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RE/MAX 440
Janine VanLuvanee
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie  PA 18944
 Phone: 267-259-2810
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Cell: 267-259-2810
Fax: 267-354-6259 
jvanluvanee@remax440.com
Janine VanLuvanee

My Blog

Avoid Unclaimed Refunds This Tax Season

January 30, 2015 1:33 am

Toward the end of last year's tax filing deadline, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that more than $760 million in unclaimed refunds would disappear after April 15 – so many dollar bills that, if stacked, they would reach higher than 187 Empire State Buildings! A larger portion of this missed opportunity comes from failing to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

"One in four people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit should be getting up to $6,143 in additional tax refunds, but they miss out because it's complicated to tell if you qualify," said David Prokupek, CEO of Jackson Hewitt®.

One-third of the EITC-eligible population changes each year based on marital, parental and financial status, and many Americans may not know they qualify for this credit. The IRS allows these individuals to catch up, offering a three-year window for filing federal tax returns.

To claim the EITC, taxpayers must be employed or self-employed and have a Social Security number. They will need to show proof of having less than $3,350 in investment income and have earned income and adjusted gross income lower than the following:



Single, Head of Household, Qualifying Widow(er)

No Children - $14,590

1 Child - $38,511

2 Children - $43,756

3 Children - $46,997



Married Filing Jointly

No Children - $20,020

1 Child - $43,941
2 Children - $49,186

3 Children - $52,427

For example, a married couple filing jointly with three children and a combined earned income of $23,000 could qualify for the maximum EITC of $6,143. If the couple overlooked the EITC the past three years, they possibly could claim thousands of dollars more for each year for a total refund approaching half their annual income.

Source: Jackson Hewitt®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Vehicle: To Idle or Not to Idle

January 29, 2015 12:33 am

It’s that time of the year when many motorists let their vehicle "warm up,” or idle, before driving. Did you know that today’s cars are ready to drive in cold temperatures without excessive idling?

"Unless you are trying to defrost the windshield or warm the interior of your car, idling is not required for today's vehicles," says Rich White, Car Care Council. "In most cases, idling longer than 30 seconds is unnecessary. The best way to warm up your car's engine is to drive gently at the start. Remember, a vehicle gets zero miles per gallon when idling and the result is lower fuel economy and wasted money."

The EPA cautions that idling your car longer than 30 seconds increases air pollution, wastes fuel and siphons your gas dollars. It can also lead to engine damage and create issues with cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system.

The idea of idling before driving dates back to when cars were built with carburetors. With new fuel-injection technology, complex computer systems and thinner synthetic oils, drivers don't need to warm up their cars before hitting the road.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Buying Tips for New Parents

January 29, 2015 12:33 am

Many expectant parents upgrade to larger homes when baby’s on the way. If you’re thinking of buying a new home to accommodate your growing family, it’s important to assess certain factors you may not consider otherwise, including:

Master Bedroom Proximity – Is the master bedroom on a separate floor from the others? Will you want to be adjacent to your baby’s nursery, or are you comfortable with sleeping down the hall? Always consider the layout of the bedrooms before buying.

Pool Safety – If you’re seeking a home with a pool, keep in mind that your child will likely venture outside before he or she knows how to swim. Is the pool appropriately gated, with no holes or gaps in fencing? Are all latches and locks in proper working order? Is the door leading outside secure?

Property Hazards – Evaluate the home for any potential dangers, including stairs, tree roots or uneven pavers. These can be easily overlooked by a curious child and lead to unnecessary injury.

Street Location – Take into account how far your home is from a busy area. Is the home located on a congested street? What is the posted speed limit in the area and how fast do cars typically drive through the neighborhood? Are there streetlights and crosswalks nearby?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Understanding the Most Important Mortgage Documents

January 29, 2015 12:33 am

Obtaining a mortgage for your first home can be a daunting task, especially when you consider the amount of paperwork required. Though your lender should explain all of the steps in the loan process clearly, it’s wise to have a basic understanding of the most important mortgage documents you’ll be signing.

