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

Fixed Mortgage Rates Hit Record Lows...Again

May 18, 2012 4:40 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates again hitting new record lows. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.79 percent continues to remain well below 4 percent and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages are also slightly down at 3.04 percent.

Additional details from the PMMS:
-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.79 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending May 17, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.83 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.61 percent.
-15-year FRM this week averaged 3.04 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.80 percent.
-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.83 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.81 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.48 percent.
-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.78 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.73 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.15 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Seven in Ten Americans Cooking More, Eating Out Less

May 17, 2012 4:36 am

One of the ways people gauge when an economic recovery is occurring is when Americans start spending more on things like eating out in restaurants.

According to the results of a recent Harris Poll, people are indeed dining out. Over three in five U.S. adults (63 percent) have dined at a fast food restaurant chain in the past month and about half have dined at a local casual dining establishment (53 percent) and a casual dining restaurant chain (50 percent). Fewer have dined at either a local fine dining establishment (18 percent) or a fine dining restaurant chain (9 percent) while 13 percent of Americans have not dined at any of these types of restaurants in the past month.

However, while Americans are dining out, they are still cutting back on how often they do so. In looking at the past six months, about one-third say they are eating less frequently at fast food chains (36 percent), casual dining restaurant chains (34 percent), and local casual dining restaurants (34 percent).

Women are more likely than men to say they are dining out less frequently in these three types of restaurants over the past six months. For example, two in five women (41 percent) say they are dining less frequently at fast food restaurants compared to 31 percent of men.

Seven in ten Americans (71 percent) say they find themselves cooking more instead of going out in order to save more money, while over half (57 percent) say going out used to be a regular occurrence but it is now a luxury. On the flip side, three in five U.S. adults (60 percent) disagree with the notion that they will eat out as often but now usually at a lower priced restaurant. Only three in ten Americans (29 percent) say they will cut spending in other places in order to still be able to dine out.

"Consumer restaurant behavior continues to evolve as they manage their budgets in an ongoing tight economy. At the beginning of the economic downturn we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from Casual Dining towards Fast Food/Quick Service restaurants," according to Mary Bouchard, vice president and thought leader at Harris Interactive. "Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy-lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home. When they do eat out, not surprisingly, price is still a primary component of their decision making process."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Refreshing Your Laundry Room

May 17, 2012 4:36 am

If you’re noticing that your summer clothes are dull and grey and your whites are yellowing, part of the problem may be a dirty washing machine, according to the experts at The Maids. To keep you and your wearables looking fresh, The Maids suggest the following steps for cleaning your laundry room:

The Washer
- Clean out your washer every month or so by adding vinegar to the wash cycle. For top loaders, turn the setting to the largest load and fill the empty machine with hot water. Once filled, stop the cycle and add three to four cups of distilled white vinegar. Turn off the machine. After letting the water sit for about 30 minutes to an hour, restart the machine and finish the cycle. To eliminate odor, add one-half cup of baking soda to the vinegar-water mixture. For front-loading machines, place vinegar and baking soda into the empty machine and run through a wash cycle.
- Occasionally wipe out the inside of the machine with a damp cloth or soft brush and a tiny bit of detergent.
- To keep the machine clean and eliminate residue, use less detergent. Oftentimes, you can cut the amount in half. Add a small amount of vinegar, about one-fourth cup, to the rinse cycle to replace fabric softener. Vinegar is less expensive and is a natural whitening agent, leaving white clothes whiter and colored clothes brighter.
- If you have a removable detergent compartment, let it soak in vinegar to eliminate sticky residue. If it is not removable, warm a cup of vinegar in the microwave then pour it into the detergent compartment. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before running a wash cycle.

The Dryer
- After every use, empty the dryer's lint trap. About once a week, get rid of all the lint residue on the trap by washing it in the sink or vacuuming it. Use a long, flexible brush to clean any stray lint from the housing that holds the lint trap. Occasionally clean the inside of the dryer by wiping it down with a damp cloth and a tiny dab of dishwashing detergent.
- Use the same method – damp cloth and dishwashing liquid – to clean fronts, sides and tops of machines.

The Laundry Room
- Sweep or vacuum the floor, launder any rugs and dust or vacuum under the washer and dryer, being careful to avoid hoses and cords.
- Occasionally clean the dryer hose with a duster or long vacuum attachment. This will clear away lint stuck to the walls of the hose. Follow manufacturer's directions for detaching the hose.
- Clean the sink and deodorize the drain by pouring in one-four cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white distilled vinegar. After letting the mix sit for about 15 minutes, rinse with hot water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Homeowners Face Insurance Increases Nationwide

May 17, 2012 4:36 am

The recently released 2011 HomeInsurance.com RateReport shows a considerable increase in average 12-month homeowners insurance premiums for new policies in December 2011. The data represents approximately 15,000 policies sold across the United States with such top-rated carriers as Travelers, Safeco, The Hartford, and ASI/Ark Royal.

The RateReport shows that 12-month home insurance premiums in December 2011 were $810 nationwide, a 19 percent increase from January 2011 at $682. RateReport shows that on a nationwide basis, homeowners are paying, on average, $128 more per year for new homeowners insurance policies than they were at the beginning of the year.

