RE/MAX 440
LEE ANN BAUMER, ABR, SRS, CSA, Green, SRES
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-392-1127
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Fax: 267-354-6243 
lbaumer@remaxcentralinc.com
LEE ANN BAUMER, ABR, SRS, CSA, Green, SRES

My Blog

Over 65 Million Americans Live in Homeowner, Community Associations

May 4, 2015 2:21 am

According to a recent review by the Community Association Institute (CAI), an estimated 66.7 million Americans live in common-interest communities, including homeowners associations, condominium communities and cooperatives. Between 1970 and 2014, the number of community associations has swelled from 10,000 to 333,600, the CAI reports.

Homeowners associations account for 51 to 55 percent of the 333,600 associations, with condominiums representing 42 to 45 percent and cooperatives 3 to 4 percent. States with the most associations are Florida (47,100), California (43,300), Texas (19,400) and Illinois (18,150).

"Community associations are an increasingly vital segment of the U.S. housing market—and are increasingly desired by smart homebuyers," says CAI Chief Executive Officer Thomas M. Skiba, CAE. "Not only do they provide options, alternatives, facilities and amenities that most Americans could not otherwise enjoy, they protect property values by preserving the nature and character of the communities."

The estimated value of homes in associations is $4.95 trillion. Associations collect an estimated $70 billion in assessments from their homeowners. Assessments fund association services, such as professional management, utilities and maintenance, and a wide variety of amenities, including pools, club houses and social events. About $22 billion of assessment dollars are contributed to association reserve funds for the repair, replacement and enhancement of common property.

An estimated 30 to 40 percent of associations are self-managed, meaning they do not employ a community manager or management company.

An estimated 2.3 million Americans serve on community association boards and committees at any one time. They perform an estimated 78 million hours of service annually; the value of their volunteer time is estimated at $1.6 billion.

Source: CAI

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Buyers Place Higher Value on Fire-Protected Homes

May 4, 2015 2:21 am

Homeowners are more likely to buy a home – and assign it more value – if it’s protected by fire sprinklers, according to a recent Harris Poll survey. Nearly eight in 10 respondents said fire sprinklers provide the ultimate protection for residents.

"It's certainly encouraging to see that 59 percent of homeowners say fire safety is very important to them and that the majority would rather buy a sprinklered home," says Home Fire Safety Coalition (HFSC) President Lorraine Carli. "But we are also reminded of how much awareness work there still is to do. For example, just half the homeowners recognize the increased fire hazards associated with lightweight residential construction to residents and firefighters, and only about a third understand how open design increases the danger of a home fire."

The common myth that all the fire sprinklers spray water at once when a fire breaks out remains a roadblock to homeowner interest. While homeowners often receive information about home safety features from their builder, 93 percent of them said that firefighters are a more trustworthy source for fire safety. Nearly half say they have more confidence in homebuilders who offer sprinklers than those who do not.

Source: HFSC

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Sunny Skies Ahead for Retirees

May 1, 2015 12:12 am

Rebounding from record lows at the height of the recession, more Americans are now confident in their ability to afford retirement, according to a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) survey. This increasing optimism stems from the 67 percent of workers who either have, or have a spouse who has, a retirement plan such as a 401(k), pension or IRA.

The survey found that 35 percent of those with a retirement plan, either personally or through a spouse, have saved at least $100,000, though just 23 percent have calculated retirement needs.

Worker confidence in the affordability of retirement has inched upward in various areas, including basic expenses, medical expenses and long-term care expenses. Workers are also somewhat more confident that they are adequately preparing financially for retirement. Retiree confidence has increased substantially, as well.

Additionally, both workers and retirees are less likely to describe their level of debt as a problem. The types of debt most frequently reported are mortgages, credit card debt and car loans.

Many Americans, however, are not taking the necessary steps to afford retirement, the survey suggests. For workers without a retirement plan, savings remain low and only a minority appears to be taking basic steps needed to prepare for retirement. Sixty-four percent of those without a retirement plan say they have saved less than $1,000.

For half of workers, cost of living and day-to-day expenses are most detrimental to savings. Nevertheless, many workers say they could save a small amount more – 69 percent state they could save $25 a week more than they are currently saving for retirement.

