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
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Labor Day Travels Highest Since Recession

August 28, 2014 12:57 am

AAA Travel projects that nearly 35 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2008. Eighty-six percent of travelers will celebrate the holiday with a final road trip before summer comes to a close and children head back to school.

Other trends forecasted this Labor Day include:
  • Historically, Americans have shown a higher tendency to travel when Labor Day weekend begins in August.
  • Consumer spending has surpassed income growth, indicating that Americans are willing to take on debt to finance a vacation.
  • Automobile travel will increase, with 29.7 million travelers hitting the road. Gas prices are expected to remain low.
  • Nearly eight percent of travelers will travel by air.
"As the economy makes modest gains, more Americans are joining the labor force this year," said AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall L. Doney. "With Labor Day symbolizing the American workers' contributions to the strength and prosperity of our country, it's only fitting that millions are choosing to celebrate this positive direction with an all-American road trip."
Consumer spending is continuing to rise in spite of stagnant income growth. In the third quarter of this year spending is expected to increase 3.8 percent year-over-year, while disposable personal income is only expected to increase 1.4 percent. Reliance on credit cards, rather than increasing income, is fueling holiday travel spending this year. While economic growth is slow, consumers are feeling more comfortable taking on debt.

"This year, Americans are more optimistic about their financial situation," continued Doney. "Consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income, indicating that Americans are comfortable using their credit cards to take one last summer vacation this year."

Source: AAA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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HUD: Veteran Homelessness Drops 33 Percent

August 28, 2014 12:57 am

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released a new national estimate of veteran homelessness in the United States. Data collected during the annual Point-in-Time Count conducted in January 2014 shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America, a decline of 33 percent (or 24,837 people) since 2010.

HUD, VA, USICH, and local partners have used evidenced-based practices like Housing First and federal resources like HUD-VASH (the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program) to get veterans off the street and into stable housing as quickly as possible. Since 2008, the HUD-VASH program has served a total of 74,019 veterans.

The federal government has provided significant new resources to help communities pursue the goal of ending homelessness among veterans. Communities that target these resources strategically are making significant progress and can end veteran homelessness in their communities in 2015. These strategies include:
  • Using a Housing First approach, which removes barriers to help veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible, without unnecessary prerequisites.
  • Prioritizing the most vulnerable veterans—especially those experiencing chronic homelessness—for permanent supportive housing opportunities, including those created through the HUD-VASH program.
  • Coordinating outreach efforts to identify and engage every veteran experiencing homelessness and focus outreach efforts on achieving housing outcomes.
  • Targeting rapid re-housing interventions, including those made possible through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, toward veterans who need shorter-term rental subsidies and services in order to be reintegrated back into our communities.
  • Leveraging other housing and services resources that can help veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA’s programs get into stable housing.
  • Increasing early detection and access to preventive services so at‐risk veterans remain stably housed.
  • Closely monitoring progress toward the goal, including the success of programs achieving permanent housing outcomes.
  • Aligning local goals and strategies with Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
“We have an obligation to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home,” said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “In just a few years, we have made incredible progress reducing homelessness among veterans, but we have more work to do. HUD will continue collaborating with our federal and local partners to ensure that all of the men and women who have served our country have a stable home and an opportunity to succeed.”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs and our federal and local partners should be proud of the gains made reducing Veterans’ homelessness,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, “but so long as there remains a Veteran living on our streets, we have more work to do.”

“As a nation, we have proven that homelessness is a problem we can solve,” said U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Laura Green Zeilinger. “Communities all across the country are meeting this costly tragedy with urgency and a focus on helping all veterans and their families achieve safe and stable housing.”

Source: HUD

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How Overwatering Your Lawn Can Cost You

August 28, 2014 12:57 am

Overwatering your lawn is not only detrimental to your water bill, but can also disrupt the ecosystem, advises the Environmental Protection Agency. Healthy lawns are inhibited by too much saturation, so skip the daily sprinkler and water only when necessary. Here’s why:

Root damage
- Your lawn only needs one inch of water a week in growing season, and overwatering can encourage growth of root systems that are shallow, not strong.

Weed growth - Weeds thrive in moist conditions, and an overwatered lawn prevents oxygen from reaching the roots, which leaves the grass vulnerable to insects and plant diseases.

Environmental effects
– Overwatering can lead to runoff, which carries fertilizers and pesticides into storm drains and larger public waterways.

If you notice your lawn is turning brown in color, don’t panic. This signals the start of a natural dormant period, which is not at all harmful to your lawn.

