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

Want an Energy-Efficient Home? Buy New

April 6, 2015 12:18 am

New homes increasingly offer the energy-efficient features today’s homebuyers are seeking, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Recent studies by the organization indicate that home builders are more likely to include features like low-E windows, Energy Star-rated appliances and windows and programmable thermostats in new homes this year.

“Whether it’s improved insulation or sustainable building materials, today’s new homes can reach higher energy performance and greater durability than was possible even 20 years ago,” explains Tom Woods, NAHB chairman and home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “And programs like the National Green Building Standard help consumers achieve their efficiency needs.”

One NAHB survey found that Energy Star-certified materials are a priority for Millennials new to the housing market. In fact, 84 percent of this group is willing to pay 2-3 percent more for an energy-efficient home as long as they can see a return on their power bills.

Some homebuyers are looking for even more sustainable features, prompting an increasing number of single-family and multifamily builders to deliver green homes. Green builders incorporate energy, water and resource efficiency; improved indoor environmental quality and sustainable and locally sourced products into their projects.

Another NAHB survey revealed that nearly 25 percent of builders installed alternative energy-producing equipment in new construction. This includes geothermal heat pumps and photovoltaic solar panels. The current 30-percent tax credit available for homeowners who install this equipment is set to expire at the end of 2016, which makes this a good time for interested buyers to consider purchases.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is Your Home Insured for Tornado Damage?

April 6, 2015 12:18 am

When a tornado strikes, the economic and insurance repercussions can be costly. From 1994 to 2013, tornadoes accounted for 37.2 percent of insured catastrophe losses (Property Claim Services) – $10.3 billion in losses were reported in 2013 alone (Munich Re).

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), standard homeowners and business insurance policies cover wind damage, including that caused by tornadoes, to the structure of the building and its contents. Homeowner policies also provide for additional living expenses (ALE). ALE coverage pays the costs of living away from home if you cannot inhabit your house due to damage from an insured disaster.

If you own a business that has been damaged, business income (also known as business interruption) insurance covers the profits a business would have earned had the disaster not occurred. This includes additional operating expenses—such as operating out of a temporary location—incurred as a result of the disaster.

Damage to cars from a tornado is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of a standard auto insurance policy.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Caring for Your Stone Surfaces

April 3, 2015 12:12 am

(Family Features)—Many homeowners install granite or marble countertops and vanities for their durability and to add more value to the home. But in the end, nothing beats the most visible benefit—that rich shine and luster right after the workmen install the new natural stone.

It’s that gorgeous shine homeowners desire to maintain. For some, their lustrous granite or marble surfaces are the envy of dinner guests. For others, it’s a feeling of frustration and disappointment, most likely due to lack of knowledge and education on maintaining the life and beauty of natural stone. While literally solid as a rock, natural stone isn’t impervious to wear and tear, and it requires correct and regular care and maintenance. It’s important to understand the shine on granite is not from applying a wax, but a natural shine that goes through a rigorous process.

Quarried from the earth’s surface using a combination of diamond wire cables, drills and even dynamite, these stone blocks weigh in at around 40,000 pounds. The blocks are then taken to a factory for processing. A giant gang saw using diamond blades slices the blocks into a calibrated thickness similar to a giant bread slicer. The next step is over to a polishing line where they pass under diamond polishing heads that apply thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Here, finer and finer grits bring out the natural polish of the stone. From there the slabs are bundled and shipped to your local stone manufacturer and installer to be further cut to a homeowner’s needs. It’s this factory finish that enhances their inherent characteristics — veins, swirls, crystals — prior to installations in kitchens and baths.

There are two common routes to pursue to maintain natural stone’s durability and to ensure that brilliant shine persists. One option is contracting with a stone restoration specialist. These professionals can clean, seal and polish your natural stone. This does, however, come with a formidable price tag — north of $250 to $500 a visit. A more palatable option is the do-it-yourself route. There’s a lower price tag, less than $50, with more of an investment in a homeowner’s time and attention.

“But do your homework first,” cautions Lenny Sciarrino, a third-generation stone care expert and co-founder of Granite Gold brand stone care products. “Common household cleaning products can damage granite, marble and other natural stone, and that can lead to costly repair and replacement.”

