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Peter Cerruti
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309
Quakertown  PA 18951
 Phone: 215-429-7273
Office Phone: 215-538-4400
Fax: 267-354-6992 
petecerruti@yahoo.com
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Peter Cerruti

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A Guide to Mortgages, HELOCs and More

June 18, 2015 3:33 am

(BPT) - Whether you're looking to make a first-time purchase, refresh an existing home or simply leverage built-up equity for other reasons, it's important to figure out which path is right for you and understand the lending options available.

First-time buyers must start with determining what is affordable. In addition to the mortgage payment, housing costs will include property taxes, homeowners insurance and fees, such as homeowner association dues. Altogether, costs should be no more than 28 percent of monthly gross income and should leave room to continue servicing other debt, such as student loans, credit cards or auto loans.

When preparing to buy a home, work through credit pre-approval to be ready with a strong offer when the opportunity arises. In addition to reviewing credit history, a loan originator will consider the amount of the down payment. A down payment typically ranges from 3-20 percent, and one that is less than 20 percent may require you to purchase mortgage insurance. A mortgage originator, however, can provide a variety of lending options to optimize your investment, from 15- and 30-year mortgages to fixed and variable terms.

If planning to make some improvements to a much-loved residence, consider financing the updates through a home equity line of credit (HELOC). Eligibility depends on how much equity has been built up in the home and the lender's loan-to-value ratio. A HELOC works much like a credit card and offers flexibility. A minimum amount is paid monthly, and interest applies to the amount borrowed.

Before embarking on a remodeling project, do some homework. Start with the lender to determine the value of the home and the loan amount available. Then, establish a budget, leaving room for unexpected expenses. Work with a reputable professional to define the project and its requirements, and shop around for bids and recommendations to confidently select a contractor. Some lenders offer checklists to help get the most from the investment.

Another option for financing a project through a home's equity is a home equity loan (HELOAN). As with a mortgage, the loan is granted as a lump sum and is paid back in installments over time, typically 10-15 years and at a fixed rate locked in at the time of securing the loan. A HELOAN works well for a one-time goal to improve the value of a home. Be mindful that either a HELOAN or a HELOC introduce some uncertainty, as monthly expenses will increase and must be maintained to avoid foreclosure risk.

Remember to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation. Start with a lender who can help you identify financial options available to home buyers and owners today. With careful planning and budgeting, the financing you need may be well within reach.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Going Abroad This Summer? Don't Forget These Necessities

June 17, 2015 3:33 am

With the economy on the upswing, a majority of Americans are planning a vacation abroad this summer. Those heading overseas have additional details to plan than domestic travelers. If you’re traveling abroad in the future, don’t forget these necessary steps, recommended by TravelGuideWorldwide.com.

Research your intended destination.
Be aware of seasonal, political and environmental conditions that may result in trip delays. For example, high-speed trains in Europe can be an enjoyable and efficient way to explore, but strikes by rail workers are not uncommon and are usually announced in advance, so have a backup plan. Know routes and timetables of regional trains and your options for spending additional sightseeing time or even another night at your destination.

Check your passport's expiration date.
If your passport is scheduled to expire within six months, some airlines may not let you board and some countries will not let you enter. In the U.S., routine renewal applications typically are processed within four to six weeks, but expedited options are available at an additional cost.

Prepare a water safety plan.
Water sports are a favorite summer vacation pastime, so if you or your family can benefit from age-appropriate swimming lessons, a boater safety session, or a refresher scuba diving course, look into options and consider the price to be part of your vacation budget. Consider enrolling in a CPR course, too; your training may not be called upon this summer, but it may benefit you and your loved ones long after the memories of your summer vacation have faded.

Learn about recommended immunizations. Get information from reputable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.CDC.gov/Travel) on immunizations. Schedule vaccination appointments well in advance to ensure you're protected before your journey begins. Consider visiting a travel immunization clinic, whose team may be more up to date than your primary care doctor on vaccinations for foreign destinations. Remember to check with your health insurance plan to determine your coverage and costs.

Source: TravelGuardWorldwide.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Savers Can Expect from Auto-IRAs

June 17, 2015 3:33 am

If automatic IRAs, or auto-IRAs, were made universal, how significant could their impact be for increasing retirement readiness and reducing the national retirement savings deficit?

