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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What Happens When Interest Rates Rise?

June 20, 2013 4:41 am

Freddie Mac released its U.S. Economic and Housing Market Outlook for June showing the effects rising interest rates are having on certain markets around the country and the overall housing recovery.

• Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages have risen about 0.5 percentage points over the past several weeks and are expected to hover around 4.0 percent during the second half of 2013.

• With rising mortgage rates, expect a sharp decline in refinance volume in the second half of this year; refinance originations are expected to total about $1.1 trillion in 2013, down from $1.5 trillion in 2012.

• At today's house prices and income levels, mortgage rates would have to be nearly 7 percent before the U.S. median priced home would be unaffordable to a family making the median income in most parts of the country.

"The recent upturn in interest rates is sparking fears among some that the nascent economic and housing recoveries will be choked off before they produce sustained growth. However, with the exception of high-cost markets, which are already challenged with affordability, house prices in most of the country are very affordable,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “So while rising interest rates will reduce housing demand, rates would have to increase considerably more before the reduction in demand for home purchases would be substantial. Nothing in the recent trends suggests that we need to fear a major slowdown. A gradual rise in interest rates will not derail the recovery, and are an indication that the overall economic situation is improving."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Make Sure Your Storage Unit Is Properly Insured

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Whether you are downsizing to a smaller home, safeguarding heirlooms after a death in the family or just cannot let go of those old mementos, storage units can provide a useful solution for dealing with extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting your belongings, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"If an item is valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance," said Loretta Worters, vice president for the I.I.I. "Even in the best managed storage facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That's why before signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may be needed."

The Self Storage Association notes that one out of every 10 households in the U.S. currently rents some kind of storage unit, including portable on demand storage (PODS).

Most storage facilities require that you maintain insurance for the full replacement cost of the contents of your storage room and ask to see a copy of your homeowners or renters policy. One way to satisfy your insurance obligation is by purchasing insurance through the storage facility. However, most storage facilities limit the value of property that can be stored in a unit, basing it on the size and the amount of your rent (usually up to about $20,000). If your property is worth more than the assigned amount, some storage facilities will allow you to increase the assigned value of the property in your unit. There are also exclusions including art, antiques, jewelry, furs, watches, money, securities and other documents of value. Be sure to check your homeowners or renters insurance policies first to determine whether your contents may already be covered.

One of the best ways to substantiate the value of your personal property is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions, including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your possessions.

The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage company:

• Look for a secure facility. Fencing that secures the entire property and access control are the very minimum that a storage business should offer.
• Consider the safety of the immediate area surrounding the facility. Does the storage building have onsite security features such as 24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads to access the building? If so, does the code work only for your floor or for the entire facility? Are there video cameras throughout the building or just at the entrance? An informed manager should have the answers you need.
• Look for a unit with climate control options. This will ensure your appliances and furniture are not in a harmful environment. Very high or low temperatures, as well as dampness can quickly cause damage. And make sure that rising ground water from snow or rain is unable to penetrate your storage unit.
• Select a company that offers insurance along with their space. If you do not already have coverage through your renters or homeowners insurance, look for a storage company that offers insurance, and make sure you fully understand how their insurance will cover any potential damage. Find out about the facility's procedures in cases such as fire, flood, etc. and keep in mind that any facility should also have their own insurance to cover damages or injuries that occur on their premises.
• Check that the storage facility is clean and well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned, there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for bugs and rodent infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable pest extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.
• Investigate the reputation of the storage company. Check with friends and neighbors who may be familiar with the facility, or ask the storage company for referrals.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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7 Top Ways to Gift a Graduating Teen

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

If there’s a high school graduate on your gift list this spring, it’s good to remember that cash is king to most teenagers, who undoubtedly have big plans to start a job or college soon and/or to enjoy a last fun-only summer.

But if giving cash to your favorite teen does not seem personal enough, there are plenty of fun and unusual ways to make the gift memorable. From Omaha mom Jane Crawford, an aunt to eight Nebraska teens, here are seven ideas she has used with great success over the years:
Put it in a wallet – Choose a good leather wallet that will last for years. Put the cash in the wallet and wrap the wallet as a gift.

Clip it – For a boy, clip the money in a quality money clip that has been engraved with his initials.

Box it – for a girl, choose a small jewelry or keepsake box and insert the cash before you wrap the box.

Book it – Put the money in a card and place the envelope, like a bookmark, in the book of your choice – perhaps a book on investing.

