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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3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Fuel-Efficiency

March 1, 2013 2:46 am

Need to save on gas or increase your fuel efficiency? Drivers are encouraged to continue following these three simple steps to improve their fuel efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.

Practicing EcoDriving produces the highest mileage from every single vehicle—regardless of size or age--and can reduce gas use and carbon emissions significantly by as much as 15 percent or more. Here are three easy EcoDriving tips that can help many consumers start driving green:

1. Turn the engine off when waiting at a curb to save more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour that would have been spent idling.

2. Tire pressure changes an average of one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in temperature, so maintaining proper tire pressure can improve gas mileage by about three percent. This can earn drivers a free tank of gas every year.

3. Avoid rapid starts and stops. This is not only safe, but it can save more than $1 per gallon, according to the U.S. EPA, while improving fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

Even when gas prices rise, green driving can always lessen the impact.

Source: EcoDrivingUSA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Bacon - The Next Health Craze?

March 1, 2013 2:46 am

Bacon has always been popular, but now it’s the standard by which many express affection with the ubiquitous online meme: I love you more than bacon.

It’s considered by many to be the ultimate food indulgence, but according to Dr. John Salerno, a protégé of “Atkins Diet” creator Dr. Robert Atkins, bacon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

“Many think of bacon as one of the guiltiest pleasures possible, but it has also been shown to alleviate the effects of diabetes, heart disease and strokes,” says Dr. Salerno, author of “The Silver Cloud Diet.” “Nitrate-free bacon is an excellent source of high protein, low-carbohydrate energy that helps to reset the metabolism, and it’s filled with amino acids delivered without the risk of dangerous levels of mercury, which can be found in many fish.”

Need more reasons to love bacon?

• It has a 4:1 ratio of protein to fat.
• It contains choline, which boosts memory and healthy brain function.
• It’s composed of monounsaturated fats, the kind that contains lots of healthy fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
• It’s a potent source of oleic acid and saturated fats, which help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), lower triglycerides, and raise HDL – commonly referred to as the good form of cholesterol.
Dr. Salerno says there are other indulgent-yet-healthy foods out there, including:

Butter: Butter contains the highest amount of butyric acid found in a natural food source. Butyric acid is recognized for its roles in cellular health, antioxidant protection and metabolic properties; it also increases energy and may prevent cancer. Butter derived from natural, grass-fed animals is recommended.

Barbecue: Add sauces and condiments and this American favorite will have more starch and sugar than Salerno recommends. But the main ingredient – meat – speaks to the heart of a low-carb, high-protein diet. Grass-fed hamburger meat and organic, hormone-free chicken provides the nutrients your body needs. Stay away from the buns, sugary condiments, sauces and marinades, and you can enjoy a healthy barbecue.

• Omelets: Eggs contain lots of cholesterol and saturated fats, which have been demonized throughout the latter half of the 20th century. Fortunately, we know there is such a thing as good cholesterol and fat. Packed with vitamins, minerals and one of the best-absorbed proteins we can feed our body, any negatives associated with eggs are far outweighed by the benefits. Natural, unprocessed cheeses and cream add to the nutritional value of an omelet.

• Chocolate ice cream: Ice cream made with organic egg yolks, heavy cream and a small amount of stevia herb for taste, instead of sugar, is actually a healthy dessert. Fats are fine, with the exception of trans fats, so long as dieters control their carbohydrate intake. Humankind did not evolve with the vast amount of foods today that contain complex carbs and hidden sugar. Our bodies are used to high amounts of natural fat and a limited amount of unprocessed carbs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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FHA Plays Vital Role for American Homeowners

March 1, 2013 2:46 am

Since the private mortgage market collapsed, the Federal Housing Administration has played a critical role by helping make mortgage insurance available to millions of qualified home buyers. That is exactly the way Congress designed the mortgage insurance fund to operate when it was established 80 years ago.

NAR President Gary Thomas testified before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that without the FHA, the housing downturn and economic recession would have been far worse for the nation.

