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

Update Your Kitchen or Bath with On-Trend Design

January 26, 2015 4:48 am

Contemporary and transitional styles have overtaken North America's long love affair with traditional designs in the kitchen and bath, according to a recent report by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). This year, homeowners can expect transitional style in the kitchen, and a mix of transitional and contemporary style in the bathroom.

In the kitchen, the NKBA expects:
  • Fusion of styles and multiple colors
  • European-styled cabinets
  • Multiple appliances
  • Steam ovens
  • Furniture-look pieces
  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Counters or tall gathering tables in place of traditional kitchen table
  • TVs and docking stations
  • Wine refrigerators
In the bath, the NKBA expects:
  • Clean, white design
  • Floating vanities
  • Open shelving
  • Electric heated floors
  • Trough sinks
  • Innovative storage
  • Freestanding tubs
Source: NKBA

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Decoding Your Taxes

January 26, 2015 4:48 am

(Family Features) You don't need to be an expert on taxes or the new health care law to get it right. For the 70 percent of Americans who earned $60,000 or less in 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommends using Free File (IRS.gov/freefile) to file their taxes. If you made more than $60,000, you still have a free option in Free File Fillable Forms.

When it comes to the health care law, almost everyone will need to do something new when filing a tax return this year. For each month in 2014, you and everyone on your return will need to do one of the following:
• Report healthcare coverage
If you and everyone on your tax return had health care coverage for all of 2014, simply check the "full year coverage" box when completing your return in the Free File software. For most people, that's it!

• Claim an exemption from coverage
If you did not have health care coverage for all or part of 2014, you may qualify for a coverage exemption. Free File will help you complete Form 8965 and file it with your tax return.

• Make a shared responsibility payment with your tax return
If you or your dependents had neither health care coverage nor an exemption, you may need to make a payment with your tax return. Free File will help you calculate your payment and report it on your tax return.
Most people will simply have to check a box to indicate they maintained health care coverage for the entire year.

Before you begin filing your taxes, gather all related documents:
- A copy of last year’s return
- Valid Social Security numbers for yourself, spouse and children
- All income statements, i.e. W-2 forms, from all employers
- Interest and dividend statements, i.e. 1099 forms
- Form 1099-G showing any state refunds
- Unemployment compensation amount
- Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, if you purchased coverage from a Health Insurance Marketplace
- Records of your own and your family members' health care insurance coverage, including employer provided, government, Marketplace or private coverage
(Note: If you or anyone on your return purchased insurance coverage from the Marketplace, you may be eligible for the premium tax credit. If you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent to your insurer in 2014, you must reconcile or compare the advance credit payments with the actual premium tax credit you are allowed to claim on your return.)

Once you’ve completed your return, you can also print a copy and e-file your federal taxes, absolutely free. With electronic filing, you will receive a confirmation within minutes that the IRS has accepted your return. Or, if it's not accepted, you can easily find out why. E-file helps make your tax return even more accurate, which means a quicker refund. To get your refund even faster, combine e-file with direct deposit.

The Free File software is available online 24/7.

Source: IRS.gov

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Household Finance Growth Expectations On the Rise

January 26, 2015 4:48 am

A recently released survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes that household finances could see significant growth this year. The survey indicates that median household income growth expectations rose 0.3 percent, its highest level since the survey’s inception in June 2013.

The uptick in consumer household finance expectations was driven primarily by respondents from the South and in the 40- to 60-year-old segment. In contrast, median household spending expectations declined late last year, driven primarily by high-income respondents.

Expected changes in credit availability a year from now or compared to a year ago remained mostly unchanged.

In addition, the survey points to trends in inflation, including home and gasoline prices. Median home price change expectations remained steady at 3.7 percent; gasoline price change expectations continued a four-month decline to 3.8 percent. Median earnings growth expectations jumped to 2.7 percent – again, its highest level since the start of the survey in June 2013.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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Setting a Household Budget and Sticking to It

January 23, 2015 4:48 am

Despite a growing economy, many Americans still struggle with money management at home. If you’re experiencing challenges financially, there’s hope. According to financial publisher Bankrate.com, establishing a foolproof budget is key to eliminating debt, saving both short- and long-term, and building wealth. Here’s how to do it.

1. Record all expenditures. Track all transactions for at least one month to gauge your spending habits. Record everything, including pocket change amounts like ATM fees.

2. Set financial priorities. After learning exactly how your money is being allocated, take time to evaluate what really matters. Expenses related to housing and utilities should always come first, followed by food, clothing, gasoline, recreational activities and vacations. Decide what you’re not willing to compromise on and actively look for areas where you can cut back.

3. Plan to pay down debt. In 2014, the average credit card debt landed just above $5,200 per borrower (TransUnion). The trick is to pay the maximum amount your budget will allow every month. Some people feel better if they tackle smaller debts first, which often take a shorter amount of time to eliminate, and others, like those with multiple credit card balances, focus on debts with the highest interest rate first.