Bank it – Choose a fat pink piggy bank or any bank that appeals to you. Before you wrap it, stuff it with dollar bills. Include some change to make it jingle.

Turn it into gift cards – Disperse the cash into gift cards to the teen’s favorite stores. Include a note encouraging happy shopping – with or without your company.

Turn it into college cash – If you know what school your teen will be attending in the fall, get online and turn your gift into a spending account he or she can use for meals, books and more on campus.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Six Reasons to Paint Before You Move in

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Moving to a new house, condo, or apartment this spring?  Before filling your home with furnishings, there’s something you might want to do first: paint.  Experts of every stripe – from REALTORS to authorities on painting -- say that one of the very best times to do interior painting is just before moving into a new home.  Here are six reasons why, according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute:

Reason #1.  It’s easy now.  Interior painting is a very simple project – and not at all physically demanding -- when you can move freely within a room.  Why wait till later when you may have to move heavy furniture from side to side, or work around big items, to do your painting?

Reason #2.  It saves time.  Painting can take a lot longer when you have to cover and uncover things, move them back and forth, and take down and re-hang artwork.  It’s better to paint just before moving and short-circuit these time-consuming and unproductive steps.

Reason #3.  It can save you money – lots of it.  If you’re using a professional painting contractor, he or she can complete the work far faster in rooms that are empty.  That’s extremely important, since time charges for labor typically account for 80 percent of the cost of painting, according to Zimmer.  “Bottom line:  Calling in a contractor before moving into a home can drastically lower the cost of painting the space,” she says.

Reason #4.  It safeguards your furnishings.  No matter how carefully you or your contractor work, there is always the chance of a paint spill, or a few stray flecks finding their way onto a prized possession.  Painting before bringing in your furnishings keeps these items out of harm’s way.

Reason #5.  It can simplify interior decorating.  Don’t yet have your furnishings?  There’s no better way to set the stage for your décor than by adding a fresh paint color scheme before decorating.  Doing so greatly simplifies the selection of new furniture, carpeting, and accents, allowing you to choose just the right tints, tones, and shades to make your new home picture perfect.

Reason #6.  It feels good.  Adding a new coat of paint makes any home seem cleaner, fresher, more welcoming, and best of all...more “yours”.  To keep your paint job looking great, Zimmer recommends the use of top quality, 100-percent acrylic latex paint;  it will produce a more stain resistant finish that will look new-home fresh for years to come.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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32 Percent of Men Overwhelmed by Wedding Planning

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

June is the height of wedding season and brides coast to coast are sure to be obsessing about every detail, from the centerpieces to the guest list. However, recent Mintel research found that men are becoming just as flustered as women, with 32 percent of men saying that planning a wedding is overwhelming, compared to 42 percent of women reporting as much.

Fiona O'Donnell, lifestyle and leisure analyst at Mintel says:

"As grooms take on a more active role in wedding planning, it's understandable that their stress level surrounding these decisions will escalate. They aren't exactly 'groom-zillas,' but they are feeling the pressure. The implication for industry players is to acknowledge the groom's role in wedding planning and help him feel more at ease and less overwhelmed by the whole process. There are numerous planning tools marketed to brides, but opportunities exist to engage men."

It also seems that men might be taking a more active role in planning, as 39 percent of men reported that they were solely/mostly responsible for picking the ceremony site and a surprising 19 percent said they were solely or mostly responsible for choosing the bride's wedding dress. Meanwhile, a quarter (25 percent) were solely/mostly responsible for picking the bridal party gifts.

"Women are still the primary wedding planners, but the bottom line is that the groom is a key consumer for industry players to consider when developing marketing strategies—particularly in regard to groom and wedding party attire, food or catering, music, ceremony site, and reception venue. The groom is still somewhat an untapped target in the wedding market. Forward-thinking innovators will recognize the increasing influence the groom has in the wedding planning process and seek to connect with him in unique ways," concludes O’Donnell.

When it comes to the big day, what do couples think is the most important aspect? Forty-six percent of men, compared to 36 percent of women said the ceremony site was the most important, followed by the wedding dress (12 percent of men vs. 30 percent of women) and the reception venue (15 percent of men vs. 13 percent of women).

Source: Mintel

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top Five Mosquito Facts

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Just as temperatures are beginning to climb, pest control leader Orkin reports that customer calls about mosquitoes have increased. Last year had the highest number of West Nile Virus disease cases reported since 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reported 80 percent of the 5,387 total cases were from 13 states. The experts at Orkin have listed five mosquito facts to help protect you and your family.