Source: EBRI

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Mortgage Rates Tick Upward

May 1, 2015 12:12 am

A recently released Bankrate.com survey found mortgage rates rose slightly, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate rising to 3.86 percent. The average 15-year fixed mortgage stepped up to 3.07 percent, while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage increased to 3.97 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were up modestly as well, with the 5-year ARM nosing higher to 3.11 percent and the 7-year ARM now at 3.33 percent.

The increase in mortgage rates came despite evidence of a weak economy at the beginning of this year. As expected, rates moved up ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting. The initial look at first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) didn't elicit much of a response in mortgage rates because it is not only backward looking, but was also widely expected.

One year ago, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.44 percent. At that time, a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,006.25. With the average rate now at 3.86 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $938.76, a savings of $67 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Source: Bankrate.com

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Perk Up Your Patio with These Plants

May 1, 2015 12:12 am

Nothing brightens up an outdoor space quite like blooming flowers and thriving greenery. Whether you’d like to upgrade your deck, porch or patio, consider planting these florae, recommended by the experts at garden plant grower Monrovia.
  • Hydrangeas – Beloved for their large, colorful blooms, hydrangeas thrive in full sun to part shade and should be planted in moist, rich soil. If you live in a drier climate, water them two or more times each week. 
  • Gardenias – Known for their distinct fragrance, gardenias can be grafted onto hardy rootstock to make them easier to grow and less prone to disease.
  • Peonies – Available in an array of colors, peonies are a popular pick, especially itoh peonies, which are a hybrid of herbaceous and tree varieties. Itoh peonies have an extended bloom season and disease resistance, and are much less expensive than when they were first introduced.
  • Peruvian Lilies – Great for cut flower arrangements, Peruvian lilies will provide fresh flowers to adorn your home’s interior all summer long. To boost growth, start off with a bulb and give them ample space in a container or within a garden.
  • Roses – A welcome gift for many, groundcover roses are pest and disease resistant, and require minimal pruning and no dead-heading.
  • Edible Plants – Fruit-bearing plants like blueberry or raspberry shrubs make great long-lasting gifts. They flower in spring, fruit in summer and display colorful foliage in the fall.
Source: Monrovia

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Americans Give High Marks for Finances

April 30, 2015 2:09 am

A majority of Americans are confident in their most recent big financial decision, such as picking a credit card, buying a car or refinancing a mortgage, and as many as 59 percent say they deserve an “A” or a “B” when it comes to their personal financial knowledge, according to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

However, this confidence may be somewhat misguided. Per the survey, 70 percent of Americans are worried about their personal finances, as 60 percent spend without a budget and 21 percent spend more than they did in the previous year.

Additionally, only six percent of Americans feel their student loans were a good investment, and more adults would advise against student loans than would recommend them. Of those who are repaying their own student loans or their children’s loans, 58 percent say they are unable to establish emergency or retirement savings or purchase a car as a result of that financial commitment.

This overconfidence may be the result of progressing success in credit card debt management. Although one in three households carry credit card balances from month to month, the percentage with balances below $2,500 has increased by four percentage points over last year, while the proportion of those with balances of $2,500 or more has decreased by the same amount. This may suggest that people who carry credit card debt are doing so with lower balances than they had in the past.

Source: NFCC

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Conducting Disaster Drills at Home

April 30, 2015 2:09 am

More than half of American adults have not participated in a disaster drill or preparedness exercise at home, work or school in the past year, according to a recent FEMA survey. Further, less than half of respondents have taken steps to develop an emergency plan and discuss it with members of their household. With 80 percent of Americans living in counties that have been hit with weather-related disasters, preparation should not be ignored.

To practice disaster preparedness, FEMA recommends the following:
  • Sign up for local text alerts and warnings and download weather apps to your smartphone.
  • Develop an emergency communication plan for your family. This will help you be in touch if a disaster strikes and family members are in different locations.
  • Collect important documents and keep them in a safe place. This will help you evacuate without delay and get back on track after the disaster passes.
  • Gather emergency supplies. Pack a “go bag” to evacuate quickly and have supplies in the home to be safe without water or power.
Source: FEMA.gov

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5 Improvements that Sell Your Home

April 30, 2015 2:09 am

(BPT) - The housing market has improved across much of the country, but homeowners thinking about listing their homes need to stay competitive to attract buyers. Buyers are looking for long-term homes, ones they want to stay in for years while raising their children or settling down and retiring.

