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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Multiple Offer Dilemma? Make your Offer Stand Out Against the Competition

August 16, 2013 1:45 am

Finding your dream home is no simple task. You may start by considering a price range or maybe you’re looking for a particular style of home. Often times, home buyers have to meet certain work or family needs – location, a particular number of rooms, the need for a big backyard or a specific amount of garage space.

There are several factors to consider as you narrow the search down to just a few properties. But what do you do when you find your dream home, only to discover other potential buyers have already made offers? In today’s competitive market, buyers need ways to make their offers stand out against the competition. When faced with a multiple offer situation, follow these tricks of the trade:

Include a Sales Price Escalation Addendum with your offer
A Sales Price Escalation Addendum is a document attached to your offer that allows it to be increased by a specified amount, which is activated if competing offers meet certain perimeters. The Sales Price Escalation Addendum is triggered if the seller receives one or more legitimate additional offers, which have a higher net value – the final sale price, after closing costs and buyer concessions have been agreed upon – than the offer with the escalation addendum. Specific values will vary from offer to offer, but this addendum gives your offer room for adjustment.

Don’t ask for Closing Cost Credits and Increase your Earnest Money Deposit
In the real estate business, money talks! Closing costs credits assist the buyer in purchasing the home and reduce the net cash to the seller. Oftentimes with multiple offers in the current sellers’ market, these requests have the offer thrown out immediately. Like a security deposit, earnest money is the initial deposit with the offer as an act of good faith. It shows the seller that you’re serious about your offer and moving towards the purchase. If the offer is accepted, this money goes towards the eventual down payment. When there are multiple offers, increasing the earnest money tells the seller you’re committed to the purchase, and they should give your offer more consideration.

Be prompt with inspection scheduling
When submitting an offer, every property is subject to inspection. Having a tightly scheduled inspection period not only shows you’re serious about moving forward, but also indicates to the seller that you’re in control of the situation. Industry standard is 17 day inspection period, reducing to 10 or 12 days is much more appealing. Being proactive expedites the sales process to closing, which will make any seller happy. By initiating the inspection process and keeping a tight schedule, you make your offer look more serious and closing attainable, which is the mutual goal.

Make sure your agent reaches out to the listing agent prior to submitting an offer
This will help expedite the offer process, again setting your offer apart from the competition. Using the selling agents preferred vendors for items such as termite, title and escrow go a long way to suggesting a smooth transaction. Also, the buyer may need a rent-back period after the sale, and give an idea whether they are willing to give any credits for repairs, etc. This eliminates many of the minor countering items and reduces back and forth negotiating up-front.

Use DocuSign
This cloud-based electronic signature technology facilitates the exchange of contracts, tax documents and other legal materials. DocuSign simplifies the real estate buying process by organizing all of your documents, making them mobile and easily accessible. Also, your electronic signature will be honored and secure. Since all the documents are saved as electronic files, they can be easily emailed to listing agents. Again, this shows that you are a serious buyer, working with you may be easier than others and they should consider your offer with more earnest.

Keep in mind offers can be too high
Some homebuyers may think no price is too high to pay for their dream home, but the highest offer is not always the strongest. Mortgage lenders must approve the value. Lenders won’t approve a loan for more than the appraised market value of the property. Even though the seller may love an offer higher than list price, the bank may not approve.

Following these steps through your next real estate purchase will help you compete with multiple, legitimate offers on your dream house, making yours stand out above the rest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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6 Tips to Lawsuit-Proof Your Pool Party

August 15, 2013 1:42 am

With the dog days of summer upon us, here's hoping your pool party doesn't belly-flop into a lawsuit.

When it comes to potential pool party liability, safety is key. Before you fire up the grill and play another round of Marco Polo, take all the necessary pool safety precautions or you could get sued.

Here are a few tips on how to lawsuit-proof your pool party:

Prevent "toxic" pool injuries. During a party, lighting is key. But beware of dumping chemicals in the pool without considering the potential consequences. Last year, two ravers filed a lawsuit, alleging chemicals that made a pool glow under blacklights caused them partial vision loss. Swimming pool chemicals injure thousands yearly, but are largely preventable.

