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

My Blog

Mortgage Rates Calm Further

July 31, 2013 5:22 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates easing for the second consecutive week helping to alleviate concerns over a slowdown in the housing market and amid recent strong homes sales data for June.

Highlights include:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.31 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending July 25, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.37 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.49 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.39 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.41 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.80 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.16 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.17 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.65 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.66 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.71 percent.

"Mortgage rates eased for the second consecutive week, which should help to alleviate market concerns of a slowdown in the housing market,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Thus far, existing home sales for June were the second highest since November 2009 and new home sales were the strongest since May 2008.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Renters Thinking More about Owning a Home

July 31, 2013 5:22 am

Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future, according to a survey by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey also found that renters are thinking more about purchasing a home now than in past years, while the number of people who say they prefer to rent has declined.

“Homeownership matters to Americans who consistently realize the many benefits it provides to communities, families and the nation’s economy,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “Due to high housing affordability and today’s interest rates it makes sense for people to consider homeownership over renting. In fact, in many parts of the country it’s cheaper to own a home than to rent one. Therefore, it’s no surprise that renters recognize that owning a home offers tremendous long-term benefits and is an investment in their future.”

The survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing opportunities, found eight in 10 Americans believe buying a home is a good financial decision and more than two-thirds (68 percent) said now is a good time to buy a home. Since the last survey in 2011, more renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, up from 25 percent to 36 percent, while those who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31 percent to 25 percent. Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up from 42 percent to 51 percent.

Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) identified an increase in activity within their local housing market in the past year, compared to just 22 percent who reported a slowdown in activity. By contrast, in 2011, some 51 percent reported a slowdown in activity. There was also less concern than in the past about the drop in home values; a majority said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.

In addition to these improved attitudes about the housing market, respondents also showed an improved outlook about the national economy. Just under half (48 percent) said job layoffs and unemployment are a big problem, down from 61 percent in 2011. The concern over foreclosures showed a steep decline from 2011 when 47 percent characterized distressed properties as “very” or a “fairly big problem”; today only 29 percent say it’s a problem.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Three R's for Back to School: Research, Reuse, Revisit

July 31, 2013 5:22 am

With families preparing for the back-to-school season and the frenzied shopping sessions that come along with it, Goodwill Industries International is asking parents and students to shop responsibly. In 2010, Goodwill launched the Donate Movement, which asks consumers to think about how donations and shopping for used goods can make a difference to communities and the planet. At Goodwill, donated goods and their resale are transformed into job training and placement programs that help millions of people annually. With that in mind, Goodwill asks families to consider the Three R’s of the back-to-school season.

1. Research: Instead of approaching the back-to-school season with a last-minute dash for the mall, kids and parents can use it as an opportunity to learn about conscientious shopping. At the Donate Movement website (donate.goodwill.org), anyone can easily find out the impact their used goods can have by entering donations into the patent-pending Donation Impact Calculator. For example, three pairs of gently used jeans provide 31 minutes of career counseling. Students can also read exactly how these career counseling classes have helped job seekers in their communities. Parents can enter their zip codes on the site to find out how and where to donate.

2. Reuse:
Young people can make an impact during the back-to-school season in three ways. First, they can make room in their closets, bedrooms and backpacks by donating gently used clothing and household items to Goodwill. Second, they can purchase donated items for school so that the value of what they buy will go directly into helping their communities. Third, they can hold donation drives at their local school once the school season starts. Young shoppers can find everything from clothes and school supplies to books, electronics and sports equipment at their local Goodwill stores.

3. Revisit: With families now spending more than ever before on back-to-school shopping, it can certainly help to put off some purchases until later in the year. By returning to Goodwill throughout the school year, parents can make sure they're only buying items they really need. Returning later also means they can likely find some must-have back-to-school items at deeply discounted prices in just a few months. Throughout the year, families can revisit the Donate Movement site to learn how their donated goods are having an impact, and return to Goodwill to drop off used items and find new ones.