To cut back on watering, consider scaling down the size of your lawn by planting trees, shrubs and other ground coverings. In addition, richer soil holds water for longer stretches of time, so add mulch or compost to conserve even more.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Five Steps to Building a Better Credit Score

August 28, 2014 12:57 am

According to a recent survey by BMO Harris Bank, the majority of Americans (80 percent) across all ages say they are knowledgeable about how to achieve a good credit rating. Half check their score once a year, while 30 percent check it every few years or less. One fifth do not know their score.

On average, Americans believe a good credit score is 660. Among millennials, that number drops to 625, and those aged 35-54 and 55 and older believe a good score is 675.

Overall findings indicate that while most Americans believe they have a solid understanding of what a good credit score is, there is confusion around attaining it. Harris offers a number of basic tips to manage and improve a credit score, including:

Check your credit report. This should be done at least 60-90 days before applying for a loan in order to make sure that the report is correct. If it is incorrect, notify a credit agency before you apply for a loan. Checking your score will not change the number.

Pay your bills on time.
When a bill is paid late, or is even 30 days past due, it can show up on your credit report for up to seven years.

Use credit when needed.
If you never use credit of any kind, it doesn't mean that you'll have a great credit history. Lenders generally prefer to see some type of satisfactory payment history.

Use your cards lightly. Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your score by paying the balance off and keeping it low.

Consider that credit needs to be built up. A credit score is something that can take time to improve, so don't expect immediate changes and plan ahead. Your credit behavior can take months to be reflected in your score.

"The good news here is most Americans are not far off in what they believe is considered a good score, which we generally tell customers is in the 680-720 range. However, there's some room for improvement," notes Alex Dousmanis-Curtis, Head of Retail Banking, BMO Harris Bank. "Encouraging education around credit scores is a major focus for us. A credit score stays with you as you go through your financial life, and can impact major decisions.”

Survey results cited in this report are from interviews with an online sample of 1,004 Americans conducted between July 2nd and July 4th, 2014. The margin of error for a probability sample of this size is ± 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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What Can Happen If Your Child Skips School?

August 21, 2014 12:18 am

With the new school year starting soon, school districts are reminding parents that truancy isn't just the student's and school's problem, but may have serious ramifications for parents as well.

Truancy is the legal name for skipping school. In most states, truancy occurs whenever a student a certain age or under (17 in most states, 16 in some) is absent from school without an excuse from a parent or guardian. Although skipping school is often romanticized in pop culture, according to U.S. News & World Report, school districts are cracking down on both truant students and their parents.

So what can happen if your child skips school?

Discipline for 'Truant' Students

Though truancy refers to skipping school in general, a "truant" is generally a child who has skipped school more than the number of times allowed by a particular school district.

Students who are considered truant will be subject to discipline by the school district, which can include being barred from participating in sports or other activities, suspension, or even expulsion from the school. Increasingly, however, schools are getting tough on truancy by also referring truancy cases to juvenile courts.

In Arizona's Pima County, for example, a student who has three unexcused absences from school is referred to the Center for Juvenile Alternatives, which works with the county's juvenile court system to offer the student, and the student's parents, the choice of a diversion program or court-ordered sanctions.

Criminal Charges against Parents May Be Possible

An increasing number of states are also filing criminal charges against the parents of truant children.

For example, dozens of parents in Baltimore were sentenced to jail for their children's chronic truancy. And one California mother was sentenced to 180 days in county jail after her two kids missed a total of 116 days of school in 2011.

A couple in Virginia even faced criminal charges after their kids were repeatedly tardy for school. The couple faced up to $3,000 in fines under Virginia's truancy laws after their children were late to school 85 times over the course of several months.

Withdrawing Your Child from School

If you're dissatisfied with your school's curriculum, treatment of your child, or rules regarding truancy, one option is to withdraw your child from public school altogether.

Although withdrawing your child from public school will allow you to homeschool your child, you may still be responsible for adhering to any state laws regarding truancy as they apply to homeschooled children.

Source: Findlaw.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Top Six Most Useful Kitchen Additions

August 21, 2014 12:18 am

Modern kitchens are generally built with space and convenience in mind. But if you’re living with an older kitchen, there are easy additions you may want to consider to maximize available space and cooking area.

