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Tim Lugara

Tim Lugara
423 North Main Street  Doylestown  PA 18901
Phone:  215-348-7100 1632
Office:  215-348-7100
Toll Free:  800-360-7100
Cell:  215-917-8673
Fax:  267-354-6961

Tim's Blog

Now Is the Time to Lock Your Rate

August 2, 2013 3:52 am

For consumers and borrowers looking to secure a mortgage, locking in to the lowest rate possible is critical to your success. A mortgage rate lock enables borrowers to lock in the original rate that they were quoted when they first applied for a loan from their lender. Not all lenders allow borrowers to lock in their rates, but those who do will usually allow for a rate lock at the beginning, when the loan is filed, or during the application process. Most borrowers prefer to lock in their rates when they first submit the loan, since this will protect them from potential rate or point increases that may occur during the home loan application process.

If you've been mortgage shopping, you've probably seen a lot of interest rates – some lower than others. You've probably also been following news reports about the recent increase in rates, and even though rates are still near record lows, it's pretty obvious that now is the time to take out a new mortgage or refinance an existing one. Of course, once you do decide to apply for a mortgage, it takes time – usually a few weeks – before the mortgage will be finalized. At the end of that time, you want to be sure you end up getting the same low rate that was in effect when you submitted your application. The way to do that is by locking in your rate, and maybe even your points.

A lock protects you from potential rate increases while your loan is being approved, it can also mean you are unable to take advantage of decreases in the interest rates that may occur while your loan is being processed. In a market where you aren't sure whether rates will fall or not, you might choose to float your rate. That means that although you lock in the rate when you make an application, the lender will adjust the rate to any lower interest rate that occurs while your application is being processed. Of course, if rates rise, in most cases the rate will "float" upward with them. Since points also typically fall with interest rates, some lenders also allow points to rise and fall during the application process.

Conducting research on the market and observing mortgage trends is a good way to make sure you can lock in at the best possible rate.

Source: LoanLove.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Best Cities to Be a Chicken

August 2, 2013 3:52 am

Urban chicken coops – and the fresh eggs that come from them – have become the hottest trend among health conscious eaters and locavores. So what kind of person keeps chickens? It turns out they're not necessarily suburbanites with a lot of land; in fact on average, listings with chicken coops have smaller homes and smaller lots, but larger price tags. It appears some buyers are willing to pay a little more for a home with a henhouse.

But which cities have embraced this trend the most? Here are the top five cities to be a chicken, based on the number of homes that have hit the market in the past three months with chicken enclosures mentioned as a feature in the multiple listing service description.

1) Portland, Ore.
The locavore movement is strong in Portland, with many restaurants boasting a menu made of ingredients from less than 50 miles away. The city's residents were among the first to raise backyard chickens en masse, and even the former mayor, Sam Adams, had a couple of hens.

"From community urban farms to edible front yard gardens, Oregonians are crazy about keeping it local. We make our own cheese and sausage, brew our own beer, roast our own coffee…we even trade canned food. Chickens fit right in. The eggs taste way better, your neighbors will love you (if you share), and if you have a good chicken coop, you might be sitting on a little pot of gold when you sell your house!" said Jeff Bale, a real estate agent in Portland.

In order to raise more than three chickens in Portland, residents must build a proper enclosure at least 15 feet away from their home, and obtain a permit from the city. But a permit isn't required if you have less than three hens.

2) Ventura, Calif.
Perhaps it's the temperate climate that drove so many residents of Ventura to build chicken coops. It's much easier to take care of chickens when you don't need to worry about them freezing to death! Locals in Ventura, Calif., have been quick to embrace the backyard chicken movement; there's even a Facebook page called Ventucky Chicken, where residents can discuss the local chicken culture.

"The year-round weather in Ventura and the surrounding communities is terrific for raising chickens and other animals or having personal gardens for vegetables. With such a mild climate, it is no surprise that farming plays such a large part of the lifestyle in the area," said John Underwood, a real estate agent in Southern California.