"The back-to-school season can be a stressful time for families," said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. "By approaching it as a fun opportunity to learn about the power of donating and to find ways to strengthen our community, children and parents alike can get everything they need for school while knowing they're doing good by helping others."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Back to School Survey Finds School Boundaries Play Major Role in Home Buying Decisions

July 30, 2013 2:42 am

Realtor.com® announced the results of its Back to School survey, which analyzed how much impact school boundaries have on buyers looking to purchase a home within two years. It was found that three out of five homebuyers surveyed said school boundaries will impact their home purchasing decision.

Findings:
A majority of homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact are willing to pay one percent to 10 percent above budget to live within school boundaries:

• 23.59 percent would pay one percent to five percent above budget.
• 20.70 percent would pay six percent to 10 percent above budget.
• 8.98 percent would pay 11 percent to 20 percent above budget.
• 40.33 percent would not go above budget.

For those homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact on their decision, the majority indicated school boundaries will be an important consideration:

• 90.53 percent said school boundaries are "important" and "somewhat important."
• 2.04 percent were "neutral" around importance of school boundaries.
• 7.43 percent said school boundaries are "unimportant" and "very unimportant."

Homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact on their decision also indicated that they would give up several amenities to live within school boundaries of choice:

• 62.39 percent would do without a pool or spa.
• 50.60 percent would give up accessibility to shopping.
• 43.96 percent would pass on a bonus room.
• 41.99 percent would offer up nearby parks and trails.

Homebuyers indicated that they would like to be within a certain distance of school boundaries:

• 45.19 percent want to live within school boundaries.
• 33.67 percent want to live within a few miles so their children can ride the school bus.
• 17.20 percent want to live within a mile so their children can walk to school.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Keep Children Safe When the Babysitter's Behind the Wheel

July 30, 2013 2:42 am

For some parents, just leaving the kids with a babysitter or nanny can be a nerve-racking experience. But it can be several times more distressing when the babysitter is also responsible for chauffeuring the kids around town. Edmunds.com suggests several steps parents can take to ensure their children's safety while they're in the care – and cars – of others.

"First and foremost, parents should check to make sure the caretaker has a valid driver's license and a solid driving record," says Edmunds.com Consumer Advice Editor Carroll Lachnit. "Be on the lookout for reckless-driving citations, cell phone tickets, excessive speeding and, of course, driving while intoxicated. And don't discount even smaller traffic violations. No red flag is too small when the safety of your children is at stake."

More top tips that every parent should follow include:

1. Check the babysitter's references. There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing other parents in your community have relied on the babysitter to drive their children around.

2. Decide what car the babysitter will drive. It's ideal to lend your own vehicle so you'll be able to make sure that it is in good condition and has all of the features needed to keep your little ones safe. If that's not an option, have a trusted mechanic check out the nanny's car.

3. Install child safety seats. The car that your sitter will use should have appropriate child safety seats that are properly installed for each child who needs them.

4. Sign up the sitter for a defensive driving class. Some nanny agencies require this already. But if you're not going through an agency, or your sitter hasn't taken a class, your insurance agent can help you track one down or you can find a class through your local DMV.

5. Use technology to keep tabs. Parents can install diagnostics trackers that monitor the car's speed, location and performance. Apps and other technology can also be installed to restrict the driver's smartphone usage while the car is in use.

Source: Edmunds.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Save Money during a Road Trip

July 30, 2013 2:42 am

(BPT)—Whether you're driving across the country on your annual family road trip or taking a weekend to enjoy the open road, there are plenty of ways to save on the cost of fuel. Here are some easy tips that will help you save money at the pump and stretch the fuel in your gas tank.

Prepare your vehicle. Regular service can spot problems that reduce gas mileage, such as a broken thermostat, low transmission fluid or even something as simple as a dirty air filter.

