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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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Netwatch Offers Six Tips for Vacant Home Protection

April 8, 2013 3:46 am

Metal theft continues to attract thieves across the country. Among the targets most often hit are recently foreclosed and vacated homes. These sites pose challenges to owners and banks who attempt to ward off would-be copper thieves, squatters and intruders. While unsalable homes are still a relatively small part of the national inventory of foreclosed properties, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that the worse the economy is in a particular region, the more damaged and vandalized foreclosed homes are likely to be.

Netwatch USA offers six tips to prevent vacant or foreclosed homes from falling victim to copper theft or potential occupation by trespassers or squatters:

• Keep up with lawn care and exterior maintenance. This will not only increase curb appeal once it’s ready to sell, it will also let would-be trespassers know that the house is regularly visited and may, in fact, be inhabited. Be sure to keep gutters clean, snow shoveled, and the lawn mowed. Be sure to remove all ladders and tools after maintenance to prevent them from being used for break-ins.

• Park a car in the driveway. If you have an extra car, keeping it in the driveway can be enough to make the house look inhabited. You may also want to ask a trusted neighbor to park in the driveway.

• Invest in automatic interior and exterior lights. Keeping pathways, doorways, and interiors well-lit may scare off potential burglars. Consider automatic lights for the exterior and lights on timers for the interior.

• Lock up your circuit breaker. Effective lighting and certain surveillance equipment requires electricity, so lock the door to your circuit breaker. If kept unlocked, thieves can easily access the breaker and cut off the electricity, therefore disabling lighting and some traditional burglar alarms. To minimize electrical fire risk, turn off all unnecessary electrical circuits.

• Manage where the vacant property’s address is published. Until the property is ready to sell, keep the address as private as possible. Thieves will access lists of vacant homes, which will make it easier and more efficient for them to find and break-in to homes.

• Check that you have the correct type of insurance. Confirm with your insurance company to see if your policy needs to change now that the property is vacant. More often than not, carrying construction companies’ risk policy will adequately cover you from copper theft and vandals.

“Abandoned homes are, by their nature, a challenge to protect and are especially vulnerable to copper thieves,” said Netwatch CEO David Walsh. “Simply nailing plywood to windows and doors is not enough to scare off intruders and can easily be removed by saws and pry bars. Protecting your property with an effective surveillance system along with proper security measures will discourage potential copper thieves."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Freddie Mac Streamlined Modification for Delinquent Borrowers to Start July 1, 2013

April 8, 2013 3:46 am

The following statement was released by Tracy Mooney, senior vice president, Servicing and REO, Freddie Mac:

"The Streamlined Modification will open a new gateway to mortgage relief for many of America's struggling borrowers. Starting July 1, 2013 servicers will proactively offer eligible borrowers a Streamlined Modification, which can cut monthly mortgage payments by as much as a standard modification but with less documentation. We look forward to working with our servicers to implement the Streamlined Modification initiative, which underscores our commitment to keep more financially troubled borrowers in their homes. Freddie Mac has helped an estimated 2.6 million families avoid foreclosure through mortgage modifications or refinancing since the housing crisis began."
News Facts:

• The Streamlined Modification will target borrowers who are at least 90 days delinquent on mortgages that are at least 12 months old, and meet other eligibility criteria.

• Eligible borrowers are not required to submit documentation, but can accept a Streamlined Modification offer simply by making the trial period payments. The modification becomes permanent once the borrower demonstrates their ability to pay by completing the trial period.

• The Streamlined Modification offers the same mortgage terms as the Standard Modification Freddie Mac announced in September 2011, which enables servicers to reduce a borrower's monthly mortgage payment by adjusting interest rates, extending payment terms to 40 years, and providing principal forbearance for certain underwater borrowers.

• Detailed guidance implementing the Streamlined Modification can be found at FreddieMac.com.

• Freddie Mac and its servicers have helped more than 785,000 distressed borrowers avoid foreclosure through mortgage modifications, forbearance, repayment plans, short sales and deeds-in-lieu since 2009. Freddie Mac has also helped more than 1.8 million families make homeownership more affordable through the Freddie Mac Relief Refinance program, which includes the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP).

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Year's Worth of Money & Energy-Saving Tips

April 5, 2013 3:44 am

By John Voket

In the continuing pursuit to help homeowners save money while helping to make the world a little greener, I tapped The Alliance to Save Energy, which recently posted a dozen ways you can make your home more energy efficient in 2013 (ase.org).

Among those ASE saving ideas are:

New Year, New Light Bulbs - Replace old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy-efficient lighting like new CFLs, halogen incandescents or LEDs – to save between $50 and $100 a year in energy costs.

Spring is Here - Get ready to open up your home to new, efficient windows. Replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-qualified windows can save you up to $1,000 annually.

Don't be a Fool for Energy Vampires - Outsmart the energy vampires in your home by unplugging what you're not using. Use a smart power strip for automatic savings.

Think Global - In honor of EE Global 2013, share one of the other tips with an international friend, family member, or associate to help save energy worldwide.

Cool Off - Make sure your AC equipment is in top running order, since cooling puts the greatest stress on your summer energy bills.

Keep the Heat Out - Plug energy leaks with weather stripping and caulking, and be sure your house is properly insulated to save up to 20 percent on energy bills.

Back to School Savings - If you and your kids are out at school and work, install a programmable thermostat – or even a smart thermostat – to raise your home's temperature while it's empty. This can reduce energy bills by up to 10 percent.

Temperatures Drop, and so do Bills - Keep the temperature of your water heater at 120 degrees, and insulate the hot water storage tank to save money on heating costs.

End the Year on a LOW Note - You made so many energy-saving changes this year, give yourself the gift of a home energy assessment to see how much more energy you can save next year!

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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