He also warns homeowners to be wary about misleading promises with some do-it-yourself granite cleaning products claiming they can remove stains and water marks or reduce dullness and scratching.

“Having grown up manufacturing, installing and restoring stone surfaces, I can assure you an off-the-shelf granite cleaner can’t deliver on those promises,” said Sciarrino. “In most circumstances, there are home remedies, and we’re often teaching homeowners those tricks over the phone or through email.”

To maintain that rich shine from when the stone was first installed, Sciarrino advises homeowners make sure the granite or marble is sealed upon installation. It’s not uncommon for a new counter to be installed without a protective seal, leaving it immediately susceptible to stains and etches. After installation, he said, plan a regular routine of daily cleaning and frequent polishing.

“Although granite, marble and other natural-stone surfaces are highly durable, they do require proper care and maintenance,” said Sciarrino, whose company recently introduced Granite Gold Clean & Shine, which fuses the cleaning and polishing strengths of the brand’s two most popular products in one solution for those who are on the go. “The additional benefits of polishing these stone surfaces are that it helps resist fingerprints and water spots and it reinforces the protective seal.”

Homeowners should often test the integrity of the protective seal, even scheduling it like they do when changing batteries twice yearly at daylight saving time. Here’s an easy way to do that: Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface in several locations and let it sit for 30 minutes. If you see a dark mark or ring, the water is penetrating the stone and it’s time to reseal.

Protect Your Stone Investment

Beyond the basics, stone care expert Lenny Sciarrino offers some additional tips for caring for your natural stone kitchen and bathroom surfaces:
  • Don’t use everyday household cleaners, as they can be too harsh on stone and lead to costly repair or replacement.
  • Seal regularly for the best protection. Have a stone backsplash? It’s just as important to seal.
  • Keep stone floors safe with mats and regular damp mopping to catch abrasive particles that can scratch the surface. Lift, don’t drag, furniture to avoid risk of scratching floors. Don’t polish floors — they will become too slippery and will risk injury.
  • Polish regularly (except stone floors) to increase the shine, color and beauty of your stone and reinforce its protective seal.
  • Use safe-on-stone scrubbing pads and brushes when cleaning natural stone.
  • Polishing stone shower walls adds protection to help prevent etching, water spotting and soap scum build up.
  • Keep grout lines clean by using a cutting board on food-prep surfaces.
  • Water spots on stone surfaces can be gently scraped off with a razor blade. Regular sealing and polishing will keep water spots from sticking to the surface. Water should bead on the surface when the stone is sealed.
  • Common disinfectants can damage natural stone surfaces, leading to costly repair and replacement. Look for a safe-on-stone disinfectant.
Simple Stain Removal Steps

While many people believe that stains are impossible to remove from granite and other natural stone surfaces, there are simple steps you can take to remove or reduce these unsightly blemishes.

Oil Stains
(vegetable, olive and other types of cooking oils)

Mix baking soda with acetone into a paste to the consistency of pancake batter and place onto the stained area. Allow the paste to sit for 24 hours, then remove and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary; some stains may require two or three attempts. Reseal the stone surface once this is completed.

Organic Stains (food products, mold, mildew, plant runoff, dirt and soil, pet urine)

Take a paper towel, cotton balls or white terry cloth towels soaked in any brand of liquid bleach and place it on the stained area. Allow it to sit for 24 hours and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary. You can also spray bleach on stained areas, scrub with a soft nylon brush and then rinse with water. Bleach does not harm natural stone as long as it is rinsed each time and sealed properly after the process is completed.

Rust Stains


Most rust stains have to be removed by a professional. Pour or spray 3 or 4 percent hydrogen peroxide on the stained area and agitate with a safe-on-stone scrubbing pad or nylon brush (also safe on stone). Allow to sit for 24 hours, then rinse with water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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What's the Buzz? Your Backyard Beehive, Of Course!

April 3, 2015 12:12 am

I have always kept an eye on practices homeowners can adopt that will not only improve the value and appearance of their
property, but will also improve their neighborhoods, communities, their own family's health and the environment.

Perhaps there are fewer things a homeowner can do to impact their property and their world is to consider housing and maintaining a small beehive.

Why keep bees? Christy Hemenway, author of "The Thinking Beekeeper," and founder of Gold Star Honeybees in Vermont says there is a bit of magic to bees.