City officials are trying to catch up with the trend. Last October the City of Ventura Planning Commission recommended that the City Council change the definition of domestic animals to include chickens, so that residents can keep up to six hens without a permit, as long as they are in a penned area at least 35 feet from a home. The laws and regulations currently vary by region; for specific details on the regulations in Ventura County, it's best to contact your local community council.

3) San Diego
Chickens are popping up all over San Diego, and we don't mean the Famous San Diego Chicken. Backyard coops have gained in popularity since the city amended its code last January to allow single family residents to keep chickens.

"Chicken coops are the trendiest house accessory in San Diego. Some have a small one-hen coop, while others have a deluxe, multiple-level coop brightly painted in neon colors. Hens can often produce more eggs than a household can eat, so some homeowners hold weekly egg sales on their sidewalk or at the local farmer's market," said Jordan Clarke, a real estate agent in San Diego.

San Diego residents are allowed up to five hens, as long as they are in the backyard, five feet from side property lines, 13 feet from the rear property line, and kept in an appropriate coop. The city offers residents an online form that makes it easy to look up the guidelines in their area. More information is available on SanDiego.gov.

4) Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento was one of the first major metros to allow chickens, but unlike other cities, it requires a fee. Unfortunately, many residents are unaware of the license and fee requirements, and are keeping undocumented chickens.

"There are a lot of reasons people in Sacramento keep chickens. Some value the free, farm-fresh eggs, some see it as being good for the environment, and others simply enjoy having them as pets. It seems to be a growing trend; over the past few years I've been seeing a lot more chicken coops as I go on home tours with clients," said Lindsay Martin, a real estate agent in Sacramento.

People within Sacramento city limits can keep up to three hens in their backyard, as long as the enclosure is 20 feet away from any homes. An annual license fee of $10 per household and permit fee of $15 per chicken is also required.

5) Seattle
Seattle and Portland have a lot in common, including their love of urban chicken farming. Some of the most popular restaurants in Seattle boast organic items on the menu, including Tilth, which encourages the practice by hosting a tour of the top 25 urban farms in the area.

"Seattleites are foodies and conscious about what they put into their bodies. A lot of people have created urban farms on their property; they grow organic vegetables in their garden and raise chickens in their backyard. You'd be surprised by how many homes for sale have coops. Sometimes they're the front-and-center focal point of a yard, and sometimes they're unobtrusive, covered by trees and bushes," said Bree Al-Rashid, an agent in Seattle.

Seattlites can keep up to eight chickens, as long as their enclosure is at least 10 feet away from any home. They aren't allowed to roam off your property, so some type of pen needs to be created. People with larger lots can keep additional chickens.

Source: Redfin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Budget for Baby

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

Is the buzz about the royal baby giving you some serious baby fever? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child until the age of 18 is $234,900 — a number large enough to make anyone feel as though they would have to be royalty in order to afford a baby.

Luckily, for those considering parenthood for the first time, there are steps you can take beforehand to help ensure you are financially prepared for that bundle of joy. The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI), a nonprofit credit counseling agency, offer the following five tips:

Take control of your debt — now. If you have credit card debt, now is the time to create a solid debt repayment plan. You'll be surprised at the amount of money you can save once those monthly payments are out of the picture. To explore debt repayment options that offer a reasonable payoff time and the potential for lower interest rates, call a nonprofit credit counselor and register for a free debt and budget counseling session.

Explore your health coverage options. Checkups alone for baby can cost more than $100 per visit. You may also want to explore adding long-term disability and life insurance coverage to your existing healthcare plan. Consider reviewing your maternity or paternity leave policies at your workplace.

Know your options. Daycare is one of the largest added expenses that a new baby brings. Considering your childcare options is an important first step. According to a recent study by ChildCare Aware of America, childcare costs for an infant can average more than $300 per week.

