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RE/MAX 440
Stuart Dubbs
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-398-8111
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Cell: 484-239-0950
Fax: 267-354-6247 
sdubbs@remaxcentralinc.com
Stuart Dubbs

My Blog

Real Estate with Perspective

Top 10 Leaf-Peeping Locales This Fall

October 12, 2016 12:48 am


On the road in search of color-changing foliage this fall? Take in awe-inspiring autumn vistas at these leaf-peeping locales, recently ranked by Booking.com.

1. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee)
Come for: 100-plus species of native trees
Stay for: Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn & Spa, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

2. Aspen (Colorado)
Come for: Aspen trees
Stay for: Limelight Hotel, Aspen, Colo.

3. Lake Superior (Minnesota)
Come for: North Woods, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Stay for: Grand Superior Lodge, Two Harbors, Minn.

4. Geneva Lake (Wisconsin)
Come for: 19th century shoreline properties
Stay for: Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wis.

5. The Berkshires (Massachusetts)
Come for: Antique shops, art galleries
Stay for: Orchards Hotel, Williamstown, Mass.

6. June Lake (California)
Come for: Outdoor recreation, Sierra Nevada
Stay for: Double Eagle Resort & Spa, June Lake, Calif.

7. The Green Mountains (Vermont)
Come for: Long Trail
Stay for: Edson Hill, Stowe, Vt.

8. The Poconos (Pennsylvania)
Come for: Outdoor recreation, seasonal events
Stay for: Skytop Lodge, Skytop, Pa.

9. The Ozarks (Missouri)
Come for: Orange sassafras, purple sweetgum and red maple trees
Stay for: The Lodge at Old Kinderhook, Camdentown, Mo.

10. Hudson River Valley (New York)
Come for: Adirondack Mountains
Stay for: Blue Pearl Woodstock, Woodstock, N.Y.

Source: Booking.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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I'm Buying New Construction—How Much Space Can I Expect in the Kitchen?

October 12, 2016 12:48 am


New homes are built with kitchens averaging 161 square feet, or just below 13 feet by 13 feet, according to “Size of Kitchens in New U.S. Single-Family Homes,” a report by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). The size of a kitchen, the report shows, generally varies based on the size of the home, and on the number of stories the home has and its location.

New homes under 1,500 square feet, for example, have kitchens averaging 103 square feet; new homes above 4,000 square feet have kitchens averaging 238 square feet—a 135-square-foot difference.

In single-story homes, the average size of the kitchen is 151 square feet, or 10 square feet less than the overall average, according to the report. Single-story homes in the Mountain region, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, average 158 square feet—the largest in the country. Single-story homes in New England, conversely (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont), average 130 square feet—the smallest in the country.

Kitchens in multistory homes are larger than those in single-story homes, as well, at an average 174 square feet, or 13 square feet more than the overall average. The West South Central region, which is comprised of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, has multistory homes with the largest kitchens, averaging 184 square feet; the West North Central region, or Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, has multistory homes with the smallest, at 156 square feet.

The layout of the home can also be a determining factor, according to the report—kitchens in homes with a great room average 164 square feet, compared to those without at 159 square feet.

Source: National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Assistance Available in Wake of Hurricane Matthew

October 12, 2016 12:48 am


Homeowners with mortgage loans owned or guaranteed through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew may be granted a forbearance period for their mortgage payments, the two enterprises recently announced.

“We understand that many families and communities are hurting as they deal with the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew,” said Malloy Evans, vice president of Servicing at Fannie Mae, in a statement. “Fannie Mae and our servicers stand with homeowners who have been impacted by these extremely challenging conditions. We are working with our servicers to ensure assistance is offered to borrowers and communities in need. Our thoughts are with all of those who have been impacted.”

“We strongly encourage the many American families whose homes or businesses are being impacted by Hurricane Matthew to call their mortgage servicer once the Federal Emergency Management Agency's [FEMA] declaration is announced,” said Yvette Gilmore, vice president of Single-Family Servicer Performance Management at Freddie Mac, in a statement. “Relief—including forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year—may be available if their mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac."

Fannie Mae’s guidelines permit mortgage servicers to grant forbearance “to any borrower they believe has been affected by this natural disaster,” according to the statement, or “to delay foreclosures sales and other legal proceedings in these areas.” The forbearance period is up to 90 days initially (if the homeowner is out of reach due to the disaster), and up to six months after contact has been made.

Similarly, Freddie Mac’s guidelines allow “suspending foreclosures by providing forbearance for up to 12 months, waiving assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers with disaster-damaged homes, and not reporting forbearance or delinquencies caused by the disaster to the nation’s credit bureaus.”

Homeowners should contact their mortgage servicer as soon as possible to assess options.