"FHA helped fill the void over the past five years after private lending fled the market by providing safe, affordable access to mortgage credit to millions of Americans who wanted to purchase a home," said Thomas. "Had FHA not stepped in to fill the market gap, many families would have been unable to purchase homes, current homeowners would have experienced far greater drops in equity and their home's value, and our nation's economy would be much further from a recovery."

Thomas said FHA has always safely provided access to mortgage financing; it has never offered risky mortgage products, used predatory lending practices or engaged in exotic underwriting. However, like other holders of mortgage risk, FHA incurred great financial losses as a result of overall market conditions that led to increased foreclosures.

Thomas said that NAR is confident that FHA has already taken many of the necessary steps to help stabilize the fund as well as numerous administrative changes to mitigate risk. Those changes include five increases to mortgage insurance premiums since 2009, hiring a credit risk officer, implementing credit score floors, requiring higher down payments for borrowers with lower credit scores, and adopting a series of measures to increase lender responsibility and enforcement, he said.

"FHA currently has one of the strongest books on record and the quality of borrowers has skyrocketed; continued market improvements and rising home prices will also help improve the fund's future financial condition," said Thomas.

Thomas said NAR welcomes a time when FHA's market share is reduced to its more traditional levels of 10 to 15 percent of the market, and the private lending market is once again robust, but we are not there yet. Uncertainty about pending financial regulations and the future of the secondary mortgage market are keeping private lenders from returning to mortgage markets.

"Once the rules for mortgage finance are resolved and housing prices stabilize nationwide, we anticipate that private investors will return to the market and FHA's market share will return to more traditional levels," he said.

Thomas cautioned about making arbitrary changes to FHA, such as further increasing costs to consumers or limiting the use of the program to certain types of buyers, only for the sake of luring back private markets. While NAR supports changes that are vital to the solvency and strength of the FHA fund, actions to deliberately lower FHA's market share could disrupt the availability and affordability of mortgage credit and undermine the fragile real estate recovery.

"FHA continues to play a significant role in the housing market and recovery. We applaud them for their leadership and strength during the housing crisis, and for continuing to serve the needs of hardworking American families who wish to purchase a home," said Thomas.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Good Broadband a Factor for Nearly a Third When Choosing a Home

February 28, 2013 2:46 am

Access to a good broadband signal is an important factor when choosing to buy a home. Nearly one third (30 percent) of people surveyed said it is likely to affect their thinking on whether to buy a home in a particular area. And one fifth (20 percent) say they would be prepared to pay more for the same home if it had good broadband.

Paying a premium for broadband

Of those who would consider paying more for good broadband, 67 percent would pay up to 3 percent more for a property with a good broadband signal and 22 percent would pay between 4-10 percent more.
Younger people are more likely to say that a good broadband signal may affect their decision, with 40 percent of 18-24 year olds compared to 24 percent of those aged 65 and over. And there is also a clear split along gender lines, with men (34 percent) more likely to say it is likely to affect their decision than women (26 percent).

A strong broadband connection is an increasingly important factor when choosing where to live. We are living in the digital age and, as such, more people are choosing to work from home. As a result we find people are increasingly prepared to pay a premium for homes with a good broadband signal, and this is likely to remain a factor when choosing where to live.

Source: Halifax

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Spring Break Just Got Cheaper

February 28, 2013 2:46 am

As students across the United States pack their bags for a week away from their books, new research from Fly.com has identified an average airfare savings opportunity of $242 (or 48 percent) for top spring break destinations.

But you don't have to be a college student to take part in these savings. This year, travelers departing from major college towns are overwhelmingly choosing Florida for their mid-term getaway; with Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Fort Myers proving to be the most popular destinations for flights between Feb. 23 and March 30, 2013. Las Vegas and two Mexican beach towns, Cabo and Cancun, are also favorite getaway options.

