RE/MAX 440
Joanne Stahl
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-398-8111 1426
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Cell: 610-392-6547
Fax: 267-354-6236 
jstahl@remaxcentralinc.com
Joanne Stahl

My Blog

FICO: Confused about Credit Scores? You’re Not Alone

October 30, 2015 2:01 am

Whether for free or a fee, numerous websites offer credit scores. However, according to a recent FICO® report, the majority of credit score inquirers believe they’re receiving their FICO Score, when, in fact, they’re receiving a non-FICO score.

“Because other credit scores look similar to FICO Scores, consumers have no way of determining, through the credit score itself, whether or not it’s a FICO Score,” says Jim Wehmann, executive vice president for scores at FICO. “Credit scores are unlike other products; the consequences of not recognizing credit scores from different companies can be much more serious. The new research findings bring to light an important issue: if the majority of consumers are confused about these non-FICO credit scores being provided to them, then millions of Americans are likely to be mistaken about their actual creditworthiness.”

As a separate study recently revealed, FICO Scores are used in more than 90 percent of decisions involving approval of credit applications in the United States, including mortgage loans. According to the FICO report, over 80 percent of consumers believe the non-FICO credit scores they obtain are scores widely used by lenders to make credit decisions.

The mathematical formulas used by each scoring company are unique and create credit scores for the same consumers that are often significantly different from their FICO Scores—sometimes 100 points or more.  With such large score differences, not understanding that the credit score obtained isn’t a FICO Score can cause consumers to over- or underestimate how a lender will view them, with serious consequences for financial health and wellbeing.

Today, the holders of more than 100 million consumer credit accounts have access to their FICO Scores for free through the FICO Score Open Access Program.

Source: FICO

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mobile Bankers: Tips to Protect Financial Data

October 29, 2015 1:58 am

Mobile banking has grown exponentially in popularity since it was first introduced—and fraudsters are taking notice.

“Mobile banking provides an unprecedented level of convenience for bank customers, and while it is a safe way to conduct banking transactions, customers need to remember that any device used to connect to the Internet is vulnerable,” says Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA).

If you use mobile banking to manage your finances, take the following precautions to protect the data on your device:

Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings, especially when you’re punching in sensitive information. 

Use the pass code lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your email, texts and other information if your device is lost or stolen.

Log out completely and close the app when you finish a mobile banking session.

Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network.

Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”

Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.

Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a Social Security number on your mobile device.

Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. Be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming your device is infected.

Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software, or malware, just like you do for your computer by installing mobile security software. 

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let Pumpkin Pulp Wreak Halloween Havoc

October 29, 2015 1:58 am

Every year, over a billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in America—many of which are carved into jack-o’-lanterns each Halloween. That’s a lot of leftover pulp! If you’re planning to carve a pumpkin this year, keep in mind pulp can damage your kitchen disposal and other plumbing fixtures if not properly discarded.

“People think that it’s safe for disposals because it’s soft, stringy and mushy,” says Larry Rothman, plumbing director for Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service. “The problem is that pulp will dry and harden, choking off drain pipes and garbage disposals and creating all sorts of havoc.

“The toilet is not a better option,” Rothman adds. “It just means the clog forms deeper into the pipe."

To prevent Halloween drain disasters, carve pumpkins on a bed of newspaper. When you’re finished, wrap up the mess and throw all pumpkin-related materials into the garbage can or a compost pile. The seeds can be separated and roasted for a tasty treat, or they can be air-dried and planted in the spring after the last frost to grow next year's Halloween pumpkin.

Source: Roto-Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Cozying Up with a Portable Heater? 12 Safety Tips

October 29, 2015 1:58 am

Keeping warm with a portable heater this season? Be cautious when doing so—improper use can result in house fire or worse. According to experts of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), portable heaters should always be used according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

“Most fires are preventable by following the simple and important safety tips offered by AHAM, such as giving portable heaters at least three feet of space on all sides,” says Lt. Anthony Mancuso, director of the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit.

If you plan to use a portable heater, AHAM advises the following safety tips.

1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before using your portable electric heater.

