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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Five Inside Credit Secrets for Getting a Great Mortgage

September 3, 2013 2:09 am

With home prices rising and interest rates well below historic norms, many potential buyers would like to get into the marketplace but are stymied by one hurdle: credit.

"The credit process mystifies many borrowers," said Ray Brousseau, executive vice president of a nationwide lender. "They worry that their credit may be imperfect or that a late payment from long ago will doom a loan application, when the reality is different."

Brousseau explained that "lenders and borrowers have similar goals. They both want the mortgage application to go through. The lender will create a package to provide a full picture of the borrower's financial status. In many cases, borrowers will be surprised that their credit standing is stronger than expected."

So, how do you make sure you have tip-top credit when applying for a mortgage? Here are five strategies that can lead to a faster - and better - mortgage credit review.

First, prepare for your mortgage application.
Since 2010, most real estate financing has been in the form of "qualified mortgages," loans that meet the standards outlined by Wall Street Reform. A qualified mortgage - or QM - must show that the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. To meet QM requirements, you can expect lenders to want signed tax returns or W2s for at least the past two years, year-to-date pay stubs from the past 30 days, plus complete copies of all financial statements, usually for at least the last two months. If self-employed, a lender might also want a balance sheet as well as a profit-and-loss statement. Having such information in hand can greatly speed the mortgage review process.

Second, check your credit report in advance.
The better your credit report, the better your credit score, thus the reason to check credit reports for errors and outdated items.
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), consumers can get one free copy of their credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies every 12 months. This can be done in a few minutes by going to the official website, AnnualCreditReport.com. Print out your report or save it as a PDF.

Third, know how credit scores work.
In basic terms, credit scores weigh the answers to five questions:

Have you paid bills on time?
How much of your credit is now in use?
How long have you had credit and when was the last time you used selected accounts?
What is your mix of credit card debt, auto loans, student debt, mortgages, etc?
Have you recently opened additional lines of credit?

"Once a loan application is made, most lenders will automatically provide borrowers with a free copy of their credit score," said Brousseau. "A good credit score can greatly help in the application process, and a lower score can often be overcome by selecting a certain type of mortgage product."

Fourth, a lower credit score does not always mean no credit.
Borrowers can readily finance and refinance with an 800 credit score, but it's also true that mortgages are available with lower credit scores. For instance, more than 40 percent of recent FHA borrowers had credit scores between 620 and 680.

Fifth, beware of surprise credit snags.
It used to be that lenders checked credit reports when a loan application was first made and then again just before closing. Now lenders have the ability to even check for daily credit report changes. When new debt or credit lines show up, lenders re-calculate the ability of borrowers to qualify for financing.

Avoid opening new lines of credit, making big purchases or getting more credit in the middle of the application process. When your credit reports are re-checked, and new credit activity shows up, that activity can sometimes scuttle a once-solid mortgage application.

Source: Carrington

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tackle Fall Home Improvement Projects Now to Improve Your Home

September 3, 2013 2:09 am

As summer fades away, now's the time to start fall home-improvement projects, like caulking windows, exterior painting, or even building a backyard patio.

Design online
Online shoppers can design a window or door using a product configurator to help choose stylish products for their home.

Spruce up your home with weekend projects

Start with the focal point of your entryway: the door. Paint or refinish a scratched or faded door, and dress it up with new hardware. Is the door leaky, drafty, broken or just plain worn-out? It's probably time to replace it with a new energy-efficient ENERGY STAR-qualified door. There are many popular and durable choices available like fiberglass, economical steel or natural wood options. Weigh your options and picture how your new door will fit your home.

Next, spruce up your yard's landscaping by trimming overgrown shrubs and trees. Install outdoor lighting to enhance your home's architecture and light the walkway. Finally, add a few fun finishing touches, like a new welcome mat, potted mums or a fall-inspired wreath on the door.

Build a patio or add a new patio door
Use flagstones or bricks to build an outdoor patio in a weekend. Buy potted plants, outdoor seating and tables at end-of-summer prices to create a peaceful backyard getaway.

Need a new patio door? You can install a new patio door in a weekend or let some pros do it for you. Look for doors with retractable screens that help keep insects out, as it allows more light into your home and stays protected from kids, pets and the weather when not in use.

Replace drafty windows, save energy
Replace old windows, especially those that face prevailing winter winds, with new high-efficiency windows. If your home features single-pane windows, replace with more energy-efficient double- or triple-pane options with insulating glass for greater energy efficiency.

