June Croissette
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RE/MAX 440   June Croissette
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309  Quakertown, PA  18951
Office Phone: 215-538-4400    Phone: 215-538-4400 Ext. 1210  Fax: 267-354-6834  Cell: 215-872-4966
jcroissette@remax440.com

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Freddie Mac: More Housing Markets Stabilize

October 28, 2015 2:33 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 2:33 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 2:33 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 2:33 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

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Sweet Tooth: Halloween Tips for Parents

October 26, 2015 2:30 am

Trick-or-treaters, rejoice! More than three-quarters of households plan to hand out treats this Halloween, upping candy-giving by 5 percent from last year. What’s more, less parents plan to pilfer their children’s haul after the holiday. Sweet!

These findings are the results of a recent Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA) analysis that projects candy consumption, which found some other interesting nibbles of information – less than 60 percent of households plan to dole out chocolate this Halloween, even though chocolate remains the most popular type of candy among candy givers, and less parents plan to limit the amount of candy their children can consume at one time.

No matter what your Halloween plans are, the DDPA advises trick-or-treating with care. Remember:

Have your children eat dinner before trick-or-treating. If your children have full bellies, they may be less likely to overindulge in candy when they get home.

Make sure your children drink extra water to stay hydrated during trick-or-treating and to help wash away sugar that may otherwise cause tooth decay.

Enjoy Halloween candy after a meal to take advantage of increased saliva production and help wash away sugar and bacteria left by candy.

Remind children to brush for two minutes and floss after they dig into their trick-or-treat bags. Practicing good oral hygiene will help keep their mouths clean and their teeth free of decay.

Source: DDPA

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10 Energy-Saving Tips for Your Home

October 26, 2015 2:30 am

Did you know the average American family spends at least $2,000 a year on home utility bills? You can cut down your own expenses significantly by adopting energy-saving methods and implementing a few eco-friendly products. The experts at Power Home Remodeling Group, one of the nation’s largest exterior home remodelers, recommend starting with:

1. Smart Appliances – For new installs or replacements, look for energy-efficient appliances and building products with ENERGY STAR labels. These products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

2. High-Tech Thermostats – Consider investing in a high-tech programmable thermostat, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, that learns from homeowner activity, programs itself automatically and helps save energy when no one is home.

3. Filter Swaps – A dirty air filter can make your heating and cooling systems work harder and use more energy. Be sure to regularly change the filter on your air conditioning and heating unit.

4. Intelligent Power Strips – Purchase an intelligent power strip geared toward saving more energy, like the Modlet. This device plugs into your wall outlet and connects to your computer or smartphone, allowing you to monitor how much energy your electronics and appliances are using when they're plugged in.

5. Recycled Water – Aside from inspecting your sprinkler system for leaks, consider collecting rainwater to water your landscape. Enhance your curb appeal in the process and purchase a rain collection system that can be camouflaged as a decorative piece on your lawn, such as a barrel, charcoal rocks or a flowerpot.

6. Low-E Windows – Replace single-glazed windows with low thermal emissivity windows to reduce heat transfer and keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Windows and doors should also be regularly checked to make sure they're properly sealed to avoid heat from escaping.

7. Light-Colored Roofs – Choose a light-colored roof or add a ridge vent to decrease heat transferred to the attic. At the very least, consider adding insulation to the attic to lower temperatures.

8. Dual-Flush Toilets – According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, toilets consume up to 30 percent of a home's average water use. Replace your toilets with dual-flush alternatives to save water and money.

9. LED Light Bulbs – Replace CFL lights with LED lights, as they use less energy and last five times longer. You might also consider custom-made hardware that allows you to adjust your lights from your phone. Carnes Audio is one of many vendors that install these types of controlled systems.

10. Fans – Add ceiling or portable fans to your home to help circulate air and cut down on air conditioner use.

Source: Power Home Remodeling Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Ways to Green Your Next Home Improvement Project

October 26, 2015 2:30 am

(BPT) – Got home improvement on your to-do list? Consider going green for your next project – it’s easier than you think!

Rent instead of buy. Some projects may call for equipment you don't have. Rather than buy new, consider renting the tools you need. According to the American Rental Association (www.rentalHQ.com), renting is a green alternative to buying because it helps cut down the consumption of energy and materials and pollution associated with producing, delivering and selling new tools. Renting is also less expensive than purchasing, especially when using a specialized item you may not use again, and can help you avoid the hassle of storing tools between projects.

Seek salvaged materials. Before you visit your local home improvement store or lumber yard, ask yourself if you can complete your project with reclaimed materials.