She says establishing a low-maintenance hive tucked away in the corner of the yard will enhance the resurgence of a dwindling bee population, while providing robust pollination to flowering plants around one's home and landscape.

She believes bee Colony Collapse Disorder, as reported in the news recently, is absolutely connected to toxins being put into the environment. And Hemenway's solution is her signature top bar hives.

They allow bees to make their own wax without a foundation—a piece of plastic coated with wax, embossed with hexagons. Some hexagons in the top bar comb are sized for food storage (honey), while others are for raising young bees.

Hemenway says beekeeping is not labor intensive—owners can spend as little as an hour a week simply performing inspections.

Her premiere product is the Deluxe Top Bar Hive kit, with every part is included, down to the glass observation window. All the owner must do is assemble the hive using a screwdriver and staple gun.

Deluxe Top Bar Hive kits come in the New Englander Model, with its black roof for colder climates and the Arizona Model, with a white roof, for where it's warmer. Hemenway's other two top bar hive kits allow for beekeepers who enjoy the craft of woodworking to be more involved in the process of building their bees' new home.

She has recently made the Gold Star Top Bar Hive kit plans available as a .pdf file as well. To learn more about backyard beekeeping, top bar hives, and more, visit GoldStarHoneyBees.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How Safe Is Your Aging in Place Space?

April 3, 2015 12:12 am

I am seeing more and more people finding themselves in the challenging position of having to evaluate whether or not it is appropriate for parents or other older loved ones to age in place, or to possibly move in with their adult children.

No matter which option you choose, the folks at Home Instead Senior Care want to share their practical and extensive checklist to help determine if your senior’s home is safe from hazards that could jeopardize their well-being and independence.

In this report, we'll take a look at how the site suggests you make a foyer and front yard safer for aging loved ones. Among the questions you need to ask are - Do steps have proper handrails? Are they too steep, cracked or uneven? Is there adequate lighting at night? And can your senior hear the doorbell?

Address these concerns by using the following tips from the Home Instead Senior Care checklist:

1. Stabilize unsteady railings. If they are missing, install at least one and preferably two.

2. Proper handrails are a must where stairs are steep. Have damaged or broken steps and sidewalk repaired. Consider planning out an alternate route to and from the home for your senior. Contact your local city or county government about repairing a sidewalk or the end of a driveway.

3. Make sure your senior has someone to shovel his or her walk after winter storms, or maintain their yard. Work out an arrangement with a neighbor or snow removal/yard service. Use snow melt when necessary.

4. Add an outdoor light if one is not available. Motion-activated lights may provide an older adult much comfort and security.

5. Install barriers and fences in the yard to help ensure a senior doesn't wander. Place larger flower pots near small openings to help re-direct. Create inviting areas including benches where an older adult can sit and enjoy nature.

6. Consider adding a device that enables a ringing doorbell to trigger a flashing light - including existing house lamps and special strobes for rooms where lamps aren't generally used - the device lets your loved one know if someone is at the door

Source: MakingHomeSaferforSeniors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How Financial Spring Cleaning Can Lead to a Richer Long-Term Outlook

April 2, 2015 6:12 am

One lesson the average American should have learned from the recent financial crisis and gradual recovery is that putting more money into savings is, in general, good, says veteran financial expert Jeff Gorton.

“When things are fine, most of us are prone to commit less of our money to savings; when the economy is down, however, we realize that having money is far more important than spending it on things we don’t need,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group, (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

The personal savings rate in July 2005 hit an all-time low at just 2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in May 2009, near the beginning of the recession, the average American’s savings rate hit a high of 8 percent.

“That rate dwindled as the economy recovered, which is unfortunate because you can do more with accumulated money, including benefit from investments yielding compound interest, which means that interest also earns interest in an investment,” says Gorton, who suggests practical ways to trim spending in the short term in order to get your financial house in order and accumulate more money in the long term.

Car buying says plenty about how a consumer views their money. For most Americans, the question is whether to buy new or used. The moment you drive a brand new car off the lot after the purchase, the car’s value drastically drops. Many of the benefits you may enjoy in buying a new car can be had with a certified pre-owned car: low miles, good-as-new functionality and, usually, that new-car smell. And, a given model will have a history, so you can avoid cars that have been recalled. Buying a certified pre-owned car will save you several thousands of dollars versus buying new.