While the cost of airfare to these destinations is up an average of 4.2 percent, compared with the 2012 spring break travel period, savvy travelers can still save money on each of this year's most popular flight routes. Data analysis reveals that travelers can save more than 50 percent on airfare if they change their travel dates by a day or two. For instance, travelers from D.C. can score a roundtrip flight from Washington, D.C., to Fort Lauderdale on March 2-6 for only $171; a 52 percent savings compared to March 2-10 itineraries.

"Moving your preferred travel dates by one or two days is key to securing low-cost fares," said Warren Chang, vice president and general manager, Fly.com. "Airfares can change from one day to the next, but we have found that consumers can save hundreds of dollars when they pick the right day to travel."

Other popular spring break destinations include Honolulu and San Juan, Puerto Rico. San Francisco and Los Angeles also rank highly with those flying from the East Coast. New Orleans is a favorite with travelers flying from Philadelphia, Detroit and New York.

Source: Fly.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Crack Down on Windshield Repairs

February 28, 2013 2:46 am

You’re driving down the road, abiding by the speed limit, avoiding distractions and following the rules of the road. The radio is softly humming your favorite tune and it’s a beautiful day for a drive. Then, TINK! Out of nowhere, a pebble smacks your windshield, leaving a jagged “bulls-eye,” “bee’s-wing,” or “star break” right in your line of vision. Windshield damage is the most frequently reported insurance claim. The biggest cause—debris kicked up from the road.

Follow these steps when your windshield is damaged:

-Don’t hold off. The longer you wait to repair your windshield, the more likely it won’t turn out as well cosmetically or structurally. See if your insurance carrier has preferred repair shops to work with and call a glass or windshield repair company right away. Many insurance companies will even waive your comprehensive deductible and pay the entire cost for a stone chip repair.

-Use a temporary fix. Until you can get the crack repaired by a professional, temporarily seal the break with tape at the point of impact. This will help prevent moisture from seeping into the break, but won’t prevent the crack from expanding.

-Keep it clean and dry. Moisture can make a windshield crack expand, so it’s important to keep the damaged area as clean and dry as possible.

Repair or replace?
Temperature change and stress can make a small break become larger, which could mean the difference between windshield repair or windshield replacement. Technically, most cracks can be filled, but depending on the size and location of the crack, the repair option may not be the best choice.

For damage larger than a 50 cent piece, repairing the windshield may make the crack less visible, but it may not be as structurally sound after the repair. The repair process isn’t usually recommended for damage that is located in your line of vision because even after it’s repaired, the crack may not disappear completely.

When thinking about repairing or replacing a windshield, most people don’t take into consideration the effect it may have on the structural integrity of their vehicle. An improper glass repair or replacement could put the safety of you and your family in jeopardy. In the event of an accident, a windshield should:

-Support the roof of the vehicle - A windshield provides support to the roof in a rollover accident if properly bonded to the frame with urethane sealant.

-Act as a back-stop for the passenger side airbag – The passenger-side airbag deploys off the windshield first and then expands to the passenger.

-Keep you safe inside the vehicle - If a passenger is thrown up against the glass, the lamination acts like an elastic band and snaps the person back into the vehicle rather than being thrown through it.

In any of these situations, the windshield will not properly perform as the manufacturer intended if the structure is weakened by improper repair or replacement. Look for an experienced glass repair company that will work with your insurance carrier to get you back on the road safely. Ask about safe drive-away time and the experience level of the technician.

Source: Foremost.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Most Baby Boomers Have No Intention of Downsizing

February 27, 2013 2:46 am

Despite the perception that aging baby boomers may create an oversupply of traditional single-family homes as they downsize into smaller residences, a new survey shows that demand for suburban detached homes remains strong among baby boomers and Generation Y.

The poll by Leger Marketing found that of the 40.6 percent of baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1966), who do have plans to move to another primary residence, almost half (43.5 percent) are looking to purchase another primary residence that is a similar size or larger than their current property. Of the total responses from baby boomers who intend to purchase their next primary residence, 66.8 percent said they will do so in the next five years.