Building a patio? Recycled bricks or pavers will do the job just as well as new, cost less and impart unique character you often can’t get from new materials. Installing hardwood flooring? Wood flooring reclaimed from an old warehouse or barn not only reduces the amount of construction materials in landfills, but also gives your floor an authentically rustic touch.

Reuse from your own home. Often times, you have items in your own home that can be purposed for a home improvement project.  Look for opportunities to reuse items you already have on hand. You'll reduce waste, save money on waste removal fees and spare the expense of buying new building materials.

The front walk might need to be redone with level pavers, but the old ones could be reused for a backyard fire pit. Lumber from that fence you took down could be turned into decorative seating on your deck. A pedestal sink left over from a bathroom remodel could make an ornamental birdbath for the garden.

Keep recycling in mind. Sometimes construction leftovers just can't be reused, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can't be recycled. As you're working on your project, look for opportunities to recycle what you can't use. And if you do have to buy new materials, choose ones that could potentially be recycled some day in the future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Are You Using Your Credit Card Responsibly?

October 23, 2015 2:30 am

There are several myths surrounding the use of credit cards – in fact, the majority of credit card users surveyed recently by CompareCards wrongly believe they use their cards responsibly.

"Even though more than half of respondents don't fully pay off their credit cards on a monthly basis, they believe they are using them responsibly," says Chris Mettler, founder of CompareCards. "This is concerning, as it reveals that many consumers may not be aware of just how much their spending habits impact their credit and long-term debt."

The results of the survey indicate credit card users vary in how often they fully pay their monthly credit card bill – just 35 percent always pay in full. The survey also found nearly a third of respondents have four or more credit card cards, and an equal amount use their credit cards very often for purchases.

Additionally, over 20 percent of respondents have $5,000 or more in total debt.

Credit card habits affect a person’s credit score, which can determine whether he or she qualifies for a loan to purchase a home, among other decisions.

Source: CompareCards.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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HVAC Testing Necessary for Off-Season Homebuyers

October 23, 2015 2:30 am

Did you know colder climates can make it harder to determine the functionality of a home’s systems? If you’re purchasing a home at a time when temperatures are falling, it’s important to enlist the services of a seasoned home inspector, says the National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), especially when assessing the HVAC system.

When temperatures fall below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a home inspection report can only verify that a unit will turn on, not if it actually cools. In winter, the coldest spot in a refrigeration circuit is in the compressor crankcase, located outside the home. Because refrigerant naturally migrates to the coldest spot in the unit, if the system is tested, the refrigerant may travel into the compressor, causing damage.

Ensure your home inspector pays special attention to the testing of the HVAC unit, and request the seller provide a home service contract as part of the transaction to help insulate yourself from costly repairs or replacements for undetected problems. In addition to HVAC systems, home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for items such as dishwashers, ovens, disposers, and electrical and plumbing systems, but do not cover pre-existing conditions. Paying particular attention to the contract’s terms and conditions can help avoid confusion when a service call is needed.

To offer reassurance that the system is operating properly, real estate agents representing the buyer will generally ask the seller to sign a form stating the date of the last time the air conditioning system was fully functioning. If a home has been on the market for an extended period of time, however, this statement may not provide accurate information on the current condition of the unit.

“If a house has been sitting empty and an undetected leak has slowly depleted the refrigerant, the new owner will have no idea until they turn the air conditioning on in the summer,” says Jeff Powell, NHSCA chairman. “At that point, a service call to get the refrigerant level back up and the unit running will likely cost upwards of $250 to $300. They also need to understand that low levels would indicate a leak in the line that will continue to deplete refrigerant until it is located and fixed. That translates into more repair dollars for the homeowner.”

In the past, some homeowners have opted for a temporary fix by simply having refrigerant added to their systems to keep them operational. However, a dramatic increase in the cost of refrigerant can make this approach as costly as a repair.

Source: NHSCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Trend Downward

October 23, 2015 2:30 am

According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), average fixed mortgage rates have followed Treasury yields lower, further benefitting the housing market. The survey finds the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaging 3.79 percent and the 15-year FRM averaging 2.98 percent.

"Following Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo's remarks last week Treasury yields dipped,” explains Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “In response, 30-year mortgage rates fell three basis points this week to 3.79 percent. The housing market continues to benefit from low mortgage rates, with housing starts for September beating expectations and the NAHB's Housing Market index registering a ten year-high in October."

The PMMS also shows the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averages 2.89 percent, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averages 2.62 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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