To prepare your home for listing - or to simply enjoy it a few years longer – consider upgrading with one of these five home improvements that sell.

1. Update Your Front Door

Buyers will enter through the front door to view your home, so be sure to give them a good first impression. The front door sets the tone for your home's curb appeal, as well as its overall security. It signals to buyers how well the rest of the home is maintained. If your door is in good shape, you might just need to give it a fresh coat of paint or new hardware. If it's seen some wear and tear over the years, consider replacing it with a steel door.

2. Create a Bathroom Retreat
Buyers will take note of a less than stellar bathroom. If you have a guest or master bath that could use an update, take the opportunity to replace the flooring, add cushy rugs, paint the walls and add modern accessories. Faucets, showerheads, the mirror and even the toilet can all be upgraded with water-saving and stylish designs.

3. Upgrade the Most-Used Entry Point

While the front door gets open house traffic, the garage door is traditionally the most-used door in the home. Old wooden garage doors will start to sag and the paint will peel over time. Replacing this door with an insulated steel door will not only improve the exterior look of your home, but also keep the garage space warmer.

4. Showcase an Outdoor Lifestyle

Remodeling magazine estimates homeowners can recoup up to 80 percent of their investment when adding a deck to their home. You may not consider a deck addition similar to extra square footage inside your home, but that’s how buyers will see it, especially if selling during warmer months. They'll be able to picture themselves enjoying meals outside or curling up on a lounge chair with a good book on a summer afternoon.

To upgrade an existing deck into a show-stopping selling feature, consider using a color-treated wood so that future owners can enjoy the space without the annual chore of staining.

5. Transform the Backyard
Buyers will be visualizing themselves in your backyard when touring your home. Consider adding a beautiful wooden fence to enhance privacy, which will be an asset for families with children and pets.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey: Credit Reports Undervalued

April 29, 2015 2:09 am

In 2003, the government recognized the importance of giving consumers access to their credit data, and federal law mandated every American be entitled to a free copy of their credit reports once a year. Since then, however, just a handful of those with credit histories have monitored their credit reports, according to a recent survey by Credit.com.

Of those who had not checked their credit reports, 34 percent never thought about checking them and 26 percent do not believe they are important, the survey found. Twenty-nine percent believe because they pay their bills on time, there’s no need to check them.

“Credit reports play a major factor in determining if you’ll be approved for a loan, apartment or even a job, so it’s essential to monitor and understand your report,” explains Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com. “Not only do credit reports indicate your credit worthiness, they are the first line of defense in monitoring for potential identity theft.”

Misconceptions exist for those who have checked their credit reports, according to the survey. One in ten found a collection account they were unaware of, and one in nine discovered a late payment they weren’t aware of. Twenty-seven percent were surprised by some of the information that appeared on their credit reports; 21 percent found incorrect information in general.

Source: Credit.com

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4 Mower Maintenance Tips

April 29, 2015 2:09 am

For do-it-yourself homeowners, your lawnmower is likely the workhorse of your outdoor maintenance routine. Performing an annual engine tune-up will ensure your mower lasts all season long. Here’s how to get started, from the experts at Briggs & Stratton.

1. Change the mower oil, a task made easier than ever with an oil removal kit. With a kit, you no longer need to tip your mower over to drain the oil, making for a mess-free oil change.

2. Replace the air filter and spark plug at the beginning of each season. Doing so will ensure peak performance for your mower and can reduce emissions up to 50 percent.

3. Fill a gas can with fresh gas from the pump, and add fuel treatment and stabilizer to the gas can. Keep in mind gas begins to degrade and oxidize after 30 days. Oxidized gas can cause carburetor jets to plug, resulting in an engine that doesn't start, and can cost a significant amount to fix.

4. After tuning up your mower, dispose of used oil at your local hazardous waste center. Pick-up by your municipality may also be available in your area.

Source: Briggs & Stratton

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