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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Energy Efficiency through Insulation Key to Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

April 22, 2014 3:45 am

With today marking the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA) reminds the public about the key role of fiber glass and mineral wool insulation in achieving greater energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "Buildings account for 40 percent of energy use worldwide," NAIMA Interim President and CEO Angus Crane said. "Reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are global priorities and among the easiest, most impactful ways to do that is ensuring all buildings are energy efficient. Properly insulating and air sealing buildings is critical to optimizing energy efficiency and reducing costs to building owners."

This winter, which saw many states break decades-long records for cold temperatures, reminded many homeowners of the costs of under-insulated homes: high energy bills. NAIMA estimates that some 40 million U.S. homes are under insulated and adding insulation is a relatively simple, low-cost home improvement that offers benefits that are friendly to the pocketbook and the planet. Additional insulation can reduce utility costs by as much as 30 percent and overall energy use by 50 percent when compared with an uninsulated building.

"Earth Day also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of businesses, industries and governments in educating the public about global sustainability and climate change," Crane said. "NAIMA applauds the many organizations that promote energy-efficient policies to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and improve the future of the planet."

Notwithstanding the significant environmental benefits of insulation, there are many other advantages, including insulation's role in improving public health. A 2004 study conducted by Harvard University School of Public Health found that adequate levels of insulation improved public health by limiting the effects of outdoor pollutants on the population. In addition, properly insulated buildings also offer better acoustical control. Homeowners may also take advantage of financial incentives and tax credits offered by a number of jurisdictions and entities throughout the United States to make homes more energy-efficient by doing such things as adding insulation.

"It is not an overstatement to say that we can insulate our way to a brighter future and at the same time, control our increasing energy costs," said Scott Miller, chairman of NAIMA's Sustainability Subcommittee. "Insulation is a simple solution to a weighty global challenge -- reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions -- but it clearly offers a myriad of benefits."

Source: naima.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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What Says Vacation in Any Language? A Perfectly Packed Suitcase

April 22, 2014 3:45 am

Summer is around the corner and many across the country will be jet-setting off on wonderful and warm adventures. But what should you bring and what can you do without? Here are a few steps travelers can take to make packing perfect.

Step one: Weight, size…
Understand limitations. Traveling by car, with an empty trunk to fill? In this case, the more the merrier! But for those traveling by air, it is worth looking into weight and size restrictions to eliminate those last minute surprises when checking it at the airport. Most airlines enforce a 50 pound weight restriction for checked bags. Find out what the maximum weight is for your chosen airline and pack accordingly.

Step two: The essentials
Make a master list of everything needed, every day. This list can include all the basics, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, and all personal must-haves, like special face cream or hair straightener. Keep this list and re-use it for the next trip!

Step three: Mix and match
Forget total outfits. First, consult the local weather forecast. Then, choose a basic color theme and stick with it – blacks or navies, whites or creams – so that you can pack a set of mix and match basics. Pack familiar items – now is not the time to experiment with new pieces. Leave behind articles which wrinkle too much or show wear too easily. And take multifunctional pieces like a blazer or cardigan to coordinate with pants or a dress. With the space saved, there is room for one or two extravagant items – or for souvenirs picked up along the way!

Step four: Shoes, shoes, and more shoes!
Oh, the agony! Again, sticking to a color theme will make decisions so much easier. Take a comfortable pair of shoes, as traveling always involves a lot of walking. Then take one pair that can dress anything up for the evening. And finally, wear the biggest pair while travelling. As for purses, the same rules apply – take one for the day, which can possibly double as a second carry-on bag, and a little bag for the evening, which can easily slip into the suitcase.

Step five: Toiletries
Searching for a little piece of home away from home? For many people, that comes in the shape of toiletries and cosmetics. Always remember the 100 ml rule – anything larger than 100 mls can only be packed in checked luggage. And collect samples of favorite brands to use during the trip. This will drastically reduce the volume of toiletries required.

Step six: Accessories
If there is one area people can pack a few outstanding items in, this is it! Pack all the basics, and sneak in a few extras just in case. Those sparkly earrings? Check. A bangle bracelet? Why not?

Step seven: Packing vs. unpacking
One last rule? The less you pack, the less you have to unpack!

Source: DELSEY

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Most Americans Incorrectly Believe Wind Speed Determines Hurricane Evacuation

April 21, 2014 3:33 am

A national Harris Interactive Survey commissioned by the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® has revealed some frightening perceptions regarding hurricane evacuation. The survey found that a vast majority of Americans, 84 percent, mistakenly base their life or death evacuation decisions on the hurricane category and/or wind speed. In fact, hurricane evacuation boundaries are based on the threat of water, not wind, and nearly all evacuation orders are issued due to threat of inland flooding and storm surge.

