All Articles by Network Magazine

Lehigh Valley Homes Spent an Average of 30 Days on the Market in August

The Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® (GLVR) reported August data showed that while home prices are at or approaching record highs in many markets, mortgage default and foreclosure rates sit near historic lows. In the Lehigh Valley, lender-mediated activity in August made up only 2.0 percent, or 40 properties, of the market. That said, according to […]

The Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® (GLVR) reported August data showed that while home prices are at or approaching record highs in many markets, mortgage default and foreclosure rates sit near historic lows.

In the Lehigh Valley, lender-mediated activity in August made up only 2.0 percent, or 40 properties, of the market. That said, according to Justin Porembo, CEO of GLVR, the rise in home prices is outpacing the rise in household income.

“The national median household income has risen 2.6 percent in the last 12 months, while home prices are up 6.0 percent,” Porembo said. “That kind of gap will eventually create fewer sales due to affordability concerns, especially in the middle to high-middle price ranges.”

Back at home, prices in August continued to gain traction. The Median Sales Price increased 6.5 percent to $213,000.

Closed Sales increased 4.7 percent to 907. Pending Sales were up 6.3 percent to 798. Inventory levels shrank 17.1 percent to 2,035 units, leading to a Months Supply of Inventory that dropped 19.4 percent to 2.9 months. Days on Market was down 21.1 percent to 30 days.

“While some are starting to look for recessionary signs like fewer sales, dropping prices and even foreclosures, the fact remains that the trends do not yet support a dramatic shift away from what has been experienced over the last several years,” said Sean LaSalle, 2018 President of GLVR. “Housing starts are performing admirably if not excitingly, prices are still inching upward, supply remains low and consumers are optimistic.”

Carbon County has continued its stellar year with another solid month. Closed Sales increased to 66, versus 58 the previous August, and the Median Sales Price increased to $142,750. Pending Sales climbed to 82, and there was an increase in New Listings, which hit 103. Inventory was up 4.0 percent to 368 units.

The Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS is a not-for-profit trade association that represents more than 2,000 REALTORS® in Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties. REALTORS® are distinguished from real estate licensees by subscribing to a strict code of ethics and standards of practice as define by the National Association of REALTORS®.

As the voice of real estate in the Greater Lehigh Valley, the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® is pleased to offer market insights on its website, www.GreaterLehighValleyRealtors.com. Just click “Market Trends” in the main menu.

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Buying Real Estate in the Lehigh Valley; Knowing your Lender Options

Whether you are a first-time home buyer or a seasoned investor, the home buying landscape has changed dramatically over the past ten years. This is especially the case here in the Lehigh Valley where we have seen incredible growth in both new business and development. This has translated into a 20,000 + growth in the […]

Whether you are a first-time home buyer or a seasoned investor, the home buying landscape has changed dramatically over the past ten years. This is especially the case here in the Lehigh Valley where we have seen incredible growth in both new business and development. This has translated into a 20,000 + growth in the workforce, or almost a 10% increase from January 2008. This, combined with higher wages and a decrease in unemployment, has led to a boom in real estate. What does all of this mean? More people need mortgages! I recently read an article that said 40% of Americans felt “buying a home was the most stressful event in modern life.” How do you alleviate this problem? You do it by finding a lender you are comfortable with, one you feel a good rapport with.

Having direct communication during the mortgage process is critical. Being accessible seven days a week by phone or email has been essential to my success.  Most importantly, taking the time to ask the right questions and to listen when first starting the mortgage process is key. Everyone has different expectations when working with a mortgage professional.  You want to find the one who meets yours.

Another necessary component to have in a lender is flexibility. The wide range of diversity here in the Lehigh Valley means your lender needs to have the right program to fit your needs. This is where many people run into challenges. Not all lenders offer the same programs or can structure mortgages in the same ways. One group of people who can benefit from more attention is physicians. Lehigh Valley is considered a regional healthcare mecca with a tremendous amount of healthcare facilities and medical professionals, and these numbers are growing exponentially. Many of these healthcare providers are coming into the housing market with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Under traditional income and debt calculations for determining mortgage eligibility, this level of student loan debt can be prohibitive, even with a physician’s salary. Fortunately, some lenders, myself included, have programs in place to work with physicians in this exact situation. In many cases, we can exclude some or all of the student loan debt from their monthly obligations in order to help them qualify. For medical residents about to complete their residency, often we can use their new higher salary upon completion of their residency program. Physicians account for a huge part of the local economy; it is imperative to offer programs such as these in order to make their dreams of home ownership a reality.

