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

My Blog

Building in Radon Resistant Features

May 19, 2015 12:43 am

Looking beyond what may seem like a "band-aid" tactic of testing for radon, I went looking for information about how the building industry is responding to radon risks.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, many builders are adopting Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC) features in some of their homes. The EPA suggests that new home buyers ask their builder about these features, and if not provided, to ask to include them in the new home.

If a home is tested after buyers move in and an elevated level of radon is discovered, the owners’ cost of fixing the problem can be much more. On the other hand, constructing with RRNC in new homes can add value by protecting health and reducing costs for customers.

According to the EPA, while techniques may vary for different house foundations and building site requirements, the five basic features that builders should include to prevent radon from entering a home are:

Gravel: Use a 4-inch layer of clean, coarse gravel below the “slab,”or foundation to allow soil gases, which includes radon, to move freely underneath the house. Builders call this the “air flow layer” or “gas permeable layer." In some regions of the country, alternatives are allowed, such as a perforated pipe or a collection mat.

Plastic Sheeting or Vapor Retarder:
Place heavy duty plastic sheeting (6 mil. polyethylene) or a vapor retarder on top of gravel to prevent soil gases from entering the house.

A Vent Pipe:
Run a 3-inch or 4-inch solid PVC Schedule 40 pipe vertically from the gravel layer (stubbed up when the slab is poured) through the house’s conditioned space and roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases outside above the house.

Sealing and Caulking: Seal all openings, cracks, and crevices in the concrete foundation floor including the slab perimeter crack and walls with polyurethane caulk to prevent radon and other soil gases from entering the home.

Junction Box: Install an electrical junction box outlet in the attic for use with a vent fan, should, after testing for radon, a more robust system be needed.

Visit the National Radon Proficiency Program, the National Radon Safety Board, or your state radon coordinator for service providers in your area.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Get Smart about Credit Card Debt

May 19, 2015 12:43 am

Credit card debt is the third largest source of household debt, behind only mortgages and student loans. According to Equifax, the average credit card balance is about $1,224 per card.

“Credit cards are a significant source of debt for millions of Americans, and that’s why it’s so important to develop the knowledge and skills to manage them effectively,” says Steve Trumble, President and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC). “In today’s fast-paced world, consumers need to be more credit card smart than ever before.”

Get smart when it comes to using credit with these tips from the ACCC.

1. Understand your credit card and any fees associated with it. It’s important to do your research to find the best deals and interest rates. Understand your annual percentage rate (APR) and how it is calculated by your provider. It can make a difference in how much you pay each month. In addition, be aware of any fees associated with your card, as these hidden costs can add up.

2. Pay on time. Problems can escalate quickly for your wallet if you miss a payment. Missing payments can lead to late fees and higher interest rates and can even cause a drop in your credit score. It’s worth contacting your credit card company and requesting that the late fee be waived if you have a good reason for missing the payment.

3. Don’t get hooked on minimum payments. If you only pay the minimum on your bill, it can take a long time and a lot of extra money to pay off your debt. For example, if you owe $5,000 on an account with an 18 percent APR and pay a minimum of 2 percent of the balance, it will take more than 7.5 years to pay it off. Just as bad, you will have paid $4,311.25 in interest. Paying even a little more each month can substantially reduce the time it takes to pay off the debt and decrease interest.

4. Avoid special services, programs and goods that credit card lenders offer with their cards. Most of these are extras – items such as fraud protection plans, credit record protection, travel clubs and life insurance. More often than not, much better deals on these services can be found elsewhere.

5. Never max out your card. You will be hit with over-limit fees. Keep in mind that it’s best to use only 30 percent of your maximum credit allowed. Using more than that can cause a drop in your credit score. In addition, be aware of unsolicited increases to your credit limit.

Source: ACCC

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Are the Characteristics of Your Home in Sync with You?

May 19, 2015 12:43 am

I would always encourage homeowners to step back and consider how other people might describe your home. Are the characteristics in sync?