"Most people think of wind with a hurricane, but in recent years, water from storm surge and inland flooding has done the most damage and killed the most people," said Rick Knabb, Ph.D., Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center (NHC). "Families need to find out if they live in an evacuation zone today, have a plan in place and immediately follow evacuation orders when issued."

Tropical storms, Category 1 and 2 hurricanes, post-tropical cyclones and even Nor'easters can all cause life-threatening storm surge. In 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, bringing storm surge of 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels. In 2012, Tropical Storm Debby produced storm surge of seven feet in the Florida Panhandle. Often, heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms cause flooding well inland from the initial strike zone.

"People underestimate the force and power of water," said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. "During Superstorm Sandy, the Sochacki family of Union Beach, N.J., lost their home when it was broken apart and swept out to sea. In the middle of the storm, they were forced to take shelter in an elevated, concrete home next door."

New evacuation resources available
Beginning this hurricane season, the NHC will issue an experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map for areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States that are at risk of storm surge from a tropical cyclone. These real-time maps will show areas where storm surge could occur and how high above ground the water could reach in those areas. The interactive map will be available at www.hurricanes.gov when hurricane or, in some cases, tropical storm, watches or warnings are in effect.

Additionally, FLASH has compiled available online resources on evacuation zones and storm surge mapping for the 222 coastal counties, parishes, and regions from Texas to Maine to help families determine if they reside in an evacuation zone.

Other myths revealed
The annual Harris Interactive survey tests homeowners' hurricane beliefs regarding safety and property protection. Some of the other widely held myths included:

MYTH: It costs more than $10K to make a home stronger against hurricanes
FINDING: 69 percent of Americans believe this to be true
FACT: There are affordable methods and products that minimize damage and the need for costly repairs, including:
• Garage doors are often the most vulnerable opening on a home in a hurricane, but they can be braced for as little as $150.
• Windows and sliding glass doors can be protected from flying debris with temporary plywood shutters for $275 to $750 or with corrugated steel or aluminum shutters from $7 to $15 per foot.
• Roof uplift resistance is critical in high wind and it may be tripled by applying a 1/4 inch bead of APA AFG-01 certified wood adhesive along the intersection of the roof deck and roof rafter or truss chord on both sides of the beam.
• Water intrusion through the roof deck joints is a common source of damage; however, peel and stick water barrier can be applied during re-roofing for as little as $750.

MYTH: Taping windows helps prevent hurricane damage
FINDING: 54 percent of Americans believe this to be true
FACT: Taping windows wastes preparation time, does not stop windows from breaking in a hurricane, and does not make clean-up easier. In fact, taping windows may create larger shards of glass that could cause serious injuries. Masking tape, duct tape, window film and specially marketed "hurricane tape" are insufficient and potentially dangerous. Use tested and approved hurricane shutters or other opening protection instead.

Source: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keys to a Healthy Home on a Budget

April 21, 2014 3:33 am

The Healthy House Institute (HHI) has released Keys to a Healthy Home on a Budget, designed to inform both professionals and consumers alike about how to upkeep a healthy home on a budget.

"Most healthy-home factors involve a prevention or 'removal' strategy hence are inexpensive or free to apply if addressed early," said Allen Rathey, president of The Healthy House Institute (HHI). "While the steps to a healthful home are basic and well-known, they are frequently neglected, prompting us to reinforce awareness and application of cost-effective, simple measures."

Keep It Dry

Keeping homes dry helps prevent the growth of mold, other microbes, and related health problems. Mold and bacteria need moisture to survive and thrive. Lowering a home's relative humidity through proper exhaust ventilation (e.g., running bathroom and shower fans for 30 minutes after showering or bathing), controlled mechanical ventilation (often as simple as installing a box fan facing outward in one open window and opening another window elsewhere in the house), and dehumidification in basements and where excess moisture occurs (dehumidifiers are available from big box retailers for less than $200), while sealing up unintentional airflows (i.e., drafts and air leaks) using caulking and sealants; go a long way toward promoting dryer, healthier home environments.

Keep It Clean, Contaminant-Free

Floor mats are inexpensive 'cleaning tools' -- placing one inside and outside a home's main entrance helps reduce indoor contaminants such as moisture, pesticide dust, heavy metals from industrial processes, and other pollutants. Often, the larger the mat, the more soil is removed.

Also, mild soap or detergent, and water, are thrifty but effective ways to remove soil and germs without resorting to expensive commercial products. Microfiber cloths and mops often clean well with just water.