Repair and maintain nearby wires. Swimming pool electrocutions happen more often than you may think. If you have electricity powering lights or a pump that supplies water to a slide at your party, make sure the equipment and wiring is safe. And if you notice some precarious overhead wires, it may be best to call your local power company to get it checked out.

Protect young children. Pool parties are fun and games, but not for kids who don't know how to swim. Death and nonfatal injury rates for drowning are highest among children under four. To protect the little ones, install a self-closing gate around the pool, have them wear "floaties" during the party, and always keep them supervised.

Prevent slip-and-fall accidents. Slip 'n Slides are fun. Slip 'n falls? Not so much. Keep partygoers off slick surfaces so they don't slip and fall into a lawsuit. You may want to lay rubber mats around the pool and make sure the diving board is in good working order.

Prevent drunk driving. A pool party often entails adult libations - brewskies, pinot grigio and margaritas - but don't let people drive home drunk. If you do, and someone gets hurt, then you could be on the hook for social host liability.

Prevent pool hopping. When the party's winding out, take precautions to keep mischievous "pool hopping" teens out. Though they're trespassers, your best bet is to fence-in and lock your pool when the party's over.

Source: Findlaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Chocolate or Vanilla? Cup or Cone? America Weighs In

August 15, 2013 1:42 am

The decision is a very hard one. Should you go traditional or a little more out there? It's hot and all you want is that nice cold treat. But which flavor are you going to go with? If you want to follow what other Americans do, chocolate is the way to go, as over one-quarter (27 percent) say it is one of their two favorite ice cream flavors, followed by vanilla (23 percent) and cookie dough/cookies and cream (22 percent).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,242 adults surveyed online between July 17 and 22, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

For one in five Americans, butter pecan/Swiss almond is tops (19 percent), as is mint chocolate chip (19 percent), followed by strawberry (14 percent), rocky road (12 percent) and peanut butter (10 percent). Less than one in ten U.S. adults say one of their two favorite flavors is coffee (9 percent), cherry vanilla (8 percent), pistachio (7 percent), black raspberry (6 percent), a seasonal flavor such as eggnog or pumpkin (5 percent) or peach (3 percent). One in ten (10 percent) have a different favorite flavor, and 2 percent say they do not eat ice cream.

There is a little bit of gender divide when it comes to favorite flavor. For women, chocolate is on top (29 percent), followed by mint chocolate chip (23 percent) and cookie dough/cookies and cream (22 percent). For men, vanilla is the narrow favorite (27 percent), then chocolate (26 percent) and cookie dough/cookies and cream (21 percent).

How do you want that?

Now, once the flavor is chosen, the decision doesn't end there. How should you actually eat the ice cream? More than two in five Americans (45 percent) say their favorite way to eat ice cream is in a cup, followed by cone (31 percent), sundae (16 percent), and sandwich (4 percent) while 5 percent say their favorite way to eat ice cream is something else – maybe in a cake? Men are more likely than women to prefer cups (49 percent versus 42 percent) and sundaes (17 percent versus 14 percent). Women, however, are more likely to say their favorite way to eat ice cream is in a cone (36 percent versus 25 percent).

And, any toppings?

Now there is one more major decision to make. Are you in the mood for something crunchy, or maybe something warm? Maybe there's a choice for something a little 'healthy,' or even pure decadence? Ah, what topping should you have on that ice cream?

Over half of Americans (53 percent) say hot fudge is among their favorite toppings for ice cream, followed by two in five who say nuts (41 percent). Just under two in five say whipped cream is among their favorite toppings (39 percent), while 38 percent say caramel. Three in ten say their favorite is fruit, such as strawberries or bananas (31 percent), while one in five choose sprinkles (20 percent), followed by 17 percent who go for candy bits and one in ten who say marshmallow (11 percent). There are some purists out there, as 16 percent say they prefer their ice cream plain.

Source: Harris Interactive

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Great Financial Freebies

August 15, 2013 1:42 am

There are free financial products and services to be had, but consumers may have to shell out money to get some of them. The September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, features an up-close look at five truly free financial products and services including checking accounts and tax filing.