According to an evaluation by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), the success of auto-IRAs boils down to age, opt-out rates and default contribution rates.

IRAs, authorized by Congress in 1974, were designed to provide a tax-deferred way to save for retirement by people who do not have access to a workplace retirement plan (especially for those at small employers, which tend not to sponsor retirement plans). While IRAs have been shown to produce significant retirement accumulations by those who contribute to them, the vast majority of people who do not have a tax-qualified retirement plan at work also do not take advantage of an IRA.

In response, proponents of auto-IRAs have been pushing for legislation which would require certain employers without retirement plans to automatically invest a designated amount of each employee’s compensation to an IRA, unless the employee changes the amount of the contribution or opts out of the arrangement. Employer contributions are not generally required in these arrangements; rather, an employer’s payroll system would be used to regularly deduct the savings from each paycheck.

In a best-case scenario, EBRI projections estimate the introduction of an auto-IRA for households currently ages 35-39 working for small employers would increase the probability of a successful retirement by 8.4 percent.

Looking at the potential impact on the estimated $4.13 trillion national retirement savings deficit, among households where the family head is ages 35–64, adding auto-IRAs with no opt outs would reduce the savings deficit to $3.86 trillion, a 6.5 percent decrease.

Source: EBRI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Much Should New Homeowners Set Aside for Repairs?

June 17, 2015 3:33 am

Owning a home comes with its fair share of expenses, including mortgage and insurance payments and maintenance costs, but how much can a new homeowner reasonably expect to spend on unexpected repairs?

"My recommendation for homeowners is to take a few simple precautions before moving into their home," says Marianne Cusato, HomeAdvisor.com. "Complete a sewer inspection, check that the insurance policy covers water damage, and set money aside for home emergency projects. Homeowners should plan on spending 1 percent of their home's purchase price on repairs and emergencies each year."

According to HomeAdvisor.com data, more than half of homeowners encountered unexpected home projects within the first year of owning a home. More than half also spent more time on projects than originally anticipated, and less than half spent more money than anticipated.

The most frequently cited emergency projects include blocked toilets and pipes, a clogged drain, a broken heating or cooling system and water leaks. These unexpected repairs can cost homeowners anywhere from $199 to $2,068, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

In the first year of homeownership, most new homeowners tend to focus on improvements that increase curb appeal, such as installing landscaping, a sprinkler system, wood fence or deck. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average cost of these outdoor projects is $12,850.

Source: HomeAdvisor.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Money Wasters to Avoid This Summer

June 16, 2015 3:33 am

Summer is a time for fun and relaxation, but all those summer activities can wreak havoc on your savings account. To avoid depleting your savings, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling© (NFCC©) recommends steering clear of these top money wasters:

1. Impulsive Travel
– Hastily booking a trip at the last minute can be very expensive, mostly because no time is taken to research deals and comparison shop for the lowest prices. Use the tools available on the Web to capture the most savings. Start by comparing package offers and try to be flexible with travel dates. Many travel booking sites offer special value-added deals that include hotels where kids eat at no cost. You may also catch a break from rental car companies offering free upgrades to give you and your family a little extra leg room. When it comes to travel, a little planning helps your money go a long way.

2. No Spending Plan
– A budget is essential for saving money throughout the year while allowing for necessities like housing and food. The same is true for any summer holiday. Research the destination and compare prices for all of the anticipated activities. Start saving money each month throughout the year to have enough for estimated costs. Less worry about credit card spending leads to a more enjoyable time for everyone.

3. Extra Baggage and Other Airport Blunders – Extra planning saves a whole lot of money at the airport. Savings can start with the number of bags packed, if limited to the size and quantity allowed by the airline being used. Each airline has different guidelines, so it pays to check before traveling. Food and beverage costs are sky high in the terminal and on the plane, so bring some snacks in the carry-on luggage since certain types and quantities of non-liquid food items are allowed through security. An empty water bottle can be filled at any public fountain and helps spare the extra expense of buying bottled water at premium prices inside the terminal or on while in transit.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Ways to Prep for a Remodel

June 16, 2015 3:33 am

Proper planning is essential before beginning a remodel, and may be the most critical step in the process, says the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). To prepare for the project, NARI shares the top 10 steps you should take before breaking ground on your next remodel.

