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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Home Price Index Rises by Almost 10 Percent Year Over Year in January

March 7, 2013 2:58 am

CoreLogic® recently released its January CoreLogic HPI® report. Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 9.7 percent in January 2013 compared to January 2012. This change represents the biggest increase since April 2006 and the eleventh consecutive monthly increase in home prices nationally. On a month-over-month basis, including distressed sales, home prices increased by 0.7 percent in January 2013 compared to December 2012.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices increased on a year-over-year basis by 9.0 percent in January 2013 compared to January 2012. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, home prices increased 1.8 percent in January 2013 compared to December 2012. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.

The CoreLogic Pending HPI indicates that February 2013 home prices, including distressed sales, are expected to rise by 9.7 percent on a year-over-year basis from February 2012 and fall by 0.3 percent on a month-over-month basis from January 2013, reflecting a seasonal winter slowdown. Excluding distressed sales, February 2013 home prices are poised to rise 11.3 percent year over year from February 2012 and by 1.8 percent month over month from January 2013. The CoreLogic Pending HPI is a proprietary and exclusive metric that provides the most current indication of trends in home prices. It is based on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data that measure price changes for the most recent month.

“The HPI showed strong growth during the typically slow winter season,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “With these gains, the housing market is poised to enter the spring selling season on sound footing. The improvements are materializing across the country, with all but Delaware and Illinois showing increasing HPI and 15 states within 10 percent of their peak values.”

“Home prices continued to gather steam across a broad swath of the country in January, continuing the positive trend we saw during most of 2012,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Many states across the western U.S. and along the East Coast saw average price gains of more than 6 percent, which is likely to boost home sale activity into the first half of 2013.”

Highlights as of January 2013:

• Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were: Arizona (+20.1 percent), Nevada (+17.4 percent), Idaho (+14.9 percent), California (+14.1 percent) and Hawaii (+14.0 percent).

• Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest home price appreciation were: Nevada (+17.5 percent), Arizona (+16.5 percent), California (+14.5 percent), Hawaii (+13.9 percent) and Idaho (+13.2 percent).

• Excluding distressed sales, no states posted home price depreciation in January.

• Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April 2006 to January 2013) was -26.4 percent. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -19.9 percent.

• The five states with the largest peak-to-current declines, including distressed transactions, were Nevada (-51.6 percent), Florida (-43.0 percent), Arizona (-38.9 percent), Michigan (-37.4 percent) and Rhode Island (-35.5 percent).

• Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 92 are showing year-over-year increases in January, up from 87 in December.

Source: CoreLogic

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Making the Case against Receiving a Federal Income Tax Refund

March 6, 2013 2:56 am

Millions of Americans celebrate receiving an income tax refund each year. Many of these same people live each month under the burden of financial hardship, struggling to make ends meet, often falling behind on living expenses and debt obligations.

The February poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that a significant majority of respondents, 58 percent, intentionally plan to always receive an income tax refund, unnecessarily allowing Uncle Sam the use of their hard-earned money, only to have it returned to them without benefit of interest.

“Not only is the American taxpayer self-inflicting financial pain, they are doing so with intentionality,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “It boils down to a simple choice of determining if it’s more important to have extra money in their pocket each month or once per year.”

The average income tax refund in recent years has been in the $3,000 range, or approximately $250 per month. For many people, that amount can mean the difference between financial solvency and financial distress, yet they continue to have too much money deducted from their paycheck month after month. Further, although well-meaning, many who receive the refund don’t spend it wisely, and even for those who do, once the money is gone, the cycle of struggling to responsibly pay monthly bills begins all over again.

Many consumers argue in favor of an income tax refund saying that it is a forced savings. That is correct, but there is a better way to save. The NFCC advises consumers to implement the following three-step program when they receive this year’s refund:

1. Put this year’s refund into an interest bearing savings account. Upon receipt of the refund, seize the opportunity to establish an emergency savings account. This will protect against the financial unknown and create a position of financial stability.

2. Adjust W-4 withholding allowances. Although receiving a refund is not a good idea, no one wants to end up owing the government, either. To determine the correct number of withholding allowances, use the worksheet at www.IRS.gov, then submit the revised form to your employer. Know that changes such as the birth of a child, a death, or divorce may impact the number of necessary deductions, thus requiring further revisions. An adjusted form may be submitted at any time during the year.

