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

Lower Your Food Budget

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

Economists say most American families spend about 12 percent of their monthly income on groceries—but, unless you adjust your buying habits, the spend may increase as prices go up and children grow into hungry teens.

According to supermarket shopping analyst Mindy Hannigan, putting a few planned shopping patterns into place can help you ease your food budget downward.

• Start with the deals – Check supermarket mailers and online sites for weekly specials. Plan the family’s meals around the foods on sale each week.
• Shop with a menu – Once you determine what’s on sale, shop with a written menu and try to build two meals around a single purchase, such as a roasted pork loin one evening and BBQ beef sandwiches made from leftovers the next.
• Set a budget – Keep track of your grocery spending for at least six weeks. Add it up and divide by six to find your weekly average. Try not to exceed that average without a good reason such as additional houseguests to feed or a large, family holiday feast.
Shave the average – Once you know your usual spend, challenge yourself to lower it by 10 percent. Use coupons if you don’t already. Try store brands instead of labels you know. Search for new recipes, like casseroles and main dish salads, which can help you stretch one can of tuna or a couple of chicken breasts into a satisfying family dinner.
• Shop alone – Shopping with kids almost always results in extras tossed into the basket.
• Stick to a routine – Follow the same traffic pattern in the store you shop most often. Since you know where things are, doing so will help you grab just the items on your list instead of reaching for items you may notice for the first time.

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Must-Have Features to Maximize a Home's Profit Potential

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

From crown molding to faux painting to door handles and cabinet handles/knobs with modern finishes, to more obvious upgrades such as appliances, window, counter, cabinet and floor treatments, to swimming pools and surround sound wiring…any functional or beautification enhancement to a home are considerations in establishing its true value and strategic sale price.

Consider these property value-enhancing upgrade ideas from Robert Jenson, a real estate professional from Las Vegas:

- Commercial-grade appliances in a kitchen, along with dual appliances such as ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, add greatly to resale value and are always a desirable upgrade.

- The "outdoor living room" concept is extremely popular right now. Whether a palapa, gazebo or other covered section, an outdoor furnished lounge area complete with wiring for lighting, fans, TV and surround sound, fire pit/fire place, and built in BBQ grill will add tremendous appeal. Water features will take this asset to the next level.

- Other custom upgrades and finishing such as front entry (or panty) doors with decorative glass inlays, decorative wrought iron stairway balusters, and faux painting treatments will readily set a home apart from the pack...particularly a track home in a master planned community.
- Fixtures should be considered even beyond the kitchen and bath. Door handles, for example, with modern finishes such as brushed nickel, are a great way to add custom appeal to an interior.

- Granite countertops need not be reserved for the kitchen. Master bathrooms in particular, if not all baths in the house, should utilize some kind of stone counter—marble, granite, travertine, etc.—for a particularly notable enhancement that is sure to differentiate a home from others on the market.

For homeowners considering an addition or enhancement, speak with a real estate professional to learn more about how you can enhance your property's value.

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10 Tips for Enjoying Your Backyard This Spring and Summer

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

As temperatures heat up across the country, you can make sure this is the best summer ever with the following 10 tips, time-savers, water-care ideas, and maintenance and safety suggestions for backyard living.

1 – Safety first. Follow a few common sense rules in the backyard and around the pool. Keep each child within arm's length at all times, designate an adult as water watcher, ensure that the pool's fence is always locked, and install both gate and pool alarms to alert you to unsupervised pool use.

2 – Use plants to dress up the landscape. A bit of backyard greenery can be both pretty and functional. Use shrubs for form, foliage-heavy plants for color, and sturdy perennials for reliability. Plenty of pretty perennials, such as coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, require little tending and offer cheery blooms throughout the growing season.

3 – Add years to backyard furnishings. If mildew spots appear on outside chairs and tables, wash the fabric according to manufacturer directions and dry in the sun. Then mix together equal parts lemon juice and salt; spread on the stain. Dry in the sun again and rinse thoroughly.

4 – Organize backyard toys and tools. Two simple storage rules for keeping backyard clutter to a minimum: air out wet things by storing them in big mesh bags or open-weave crates; toss all the little bits—sunscreen, dive toys, etc.—into a clear plastic shoe organizer hung on the fence where everyone can easily find them.

