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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7 Tips to Protect Your Home This Summer

June 4, 2012 4:52 am

With the summer season right around the corner, families across the country are getting ready to hit the road for some rest and relaxation. Here are a few tips for making sure your possessions are still there when you get back:

1. Do not post about your vacation online until after you get back. If that takes more discipline than you can muster, at the very least keep your location status off any public social networking pages. Many burglars use these sites to identify "safe" targets.

2. Make your home look lived in. A light on a timer is a great first step. You can even buy a small device called "FakeTV" that simulates the light output of a television, making it look like you are home watching TV each evening.

3. Don't leave obvious signs that the house is unoccupied. Stop the mail and paper, or have a neighbor take it in. Arrange for lawn care as needed, and don't leave notes on the door.

4. Make your home hard to get into. You need good locks. Your hidden outdoor key is probably not as cleverly hidden as you think it is. Get to know your neighbors, and leave the key with them. Let them know you will be gone, and have them keep an eye on your house during your absence. If you have an alarm system, by all means use it. Amazingly, many people forget to set the alarm. Conversely, do not think that an alarm system makes you invulnerable. Burglars can still cause you a great deal of misery in a smash-and-grab robbery, leaving before the police can respond. Park a car in the driveway, but be sure to take out the garage door opener first.

5. Remove obvious temptations. Take a walk around your property and make sure you cannot see any easily pawned valuables through uncovered windows. Are there any ladders left out, or particularly easy or well-concealed access points?

6. Prepare for the worst. If your computer were stolen, what might the consequences be? For most of us, this would be dire indeed. Make sure to back up and password protect. Make a quick run-through around the house with a video recorder, listing off the valuables. This could save a lot of hassle with the insurance company if you need to file a claim.

7. Strike the right balance. Only you can make the trade-off between security measures and the burdens they impose. You may wish to place irreplaceable items in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe. This can include expensive jewelry, family photos, and financial records. Make sure your insurance policy is up-to-date. Also, label your possessions with your name.

The good news is that only two out of a hundred homes will be burglarized in any given year. The bad news is that for those two homes that are burglarized, the effects of the intrusion are often devastating. The average burglary costs $1,750, and an invaluable amount of peace of mind. Take a few simple steps to improve your home's security and ensure that your getaway is that much more relaxing.

Source: www.faketv.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Tips to Prepare Your Home and Windows for Hurricane Season

June 4, 2012 4:52 am

Living in a coastal state means living with hurricanes, and now that hurricane season is underway, it’s crucial that homeowners be prepared for storms that can strike on a moment’s notice. When a powerful storm is in the forecast, plan a trip to the grocery store and buy enough non-perishable food, water and supplies for two weeks. Once you have done this, it’s time to prepare your home’s windows.

Avoid the rush to nail plywood to window frames by installing special storm panel frames that will be ready to hold the plywood in place. Pre-measure and cut 5/8-inch plywood to fit the frames before a hurricane is on the way. When the hurricane watch is issued, simply slip the plywood panels into the frames.

But if you find yourself in a rush, you can still secure your windows before the storm strikes.

How to Prepare Secured Plywood Panels
If you don’t have storm panel frames, you must secure plywood directly to the window frames.

1. Cut the plywood to fit at least six inches around the window frame.
2. Make sure there are at least two inches from the edge of the window pane to the outer edge of the exterior wall to prevent damaging the window when the plywood is installed.
3. Special clips that fasten to the window frame or brick veneer can be used to secure the plywood to the exterior wall.
4. Secure the plywood using clips or by drilling screws 18 inches apart around the plywood perimeter.

Source: Glass Doctor, Rainbow International

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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National Homeownership Month Highlights Opportunities to Support the American Dream

June 4, 2012 4:52 am

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) wants current and future homeowners to know about the many opportunities they have to show their support for the American Dream of homeownership during National Homeownership Month in June. For anyone looking to buy their first home, or to move up to a space that is better suited for their current lifestyle, market conditions make it a great time to buy a home. And a new website from NAHB (www.ProtectHomeownership.com) helps the public take action to protect the many benefits of owning a home that are being threatened by legislative and regulatory proposals.

"Anyone thinking of buying a home shouldn't wait any longer," said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. "Housing markets around the country are improving, home prices have stabilized, there is a great selection of available homes for sale, and interest rates are at near historic low levels."