Male baby boomers, who are planning to move, are more keen on upsizing their residence than women, with 23.0 percent reporting that they plan on moving to a larger residence compared to 12.1 percent of women. Baby boomers looking to purchase a condominium prefer less amenities and low maintenance fees (54.5 percent) over properties that have many amenities (39.1 percent). Seventy-eight percent of baby boomers currently own their own homes.

Contributing to the desire of baby boomers to continue to invest in large, suburban homes is the reality of housing children well into adulthood. According to the survey, a quarter of Generation Y lives rent free because of arrangements with family or friends.

The adult children of baby boomers aren't going anywhere fast. Good jobs have proven more difficult for them to find, they're extending their studies and they're living at home. It is no wonder the concept of swapping a family-sized home for a small retreat has lost its luster.

Meanwhile, members of Generation Y (those born between 1980 and 1994), who plan to purchase their next residence, are most interested in single-family multi-storey homes (50.6 percent) and bungalows (19.0 percent). Only 15.7 percent of Generation Y said they plan to buy a condominium or an apartment. In comparison, 22.9 percent of Baby Boomers looking to purchase their next residence desire condominiums or apartments.

The survey found that more than half of Generation Y planning to purchase their next residence, intend to purchase in the suburbs (55.7 percent) compared to the downtown core of a city (21.7 percent).

Forty-three percent of current non-owners who plan to purchase in the next five years say it is because they are planning to start a family in the near future. Among this younger demographic planning to purchase their next residence, the safety of a neighborhood and proximity to their work, family and friends are the most important attributes when selecting a new home. Keeping in mind that nearly half of Generation Y listed their near-term plans to have children of their own (42.0 percent) as a motivating factor to purchase; the least important factors are proximity to the downtown city core and restaurants or entertainment.

Among baby boomers who plan to downsize when they purchase their next residence, the most popular reasons are to reduce maintenance (73.7 percent), free up money for retirement (48.1 percent) and for travel (30.9 percent).

Source: Royal LePage

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Prices Closed Out a Strong 2012

February 27, 2013 2:46 am

Data through December 2012, released by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed that all three headline composites ended the year with strong gains. The national composite posted an increase of 7.3 percent for 2012. The 10- and 20-City Composites reported annual returns of 5.9 percent and 6.8 percent in 2012. Month-over-month, both the 10- and 20-City Composites moved into positive territory with gains of 0.2 percent; more than reversing last month's losses. In addition to the three composites, nineteen of the 20 MSAs posted positive year-over-year growth – only New York fell.

"Home prices ended 2012 with solid gains," says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Housing and residential construction lead the economy in the 2012 fourth quarter. In December's report all three headline composites and 19 of the 20 cities gained over their levels of a year ago. Month-over-month, 9 cities and both Composites posted positive monthly gains. Seasonally adjusted, there were no monthly declines across all 20 cities.

"The National Composite increased 7.3 percent over the four quarters of 2012. From its low in the first quarter, it surged in the second and third quarter and slipped slightly in the 2012 fourth period. The 10- and 20-City Composites, which bottomed out in March 2012 continued to show both year-over-year and monthly gains in December. These movements, combined with other housing data, suggest that while housing is on the upswing some of the strongest numbers may have already been seen.

"Atlanta and Detroit posted their biggest year-over-year increases of 9.9 percent and 13.6 percent since the start of their indices in January 1991. Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis recorded their largest annual increases since 2001. Phoenix continued its climb, posting an impressive year-over-year return of 23.0 percent; it posted eight consecutive months of double-digit annual growth."

As of the fourth quarter of 2012, average home prices across the United States are back at their autumn 2003 levels. At the end of the fourth quarter of 2012, the National Index was down 0.3 percent over the third quarter of 2012 and 7.3 percent above the fourth quarter of 2011.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Energy Efficient Homes Tax Credit Extended to December 2013

February 27, 2013 2:46 am

The Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) and its allies scored a significant victory this January when Congress extended the Energy Efficient Homes Tax Credit to December 31, 2013. The $2,000 tax credit for builders constructing energy efficient homes was RESNET's number one legislative priority, and is seen as a clear demonstration of wide bipartisan support for high energy performance homes. The extension of the credit was included as part of the recent compromise legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.

