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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Melting Pot: Global Cuisines Gain Popularity

August 28, 2015 1:51 am

A variety of ethnic cuisines are increasingly becoming part of everyday American diets, according to recent research by the National Restaurant Association – more so than they were five years ago. The research points to 80 percent of individuals consuming at least one type of ethnic cuisine each month.

“Americans generally are more willing to try new food than they were only a decade or so ago – especially in restaurants – underscoring that the typical consumer today is becoming more adventurous and sophisticated when it comes to different cuisines and flavors,” explains National Restaurant Association Director of Research Communications Annika Stensson.

Which cuisines reign supreme? Italian, Mexican and Chinese cuisines are most popular in terms of familiarity and frequency of consumption. Individuals are least familiar with Ethiopian, Brazilian/Argentine and Korean cuisines.

Brazilian/Argentine, Greek, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines are most commonly consumed on-premises at restaurants. Chinese, Ethiopian, Mexican and Italian are most commonly consumed via restaurant takeout or delivery.

Source: National Restaurant Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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FHA to Issue Borrower Guidelines for Energy-Efficient Improvements

August 28, 2015 1:51 am

As part of the White House’s National Clean Energy Summit, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) plans to issue a set of guidelines supporting borrowers seeking to make energy-efficient home improvements, allowing them to use Single Family FHA financing for properties with existing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans that meet certain conditions.

PACE can vary from state-to-state, but generally allows homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements for up to 20 years through assessments attached to the property. PACE allows homeowners to benefit from the improvements immediately and spread the cost over time. When the property is sold, the PACE loan remains with the property and the next owner is responsible for repaying the loan.

The Single Family FHA guidance will allow lenders to evaluate the conditions under which borrowers purchasing, refinancing properties, or modifying their loans with existing PACE assessments will be eligible to use FHA-insured financing. Through this guidance FHA is committing to develop more specific guidance in the near future that will include these requirements: PACE liens that preserve payment priority for first lien mortgages through subordination are eligible; PACE assessments must be fixed-rate and fixed repayment schedule; PACE assessments must be recorded and identifiable to the lender; and PACE assessments must be attached to single-family properties, as defined by FHA, which are 1- to 4-unit dwellings.

The FHA will also be partnering with the Department of Energy (DOE) to incorporate its use of the DOE’s Home Energy Score into Single Family existing FHA’s Energy Efficient Home (EEH) program. The FHA will provide flexible underwriting to recognize the reduced costs of utilities.

Homebuyers or homeowners who want to obtain an FHA-insured purchase or refinance mortgage for a single-family home that receives a Home Energy Score of 6 or higher will be eligible to increase their income qualifying ratio by 2 percent above the standard Single Family FHA limit.

The DOE developed the Home Energy Score as a low-cost, reliable method to estimate a home’s energy use. It is the equivalent of a vehicle miles-per-gallon rating for homes. The calculation methodology relies on a 10-point scale in which a “1” corresponds to the least energy-efficient homes and a “10” corresponds to the most energy-efficient homes. According to the DOE, the average U.S. home will score a “5.” The official DOE-recognized Home Energy Score can only be assessed by a qualified energy assessor.

Source: HUD

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More Homeowners DIY Exterior Improvements

August 28, 2015 1:51 am

More homeowners are taking a “design-it-yourself” approach when it comes to improving the exteriors of their homes – in fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by Royal® Building Products, homeowners aren’t afraid to step in and make their own design decisions to better their home’s outward appearance.

“Today's homeowners are more empowered than ever to be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to the exterior design of their homes,” explains Marilyn Chase of Royal Building Products. Over half of respondents to the survey desire a say in the material used for the exterior of their home, as well as a say in the specific products being used to build it.

Nearly 65 percent of homeowners believe making upgrades to a home’s exterior is a wise investment, and an identical percentage believes a renovation to the exterior adds value.

When making exterior improvements, the majority of survey respondents say they would take aesthetics, curb appeal and the overall neighborhood into consideration. Interestingly, nearly three-quarters of respondents believe coordinating the exterior color of a home with the interior color scheme is unimportant.

Structural pains when making exterior improvements present concerns. Approximately half of survey respondents expressed fear over rotting, cracking, and moisture and wind damage.

Source: Royal® Building Products

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School's In Session: Is Your Backpack Safe?

August 27, 2015 1:51 am

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), backpacks can be a source of injury if not worn correctly. “The effects of carrying an overloaded backpack should not be taken lightly,” says AAOS spokesperson Afshin Razi, MD. “Injuries to the muscles and joints can lead to sevee back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems that can take weeks or months to heal.”

With the start of a new school year upon us, the AAOS recommends lightening the load with these tips:

• Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back. Depending on the student’s commute and accessibility of school, roller or crossbody bags can be good alternatives.