Promissory Note
Contrary to popular belief, the promissory note is your actual mortgage contract, spelling out all terms associated with the loan – interest rate, payment intervals and more. The promissory note will also include a provision that states what will happen in the event that you do not repay the loan.

Settlement Statement
Also known as “the HUD,” the settlement statement spells out line-item fees, such as real estate agent, lender and title fees, prorated items like prepaid homeowners insurance and inspection costs or association dues.

Deed of Trust
The security provision in the promissory note will point to the deed of trust, which supports the lender’s claim to your property should you fall short on payments. The deed of trust also indicates specific occupancy policies associated with your specific mortgage, such as move-in date and second home use.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Flood Insurance: Your Property's Safety Net

January 28, 2015 12:27 am

Floods are a year-round hazard, even in cold weather. According to FEMA, it’s important to understand the unique flood risks associated with winter and prepare an emergency plan well in advance of any snowstorm and subsequent flooding.

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that their insurance policy covers flooding, but only flood insurance financially protects properties from damage. It typically takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to take effect, so residents should not wait for a storm to strike before purchasing coverage. It only takes a few inches of water in a home or business to cause thousands of dollars of damage – between 2006 and 2010, the average flood claim was nearly $34,000!

While no one wants a flood to impact their home, federally-backed flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers a financial safety net to help cover repair or replacement costs.

If your home has experienced flooding, file a claim by contacting your insurance agent, documenting your damaged property and filing a Proof of Loss form within 60 days of the flood. Keep in mind as you go through this process that you do not need to wait for a Presidential Disaster Declaration to file a flood claim, and your policy cannot be canceled for making a claim.

Source: Ready.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Easiest Home Fixes with the Most ROI

January 28, 2015 12:27 am

Whether you’re planning to sell your home, or you simply want a more updated look, there are any number of cheap, simple fixes, from new paint to new curtains, that will improve its overall appearance. But, said home contractor Scott McGillivray, host of HGTV’s Income Property, these seven relatively inexpensive fixes can give you more return on investment (ROI) than many – both in terms of home improvement value and easy-on-the-eye enhancement you can enjoy.

Start with these, McGillvray blogged:

Kitchen hardware – Today’s drawer and cabinet pulls come in dozens of styles and finishes. Installing a style that appeals to you can immediately make a dated kitchen look more modern and functional.

Refinished hardwood deck – An attractive deck is high on the list of improvements with proven ROI – especially if the deck is more than 100 square feet in size.

Heated floors and towel racks
– In cold weather regions, heated tile floors and/or heated towel racks in the bathroom can add a surprising amount of value – especially is there is no other heat source in the room.

Chic moldings - One of the easiest ways to get a high-end look at a reasonable price is with applied moldings on living room and dining room baseboards and ceilings.

New front door – Dollar for dollar, a new front door delivers a terrific ROI – as are other exterior updates like new windows and siding, which are highly appealing to future buyers looking for security and insulation.

Garage storage
– Shelves, organizers, and work benches in the garage can make any homeowner’s life easier. No need for custom work. You’ll find all you need at home improvement stores.

Neatness counts
– Nothing ensures curb appeal and improves a home value more than thorough and consistent maintenance, McGillvray said. So mow the lawns, clean the gutters, and keep the windows clean.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Tips for Retiring Out of State

January 28, 2015 12:27 am

Retirees flock to Florida and Arizona for year-round sunshine and golf, but all things considered, they’re not the best states for happy golden years, according to a new survey.

Along with average number of sunny days, factor in cost of living, residents’ sense of well-being, quality of health-care, crime and, yes, humidity, and the best destination is (surprise!) South Dakota, according to a 2014 Bankrate report.

“As this report correctly suggests, pre-retirees need to consider a lot more than snow days and tradition,” says Rodger Friedman, founding partner and wealth manager at Steward Partners Global Advisory and author of “Forging Bonds of Steel,” a guide to developing an excellent working relationship with your financial advisor.

“Different states have different tax laws and other regulations that can have a major impact on your retirement funds. You need to be aware of these as you plan for where you want to live and how you want to live.”