3. Responsibly allocate additional monthly income as appropriate. Now that the money that was going to the government is coming to the consumer in the form of a larger paycheck, it is his or her responsibility to make smart decisions regarding how to spend it. Make it a priority to keep living expenses, the rent or mortgage, utilities, and insurance premiums current. The next most important payment is any secured loan, for instance a vehicle payment, followed by unsecured debt such as credit cards. If the savings account has been tapped, replenish it. This system stops the dependency on an income tax refund, establishes savings, and provides additional money each month in order to remain financially stable.

“Since worker’s paychecks are smaller this year due to the Social Security deduction having been increased to its former level, it becomes even more critical that consumers find ways to increase their disposable income. For those receiving a refund, adjusting withholding allowances is an easy and effective way to put more money into their pockets each month,” continued Cunningham.

The actual poll question and answer choices are below:

Regarding income tax refunds:

A. I intentionally plan to always receive a refund each year = 58%
B. I intentionally plan to never receive a refund = 29%
C. I have not given it any thought = 13%

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Hire a Reliable Basement Waterproofing Contractor

March 6, 2013 2:56 am

Though the U.S census Bureau indicates more than 25 percent of homeowners with basements are burdened with chronic basement moisture or flooding, that's no reason to feel downhearted.

"The ground is very porous now because warmer weather is thawing the frost from the ground. Basements are becoming ripe for leakage at this time of the year," says Steve Rivette, a seasoned waterproofing contractor. These problems can be taken care of by an experienced waterproofing contractor. Take these tips to help you select a reliable waterproofer:

• Check with the Better Business Bureau, chamber of commerce, state attorney general's office, county clerk and consumer advocate organizations for information about waterproofing firms.

• Ask each firm to provide a lengthy list of references and speak with several previous customers. Don't settle for one or two pre selected names. Ask for references in your own community or surrounding neighborhood.

• Carefully examine each firm's guarantee or warranty. Are there hidden costs for repair? Does the warranty last for the lifetime of the home? Is it transferable to a new owner? Is a clearly written, understandable guarantee or warranty provided?

• Be wary of a sales person who changes a warranty to close a sale. Those revisions may not be honored by the company.

• Make sure any long-term guarantee can be honored. The best protection is offered by a large company with a long term history of success. The home office should stand behind the work, not merely a sub-contractor hired by the firm.

• Beware of any contractor promising a final cost estimate over the phone. The actual cost will always depend on the size of your basement and the scope of the problem.

• Review the credentials of each company. Is waterproofing its primary business? Does the company provide waterproofing services throughout the year? Verify that the companies providing the bid will also perform the work themselves and will not hire sub-contractors. A sub-contractor can jeopardize the validity of the warranty.

Finding dependable basement contractors can be accomplished by following these easy steps.

Source: B-Dry Owners Association

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Demand for Green Building Materials to Reach 86.6 Billion Dollars in 2017

March 6, 2013 2:56 am

Through 2017, a rebound in construction activity will propel growth in green building materials demand 11 percent annually to $86.6 billion. In addition to the lift supplied by general construction activity, continuing consumer interest in environmentally friendly products will increase the market share of most green building materials relative to non-green alternatives. Growth in residential construction will promote base demand for such products as carpeting, gypsum board, concrete, and metal building products, while products that contribute to the earning of LEED certification will see an additional boost in sales. These and other trends, including market share and product segmentation, are presented in Green Building Materials, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

The forecast period, builders and architects will increasingly opt to earn high levels of LEED certification by specifying the use of materials that earn LEED points. Residential HVAC systems, concrete made with fly ash, and lumber harvested in a sustainable manner can all contribute to LEED certification, and all are forecast to see above-average gains in demand.

Solar power products saw explosive growth between 2002 and 2012, driven by increasing installation of rooftop-based solar power modules connected to electricity distribution systems. Going forward, favorable tax incentives and strong interest in the use of renewable energy sources will promote demand for LEED-eligible solar power products.

Green building products such as recycled concrete, ENERGY STAR-compliant HVAC systems, and permeable pavement are forecast to see substantial gains through 2017. Recycled concrete will see rising use, as concrete made with fly ash and other additives features superior performance properties and is less costly than concrete made solely from cement and aggregates. Demand for green building systems will be spurred by strong residential demand for ENERGY STAR-compliant HVAC systems that lower utility bills. Permeable pavement demand will be supported by interest in reducing water runoff and minimizing strains on older sewer and water systems.