Current and future homeowners can also take action to protect homeownership. In May, NAHB launched www.ProtectHomeownership.com, a website that educates the public about the threats to the American Dream of homeownership, including proposals to scale back or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and make mortgages and small business loans unaffordable and even more difficult to obtain.

The site empowers visitors to make sure their support is heard with an online petition that urges policymakers to keep housing a national priority, and information about how to participate in homeownership rallies that are being held in a number of communities in 2012. There are also links to stay informed by joining social media communities on Facebook.com/ProtectHomeownership and Twitter.com/4Homeownership.

Even with the recent economic downturn, American families still value the American Dream of homeownership. A January 2012 study conducted on behalf of NAHB found that 96 percent of homeowners said they are happy with their decision to own. Nearly seven out of 10 American adults who are not currently homeowners said it was a goal of theirs to buy a home.

"Homeownership remains a core value to American families," said Rutenberg. "Even more important than the financial advantages of homeownership, is that first and foremost, a home is where your family can relax, spend quality time together and build lifelong memories."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fire Prevention Tips to Keep in Mind as the Summer Season Heats Up

June 1, 2012 4:50 am

Safety is important all the time, but each year the National Safety Council designates June as National Safety Month to help focus the public's attention on critical safety issues. In support of this national awareness event, SERVPRO® reminds homeowners to review all of the safety tips from the National Safety Council, including tips on preventing home fires.

"While most homeowners take at least the basic steps to protect against a fire," said Rick Isaacson, Executive Vice President of Servpro Industries, Inc., "there are fire sources in homes that are frequently overlooked. For National Safety Month, we want to shine a spotlight on some of the causes of home fires associated with the coming summer season."

Clothes Dryers
According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), these everyday appliances are responsible for about 15,500 home fires every year, causing an average of 10 deaths each year, and more than $84.4 million in damage. Summer's warmer weather and outdoor activities can create additional laundry. Help prevent dryer fires by:

1. Controlling lint buildup on the lint filter, the back of the machine and in the venting system.
2. Replacing plastic or vinyl vent hoses with a rigid or flexible metal venting system.
3. Drying only items that are approved and safe to be put in a dryer (not foam-backed rugs or athletic shoes).

Fire Pits
These outdoor fireplaces add a warm touch to the season's al fresco entertaining, but they need to be handled with respect and caution. In their Seasonal Safety Tips, Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) recommends that homeowners keep the glow confined by:

1. Keeping these fireplaces at least 10 feet from any structure or flammable items.
2. Placing the unit on a solid surface, in an open area, away from overhanging trees or rooflines.
3. Never leaving the fireplace unattended. Keep a fire extinguisher close at hand, avoid using lighter fluid to start or restart the fire and ensure any embers are completely extinguished before going inside.

Gas Grills
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports fire departments in the U.S. respond to an average of 8,200 grilling-related fire calls per year. Five out of six of these fires involved gas grills. As summer grilling season heats up, SERVPRO® recommends that outdoor chefs keep these tips from UL in mind:

1. Position the grill outside, at a safe distance from the house. Never grill inside a garage or enclosed porch or under a breezeway, awning, carport or overhang that might catch fire.
2. Check the grill's propane hoses for cracks and brittleness then trickle soapy water over the hoses and fittings. Look for bubbles that would indicate a propane leak, and address the problem before using the grill again.
3. Never light a gas grill with the lid closed. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy to suppress flare-ups and a fire extinguisher close by for emergencies.

"House fires can happen anytime, in any season, so it's important to understand all the possible sources for a fire in your home," said Isaacson. "Prevention is still the best way to protect your home, your family and your investment.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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5 Master Bedroom Design Ideas to Maximize Comfort and Space

June 1, 2012 4:50 am

For some, the master bedroom is not only a place to sleep; it also doubles as a favorite reading spot, an entertainment hub, or even a yoga studio. But with limited space, how can you make this popular room a more flexible space, without sacrificing style and comfort?

"Your bedroom should be the ultimate reflection of your personality, as well as your hobbies and passions," says Ben Thorud, Senior Vice President of Ashley Sleep. "Whether you want to curl up with a good book, watch a movie on your home entertainment system, or help the kids with their homework, you can add some simple designer touches that help maximize your comfort and space."