Another area that is underserved in the Lehigh Valley is our self-employed business owners. They have always been a major contributor to our country’s growth and well-being. Unfortunately, they struggle to qualify for mortgages in a lot of instances and are turned down by their banks because they do not meet traditional requirements or guidelines. Recognizing this, there are a handful of mortgage bankers out there who will cater to these folks by using alternative documentation to source their income. By doing this, we can get a very good picture of their overall creditworthiness, ability to repay the mortgage, and are then able to help them buy a home. We offer similar programs for investors who are looking to expand their rental property holdings but are ‘maxed out’ in the number of financed properties they can qualify for through conventional financing. These programs are part of a growing recognition of the importance of being able to help everyone who is financially responsible and can afford a home, even if they don’t fit into the metaphorical box.

Last, but certainly not least, is our veteran population here in the Lehigh Valley. Eligible veterans are in a better position to buy a home than most. The VA mortgage program is by far the most flexible and easiest to qualify for. Surprisingly, there are a lot of veterans who do not take advantage of this opportunity. Like anything else, much of this comes down to lack of awareness and having a reliable source of information that can be trusted. Many new buyers out there, especially millennials, have been misinformed about what is needed to buy a home or to qualify for a mortgage. There are many options to help people buy homes (no down-payment options, down-payment assistance programs, grants, etc.).  You just have to know where to look for them.

Basil Leonetti is a Branch Manager with American Financial Network Corp. here in the Lehigh Valley.  He has over 20 years of experience in the mortgage and financial industry.  He specializes in helping all types of buyers, but truly views working with veterans as an honor and a privilege. Please feel free to contact him directly at 610-442-3331 if you have any questions.

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VOLUNTEERISM; The Higher Calling

Little did I know the moment I grasped the neatly curled Liberal Arts diploma from the Pennsylvania State University that the promise of the well-rounded education I’d earned was going to be defined much differently than the paper it was written on.  I do, however, peer at the wall periodically to admire the font. At […]

Little did I know the moment I grasped the neatly curled Liberal Arts diploma from the Pennsylvania State University that the promise of the well-rounded education I’d earned was going to be defined much differently than the paper it was written on.  I do, however, peer at the wall periodically to admire the font.

At the age of 43 hindsight paints a well-rounded picture as 22 years of service in the Chamber of Commerce 8 of which as President, 10 years of continued emergency medical services board ship and a crucial 2 years chairmanship of a consortium of not for profit volunteer groups who donated a $100,000.00 improvement project to the Borough in which I was raised.  I must say…. Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Hometown’ is a song that now bears a more special meaning.  In our house – it’s required listening.

The references used to compile this snippet are the author’s point of view shaped by more than 150 individuals whose path were crossed; all contributing as they were willing and able listing results that have not really been advertised.

One quote that bears a place of prominence comes from a former coach who commented during a meeting, “In my years I’ve only had one favorite player…. he never looked at how many points he scored or cared to know how many infractions he incurred.  He just checked each time he came off the court to ensure the score was better than it was when he got on.”

The coach does a great deal to define ‘the150’.  Regardless of their walk in life each shares a common thread; putting their talents toward a greater good without expectation for compensation.  In a room with a handful of the 150 amazingly, uncommonly, one simple idea mentioned in its raw form is passed around and refined until is transformed into a sparkling diamond of an idea.  What’s more?  The 150 actually figure out how, by who, when and what resources are necessary to put the idea in motion turning it into a reality.  That’s the rarity.  That’s the magic.  That’s the core of volunteerism.

Having open, consistent access to a concentrate of creators and doers is equally as addicting as ice cream and movie popcorn.  It should be required curriculum with the option to jumbo size the soft drink.  Young or old, the sooner anyone can surround themselves with the activities of board meetings, exercise efforts in a committee, serve the food at the fundraiser and stock the shelves of the food pantry, the better.  It is the platform of volunteerism, not the workplace that best mixes the hands-on responsibility of taking to task turning an idea into reality.