In order to be eligible for the tax credit, builders must prove that the heating and cooling energy consumption levels of their new homes are at least 50 percent lower than those of comparable homes constructed as per the 2006 IECC.

But it's not only energy efficient builders who can benefit from this legislation. Homeowners who want to purchase qualified products to improve the energy efficiency of their existing homes can also take advantage of the tax credit. This comes as especially welcome news at a time when a slow economy is forcing homeowners to try and save money wherever they can. Energy efficient homes are not only proven money-savers, but also enjoy a greater resale value than their less efficient counterparts. As a result, increasing numbers of homeowners are opting for energy audits in order to ascertain where and how their homes are losing energy, and what cost-effective solutions are available to them to rectify those problems. The tax credit extension goes a long way in helping them do that.

Points to note regarding the Home Energy Efficiency Tax Credit include:

• The tax credit is retroactive to homes sold from January 1, 2012.
• Homebuilders selling an energy-efficient home who want to apply for the credit need to complete IRS Form 8908 (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8908.pdf).
• For Residential Requirements of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code, go to: www.energycodes.gov/sites/default/files/becu/2006_iecc.pdf.

The energy efficient tax credit extension forms a part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, and is contained under Section 408. The extension of this credit signifies the importance of home energy efficiency in today's economic climate.

Source: RESNET

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top 5 Major Problems Caused by Winter Weather

February 26, 2013 2:46 am

Although winter may not be over just yet, many are hoping that the worst of it is behind us. Once spring arrives, some homeowners may be left with homes that have taken a hit from the winter weather. Few homes are left completely unscathed, but that doesn’t mean they are beyond repair. Here are five problems generally caused by harsh winters and tips for how you can help alleviate the issues.

Leaky roofs became a huge problem for many homeowners this season. Search your home for signs of water damage or discoloration. Be sure to check all ceilings in addition to the siding under roof eaves. Inspect rafters for stains and check in the roof, around chimneys and also near skylights. Fixing leaks is a job best left for professionals. If you choose to hire a pro, have them inspect for missing shingles or other roofing issues you may be unaware of. Fixing a roof is critically important if you're planning on selling soon. If the damage is severe enough, look into your homeowners insurance policy and see if some of that damage can be covered.

Clearing out gutters is a less severe, though just as important a task. Make sure that water can properly flow through and out of your gutters. Also, check for areas of separation or corrosion. These spots will need to be fixed immediately. Gutter guards can be added for the most extreme cases.

In relation to damaged roofs and leaky gutters, decks should also be checked for safety's sake. Look for stains or other areas where wood may be decaying. Decaying wood weakens the deck's structure. Examine the area where the deck connects to the house, and remove any moss or mold. If there is any sort of extensive wood damage, a pro should be hired to repair the issue. Depending on the age of your deck, a replacement may be warranted. Either way, confirming the structural integrity of your deck is imperative for your family's safety.

Cracked foundations can also be a result of a rough winter. Cracks should be marked and observed over time. If the area worsens, then it's time to call for help. Make sure that the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house. For minor repairs, an epoxy injection could do the trick. For holes in siding and foundation walls, expandable foam might be the better choice. A structural expert would know the best solution.

After the winter months, air conditioners often need a major tune up. Clean out any build-up of dust, leaves or other debris that may impact its performance when you need it. Disconnect the power first, then clear it out with a vent brush or with a vacuum attachment. If necessary, replace the mesh around the condenser coil. This won't take much of your time, but will definitely enhance efficiency when the weather starts to spike.

As winter gets closer to spring, re-evaluating your home and searching for needed repairs is a great way to keep your home in tip-top shape, and the safety added as a result will be invaluable.

Source: Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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