For a house to truly become a home, our friend Linda Gottlieb, a Connecticut DecorDesigner with Decor&You says it must have a soul that mirrors the authenticity and individuality of the homeowner.

Typically Gottlieb sees people choosing their interior design based on current trends or affordability. But in order to truly create a fulfilling home, she says it's essential to make sure the space embodies its own, original self.

So here are some of her tips and ideas to help create a home that truly reflects your personality:

Choose Your Hues: Choose interior colors and hues that correspond with your personality. For instance, a very calm and tranquil person may consider using watery colors; an energetic person may want to play with bright tones; while a dramatic, yet sophisticated person can opt for rich, deep shades such as an Eggplant purple or maroon. After you decide on the color schemes, it's key to take a moment and envision yourself living within the realms of those colors.

Celebrate Your Prized Possessions:
From family heirlooms to trophies, everyone has belongings with priceless personal value. To help reflect your history and achievements, utilize these items as focal points in the home. These pieces can set the foundation for a room's color schemes, furniture, and overall style.

Echo Your Lifestyle:
Comfortable seating, ottomans, dim lighting, and matching blankets help to ensure a relaxed attitude. For an extravagant and inviting room, go bold with intricate details. Statement pieces, like an elegant chandelier, make the room lively and stimulating. Slipcovers with varying patterns are also a great way to keep guests 'wowed' and allow you to alter a room to fit all occasions.

Signature Scents: Scents have the potential to serve as a powerful memory trigger, so choose smells corresponding with enjoyable times. With so many different options available, the perfect scent could be the final step in embodying yourself within your home.

Source: Decor&You

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Identifying Coverage Gaps for Home-Based Businesses

May 18, 2015 12:42 am

For many, achieving the American dream comes with the freedom of operating a home-based business. But without proper insurance planning, even the most promising dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. Blurring the lines between home and work can have unexpected and costly impacts on all types of personal insurance, says the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

To avoid costly impacts, the NAIC recommends home-based business owners consider these personal insurance implications:

Home – Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies are rarely adequate for business needs. Owners may want to investigate a business owners' policy or general liability, business property and business interruption/continuation insurance.

Auto – If you own or lease a vehicle almost exclusively for business use, list the business name as the principal insured. Consider also increasing coverage to protect permanently attached items, such as a generator or storage unit.

Health – There are a variety of sources for purchasing HMOs, PPOs, EPOs and other popular health insurance plans at group rates. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), business owners and the self-employed who purchase coverage through new health insurance marketplaces may qualify for tax credits.

Life – If the home business is a partnership, consider key person life insurance which names each partner in a business as beneficiary on the other partner's policy. If one partner passes away, the other can use funds to buy out heirs, pay off loans or continue operations.

Source: NAIC

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Outdoor Kitchens: Layout First, Design Second

May 18, 2015 12:42 am

(Family Features) One of the most popular features in backyard spaces is a fully-equipped kitchen suited for entertaining and outdoor living. But like its interior counterpart, designing an outdoor kitchen can be a challenge.

Your first consideration should be location. Pay attention to the prevailing winds, says Ken Kelly, Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly. "Wind direction and where the kitchen is located could cause smoke to blow into guests or even into the house through an open window," he says. "Keep the grill downwind of guests."

Your second consideration should be grill placement. “Do you want the cook to face the guests, or look at the scenery?” asks Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “When the cook can talk to the guests, the space becomes more social and enjoyable,” he says.

Once you’ve established a wind-friendly location and optimal grill placement, cordon off wet, cold, hot and dry zones, says Faulk. These zones will make prepping food, cooking and cleaning much easier.

"Keep the cold zone next to the wet zone. This makes it easier to move things from the cold zone refrigerator to the wet zone sink to wash them off and get them ready for the grill in the hot zone," he adds.

Zones are especially important if a pool is nearby. "Keep the cold zone nearest to the pool," says Faulk. "It will keep kids who want a cold drink from running past a hot grill."