The byproduct?  Schools that have additional funds to provide for children, fire departments and ambulance corps that are funded with the best equipment and training with which to save lives, family-owned businesses visited by customers outside the area, an improved life for future generations, municipalities that are rewarded for their efforts, a sharing of knowledge and experience academia simply cannot replicate, food delivered to those who cannot afford to eat, glasses for those who can’t afford to see, holiday gifts for those in need, children who learn sports at a young age, high school plays that place our youth under the lights and… and… wait for it…a community.  Nicely woven and tight-knit.

It’s a well-known fact that when gathered together we can accomplish more than on an individual basis.  Something very different occurs when we gather without expectation for compensation…we give back, we learn new talents while sharpening our own and things are left better than they were before we got there.

If you’re reading this by some definition, you’ve reached success.  Look around.  How’s the scoreboard?  Take the time to walk on the court, share your talents, pass along your successes and Volunteer.

Many a score will improve.

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Ms. Generous and Donor-Advised Funds in the Age of Tax Reform

As we return from summer vacations and enter the last few months of the year, many individuals will meet with their professional advisers to discuss tax reduction planning, wealth management goals, and estate plans.  We know that charitable giving is often an important element of these conversations, especially in the season of giving as many […]

As we return from summer vacations and enter the last few months of the year, many individuals will meet with their professional advisers to discuss tax reduction planning, wealth management goals, and estate plans.  We know that charitable giving is often an important element of these conversations, especially in the season of giving as many of us revisit and act on our philanthropy.  This year-end brings new considerations for the good-hearted, generous person as a result of last year’s tax reform.

At the same time, the nonprofit community is closely monitoring the impact of recent tax reform on donor generosity.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, primarily effective for years beginning in 2018, doubled the standard deduction for individuals, thereby greatly reducing the number of donors who itemize deductions on their income tax returns.  The financial reward for charitable giving is given to the taxpayer through itemized deductions (i.e., the charitable deduction), so there is some concern that removing the incentive of the charitable deduction may reduce annual giving.  Studies released at the end of 2017 showed some scary numbers, such as a study by the Tax Policy Center, who stated that charities could see a staggering loss of $12 – $20 billion in contributions annually, equal to 6 percent of all individual giving on the low end.

At the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, we do not believe that we will see as steep of a drop in giving as some of these tax studies had inferred.  We know that an innate desire to do good exists on the part of philanthropists—we call it the “giving gene”—so philanthropy will continue in some way, with or without a financial incentive to do so.  Studies of donor wants, and preferences show that a reduced tax obligation is not the main driver of individual giving.  With that said, a lower income tax bill is certainly an added benefit to both the donor and the nonprofit, and it can be a call to action for the donor on an annual basis.

It is in this context of a new tax environment coupled with the desire to preserve individual philanthropy that we at the Community Foundation have seen a resurgence of an approach to giving that we call “donation bunching.”

Many professional advisers (accountants, attorneys, wealth managers, and others who work with clients’ money) have informed us that they are exploring “donation bunching” with their clients as a way to reduce income tax bills while preserving the current levels of charitable giving.  The donor-advised fund, or “DAF,” is a charitable giving tool that is popular in this tax strategy.  A DAF separates the tax decision from the giving decision.  Here’s how it works:  Ms. Generous makes a tax-deductible donation, let’s say $50,000, to a donor-advised fund now to exceed the newly increased standard deduction, therefore causing her to itemize deductions and reduce her tax bill as a direct result of the donation.  Ms. Generous then recommends grants from the donor-advised fund to nonprofits of her choice over a period of time, say $10,000 per year over five years.  She does not get a tax deduction for these grants because the initial $50,000 gift to her donor-advised fund allowed her to receive that deduction upfront.  Ms. Generous instead takes the standard deduction during these years.  Ms. Generous is thereby “bunching” the tax deduction of donations into a single tax year—the year the gift was made to the donor-advised fund—while maintaining her level of support to nonprofits.  An added benefit of a donor-advised fund is the ability to accept gifts of appreciated securities, which are particularly popular in this market environment.