Prepare yourself. Select a route ahead of time and study it to know exactly where you're going, and where you'll make stops. ExxonMobil's Fuel Finder app includes real-time maps, driving directions and station information for nearly 10,000 Exxon and Mobil retail locations across the continental U.S.

Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving - speeding, rapid acceleration and quick braking - wastes gas and can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Use cruise control to stick to the speed limit on long, straight highways. Wind resistance increases exponentially with speed and your car will work a lot harder the faster you go.

Avoid the heat. When possible, try to get on the road early in the morning or later in the evening as cooler temperatures set in. Not only will it help you save on air-conditioning expenses, but air that is cooler is denser and can actually increase power and mileage.

Follow these simple driving tips and you'll see more savings that you can enjoy on your summer vacation. Time to hit the road.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Liven Up Your Home with Color

July 29, 2013 2:40 am

Family Features—The summer months are all about color. From flowers in bloom to vibrant beach towels and colorful dresses, summer brings with it a multitude of hues.

If you feel that your home is in need of an update, adding a little pop of color can help. Start by thinking about the colors you want to add, where color can make the most impact and just how much you need to give your home a fresh look.

Here are a few tips to get you started on your adventure in color:

Explore Color. Begin by visiting your favorite clothing boutique, stopping into a paint store or flipping through home design magazines for inspiration. Choose the looks you are most drawn to or the colors that evoke a feeling of happiness or calmness. These colors reflect your personal style and will make you feel most comfortable in your home.

Start Small. After picking a color palette, don't go out and paint your whole house with it, start small. Just changing your accent pillows, throws, lampshades or accessories can make a big impact when you are introducing a new color. Remember to make sure the color flows well throughout the entire space, especially if your home has an open floor plan with rooms easily visible from one to another.

Accent with Artwork. Another easy way to bring color into your home is by updating artwork and wall decor. Simply moving artwork from one room to another can give your home a refreshed look. Adding some newly purchased pieces can also breathe new life into your home.

Be Brave. If you're ready to go all out with color, it's fine to make a dramatic change. The kitchen is a great place to go big with color and it's usually the gathering place in the home. To bring bold color in the kitchen, and to set the tone for your entire home, update your cabinetry.

"Colorful cabinetry can be a big commitment, but it also can set your kitchen apart in a sea of design sameness," says Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education at KraftMaid Cabinetry.

It can feel as though your home has been completely made over by adding just a few thoughtful touches with a few hints of color.

Source: www.KraftMaid.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Recognize and Understand Hidden Fees in Your 401(k)

July 29, 2013 2:40 am

You wouldn’t authorize a company to dive into your checking account at will to withdraw money for undisclosed “services rendered,” right? But according to financial advisor Philip Rousseaux, that’s exactly what many Americans are unwittingly doing.

“While a new law now requires disclosure of previously hidden fees applied to 401(k) plans, it’s up to you, or your financial advisor, to find and review that information and determine whether the fees are reasonable,” says Rousseaux, founder and president of Everest Wealth Management, Inc.

By some estimates, up to 90 percent of fees attached to retirement plans are hidden. As of July 1, 2012, the new Department of Labor rule requires all hidden fees attached to retirement plans and mutual funds be disclosed to employers and employees.

Rousseaux offers these tips for examining and understanding retirement plan fees:

• Trading fees: Trading fees apply to mutual funds, which generally comprise more than half of a 401(k). These previously undisclosed fees are brokerage commissions that are charged to the plan holder every time a fund is traded. The charge is a percentage of the fund’s value, usually ranging from less than 1 percent to less than 2 percent. In some cases, trading fees can double the cost of the transaction. “If your funds are being frequently traded, you may be spending quite a bit on trading fees – in addition to the other fees associated with managing the fund,” Rousseaux says. “If you can’t determine whether the trading fees are reasonable, you should consult with an independent financial advisor.”

