Michael Antonucci
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA18944
Phone: 215-453-7653 1174
Office: 215-453-7653
Cell: 267-664-5376
Fax: 267-354-6234
email: mantonucci@remax440.com
RE/MAX 440
Michael Antonucci

My Blog

What Is a Home Service Contract, or "Warranty?"

October 17, 2016 2:30 am


The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) defines home service contracts, or “warranties,” as contracts offering repair, replacement or service for major appliances and systems that break down as a result of “normal” use. Home service contracts, according to the Association, are a significant means of savings for homeowners, with coverage ranging from disposals and ovens to HVAC systems.

“The wholesale value of these contracts easily exceeds $1 billion in savings to consumers annually,” said Mike Bartosch, president of the NHSCA, in a recent statement.

Home service contracts are not the same as homeowners insurance. Said Bartosch, “Home service contracts and homeowners insurance policies are mutually exclusive products in all 50 states. NHSCA members are not insurers and do not sell an insurance product. Further, insurance products don’t cover service, repairs or replacement to home systems and appliances required as a result of normal wear and use.

“If a system or appliance stops working, contact your home service contract provider,” Bartosch added in the statement. “If a home system or appliance is damaged by a falling tree, catches fire, or is subject to vandalism, contact your insurance agent.”

Real estate professionals often offer home service contracts—in this case, “warranties”—to homebuyers and/or sellers. The term “warranty,” according to the NHSCA, refers to the seller’s action of purchasing a service contract for the buyer should issues arise during the first year of ownership. If you’re a buyer or seller, consult with your real estate agent or broker to learn more about the options available to you.

For more information, visit HomeServiceContract.org.
 
Source: National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA)
 

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Car Care: 5 Things Drivers Should Stop Doing

October 14, 2016 2:30 am


A car only lasts as long as you care for it.

“Because auto care isn’t always a top priority for car owners, they might not realize they are doing things that adversely affect the performance, safety and value of their car,” says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Routine maintenance can go a long way toward saving money, avoiding headaches and protecting your vehicle investment.”

The Car Care Council recently outlined five things drivers should stop doing if they want their car to last:

STOP: Driving Carelessly
Driving carelessly is not only dangerous to yourself and those around you—it can cause damage to your car, too. Always observe the speed limit, and avoid aggressive starting and stopping, especially in stop-and-go traffic.

STOP: Ignoring the Check Engine Light
We know, we know—you’ll schedule that vehicle service appointment eventually. Putting off service when the check engine light comes on could lead to costly repairs down the road. (Literally!)

STOP: Neglecting the Tires
Your car’s tires get you from Point A to Point B—don’t neglect them! Bald or underinflated tires can be detrimental to the gas mileage and performance of your car, as well as your overall safety.

STOP: Running on Empty
We don’t mean the gas tank (though that can be harmful, too!). Check the fluid levels of your car regularly, and refill, if needed, to keep your car functioning at optimal capacity.

STOP: Skipping Out on Service
Periodic inspections by a professional service technician, which include assessment of the car’s components and parts, can help you keep unexpected repair costs to a minimum, and extend the lifespan of your car.

Source: Car Care Council
 

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Big DIY Results on a Little Budget

October 14, 2016 2:30 am


(Family Features)—With an abundance of home improvement shows now on television, DIY has evolved from an intimidating trade for the pros to an easy-to-manage project for even the least handy.

Transforming a home from disaster to delightful through DIY projects is much easier than you think, and can save you a bundle in the process. If the thought of doing your own handiwork has you wiping your brow, think again with these easy improvements:

Stained Tubs – Grime and grit build-up in the tub is difficult to remove, making an already annoying mess even more of a headache. Depending on the type of material your tub is made of, you can opt for an abrasive powder, baking soda, or even a pumice stone to rub out those nasty spots.

Wall Dents and Holes – Wrestling matches among the kids, rambunctious pets and moving furniture all take a toll on your walls. Dings and scratches are easy to fix with a little spackle and paint, but with the right resources, so are bigger blemishes—even outright holes.

When you use a repair kit, there's no need to hire a pro or buy a bunch of tools. Such kits, for holes up to five inches in diameter, include everything you need to fix anything from a can-light hole in the ceiling to a door knob hole in the wall—no experience required.

Dripping Faucets – Plumbing can be especially intimidating, but one of the most common plumbing annoyances—a dripping faucet—can be fixed in a few minutes with just a few dollars.

Usually, the cause of a drippy faucet is a washer or O-ring that has gone bad—you can simply replace those parts. Turn off the water, then use a screwdriver or hex wrench to loosen and remove the faucet fitting. You should be able to easily see the washer and ring fittings. Just replace the old with the new and reassemble. (Note: If the drip is coming from a faucet with separate handles for hot and cold, you'll want to isolate which handle is the culprit before you get started.)

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate
 

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How Mortgages Factor In to Debt Profiles

October 14, 2016 2:30 am


Most Americans identify a mortgage as the largest source of debt they carry—an unsurprising statistic, given that the majority of monthly budgets are spent on housing. A mortgage, however, is commonly referred to as a “good kind” of debt, one that leads to long-term wealth and security.

GOBankingRates (GOBankingRates.com) recently took a pulse on the debt profile of some 3,000 Americans, finding 39 percent of those surveyed carry mortgage loan debt—“good” debt. On par with that percentage are the 38 percent surveyed who carry credit card debt—not-so “good” debt. Thirty-one percent surveyed carry auto loan debt; 27 percent carry student loan debt; and 21 percent carry medical debt.