Practice living on a "baby budget." If you are planning to live on one salary, start now. This will give you an opportunity to make the necessary lifestyle changes and cutbacks before your bundle of joy arrives, making for a much easier financial transition.

Get tips from the experts — other moms! No one can give you better advice than people who have been through the experience themselves. So ask your friends and family to share their advice or find a local or online support group for parents.

Source: Money Management International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Back to School Survey Finds School Boundaries Play Major Role in Home Buying Decisions

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

Realtor.com® announced the results of its Back to School survey, which analyzed how much impact school boundaries have on buyers looking to purchase a home within two years. It was found that three out of five homebuyers surveyed said school boundaries will impact their home purchasing decision.

Findings:
A majority of homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact are willing to pay one percent to 10 percent above budget to live within school boundaries:

• 23.59 percent would pay one percent to five percent above budget.
• 20.70 percent would pay six percent to 10 percent above budget.
• 8.98 percent would pay 11 percent to 20 percent above budget.
• 40.33 percent would not go above budget.

For those homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact on their decision, the majority indicated school boundaries will be an important consideration:

• 90.53 percent said school boundaries are "important" and "somewhat important."
• 2.04 percent were "neutral" around importance of school boundaries.
• 7.43 percent said school boundaries are "unimportant" and "very unimportant."

Homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact on their decision also indicated that they would give up several amenities to live within school boundaries of choice:

• 62.39 percent would do without a pool or spa.
• 50.60 percent would give up accessibility to shopping.
• 43.96 percent would pass on a bonus room.
• 41.99 percent would offer up nearby parks and trails.

Homebuyers indicated that they would like to be within a certain distance of school boundaries:

• 45.19 percent want to live within school boundaries.
• 33.67 percent want to live within a few miles so their children can ride the school bus.
• 17.20 percent want to live within a mile so their children can walk to school.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips to Keep Children Safe When the Babysitter's Behind the Wheel

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

For some parents, just leaving the kids with a babysitter or nanny can be a nerve-racking experience. But it can be several times more distressing when the babysitter is also responsible for chauffeuring the kids around town. Edmunds.com suggests several steps parents can take to ensure their children's safety while they're in the care – and cars – of others.

"First and foremost, parents should check to make sure the caretaker has a valid driver's license and a solid driving record," says Edmunds.com Consumer Advice Editor Carroll Lachnit. "Be on the lookout for reckless-driving citations, cell phone tickets, excessive speeding and, of course, driving while intoxicated. And don't discount even smaller traffic violations. No red flag is too small when the safety of your children is at stake."

More top tips that every parent should follow include:

1. Check the babysitter's references. There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing other parents in your community have relied on the babysitter to drive their children around.

2. Decide what car the babysitter will drive. It's ideal to lend your own vehicle so you'll be able to make sure that it is in good condition and has all of the features needed to keep your little ones safe. If that's not an option, have a trusted mechanic check out the nanny's car.

3. Install child safety seats. The car that your sitter will use should have appropriate child safety seats that are properly installed for each child who needs them.

4. Sign up the sitter for a defensive driving class. Some nanny agencies require this already. But if you're not going through an agency, or your sitter hasn't taken a class, your insurance agent can help you track one down or you can find a class through your local DMV.

5. Use technology to keep tabs. Parents can install diagnostics trackers that monitor the car's speed, location and performance. Apps and other technology can also be installed to restrict the driver's smartphone usage while the car is in use.

Source: Edmunds.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips to Save Money during a Road Trip

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

(BPT)—Whether you're driving across the country on your annual family road trip or taking a weekend to enjoy the open road, there are plenty of ways to save on the cost of fuel. Here are some easy tips that will help you save money at the pump and stretch the fuel in your gas tank.

Prepare your vehicle. Regular service can spot problems that reduce gas mileage, such as a broken thermostat, low transmission fluid or even something as simple as a dirty air filter.