Summer vacation is an important lifestyle enhancer for many couples, but consider replacing the $400-per-night hotel with a condo rented through a private owner, especially if your vacation will last for an extended period. A condo rental should cost you in the ballpark of $200 per night, which totals $2,800 savings for two weeks.

Your home is probably your most significant asset if you’re like most Americans. But with that grand house on the hill comes plenty of costs, many of which you may not need. As with a luxury car, rethinking the amount of luxury for a home can save you big on taxes, insurance and maintenance. The cost of maintaining a large home can be put toward lifestyle activities, such as travel and hobbies.

“Of course, these are all simply suggestions; money plays a major role in how we achieve happiness, and I’ve found through years of working with clients, a few tweaks here and there frequently yields greater satisfaction with their money,” Gorton says. “You don’t have to be on autopilot with your expenses.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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6 Window Safety Tips

April 2, 2015 6:12 am

More than 3,300 injuries occur each year as a direct result of window hazards at home, according to a recent Safe Kids Worldwide Report. If you’re a homeowner, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to protecting you and your loved ones, especially if you have children.

Stay safe from window-related incidents with these tips from leading door and window manufacturer Pella:

• Move furniture that children can climb on, like beds and sofas, away from windows.

• Talk with older children about window safety. Make sure they know to never lean against a window or screen.

• Never rely on window screens to protect loved ones from falls. Make sure to keep children and pets away from window screens.

• To let fresh air into the home, open windows in high places that children cannot reach, like those above a kitchen sink.

• Invest in cordless blinds and shades or between-the-glass options to eliminate hanging cords that can be a safety hazard for children.

• Make sure to keep windows closed and locked when children or pets are around, and keep an eye on children if they are playing near windows.

Source: Pella Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Home Upgrades for $5,000 or Less

April 2, 2015 6:12 am

(BPT) - It's a sobering truth in real estate: sellers often have to spend money to make money. Even if your home is relatively new, you still face costs associated with getting it ready to show, such as repainting interior rooms or hiring professional cleaners and stagers. If your home could use some TLC and updating, spending as little as $5,000 on key upgrades could improve its appeal for buyers - and ensure a speedier sale at a better price.

Here are five upgrades you can make for under than $5,000 to help put your home at the top of every buyer's must-see list.

1. Upgrade Your Entryway
Replacing an old, dated or worn entry door can be a cost-effective way to ensure buyers get a good first impression when they walk in your house. Whether you choose a fiberglass, wooden or steel model, installing a new entry door can cost a few thousand dollars, yet the return on investment at the time of resale can be significant. A fiberglass entry door returns about 72 percent of its investment, while a steel door recoups more than 100 percent of its value, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value report.

Enhance your new door with attractive plantings, fresh paint and clean windows around the entryway to create a memorable, attractive entry for just a few thousand dollars.

2. Increase Natural Light
More buyers are becoming aware of the mood- and productivity-enhancing benefits of natural light, and homes with big, bright windows have always been in demand. Adding windows to a room can be a costly, time-consuming affair. Not so with a skylight. For well under $5,000 and in just a day or two, a professional can install an Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, no-leak fresh air skylight, Professional installation costs nationally range from around $900 to $2,325, with an average of $1,400, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

The most popular rooms in the home for fresh air skylights are baths, where they provide privacy in addition to natural light, and kitchens, where they vent cooking odors and humidity naturally while brightening a much-used workspace.

3. Beautify a Master Bathroom
Bathrooms and kitchens sell homes. Making a few cosmetic upgrades to even a small master bath can help increase a home's appeal and value. For less than $5,000 you can easily repaint, upgrade faucets, replace old cabinet hardware and add decorative touches like designer towels.

In addition, take a look at the floor or countertops - two cost-effective upgrades that can wow buyers. Since counters don't make up that much square footage in most bathrooms, replacing them with granite can cost just a couple thousand dollars. Tile flooring is also a relatively inexpensive way to improve a bathroom's look and usability.

4. Heat Things Up in the Kitchen
Kitchen remodels can offer high ROI for sellers, but a full remodel may be outside your budget. If you've already done the obvious - like repainting and de-cluttering - it's time to look for a few more cost-effective improvements that will appeal to buyers.