State-by-state premium increases were more dramatic in some areas including Mississippi, Montana and New Mexico where new policies in December 2011 were carrying roughly 29-39 percent higher premiums than those sold in January 2011.

"Rate fluctuations are normal and can be caused by a variety of factors," says Carlos Lagomarsino Founder of HomeInsurance.com. "The best thing homeowners can do is comparison shop and ask their agents to qualify them for all eligible discounts, such as a home-auto package, which can provide substantial savings."

With the overwhelming increases in 2011, there were some bright spots where policyholders saw lower rates toward the end of 2011 such as Washington D.C., where homeowners were paying about 7 percent less for new policies. Likewise, new policies sold in December 2011 in Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and California decreased in price as compared to earlier in the year when they were 1 to 3 percent higher.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Do Judge a City by Its Sandwich

May 15, 2012 4:36 am

It probably comes as no surprise that the most expensive club sandwich in America can be had in New York City. According to the Hotels.com Club Sandwich Index (CSI), the price of this classic sandwich serves as a universal measure of affordability for travelers thanks to its reputation as standard lunch fare among hotel restaurants worldwide since the 1800s.

The CSI average price has been calculated by taking the real prices paid by guests for a club sandwich within 1,000 five, four and three-star hotels located in popular travel destinations across 26 countries, with 10 U.S. cities measured.

"The CSI is a quirky way for travelers to estimate the cost of living in the destinations they are visiting for their vacations," explains Taylor L. Cole, director, public relations and social media, North America at Hotels.com. "The CSI is a fun metric which provides an average cost travelers can use to estimate lunch budgets for daily expenses away from home."

This standard lunch fare is known for its popularity among hotel restaurants worldwide where it has been a staple since the 1800s. Although the exact origin of the club sandwich has not been proven, popular myths point it to an exclusive gambling club in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where it became popular before spreading to the rest of the world.

The following top U.S. destinations are ranked here according to the average price of their club sandwich:
  • New York City $17
  • Orlando $15
  • San Francisco $14
  • Washington $14
  • Las Vegas $13
  • Chicago $12
  • Houston $12
  • New Orleans $12*
  • Los Angeles $11
  • San Diego $10
*Club sandwiches were very hard to find on New Orleans hotel restaurant menus; this price represents the average price of a Po'Boy.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Remodeling Homeowners Choosing Style Over Profit

May 15, 2012 4:36 am

Even as new and existing home sales and prices climb, homeowners are prioritizing aesthetics before profit, according to a recent Houzz & Home Survey. Houzz is a leading online platform for home design and remodeling, with more than four million unique users each month.

Among homeowners planning to build, remodel or decorate in the next two years, 86 percent cited "improving the look and feel of the space" as an important driver for remodeling projects, while only 47 percent cited "increasing home value." The gap between these priorities was consistent across all income levels and demographic groups.

Homeowners say they are more likely to cut back in other areas, such as vacations and other big-ticket purchases, than to delay or decrease the budget for their home improvement plans.

Seventy percent of respondents said they'd rather cut back elsewhere or do some of the work themselves than take out a loan to finance their home improvement. Even upscale homeowners are taking a hands-on approach to building, remodeling and decorating projects. The survey found that while 45 percent of homeowners at upper income levels ($150,000+) are choosing to hire an architect, interior designer, general contractor or another remodeling or decorating professional to complete a project in its entirety, an equal number of them are combining professional help and DIY efforts, a proportion only slightly smaller than the 49 percent taking this combination approach in lower income brackets.

Kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular remodeling projects among Houzz users, with 48 percent of respondents planning a bathroom remodel, and 45 percent redoing a kitchen in the next two years.

Other interesting findings from the survey include:
  • In the next two years, 72 percent of homeowners surveyed plan to decorate or redecorate, 40 percent plan to remodel or construct an addition, while 10 percent are planning to build a custom home.
  • 57 percent of Houzz homeowners planning to complete a project in the next two years will hire a general contractor, 35 percent a kitchen or bath professional and 32 percent will hire a carpet or flooring professional. Thirty percent are planning to hire an architect, 26 percent an interior designer and 24 percent a landscape architect or designer.
  • About half—52 percent—say they will save money by completing some projects themselves.
  • The largest projects in terms of average spend in the last five years were custom home builds ($577,000), complete home remodels ($193,000), pool additions or replacements ($34,000) and kitchen remodels ($25,000).
Source: Houzz.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Majority of Refinancing Borrowers Choose Fixed-Rate Mortgages

May 15, 2012 4:36 am

In the first quarter of 2012, fixed-rate loans accounted for more than 95 percent of refinance loans, based on the Freddie Mac Quarterly Product Transition Report released today. Refinancing borrowers clearly preferred fixed-rate loans, regardless of whether their original loan was an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a fixed-rate.

Of borrowers who refinanced during the first quarter of 2012, 31 percent reduced their loan term by paying off a 30-year loan and replacing it with a 20-year, 15-year, or other shorter-term loan. In addition, 66 percent of borrowers kept the same term as the loan that they had paid off.