5 – Stay healthy with a water workout. According to the Centers for Disease Control, just 21 minutes a day of exercising in a pool can decrease your risk of chronic disease. If swimming laps doesn't excite you, there are other great ways to get moving. Try kickboxing using water as the resistance and enjoy the benefits of strength, endurance and balance. Depending on intensity, a typical water exercise session of 40 to 50 minutes can burn up to 600 calories.

6 – Maintain a perfect pool. A pool filled with cloudy water equals no fun. Fortunately, there's a pool-care strategy—circulation, filtration, cleaning, testing and chemistry—that equals a stellar pool season. Maintaining a pool, its equipment and beautiful water requires proper water treatment. Make sure to complete the proper water testing and upkeep a regular care schedule for your pool.

7 – Convert an ordinary salt pool into a backyard oasis. Try using a special blend of minerals, pool equipment protectors, water enhancers and pH adjusters that all work to make silky, relaxing water.

8 – Soak in a sensational spa. A backyard spa can offer the same soothing effects as a professional spa with a few easy, affordable ideas. Place flameless LED candles around the edge of the spa. Take tunes into the spa with a floating speaker that connects wirelessly to an MP3 player. Add a soothing scent to the water with single-use aromatherapy packs.

9 – Make a smaller footprint on the Earth. In order to be more environmentally friendly, make sure to always keep pool chemicals properly balanced. Overworked filters and motors waste energy and hike utility bills.

10 – Help pets swim safely. It may seem like fun to let the dog paddle around, but before you let a pooch jump in, make sure he can get out without damaging the pool or hurting himself. Also check with the vet—swimming in a pool should be appropriate for the breed. Finally, make additional time to monitor the pool's water. A typical dog can be the equivalent of about 50 swimmers in the pool, meaning extra vigilance is needed to maintain the chemical balance.

Source: www.bioguard.com

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Factors to Consider When Pricing a Home

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

Most sellers have an emotional connection to their home and feel it deserves top dollar when sold. Everyone naturally wants to get the most money for his or her product, but "sellers must not be hasty with this all-important decision," cautions real estate expert Robert Jenson, CEO of a Las Vegas real estate group.

"The most common mistake that causes sellers to get less than they hope for is listing the sale price too high. Overpriced properties languish on the market, and most end up selling at a lower price than would have been realized had it been priced properly in the first place."

To help would-be sellers foster maximum profits with their real estate transaction, Jenson offers this advice for establishing a fair, competitive and marketable sale price for a home:

Square footage: Total square footage is an important consideration when establishing a home's sale price, but this is usually just a starting point for buyers who will use it to narrow down the field, but make an actual purchase decision based on many other factors.

Location within community: Quiet cul-de sacs, golf or water frontage, and lots that offer privacy are value-adds that can justify a higher sale price over other homes in a community or be leveraged as an advantage against competing listings.

Views...or lack thereof: Whether it’s the ocean, a downtown skyline, the mountains, water or some other desirable landscape, buyers are willing to pay a premium for views, and a home should be priced accordingly. Just be realistic—views that can only be seen from the second story bathroom window don't count.

Upgrades and features: For a home to sell quickly and for the price desired, it must be "finished" with as many structural and interior design upgrades as possible. Any functional or beautification enhancement to a home are key considerations in establishing a home's true value and strategic sale price.

Community amenities: Guard-gated communities or those with amenities such as a clubhouse, swimming pool or fitness center are elements that raise a home's price per square foot. When pricing a home without these benefits, know whether you are competing against other homes that do offer such value adds so that you can price your home as aggressively and competitively as possible.

Comparable sales: Don't price your home based on price per square footage of other home sales in your community three or more months ago, as these don't offer a realistic portrayal of current market conditions. Focus on prices of active listings to hone a competitive pricing strategy.

Professional appraisal: Want to sell the home quickly? Price it at or below the appraised value as buyers are educated, are shopping deals, and will recognize your fair price and be more apt to pay it with less haggling.

Current mortgage conditions: Lenders now require higher credit scores and higher down payments, which can cash strap buyers holding out for the best deal possible. Savvy sellers will understand the mortgage industry's impact on the buyer and will price accordingly.

