assessment to detect elevated moisture levels, humidity, temperatures and microbial count.

Another option is purchasing an at-home do-it-yourself indoor environmental air quality test kit, like those available through IndoorAirTest.com.

"At-home test kits that are evaluated in a laboratory can help individuals assess flood damage to their home or business, as well as the potential health risks that may be lurking in their walls, flooring, cabinetry or carpets," says Aguirre. "This is a small price to pay for peace of mind, and a safe and healthy environment."

Source: Pure Air Control Services

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10 Ways to Take the Stress Out of Back-to-School Shopping

August 6, 2015 12:21 am

(Family Features) For busy families, back-to-school season is not without its share of stressors. Ease the back-to-school burden on your household with these shopping tips designed to simplify the year ahead.

1. Take stock of your inventory. School lists often carry over each school year, so make sure you aren't buying multiples of things you already own. Some supplies are more exciting when refreshed every year, but buying the same ruler year after year is simply a waste of money.

2. Make a list with your children.
Put everything you need on that list, and be clear that once the list is done, it's done. Having everyone on the same page with a complete list helps ensure nothing vital is forgotten, and the list can serve as a handy tool to keep your budget in check.

3. Begin shopping as early as possible.
Hunt bargains before the traditional back-to-school season to get the best deals. Not only will you save some cash, you will have a wider selection to choose from. Spreading the shopping over several weeks also allows you to distribute the expense across several pay periods, lessening the chance of blowing your monthly budget.

4. Shop online.
Sign up for email alerts from your go-to retailers so you'll be in the know when the best deals hit. Many stores now offer online-only specials, so watch ads closely to know when you're better served making purchases in-store or online. Keep an eye out for free or reduced shipping for extra savings. You might also rely on social media to follow back-to-school offers and hashtags.

5. Put quality ahead of price.
While it's tempting to go for cheap when your list is long, remember that sometimes quality buys actually save more in the long run. You can buy a ton of cheap pens that skip, or simply stop working, for example, when you’ll be better served buying ones of higher quality.

6. Make your children shopping buddies.
Involve your kids in the back-to-school shopping process by giving them a budget. Help them allocate money for all the expenses, including clothing, school supplies, shoes and more. Use the opportunity to talk about how shopping smart for the necessities can leave room for some fun buys, too.

7. Reduce and reuse.
Save plastic and money by encouraging kids to embrace reusable items, such as lunch bags in place of paper sacks and plastic containers instead of sandwich bags. If water bottles are allowed at school, look for a durable, refillable option that can be used again and again.

8. Make the old new again.
Turn barely used items into something new. Keep leftover supplies on hand to revive your child’s enthusiasm with fresh designs at the end of the quarter or semester.

9. Swap with other parents.
Make back-to-school time more fun by hosting a swap event with other parents for clothing, backpacks, shoes, etc.

10. Create a back-up bin at home.
You may find your kids consistently run out of certain items midyear. Devote a special area of your home to keep extras in stock, and take advantage of sales during back-to-school season or buy in bulk to get a better price.

Source: ZebraPen.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Longevity of Home Systems and Appliances

August 6, 2015 12:21 am

Beyond sale price, there are many factors to consider when purchasing an existing home. One of the most important considerations for homebuyers of existing homes is the cost of maintenance, repair and replacement of major home systems and appliances, according to the National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA).

Take for example an air conditioning system. Most A/C systems have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years. If you are considering the purchase of a home that is over 15 years old, with the original system, you could be living on borrowed time.

The following is a list of average life spans for many of the home systems and appliances in your home:

• Tankless Water Heater – 20 years
• Heat Pumps – 16 years
• HVAC System – 15 to 20 years
• Furnace – 15 to 20 years
• Gas Ranges – 15 years
• Dryers – 13 years
• Refrigerators – 13 years
• Air Conditioning – 10 to 15 years
• Garage Doors – 10 to 15 years
• Washers – 10 years
• Dishwashers – 9 years
• Microwave Ovens – 9 years
• Compactors – 6 years

Many of these major systems can be covered by home service contracts that provide repair or even replacement. At an average range of $350 to $500 for a 12-month period, these contracts typically cover items such as heating systems, interior plumbing, electrical systems, water heaters, dishwashers and garbage disposals. Other items such as pools, spas and septic tanks may be added at an additional fee.

Source: NHSCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Reasons to Buy a Prefab Home

August 6, 2015 12:21 am

Prefabricated by skilled craftspeople in an efficient, controlled setting, systems-built homes can offer numerous benefits to homeowners. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), systems-built homes include modular, panelized, concrete, log and timber homes, and can save homeowners a significant amount of time and money on construction.