Sources: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 No-Fail Tips to Save Money

October 11, 2016 12:45 am


If you want to build the emergency fund you know you need to have—but find yourself living from paycheck to paycheck without saving a dime—it’s time to put a no-fail savings plan in place. Here are three tips to get started, courtesy of The Motley Fool:

1. Strictly Track Spending – You may think you know where your money goes each month, but chances are you have no real idea about how much is slipping through the cracks. For at least one month, list every penny you spend, from rent and utilities to your morning coffee, those hard-to-get concert tickets and the pair of shoes you found at half-price. Take a hard look at your spending and figure out exactly where you can cut out or cut back—and do it!

2. Pay Yourself First – You can’t spend what you don’t have, so sign up for an automatic savings plan so that a set portion of every paycheck goes automatically into savings before you can spend it. Once you’ve saved enough to cover three to six months of living expenses, focus on starting to contribute—or contributing more to—your employer’s 401(k) plan, if offered.

3. Help Resist Temptation – Impulse purchases can derail anyone’s saving efforts. Avoid sales unless there is something you really need, or stay focused only on what you came to shop for. Take only enough cash for what you need to buy—leave your credit card at home. It’s discipline that counts!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Study: Homeowners Save Most When Combining Insurance

October 11, 2016 12:45 am


Insurance providers often offer discounts to incentivize policyholders to bundle insurance. The savings depend on the type of insurance being combined, as well as the state the policyholder lives in, according to a recently released study by insuranceQuotes.

“Discounts for bundling auto and home, condo or renters insurance vary by state, and can help many consumers save more than $500 per year,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for insuranceQuotes, in a statement on the study. “Combining policies with the same insurer is a simple and easy way to reduce premiums.”

Policyholders who bundle auto and homeowners insurance reap the most savings at an average $314 per year, according to the study. Homeowners policies are more expensive than those for condo owners or renters, so the savings are more substantial.

The states with the highest average savings are:

1. Louisiana ($584/year)
2. Oklahoma ($541)
3. Texas ($473)
4. Kansas ($444)
5. Mississippi ($430)
6. Arkansas ($421)
7. Minnesota ($418)
8. Alabama and Missouri ($414)
9. Nebraska ($395)
10. Illinois ($392)

In some cases, however, bundling does not maximize savings, Adams cautioned. It is important to shop around for policies, even if they are from different insurance providers.

“Combining policies usually saves money; however, there are scenarios when using separate providers could be a better option,” said Adams. “Always compare quotes both bundled and unbundled.”

Source: insuranceQuotes
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Rents to Keep Rising in 2017

October 11, 2016 12:45 am


Rents are expected to increase 1.7 percent in 2017, according to the latest Zillow® Rent Forecast, with the highest increases anticipated in markets in the West—Seattle, Portland and Denver. The projected increase, though slowing, could give reason for renters to make the transition to homeownership.

“We have more renters today than in the past, and most newly formed households are renter households,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “This taken together with a lack of new rental construction at less expensive price points has been a recipe for rising rents."

Zillow’s forecast predicts rents will rise most rapidly in:

1. Seattle, Wash. – 7.2 percent
Median Rent: $2,067

2. Portland, Ore. – 6.0 percent
Median Rent: $1,777

3. Denver, Colo. – 5.9 percent
Median Rent: $2,013

4. Cincinnati, Ohio – 5.2 percent
Median Rent: $1, 239

5. San Francisco, Calif. – 4.9 percent
Median Rent: $3,406

6. Los Angeles, Calif. – 4.8 percent
Median Rent: $2,593

7. Sacramento and San Diego, Calif. – 4.7 percent
Median Rent (Sacramento): $1,681
Median Rent (San Diego): $2,427

8. Phoenix, Ariz. – 4.6 percent
Median Rent: $1,297

9. San Jose, Calif. – 4.5 percent
Median Rent: $3,517

10. Boston, Mass. – 3.9 percent
Median Rent: $2,310

“There is good news for renters on the horizon, though,” Gudell adds. “Current renters in these markets can expect rents to slow down a bit over the next year. Instead of the 10 percent rental appreciation we’ve been seeing in some places, expect growth more along the lines of 4 to 7 percent. This is still high, but will hopefully give renters some relief.”

Source: Zillow®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Retirement Playbook: Lessons from Investors of Every Age

October 10, 2016 12:42 am


A startling proportion of Generation X workers are worried about investing for retirement, according to a recently released survey—but most of their anxiety can be curtailed by examining lessons learned by others.

One such lesson, based on responses to the survey, conducted by Capital Group, is gleaned from both baby boomer and millennial investors: limit losses during downswings.

“Every generation is interested in achieving better investment outcomes over time and limiting losses in market downturns, combined with low fees,” says Heather Lord, senior vice president and head of Strategy and Innovation at Capital Group.