"Beware of the word free, especially when it comes to financial services," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "Free financial advice in particular can really end up costing you."

Five Great Financial Freebies

1. Checking accounts. Truly free accounts are getting harder to find, but there are still some available without no minimum-balance rules to follow and no monthly fees. Consumers are most likely to get them at credit unions, small or internet banks, and brokerage houses. For example, two online banks, Ally and Schwab, offer free checking accounts plus free checks, zero ATM fees, and interest (though puny) on a balance.

2. Personal finance help. Some free budgeting programs can help set short- and long-term financial goals and create a spending plan that will help consumers meet these goals. Mint (mint.com) has ads but it's easy to set up and navigate a plan; Yodlee (yodlee.com) is clunkier but has more features and no ads.

3. Retirement money. Some employers match funds that employees contribute to their 401(k). Consumers whose 401(k) is maxed out should consider a Roth IRA if it is offered by their employer. There is no tax break on investments, but withdrawals, including earnings, are free from federal tax if they are taken on or after the age of 59 and have held the Roth IRA for more than five years.

4. Trip insurance and other perks. Credit cards may offer free trip insurance that might come with other perks, such as price protection (meaning the card issuer will refund the difference if a better deal is found on something recently bought) and coverage of items purchased on the card that are lost or damaged within a limited time. Check the card's terms to see what it offers and read the fine print for restrictions.

5. Tax filing. At FreeFile on the IRS website, there's no charge to prepare and file federal taxes. But one version on FreeFile has income limitations that are updated annually. This year it was available to households with a 2012 adjusted gross income of $57,000 or less. Other services, such as Express1040, FreetaxUSA, TaxACT, and TurboTax Federal Free Edition, offer free tax preparation and filing for federal returns that are relatively straightforward.

Source: ShopSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Dining Out With Kids: More Delight Than Disaster

August 14, 2013 1:42 am

Restaurant.com revealed that parents enjoy dining out with their kids citing many benefits to the experience with family quality time and education opportunities topping the list. A recent survey by the company found that 59 percent of parents dine out with their children once a week or more. In fact, 70 percent say that going out to eat with their kids is a great way to spend time with the family.

The survey also reveals that 66 percent of parents feel that taking children out to eat offers educational benefits and provides the opportunity to try new foods they normally would not have at home. And, 57% say that eating out is a good time to emphasize good table manners.
Additional findings include:

American Cuisine – The most popular cuisine choice for family dining is American, with 40 percent reporting it as their family's favorite. Italian came in second with 25 percent of the votes, followed by Mexican with 21 percent.

Food Options – Parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the menu selection restaurants provide for their family with 83 percent reporting that most restaurants have kid-friendly food options, and 56 percent feel that restaurants have healthy food options for kids.

Entertaining the Kids – As for keeping the kids entertained while in a restaurant, 74 percent of parents report that good, old-fashioned conversation is the best entertainment, followed by crayons and paper (53 percent).

Dining Deals are the Best – Nearly all respondents (96 percent) have used a coupon or a deal when dining out with their children, with 37 percent reporting they do so more often than not.

Source: Restaurant.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Parents Spend 26.7 Billion Dollars in Back-to-School Gear

August 14, 2013 1:42 am

While parents report spending on average $90 per child on school supplies each year, a recent national survey shows that many of those pricey items will be lost. Michelle Brandriss, a mom and founder and CEO of Name Bubbles, advises parents to "label it or risk losing it; help keep items coming home."

Before the back-to-school season, Name Bubbles asked parents across America, between the ages of 18 and 44, a series of questions in an effort to learn more about one of the busiest times of the year. Of the more than 400 parents surveyed, 80 percent admitted that their children lost items at school last year. Of those parents, 73 percent never recovered the lost and unlabeled school supplies, and 27 percent spent more than $50 replacing those lost items. In contrast, the parents who did label their children's school supplies always recovered their lost items.

"Organization is the key to a successful school year," said Brandriss. "Whether you label school supplies, backpacks, jackets, or sports gear, name labels help students keep track of their belongings and avoid having them end up in the lost and found."