• Remove or organize items if too heavy and pack the heavier things low and towards the center. When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.

• Carry only those items that are required for the day. If possible, leave books at home or school.

• At home and at school, keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.

• Don’t ignore numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, which may indicate poor fit or too much weight being carried.

• Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of the student.

• If you’re a parent, purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of the student. Observe your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle.

• Encourage your child to stop at their locker throughout the day, as time permits, to drop off heavier books.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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Homeowners Insurance Lessons 10 Years after Katrina

August 27, 2015 1:51 am

Ten years after the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, Hurricane Katrina is being remembered for its devastating toll on residents in six coastal states. Insured losses totaled over $41 billion and underscored the importance of recognizing the risk of and planning for natural disasters, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The following four key lessons from Hurricane Katrina can help homeowners build a preparedness mindset that will stand as a defense against severe weather threats.

1. Consider Purchasing a Flood Insurance Policy

A key lesson learned from Katrina was that neither a home nor a renters insurance policy covers flood damage. Yet, according to a recent I.I.I. poll, only 13 percent of American homeowners have a flood insurance policy.

Since 1968, flood coverage has been available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is also sold by some private insurers. Talk to your insurance professional to make sure you have enough insurance to replace your personal possessions and rebuild your home.

The maximum amount of NFIP coverage available to homeowners is $250,000 for the home and $100,000 for the home’s contents. For higher coverage levels, ask about excess flood insurance from private insurance companies.

2. Keep an Up-to-Date Home Inventory

An inventory of personal possessions makes it simpler to purchase the right amount of coverage, as well as making the claims filing process easier and more accurate. It can also be helpful when filing for financial assistance after a disaster.

3. Have an Evacuation Plan

In the event of a disaster, there may be only hours to evacuate. In order for an evacuation to go smoothly when a storm is imminent, it is important to plan and practice in advance. Have emergency supplies, including medicines, extra clothing, comfort items and important papers gathered and ready to go. Knowing where to evacuate to and the planned route is equally important. And be sure to take into account any special accommodations that need to be made for elderly relatives, a family member with special needs or pets.

4. Take Steps to Protect Property

Strengthening the roof, windows, doors and protecting all openings are important steps in safeguarding both the structure of a house and its occupants.

Source: I.I.I.

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Are You a "Metro Mover"?

August 27, 2015 1:51 am

According to Census data, nearly 20 percent of all movers in the United States and Puerto Rico, or about 8.5 million people, have moved to a different metropolitan area in the last year. These “metro movers” are relocating from metro area to metro area, with the majority moving between metros within the United States. A fraction of movers–approximately 25,000–moved from a metro area in the United States to a metro area in Puerto Rico.

Movers relocating between the metro areas of Los Angeles and Riverside, Calif. and the metro areas of New York and Philadelphia were among the largest migration flows.

“Nine of the top 10 metro migration flows were moves to nearby metro areas, with the largest flow of about 90,000 moving from the Los Angeles metro to the Riverside metro area,” says Kin Koerber, a demographer with the Census Bureau’s Journey-to-Work and Migration Statistics Branch. “Movers who left the New York City metro area for the Miami metro area were the exception, with about 22,000 people making this move.”

According to the data, just over five percent of the U.S. population, or 16.7 million people, now live in a different county within the U.S. than one year earlier.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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Future Retirees to Retain Lifestyle with Social Security

August 26, 2015 1:51 am

Regardless of generation or ideology, Americans are putting stock in Social Security. According to a recent AARP survey, 80 percent of respondents plan to rely on Social Security, either substantially or somewhat, in retirement, and approximately one-third (33 percent) of respondents plan to rely on Social Security almost exclusively during their retirement.

Why the dependence? Over 80 percent of survey respondents consider it extremely important to have the ability to live independently in their home for as long as they want, and 80 percent want to ensure self-sufficiency so their children or other relatives won’t have to support them financially.

Challenges when preparing for retirement are also a contributor factor, with nearly 70 percent of survey respondents citing current financial obligations as an obstacle to saving. Almost half of respondents say they don’t have enough money left over after paying bills to save, and about 40 percent say they faced a major health issue in their family that has hindered saving.

Social Security has consistently found favor with the majority of Americans over the last 20 years. According to the survey, 66 percent of respondents, many of which are adults under age 30, say Social Security is one of the most important government programs.

Source: AARP

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4 Home Maintenance Projects to Do This Fall

August 26, 2015 1:51 am

As summer comes to a close, this time of year is ideal for homeowners to establish a fall home maintenance checklist. While warm weather still permits, be sure to pencil in these tasks, recommended by the National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), before cooler temperatures set in.

1. Turn off exterior faucets. Un-drained water in pipes can freeze easily, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10 to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.

