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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Appraisal Institute Calls on Congress to Pass Green Real Estate Bill

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

The nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers announced its support for federal legislation that would improve the mortgage underwriting process by ensuring appraisers are provided relevant property information relating to green and energy-efficient features.

The Appraisal Institute expressed its backing of the recently introduced Sensible Accounting to Value Energy Act of 2013. “We strongly support the SAVE Act because it would require the use of qualified, competent appraisers,” said Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA. “We also are pleased that it would help ensure that appraisers have access to data and information needed to analyze the effects of energy-efficient home improvements in the marketplace.”

The SAVE Act would instruct federal loan agencies to assess a borrower’s expected energy costs when financing a house. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would issue updated underwriting and appraisal guidelines for any loan issued, insured, purchased or securitized by the Federal Housing Administration or any other federal mortgage loan insurance agency.

The bill establishes two methods for determining expected annual energy costs: average utility costs, derived from the Department of Energy’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey database and adjusted for the square footage of the home, or if available, a qualified, independent energy report of the subject property. The measure includes two primary features, both optional: an affordability test and a loan-to-value adjustment.

Borges said the SAVE Act would help protect taxpayers from another foreclosure crisis; would lower utility bills for U.S. households; would remove from federal mortgage policy an impediment to home energy efficiency; would drive business and job growth in the construction and manufacturing sectors; would expand the accessibility and affordability of energy-efficient homes; and would reduce U.S. energy dependence.

“The Appraisal Institute is pleased this bill would help improve communication and the flow of information among appraisers, lender clients and those interacting with the mortgage lending process,” Borges said. “The SAVE Act would require that appraisers are provided with all relevant information relating to energy-efficient features of properties. And by defining these types of appraisal assignments as ‘complex,’ the SAVE Act would help ensure those properties are valued by an appraiser with enhanced competency who can more thoroughly analyze and make appropriate judgments for building energy performance and who can help lenders understand their collateral risk.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Increasing Mosquito Prevention Curbs West Nile and Other Diseases

June 11, 2013 1:10 am

Health officials all over the country warn about the West Nile Virus throughout the hot summer months. Rain and summer heat waves are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can spread the West Nile Virus, dengue fever, encephalitis, canine heartworm and other diseases.

Because mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, Health Department officials are asking everyone to take steps to reduce standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying. To reduce mosquito populations:

• Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
• Remove and discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items left outdoors that can collect water.
• Empty and clean birdbaths and pet water bowls at least once or twice a week.
• Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
• Maintain swimming pools in good condition with appropriate chlorination. Empty kids’ swimming pools when not in use.

Where standing water collects, use a product with all-natural Bti to disrupt mosquitoes’ breeding cycle. The Bti in a Mosquito Dunk will kill mosquito larvae in birdbaths, ponds, animal watering troughs and other standing water before they become biting, disease-carrying adults. Mosquito Dunks are safe for pets, wildlife and fish, and they are approved for organic use.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fatherly Tips for Raising Healthy, Successful Kids

June 11, 2013 1:10 am

(Family Features) Everyone knows the classic love story. Man and woman fall in love, get married, have a baby and live happily ever after. However, real life isn’t always the fairy tale. While today’s version of the modern family has changed over time, the importance of parental involvement in children’s lives has not.

However, one out of every three American children (about 24 million) lives in a home without their biological father. According to research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (or CASA), these children are more likely use drugs and experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems.

“Having both biological parents active in a child’s life has proven to have a positive effect on both the child’s social development and academic achievement,” says Dr. Janet Taylor, an author and community psychiatrist in the New York City area who frequently counsels families.

For kids, growing up in an environment where both parents are involved is important to their long-term development, health and well-being. Dr. Taylor provides the following advice for dads on how they can stay active in their child’s life, even if they are not the primary caregiver.

Share meals together: According research by CASA, children who share regular meals with their parents earn better grades in school than those who do not. Set a goal to share a meal with your child at least two days per week. Dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate. The focus should be on communication.