1. Research your project. Taking time to research projects will provide a good sense of what is involved such as price, scope of work, return on investment and new product and material options. It is also a good idea to research property values in your neighborhood to make sure your project is in line with other homes in the area.

2. Plan project around the long-term.
How long do you plan to stay in your home? How might your family structure change over time? Life can change quickly, so these questions should be answered early on to ensure your project will fit your lifestyle long after it is complete.

3. Set your budget. Deciding on a realistic budget and arranging finances to support your project are essential. This number needs to include everything: the project, products, contingencies, etc. Don’t be afraid to share this with your remodeler; professionals are respectful of a client’s budget and will create a plan around it, not over it.

4. Use advanced search for professionals. The online world makes it easy to gather information about strangers. Ask friends, family and neighbors for referrals and then spend time researching that person online. Professional remodelers take their reputation seriously and hold credentials beyond licensing, such as certifications, memberships in trade associations and additional training. Look for examples of press coverage or involvement in industry presentations or events. Check online reviews and social media to see how they interact with past clients and peers.

5. Ask the right questions.
Time and cost are important, but getting the right information requires the right questions. Ask your professional remodeler about his or her educational background, training, specialties or past issues with clients. Ask about how the remodeling process will work.

6. Verify your remodeler.
Don’t take their word for it. Check the information given to you such as references, license numbers, insurance information and certifications by calling providers to verify. Request a visit to an active client’s jobsite. Make it known that you are checking on him; a true professional considers that as a positive sign to working with a homeowner.

7. Review contracts word-by-word. A remodeling contract protects you and your remodeler. Homeowners should review this carefully. Professional remodelers have done this before, and know what should go in a contract. Homeowners are not as familiar with remodeling and should ask about terms if they don’t understand. Pay attention to details about change orders, payment, additional fees, timeline and responsibilities. If it is not in the contract, it doesn’t exist.

8. Keep design in mind. Your design guides the entire project. Think about what you dislike about your current space and the intended use of the new space. Use Websites such as Pinterest.com and Houzz.com to gather design ideas. Make sure you can articulate specifically what you like about that design when talking to your designer. Professionals don’t recreate a photo – they incorporate accessibility, functionality, ease of modification, style and value into your design.

9. Make your selections. Deciding on products and materials is a larger process than most imagine. With so many options to choose from, product selections are one of the primary reasons for project timelines to get extended. Base decisions on quality, function, price, style and availability. Include selections in the contract to lock down pricing and keep your budget intact.

10. Create a communication plan. A common downfall in remodeling is lack of communication between homeowners and remodelers. Your remodeler should lay out a communication plan at the beginning of the project. If not, ask them to do so. This plan should clarify roles of everyone involved, communication methods, availability, and frequency of communication that is expected.

Source: NARI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Be Misled by Reverse Mortgage Ad Claims

June 16, 2015 3:33 am

Reverse mortgage advertisements are a dime a dozen, but that does not mean consumers are any less susceptible to false ad claims, says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In fact, many reverse mortgage ads do not tell the full story.

“As older consumers consider reverse mortgage loans to tap into their home equity, they need to be careful of those late night TV ads that seem too good to be true,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “It is important that advertisements do not downplay the terms and risks of reverse mortgages or confuse prospective borrowers.”

A reverse mortgage is a special type of home loan that allows older homeowners to access the equity they have built up in their homes and defer payment of the loan until they pass away, sell, or move out. The loan proceeds are generally provided to the borrowers as lump-sum payments, monthly payments, or as lines of credit. Most reverse mortgages today are federally insured through the Federal Housing Authority’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program, which carry some regulatory requirements.

While advertisements frequently do not describe all the details of the particular product or service being sold, the incompleteness of reverse mortgage ads raises heightened concerns because reverse mortgages are complicated and often expensive loans intended for older, and frequently vulnerable, homeowners. According to the CFPB, the ads are characterized by:

Ambiguity that reverse mortgages are loans: Some consumers find it difficult to understand from the ads that reverse mortgages are loans with fees and compounding interest, and that the loans need to be repaid. Most ads either do not include interest rates or included interest rates in fine print. Other consumers thought that because the money they received through a reverse mortgage represented home equity they had accrued over time, there was no reason they would have to pay it back.