The Wall St. Journal’s home and living editors provide their top six suggestions:

  • Kitchen island – A kitchen island can double or triple both food preparation and storage space. An inexpensive portable island can give you space and flexibility.
  • Wall oven – It’s a lot easier to baste a turkey at eye level than it is when it’s below the stove – and there’s something to be said for the extra elbow room it will give you when you are multi-tasking in the kitchen. Lastly, a wall oven with two compartments gives you extra baking space and the availability of convection or rotisserie options.
  • Cabinet organizers/lazy susans/pullout shelves – Easy access to pantry items and pots and pans make food preparation easier and faster. Consider having lazy susans, pull-out shelves and other organizers built into your kitchen cabinets.
  • Pot and pan racks – If cabinet space is an issue, think about wall-mounted racks to keep you most-used pots and pans within easy reach. A trip to the home store or a look online will yield plenty of options.
  • Dishwashers – Today’s large capacity and energy-efficient dishwashers are a boon to the family cook. Install one if you don’t already have one built in – or replace the one you have if it’s more than seven or eight years old.
  • Ventilation system – Experts say that cooking churns out airborne contaminants like nothing else in the home – and even food that smells great while it’s cooking doesn’t smell so good hours or days later. With the right ventilation system, odors and contaminants will become a thing of the past.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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DIY Tips for Common Plumbing Problems

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

Whether you're a new homeowner or have been handy with a wrench, snake and other tools for years, there are some situations that require more than a plumbing amateur's skills. From the kitchen sink to the toilet and pipes underneath your home, these problems can occur at any time. As a homeowner, you should know how to handle them and when to call a professional.

Clogged Drains or Toilets
When the water that's sitting in a bathtub, toilet or sink won't go down the drain, you have a problem. Start the repair process by first determining what caused the problem. Is it a clump of hair or a grease build up? Something worse, perhaps? Whatever the case, finding out about it first is essential to finding a solution.

Most toilet clogs can be handled with your trusty plunger. The clog in your drain will likely go away if you use a commercial grade drain cleaner. If you decide to use a commercial drain cleaner, wear gloves and a protective mask at all times.
If the clog persists after a few times, it might be time to call the professionals. Don't overdo it with the drain cleaner because you might end up hurting yourself and damaging the pipes.

Professional plumbers have tools that can help identify the problem much easier, such as snakes and video cameras. They'll be able to use one of their many de-clogging tools to remove your clog in no time.

Burst Pipe

Regardless of the reason, a burst pipe can cause thousands of dollars in damage if not rectified in an appropriate amount of time. The best way to fix a burst pipe is with a C clamp. The first step is to turn off the water completely. Then, place a piece of rubber over the exposed area of the pipe. Secure the rubber by placing a piece of wood on top and then tightening down both pieces with a C clamp. Make sure you tighten the C clamp until both the piece of wood and rubber are secure.
In most cases, burst pipes can only be fixed temporarily by homeowners. Once you've turned off the water and secured the pipe, call a professional; they might have to replace the pipe altogether.

Leaky Fixtures
A leaky fixture, such as a faucet, can be extremely annoying. Luckily, you only need a few tools and some basic knowledge to fix this type of problem.

First, remove the handle by removing the screw that attaches it to the faucet. Then, try tightening the packing nut which is located at the base of the stem. After you've tightened this nut, place the handle back onto the faucet and test to see if the leak is gone.

If this simple process doesn't work, you may need to replace some necessary parts, such as washers or nuts, or it may be time to get a new faucet altogether.

No Hot Water
Lack of hot water is an issue that millions of people across the United States experience on a daily basis. If you have an electric water heater, some of the causes may be a tripped circuit breaker, a bad thermostat or a faulty electric heating element. Once you've finished the troubleshooting process, the best thing to do is to replace any parts that you find are broken. Most plumbers have extensive knowledge of water heaters and should be contacted immediately.

Source: Mammoth Plumbing

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Updates Make Homes Environmentally Friendly

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

(BPT) - Green living not only helps the environment, it helps your pocketbook. When making upgrades to your home - whether it's replacing a light bulb or a total living room makeover - incorporate energy-efficient and repurposed materials to make your living space more environmentally friendly.

Emily J. Reynolds, an interior design faculty member at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, a campus of South University, encourages green living through reuse of existing materials.

"There is a special feeling you get when you see a piece of furniture by the side of the road, fix it up, and put it to use again," she says.

Reynolds locates used furniture at resale stores including Goodwill and the Salvation Army, or at yard sales. "When you are searching for furniture, know that it does take a little patience to find the right piece." Reynolds says it's important to pay special attention to the form of the piece and to look for high quality construction.

If refinishing pieces sounds like too much work, professionally restored furniture is also available and fits in with today's trend toward distressed looks in furniture.

"Prices are often much lower for these pieces than if you purchased brand new pieces, plus you cut down on the negative effect of transporting new furniture to your doorstep," Reynolds says.

Reusing old pieces also fits into the current trend toward eclectic interior design. "Pieces of different styles can be mixed in imaginative ways to create a harmonious space," according to Reynolds.