Plan fun activities: No matter where you go or how much money you spend, every moment spent with your child is a chance to create positive memories. Set aside time to celebrate your kids’ accomplishments and special occasions. This will increase the child’s confidence and encourage them to keep trying.

Get involved at school: Fathers are a positive force in their children's education. According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, when fathers get involved in their child’s education, the child is more likely to get good grades, enjoy school and participate in extracurricular activities.

Source: Identigene

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Americans' Optimism about Buying and Selling a Home Hits Record Levels

June 11, 2013 1:10 am

Americans’ confidence in their ability to buy and sell a home climbed sharply in May, likely due to reports of strong home price gains, according to results from Fannie Mae’s May 2013 National Housing Survey. The share of respondents who say now is a good time to sell a home reached a record high of 40 percent, compared to 30 percent in April and 16 percent one year ago. At the same time, the share of those who say it is a good time to buy a home moved up 5 percentage points from April to a survey high of 76 percent. Americans’ average 12-month home price change expectation also reached a survey high in May, climbing to 3.9 percent from 2.7 percent in April.

“Sentiment toward selling a home appears to be catching up with the strengthening housing market,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The share of consumers who think it’s a good time to sell a home spiked this month, the largest increase in the survey’s three-year history. This jump may foreshadow a gradual return to more normal levels of housing supply from their lows of recent months. In turn, increased housing supply could serve to temper increasing consumer home price expectations. We will closely watch the potential impact of rising mortgage rates on consumer housing sentiment in the coming months.”

Currently, 46 percent of Americans think it would be easy for them to get a mortgage today, retreating slightly from April’s survey high, while 50 percent believe it would be difficult to get a mortgage. Consumers have been asked since the survey’s inception in June 2010 for their perceived ease or difficulty in getting a mortgage, and the question was added in May 2013 as an indicator to the monthly data findings report to help determine whether rising mortgage rates affect their views.

Findings:

Homeownership and Renting

• The average 12-month home price change expectation jumped to 3.9 percent, the highest level since the survey’s inception.
• The share of people who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months hit a survey high of 55 percent, while those who say home prices will go down dropped to 7 percent, the lowest level since the survey’s inception.
• The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up increased 3 percentage points to 46 percent, while those who say rates will go down hit a survey low of 5 percent.
• At 76 percent and 40 percent, respectively, the shares who say it is a good time to buy a house and who say it is a good time to sell a house both reached survey highs.
• The average 12-month rental price change expectation dropped to 3.4 percent, the lowest level since September 2012.
• Holding steady from last month, 48 percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months.
• Retreating slightly from last month’s survey high, 46 percent of respondents think it would be easy for them to get a home mortgage today.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move increased slightly to 66 percent.

The Economy and Household Finances

• At 40 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased slightly from April.
• The percentage of people who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months held steady at 41 percent.
• The share of respondents who say their household income is significantly lower than it was 12 months ago fell 3 percentage points to a survey low 13 percent.
• The percentage of respondents who say their household expenses are significantly higher than they were 12 months ago rose slightly to 32 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Stay Safe This Summer: BBQ Safety Tips

June 10, 2013 1:08 am

According to the National Fire Prevention Association there are 5,000 outside BBQ grill fires annually that require fire departments to respond. And there are another 3,600 BBQ grill fires that cause damage to the structure of homes.

Here are some quick tips to help you enjoy a safe BBQ grilling season:

1. Before you use your BBQ grill:

• Repair any damaged energy supply connections such as gas tanks, hoses and electrical connections.
• Replace any corroded BBQ grill parts.

2. Locate your BBQ grill a safe distance from your home, wooden deck and anything flammable. Always keep your BBQ grill in a place where children are not playing. Your Operator's Manual should give you an explanation on proper BBQ grill placement.

3. Always follow the lighting instructions in the operator's manual that came with your BBQ grill.

4. Never leave a BBQ grill unattended and have a fire extinguisher close by.

5. Clean your BBQ grill regularly
to remove grease. Grease can cause flare-ups that can be deadly.

And before you fire-up your BBQ grill for the 2013 season, be sure to check and remove any rodent nests, spider webs and other debris that might affect the safe operation of your BBQ grill.