4. Start saving today. Most experts agree that saving just 10 percent of your earnings annually can lead to significant wealth in the future. If you’re used to saving sporadically, set up an automated system with your online banking provider. For short-term savings goals, it’s best to place those funds in an interest-bearing account, money market fund or CD. For long-term savings goals, focus on gaining tax benefits by contributing to a 401(k) or IRA. Be sure to contribute the maximum amount allowed to your 401(k).

Source: Bankrate

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Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Essentials

January 23, 2015 4:48 am

If you're aiming to eat healthy this year, make your goal a reality by stocking your kitchen with the right basics. Registered dietician and author of “Schedule Me Skinny” Sarah-Jane Bedwell recommends getting into the habit of keeping healthy foods on hand at all times.

Here, the most nutritious essentials to stock up on:

Vinegar – The acid in vinegar, including white wine, red wine and balsamic, brightens and balances favors. It’s key to a salad vinaigrette, of course, but a splash can also add depth and sweetness to soups and vegetable sautés.

Peanut Butter – An inexpensive source of protein, peanut butter can be a healthy addition to baked goods or Asian-style sauces on meats and noodles. It also pairs well in the classic sliced apple and dip combo.

Canola Oil – This kitchen workhorse is one of the healthiest cooking oils available and ideal for almost any kind of recipe. It contains the least saturated fat and most plant-based omega-3 fat of all common cooking oils.

Honey or Brown Sugar – Sweetener isn’t just for baked goods. Use a touch to help caramelize foods or bring out the natural sweetness in vegetables.

Low-Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth – Store-bought broth tends to contain higher amounts of salt, so look for low-sodium varieties. Boost flavor by using broth for homemade soup, whole grains or a braised dish.

Whole Wheat Flour – Flour is useful for thickening sauces or binding griddle cakes. Look for the white whole wheat kind, which has a lighter texture and still maintains the benefits of whole grain.

Canned Tomatoes – An essential building block for sauces, soups and stews, canned tomatoes are faster (and most times of the year tastier) to use than peeling, seeding and chopping your own. Again, select ones that are lower in sodium.

Source: CanolaInfo.org

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Smart Home Devices That Lead the Pack

January 23, 2015 4:48 am

Recent research from Experian Marketing Services found that nearly a third of all Americans use at least one type of smart or connected device. According to the research, 14 percent of homes are smart homes, featuring devices such as connected lights, locks, thermostats or electrical outlets. Since the beginning of November 2014, interest in leading smart home devices has increased 54 percent.

“As everyday things get smarter, consumers will grow more reliant on those things to process information and designated tasks autonomously. [Connected devices] will also allow consumers to ‘unglue’ their attention from computer, tablet and smartphone screens,” says John Fetto, Experian Marketing Services.

Since the beginning of November 2014, interest in leading smart home devices has increased 54 percent. Consumers helping to push these devices into the mainstream are highly connected both technologically and socially, and they are more than twice as likely as the average U.S. consumer to access social media from different devices.

“The rapidly growing trend of the Internet of Things manifested itself during the 2013 holiday season through the popularity of connected fitness trackers, but [in 2014], it was all about the emergence of smart home devices,” says Fetto.

According to Experian’s research, the hottest smart home device products based on share of top-branded search terms are:

• Nest Thermostat (21 percent)
• Dropcam (12 percent)
• ADT Pulse (5 percent)
• Phillips Hue (5 percent)
• Nest Dropcam (4 percent)
• Dropcam Pro (2 percent)
• Wemo (2 percent)
• Nest Protect (2 percent)
• Hue Lights (2 percent)

Source: Experian

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Watch for Ice Buildup at Home

January 22, 2015 4:45 am

Ice buildup is common following cold weather. Often, DIY experts suggest using a rake with wheels or panty hose filled with calcium chloride to clear ice, but the real solution is much simpler.

Ice buildup occurs when the roof (minus the eaves) is warmed by the house below it. Snow melts on the roof and drains down to the eaves, where it refreezes. Because heat flows by conduction, convection and radiation, the main culprit is not the home’s insulation – it’s air leakage.

Since warm air rises, the air in your home in winter ends up in your attic and roof cavity. Instead of adding more insulation, cooling the roof or warming the eaves, have your home air sealed.

To do that, have your home tested with a blower door for air leakage and for the attic's connection with the house – this will serve as the ‘before’ picture. Enlist the help of a BPI-certified air sealing company to seal the floor of the attic, underneath the insulation, with spray foam or another high-performance sealant. After the seal, test your home again to gauge your ‘after’ picture.

Source: IAER

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A Home Maintenance Guide for All Seasons

January 22, 2015 4:45 am

(Family Features) Homeowners can save big on emergency repairs by completing a few home projects each season. From winter to spring and beyond, follow HomeAdvisor’s seasonal maintenance guide to avoid costly fixes throughout the year.