Removal of germs is as important (or perhaps more so) than poisoning them: For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, "Disinfectant/detergent formulations registered by EPA are used for environmental surface cleaning, but the actual physical removal of microorganisms and soil by wiping or scrubbing is probably as important, if not more so, than any antimicrobial effect of the cleaning agent used."

Still, there is a time and place for disinfectants, and non-chemical interventions such as steam vapor or UV wands may be helpful.

10 Healthy Cleaning Principles
1. Remove, do not add contaminants.
2. Remove, do not add or stir dust.
3. Remove, do not routinely poison germs.
4. Remove, do not add allergens.
5. Minimize chemistry, maximize results.
6. Disinfect touch points daily.
7. Use ergonomic tools.
8. Use fragrance-free products.
9. Use residue-free products and processes.
10. Use non-toxic methods.

Keep It Pest-Free

Keeping homes clean, dry and well-sealed prevents pests from finding harborage. This is part of Integrated Pest Management or IPM. According to NSF International, IPM "is an environmentally friendly pest management approach that emphasizes multiple methods of non-chemical pest control and prevention." Don't be afraid to call for professional assistance from companies with a strong IPM policy, but you can do a lot yourself by keeping kitchens and homes clean and dry, and not leaving dirty dishes around the home.

Keep It Ventilated

Fresh air is your friend, so be sure your home gets enough. Be sure every bathroom, shower, toilet, and utility area has a working exhaust fan to pull damp and/or unhealthy air out, and fresher air in. Use the exhaust fan over the stove to remove cooking smells and related airborne contaminants (e.g., natural gas stoves release carbon monoxide, so are especially important to vent well). Controlled mechanical ventilation can be as simple as using a box fan in a window, or as complicated as installing a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV), which exhausts stale air as it brings in fresh air, but saves energy by transferring heat or cooling from one airstream to the other using a heat exchanger.

Keep It Safe, Maintained

Remember to have your home inspected by a qualified expert every few years to find problem areas. Ask visitors to give your home a "sniff test" to detect mold, airborne contaminants, or general staleness. Visitors not acclimated to a home's "normal smells" can be more objective when detecting unwanted odors. This is not a substitute for professional inspection, but can help.

Be sure your bathtub has hand railings for elderly loved ones, and areas inside and outside your home are well-lit. Outdoor lighting is a deterrent to crime, and LED bulbs can stay 'On' all night without running up electric bills.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Will You Use Your Tax Refund on a Dream Vacation Like Many Americans?

April 21, 2014 3:33 am

To get the biggest bang for your buck, here are some strategies you can use to turn even a lean refund into your dream vacation.

1. House Rules
Book a vacation house over a hotel to make your vacation bucks go the furthest. Houses typically hold more people with fewer fees. Living like a local in a unique vacation house can often be a priceless experience.

2. Do Not Seek Peak

Avoid peak season dates to save hundreds if not thousands. Peak season varies tremendously by location, so be sure to closely study rate lists.

3. Mom Was Right - It Is Best to Share
Even though it’s fun to make friends jealous by posting your sunny vacation pictures on Instagram, it’s much savvier to bring your friends along and split the tab. Sharing a house can double the fun and halve the cost. For the biggest savings, organize a beach getaway for the girls or a golf trip for the guys so that you end up with many friends staying together in a larger vacation house. Splitting with couples or another family is also a win-win.

4. Dine In, Not Out
Look for a full kitchen, dining area with plenty of seating and nice outside patio grilling area. Make sure there’s a grocery store nearby and also a variety of reasonable takeout options. Assign everyone a day to provide easy buffet-style meals or treat the group to inexpensive takeout.

5. Be Greedy about Freebies
Why pay sky-high fees for Internet, parking and resort amenities at hotels when most vacation houses offer numerous amenities for free? Look for vacation houses that include beach access, private pools, WIFI, parking, premium cable channels and welcome gifts at no cost. When you find an attractive vacation house scoring high reviews with loads of freebies, book it fast!

Source: Beach Bound Escapes

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Trouble Spots for Water Damage in Your Home

April 11, 2014 1:54 am

Your home is your sanctuary, but everyone has had issues with their home in the past. Whether scratched floors, faulty electrical wires or water damage, issues come up and it’s all part of being a homeowner. Here are a few trouble spots in your home that may be susceptible to water damage. The most logical place to start in your home, is where issues would be most problematic: the bathroom.