Source: The BBQ Cleaner

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Don't Get Stung Rushing into A Pest Control Contract

June 10, 2013 1:08 am

Not to be a pest, but I recently discovered a very big ant problem involving very small ants. And while the change of season apparently diverted their attention from the cupboard to the more diverse and easy to access bounty of the great outdoors, the prospect of calling in a pest control service was pretty daunting.

The regional Better Business Bureau apparently hears from a lot of nervous pending pest control clients, because the agency just issued a punch list of warnings to ensure you don't get stung by unscrupulous pest management services. In 2012, more than 786,000 people turned to Better Business Bureau for information on pest control services.

BBB and NPMA recommend the following tips for finding a qualified pest management professional:

Check them out - Evaluate pest control professionals and companies that are members of national, state or local associations. Ask friends and neighbors to recommend pest control companies they have used successfully and ask how satisfied they were with the service.

Always deal with a qualified and licensed pest management company - Ask to see the license or other credentials of the pest control professional that comes to solve your pest problem.

Don’t rush - If a sizable amount of money is involved, get bids from several pest management companies.

Understand before you sign - Before signing a contract, be sure to fully understand the nature of the household pest to be exterminated, the extent of the infestation, and the work necessary to solve the problem. Find out if the pest control company has liability insurance to cover any damages to your house or furnishings during treatment.

If a guarantee is given, know what it covers, how long it lasts, what you must do to keep it in force, and what kind of continuing control, prevention and management are necessary.

Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics - Buy value, not price. Beware of companies that offer bargains that sound too good to be true. Be wary of companies that come to your home uninvited and offer to give your house a free inspection for pests or press you for immediate and/or costly treatments.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Finance Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

June 10, 2013 1:08 am

According to a recent PulteGroup Home Index Survey, more than half of renters aged 18-34 say their intention to buy a home has increased in the last year. While their intentions are in many ways driven by personal, aspirational reasons – more space, family stability and the pride of homeownership – the low mortgage rate environment, increasing rental costs and scarcity of desirable rental options makes homeownership an even more attractive proposition for many.

"The propensity for young adults to test the waters of homeownership continues to increase and has become more evident as renters are seeing the overall value of owning a home," said Deborah Wahl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PulteGroup, Inc., noting that more than 50 percent of millennials reported that the desire to own/build equity was the primary reason for purchasing a new home. "However, beyond finances, it is important for potential buyers to take several other factors into consideration."

Here are a few tips for first-time homebuyers looking for the right housing match:

• Know Your Financial Situation – Start saving for a down payment and talk with mortgage lenders about available loans well in advance of your purchase. Understand there are special federal, state and locally administered financial programs for new homebuyers, such as FHA and HUD loan programs. Additionally, it's important to take into account other factors beyond your mortgage, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. By doing your homework, you will know what you can afford and comfortably make a decision about this important investment.

• Compare Owning vs. Renting – Buying can be smarter than renting from a financial standpoint, but it has other advantages, as well. Owning a home provides you with a great deal of freedom and decision-making autonomy. No more will you have to worry about the noisy neighbor upstairs or accidental scratches on the wall from decorations. You'll have the power to select paint colors and plant flowers throughout the yard. Also, houses tend to offer more storage space.

• Weigh New vs. Used – If you want to choose the floor plan and customize a home to fit your needs and lifestyle, building a new home may be the right choice for you. Popular options new homes offer today include more open, larger spaces, master bedroom suites, island-centric kitchens and bigger outdoor living space. Customizing a new home also provides the opportunity to design your home and include amenities that meet the needs of your growing family – if that's in your future. Additionally, new homes can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient and often come with a builder warranty. If you're handy and don't mind a fixer upper, resale can be an attractive route as well.