• Revenue sharing: These fees occur when mutual funds and other plan providers pay a third party for administrative services such as record-keeping, which the fund is expected to perform. These may be labeled “sub-transfer,” “agent/sub-TA” or “shareholder servicing” and they’re built into the plan’s expense ratio, so it’s not a double charge. Again, the idea is to review these charges and ensure they seem reasonable.

• 12 b-1 fees: This term – named for the section in the regulation that allows for it – applies to marketing and distribution costs. They’re generally paid as commissions to brokers who service retirement plans and they also may be paid to non-investment professionals such as record keepers or insurance companies. Most mutual funds have share classes that provide for varying revenue amounts from 12b-1 fees. Brokers and record-keepers have an incentive to use funds with 12b-1 fees and to share classes with higher 12b-1 fees because they make more money.

Rousseaux notes that it’s also important to look at the expense ratio for your plan, which should now be stated in dollars under terms of the new Labor Department regulation.

“Generally, the lower the ratio, the bigger the fund will grow,” he says.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Budget for Baby

July 29, 2013 2:40 am

Is the buzz about the royal baby giving you some serious baby fever? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child until the age of 18 is $234,900 — a number large enough to make anyone feel as though they would have to be royalty in order to afford a baby.

Luckily, for those considering parenthood for the first time, there are steps you can take beforehand to help ensure you are financially prepared for that bundle of joy. The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI), a nonprofit credit counseling agency, offer the following five tips:

Take control of your debt — now. If you have credit card debt, now is the time to create a solid debt repayment plan. You'll be surprised at the amount of money you can save once those monthly payments are out of the picture. To explore debt repayment options that offer a reasonable payoff time and the potential for lower interest rates, call a nonprofit credit counselor and register for a free debt and budget counseling session.

Explore your health coverage options. Checkups alone for baby can cost more than $100 per visit. You may also want to explore adding long-term disability and life insurance coverage to your existing healthcare plan. Consider reviewing your maternity or paternity leave policies at your workplace.

Know your options. Daycare is one of the largest added expenses that a new baby brings. Considering your childcare options is an important first step. According to a recent study by ChildCare Aware of America, childcare costs for an infant can average more than $300 per week.

Practice living on a "baby budget." If you are planning to live on one salary, start now. This will give you an opportunity to make the necessary lifestyle changes and cutbacks before your bundle of joy arrives, making for a much easier financial transition.

Get tips from the experts — other moms! No one can give you better advice than people who have been through the experience themselves. So ask your friends and family to share their advice or find a local or online support group for parents.

Source: Money Management International

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Smoke and Spice Takes Summer Grilling to New Heights

July 26, 2013 12:18 pm

(Family Features) This summer, think inside the box – the smoke box, that is – and turn your grill into a backyard smoker by adding wood chips to impart flavorful depth to meats, seafood and vegetables. Pairing the right spice with the right wood quickly turns an ordinary cookout into an extraordinarily tasty outdoor feast.

“When you combine different spices and seasonings with various types of wood, you can add distinctive layers of flavor to all kinds of grilled foods,” said Chef Kevan Vetter. “If you’re grilling fish – like salmon, for example – a great way to give the meal a unique, smoky flavor is to use pecan or mesquite wood chips. Then add a complementary seasoning.”

Serve up this spicy, smoky recipe for Five Pepper Salmon, which pairs perfectly with a grilled corn succotash.

Five Pepper Salmon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

1 cup pecan or mesquite wood chips
4 teaspoons McCormick Grill Mates Fiery 5 Pepper Seasoning
4 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds of salmon fillets
Olive oil

Soak wood chips in enough water to cover for 1 hour. Drain wood chips. Fill smoker box with wet wood chips. Place smoker box under grill rack on one side of grill. Close lid. Heat grill on high heat about 10 minutes until smoke appears from chips. Reduce heat to medium.

Mix seasoning and sugar in small bowl. Brush salmon lightly with oil. Rub generously with seasoning mixture.

Place salmon on grill. Close lid. Grill salmon 6 to 7 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Source: McCormick

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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