Source: Pella

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Moving Tips for Those Heading Back to Campus

August 30, 2013 2:00 am

Between tuition costs, everyday school stresses, and decreasing job opportunities for graduates, college-bound students have enough to focus on without having to stress about moving their belongings from home to college.

Below are easy-to-follow tips to simplify the move to college:

Use the right supplies – It's worth the small investment. Don't make the mistake of using grocery store boxes, garbage bags, or laundry baskets. Boxes that once stored food items often carry bugs, and garbage bags and laundry baskets are not dependable. Instead, buy moving boxes and use packing tape. Sturdy boxes can easily fold up, be stored for the entire school year, and are ready to use again for summer break.

Pack like items together – Moving back to school can be a little overwhelming so the more organized the better. Label boxes clearly – there's not a lot of room in campus housing, so organizing boxes can prioritize unpacking without the huge mess.

Pack smart – Don't make the mistake of overstuffing boxes. Too many items can cause the box to collapse and it may be impossible to lift. Just remember: the heavier the object, the smaller the box.

Try to use original packaging for large electronics – A new computer, TV, mini-fridge, and microwave all come with packaging to keep them secure and protected. It's much more likely that these items will arrive unharmed if they remain in manufacturers' packaging.

Source: Two Men And A Truck®

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Best Back-to-School Resolutions

August 30, 2013 2:00 am

(BPT)—With kids across the country heading back to school, a common question at family dinner tables will be: "What did you learn today?"
Kids will be learning reading, writing and arithmetic as they head back to school, but what about lessons involving money? For most people, our relationship with money is based on our childhood experiences, and many children look to their parents for these important lessons. Yet, according to a recent Capital One survey of parents and teens, less than half of teens have worked with their parents to develop a budget for spending and saving their money.

As students prepare for a new school year, it's a great time to start fresh with new resolutions around spending and saving. Talk to your kids about wants vs. needs, saving, budgeting, using credit wisely and other money management habits that can last a lifetime.

Here are a few ways to get started:

Crunch numbers together and establish a budget. As your teen starts earning an income through a job or an allowance, ask him or her to pitch in and contribute toward purchases he or she might otherwise take for granted. Create a budget together totaling your teen's contributions and what you can afford to contribute, and then stick to it when you head out to the stores.

Only shop for what's needed. Sit down together to make a list of what essentials your teen already has, what is needed and how much is budgeted for this shopping trip. This comes in handy for back-to-school shopping as well as the holiday shopping season.

Do your homework. This is a good way to show your teen that homework extends beyond the classroom and well into adult life. Researching the items on the shopping list before leaving the house allows your teen to comparison shop, looking at prices and the quality of the items.

For teens on-the-go, there are also a great deal of apps available that can easily compare pricing of items. And not surprisingly, you might discover your teen has different priorities than you when it comes to deciding which items to purchase. Only 22 percent of teens surveyed considered the price of an item to be the top priority, whereas 46 percent said style and appearance were more important. Run a calculation of how much money could be saved between the lower-priced items and the items on the "want list."

Set financial goals. Remind your teen to look beyond high school and discuss what items he or she would like to own in the future. It might be an electronic product, a car, paying for a future vacation, or helping to pay for college. The survey found that 83 percent of teens plan to attend college after high school, but 51 percent of those teens were not saving money to help pay for it. Help your teen set up a plan for how they will spend and save the money they earn or receive as gifts.

Lead by example. Encourage good financial behavior by teaching your teen how to write checks, the use of credit cards and their associated fees and the importance of paying bills on time. Have them around the next time you pay your monthly bills, so they can see how much is spent on utilities, auto insurance and even food. This gives them a good picture for their future and how they might need to make financial decisions to cover essential expenses.

Introduce investing basics. Open a custodial account and help your kids pick the stocks they like most. Contribute a portion of their allowance or agree to match your teen's contributions, and watch the account grow together. Set monthly meetings to review investments, make changes and pick new stocks to purchase. Beginning the stock discussion early will empower your teen with the comfort and knowledge they'll need when they are an adult.

By taking time to discuss spending, saving, budgeting and investing, you can help your teens save money now and point them in the right direction for a successful financial future.

Source: www.capitalone.com/financialeducation

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Hurricane Safety Tips

August 30, 2013 2:00 am

The period from mid-August to late October is considered peak hurricane season. Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the 2013 season will be even more active than last year. NOAA projects up to 20 named storms, including 7 to 11 major hurricanes that will be greater than a category three.