• Examine the Location – Consider your surroundings when deciding where you want to live next. If you plan to start a family, research the local school district and other family offerings such as nearby parks and community centers. For fun, test out the local retail scene and entertainment options to see if it caters to your lifestyle. If you're a commuter, determine if the area is supported by adequate public transportation or provides easy access to major highways. Many in the housing market also care about ensuring they still live within close proximity to family and friends, as only 21 percent of homeowners are willing to move away from their families.

• Select the Right Builder – If you decide on a new home, select a builder who has experience in the type of home and in the location you want. Make sure they have a history of building quality homes and are financially stable. Moreover, how easy are they to work with? Some builders today have gone digital to enhance customer service and help buyers stay on top of the latest with their new home. Look for online design centers that can help you make important design decisions, for example, or portals in which you can stay up-to-date on how your new home is progressing. Lastly, take time to check their references and talk to past customers.

• Confide in Trusted Sources – More than 90 percent of home shoppers today are plugged into the internet and use it as their main source of information. While this is particularly true with millennials, don't forget to seek advice from two trusted groups: real estate agents and your personal network, including your parents. Approximately 60 percent of millennials say they would rely on both sources, as each has extensive experience in purchasing homes and can provide personal guidance toward the successful purchase of their home.

"With third-party data showing that 90 percent of millennials plan to purchase a home at some point in their lives, it's important first-time homebuyers have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," added Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Find the Perfect Retirement Destination

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

Searching for the perfect active adult community to enjoy during retirement creates all sorts of questions. Do you want to live somewhere else? If so, where? Do you want warmth and sunshine? Do you want to stay close to family? Do you want a condo or single family home? With questions like these, doing your homework is important, and so it's best to start early.

According to research conducted by ProMatura, a global market research and advisory firm specializing in 50+ consumers, active adult home buyers visit an average of 4.6 active adult communities before making a final purchase decision, and they visit the community that they ultimately choose an average of 3.8 times before making that final decision. Unless you’re Lori Rust and her husband Kevin Jordan.

Lori and Kevin began their search for the best retirement location at age 50. Six years, six states and thirty-five communities later, they believe they have found “home.” The two, living in Denver, Colo. at the time their search began, thought about the longevity of their careers and what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives.

“We’re both analytical people,” says Jordan, who is now working in real estate sales. “We needed to take the emotion out of the process and focus on things that would enhance our lives, and so we created a list of important characteristics and applied a weighted score.”

It wasn’t an easy process. Kevin, a New York native, wanted to be close to the action with cultural and retail offerings, while Lori, who grew up in Montana, wanted open spaces, beautiful views and clean air. “We started with a blank canvas,” says Kevin. We were willing to consider most everywhere in the country. We looked at the Carolinas, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. We had to decide what areas would we enjoy, and then drill down to what state, what area, what community, and then the home. It ultimately has less to do with the house and more to do with everything else,” he notes.

Also among their many considerations were a warm climate, access to quality golf and the ability to get on the course during peak season. Plus, they wanted a good value that allowed them to live within their means and still enjoy the extras. And, they wanted to be in an area attractive to fellow baby boomers.

For this couple, as they looked ahead to the next phase of their life, being in an area appealing to aging baby boomers was important. They knew they wanted to be working and interfacing with this huge demographic, the first of the 78-million boomers began turning 65 last year. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and 10,000 a day are now turning 65.

“When researching communities, one of the most illuminating things you can do is talk to the people who live there. You’ll learn more than you can imagine,” says Lori.

Below are some more important things to go over when searching for the perfect retirement destination:

-What are your weather and climate preferences?
-If interested, is there quality golf and the ability to get tee times in peak season?
-What is the average age of the residents?
-What is the proximity to commercial services, culture and restaurants?
-Is the cost of living reasonable?
-How well-built is the home?
-Do the onsite amenities, if any, match your lifestyle needs?

Source: ProMatura

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Real Estate Spending Trends - Grounds, Lawn and Landscape Care

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

A new U.S. online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape industry professionals, shows that consumers are looking to increase spending on hardscapes (outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, water features, and walkways) and other specialized services (irrigation and lighting). Hardscaping is comprised of outdoor living spaces and paved, non-living components of a landscape.