Source: The Freedonia Group

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Winter an Active Time for Interior Painting

March 5, 2013 2:52 am

Winter weather and higher precipitation bring to a halt many types of home improvement. But as the colder weather drives homeowners indoors, one project picks up steam: interior painting.

“Free from the demands of outdoor chores and the distraction of outdoor activities, many homeowners turn their attention to indoor projects, with painting as a popular undertaking,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute.

It makes sense that interior painting sits atop the winter to-do list. New Year’s resolutions often include not just steps to improve oneself, but also one’s home. To that end, interior painting is a simple and inexpensive way to enhance a room or an entire home that can be accomplished even by an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer.

If you’re one of the many who are planning to do some interior painting this winter, Zimmer offers some suggestions on getting the best results:

Properly prepare surfaces by removing dirt and grime before starting to paint. This can be done by washing walls and woodwork with a detergent-water solution, rinsing the surfaces clean, and allowing them to dry. Repair cracks, holes and surface imperfections with spackling compound, and apply stain-blocking primer to any areas that have water stains or other serious discoloration.

Use the best quality paint. Top quality 100 percent acrylic latex paints resist spattering, tend to conceal brush marks, and do a better job of hiding the color underneath. They also are tougher and more durable, with better long-term resistance to fading, yellowing, and staining.

Work with high quality brushes and rollers. Better quality applicators apply the paint more evenly and make painting more effortless. The best brushes tend to be well balanced and springy, with tightly packed bristles (these will hold a lot of paint). When applying latex water-based paints, use brushes and rollers made with synthetic bristles and covers – they’ll maintain their shape regardless of the amount of water they’re exposed to.

Follow these simple tips and your indoor painting project will produce results that you’ll be happy with not just this winter, but for a long time to come.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

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How Do I Sell My Timeshare? 5 Top Tips

March 5, 2013 2:52 am

If you're looking to sell a timeshare or vacation ownership, make the right decision when it comes to putting your property up for sale. Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind when you're trying to sell.

How many years of experience does the company you've chosen to list with have within the resale sector?

This is one of the most important factors when choosing a company to help you with the sale of your ownership. Companies with many years of expertise within the resale sector are always the best companies to deal with. If they have been selling timeshares for longer than a decade, then they must have a tried and tested method for finding timeshare buyers for ownerships worldwide.

Make sure the company is fully compliant with governmental law.

There are many companies out there to choose from, however, very few comply with the strict timeshare laws put it place by their respective governments. Some companies will state they are members of certain industry governing bodies; however, this is not enough in some cases. Make sure that the company's paperwork complies with National and International law in the areas they are trading from.

Place your ownership where buyers are looking.

This may seem a logical thing to do, however, too many owners pay for marketing and do not get any exposure whatsoever. This can be checked very easily by searching Google.com for relevant terms pertaining to your ownership i.e., "timeshare resales at Marriott Son Antem." Always check results on Google as this gives the widest search, greatest traffic and best possible chance of selling.

Beware of Exit Programs!

Over the last few years, many exit companies have sprung up offering owners the chance to alleviate their on going worldwide timeshare membership for an initial cost. This gives owners expectations of removing themselves from their ongoing yearly commitments and the impression that they will not receive any further maintenance bills. Sadly, in most cases, this is not the case.

Pricing your ownership to sell.

When pricing your ownership to sell, be realistic with the timeshare resale value. There are many companies within the industry that will over-value your ownership. If you over-value your ownership, it doesn't matter how many potential clients see it for sale, no one will enquire.

Source: Visions of the World Ltd

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Spring Cleaning: Time to Rid your Home of Potential Dangers

March 5, 2013 2:52 am

It's almost time to start your spring cleaning! In addition to de-cluttering and cleaning your home this spring, make safety a priority and rid your home of potential hazards. The Window Covering Safety Council wants to help you keep your little ones safe this season.

While some safety measures are routine, there are some potential dangers that you may be overlooking that can be dangerous for young children. You can help prevent unintentional household injuries by taking these simple measures to reduce danger in your home:

Always keep cribs and other low-standing furniture away from windows.

Secure all bookcases, shelving and heavy furniture. Place heavier items on lower shelves and in bottom drawers.

Many houseplants are poisonous, and pots are heavy, so keep them out of reach of little hands.

Keep children away from areas you are cleaning and open windows to ventilate the room.