The following simple bedroom design ideas can easily transform any master bedroom, no matter how big or small:

1. Upgrade your bed. Whether your mattress has seen better days, or you just want to upgrade to a bigger size with more space to spread out, a new bed is one of the most important investments you'll ever make.

2. Choose a comfortable headboard. If you spend a lot of time sitting up in bed, consider trading out your old headboard for one with a tufted, padded or sloped design. It makes it easier to lean back while watching TV, reading a book or surfing the Web.

3. Don't scrimp on the pillows. Adding lots of pillows to your bed is not just more comfortable for sleep, it's also more inviting and compels us to spend the day in bed (or at least initiate a good pillow fight!)

4. Add a media chest. A media chest provides a place to tuck away the TV, DVDs and games when they're not in use. Plus, a media center usually stands high enough so you can see over the footboard. You could also use your dresser as a TV stand, with a top drawer reserved for storage, and install a floor-length mirror to replace the one that once sat on your dresser.

5. Extra seating. If the kids spend a lot of time in your bedroom, consider adding a bench at the foot of the bed, or a cozy chair in the corner of the room. It provides more space for people and for storing your things.

Source: Ashley Sleep

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Fall to New All-Time Record Lows

June 1, 2012 4:50 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed mortgage rates following bond yields lower to new all-time record lows. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.75 percent setting a new all-time record low for the fifth consecutive week. The 15-year fixed averaged an unprecedented 2.97 percent bringing three of the four benchmark mortgage rates below 3 percent for the first time in Freddie Mac's weekly survey.

Additional details from the PMMS include:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.75 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending May 31, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.78 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.55 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.97 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.04 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.74 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.84 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.83. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.41 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.75 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.13 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Swim Safely at Home

May 30, 2012 4:48 am

As the weather warms up, Consumer Reports shares several important and practical pool safety tips. Whether you have a pool on your own property or are visiting and using a friend or family member’s pool, the following procedures are essential to ensuring everyone’s safety, especially that of young children. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there was an annual average of 5,200 pool or spa-related emergency department-treated submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011.

Consumer Reports recommends implementing several protective layers of pool safety, including CPR and first aid skills. Of course, children in and around pools should be under constant adult supervision, and young children should take swimming lessons as early as possible.

Make sure the following safety tips from Consumer Reports are put in place at your pool this summer:
  • Alarms: Any door leading from the house to the pool area should have an alarm that sounds when the door is opened. Pools should also have pool alarms that sound both at the pool and in the house if a child falls into the water.
  • Covers: When not in use for extended periods of time, pools should be securely covered.
  • Drains: Pool drains should have safety covers that prevent entrapment.
  • Fencing: A non-climbable fence, a minimum of 4 feet high, should surround the pool. The gate on the fence should be self-closing, self latching, and lockable.
Lastly, Consumer Reports advises being wary of pool toys that could potentially pose a safety hazard. A recent Consumer Reports recall, for example, involved inflatable pool slides sold at Walmart and Toys R Us that could deflate while in use and trigger a serious injury. According to the CPSC, there had been at least three cases where the pool slides maimed or killed swimmers.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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'Telework' Goes Mainstream

May 30, 2012 4:48 am

According to a new report from The Conference Board, the proportion of employees who work predominately from home (or another remote location) has, over the last decade, more than tripled in many industries, while nearly doubling nationwide among all full-time (non-self-employed) U.S. workers.

Drawn from a number of recent surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau and private sources, “The Incredible Disappearing Office: Making Telework Work” finds employees taking more frequent advantage of such workplace flexibility across the board, with 84 percent of employees who telework more than once per month now working remotely at least one day per week. In 2008, that number was 72 percent.

The latest research finds that teleworking rates (just over 2 percent nationwide) remain highest in occupations traditionally associated with the practice—including child care workers (9.1 percent in 2010), writers and authors (9.3 percent), and sales representatives (10.8 percent). The fastest growth, however, has been outside these familiar work-from-home roles, with the most dramatic increases seen in computer-related positions and others reliant on remote access to technical systems.

These trends are fundamentally altering the profile of the average teleworker. Where employees of non-profit organizations were most likely to telework in 2000, by 2010 the for-profit sector had taken the lead. It may be unsurprising that workplace flexibility appeals both to older workers nearing (or delaying) retirement and Gen Y new hires for whom virtual presence and multichannel communication are second nature.