"Research suggests that there is a 70 percent probability of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline this season, compared to the historical average of 52 percent," says Mark R. Desrochers, president, personal lines at The Hanover. "The good news, however, is that with the right preparation, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of personal injury or having their property damaged in a storm."

With hurricane season approaching its peak, here are several tips to help individuals keep themselves, their families, and their property safe during a storm.

Preparing Well in Advance
-Review your homeowners policy with your insurance agent to determine whether you have adequate protection. In particular, consider whether you have flood insurance and if your policy will cover current rebuilding costs.
-Secure your home: Repair loose boards, shingles, shutters, down spouts—the kind of things that could become greater problems in high winds or torrential rain.
-Consider making improvements to protect your home, especially if you live on or near the coast. These could include protecting windows and doors with storm shutters.
-Make a home inventory so that you can easily offer a list of damaged possessions to your insurer in the event that you are impacted by the storm. Be as detailed as possible, listing all personal items and including photos and videos where possible. Keep your inventory list in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box.
-Stock emergency supplies including: a battery-powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, medicines, first aid handbook and kit and a week's worth of non-perishable food and water. Other items to have on hand include: tools, blankets and/or sleeping bags, cooking and eating utensils, pet supplies, paper plates and cups, boards, plastic sheeting, tape and toiletries such as soap, bleach (for disinfecting), and diapers, etc.
-Develop an evacuation plan including how you will notify family and friends and where you will be staying if forced to evacuate. Share everyone's cell phone numbers and compile a list of key numbers (fire, police, etc) you might need in the case of an emergency.

During a Hurricane Watch

-Listen for advisories on the radio or TV. Follow advice from local officials on how to best protect yourself for the upcoming storm.
-Charge your cell phone and tablet battery or batteries.
-Fill the gas tank of your car(s). You'll need it if you have to evacuate. If there is a power outage, gas pumps may not be functioning. If you have a generator, ensure you have gas for that as well.
-Bring items inside your home that could become dangerous as flying objects, including all toys and lawn furniture. Make sure that sheds, cabanas and similar detached structures are securely anchored.
-Protect glass windows with boards, shutters or tape. Otherwise they could be broken from wind pressure.
-Move important papers and valuables to the second floor if you expect flooding.
-Turn your refrigerator to the coldest setting so food will last longer if the power goes out.
-Fill your clean bathtub with extra water.

During the Storm
-Get inside immediately and stay calm. Don't panic. Stay tuned to weather updates.
-Check on family members and friends.
-Evacuate motor homes and take shelter in a grounded building.
-Windows and doors should be closed at all times and boarded up with wooden or metal shutters if possible.
-Stay away from windows. Stay in the center of the room, or in an inside room.
-If flooding begins, turn off electricity.

If you have an Evacuation
-Communicate with all family members so that everyone knows where to go.
-Turn off utilities, including gas, water and electricity.
-Lock doors and windows.
-Leave a message for authorities notifying them where you will be.
-Take important documents, including your insurance policies.
-Bring emergency supplies, such as battery-powered radio, cell phones, flashlights, extra batteries, prescriptions, first aid kit and non-perishable food and water.
-When advised to leave, go as soon as possible. Follow recommended routes only and keep your radio on for current storm information.

After the Storm
-Check to be sure all family members are safe.
-Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible if you have experienced damage.
-Wear shoes around debris to avoid injuries. And when beginning the cleanup process, use protective gear such as eyewear or gloves.
-Dispose of any impaired items touched by floodwater such as food, drinks, and medicine.
-Check utilities. Turn them off if you suspect damage, and let the power company handle.
-Create a list of damaged property and if possible take photographs and/or video. Do not dispose of damaged items without prior approval from your insurance claims adjuster.
-Keep an accurate record of any temporary repairs or expenses so that they may be considered in your claim.
-If there was an evacuation, wait for official notice that it is safe to re-enter your home. When returning to your home, be cautious when entering a damaged structure. Stay away from damaged or weakened walls.

Source: www.hanover.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is a Condo Right for You?

August 29, 2013 2:00 am

While there are many conveniences and advantages to condo living, there are certainly lifestyle issues a home buyer must take into account to determine if a high-rise or other type of condominium home will meet their expectations. Real estate professional Robert Jenson of Las Vegas offers insights to help buyers determine if a condominium is a prudent choice as a primary residence. According to Jenson, condo living may not be for you if:

1. You have a loud or large dog. Most condos do not have a private yard for your four-legged friend, only common areas, which means your dog will have to stay inside all day. Be sure to also review the Homeowner Association (Common Interest Community) rules and regulations with regards to pets, as there may be considerations as to the type, size, breed, etc. allowed.