False impressions about government affiliation:
The advertisements leave some older homeowners with the false impression that reverse mortgages are a risk-free government benefit, and not a loan. Consumers often misinterpret the role of the federal government in the reverse mortgage market as providing consumer protections that are not actually offered.

Celebrity endorsements that imply reliability and trust: Many ads feature celebrity spokespeople discussing the benefits of reverse mortgages without mentioning the risks. Most consumers believe TV ads that feature spokespeople are portrayed as reliable and trustworthy.

False impressions about financial security and staying in the home for the rest of the consumer’s life: Many ads imply financial security for the rest of a consumer’s life. A reverse mortgage does not guarantee financial security no matter how long a consumer lives. A consumer can tap into their equity too early and run out of funds to draw on. In addition, borrowers with a reverse mortgage are still responsible for paying property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and property maintenance. Failing to meet these requirements can trigger a loan default that results in foreclosure. Most advertisements fail to mention such requirements.

Incomplete or inaccurate statements made in advertisements about reverse mortgages can pose serious risks to older Americans. Without more balanced information, consumers may not make the right financial choice and jeopardize their retirement security. This means they could run out of money for their day-to-day expenses or even lose their homes.

When viewing these ads, the CFPB says to keep in mind a reverse mortgage is a home loan, not a government benefit, reverse mortgage ads don’t always tell the whole story, and without a good plan, a consumer could outlive the loan money.

Source: CFPB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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12 Tips for Cyber Security on the Road

June 15, 2015 3:33 am

Whether in for a long-awaited vacation or heading out on business trip, many travelers take their electronic devices along for the ride. If you plan to travel in the future, keep your devices and data safe with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Wombat Security Technologies.

Leave data-packed business devices and materials behind whenever possible. If you don’t think you’ll use it, don’t take it. Ask yourself, “Is this business critical?” If the answer is no, it shouldn’t make the trip.

Limit the credit cards and personal identification items you take with you.
Before you go, make a note of what items you’re taking and any relevant customer service numbers. Store that info in a safe place so you’ll have a quick reference in case your wallet is lost or stolen.

Explore the possibility of using a “disposable” phone and laptop when traveling
, particularly if you are an executive, manager, or business insider who deals with highly confidential data. This approach allows you to maintain connectivity without exposing the contact lists, files, and sensitive information that are stored on daily-use devices. If your organization doesn’t support this type of service, make the case for building a small repository of devices that can be issued prior to travel and then be wiped clean afterward.

Don’t leave your devices unattended in public, not even for a few moments
. It can be tempting to put your smartphone off to the side while you check your bags at the airport or to leave your laptop sitting on the table while you got to the café counter to get a refill. Thieves are opportunistic; they can snatch up your device in a second while you’re not looking.

Keep your devices concealed as often as possible, particularly when in a crowded place.
Many smartphones -- particularly iPhones and newly released devices -- are coveted by criminals, and there have been known instances of particularly brazen thieves swiping phones right out of unsuspecting users’ hands and disappearing into crowds. Keep your smartphone tucked safely in an interior pocket of your jacket or bag when not in use, and consider using a wireless headset if you are “walking and talking.”

Securely store your devices if you leave them behind. Naturally, your safest bet is to keep items with you, but sometimes that’s not practical while traveling. Remember that a hotel room is not secure; many people have access, and staff members often enter your room while you’re not there. A hotel safe is a better choice than leaving items out in the open or barely concealed in a suitcase.

Turn off automatic check-ins and location tracking. These activities can reveal where you are (a confidential business trip or meeting, perhaps), but they also reveal where you aren’t. Scammers and criminals like to tap into schedules because it gives them more information about who you are and what you do.

Save the vacation posts until you’re back home. As with check-ins, the social updates you post while you’re out of town make it clear that you’re not at home and you’re not at your office. Many people have hundreds of social connections and followers, and a vast number of those online relationships are superficial. If you’re 1,000 miles away and you let everyone know that you’ll be off the clock for a week, you create a window of opportunity for a criminal to climb through. Though it’s tempting to detail your travels in real time, it’s important to consider the potentially negative ramifications of sharing this information.