Lesson two? Don’t settle for average gains. The baby boomer and millennial investors surveyed understood that a diversified portfolio can reap above-average results; however, not all grasped how to develop one.

“Each generation has blind spots around index funds, which experience the full downside of market drops,” Lord says. “Baby boomers, especially, are unaware of those risks—and they're the ones with less time to rebuild their nest eggs from a market downturn.”

Only half of the investors surveyed were aware that passive index funds expose them to the full impact of market volatility, and even fewer recognized the heightened risk of index funds as an older investor. Two out of three of the investors surveyed were unaware that low fees are a factor in determining the viability of a fund, as well as “high manager ownership,” or the amount fund managers invest in the funds they manage.

Lesson three: take saving seriously. According to the results of the survey, more than half of millennials began saving for retirement before age 25. (Markedly, one-quarter of them also believed children born today should start saving for retirement before their eighteenth birthday.)

The takeaway overall? A long-term investment strategy—a “buy-and-hold mindset”—is best.

“After experiencing the dot-com bust, the global financial crisis and the housing collapse, as well as stagnant wage growth during their formative adult years, Gen Xers—or ‘Generation AnXious’—are wary about their financial future,” says Lord. “Perhaps because of these concerns, Gen Xers long to do better than the average market, and say actively managed funds can help them reach these goals.”

Source: Capital Group Companies
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Fit Is Your City?

October 10, 2016 12:42 am


There are many factors to take into consideration when sizing up the overall fitness level in your area, such as gyms, healthy dining establishments and parks. A recent study from Fitbit, makers of the wildly popular fitness tracker, has determined an area’s level of fitness based on stats from its more than 10 million users.

According to a recent blog by the company, researchers analyzed user data to determine which cities ranked the highest overall based on average number of steps, active minutes, resting heart rate and sleep duration—all tracked by the device. The top 10 fittest cities in America, according to the results:

1. Madison, Wis.
2. Minneapolis, Minn.
3. Spokane, Wash.
4. Boston, Mass.
5. Portland, Ore.
6. Grand Rapids, Mich.
7. Lincoln, Neb.
8. San Francisco, Calif.
9. Seattle, Wash.
10. Washington D.C.

Honorable mentions include: New York, N.Y., the city with the most steps and highest number of active minutes; Boston, Mass., the city with the lowest resting heart rate; and Spokane, Wash., the city that gets the most sleep.

Source: Fitbit
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Millennial Homebuyers: 10 Zip Codes to Consider

October 10, 2016 12:42 am


Like moths to a flame.

The hottest zip codes in the nation are drawing scores of millennials in search of employment opportunities, according to a recently released report by realtor.com®, making them magnets for other types of buyers, as well.

The report ranked the top 10 hottest zip codes based on viewings and days-on-market—the latter averaging 25 days.

1. Watauga, Texas (76148)
2. Pleasant Hill, Calif. (94523)
3. Northglenn, Colo. (80233)
4. Colorado Springs, Colo. (80916)
5. San Antonio, Texas (78247)
6. Petaluma, Calif. (94954)
7. Melrose, Mass. (02176)
8. Crestwood, Mo. (63126)
9. Milwaukie, Ore. (97222)
10. North Park, Calif. (92104)

“Homes for sale in this year's hottest zip codes are selling almost as quickly as they hit the market,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. “While millennials are usually a significant presence in most markets, their sheer size and buying power have made them a force to be reckoned with in these hot zip codes and given them the power to shift supply and demand dynamics.”

Collectively, these zip codes are experiencing an average employment growth rate of 2.3 percent, which is 35 percent higher than the current national rate. The ranking underscores the role millennials play in the “hotness” factor, according to realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Stop, Think, Connect: Cyber Security Tips

October 7, 2016 2:27 am


Every internet user agrees: cyber security is a must.

“As every one of us, our families and our communities become increasingly connected, it becomes even more critical to practice good cyber security habits,” says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). “A recent NCSA/Microsoft survey of 13- to 17-year-old teens, and parents of 13- to 17 year olds, revealed a strong interest in securing personal information.”

Kaiser and the NCSA have answered that call through the STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ initiative, which has educated internet users on cyber security for over a decade. The campaign’s tips include:

Lock down your login. Enable the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, one-time codes or security keys—usernames and passwords are not enough to protect banking, email and social media accounts.

Keep a clean machine. Keep all software on internet-connected devices, including computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, up to date.

Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on websites and apps to a level you’re comfortable with. Remember: it's okay to limit how and with whom you share information.

Protect personal information. Information about you, such as purchase history or location, has value, just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it's collected by apps and websites.

Share with care. Think before posting about yourself or others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future.

When it doubt, throw it out. Cybercriminals often use links in email, social posts and texts to try to obtain personal information. If something appears suspicious—even if you know the source—delete it.

Source: National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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