Most Frequently Lost Items and Percentage of Kids Who Lose Them:

1. Hats and gloves - 57%
2. School supplies - 52%
3. Outerwear - 43%
4. Lunch boxes - 36%
5. Book bags - 14%

Source: NameBubbles.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Eight Best Reasons to Use a Professional Pest Control Company

August 14, 2013 1:42 am

Many people consider themselves would be "do it yourselfers" and with all the information available online, it makes sense that many household projects can be undertaken by a layman or weekend hobbyist. When dealing with pest control issues, however, it may be a better idea to let a pro handle it instead of just buying some poison and going to town.

Here are the best reasons to use a professional pest control company when you have a pest problem in your home:

8) Discount for Additional Services – Generally, the more services you purchase from your exterminator the more you save per service. As a result, each service becomes cheaper per service.

7) Referral Discounts – Many pest control companies offer discounts to clients who successfully refer them to their friends. This is a way to get money back for a service you have already purchased.

6) Exclusion Services – Once your exterminator has indentified the causes of your pest issues, he/she can either perform the corrections to the structure or recommend someone who can. By changing these conditions, pests are less likely to return.

5) Prevention - You pest control company is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to ways to prevent pests. They will assist you with information on what you can do to prevent termites, ants, roaches and more.

4) Identification – Not sure what the pest is that may be bothering you? Your exterminating company will be able to get an ID of the pest, even if you are not covered for that pest. Maybe you have a mysterious bite; again the pest control company can help.

3) Formulating a Plan – A professional exterminator understands the needs of your home or business. So he/she will formulate a planned approach to the implementation of service to aide in eliminating and reducing a pest invasion.

2) Risk– Using pest control products comes with a risk to your health, the health of your family and the environment. Pest Control companies are not only trained to use pesticides safely, they are also regulated by state and national laws that help protect non target animals from exposure to the insecticides.

1) Cost – The purchase price for an insecticide is generally cheaper for a professional exterminator since they are able to purchase their products at a wholesale price and in bulk. More importantly, they will use the right product for the pest that is infesting your home or business. Knowing the insect and the correct product to use is half the battle. Ants are not just ants, for example. Different species of ants may require a different type of product and application. You as the property owner may not be able to properly identify the pest; hence, spending more money on products in an attempt to correct your pest issue.

Source: Earth’s Best Pest Control

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Lifespan of an Appliance: How Long Should They Last?

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Maybe it’s not the eternal question, but I found myself asking it most recently as I was lying on the wet floor ratcheting the drive motor out of my seven-year-old front-loading washer. The question was: “How long is this appliance supposed to last, anyway?”

Sure, we all know the lifespan of any mechanical device depends on dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands of factors over time from the original parts assembled in the factory, to the frequency of use (or abuse), we as owners exact on our mechanical servants.

But this time, it seems we have an answer to that vexing question thanks to a highly touted study called: ‘The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Bank of America Home Equity Study of the Life Expectancies of Home Components.’

Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president for Research and Surveys in NAHB’s Economics Group says, “…We learned that many home components are expected to last for the life of the house. Among them are toilets, wood floors, all types of insulation, and fiberglass, steel and wood exterior doors.

“On the other hand, some components have a much shorter life expectancy,” he adds. “Wood decks should last about 20 years, depending on climate, and kitchen faucets should last about 15 years. Linoleum floors have a life expectancy of about 25 years, and furnaces can be expected to last 15 to 20 years.”

Usage, weather and a number of other factors can influence life expectancy.

Moreover, homeowners often replace items long before the end of their expected life span due to personal preferences and changing trends.
“For example,” Ahluwalia says, “the practical life expectancy of kitchen cabinets is about 50 years. However, many people buying a 15- or 20-year-old house would make installing new, updated kitchen cabinets a priority. Likewise, some homeowners paint their homes every year or two, even though interior paint has a practical life expectancy of about 15 years.”