2. Do not leave an operating heater unattended and always unplug heater when not in use.

3. Do not use your heater with a power strip or extension cord. Overheating of a power strip or extension cord could result in a fire.

4. String out cords on top of area rugs or carpeting. Placing anything, including furniture, on top of the cord may damage it.

5. Keep combustible materials, such as furniture, pillows, bedding, papers, clothes and curtains at least three feet from the front of the heater and away from the sides and rear. Do not block heater’s air intake or outlet.

6. Keep flammable materials, such as paint, gas cans and matches, away from the heater.

7. Unless the heater is designed for outdoor use or in bathrooms, do not use in damp or wet areas. Parts in the heater may be damaged by moisture.

8. Check periodically for a secure plug to outlet fit. If the plug does not fit snugly into the outlet or if the plug becomes very hot, the outlet may need to be replaced. Check with a qualified electrician to replace the outlet.

9. Unplug the heater when not in use by pulling the plug straight out from the outlet. Inspect the heater’s cord periodically. Do not use a heater with a damaged cord.

10. Do not plug any other electrical device into the same outlet as your heater. This could result in overheating.

11. Heaters should be kept away from children and not be placed in a child’s room without supervision.

12. Place heater on a level, flat surface. Only use heater on table tops when specified by the manufacturer. Do not place your heater on furniture. It could fall, dislodging or breaking parts in the heater.

Source: AHAM

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Halloween by the Numbers

October 28, 2015 1:58 am

Ready to embrace spirited, spooky tradition, over 157 million Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year – and most will do so by dressing in costume or handing out candy, according to a recent report by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

For costume inspiration, the majority will draw ideas from online sources, especially images on Pinterest. Families celebrating Halloween will spend an average of $27.33 on costumes, per the report, totaling $2.5 billion on store-bought, homemade, large and small costumes. $1.2 billion will be allocated for adult costumes; $950 million will be spent on children’s costumes.

Pets won’t be left out of the festivities, either – 20 million pet owners plan to dress up their pets, and $350 million will be spent on costumes for their furry friends.

Aside from costumes, persons celebrating Halloween will splurge on candy, decorations and greeting cards. The breakdown:

• 93.7 percent of Halloween shoppers will spend a total of $2.1 billion on candy

• 44.8 percent of Halloween shoppers will spend a total of $.19 billion on decorations

• 33.5 percent of Halloween shoppers will spend a total of $330 million on greeting cards

Source: NRF

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Reduce Lead Risk at Home

October 28, 2015 1:58 am

Did you know that in the U.S., lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat for children under 6 years of age? Though house plumbing and paints are manufactured with little to no lead today, lead can remain an issue in homes built prior to 1978. Because of this, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly recommends prioritizing household protection. Steps you can take include:

- Keeping your home clean. Ordinary dust and dirt may contain lead. Children can swallow lead or breathe in lead-contaminated dust if they play in the dust or dirt and then put their fingers or toys in their mouths, or if they eat without washing their hands first. Keep the areas where your children play as dust-free and clean as possible.

In addition, wash pacifiers and bottles after they fall on the floor, and wash toys and stuffed animals regularly. Clean floors, window frames, window sills and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.

- Reducing risk in your home. If your home was built before 1978, paint containing lead could be on window frames, walls, the outside of your home or other surfaces. Tiny pieces of peeling or chipping paint are dangerous if eaten - but lead paint in good condition is not usually a problem, except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust (e.g., when you open a window, the painted surfaces rub together).

Make sure your child does not chew on anything covered with lead paint, such as painted window sills, cribs or playpens. Do not burn painted wood - it may contain lead.

- Hiring a lead removal specialist. Lead dust from repairs or renovations of older homes can remain long after the work is completed. Hire a person with special training for correcting lead paint problems in your home - someone who knows how to do the work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly.

Source: EPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Freddie Mac: More Housing Markets Stabilize

October 28, 2015 1:58 am

In more positive news on the recovery front, two metro areas have been added to the outer "stable" range of Freddie Mac's Multi-Indicator Market Index(R) (MiMi(R)), on par with the national market overall. Twenty-nine of the 50 states and the District of Columbia are in stable range, and 48 show steady improvement, according to the MiMi.