Prepare yourself. Select a route ahead of time and study it to know exactly where you're going, and where you'll make stops. ExxonMobil's Fuel Finder app includes real-time maps, driving directions and station information for nearly 10,000 Exxon and Mobil retail locations across the continental U.S.

Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving - speeding, rapid acceleration and quick braking - wastes gas and can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Use cruise control to stick to the speed limit on long, straight highways. Wind resistance increases exponentially with speed and your car will work a lot harder the faster you go.

Avoid the heat. When possible, try to get on the road early in the morning or later in the evening as cooler temperatures set in. Not only will it help you save on air-conditioning expenses, but air that is cooler is denser and can actually increase power and mileage.

Follow these simple driving tips and you'll see more savings that you can enjoy on your summer vacation. Time to hit the road.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Calm Further

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates easing for the second consecutive week helping to alleviate concerns over a slowdown in the housing market and amid recent strong homes sales data for June.

Highlights include:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.31 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending July 25, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.37 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.49 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.39 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.41 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.80 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.16 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.17 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.65 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.66 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.71 percent.

"Mortgage rates eased for the second consecutive week, which should help to alleviate market concerns of a slowdown in the housing market,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Thus far, existing home sales for June were the second highest since November 2009 and new home sales were the strongest since May 2008.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renters Thinking More about Owning a Home

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future, according to a survey by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey also found that renters are thinking more about purchasing a home now than in past years, while the number of people who say they prefer to rent has declined.

“Homeownership matters to Americans who consistently realize the many benefits it provides to communities, families and the nation’s economy,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “Due to high housing affordability and today’s interest rates it makes sense for people to consider homeownership over renting. In fact, in many parts of the country it’s cheaper to own a home than to rent one. Therefore, it’s no surprise that renters recognize that owning a home offers tremendous long-term benefits and is an investment in their future.”

The survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing opportunities, found eight in 10 Americans believe buying a home is a good financial decision and more than two-thirds (68 percent) said now is a good time to buy a home. Since the last survey in 2011, more renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, up from 25 percent to 36 percent, while those who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31 percent to 25 percent. Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up from 42 percent to 51 percent.

Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) identified an increase in activity within their local housing market in the past year, compared to just 22 percent who reported a slowdown in activity. By contrast, in 2011, some 51 percent reported a slowdown in activity. There was also less concern than in the past about the drop in home values; a majority said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.

In addition to these improved attitudes about the housing market, respondents also showed an improved outlook about the national economy. Just under half (48 percent) said job layoffs and unemployment are a big problem, down from 61 percent in 2011. The concern over foreclosures showed a steep decline from 2011 when 47 percent characterized distressed properties as “very” or a “fairly big problem”; today only 29 percent say it’s a problem.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Three R's for Back to School: Research, Reuse, Revisit

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

With families preparing for the back-to-school season and the frenzied shopping sessions that come along with it, Goodwill Industries International is asking parents and students to shop responsibly. In 2010, Goodwill launched the Donate Movement, which asks consumers to think about how donations and shopping for used goods can make a difference to communities and the planet. At Goodwill, donated goods and their resale are transformed into job training and placement programs that help millions of people annually. With that in mind, Goodwill asks families to consider the Three R’s of the back-to-school season.

1. Research: Instead of approaching the back-to-school season with a last-minute dash for the mall, kids and parents can use it as an opportunity to learn about conscientious shopping. At the Donate Movement website (donate.goodwill.org), anyone can easily find out the impact their used goods can have by entering donations into the patent-pending Donation Impact Calculator. For example, three pairs of gently used jeans provide 31 minutes of career counseling. Students can also read exactly how these career counseling classes have helped job seekers in their communities. Parents can enter their zip codes on the site to find out how and where to donate.