1. Even though you do not necessarily see standing water around your property, there could still be a variety of places where mosquitoes can breed.
There are probably several unexpected mosquito breeding areas around your property. Besides emptying water out of flower pots, bird baths and old tires, make sure to clean gutters and downspouts regularly or cover with mesh to prevent leaves and debris from collecting and holding water. Children's toys and playground equipment can have small crevices where water can collect. A few other odd places where water can collect include your car, landscape statues, rain gauge, garden hoses and even large plant leaves. If a full plastic garbage bag sits in the rain, it can develop a small pocket where water can collect. Remember, it only takes about a cup of water for mosquitoes to breed. Just because your yard may be free of standing water, it does not mean your neighbor's yard is, too.

2. The typical mosquito season runs from April through October.
Mosquito season can start as early as April, depending on which area of the country you are. Breeding season is usually July through September, while peak West Nile Virus season is usually not until late August through early September or even October in some areas. Temperatures need to be around freezing before mosquitoes will start to die off for the winter.

3. Mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in water, but eggs can survive in wet dirt.
Most mosquito species prefer to lay eggs at the edge of water bodies against mulch, grass, foliage or refuse that will hold the eggs at the surface of the water. If the water evaporates – or you pour it out – before the eggs develop, which usually takes about seven to 10 days, the eggs will not develop completely into adults, and they will die. If water is not present but the ground is moist, those eggs can sit for months until there is enough water to float the eggs to develop and feed the larva.

4. There is no telling what this year's mosquito population will be or how severe the nation's West Nile Virus outbreak will get.
Winter of 2012 was abnormally mild, and, along with last summer's record-breaking temperatures across some areas of the country, mosquitoes were able to thrive. This past winter saw more seasonal temperatures, depending on which area of the country you reside. Other factors to take into consideration are droughts and hurricanes. Even a little bit of water from a thunderstorm, washing your car or watering your lawn can be enough to encourage mosquito breeding. Strong winds from hurricanes can displace mosquitoes, including those that carry West Nile Virus. The virus is carried in and transmitted by birds, and wind can also move birds to different areas.

5. Most mosquito species are only active during dusk and dawn.
There are more than 3,000 mosquito species throughout the world, and about 200 of those exist in North America. Prime mosquito biting hours are between dusk and dawn, but some species are active during the day.

Orkin experts also recommend people take the following precautions to protect themselves:
• Wear EPA-approved insect repellent along with long sleeve shirts and long pants.
• Stay indoors during dusk and dawn and an hour before and after dusk and dawn.
• Protect your yard; call a professional pest control company for a customized mosquito inspection and treatment program.
• Replace outdoor light bulbs with yellow bulbs that are less attractive to mosquitoes.

Source: Orkin

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Seven Tips on Successfully Buying Your Dream House

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

1. Be preapproved: About three or four months before homebuyers even shop for a home, they should review their credit reports to make sure they're accurate and take short-term steps to improve their credit score, says Michael Corbett, author of “Before You Buy!” Corbett says buyers should then get a bank's preapproval. While that won't guarantee they'll get the loan, it shows sellers that a lender has verified the buyer's income and credit score to determine that he or she can afford payments on a mortgage for a certain amount.

2. Don't lowball: Buyers may only get one chance to get the home they want in a competitive market. They may not get a second try to sweeten the deal later, so a low-ball offer the first time around could cause them to lose out. Buyers should use sales prices of comparable properties in the neighborhood to submit their best offer the first time around.

3. Consider an escalator clause: These purchase contract clauses are becoming more popular again. This is when the buyer agrees to increase their offer if there's a higher bid from another buyer.

4. Add earnest money: The extra deposit can show sellers how serious the buyer is. Some buyers may even double the amount that the seller requests to show their commitment in purchasing the home.

5. Keep contingencies to a minimum: Sellers prefer no contingencies, but buyers want to protect their interests too. "Offset a financing contingency with preapproval and a strong earnest money deposit," Kiplinger's Personal Finance reports. "If you have enough cash, temper an appraisal contingency by assuring sellers that if the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, you'll pay the difference or split it with them (up to a certain amount)."

6. Write a letter: Personal love letters about the home addressed to the sellers are winning over some hearts lately. The letters tell the seller about the buyer and what drew the buyer to the home.