Sixty-eight percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM chose a fixed-rate loan during the first quarter, the highest share since the first quarter of last year, while the remaining 32 percent chose to refinance into the same type of product.

According to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist, "Fixed mortgage rates averaged 3.92 percent for 30-year loans and 3.19 percent for 15-year product during the first quarter in Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey ®, well below long-term averages.”

“For borrowers motivated to refinance by low fixed-rates, they could obtain even lower rates by shortening their term,” adds Nothaft. “Further, under the enhanced Home Affordable Refinance Program—HARP—announced by FHFA on October 24, 2011, certain risk-based fees are waived for HARP borrowers who refinance into shorter-term loans."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Crazy Reasons to Quit

May 14, 2012 4:36 am

A stronger economy often gives workers greater courage to change jobs, but the excuses offered for jumping ship can leave many employers perplexed. A new OfficeTeam survey reveals the wackiest reasons job seekers have given for handing in their notice. Here are some examples:
  • "Someone left because her boss lost the dog she had given him."
  • "Our employee said he was joining the circus."
  • "One person left because she lost her cellphone too many times at work."
  • "We had someone quit to participate in a reality show."
  • "An employee said it was his routine to change jobs every six months."
The survey was developed by OfficeTeam and conducted by an independent research firm; it is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada.

Some individuals simply had to follow their true calling:
  • "One worker left to become an apple farmer."
  • "A staff member quit to climb Mount Everest."
  • "There was an individual who left to play the trombone."
  • "An employee wanted to enter a beauty contest."
  • "One worker quit to join a rock band."
It may be hard to fault these professionals for their honesty:
  • "A guy said he was making too much money and didn't feel he was worth it."
  • "One person left because she didn't want to work so hard."
  • "An individual said he was bored."
  • "Someone quit because she was going to live off her trust fund."
  • "An employee said work was getting in the way of having fun."
  • "A person quit because informal dress was not allowed."
  • "The worker told us he just couldn't get up in the morning."
OfficeTeam offers five tips for leaving a job on good terms:
  1. Give proper notice. Tell your boss about your departure first so he or she doesn't hear it through the grapevine. Providing two weeks notice is standard, but if your schedule is flexible, offer to stay longer to train a replacement.
  2. Get things in order. Supply written instructions to team members on projects and make sure they have access to the tools and information needed to complete assignments.
  3. Stay positive. Take the time to say goodbye and thank you to colleagues. Provide your contact information and reach out to those with whom you'd like to keep in touch.
  4. Don't slack off. Use your last weeks on the job to complete as much work as possible on outstanding projects. You want to be remembered as a strong contributor to the end.
  5. Talk before you walk. Participate in an exit interview if it's offered. Be honest with your feedback, but keep it constructive and professional. Your comments and suggestions could potentially help to improve the workplace.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Most Consumers Expect More from Technology

May 14, 2012 4:36 am

What people want most from their smartphones, tablets, home theater and home appliances is simplicity, according to the new Ketchum Digital Living Index, conducted by global communications firm Ketchum. The study showed that 76 percent of consumers said they are not very satisfied with technology's ability to make their life simpler. Responses from 6,000 consumers in six countries revealed more prefer technology to be easy to use (54 percent) and simplify their life (46 percent) than entertain them (35 percent) or signal who they are to the world (11 percent).

"The most surprising finding in the study is the overwhelming desire for simplification. It seems counter-intuitive when technology is always about being bigger or better or faster, but the data show that what people really want is to understand how all of these devices can get them to their desired experience easily," said Esty Pujadas, partner and director of Ketchum's Global Technology Practice. "Manufacturers need to use less so-called jargon monoxide and communicate more about the human experience, not just about the object."

This is particularly true considering that the sheer volume and pace at which new technologies are brought to market can make it hard for people to keep up.

The Index reveals that there are four kinds of Digital Living natives:
  • The largest group are the Enthusiasts (37 percent of the study's global population), who are passionate about technology and willing to sacrifice simplification for empowerment.
  • The next largest are Infomaniacs (25 percent), who value getting information and discovering new experiences even more than relating better to other people.
  • Pragmatists (22 percent) are less likely to love technology, but value it as very helpful in relating better to others, getting things done, and managing health and wellness.
  • Disconnects (16 percent) are noticeably unemotional about technology; they place a high value on simplification instead of empowerment or enrichment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Consumer Sentiment Reaches a Post-Recession High

May 14, 2012 4:36 am

According to a recent Marketwatch report, the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters index rose to 77.8 from 76.4 in April. This figure represents the highest reading since January 2008, one month after the recession began. Additionally, the current economic conditions index jumped to 87.3, the best reading since January 2008, from 82.9 in April. That said, consumer expectations also fell.

According to the Marketwatch report, this picture could be explained by the combination of falling gasoline prices along with April’s report of slowing jobs growth, which could be weighing on expectations.

“That is good news, and is thematically consistent with the view that the softening in recent labor data has more to do with seasonal pay back than a shift lower in underlying job demand,” said Eric Green of TD Securities.

Source: Marketwatch

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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