2. You are a light sleeper. Once you live in a condo, it most likely means you have people living (and making noise) above, below or, at least, to the side of you. Condo living also has a much higher “density,” which means that within just 100 feet, you could have people that get up early, those that party late and everyone in between.

3. You like to work on cars. It’s a safe bet to assume that most, if not all, condo HOAs will not let you work on your car in the parking lot or elsewhere on the property. So, if working on a transmission is your idea of a good time, it’s doubtful the HOA will agree.

4. You need a lot of storage space. While there are roomy condos out there, more often than not, they don’t have a garage for extra storage, or much extra closets and cabinetry in general. So if you have a lot of stuff to be stored away, you might consider a more traditional residence where you can spread your wings.

5. You have many vehicles. It’s rare to find a lower-priced condo with a two-car garage. Usually, they’ll offer a one-car garage or carport. If you only get a carport, there could be theft issues, or heat, snow and other weather issues depending on your climate. While higher-end condos usually can accommodate two vehicles, they sometimes have restrictions as to the allowable “type,” with some having bans on motorcycles and open bed trucks. Accordingly, home buyers with more than one car should pay close attention to parking options.

6. You are on a budget and can’t handle the higher HOA fees. Condos are known for offering residents additional amenities and commonly have Homeowner dues from $100 to $500 and above per month. If you are highly budget-conscious and need to keep overhead expenses to a minimum, be sure to take the HOA dues and any additional special assessments into account.

7. You can’t handle someone living above you, or hate elevators or stairs. With condo living, those in a lower unit will have others living above, which can get noisy and disruptive. Those living in upper units also have neighbor noise to contend with, and will have to haul groceries and other parcels a long way from the car to the front door using an elevator or stairs. Those with physical limitations should be particularly sensitive to this facet of condo living.

8. You like to throw big parties. From limited parking to complaining neighbors, if you are truly an entertainer at heart, a condo might not be the place for you. Plus, there are usually HOA-assessed “quiet hours” as well that you may have to abide by.

If you are considering condo living, you may want to consider the above limitations. It’s important to think this decision through before signing up for something that doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Renting a Car over Labor Day Weekend?

August 29, 2013 2:00 am

An estimated 34.1 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this Labor Day weekend, the highest turn out since 2008, when the recession was at its peak, the American Automobile Association reports. Gas prices are also down, nearly 5 percent, another plus for vacationers. However, for those renting a car, it can be confusing, frustrating and downright daunting. Unfortunately, many consumers do not even think about car rental insurance until they get to the counter, which can result in either wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Before renting a car, I.I.I. suggests that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance professional and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

1. Insurance Company
Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, provided you are using the car for recreation and not for business. If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

2. Credit Card Company
Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card.

Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. You may not have personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.

At the Rental Car Counter

Since insurance is state regulated, the cost and coverage will vary from state to state. Consumers, however, can generally choose from the following coverages:

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)
Also referred to as a collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDWs do, however, relieve or "waive" renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for "loss of use," in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees.

Liability Insurance
By law, rental companies must provide the state-required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you want the supplemental insurance, it will cost between $7 and $14 a day.

Personal Accident Insurance
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1 to $5 a day.

Personal Effects Coverage
Personal Effects Coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you purchase this coverage through the rental car company, it generally costs between $1 and $4 a day.

If you frequently travel with expensive items such as jewelry, cameras, musical equipment or sports equipment, it may be more cost effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. With such a floater, your valuable items are protected at home as well as while traveling anywhere in the world and the coverage is broader.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Economy Picks Up Steam: Housing Recovery, Consumer Spending, and Manufacturing Pave the Way

August 29, 2013 2:00 am

Economic growth continues to gain momentum in the second half of the year, as expected, despite the slow start at the beginning of 2013. Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group’s full-year forecast for both the economy and housing market remains on track, with GDP expected to come in at approximately 2.0 percent in 2013 and to accelerate to 2.6 percent in 2014. Fiscal drag is waning, the housing recovery continues, and manufacturing and business investment are rebounding, helping to boost growth. Furthermore, consumer spending and the employment sector appear to be growing sustainably, which may help to offset downside risks from the expected tapering of the Federal Reserve’s securities purchases.