If you price your home fairly and reasonably, you'll have a greater chance at selling your home faster and for more money. Take these suggestions into consideration to perfectly price your home for the market.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Nearly One-Third of U.S. Homeowners Feel Motivated to Make Home Renovations Due to Improving Economy

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

With the housing market slowly bouncing back in many communities, homeowners are looking to make improvements to their properties. A new CouponCabin.com survey reveals that nearly one-third (32 percent) of U.S. homeowners feel the improving economy is motivating them to make home improvements that they wouldn't have done during the recession. Overall, more than six-in-ten (64 percent) U.S. homeowners report they are at least somewhat likely to make home renovations or improvements like re-tiling a floor, installing new carpet or re-doing a bathroom in the next 12 months. This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin.com from April 3-5, 2013, among 2,232 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among which 1,389 are homeowners.

Some homeowners are more willing to invest in home projects now because they're feeling more secure financially. Nearly four-in-ten (38 percent) U.S. homeowners feel the improving economy has made them less nervous to spend money on home renovations.

Seasonality can also be a factor in motivating homeowners to spruce up their abodes. Nearly nine-in-ten (87 percent) feel spring is the ideal time to make home renovations or improvements. Home improvement stores are bound to be busy in the months to come, as 82 percent of those U.S. homeowners who plan to make home renovations or improvements in the next 12 months will shop at a home improvement store.

"Many homeowners have held off on home improvements over the past few years, but are cautiously making changes as the economy strengthens," said Jackie Warrick, senior savings adviser at CouponCabin.com. "No matter the size of the job, home renovations can be costly. It's important for homeowners to carefully approach projects and choose to do renovations that are most likely to raise the value of their home overall."

Whether it's a simple project like painting or a more complicated one like gutting a bathroom, the price tag for home renovations can be high. When it comes to how much homeowners are going to fork over for home renovations in the next 12 months, the survey reveals the following:

• Under $1,000 – 26 percent
• $1,000 - $4,999 – 49 percent
• $5,000 – $9,999 – 15 percent
• More than $10,000 – 11 percent

For some homeowners, getting their hands dirty can offset pricey home renovation costs. Nearly six-in-ten (59 percent) U.S. homeowners who are at least somewhat likely to make renovations in the next 12 months plan to do the work themselves. Those who aren't hiring a professional indicate the reasons for doing the work themselves include wanting to save money (68 percent), enjoying home projects (53 percent) and not trusting anyone else to do it (11 percent). Sixteen percent of those who will not be hiring a professional report that they'll have a friend or family member doing the home renovations.

Source: CouponCabin.com

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FHFA Extends HARP to 2015

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to extend the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) by two years to December 31, 2015. The program was set to expire December 31, 2013.

“More than 2 million homeowners have refinanced through HARP, proving it a useful tool for reducing risk,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco. “We are extending the program so more underwater borrowers can benefit from lower interest rates.”

In addition, FHFA will soon launch a nationwide campaign to inform homeowners about HARP. This campaign will educate consumers about HARP and its eligibility requirements and motivate them to explore their options and utilize HARP before the program ends. HARP is uniquely designed to allow borrowers who owe more than their home is worth the opportunity to refinance their mortgage. Extending the program
will continue to provide borrowers opportunities to refinance, give clear guidance to lenders and reduce risk for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and taxpayers.

To be eligible for a HARP refinance, homeowners must meet the following criteria:

-The loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

-The mortgage must have been sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac on or before May 31, 2009.

-The mortgage cannot have been refinanced under HARP previously, unless it is a Fannie Mae loan that was refinanced under HARP from March - May, 2009.

-The current loan-to-value (LTV) ratio must be greater than 80 percent.

-The borrower must be current on their mortgage payments with no late payments in the last six months and no more than one late payment in the last 12 months.

Borrowers should contact their existing lender or any other mortgage lender offering HARP refinances. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped approximately 2.2 million borrowers refinance their homes since HARP was introduced by FHFA and the U.S. Department of the Treasury in April 2009.

Source: FHFA

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Spring is Here and So are Termites

April 9, 2013 3:48 am

March 20 marked the first day of spring, bringing warmer temperatures and sporadic rain showers throughout the nation. Whether gardening, spring cleaning or playing outdoors, people are livelier with the change in weather, and they aren't the only ones. Termites are becoming increasingly active as well.