Not convinced? Here, the NAHB outlines five reasons to buy prefab.

1. Building homes in a factory setting allows for more consistent quality due to uniform construction processes, training techniques and inspections. Homes are built in a controlled factory environment, making weather delays an all but eliminated thing of the past, which saves the owner both time and money. In fact, custom modular homes are often move-in ready in about two-thirds the time needed for a comparable custom site-built home.

2. Prefab houses are extremely strong. Because they have to withstand the rigors of transporting the home from the factory to the onsite location, they are often built with materials above and beyond what's mandated for site construction. This added strength translates into a solid structure once assembled and a home that's more likely to withstand a natural disaster.

3. Systems-built homes are often more tightly built and thus more energy-efficient, which can result in lower heating and cooling costs for the home owner.

4. Systems-built homes score high on the green-building scale because material waste is significantly reduced both in the factory and the job site. Assembly in an enclosed indoor environment allows them to fulfill some key components of green building certifications, including the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard.

5. While most manufacturers have a portfolio of home plans to choose from, computer-assisted design (CAD) allows limitless design and customization possibilities when planning your new systems-built home.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Think Twice about Vacation Spending

August 5, 2015 12:48 am

Credit cards are taking a backseat to other preferable forms of payment this summer, especially when it comes to financing a vacation. According to a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) poll, more people prefer to enjoy a vacation with their own cash or debit cards – not credit.

“It is natural to be concerned about overspending when planning a vacation,” says NFCC Vice President of Public Relations and External Affairs Bruce McClary. “While using cash or a debit card is a great way to avoid going into debt, there are some additional considerations that should be made before making them the only options for travel.”



While many banks and credit unions have improved security options for debit cards, the fact remains that lost or stolen cards can give thieves access to drain checking and savings accounts quickly. Liability for charges depends on when the card is reported lost or stolen, and can vary depending on the card issuer. For example, maximum cardholder liability for reporting three days after learning about a card loss or theft can be $500.

There is also the matter of how long it takes the financial institution to replace the money that was used for unauthorized charges. If vacationing with a debit card, it is best to have fast access to the card issuer’s fraud center and a very secure place to store the card.

Traveling with cash is an even riskier proposition, since the stakes get higher as the amount carried increased. Most would have better luck winning the lottery than recovering stolen cash while far from home. If having cash in hand is necessary, avoid withdrawing large sums at a single time and be conservative about the amount carried when out on the town.



Using a debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM can come at a high premium when traveling. Transactions that are conducted outside of the issuer’s network can be expensive. Although the average transaction fee is over $4, these can be higher or lower depending on the location. The best way to avoid these extra charges is to check with the card issuer to see if there are any low or no cost options for withdrawing cash at your destination. They may have an arrangement with other teller machine networks for free and convenient withdrawals. If there are no ways around the ATM fees, cut costs by limiting the number of withdrawals.



If using a debit card to reserve hotel rooms or refuel the camper van, be aware that there could be a hold placed on the card beyond the amount of the purchase. If the balance of the debit card is not enough to accommodate the hold, it could result in overdraft fees or possible point of sale rejection.



There are also problems that may arise when using a debit card to book a rental car, since many companies will only accept credit as a form of payment. Those that do accept a debit card may require customers to authorize a credit check and may also place a hold on the debit card being used.



With these points in mind, it may be worth taking a credit card along for the ride in case there are times when it would be a better payment option. The key to staying out of the red is to pay all charges as soon as possible, preferably before the end of the current billing cycle.



Responsible use of a credit card while traveling can reward users in many ways, with redeemable points for purchases and possibly a few points toward a better credit rating.



Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Improvement Spending Picking Up

August 5, 2015 12:48 am

With the economy looking up, recent LIRA projections anticipate more homeowners will spend on remodeling projects through early next year, with growth accelerating four percent. LIRA, or the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity, is released by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

“A major driver of the anticipated growth in remodeling spending is the recent pick-up in home sales activity,” says Joint Center Managing Director Chris Herbert. “Recent homebuyers typically spend about a third more on home improvements than non-movers, even after controlling for any age or income differences, so increasing sales this year should translate to stronger improvement spending gains next year.”

“Other signals of strengthening remodeling activity include sustained growth in retail sales of home improvement products and ongoing gains in house prices across much of the country,” explains Abbe Will, a research analyst in the Remodeling Futures Program. “Rising home prices means rising home equity, which should encourage improvement spending by a growing number of owners.”

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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