The results of the survey reveal the median mortgage debt is $59,500, though that median trends much higher among those with high incomes. To compare, the median credit card debt among those surveyed is $2,000; the median auto loan debt is $8,000; the median student loan debt is $9,100; and the median medical debt is $600.
Importantly, over half of those surveyed (51 percent) say they are “debt-free”—GOBankingRates attributes this belief to the fact that most of us overlook what we perceive to be minor debts, placing more importance on larger amounts, like mortgages.

Good, bad, major or minor, making payments consistently is key, says GOBankingRates Life + Money Columnist Cameron Huddleston.

“Our survey found that Americans are saddled with various types of debt, from mortgages and student loans to credit card and medical debt,” said Huddleston in a statement on the survey, “but it is a burden that can be overcome. The best way to dig yourself out of debt is to make paying off what you owe a priority.”

Source: GOBankingRates.com
 

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Scam Watch: Fake Election Pollsters on the Prowl

October 13, 2016 2:30 am


Scammers are out in full force under the guise of Presidential election pollsters, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned.

The ruse? According to the BBB, a fraudster calls an unsuspecting consumer offering a reward in exchange for opinions about the election. The fraudster may ask seemingly valid questions in an attempt to gain the consumer’s trust. Once the consumer answers the questions, the fraudster asks for the consumer’s credit card number—this information, the fraudster says, is needed to pay for the shipping and taxes on the reward. The fraudster makes off with the credit card number, making the consumer vulnerable to unauthorized charges or—worse—identity theft.

Watchfulness is key to avoiding this and other campaign cons, according to the BBB. Polling organizations never offer rewards in exchange for opinions, nor ask for credit card information.

Those wishing to make a donation to a campaign should do so directly through the campaign office, not through an email or social media link, the BBB advises.

Source: Better Business Bureau (BBB)
 

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A Hurricane Damaged My Home—Now What?

October 13, 2016 2:30 am


Anyone whose home’s been damaged by a hurricane knows the days following the storm can be hazy.

The first and most important step to take after the storm is contacting your insurance provider to begin the claim filing process. It’s important to do this as soon as you’re able, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), but to tread carefully when doing so.

“Families will have to dig deeper into their pockets, because insurers have been steadily increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles and imposing other policy limitations,” said J. Robert Hunter, director of Insurance for CFA, in a statement on Hurricane Matthew, the most recent storm. “This liability shift to consumers may take some by surprise, since disclosures are often buried in renewal paperwork that consumers may not understand or even read.”

It’s important, according to CFA, to keep records of each event in the claims process, especially when making a claim due to a major catastrophe. Keep your claim number handy, and hold on to receipts for repair work or temporary housing. Record brief notes, including dates and times, of all communications with your insurer. Take stock of your belongings as best you can—having a list will help expedite the claims process.

In the meantime, take steps to prepare for the insurance adjustment, CFA recommends. Be sure to get estimates from a few local, reputable contractors for reference before the adjuster arrives to assess the damage—and, remember, you’re not obligated to use a contractor recommended by your insurer. Clarify whether the adjuster is an independent professional or an employee of the insurer—if the former, confirm they’re authorized by the insurer to make decisions related to your claim.

Remain vigilant through the process, as well. Though flooding is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies, some insurers employ an “anti-concurrent-causation” clause—this means that the insurer will not cover wind damage if flooding occurred concurrently, or at the same time, according to CFA. (Your claim may be denied because of this clause—if that’s the case, consult with an attorney, CFA advises.) Some insurers may also unfairly categorize losses as the result of flooding, rather than high winds.

“Because so many consumers experienced claims problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, we urge homeowners dealing with losses caused by Hurricane Matthew to be vigilant with their insurance companies to ensure that they receive a full and fair settlement,” Hunter said.

However, “not all insurance companies handle claims badly, so go into the claims process with an open mind,” Hunter added.

Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
 

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Do You Know How Often Smoke Alarms Should Be Replaced?

October 13, 2016 2:30 am


Most of us don’t.

You may already be aware you should test the smoke alarms in your house each month. Did you know you should also replace those alarms every 10 years?

Most homeowners, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), are unaware of this guideline—in fact, nine out of 10 in a recent survey by the organization did not know alarms expire. What’s more: one in five has an alarm in their home that is more than 10 years old, and an identical proportion does not know how old their alarms are at all.

“While the public generally knows that smoke alarms play an important role in home fire safety, some smoke alarm messages are not as well understood,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, in a statement. “Not knowing how often smoke alarms need to be replaced—or that they even have an expiration date—are among them.”

Homeowners should inspect their smoke alarms for the “date of manufacture,” which is generally on the back or side of the device—this date indicates age, according to NFPA. The date of manufacture is not the same as the date of purchase or date of installation.

“Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire in half,” Carli added. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure they’re working properly."

Aside from testing alarms on a monthly basis, Carli and NFPA recommend replacing the batteries as soon as the warning chirp sounds.

Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
 

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Top 10 Leaf-Peeping Locales This Fall

October 12, 2016 2:30 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
 

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

October 12, 2016 2:30 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)
 

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Mortgage Assistance Available in Wake of Hurricane Matthew

October 12, 2016 2:30 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
 

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