The charitable deduction is one of the few itemized deductions that individuals can control, and even increase with joy!  Compare this to your real estate tax bill or your mortgage interest—one can quickly understand why Ms. Generous and her adviser would focus on charitable giving and a donor-advised fund as a tax reduction strategy.

As we approach this upcoming season of giving, we encourage you to continue to give to the causes that you care about—the community relies on the generosity of its residents regardless of tax law.  But, if you find yourself in your accountant’s office, discussing the need to reduce your tax obligations, remember “donation bunching” and the power of a donor-advised fund at your local community foundation.

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“Whole”istic Care – A Different Perspective of Wellness

Why Chiropractic?  What is it?  Is it only for neck & low back pain?  Many people believe chiropractic adjustments are meant to only assist in relieving neck or back pain.  Some people think of chiropractic for sports injuries.  Most people, however, don’t realize that chiropractic care is a great tool to utilize beyond these common […]

Why Chiropractic?  What is it?  Is it only for neck & low back pain?  Many people believe chiropractic adjustments are meant to only assist in relieving neck or back pain.  Some people think of chiropractic for sports injuries.  Most people, however, don’t realize that chiropractic care is a great tool to utilize beyond these common issues.  Chiropractic care focuses on the central nervous system through correcting imbalances in the muscular and skeletal structures.  Our central nervous system, which is protected by the bones of the spine, control EVERY aspect of our bodies; EVERY organ function and EVERY movement.

So, what is HEALTH?  In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health with a phrase that is still used today. “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  Medical News Today states, “In a person who experiences physical health, bodily functions are working at peak performance, due not only to a lack of disease, but also to regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and adequate rest. We receive treatment, when necessary, to maintain the balance.” (www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/150999.php)

Our daily lifestyles, including things such as physical activity/repetitive motions we do on a daily basis, diet/food consumption and external environmental influences, all have an effect on how our body will deal with the stresses it encounters.  However, if the nervous system is compromised through dysfunctional biomechanics (called subluxations), then the body can have a hard time recognizing the correct signals relayed between body systems.  When the body cannot regulate its systems properly, we begin to experience DIS-EASE!  And what is dis-ease…it’s a lack of ease!  But with regular (wellness) chiropractic care and good nutritional decisions, many people have noticed an improvement of different symptoms in addition to pain such as sinus & allergies, headaches, bursitis, asthma, stomach issues, cramps, colds and overall better ability to fight infections and increased immune function.

So how can chiropractic help keep you healthy?  Chiropractic treats spinal misalignments and removes nervous system interference by keeping the nervous system free from any interference through the correction of vertebral subluxations; misalignments of the bones of your spine which interfere with the communication of information between your brain and your body.  This simply allows the body to function optimally and its natural healing ability to be at its maximum…thus keeping resistance high and maintaining health more naturally.

What can cause a subluxation or spinal misalignment?  How do you know if you have one or more?  Well, the simple answer is, if you have a spine, and you move you most likely have them.  Repetitive movements over time, slips, falls, sports, accidents or injuries and even the birth process, may cause our spine to become subluxated.  Spinal misalignments, or subluxations, typically becomes evident to the naked eye when we examine our, or someone else’s, posture.  Because our bodies will adapt, the muscles that connect our bones to our skeletal system will accommodate and try and achieve balance.  We are adaptable beings, and as such, our bodies like homeostasis (the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes) and will strive to achieve that, until…

So, now you know the rest of the story!   Our office knows everyone is unique and we focus on each patient individually working with them to assist in achieving their wellness goals.  If you are interested in learning more about Chiropractic and how the ways it could benefit you or your employees specifically, feel free to contact our office.

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What’s your name again? – How and why you might want to rename your company

When you say your company’s name, does it offer intrigue? Does it give someone a glimpse into your personality? If it does, then this article isn’t for you. However, if you answered no, keep reading. Your company’s name is the first thing people mention when they talk about your business. It’s said dozens of times […]

When you say your company’s name, does it offer intrigue? Does it give someone a glimpse into your personality? If it does, then this article isn’t for you. However, if you answered no, keep reading.

Your company’s name is the first thing people mention when they talk about your business. It’s said dozens of times by you and your employees every day, and it’s front-and-center on all of your marketing. Your name should open doors or at least get people to sit up and take notice. Not ignore you.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure your name is doing its job – some may argue, more than anything.