2. Remove leaves around your outside unit. The HVAC unit is likely your home’s largest operating system. The compressor part of your air conditioner is located on the exterior of your home and can become inefficient with debris and leaves blocking it. You can even use a wet dry vacuum or your hands to remove the debris from the bottom for manual cleaning. Wear gloves if using your hands for manual cleaning and turn off your main breaker first to be safe.

3. Clean your gutters. Leaves clogging your gutters can cause big problems any time of the year. During cooler months, leaves can potentially cause water to backup into your attic, and even your basement. Be sure to pay particular attention to gutters that have branches directly over them. Not all trees shed their leaves at the same time, so you may need to check the gutters in both the fall and early winter.

4. Schedule a furnace tune-up. A furnace tune-up not only includes cleaning that keeps your furnace running efficiently, but it also catches small problems before they turn into big problems. If you don’t have one already, install a quality carbon monoxide detector in your bedroom and the main area of your home. Be mindful these detectors typically need to be replaced every five to seven years. Batteries in all detectors, including smoke and fire, need to be replaced annually.

Source: NHSCA

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3 Must-Do's when Moving

August 26, 2015 1:51 am

(BPT) - Whether you’re mid-move or planning to in the future, relocating to a new home is not without challenges. To minimize moving stress and settle in quickly, check out these expert tips from appliance manufacturer LG.

1. Measure It Twice

Before you start packing, it's important, if possible, to visit your new home with a tape measure. Carefully measure and take note of the square footage and dimensions of every room in your new home. Do the same with any existing appliances and furniture you plan on relocating to your new home to ensure that everything fits through the door and in the space.

If you're purchasing new large appliances or furniture, be sure to measure everything in the store or take note of each item's dimensions online to make sure it fits. Removing or replacing a refrigerator, for example, is a time-consuming and expensive task that can be avoided with careful planning. If you aren't able to visit before moving in, ask your real estate agent for a copy of the floor plan.

2. Pack Strategically

Pack and label items by category, such as dishes, winter clothes and books, or by appropriate area, such as bedroom, kitchen and living room. To limit damage, be sure to pack fragile and valuable items carefully with padded packaging, and communicate fragile items clearly with your movers. To save even more hassle, pack a couple of boxes of essential items, specifically for the first night in your new home, which would otherwise be hard to find. You'll thank yourself when items such as cleaning supplies, fresh linens and a coffee pot are right at your fingertips.

3. Share Your New Address

Update your employer, bank, school, doctors, pharmacist and credit card company with your new address as early as possible. This can affect billing statements and formal records, which are a headache to change at a later date. Be sure to call your electric, cable and Internet companies to swap your address, and inquire about any potential changes in your service. Sign up for USPS mail forwarding to ensure all of your mail reaches you in a timely manner.

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Expert Tips for a Healthy School Year

August 25, 2015 1:51 am

Beyond an annual physical, back-to-school is an ideal time for students and parents to take stock of their health. “The school year should be an enjoyable experience, and staying healthy–both physically and mentally–is one way to help get the most out of every day of class and extracurricular activities,” says Pennsylvania Medical Society President. Karen Rizzo, MD.

For students with food allergies, the cafeteria can be a minefield to navigate. It is important for students and parents to remain vigilant.

“Unfortunately, there’s no cure for food allergies,” explains Joel Fiedler, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Allergy and Asthma Association, “and sometimes the only line of defense for a person experiencing anaphylaxis is an EpiPen. Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and can happen with seconds after being exposed to an allergen.

“Children in school settings can be vulnerable, particularly since they may not pay attention to what they are eating or touching during their lunch period and in some cases may not even know they have a food allergy,” Dr. Fiedler says.

Backpacks are also cause for concern, especially if they are too heavy for the size of the child. Says Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society President Thomas Muzzonigro, MD, “As a general guideline, don’t allow your child to carry a backpack that’s more than 15 percent of their own body weight. Lugging around a ton of books and other supplies all day can eventually be problematic.”

When a heavy backpack is incorrectly placed on the shoulders, the weight's force can alter the child's posture. Many children will compensate by bending forward at the hips or arch the back, which can cause the spine to compress unnaturally. It's a recipe for shoulder, neck, and back pain.

School buses present inherent dangers, as well–all it takes is one distracted or impatient driver to pose serious risks to students. Todd Fijewski, president of the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians, encourages students to not dart in, out or around any bus, and to avoid texting and walking when getting on or off a bus.

Issues can also arise when a child feels apprehensive about the first day of school or a significant event during the year. Students should remain proactive–with the help of parents, if necessary–to effectively manage stress, advises Robert E. Wilson, MD, PhD, president of the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society. Dr. Wilson recommends students regularly give themselves positive feedback, reward themselves with leisure activities, exercise, eat a balanced diet, and develop time management skills.

Source: Pennsylvania Medical Society

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