"Moisture from the rain coupled with increasing temperatures make springtime conditions ideal for termite activity," says Jim Warneke, Orkin southeast division technical services manager. "Subterranean termites, which live underground in the soil, thrive in humid climates with temperatures above 60 degrees."

Termite activity isn't anything new to the U.S. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause about $5 billion in property damage per year in the U.S. While termites can be most visible in the spring, these pests damage property year round.
"While subterranean are the most widespread and common group of termites in the Southeast, drywood termites also can be found in areas with warmer climates that do not reach freezing temperatures in the winter," says Warneke. "Subterranean termites are the most destructive of this 250-million-year-old pest, but drywood termites also can cause serious damage to a home's structure and amenities, like hardwood flooring and furniture."

Warneke suggests homeowners contact a pest management professional if they suspect any termite activity, as the warning signs can be subtle and often go unnoticed until it's too late. Signs of an infestation include termite swarms, mud tubes and piles of discarded wings. Termite swarms are typically found around lighting fixtures and windowsills, as they are attracted to light. Once termites begin to fly, they shed their wings, leaving piles of wings around the home. Subterranean termites also build mud tubes as a protective tunnel between the wood they feed on and their colony, often taking refuge inside of the home when temperatures increase.

For more information, visit www.orkin.com.

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Tips for a Successful Apartment Hunt

April 9, 2013 3:48 am

For those opting to rent in the near future, an organized plan is beneficial to have before starting your hunt for the perfect apartment. Consider the following before taking the exciting step of viewing possible new homes:

Set a budget and stay in it. It's crucially important to control your finances and spend no more than 30 percent of your monthly pay on rent and other housing needs. Be prepared to pay a security deposit along with the first month's rent up front, and don't neglect to factor in the cost of utilities, cable, Internet and renter's insurance. Ask all landlords for an estimated cost of utilities and if there are any extra fees for pets, parking or any other additive you may require. If the cost of everything combined seems overwhelming, picking up a roommate might not be such a bad idea.

Research various areas before signing a lease. Budget alone is one great way to narrow down neighborhoods. Craigslist and Apartments.com are only a few of the various resources you can use for further information. Make sure that all wanted amenities (laundry, parking, pool, etc.) are either included or close by. If you have any doubts, talk to a few residents for an unbiased opinion. The more you know, the better educated your decision will be.

Be sure to read the fine print carefully. Read the lease carefully and make sure you understand all of its terms. The landlord may want to run a background check and may request a proof of employment from your employer. Be prepared to turn this information over in a timely fashion. It's crucially important that you understand the policies for penalties, including early termination of the lease or damages. If you read something you don't understand, always ask for clarification.

Once the lease is signed, you should take a few precautions before calling your friends to beg them for moving help. Keep the following in mind:

• Check the apartment for smoke detectors. If any of them are missing, be sure to tell the landlord before moving all of your belongings in.

• Ask about installing a deadbolt on any exterior doors.

• Is the entire place clean and ready to be moved into?

• Is there any damage to the apartment, including chipped paint or damaged walls? Be sure to take pictures before you move in and alert the landlord of anything you find.

• Make sure the water works in all of the apartment's faucets.

• Test the outlets. How many are there and do they all work?

Having a plan for your next move will keep you organized and help the process run more smoothly. After the job is finished, all of your preparation will certainly pay off once you are sitting comfortably in your new apartment.

Sources: beaumontenterprise.com, Relocation.com

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7 Tips for First-Timers Buying a Property at an Auction

April 9, 2013 3:48 am

In a time of growing repossessions around the world, auction purchases are becoming an increasingly common way to purchase property. Auctions are recognized as one of the best places to find a bargain buy, as well as providing a quick, secure and straightforward transaction process, with minimum fuss and in a completely transparent environment that is ultimately decided by the drop of a hammer.

Once you have achieved the first step of deciding to actually purchase a property at an auction, the next stage—as it is whenever you attempt to purchase property—is to make sure you’re prepared. If you’re planning on attending an auction, heed the following tips for a smooth transaction.

1. State of Mind
No matter how calm a person you may think you are, buying property at auction can be daunting as well as exciting. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and feel overwhelmed, so the last thing you want to do is panic and end up bidding too high for something and exceeding your budget. It's always advisable to have a maximum amount in mind before you go to the auction.