The bathroom has the single greatest chance of any area of your house to create the problem of water damage. There is generally a multiple of three factors in that one particular area because you have your bathtub/shower, sink and your toilet, all of which can be powder kegs for disaster. Your bathroom tub could have a small little crack in it that you may not realize. If could create far larger damage to the internal structure of the house through pooling underneath, which compromises the wood. Over time, your toilet can become weak and the bowl might snap off spilling large amounts of water everywhere. The sink in the bathroom may have a leaky pipe, which will inevitably lead to damage caused by water. Be aware of these potential problem areas and inspect them regularly.

The kitchen is another prime example. A common denominator between the bathroom and kitchen is the sink. A leaky pipe at the kitchen sink is a problem, since it can create a bigger mess than one might expect. Another common issue is dishwasher overflow, when the dishwasher sealant goes and the water gushes outside. This is generally caused by the erosion of sealant over time caused by the acidities of the food we eat and the chemicals in the soap. The refrigerator, if it is attached to a water source, can cause water damage if the hoses are not connected properly or if it breaks.

Another place in your house that may have issues with hoses is the laundry room. The washing machine can be overloaded with clothing and could tip over and spill water across the floor. The hoses on the back can deteriorate because they are made of rubber, and slowly, water could leach into it rotting them from the inside. The pipes that lead to the main line can leak and create more problems.

The basement is already a damp area in your household, but it’s also the nerve center of many of your home's water-based functions. These functions include your water heater and the main water control for your house. If your water heater breaks, it can lead to a large mess in the basement area. Also, if your main bursts, not only will you have a problem with not having water in your home, you will also have a pool in the basement of your home.

All homeowners, especially first-timers, should be aware of these potential problem spots and inspect these rooms and their pipes regularly. Preventing water damage before it occurs can save you many headaches down the line.

Source: SI Restoration

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Warm Weather Energy Efficiency Information and Safety Reminders

April 11, 2014 1:54 am

As customers across the country eagerly await the arrival of consistently warmer temperatures following a record-breaking winter, homeowners are reminded about how they can help save energy and money, and encourage safety around the home. Here are some warm weather energy-savings tips:

• Set your thermostat on the highest comfortable setting. If you're leaving for the day, turn it up a couple of degrees.
• Change your air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a cooling system work harder, which uses more energy.
• The arrival of spring means that summer is around the corner. Make sure your HVAC system is ready to keep you cool by having it checked by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor.
• Close blinds, drapes and shades during the hottest part of the day to keep the sun's rays from heating your house.

Customers should also remain diligent against scams targeting utility customers across the country.

Call Before You Dig
Spring gardening and home improvement projects can be fun, but can also present safety challenges. One of the most potentially hazardous situations in residential areas is accidental contact with underground electric power lines, natural gas lines, community lines and other utility services. To ensure you're working safely, call an underground line locating service by dialing 811. There is no charge for the service and the call is free.

Storm safety reminders

Warmer weather also brings with it the potential for unpredictable weather. Customers should:

• Check your supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods, medicines, etc.
• Ensure a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or NOAA weather radio is on hand.
• Determine now what actions to take for family members, friends and neighbors who have special medical needs or who are elderly to ensure they have necessary emergency plans in the event of an extended power outage.

Source: Duke Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Form a Neighborhood Watch

April 10, 2014 1:45 am

Many areas throughout the country experience an increase in crime rates during the warmer months. One important measure to help keep neighborhoods and families safe is to establish a neighborhood watch group. Pangea Properties has made it a priority to create safe neighborhoods for residents. CEO Steve Joung shares a few tips for crime proofing an area:

Recruit Help: Go door-to-door in the community and see what others have experienced crime wise and if there is any interest in establishing a watch group. Write down names and contact information for individuals who are willing to assist. Bring up the idea at the next association meeting or start an email chain to coordinate meetings if there is not an established neighborhood association.

Work with Local Representatives: Contact local police officers to see if they have any advice, training techniques or if they can speak at a meeting to discuss tactics with the neighborhood watch group members. In addition, building a presence with the local government officials can have a significant impact on the community’s outlook.

Establish Leaders: Create captains or block leaders at the first meeting. These individuals will take a larger role in the neighborhood watch, including assisting in the organization of meetings, communicating information to members and the community, acting as a spokesperson for the group and as a liaison with local law enforcement officials.

Distribute Materials: Prepare a flier, newsletter or email that provides information about the neighborhood watch’s mission and goals to all residents. Include the procedure for reporting a crime, how to partake in the communication system, who the leaders are, upcoming meetings, etc. Make sure the newsletter is distributed on a regular basis to keep all residents informed and active.