With today's significantly cheaper, lighter-weight technology, organizations can often enjoy savings based on teleworkers. It is little wonder, then, that the federal government is embracing the approach. Signed into law on December 9, 2010, the Telework Enhancement Act (TEA) established a framework of identifying and training eligible employees, backed by appropriate policy and support, effective management oversight, and timely reporting; it offers a model not only for public agencies but also private organizations seeking to implement their own telework programs.

In surveys, teleworkers cite a number of obvious lifestyle benefits. With no commute, employees enjoy time with loved ones during precious morning and evening hours. Based from home, they gain the flexibility to adjust their schedules as job and personal demands arise. Likewise, teleworkers often note improved performance and higher productivity, with the ability to focus on work priorities free of the stress of distractions and office politics.

At the same time, this very autonomy can have distinct drawbacks. Teleworkers may feel cut-off from their colleagues and weakened in their ability to influence both day-to-day decisions and larger strategic plans. They often lack sufficient professional and administrative support and fear that being "out of sight, out of mind" keeps them from being properly recognized and rewarded by management. With meetings and group projects more difficult to coordinate, teleworkers also risk resentment from office-based colleagues, who may assume additional responsibilities in their absence. Finally, the same "always on" technology that makes the modern home office possible can mean difficulties setting boundaries between home and work time, setting the stage for potential overwork and burnout.

According to “Making Telework Work,” extensive, proactive planning from the top is key to reaping the significant cost savings and worker-satisfaction gains of teleworking while maintaining organization-wide morale and cohesion. Whether opportunities for telework are reserved for the best-performing employees, promoted across an organization, or used to attract standout applicants from a wider talent pool (such as disabled veterans, semi-retired experts, and parents with young children), leaders must establish formal, transparent guidelines if the "virtual office" is to be a real success.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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New-Home Sales Tick up in April

May 30, 2012 4:48 am

Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 3.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 343,000 units, according to newly released data from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The increase in April sales activity is in line with other important housing measures that have shown continued, gradual improvement from the first quarter as more consumers look to take advantage of today’s low interest rates and affordable home prices,” notes National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “In markets where demand is rising, we could be seeing a faster pace of recovery if not for persistently tight lending conditions that are slowing both the building and buying of new homes.”

“Today’s report is representative of the kind of modest but consistent gains that we expect to see in new-home sales through the remainder of 2012,” says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “As indicated by our most recent builder surveys, more consumers are taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates amidst firming economic and job market conditions in certain areas.”

On a regional basis, new-home sales rose 7.7 percent in the Northeast, 28.2 percent in the Midwest and 27.5 percent in the West in April. The South was the only region to post a decline for the month, of 10.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale held virtually unchanged at just 146,000 units in April, which is a historically slim 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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May 29 is '529 Day' – Do You Know What That Means?

May 29, 2012 4:48 am

Today is 529 Day and according to a survey released by financial services firm Edward Jones, 62 percent of Americans have no idea what a 529 college saving plan is. The survey, which asked respondents to identify what a 529 plan is from a list of options spanning from "a college savings plan" to "a form of life insurance," found that almost two-thirds chose the wrong answer. About 14 percent of the respondents simply said they did not know.

According to the firm, the survey results reinforce the growing problem that many Americans are facing today – the rising costs of higher education. Tuition costs of four-year public colleges rose 8 percent from 2010 to 2011, and they are expected to continue to rise, according to the College Board. Created more than 15 years ago in 1996, a 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage preparing for future college costs.

Awareness for 529 plans rises with the wealth level of those surveyed. Only 27 percent of respondents making less than $35,000 a year identified a 529 plan, while 57 percent of those making between $75,000 and $100,000 annually and 62 percent of respondents making more than $100,000 annually identified the correct answer.

Respondents who have college degrees were much more likely than other respondents to identify a 529 plan, with 53 percent choosing the correct option. This compares to 33 percent of respondents who attended—but did not complete—college and 29 percent of those whose education ended with high school or earlier.

Just about half (48 percent) of respondents with children of any age indicated they knew about a 529 plan. Those with children between the ages of 13 and 17 were less likely (43 percent) than their peers with younger children to identify a 529 plan. More than half of respondents with children under the age of 13 (52 percent) correctly identified a 529 plan. Those with no children were much less likely to choose the correct option (30 percent).

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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