Often, names people choose when a company is formed doesn’t work well as it evolves. And in some cases, a weak name could be preventing your success.

Here are some indicators that you might be in line for a name change:

1. If you’ve experienced brand mix-up.

Does your company ever get calls for a business with a similar name? Or, do people ever mistake your company for another business in a different industry? Or, do you have trouble with people misspelling or mispronouncing your name?  If your name is not distinct, your marketing has to work a lot harder, and that can burn your budget.

2. If you’ve changed your service line.

Businesses obviously change to respond to the market. Over the years, you may have added new products or service lines. Or if you have moved into an entirely new industry, you might need to consider a new name – especially if your brand specifically mentions the work you used to do.

3. If your company is named after its founder.

Many companies name their organization after their founder. The practice is particularly common with professional services firms. It poses the biggest issue when founders or partners leave or die. There are of course companies named after people who stand the test of time. But, if your organization doesn’t have the level of name recognition of Walt Disney, Morgan Stanley, or Johnson & Johnson, founder-based names might be problematic for you.

4. If the name includes a geography reference.

Many local businesses choose to brand their company based on their location. These names do little to differentiate the company. When you’re the only greenhouse or gym in town, it can work. But, if your company has any plans to expand, a name change might be in order.

5. If your name is generic or ordinary.

Your name should be a distinct and a differentiator. However, if your name is unmemorable, it might be time to change. Your name should be “sticky” and help you separate yourself from the competition. Names with three letters pose a major problem. Acronyms have very little retention value, and that inhibits your competitive edge.

In almost every instance, an evocative company name will help your marketing efforts and give your business a new personality and spark.

But before you decide to rename your business, you must take the following steps:

  1. Define your strategy.
    If you don’t have clear, strategy for your company, start with that. An undifferentiated business only leads to a boring, bland brand. You must have a clear understanding of why you are in business.
  1. Establish a budget.
    Although your name might be hurting you, renaming your business takes time and money to do it right. Invest in a company who can help you craft a name that serves as rocket fuel for your brand. A failed renaming effort can set you back even further.
  1. Fix your company first.
    A new name cannot fix a broken business.  A new name without brand changes is simply not going to move the needle. Make sure a new name reflects who you are as a company and not repackaging the same problems.

Change is hard when it comes to your company’s name. It’s why I call the process “renaming your child.” After all, it’s what you’ve been calling your business since it was born. To call it by another name may feel odd or uncomfortable and you may feel like your giving up part of your identity. But, in some cases, a name change is exactly what you need to get to the next level.

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The Manhattan Project: Making the Manhattan Great Again

So, in our first foray into the world of spirits and cocktails, we visited the haciendas of Mexico to talk about the origins of one of our favorite happy hour drinks; the margarita. In our next installment in the history of spirits and cocktails, we now visit the oldest vermouth driven cocktail: The Manhattan. There […]

So, in our first foray into the world of spirits and cocktails, we visited the haciendas of Mexico to talk about the origins of one of our favorite happy hour drinks; the margarita. In our next installment in the history of spirits and cocktails, we now visit the oldest vermouth driven cocktail: The Manhattan.

There is no doubt the Manhattan originated in one of the five boroughs of New York City, and I’ll let your imagination run wild in guessing which one. But once again, we have a contentious origin story for the great American classic that has seen a boom in popularity in recent decades.

Some historians point to Jennie Jerome, the famous Lady Churchill (mother of Sir Winston Churchill) as someone who helped create the iconic drink. Some will say in 1874 during a party thrown for then-presidential hopeful Samuel J Tibbet at the Manhattan club, that this masterful pairing of Rye whiskey, vermouth, and aromatic bitters was created. Heck, many history books will attest to this as being fact. However; David Wondrich per Imbibe! Magazine and notable author in cocktail history disputes this as fact.

According to Wondrich, during that time period, Lady Churchill was in England about to give birth to the great Sir Winston Churchill instead of galavanting at cocktail dinners trying to raise money for a presidential candidate. Instead, Wondrich points to William F. Mulhall; a bartender at the famed Hoffman House who applied his trade as a bartender for over thirty years as being someone who has the secret to the origins of this particular cocktail. According to Mulhall, a man who went by the name of “Black” (yes, that’s it) “who kept a place ten doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the 1860’s.”