"The nation's housing market continues to improve riding the wave of the best year in home sales since 2007," says Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer. "With the MiMi purchase applications indicator at its highest level in more than seven years, we expect home sales to remain strong. 

"Low mortgage rates are fueling the recovery across the country," Kiefer adds. "Places like Denver, Austin and Salt Lake City, and most markets in California, are seeing robust home purchase demand and in many cases double-digit growth over last year."

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to for Safe Trick-or-Treating

October 27, 2015 1:58 am

With Halloween just around the corner, costumed children will soon trek through spooky displays in search of sweet treats. But amid the fun of trick-or-treating, parents and supervisors shouldn’t neglect the hidden fire hazards Halloween costumes and decorations present.

“Halloween has become such a festive time of year and we want people to enjoy decorating their homes, wearing colorful costumes and getting in the fall spirit,” says Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “but this holiday can quickly turn hazardous if proper precautions aren’t taken.”

To help trick-or-treaters stay out of harm’s way this Halloween, Carli and the NFPA advise the following tips.

1. When choosing a costume, stay away from billowing or long-trailing fabric. If you are making your own costume, choose material that won’t easily ignite if it comes into contact with heat or flame.

2. Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costumes. If your child is wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes are large enough so he or she can see clearly out of it.

3. Dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper are highly flammable. Keep these and other decorations well away from all open flames and heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.

4. It is safest to use a glow stick or battery-operated candle in a jack-o-lantern. If you use a real candle, use extreme caution. When lighting candles inside jack-o-lanterns, use long fireplace-style matches or a utility lighter. If you choose to use candle decorations, make sure to keep them well attended at all times. Do not leave them near flammable objects or where trick-or-treaters may walk. Remind your children to avoid open flames. Make sure children are watched at all times when candles are lit.

5. Remember to keep exits clear of decorations, so nothing blocks escape routes. 

Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Design Leans toward Nature-Inspired Comfort

October 27, 2015 1:58 am

Gone are the days of the Hollywood-inspired home exuding "look, but don't touch elegance.” Design preferences this year lean toward “inviting,” “rustic” and “beachside charm,” according to a recent realtor.com® assessment of its visitors.

"We are seeing a shift in home design trends – leaving behind the glitz and glam for a more natural look, whether that may be a rugged barn with many textures or a serene beach-like feel," says Jennifer Farrell, television host and lifestyle expert. "Today's style reflects today's lifestyle and we've found that having a space for entertaining family and friends all year round is the number one trend."

An “inviting” living space, which is described as a welcoming atmosphere that includes fun barware, plenty of seating and a gather-worthy kitchen that can serve as the life of the party, received 23 percent of the more than 100,000 votes cast by realtor.com® visitors. This was followed closely by “rustic” at 22 percent and “beachside charm” at 21 percent.

Those who prefer a “rustic” look favor natural elements: wood, stone, water and light. This style takes traditionally organic materials from the outside inside for a perfect balance. Also taking on a relaxed and casual feel, the “beachside charm” look is airy and breezy, incorporating terracotta tile, patio umbrellas, sundecks and scattered shells to make homeowners and their visitors kick back and feel like they are miles away from the hustle and bustle of life's daily pressures.

“Regal,” a grand look with fine fabrics and antiques, was selected fourth among realtor.com® visitors, followed by concrete jungle “urban,” eclectic “mid-century modern” and slinky and engaging “earthy.”

Source: realtor.com®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Smart Home Ranked "Most Useful" Technology

October 27, 2015 1:58 am

Over the next 10 years, smart home automation is likely to prove the most useful to the majority of Americans. In fact, more than half of respondents to a recent Honeywell survey ranked smart home technology as more practical than other connected innovations, such as driverless cars and fitness apps. And by 2025, respondents believe smart home tech will be implemented in almost half of items in their households.

From recording favorite television programs to taking care of pets, Americans see many uses for the connected home. Among these uses, according to the survey, are:

• Controlling lighting
• Controlling locks
• Feeding pets
• Programming a DVR

Additionally, nearly a third of respondents would prefer an app that can control their home devices to be voice-activated rather than with a touchscreen.

Source: Honeywell

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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