Whether you’re considering one of the other top four “best states to retire” – Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming, in that order – here are five tips for planning ahead:
  • New state – new income tax rules. Get to know them! Familiarize yourself with the tax laws of the state you’re considering for your new home. Two of the top five on Bankrate’s list – South Dakota and Wyoming -- have no state income tax, along with five others: Nevada (No. 18 on the list), Texas (19), Washington (22), Florida (39), and Alaska (48.).
Also, an itemized deduction in one state may not be an itemized deduction in another. If you use the long form (1040) to file federal income taxes, hire a reputable, experienced CPA for guidance.

Look into how your new state taxes retirement income. States differ on taxing interest income from tax-free municipal bonds. Some states give tax credits; treat public and private pensions differently; or offer federal, military or blanket exclusions.

The following states are community property states: Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Louisiana, and Washington. Speaking with an estate planning attorney regarding how this issue may affect you may be money very well spent.
  • If you’re married, are you moving to a community property state? There are nine community property states – those that divide all martially-acquired assets and debt 50:50 in the event of divorce. (Exceptions include an inheritance or gift received by one spouse and maintained separately in that spouse’s name.) Community property states are Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Louisiana, and Washington. Speaking with an estate planning attorney regarding how this issue may affect you may be money very well spent.
  • Have a lawyer review your estate planning documents. Your existing estate planning documents should be reviewed by a lawyer in your new state of residence because statutes differ on the types of documents required and the powers bestowed upon each. For example, states are all over the map regarding the validity of a power of attorney document and the powers that may or may not be conveyed.
“During their careers, their acquiring wealth years, many people live in places that have lots of jobs – and the higher cost of living that goes along with that,” Friedman says. “In retirement, many they want to move to a state where they can enjoy the same or an even better lifestyle with less money.

“For that, it’s essential to consider not only the cost of living but the state laws that affect your accumulated wealth and income.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Keep Winter Pests Out of Your Home

January 27, 2015 1:24 am

As temperatures across the country drop, winter pests, particularly rodents, search for warmer areas to set up shop – and your home may be vulnerable. Aside from being a nuisance, winter pests can chew through dry wall, insulation, wood and electrical wiring, effectively eating a hole in your wallet.

Keep your home pest-free this winter with these tips from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home to help prevent pests from getting inside. Be sure to check the areas where utilities and pipes enter the home – a mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
  • Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your home. Pests often take up residence in wood piles and can easily gain access to your home if the pile is nearby.
  • Rodents can hide in clutter, so keep storage areas well-organized and store boxes off of the floor.
  • Eliminate all moisture sites, including leakage pipes and clogged drains. Extra attention should be paid to kitchens and bathrooms, as these areas are particularly vulnerable to infestation.
  • Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens in windows.
  • Screen vents to chimneys. Keep attics, basements and crawl spaces well-ventilated and dry.
Source: My Pest Pros

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Life Events That Can Affect Your Insurance

January 27, 2015 1:24 am

Life events can have a profound effect on insurance needs. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) advises policy holders to conduct an annual review of their coverage to assess any changes that could affect their financial footing.

Talk to your insurance provider about any or all of the following:

1. Driver’s Licenses – It’s generally cheaper to add your teenagers to your auto insurance policy than for them to purchase one on their own. If they’re going to be driving their own car, consider insuring it with your company for a multi-car discount. And choose the car carefully – the type of car a young person drives can dramatically affect the price of insurance.

2. New Jobs – If you started a new job or experienced some other significant change in your income, replace any ‘lost’ coverage from your former employer to your new employer with individual policies. In the case of an income increase, you may have taken on additional financial commitments that your beneficiaries will depend on. Make sure to review your life and disability insurance to ensure it is adequate to maintain those commitments.

3. Carpools – If you’re a frequent carpool driver, whether it is to work, school or other activities, your liability insurance should reflect the increased risk of additional passengers in the automobile. Check with your agent or representative to make sure your coverage is adequate.