Don’t forget counter space. Grills should have a minimum of 24 inches of uninterrupted space to one side and 12 inches to the other. This gives the cook room to place platters, cooking utensils and other essentials.

If an outdoor space lacks room for that amount of counter space, "incorporate an open-shelf cabinet below. You get additional 'counter space' by being able to put things on shelves," says Kelly.

With the right planning, homeowners and their guests can enjoy an outdoor kitchen for many years to come.

Source: Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

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Homebuyers: 7 Ways to Prepare Finances

May 18, 2015 12:42 am

Did you know many homebuyers are financially unprepared to purchase a home? According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), almost half of respondents report being “least prepared” to buy a home – a sign that education is needed, especially for first-time buyers.

Prepare your finances well in advance of searching for a home. Here’s how.

1. Make a Financial Plan

Knowing where to start means conducting a complete review of how your household budget is managed. Comparing income and expenses, reviewing debt, and tracking savings are just a few of the ways to measure readiness for homeownership.

2. Review Your Credit Report and Score

Because a mortgage is the largest debt a person is likely to carry in their life, credit history can be a deal breaker or a dream maker. A credit report may be obtained without a score for free once every 12 months from each of the three bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Once a copy is obtained, review it for discrepancies and dispute any differences. Do this at least six months in advance of applying for the loan, allowing time for inaccuracies to be corrected.

Along with the free credit report, a score can be purchased for a small fee. Because the score is critical to mortgage approval and competitive interest rates, it is worth taking a look before submitting the loan application. Lender guidelines vary, but a FICO score of 760 is typically the threshold for the most favorable interest rates.

3. Start Saving

A down payment is typically no less than 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, and coming up with the money may be a significant pain point. A down payment is essential to limit the amount borrowed, as well as increasing the chance of having more favorable mortgage terms.

4. Decide the Type of Loan


After you’ve selected a lender, decide whether to take on a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loan, which are the most common of the many different types of financing available. For those planning to remain in the home for a long time, a fixed-rate mortgage helps add stability by keeping the payment the same for the life of the loan. Those expecting their stay in the home to be no longer than five to seven years may be better served by an adjustable-rate loan, where they could benefit from lower rates in the short term.

5. Pre-Qualify for a Loan

It is important to know the limits of what is affordable before beginning to shop for a house. A good place to start is by becoming pre-qualified with a lender. This free service can typically be done in-person, online or by phone. The lender will need to gather some financial information and will offer a general idea of the amount of mortgage loan available based on the information provided. This non-binding estimate is the best way to know how much house would be affordable.

6. Become Pre-Approved for a Loan

Applying for a mortgage typically involves a cost and is done by supplying detailed financial documentation to the lender. The lender will use this information in conjunction with information obtained by pulling a credit report to determine the amount and terms for the loan. This is not a final approval for a loan, but is a significant step toward that outcome.

7. Lock in the Rate

If you like the interest rate being offered when pre-approved, lock it in by getting the commitment in writing. It can take time to find a home, negotiate a price and secure funding. Locking a rate for a reasonable period of time helps make room to complete the process without risking a less-favorable interest rate.

Source: NFCC.org

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Talking Credit with Children

May 15, 2015 6:42 am

Financial literacy is important at any age, but especially for middle school-aged children. To facilitate a conversation with your children, start by addressing credit with these four talking points:

1. The credit score is a numerical rating used by lenders to make decisions about granting credit to you.

2. A low credit score can impact your pocketbook. For example, a utility company may require a deposit for lower credit scores before providing service.

3. In addition to whether you pay bills on time, the other factors affecting credit score are:

• How much you owe on credit cards and other loans
• What type of credit you are using
• Whether you have new credit accounts
• How long you have been using credit

4. In general, a poor credit score is defined as anything below 560. An excellent credit score is anything over 760.

Source: Equifax

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Mortgage Rates Trail Year High

May 15, 2015 6:42 am

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) rose to 3.85 percent, trailing closely behind the year high, according to Freddie Mac’s recent Primary Mortgage Market Survey ® (PMMS®).