The study surveyed 2,219 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,830 have a lawn or landscape. Consumers were asked about their spending on professional lawn and landscape services from lawn care and landscape maintenance to tree care, water features, and outdoor lighting.

Overall Spending Trends

While overall consumer spending is expected to remain steady in most categories, landscape maintenance (mowing, edging, leaf cleanup) will see a modest increase in spending ($700 on average in the coming year vs. $600 in the past year), while spending will increase to hire a professional for hardscapes and specialty services ($2,300 on average in the coming year vs. $1,680 in the past year).

“Despite the sluggish economy, our core landscape maintenance services are holding steady, while consumers are deciding to increase their investment in projects that encourage ‘staycations’ and outdoor entertaining, and ultimately improve the resale value of the home,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP.

Who is spending the most on landscape services?

Men outpace women when it comes to hiring professional landscape help over the past year (39 percent vs. 32 percent), and younger adults, ages 18 to 34, stand out as most likely to have hired professionals for the building of outdoor living spaces, patios, and walkways over the past year (9 percent vs. 3 percent of those age 35+).

In general, 35 percent of those with a lawn/landscape have hired professionals to do lawn and landscape services over the past year, with those in the South (38 percent) and West (40 percent) being more likely to have hired a professional than those in the Midwest (29 percent.)

Why do consumers find value in hiring landscape services?

The most often cited reasons for hiring a professional for lawn/landscape services are as follows: “They don’t have the knowledge, skills or physical ability” (42 percent), and “they don’t have the right equipment” (42 percent) to do the landscape work themselves.

Interestingly, younger adults (18 to 34) were more likely than their older counterparts to say “don’t have the patience” as a reason to hire a professional.

“Eighteen to 34 year olds might be more digitally connected than their parents, but they are still putting a high priority on outdoor entertainment areas. They are looking to landscape professionals to take on work that is not only time-consuming, but also requires a high degree of expertise to be done well,” added Hickman.

Source: www.loveyourlandscape.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Easy Ways to Tackle Interior Project Planning

June 7, 2013 5:02 am

Home remodeling and redecorating can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be an awful lot of hard work. Among the many areas of focus for project work are stages of planning, getting any required licenses or permits, interviewing subcontractors and getting proposals with bids, looking over materials and making selections and making sure the entire project is on track and remains that way through completion. And many people find enjoyment as well as fulfillment with making material selections: choosing just the right color combinations and patterns, the best products and service for the budget and top quality providers to help build your projects. Consider the following suggestions when planning your interior project plans:

1) Budgeting Basics--Start by seeing if you have to completely remodel or if perhaps you can redecorate instead, and save money and time. Remodeling often means ripping apart old structures and then building new ones; like for extra space for a new window or set of shelves or a new room, ceiling or floor. However, with redecorating, you can frequently add simple new structures to those in your existing environment like a new bookcase, new curtains and plush carpeting, or new textured ceiling paint with all paper plus new hanging pictures and plush cushions.

2) Contractors, Invoices, Project Materials and More—Next, you will have a lot of decisions to make: which project materials to buy, which vendors to use, which subcontractors to hire, how to agree to payments, how to handle problems and other important issues and emergencies along the way, etc. So start a project notebook with an accompanying folder specifically for this project. Keep all important documents, receipts, bids, business cards, designs, paint colors, fabric swatches and other info there, to ensure that everything is in one place.

3) Project Parts - Some areas of your project may have sub-categories or basic design elements that will involve work with different areas of focus for each part. For example, you may be remodeling one floor, so you'll have several main areas of focus under this heading like: bedroom walls, hallway and bedroom floors, all window treatments, upgraded lighting and new wood furniture. Use dividers in your notebook, extra folders or extra see-through sleeved pocket folders that fit into your binder to handle these separate areas of focus, so you can concentrate on specific tasks within each area.

With the proper planning, you can choose the easiest and most affordable redecorating or remodeling options that best suit your home's needs.

Source: MyHomeImprovementTips.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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