When updating your home on a smaller scale, little changes can make a big difference, according to Sofeeka Hasiuk, one of the interior design faculty at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. "For instance, use no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints for walls, furniture, or accessories," she says. This keeps potentially harmful chemicals from getting into the air and into your lungs.

Shine the light on your green living space with LED arrays - an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional light bulbs. "They last longer and consume significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs," says Hasiuk.

Other simple tips from the experts include:

* Use a programmable thermostat to increase energy efficiency. This will have a positive impact on the environment and your wallet.

* Replace traditional cleaning products with eco-friendly products or baking soda, lemon juice or vinegar. Plus they cost a lot less.

* Choose sustainable hardwood or tile flooring over wall-to-wall carpeting. They last longer and are easier to clean.

Once your home is greener, keep the trend going. As you purge pieces from your collection, be sure to recycle them properly or donate them so that they may be used again. "Sell or donate those pieces so they can continue being used. Avoid placing items in the landfill if at all possible," says Reynolds.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for a Clean, Guest-Ready Home

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

(Family Features) Now is the season for enjoying backyard BBQs and poolside parties with friends and family – not being trapped in the house for pre- and post-party cleaning. With a little planning, you can minimize time spent on daily chores and maximize time spent soaking up the sun and creating memories with guests. Here are a few quick tips to clean and prep your home for get-togethers – anytime day or night.

Load the dishwasher first. When you’re throwing a get-together, the last thing you want is to open the dishwasher to find dirty dishes. Make sure to run the dishwasher the day before your guests arrive to ensure everything is clean when you need it.

Prepare dishes for the wash cycle. To ensure dishes get clean and dry the first time, scrape away large pieces of food and excess leftovers before loading, and the dishwasher will take care of the rest. Make sure your silverware gets the right water coverage by loading some pointing up and some pointing down, including knives. And remember, safety first, especially if kids are helping. If you don’t plan to run the dishwasher immediately, remember to rinse foods such as mustard, mayonnaise and tomato based products as they may cause discoloration of plastics if allowed to sit for a long period of time.

Fill the upper rack, load the bottom. Cups, glasses, stemware, small plates and bowls are all welcome in the top rack. Make sure any plastic items go on top, too. Be sure to load open-ended items into the washer facing down for the best cleaning and draining. No more tumblers full of water. Save your biggest items for the edge of the lower rack. Face everything else – plates, large bowls, etc. – toward the center of the rack for a thorough clean.

Make it a family event. Throw a family cleaning party to get everyone involved with the get-together prep, making it quick and fun. Get creative and play a game to assign rooms to different family members. Put all rooms that need to be cleaned on a piece of paper, place them in a hat and have everyone pick. From dusting to loading the dishwasher to taking out the trash, the extra hands will be a big help, and before you know it, everyone will be out of the house and into the backyard to enjoy the sunshine.

For more tips to make your home a clean and welcoming environment, visit www.frigidaire.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is Your Clothes Dryer Shrinking Your Energy Budget?

August 19, 2014 5:57 am

Regular readers know I talk a lot about new developments and technologies related to home appliances. But despite great strides many manufacturers have voluntarily made creating more energy efficient appliances, clothes dryers that still play an important function in millions of homes across the nation are still a major energy concern.

According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released in mid-June, clothes dryers in U.S. homes are wasting up to $4 billion worth of electricity annually because energy-saving standards for the common appliance have not been significantly updated for almost 30 years,

The NRDC report, “A Call to Action for More Efficient Clothes Dryers,” finds that today’s typical electric clothes dryer can easily consume as much energy as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher combined.

Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards believes it is time to bring U.S. clothes dryers into the modern era and achieve some of the massive efficiency gains all the other major home appliances have seen.

The NRDC’s analysis suggests incorporating existing technology used abroad and adopting recommended technical and policy changes could slash U.S. dryers’ $9 billion annual electricity bills by 40 percent. And it can prevent roughly 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to taking three coal-fired power plants offline.

A key reason for the energy waste is that U.S. dryers continue to use decades-old technology that bakes water out of clothing with brute force, wasting a lot of energy and blowing hot-air exhaust to the outdoors.

NRDC’s report recommends steps consumers can take in the interim to cut laundry-related energy use and utility bills:

  • Use the washer’s maximum spin speed to lessen the amount of water remaining in the clothing before reaching the dryer
  • Choose cold water in the washer will also save up to 50 cents per load in energy costs
  • Select dryer cycles like delicate that reduce energy use (but increase drying time)
  • And no overfilling the drum, this gives clothes more room to tumble dry more quickly

Read the report at http://www.nrdc.org/energy/efficient-clothes-dryers.asp.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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