Shabby, outdated appliances can hinder a speedy sale, so consider replacing them with new ones. You don't necessarily need to install top-of-the-line, high-priced appliances to make a good impression, either. Newer, Energy Star-qualified appliances represent savings for buyers down the road.

5. Lavish Landscaping
No single aspect of your home has a greater impact on a buyer's first impression than the landscaping. A great front yard sets the tone for the rest of the home, appealing to buyers on a number of levels, including beauty, practicality and savings.

With $5,000, you can accomplish a lot in terms of landscaping. You can sod a small front yard, add decorative planting beds to a lush lawn, or even install shade trees that will both beautify the yard and enhance the home's energy efficiency in summer.

Decorative concrete stamping of walkways and driveways is another cost-effective way to improve a home's curb appeal.
Whether it's a buyer's market or a seller's market, no one wants to see their home linger long before selling. A few simple upgrades can help ensure your home gets plenty of attention this selling season.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Sidestep Awkward Money Situations

April 1, 2015 12:09 am

When it comes to finances, most of us have likely encountered at least one awkward money situation. In fact, according to a recent CouponCabin.com survey, nearly half of U.S. adults have avoided a person or situation because they knew it would create an “awkward money moment.”

American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) recommends these tips for navigating through the most common sticky financial situations.

1. Questioning the Cost of a Purchase
When someone asks, “How much did that cost?” and you’re not comfortable saying, use humor or something vague like, “A lot more than I wish it had been.” Remember, often times these individuals are not being nosey, but may want to conduct their own research. For instance, a friend may be seeking to buy a home in the neighborhood and would like to know what you recently paid for your home.

If you do decide to divulge the information, do so in a more educational manner by sharing how you were able to make the large purchase – years that you saved, amount of down payment, mortgage options, etc.

2. Splitting the Bill
When going out to eat with a group, plan ahead and bring cash so that you can escape the awkward conversation about splitting the bill. Pay your way efficiently and avoid paying more than your share. If there is a large disparity between the amount that each person spent, then you can suggest that everyone pays what they owe rather than an even split.

Apps such as Splitwise or Foodivide can help to determine the exact amounts to split after a meal. If you prefer to transfer money directly to a friend or family member at the table, try using apps such as Venmo or PayPal which allow you to automatically transfer funds using the person’s email or phone number.

3. Declining Invitations to Vacations or Social Events
Everyone has been invited to lavish dinners or activities that might be well out of budget. Rather than immediately declining, present alternative options that are both fun and affordable. For instance, rather than attending a concert that may cost upwards of $200 for the ticket alone, opt for a night out to hear some local music or stay in and cook dinner and listen to the album.

No matter what, be honest. When asked to join an event, vacation or expensive outing, say you’re actively trying to save money and that you are unable to attend. It’s worse to commit and then not end up having the money to participate.

4. Lending to Family and Friends
Be honest about your own financial situation and open about your decision of either lending or not lending. At times you may have to fib a little as to not hurt the recipient’s feelings, but hopefully they will respect your honesty and your decision.

Set the expectations up front. How much are you willing to loan? If this truly is a loan or has been presented as such, be clear of that. With a loan there are expectations that must be met, such as the time the loan has to be paid back and if there will be interest on the loan amount. If necessary, write up the terms of the agreement and have both parties sign.

Always discuss with a partner or spouse before agreeing to the loan. Remember your spouse or significant other may not feel as strongly about lending money, which could lead to stress in the relationship. If this becomes an issue, be honest with the person and tell them that you are unable to give them the loan.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Accessibility Expectations Hit Record High

April 1, 2015 12:09 am

More than half (54 percent) of respondents in a recent Fannie Mae National Housing Survey™ believe it would be easy to get a home mortgage, a record-high trend bearing out amid continued strengthening in employment and overall housing sentiment.

“We continue to see strength in attitudes about the current home buying and selling environment and consistently high shares of consumers saying they expect to buy a home on their next move,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.

According to the survey, the share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months increased to 48 percent. Those who say it is a good time to buy a house remained at 67 percent. Those who say it is a good time to sell decreased by 4 percentage points to 40 percent.

The share of respondents who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months fell to 46 percent. The share of respondents who believe the economy is headed in the right direction increased three percentage points to an all-time survey high of 47 percent.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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