Regardless of the origin of this American classic, it predates any vermouth driven cocktails such as the Martini (YES, A PROPER MARTINI GETS VERMOUTH PEOPLE!), Martinez or Rob Roy. Alas, I digress. Another point of contention amongst bar aficionados is the proportions for a Manhattan in and of itself. Some will go the 2 ½ ounces to ¾ ounce vermouth ratio. Some prefer a Canadian blended whiskey with little to no vermouth and no bitters. My standard recipe for a Manhattan is as follows:

  • 2 ounces of Bourbon or Rye Whiskey (I prefer Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye made in Maryland)
  • 1 ounce of Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica is without a doubt my favorite.)
  • 3 dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters.

 

Add all three ingredients to a glass filled with ice and stir – never shake a drink with no citrus as it bruises the booze – and garnish with an orange twist (unless you have proper brandied cherries, no maraschinos in my bar please.)

Before I go onto some variations in the cocktail, let’s again take a look back through history to understand how certain variations and taste profiles have come to be.

During prohibition, we as Americans obviously could not make (unless for medicinal purposes) any alcohol to be sold or consumed in the United States. That lead to backyard stills and sub-par alcohol. So, people looked to Canada as one of the leading exporters of actual distilled alcohol that helped add the authentic flavor that people were used to. So as that generation and the next came of drinking age, more and more Canadian whiskey was drank. Due to its charcoal filtered finish, it doesn’t have the same “bite” in the finish as traditional American bourbon or Rye whiskey. Hence the need for less vermouth and not so much with the bitters. Baby boomers and some of their children still prefer our northern cousin for a Manhattan due to its easy drinkability. Being the traditionalist that I am and having a slight penchant for harsher undertones that to me provide more character and depth to the cocktail, prefer the American standard of bourbon or rye.

With all of this being said, the Manhattan cocktail is one that bartenders of the modern era love to re-create with the abundance of spirits that are available on the back bar of institutions with a serious drive for complexity. With the reemergence of Amaros, Amaris, and vermouth in particular; there are so many layers of flavor that can be added to the drink itself. With a deft hand and understanding of the spirits themselves and how they blend together, different combinations and variations are able to be re-created. Here is my latest, softer and summer themed Manhattan recipe deftly named: Making Manhattan Great Again.

  • 2 ounces of Maker’s Mark Bourbon
  • ½ ounce of Averna Amaro (probably the most accessible amaro in Pennsylvania)
  • ½ ounce Luxardo Apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes of Orange bitters (Regan’s number 9 is my favorite)
  • Garnished with an orange twist

 

Until the next installment of cocktails in Network Magazine, I hope you all continue to drink fresh ingredients, buy local, and always trust a good bartender!

Cheers!

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Your Inner Circle of Health

I wanted to target this article around your circle of trust or in this case your circle of healthy influencers or lack thereof. Take a moment and think about who is in your inner circle that influences nutrition, exercise, and fitness in general. Ask yourself who you allow to remain in your inner circle that […]

I wanted to target this article around your circle of trust or in this case your circle of healthy influencers or lack thereof. Take a moment and think about who is in your inner circle that influences nutrition, exercise, and fitness in general. Ask yourself who you allow to remain in your inner circle that also influences your daily lifestyle.

I think many of us underestimate the power of our closest influencers. I’m reminded of that today as I write this. We have just finished two weeks working with my inner circle of biking enthusiasts to track down an adult size tricycle bike. A very good friend of ours is a special education teacher. She also specializes in working with autistic children. She had recently reached out because she was going to go buy an adult tricycle and was looking for sponsors or supporters for her therapy work. Once we heard about her goals, we couldn’t let her buy a low-quality bike from Walmart. As a huge biking nut, this will not do. Now that being said, tracking down a bike of this type became a bit of a project and I was quite busy. However, I had a good friend of mine who happens to really geek out and loves to track down bikes that are in amazing condition. He basically flips them or repurposes those bikes as a little fun yet entrepreneurial side hustle.