“Mortgage rates rose for the third consecutive week as 10-year Treasury yields continued to climb,” says Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer. “The labor market continues to improve with the U.S. economy adding 223,000 jobs in April, a solid rebound from merely 85,000 job gains in March. Also, the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent in April as the participation rate ticked up to 62.8 percent and jobless claims were far less than expected.”

The 15-year FRM average also increased, climbing to 3.07 percent. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.89 percent, representing a slight decrease. The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM average rose to 2.48 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

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4 Tips for a No-Stress Move

May 15, 2015 6:42 am

(BPT) - Moving can lead to new, exciting possibilities, but it also means leaving behind the people and places you love. While some sentimental items can be taken to your new place, many memories just aren't transportable. To ensure your treasured belongings arrive safely to your new home, be prepared with these no-stress tips.

1. Make Room for New Memories


Taking every item of sentimental value with you to your new home is not always possible. Moving is the perfect opportunity to organize and purge items you don't need or won't use in your new residence. To lessen the load on moving day, hold a garage sale or donate unwanted items to a local charity. If you're trying to sell your current home, the less clutter the better.

Once you've determined which objects will make the move, decide where they'll go in your new place. Make the unpacking process simpler by creating a plan for your new space in advance and pack according to where things will go, not by where they've been.

2. Organize, Don't Agonize

Starting the process early can help avoid nerve-wracking, last-minute packing, and give you time to be a bit nostalgic. Before you begin boxing things up, take videos and photos of each room to preserve your memories of that space. Don't forget to include outdoor areas like a backyard tree house or handprints in the patio cement.

Then, make a checklist of everything you need to accomplish before moving - packing, cleaning, cancelling and restarting utilities, registering the kids for school - and set a timeline for completing each step. Once you're ready to start packing, work room by room to make the task seem more manageable. Start with decorative pieces that you can go without for a month or so, keeping items you need daily for last.

3. Protect Delicate Possessions

To ensure your belongings arrive safely, it's essential to pack possessions with extra care. Safeguard breakables with wrapping materials designed to protect fragile goods, such as bubble wrap cushioning, for the best protection.

Next, pack items in clean, sturdy containers in a variety of sizes. Use large boxes for bulky, yet lighter furnishings, such as pillows and blankets, and place heavier objects in smaller boxes to avoid unnecessary strain. Seal boxes securely with a durable packaging tape.

Be sure to label boxes clearly, marking them on the sides of the boxes, not the top. This step makes it obvious what's inside, even if they're stacked. You also can use different colored or printed packaging tapes to color code each room - red for the bedroom, blue for the kitchen.

4. Have Help on Hand

If you’re moving to a location close to your old home, recruit friends and family to help with packing and unloading on moving day. You'll love showing off your new place, and it'll help with the transition to see that loved ones aren't too far away to make the trip.

Put together an "open me first" box with the gear you'll need immediately, such as tools to assemble furniture, cleaning supplies and shelf liner for drawers, closets and kitchen cabinets.

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Eliminating Electrical Fire Hazards at Home

May 14, 2015 12:39 am

While electricity plays a major role in our daily lives, we often take its power and the conveniences it provides - along with its potential for fire-related hazards - for granted. According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics, electrical fires resulted in $1.48 billion in property damage in a five-year period. To mitigate risks for electrical fire, protect your home and loved ones with these safety tips.

• Have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician.

• Only plug one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, space heater, etc.) into a receptacle outlet at a time.

• Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are a kind of circuit breaker that shuts off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs. Consider having them installed in your home by a qualified electrician.

• Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of shock. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI-protected.

• Test AFCIs and GFCIs once a month to make sure they’re working properly.

• Check electrical cords to make sure they’re not running across doorways or under carpets.

• Extension cords are intended for temporary use. Have a qualified electrician add more receptacle outlets so you don’t have to use extension cords continuously.

• Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture. A sticker will indicate the maximum wattage light bulb to use.

Source: NFPA

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