Safely store house cleaners, detergents and poisons out of reach of children.

Replace older window coverings with today's safer, cordless products. The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is urging parents to only use cordless window products in homes with young children. Make the right choice and use cordless products to keep your children safe year-round.

Source: Window Covering Safety Council

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Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Flavorful Green Treats

March 4, 2013 2:48 am

(Family Features) St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect occasion to have fun in the kitchen with the color and flavor of the holiday – vivid green and refreshing peppermint.

“Food color and extract can transform an ordinary cupcake or cookie into a festive delight, worthy of any St. Paddy’s party,” said Mary Beth Harrington of the McCormick Kitchens.

For a green twist on classic red velvet cupcakes, stir green food color into basic cake mix and add pure vanilla extract, sour cream and cocoa powder. Whip up minty green cream cheese frosting and decorate with green sprinkles or colored sugar to make them fun for kids of all ages.

Easy Green Velvet Cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Makes 24 servings

1 package (18 1/4 ounces) German chocolate cake mix with pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 bottle (1 ounce) Green Food Color
3 eggs
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1 container (16 ounces) cream cheese frosting or Vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
Green sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat cake mix, sour cream, water, cocoa powder, oil, food color, eggs and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed just until moistened, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes.

Pour batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Minty Green Cream Cheese Frosting:
Stir 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract and 1/2 teaspoon green food color into canned cream cheese frosting or Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened, 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar until smooth. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Source: McCormick

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How-To: Consolidate Debt and Credit

March 4, 2013 2:48 am

No one likes to be in debt. But if you find yourself falling behind, don’t throw in your financial towel just yet. Through careful consolidation, you can get back on track. Read the following tips for help.

A smart first step is for you to define your goals. You need a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how it will benefit you, in order to make the right debt consolidation choice.

Many different approaches exist to help you consolidate debt, so you need to do your homework. Only by weighing the pros and cons of each solution, can you know the best option for your situation. Think about which of the following goals is most important to you. Once you have chosen, you will know where to focus.

1. Improve Your Cash Flow: Reducing the size of your monthly payments frees up money you can use in a variety of ways.
2. Get Out of Debt as Fast as Possible: Becoming debt free allows you to focus on building wealth, establishing a rainy-day fund, or buying a home.
3. Protect Your Credit: You may need to weigh if it is worth harming your credit, in order to get out of debt faster.
4. Get Out of Debt at Lowest Total Cost: Reducing your overall costs to becoming debt free puts more money in your pocket to use for achieving other financial goals.
5. Reduce Your Debt Stress: Stress can come from fear of missing a monthly payment, repeated collection calls, or simply by the uncertainty of having no defined plan in place. Achieving greater peace of mind may be your primary goal.

Once you have a concrete goal in mind, get to work making it a reality. If need be, contact a professional for assistance.

Source: Bills.com

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No More Sick Days: Beat that Stomach Bug

March 4, 2013 2:48 am

As seasonal flu trends begin to decrease, cases of a fast-spreading stomach bug known as 'Norovirus' continue to spread across the country, creating serious complications for patients, and continued demand on health care organizations.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that can infect anyone, and can be spread by an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, leading to severe stomach pains, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Unlike seasonal influenza, there is no vaccine to prevent the spread of the Norovirus.

"Following this year's strong influenza season, the Norovirus has the potential to create greater complications in infants and the elderly, leading to severe dehydration," says Bill Lewis, M.D, senior vice president of Medical Operations at Concentra. "The easiest way to reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus is through thorough and frequent hand washing, and routine cleaning."

However there are some simple precautions each person can take to reduce the transmission of the virus, and stay healthy and safe:

• Wash your hands often – Wash your hands carefully with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and before eating, preparing, or handling food.
• Rinse fruits and vegetables before eating – Carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them.
• Cook foods thoroughly – Cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before eating them. Noroviruses are highly resistant, and can survive quick steaming processes and temperatures as high as 140 degrees F.
• Clean surfaces and wash laundry – Clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution or other disinfectant. Machine wash contaminated clothes or linens in warm or hot water.
• Don't prepare food for others when sick – Do not prepare food or attend to the health needs of others while you are sick, and for at least two to three days after you recover.
Noroviruses are the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States, and contribute to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths each year. Many may know it as the "stomach flu" or "food poisoning," but it is not related to the influenza virus and there is no vaccine to protect against the spread of the virus.

Source: www.Concentra.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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