Building a network or in this case, an inner circle of healthy and trustworthy people ensured that we got to pull together something with a positive benefit for others. I’m telling you this story to help provide an impact on the importance of that inner circle of influence. Many of us underestimate this, so before I continue on, I’ll reference one of my favorite Jim Rohn quotes: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’m truly inspired by people in general who choose to help kids and adults for that matter, living with autism. Helping to enable kids with balance issues to ride a bike is something I never thought about. I’m hoping this inspires you to really think about who is in your inner circle of trust. I’ve referenced positive results but let’s really take the time to think about who is negatively impacting your daily goals, your weekly goals, and your monthly goals. These are important topics to consider when it comes to your health, fitness and your overall lifestyle. Ask yourself what changes must be taken to improve your life. Many of us keep making excuses that are fueled by the people around us. Many of you may justify your sedentary lifestyles because of your busy careers, businesses, or the feedback from other sedentary friends/family.

We all have plenty of things to distract us, we all have plenty of opportunities to become sedentary, or justify our unfortunate unhealthy choices. Let’s be honest; it is not always your business, your job, or careers. I’ll be the first one to tell you that’s all BS because I was there once. That is your own internal psychology and possibly the bleed-over of negative influence from your inner circle that influences your actions daily.

So please really take the time to look at who is influencing your daily, weekly, and even monthly lifestyle. If these people are not helping promote positive change, you need to change that time management. This is a hard decision for many people. Psychologically, it is crucial that you start changing the people you surround yourself with. This is a must to create massive and sustainable positive change in your life. Whether it be your nutritional practices, physical education, or overall health practices, all of these things can be influenced by the people you spend the most time with.

You don’t need to change everybody you spend the most time with but start looking at those core people. Then look outside your normal inner circle and see other people that you could be spending more time with. People that will help promote and support your healthy mutual goals. Then get to work because as I already said, it’s not going to be easy, you will have struggles, and yes, it will be awkward. The most impactful changes in our life come from hard decisions.

Most people who struggle to support your healthy changes, because they themselves, are afraid to create them. If they see you taking those positive steps that used to scare them, they may hopefully want to make the same changes themselves and want back into your “Inner Circle of Health.”

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Why You Need a Will

We tend to place seemingly non-urgent tasks on the backburner. Most of us have a lengthy list of undesirable tasks that “collect dust” in the back of our minds. We promise we will organize the garage next month and convince ourselves we will start our diets as soon as the New Year commences. In reality, […]

We tend to place seemingly non-urgent tasks on the backburner. Most of us have a lengthy list of undesirable tasks that “collect dust” in the back of our minds. We promise we will organize the garage next month and convince ourselves we will start our diets as soon as the New Year commences. In reality, it often takes us years to complete these less-imperative tasks. We are guilty of reserving them for that ever-ambiguous “not today” when we consider them daunting or unappealing.

According to a 2014 study, almost 64% of Americans don’t have a will. Perhaps this unwillingness to create a plan for our deaths is threefold: thinking about death is unpleasant, we naturally ignore our mortality while going about our day-to-day business, and many of us hold a misconstrued belief that wills are only necessary for the wealthy. However, regardless of our financial or marital status, we all deserve the confidence of knowing all our wishes will be honored once we pass. The only way to ensure this is by preparing a will. Consider the following as you contemplate yours:

  1. Determine who will raise your minor children
    Nobody knows your children better than you; therefore, appointing a loved and trusted individual to care for them is imperative. The only way to appoint a guardian for them if you and your spouse pass is to name them in a will. Without one, a judge who has never met you or your children will decide who will raise them. I know from over thirty years of experience that deciding on a guardian is very difficult and may cause conflict between spouses, but a knowledgeable attorney should be able to help you make this complicated decision.
  1. Decide how your property will be distributed
    Having a will enables you to ensure that your property will be distributed according to your wishes. If you pass away without a will that that specifies how you’d like your property distributed, a judge will decide who receives it; this determination may not only go against your wishes but will cause disputes among your family members. In order to ensure your property ends up with whom you want when you die, it is essential to name your beneficiaries in a will.
  1. Protect your spouse
    Many people believe that if you die, your surviving spouse will gain ownership of all your property; however, this is false. Your spouse will only inherit half of your estate while your children inherit the other half. This will certainly be even more of a burden if your children are minors and your spouse will have to be named trustee by a court. This could amount to a lot of extra stress and cost to your spouse.
  1. Appoint an executor
    An executor handles your remaining financial responsibilities after you pass away. Not having an individual designated to this position in writing means a judge will name someone instead after you die.
  1. Facilitate the grieving process for your loved ones
    Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and financially burdensome. Years-long arguments between family members and lawyers about who will receive your assets can provoke a stressful, costly situation that exacerbates the grieving process and strains relationships. Providing your family with objective, clear-cut instructions on how you’d like your possessions allocated when you pass will lessen confusion as well as prevent intervention from the courts and permanent damage to your family.