By the way, in consulting the report, I learned my washer in particular was expected to last about 10 years. That means with the extra wear and tear of handling greater than average load size and frequency during its 7-year life, I’m probably better off replacing it for around $600, than paying more than $200 for just a replacement motor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Money-Saving Tips to Turn Regular Back-to-School Shoppers into Savvy Consumers

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

As parents and students prepare to shop for everything they need for the coming school year, PriceGrabber® offers ten money-saving tips you can use to save big.

According to a recent survey, 68 percent plan to spend up to $500 this back-to-school shopping season," said Sharon Banfield, director of public relations at PriceGrabber. "With a little homework, budgeting, and creativity, shoppers can easily reduce this number and get the most for their buck this year."

1. Take a household inventory. Scan the kitchen, office, bedrooms and the rest of the house for miscellaneous supplies. Take an inventory of the findings and then compare this to your kids' supply lists. The findings will most likely cover many items on the lists.

2. Make a list with a budget and stick to it. When planning a budget for this year's back-to-school shopping, start by making a list and separating "must-have" items from "wants." This doesn't mean you can't indulge in some trendy gear, just shop for necessities first. Take a look at how much you spent last year and challenge yourself to spend less this year.

3. Involve the (older) kids. Turn back-to-school shopping into a family activity by charting out the budget in a creative way with your children. This will help teach them to budget while you bond as a family. However, if you have young kids consider leaving them at home to avoid getting distracted from your shopping list.

4. Host a clothing exchange with other parents. Invite about 12 to 15 parents with children of similar ages, sizes and genders over to exchange kids' clothing. Have guests bring about 10 clean items in good condition so that they can leave with 10 different pieces in similar condition. Even if only a few items fit, everything was still free.

5. Shop online and look for free shipping. Skip the crowds and shop online. Comparison-shopping sites can save consumers money on popular back-to-school items like tablet computers, backpacks, dorm room furniture, and basic school supplies. Look for retailers offering free shipping to save even more.

6. Use your mobile device as a shopping aid. If shopping a brick-and-mortar store sale, use your smartphone to ensure the sale price is really the best deal in town.

7. Shop end-of-summer sales. Stock up on summer clothing which can be worn well into the fall. Sweaters and leggings can be paired with summer shirts and dresses for an easy transition into the cooler months. Microwaves, storage bins, tool kits and other dorm room must-haves are also a part of the summer clearance sales.

8. Follow your favorite shopping sites on social media. Be the first to know about special offers from your favorite retailers and shopping sites. Some retailers may offer exclusive back-to-school discount codes or coupons.

9. Buy in bulk. Pencils, markers, printer paper and other supplies are always in high demand. Spend a little more money now and buy large quantities, which will give you cheaper supplies needed later in the year.

10. Personalize. Jazz up inexpensive, plain school supplies such as notebooks and folders with stickers. Let your student get creative and personalize their items so they don't get mixed up with other students' supplies. There's a better chance you won't have to spend money on lost items later in the year.

Source: PriceGrabber®

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Ways to Improve Personal Finances

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

(Family Features) As more Americans make strides towards responsible spending and debt management, there are still ways to improve the control of family finances.

According to a recent survey, less than half of cardholders always pay their entire credit card balance. With more than half of individuals carrying credit card debt, there are ways to promote good spending and personal finance habits, such as:

Limit Number of Credit Cards

Limiting the number of cards you own can help limit your spending and increase the likelihood you can pay above the minimum balance. Before you start cutting up your plastic, remember having more than one credit card can have merits. One idea is to have three cards: one in a safe place at home for emergencies and two with you at all times.

Reap the Rewards

Use the rewards programs available to credit card holders to cash in on things your family really needs. Whatever rewards you are seeking, there is likely to be a card suitable for you.

Evaluate All Debts
Many carry debts beyond credit cards, including student loans, car payments and mortgages. Evaluate your debts and decide which ones have the highest interest rates. Making it a priority to pay down these debts first will save you more money in the long run.

Create a Budget
It’s never too soon to put yourself in control of your money and stop letting it control you. A budget will give you financial peace of mind and it can help you stretch the income you have. Calculate your income and expenses and set your monthly budget. Though you may not be on-point every month, the simple act of tracking your spending will be a huge step forward in your quest towards responsible spending.

Source: BOA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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