7. Give the gift of time: Express your willingness to work with the sellers' timetable to go to closing. If the sellers want to remain in the home for a while after closing, offer them a "lease back" or "rent back," which means that you will be their temporary landlord. This is a legal arrangement, and you'll need to work out the details with your agents and be sure that the sellers keep their homeowners insurance during their stay. If you are bidding on a short sale, make clear to the sellers that you are patient and can wait for the bank's decision .

Tanya Marchiol has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business News & Wall Street Journal is Author of the new book "The Prosperity Principles." In 2013, Arizona Business Magazine named Marchiol "Realtor Of The Year."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Packing Tips for Summer Moves

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

(BPT) - Let's face it - moving is hard. Along with the stress of leaving a familiar place and adapting to new surroundings, moving means packing, loading, transporting, unloading and unpacking everything you own - as well as everything you forgot you owned.

While relocation may never be completely carefree, there are ways to ease the anxiety. A well-thought-out approach to boxing up belongings can help simplify the moving process and bring you one step closer to making your new house a home.

Box it up. To be prepared for packing, seek out a large quantity of clean, sturdy containers in a variety of shapes and sizes. When selecting boxes, you may choose to purchase new ones, helping to ensure they can withstand the rigors of moving. You can also purchase dividers, which come in handy for packing glasses and other small, fragile items. No matter what you are using, remember not to over-pack. As a general rule, heavier items should be placed into smaller boxes to avoid too much strain on the box (and your back).

Leave it. The easiest packing is no packing at all. Moving is the perfect time to clear the clutter out of your life. Before boxing up your belongings, decide what to keep. Clothing and housewares in good shape can be donated, and broken or unused old items can be tossed or given to someone who can repurpose them.

Mind the supplies. The right tools can go a long way toward easing the moving process. Pick up plenty of quality wrapping material, like Bubble Wrap Brand cushioning, as well as strong packaging tape to help make boxing up your belongings a painless process. Don't get caught up in common frustrations that cause stress and waste time, such as tape that constantly tears or splits or struggling to find the tape end. Choose a quality tape, like Duck brand EZ Start packaging tape (packagingtape.com), for your moving needs; the brand's Frustration Free special release technology ensures that you never lose the tape end.

Organize and prioritize. Pack from room to room and label boxes based on box contents, where boxes will be unpacked in the new location and priority. EZ Start packaging tape provides a solution here, too - with different prints to choose from, boxes can be organized and prioritized according to the particular design used.

Get help. Be organized to help the entire moving day run smoothly, so that your volunteers aren't waiting around for a job to do. Providing tasty snacks and drinks is a thoughtful way to say thank you, as are gift cards for coffee, movie theaters or their favorite stores.

Pack a survival kit. Moving can be exhausting, and an all-day move may not wrap up until late in the evening. Don't spend your first night in your new home unpacking. Instead, pack a survival kit or an "Open Me First" box with essentials to get you through that first night. Make sure to include some fun items, such as your favorite movie or a batch of brownies, to reward yourself for a hard day's work.

Moving day may never rival a beach vacation, but these simple tips can make it a lot less stressful and help you enjoy your new home faster and easier.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Avoid AC Repair This Summer

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

Continuously running an air conditioning unit during the summer can send homeowners calling for AC repair. Take the following advice to prevent your unit from getting overworked:

One of the most common problems is a poor refrigerant charge. A home that has a unit that is constantly running, but isn't getting cool may have a refrigerant problem.

The power source should always be checked first if a unit stops working. Check to be sure the thermostat is on the correct setting and the unit is properly plugged in. If those are correct, check the fuse box to be sure a switch has not been flipped.

Lack of maintenance on the homeowner's part can also lead to repair. Homeowners should properly change air filters, clean the system and maintain regular check-ups to maintain a unit's efficiency. Yearly maintenance appointments should also be scheduled with a licensed technician.

"Homeowners should clean the air conditioner periodically, as well," says Phil Montgomery, owner of Atlanta Heating and Air Conditioning. "Using a garden hose, a homeowner can spray down the coils, and then use an air conditioning cleaner on them. Homeowners should be sure to follow all directions on the cleaning solution and thoroughly rinse the coils after cleaning them. The unit should be allowed to dry thoroughly before being used."

Locate the unit's drain outside and use a wet/dry vacuum to clean the drain of any debris. Be sure the drain has a cap that covers it to keep debris out of it. Remove any twigs, grass, or other debris that might have entered the outside unit. Homeowners should periodically clean the outside unit to maintain maximum efficiency.

Source: Atlanta Heating and Air Conditioning

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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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