Take the first step in eliminating “write a will” from your to-do list by calling your lawyer today.

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What Might Be Lurking In Your Real Estate Title? – The Importance of Title Insurance

If you have purchased real estate in Pennsylvania, chances are you purchased a title insurance policy.  But what is title insurance and what does it insure? A title insurance policy insures that land acquired (or mortgaged) is free of all defects, liens, and encumbrances.  While ownership itself may seem very straightforward, a buyer’s rights to […]

If you have purchased real estate in Pennsylvania, chances are you purchased a title insurance policy.  But what is title insurance and what does it insure?

A title insurance policy insures that land acquired (or mortgaged) is free of all defects, liens, and encumbrances.  While ownership itself may seem very straightforward, a buyer’s rights to enjoy the real estate purchased isn’t always clear.  There are many ways in which the ownership (title) of real estate can be in jeopardy.  Title insurance helps to reduce the possibility that title issues will arise by examining the status of title and proactively addressing potential issues, with the policy issued protecting against a loss if a buyer’s ownership rights are challenged.

Title insurance is substantially different than other types of insurance coverage.  Most other forms of insurance cover unforeseen future events, such as an accident, by pooling the risk of unanticipated losses.  Title insurance protects a property owner from events that may have occurred in the past, emphasizing risk prevention rather than risk assumption.  To prevent risk, a title search is performed and evaluated to identify possible risks in the chain of title.  Prior to issuance of the title insurance policy, risks are resolved to reduce or eliminate future risk, often unbeknownst to the property owner.

There are two forms of title insurance policies – owner’s policies and lender’s policies.  An owner’s policy protects the owner’s interest in the property while the lender’s policy protects the lender’s security interest in the real estate.  The most common owner’s policy insures ownership in the land, though other interests in land, such as leases, easements, and life estates can also be insured.

The owner’s policy is typically issued in the amount of the purchase price.  The policy is effective as long as the owner retains its interest in the land.  Although a title search is completed and examined in great detail, a hidden risk may still materialize after closing, causing the property owner great expense to defend its title to the property.  Title insurance provides protection against the hidden risks.  Examples of such hidden risks are:

  • A deed completed with a forged signature, which would mean the “transfer” evidenced by the deed never occurred;
  • Unknown heir[s] of a previous owner who claims ownership of the property;
  • Documents signed under an expired or a fabricated power of attorney;
  • Defective acknowledgments due to improper or expired notarization;
  • Corporate franchise taxes and liens on corporate real estate assets; and
  • Gaps in the chain of title.

In addition to identifying and resolving these potential title issues before the purchase is completed, an owner’s policy will pay valid claims and all defense costs against attacks on the title.

The buyer selects the title insurance company and typically pays the premium, though the party responsible for paying is negotiable.  Title insurance is regulated by the Pennsylvania Insurance Commission which sets the rates for title insurance.  Therefore, the premium for identical levels of coverage will the same regardless of the title insurance company selected.

A lender’s policy is issued to ensure the security interest held by a lender in real estate, securing the payment of a debt.  The loan policy assures the lender of the validity, priority, and enforceability of its lien (mortgage). A loan policy is issued in the amount of the loan.  Lenders commonly require that the borrower/owner obtain a policy benefitting the lender to insure its interest in the collateral.  (A lender’s title insurance policy does not protect the owner’s interest, though the owner’s policy can be issued for the same level of coverage without any additional cost to the owner.)

With this primer, you now have a better understanding of the title insurance policy that protects one of your most important assets.

 

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