It is also recommended that you attend at least one auction before you attempt to purchase, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere and to familiarize yourself with how the whole thing works.

2. Property View
Once you're comfortable with the auction environment and you have chosen the auction that you wish to attend, the next essential thing to do is to request a catalogue to view the properties available and to then arrange with the auctioneer to see the properties you are interested in.

The auctioneers will have allotted times for each property. Although bidding on and buying a property you've never seen before may sound exciting, the chances are it will prove costly one way or the other. Remember, there's no point purchasing a house at a knock-down price if it needs knocking down.

3. Researching the Property
Make sure you do your research thoroughly on the property and compare its price and condition to similar properties in the area listed with local estate agents. You will very often find that the guide price of auction properties are set relatively low in order to entice bidders, so have in mind what you think the true market value of the property is…then bid accordingly.

4. Legal Matters
There is normally a legal pack on the property you are interested in available from the auctioneers. It is essential that you digest this thoroughly and if you're unsure about something, have a solicitor go over it; there may be more concerns with an auction property than that of one on the open market.

5. Finances
The completion period for auction properties is 28 days, so it is vital that you have your finances set up before hand, whether it's making sure you have the cash available or a mortgage set up in principle. A 10 percent deposit on the property is always required on auction day. It's not unusual for buyers to lose their deposit because they couldn't come up with the rest of the balance.

6. Auction Day
As well as having your 10 percent deposit on auction day, make sure you also have identification documents. What’s more, auctions can be crowded affairs, so get there early if you want a seat. When the time comes to bid, make sure you can be seen by the auctioneer and that he or she is aware of when you're actually bidding, as opposed to scratching your nose.

7. Bide your Time while Bidding
Finally, what the whole build-up comes down to, bidding for the property of your choice. Bidding at auction is a strange sensation; it's exhilarating and extremely daunting, especially as the pressure mounts and you are bidding for something that is popular and a number of other bidders get involved.

Stay as calm as possible, think clearly and bide your time while bidding. Remember to not exceed the maximum figure that you have set for yourself; it can be very tempting to go over budget, particularly if you've invested a lot of time and effort prior to auction. A good way to avoid this is to take someone with you who will help keep you in check.

If you are bidding on a property and it fails to meet its reserve price, this doesn't necessarily mean it is the end of the matter. The auctioneers can still act as agents and are able to negotiate between you and the vendors after the auction. Likewise, it is sometimes possible for a deal to be tied up prior to auction, so it may be worthwhile checking this possibility out with the auctioneers beforehand.

By familiarizing yourself with the auction process, you can increase your chances at coming out a winner with a new home in hand.

Source: TheMoveChannel.com

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Energy Efficient Homes Are Lower Mortgage Risks Says New Study

April 8, 2013 3:46 am

It's a well-known fact that energy efficient homes save their owners money but now a new study shows that they're also better mortgage investments. The report, titled, "Home Energy Efficiency and Mortgage Risks" found that homes with lower HERS Index Scores were deemed as low mortgage default risks, and that on average, mortgage default risks were 32 percent lower on ENERGY STAR labeled homes that were rated by a certified RESNET Home Energy Rater. The University of North Carolina's Center for Community Capital, and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) officially released the report on March 19, 2013.

The report is based on a study using a sample of 71,000 mortgage loans, compiled from across 38 states and the District of Columbia. CoreLogic, the lending industry's leading source for such information, provided the data and the sample was restricted to single-family, owner-occupied homes whose mortgages were contracted during 2002-2012. RESNET supplied both the addresses and the homes' HERS Index Scores to the University of North Carolina for the purposes of this study.

The impact of the report promises to be far-reaching, especially to consumers, with recommendations such as:
- The lower risks related with energy efficient homes should be taken into consideration when underwriting mortgage loans.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA should:

-Encourage underwriting flexibility for mortgages on energy efficient homes.

-Promote energy efficiency to consumers and their lenders.

RESNET Executive Director Steve Baden, who took part at the news conference and congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. when the report was released, said of the study, "This is a real game changer. The finding that the lower the HERS Score, the lower the mortgage risk should increase consumer, builder, lender, real estate agent and appraiser confidence in the HERS Index Score. In light of these findings, RESNET calls on the mortgage industry to rationalize the underwriting process to take in consideration energy savings in the mortgage loan."

Source: RESNET

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