2. Reuse:
Young people can make an impact during the back-to-school season in three ways. First, they can make room in their closets, bedrooms and backpacks by donating gently used clothing and household items to Goodwill. Second, they can purchase donated items for school so that the value of what they buy will go directly into helping their communities. Third, they can hold donation drives at their local school once the school season starts. Young shoppers can find everything from clothes and school supplies to books, electronics and sports equipment at their local Goodwill stores.

3. Revisit: With families now spending more than ever before on back-to-school shopping, it can certainly help to put off some purchases until later in the year. By returning to Goodwill throughout the school year, parents can make sure they're only buying items they really need. Returning later also means they can likely find some must-have back-to-school items at deeply discounted prices in just a few months. Throughout the year, families can revisit the Donate Movement site to learn how their donated goods are having an impact, and return to Goodwill to drop off used items and find new ones.

"The back-to-school season can be a stressful time for families," said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. "By approaching it as a fun opportunity to learn about the power of donating and to find ways to strengthen our community, children and parents alike can get everything they need for school while knowing they're doing good by helping others."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Natural Fun Takes a Backseat to Tech Time for Kids & Families

August 1, 2013 1:48 pm

From weekday afternoons huddled in front of gaming consoles to weekends spent downloading the latest smartphone app, kids today spend a significant amount of time indoors tethered to technology. A survey commissioned by Busch Gardens® found that 85 percent of moms worry that their children don't experience enough natural, unstructured outdoor playtime – the kind of activity so common in previous generations.

According to the survey of nearly 900 moms conducted by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Busch Gardens®, kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as playing tag, riding bikes, and exploring nature, and these activity levels increase only slightly on the weekends to a little more than two hours.

"As parents, we remember our own moms opening up the screen door on a summer day and telling us 'go outside and play,' and we did, playing with friends from the neighborhood, roller skating and concocting elaborate games," said Stacy DeBroff , founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting. "We fear we're raising a generation of kids with 'Natural Fun Deficiency' who rarely play outside unless as part of planned activities with a coach nearby carrying a whistle and a clipboard."

Based on the survey results, both moms and kids see technology as a deterrent to kids playing outside – 68 percent of moms think their kids spend too much time plugged in, and 44 percent of kids prefer texting to kickball.

However, the obstacles to outdoor-based family time include more than just technology. More than two-thirds of moms feel that family fun often takes a backseat to day-to-day obligations.

Here are some tips to combat 'Natural Fun Deficiency':

For Kids
• Keep it Low-Key: Don't worry about creating a master outdoor curriculum for kids. Instead, encourage them to build a fort, suggest they invite the new neighbor kids over for a backyard soccer game, or challenge them to make the ultimate mud pie.

• Team Up with Fellow Moms: When it comes to planning play dates, the survey showed that almost 60 percent of moms never or rarely think about organizing an outdoor-focused get-together, despite the fact that 75 percent of moms want their kids to be more open to outdoor adventure. Work with other moms to banish time in front of the TV or gaming console and instead suggest that kids go outside for a backyard scavenger hunt or game of kickball.

• Group Learning Activities: Surprise the kids with learning experiences disguised as pure fun.

For Families

• Plan a Family Getaway: According to the survey results, 70 percent of moms rely on vacations as a time for kids to unplug and get away from technology. Planning a family getaway can be a great way for everyone to set aside pressures and obligations and re-connect as a family.

• Explore the Great Outdoors: To jumpstart natural, outdoor fun, identify vacation spots with enough outdoor activities to entice everyone in the family. For example, a beach vacation offers opportunities for swimming, water sports, and beach exploration, while a visit to a theme park provides everything from thrill rides to water fun to animal encounters in natural settings.

• The Family Who Plays Together, Stays Together: Support kids' newfound outdoor experiences by creating fun, easy-to-arrange family activities. Take advantage of extended daylight hours to eat dinner on the patio or schedule an impromptu picnic dinner in the backyard. Or walk the dog as a family each weekend morning.

Source: Busch Gardens

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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