Be careful about Bluetooth connections.
You may think nothing of pairing your smartphone to rental cars and other convenience devices. But did you know that information is sometimes stored after you terminate the connection? That means your contact lists and other data could be left behind in a car that doesn’t belong to you. Before you turn in your keys, make sure your data has been deleted.

Check before you connect.
Did you know that names of WiFi networks are manually created? This means that hackers can name networks anything they want. Scammers set up “rogue” and “evil twin” networks with names that sound trustworthy -- Airport WiFi, for example -- or that are similar to legitimate nearby networks -- Official Café Wireless instead of Café WiFi, for example. Once connected to a scammer’s network, your data is in their hands. To be safe, check with an employee or another trusted source before you access an open WiFi network.

Use https or a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your data.
A VPN adds a layer of encryption and security that is valuable when using any unknown connection. At a minimum, you must ensure that https is present in a web address before accessing a secure site (i.e., webmail, social media, or any site that requires a login). And whenever possible, hold off on doing any financial transactions on WiFi, including checking your bank balance or making ecommerce purchases. It’s safest to handle these activities on known, secure networks.

Consider traveling with a personal hotspot.
If you use a mobile hotspot leased from your service provider, you can be confident that you are getting a secure connection. This is particularly valuable advice for business travelers, given that it’s often necessary to network on the go.

Source: WombatSecurity.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Bathroom Safety Additions for Seniors

June 15, 2015 3:33 am

Nearly one in three people over the age of 65 experiences an accidental fall each year, according to statistics from the CDC, and more than half occur in the home. To protect seniors from hazards, the experts at Roto-Rooter recommend the following bathroom safety additions:

• Equip showers and surrounding walls with sturdy grab bars. These should be anchored to wall studs so they will support the full weight of an adult. Some safety handles use super strong suction cups that are easy to apply and remove.

• Consider installing non-skid tape or mats in showers and bathtubs.

• A shower chair is also a safe solution that can be easily placed when balance is a challenge.

• Flexible handheld shower wands with an on/off button might be easier to use than a traditional shower head. These are especially useful in combination with shower chairs.

• Toilets can be replaced with ADA-approved raised-height models to lessen the chance of a fall. Additionally, raised-height seats can be installed on existing toilets.

• Check temperature settings on water heaters, as water over 120 degrees Fahrenheit can scald skin. Special no-scald faucets or a no-scald regulator can be installed as a secondary layer of protection.

Source:
RotoRooter.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Empty Nesters: How to Reclaim Your Space

June 15, 2015 3:33 am

(BPT) – The departure of children from the home may be bittersweet, but it is also an opportunity for empty nesters to reclaim their space. Updating the home after the kids move out with savvy improvements can help facilitate aging in place and boost resale value for those planning to downsize in the future.

If your children have left the nest, consider these home projects:

1. Find Your “Me” Space


Turn junior’s room into a space that works for you, like a home office, exercise room, music studio, craft room, workshop or home theater. Keep in mind your long-term plans. If you'll be selling the home at some point, consider a room that will have broader appeal, like a home office.

If you plan to age in place, remember to incorporate features in your “me” space that will facilitate your use of the room even if you experience mobility issues down the road. For example, you may want to take the opportunity to widen doorways, replace doorknobs with door handles, replace loose carpet or slippery tiles with slip-resistant flooring, and improve ventilation.

2. Embrace Natural Lighting


Vision changes as you age, so the artificial lighting that worked for you when you were in your 30s or 40s may not be adequate when you enter your 50s and 60s. Lighting is an important upgrade if you plan to remain in your home into your golden years. Look for improvements that will help aging eyes see better, like increased natural lighting and task lighting in work areas.

3. Create a Bathroom Retreat


Bathrooms sell homes, and if you've lived with an outdated master bathroom - or none at all - now's the time to renovate. In addition to all the luxurious features you've been dreaming of, like a rainfall shower head and heated floor, keep in mind the practical improvements that will make the room safe and usable as you grow older.

Look for slip-resistant flooring, improve natural and task lighting and replace faucet knobs with easy-to-maneuver levers. Install grab bars around tubs and toilets, as well as in the shower. Bath product designers are now making grab bars that offer the look of design elements coupled with the security of sturdy support.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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