Winter
Refrigerator – Letting the coils behind your fridge build up with dirt and grime can decrease its efficiency and cost upwards of $300 to repair. Vacuum the coils thoroughly each winter.

Furnace – Rather than replace a neglected furnace, have it serviced to make sure it is operating safely and to its fullest capacity.
Spring
Plumbing – Small problems, such as a dripping faucet or clogged drain, can turn into big headaches if left unchecked, and repairing water damage can cost seven times more than hiring a plumber. Inspect all plumbing fixtures and call a plumber if you notice any leaks.

Roof – The average cost of replacing a roof is $7,744. Check for damage and make general repairs in the spring to extend its lifespan.
Summer
Paint – Completely repainting a home’s exterior costs an average of $3,180. Touch up your home’s exterior paint to protect against weather and insects.

Trees and shrubs – The average cost of trimming trees and shrubs is $577, but leaving them untrimmed can lead to roof damage – a far greater expense to repair.
Fall
Gutter and downspouts – Ignoring your gutters can affect the foundation of your home, leading to $4,000 or more in repair costs. To save money, clean the gutter and downspouts thoroughly each fall.

Windows and doors – Homeowners spend 40 percent on heating and air conditioning in a drafty home. Install weather stripping to prevent unwanted air from leaking into a home in winter. You’ll save long-term on utility bills.
Source: HomeAdvisor

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Pet Owners: 10 Questions to Ask Your Vet

January 22, 2015 4:45 am

Whether visiting for preventative measures or to treat an illness, your veterinarian may prescribe medication for your pet. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s important to fully understand the medication to ensure your pet’s continued good health or recovery.

If medication is prescribed during your next visit, ask your veterinarian these questions.

1. Why has my pet been prescribed this medication and how long do I need to give it?
Your veterinarian can tell you what the medication is expected to do for your pet and how many days to give it.

2. How do I give the medication to my pet? Should it be given with food?

Your pet may have fewer side effects from some medications if they are taken with food. Other medications are best to give on an empty stomach.

3. How often should the medication be given and how much should I give each time? If it is a liquid, should I shake it first?
Giving the right dose at the right time of the day will help your pet get better more quickly.

4. How do I store the medication?
Some medications should be stored in a cool, dry place. Others may require refrigeration.

5. What should I do if my pet vomits or spits out the medication?
Your veterinarian may want to hear from you if your pet vomits. You may be told to stop giving the drug or to switch your pet to another drug.

6. If I forget to give the medication, should I give it as soon as I remember or wait until the next scheduled dose? What if I accidentally give too much?
Giving your pet too much of certain medications can cause serious side effects. You’ll want to know if giving too much is a cause for concern and a trip to the animal emergency room.

7. Should I finish giving all of the medication, even if my pet seems to be back to normal?
Some medications, such as antibiotics, should be given for a certain length of time, even if your pet is feeling better.

8. Could this medication interact with other medications my pet is taking?
Always tell your veterinarian what other medications your pet is taking, including prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, and herbs or other dietary supplements. You may want to write these down and take the list with you to the vet’s office.

9. What reactions should I watch for, and what should I do if I see any side effects?
Your veterinarian can tell you if a reaction is normal or if it signals a serious problem. You may be asked to call your vet immediately if certain side effects occur.

10. When should I bring my pet back for a check-up? Will you be calling me to check on my pet’s progress, or should I call you?
Your vet may want to examine your pet or perform laboratory tests to make sure the medication is working as it should.

Source: FDA.gov

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Why Your Attic Could Be Draining Your Wallet

January 21, 2015 4:45 am

(BPT) - While homeowners may not immediately think of their attic as a major source of energy loss, the fact is, it is responsible for as much as 25 percent of the energy lost in the average American home. Air leakage, caused particularly by the attic, can place a strain on your wallet every month.

The good news is, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the attic is one of the easiest places within the home to address energy loss. There are several smart home renovation investments that homeowners can make to reduce excessive energy loss through the attic.

One of the most effective methods to eliminate air leakage (and live greener!) is insulating your attic with a high-performance solution. Traditional insulation is prone to sagging, which can leave gaps and absorb moisture, causing a significant loss of energy. Replace your home's insulation with a spray foam insulation to both insulate and air seal the entire attic space. According to insulation experts at Icynene, quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs – by up to 50 percent, in some cases!

And, a growing number of building professionals are recommending spray foam insulation as a valuable, cost-effective solution. Suitable for any climate, spray foam insulation helps retain conditioned air, allowing the heating and cooling equipment to work more efficiently rather than compensating for energy losses through the attic space.

Other solutions to energy loss are to have your home professionally caulked and sealed and to have whole house fans installed. These fans help by pulling air through the house and are particularly effective during warmer months.

You may also want to check if your home is outfitted with a polyolefin plastic house wrap, which is designed to minimize air leakage This type of wrap is commonly installed during the construction process as part of an integrated system.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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