Outline Responsibilities: Secure commitments from residents attending the initial neighborhood watch group meeting. Don’t pressure people into participating, but take commitments from those who actually want to see the program succeed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for a Bountiful Backyard Garden

April 10, 2014 1:45 am

(Family Features) The benefits of having your own backyard vegetable garden are plentiful, and can include significant lifestyle impacts, such as healthier eating habits, money saving perks and more.

A Relaxing, Healthful Hobby
Looking for a hobby that allows you to contribute to the health of your family? Take up gardening. Beyond producing nutritious foods, it can help you teach your family about local agriculture, all while basking in the tranquility of the great outdoors. Though starting your own home garden can be intimidating, there are a few simple steps to get you started. Once developed, it can yield fruits and vegetables from early spring and into the fall.

1) Do Some Research
Find out what vegetables grow best in your area and when is the right time to plant and harvest. Many local university extension programs have this information readily available online. For each plant, consider the amount of water needed, how much sunlight is required and if it should be started from seed or a transplanted seedling.

2) Choose a Good Spot
Keep in mind vegetables need at least six hours of sun each day, so plant away from the shade of buildings, trees and shrubs. Planting close to your house may make you more likely to bring your harvest right into your kitchen, and will help you remember to weed and water. Including rain and irrigation, your garden needs at least one inch of water per week. Make sure you can easily access a water supply nearby. Some products, such as an Ames NeverLeak hose reel, provide convenient hose storage and can easily reach all parts of your yard. Be sure to choose a level area of your yard so when watering, it will not pool in lower areas.

3) Clear the Area

Use your garden hose or a string to mark the area for proper placement of your garden. Use a sod lifter or garden spade, keeping the area level and removing as little topsoil as possible. Next, use a round point shovel, such as the True Temper True American Round-Point Shovel, to dig into the soil about 12 inches, breaking it up and removing clumps. To encourage proper drainage and escape light freezes in early spring and fall, construct a raised bed by creating a border with wood slats and filling in with soil.

4) Prepare the Soil
Use a rake to create a smooth finish and remove debris or stones on the surface. You may want to add manure, compost or soil additives to provide additional nutrients in the soil.

5) Plant Your Seeds
Determine if you will be starting your plants from seeds or transplanting small seedlings. Be sure to research how much room each plant will need and plot the layout of your garden. Dig V-shaped furrows using a warren hoe or the edge of a garden hoe. Carefully distribute the seeds in the furrows evenly and in accordance with the instructions on the seed packet. Cover the seeds and pat down gently, then water thoroughly.

Use this information for a fruitful harvest this gardening season. For more tips, visit www.AmesTrueTemper.com or www.Facebook.com/TrueTemperTools.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Finding Pet-Friendly Carpeting

April 10, 2014 1:45 am

Adding new carpet is an easy way to rejuvenate the look and feel of any room in your home. But when you own pets, finding a quality carpet that is easy to maintain can be a tiring task.

"If you're a pet owner, it's important to find carpeting that can withstand the toll pets can dish out on flooring," says carpet expert David Duncan of Mohawk Flooring. Here are some tips to picking out the best carpet possible for your four-legged friends:

Function. What is the room used for? For high-traffic areas, such as a family room, den or hallway, consider carpeting with built-in triexta fibers that are stain- and soil-resistant. A dining room carpet should be stain-resistant and easy to clean as well. Carpets with chemically applied stain protection treatments can lose their stain and soil resistance over time. Also, consider the environment by choosing carpeting made in part with plant-based materials.

Design and Color. Want to make a room seem larger? Look for a light-colored carpet. Want cozy? Opt for dark. Want relaxing? Blues and greens can create a feeling of calm. In addition, different carpet textures add interest to any room. But regardless of color or style, if your room gets a lot of traffic, or if you have pets with preferred sleeping spots, choose a carpet with fibers designed to spring back into place, rather than the flagpole-shaped design of the fibers in some carpets. Carpets with kinked, spring-shaped fibers are designed to resist matting, and bounce back when walked or sat on.

Style and Softness.
Comfort is a key factor when choosing a carpet for your home, especially if you have children or pets that spend a lot of time sitting or lying on the floor. Carpets with built-in stain protection have been shown to retain their softness over time, in part because there are no added chemical stain-protection treatments that might leave a rough or sticky residue.

Maintenance. High-maintenance carpets should be avoided in areas where there are children or pets. No one wants to spend a lot of time cleaning up the inevitable messes, and some high-maintenance carpet cleaning products can be hazardous to your home environment. Choose a carpet made of triexta fibers, which are designed to be dirt-resistant and can be cleaned easily with water and a mild detergent. In addition, take advantage of warranties offered by some carpet manufacturers on stains caused by pets.

Source: Mohawk Flooring

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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