“Our macroeconomic and housing forecast shows very little change from July, and the steady pickup during the past few months validates our expectations for the second half of the year,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “The biggest risk to this forecast is the expected reduction in the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases, which would likely put additional upward pressure on interest rates and lead to some volatility in capital markets. Although the nature and timing of the tapering are still to be determined, we continue to expect the Fed will scale back its asset purchases and end the program by spring. In addition, we may see some fiscal tightening this fall as the debate over federal spending and the debt ceiling takes place.”

The housing recovery appears to have weathered some of the uncertainty, although additional growth is expected to be modest rather than robust while the market awaits an easing of credit conditions in the presence of rising interest rates. The rise in mortgage rates has led to a drop-off in refinance activity but does not appear to have had much impact on home purchase activity to this point. Home prices are expected to continue to climb, although the pace should slow significantly from the dramatic levels seen during the past 12 months.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fall Lawn Care Tips

August 28, 2013 2:00 am

Your lawn can be a canvas for expressing yourself. In fact, over half (52 percent) of homeowners surveyed in TruGreen’s Lawn Lifestyles National Survey of America said that “a homeowner’s lawn can tell you a lot about their personality.” Consider your lawn personality as a way to boost your home’s curb appeal. Fall is the proper time to prep lawns, trees and shrubs for spring’s growth cycle and the next home buying season.

Homeowners’ Top Three Ideal Outdoor Spaces


According to the survey, homeowners’ top ideal outdoor space is “functional” (40 percent) or focused on the overall utility of the lawn. Characteristics of this popular response include using the yard for children to play, sport activities, backdrop for entertaining, and growing flowers, fruits or vegetables.

Coming in second is the “formal” (24 percent) outdoor space characterized by a perfectly cut, healthy lawn, clutter-free area, manicured landscaping, and little or no yard accessories. In close third is the “creative” (17 percent) outdoor space driven by the imagination and inspired by the senses. Here you may find wilder foliage, colorful flowers, water features, artistic lawn decorations and charming outdoor lighting.

In comparison to ideal outdoor spaces, more homeowners (45 percent) best described their current outdoor space as “functional.” Fewer respondents categorized their current outdoor space as “formal” (21 percent) or “creative” (10 percent), reflecting that for some homeowners reality doesn’t match the vision that they have for their yard.

Fall Lawn Care Prep

According to the majority of homeowners (79 percent) surveyed, “in selling a home, it is important for the lawn to be in top shape to get the best price.” Fall is the best time to prep lawns, trees and shrubs for spring’s growth cycle, especially with the home buying season right around the corner.

“Lawns become distressed from summer entertaining with family and friends and require care throughout fall,” said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., TruGreen expert and director of technical operations. “A good fall feed is important to lawn, tree and shrub health as roots continue active growth before the dormant winter months and store reserves needed for hungry plants in spring.”

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Shake Up Your Front Door

August 28, 2013 2:00 am

Builders, remodelers and homeowners interested in "shaking up" home exteriors should look to the roof first, according to color specialist Kate Smith.

"I always recommend people add color from the top down on a home exterior, starting at the roof and working their way down to the windows, door and trim," says Smith, chief color maven at Sensational Color. "However, I have the most fun with adding color to the front door. When you have a paintable door, you have the ability to add a 'pop' of welcoming color to any entryway."

"In each case the entry door is a prominent feature of the home that deserves special attention. This is the one specific area of the house where a homeowner shows off his or her personality. They may choose a bold red for the door that says 'I'm an extrovert' or a mellow yellow that declares 'I like being part of this community.'"

According to Smith, here’s a look at what different paint colors on entry doors of the home say about the occupants inside:

- Red tells the world to “look at me!” This bright color says I’m not afraid of standing out or saying what’s on my mind.
- White says that I prefer things that are organized, neat and clean. Even if my home isn’t always this way, I wish it was!
- Green tells the world that you have traditional values and enjoy being a member of the community.
- Black says I’m consistent, conservative and reserved in my manner as well as my approach to color. With a black door I’m saying my design style is timeless rather than trendy.
- Blue tells people you are naturally at ease in most situations and people are attracted to your easygoing personality.
- Yellow says you have a personality similar to green, but a bit less traditional. You’re most likely a leader or organizer of a group.
- Purple reveals a “free spirited” person who is comfortable taking risks, thinking differently and dreaming big.

Source: Therma-Tru

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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