4. Valuable Purchases – Have you acquired any new valuables, such as jewelry, electronic equipment, fine art or antiques? A standard homeowner policy offers only limited coverage for highly valuable items. If you made purchases or received gifts that exceed these limits, you should consider supplementing your policy with a floater, a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy, such as accidental loss. Before purchasing a floater, the items covered must be professionally appraised. Keep receipts and add the new items to your home inventory.

5. Rented Homes or Apartments - If you’re renting a home, your landlord is responsible for insuring the structure of the building, but not for insuring your possessions. Renters insurance is a good investment. Like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes liability, which covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home, or elsewhere, by you and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court. It will also provide additional living expenses if you can’t live in your home in the event it is damaged by an insured disaster such as a fire.

6. Home Renovations – If you’ve made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, enclosing a porch or expanding a kitchen or bathroom, report those changes to your insurance company. And don’t overlook new structures outside of your home. If you built a gazebo, a new shed for your tools or installed a pool or hot tub, you should speak to your agent.

If, as part of a renovation, you purchase furniture, exercise equipment or electronics, you may need to increase the amount of insurance you have on your personal possessions. Keep receipts and add any new items to your home inventory.

7. Second Homes – If you’re searching for a vacation home or a second home you might retire to, research the availability and cost of homeowners insurance before you commit to the purchase. The very factors that make a vacation home seem ideal, whether it is a waterfront property or a mountain retreat, can often introduce risks that make it costly and difficult to insure – including the likelihood that it will be vacant for long periods of time.

If your new property is close to the water, be sure to ask about flood insurance. Damage to your home or belongings resulting from flood is not covered under standard homeowner insurance policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as some private insurers. Ask your Insurance Professional whether your home is at risk for flood, or enter your address on the NFIP website to find out whether your home is in a flood zone. If you have a very valuable home, some homeowner insurers offer excess flood coverage over and above that provided by the NFIP policies.

8. Marriages or Divorces – If you’ve gotten married and are merging two households, you may need to update your homeowners insurance. This is also a great time to create a home inventory list for possible future claims. Couples who are bringing two cars into the relationship and two different auto insurance companies should review their respective policies and see which company offers the best combination of price and service. Don’t forget to ask about discounts for multiple cars or married policy holders.

If you’ve gotten divorced, you’ve likely moved to a different residence and probably will no longer be sharing a car with your former spouse. If this is the case, inform your insurer and set up separate homeowner and auto policies.

9. New Children
– If you’ve recently added a child to your family, it’s important to review your life insurance and disability income protection. If you are planning for your life insurance to match your beneficiaries’ expenses, a new child will add to those expenses. If you plan to save for your child’s education, life insurance can also assure completion of that plan.

10. Retirement – If you commuted regularly to your job, your mileage has likely plummeted in retirement. If so, you should report it to your auto insurer to significantly lower the cost of your premiums. Furthermore, drivers over the age of 50-55 may get a discount, depending on the insurance company.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Tips for Efficient Firewood Burning

January 27, 2015 1:24 am

Whether you’re using a woodstove, pellet stove or fireplace to heat your home this winter, seeing smoke from your chimney means your fire isn’t burning as efficiently or cleanly as it should. Wood smoke contains fine particles – also called fine particle pollution or PM2.5 – which can pose a health risk to occupants, especially older adults and children.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends building a cleaner fire with these tips:
- Start a small fire with a dry kindling, then add a few pieces of wood. Be sure there’s space between the pieces, and give the fire plenty of air until it roars. A smoldering fire, ‘dirty’ glass doors on a wood stove or smoke from the chimney are all signs that your fire needs more air or the wood is too moist.

- Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Wet, or green, logs create excessive smoke and waste fuel. How can you tell if wood has been seasoned? Listen for a hollow sound when you strike two logs together.

- Wood burns best when the moisture content is less than 20 percent. You can purchase a wood moisture meter to test the moisture content of your wood before you burnt it. These meters are as little as $20 at most home improvement retailers.

- Never burn household garbage, cardboard, painted or treated wood or any wood that contains glue, such as plywood or particle board. These items release toxic chemicals when burned.

- Check your air quality forecast on airnow.gov before you burn. Some areas limit woodstove and fireplace use under certain air quality conditions.
Source: EPA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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