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
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Demographic Shifts Signal Need for Housing Changes

September 18, 2014 4:33 am

America’s older population is in the midst of unprecedented growth. According to a recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation, the number of adults in the U.S. aged 50 and over is expected to grow to 133 million by 2030, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2000. It is more important than ever for older Americans to have access to affordable, physically accessible and well-located housing options.

Housing is critical to quality of life for people of all ages, but especially for older adults. Considering current housing costs, a third of adults 50 and over—including 37 percent of those 80 and over—pay more than 30 percent of their income for homes that may or may not fit their needs, resulting in cutbacks elsewhere, including retirement savings. Much of the nation’s inventory also lacks basic accessibility features (such as no-step entries, extra-wide doorways, and lever-style door and faucet handles), preventing older persons with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes. Additionally, with a majority of older adults aging in car-dependent suburban and rural locations, transportation and pedestrian infrastructure that meets the needs of non-drivers is paramount.

“Recognizing the implications of this profound demographic shift and taking immediate steps to address these issues is vital to our national standard of living,” says Chris Herbert, acting managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. “While it is ultimately up to individuals and their families to plan for future housing needs, it is also incumbent upon policy makers at all levels of government to see that affordable, appropriate housing, as well as supports for long-term aging in the community, are available for older adults across the income spectrum.”

Of special concern are the younger baby boomers now in their 50s. While a majority of people over 45 would like to stay in their current residences as long as possible, estimates indicate that 70 percent of those who reach the age of 65 will eventually need some form of long-term care. In this regard, older homeowners are in a better position than older renters when they retire. The typical homeowner age 65 and over has enough wealth to cover the costs of in-home assistance for nearly nine years, or assisted living for 6 and half years. The typical renter, however, can only afford two months of these supports.

“As Americans age, the need for safe and affordable housing options becomes even more critical,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP Foundation. “High housing costs, aging homes, and costly repairs can greatly impact those with limited incomes.”

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Six Homeowner Expenses Renters Must Consider

September 18, 2014 4:33 am

Transitioning from renter to homeowner means much more than simply having a place to call your own. Purchasing a home is well worth the investment, but it’s important for renters to be totally financially committed. Renters seeking to buy a home should budget not only monthly expenses, but also these overlooked costs:

Home maintenance
– Unlike renters, homeowners are responsible for upkeep, including expensive projects like replacing a roof or windows.

Utility bills
– Keep in mind that bills are generally higher than those for apartment dwellers, where some are often included in rent.

Closing costs – Closing costs can vary by state, so if you plan to relocate from a rental in one area to a home in another, research thoroughly while budgeting.

Home repairs
– Renters typically don’t have to save for emergency repairs. As a homeowner, make sure you have funds set aside for unexpected issues.

Furniture
– Furnishing an apartment is normally cheaper than furnishing several rooms in a home.

Seasonal projects – Many first-time homeowners fail to factor in seasonal projects, such as spring and summer landscaping and holiday decorating.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Three Common Credit Questions Answered

September 18, 2014 4:33 am

School is back in session, but many people still have questions about a subject that is rarely taught in the classroom: their credit. Here, credit reporting bureau Experian explains the truth behind these common credit questions.

What is my credit report used for?

Credit reports often are referenced to help lenders quickly and objectively decide whether to grant consumers credit and under what terms. Information from credit reports can be used for select employment, rental housing, licensing, insurance and other specific business relationship decisions. Consumers also can check their credit reports for signs of identity theft or use them to better understand what influences credit so they can make more informed financial decisions.

Typical credit reports include the following main categories of information:
  • Identification: the consumer's name, current and previous addresses, telephone number, reported variations of his or her Social Security number, date of birth, employer and spouse's name
  • Account history: specific information about each account, such as date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment, payment status and payment history
  • Public records: bankruptcy filings, court records of tax liens and monetary judgments
  • Inquiries: a record of those who have reviewed a consumer's credit information
How often are credit reports updated?
In general, creditors forward information to the credit reporting agencies monthly after payments for that billing cycle are posted. Because billing cycles vary, account updates are received by the credit reporting agencies throughout the month. However, it is important to note that lenders are not required to report account information to the national credit reporting agencies. Participation is entirely voluntary.

What do I need to know about my credit score?

Credit scoring is a separate process from credit reporting. Lenders and other credit grantors obtain consumers' scores by selecting the scoring methods that are most predictive of risk for their specific kind of business. There is not one credit score. In fact, there are hundreds of credit scoring systems used by lenders. However, a credit score results from information in a consumer's credit report, translating various score factors into a simple number. This enables lenders to make more objective, consistent lending decisions — and make them more fairly and quickly.

Consumers also may track their own credit scores from a number of sources, including Experian.com. Any score consumers receive through a consumer score disclosure service, such as a credit reporting agency, will explain what the number means in terms of general credit risk and will describe the factors from the credit report that most influenced the score.

Credit score factors are the elements from consumers' credit reports that shape their credit scores. They could include:
  • Payment history
  • Credit usage
  • Average age of accounts
  • Account types
  • Inquiries
Factors like total debt, types of accounts, number of late payments and age of accounts affect credit scores; however, information such as marital status, age and occupation does not. Credit factors indicate what elements of a consumer's credit report most affected the credit score at the time it was calculated.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fall Security Tips to Keep Your Family Safe

September 17, 2014 4:33 am

School activities are picking up and as daylight hours dwindle, it's more important now than ever to ensure that safety stays top of mind for all family members.

"With busy schedules and back-to-back school activities, it's important for families to remember to keep safety and security a priority," said Rebecca Smith, vice president, marketing for Master Lock. "Now that school year routines are established, it's a perfect time to address safety topics with your family, such as guidelines for social media use and getting to and from home safely."

Follow these top five tips from Master Lock to stay safe this fall:

1. Be aware of surroundings. As dusk and darkness creep up earlier each day, remind children to follow safety precautions on their way to and from home. Whether walking all the way home or just to a parked car, students are advised to be aware of their surroundings, stick with a friend or in a group, stay in well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and always observe traffic rules.

2. Establish a "home alone" routine. Sometimes situations arise where children and teens will be home without supervision, whether coming home after school to an empty house or due to busy weekend activities. It's natural for parents to feel uneasy at first, but with some planning, both parents and children can feel confident when the time comes. Set guidelines with your children to follow when home alone including, locking the door immediately after entering the house, calling to check in as soon as he or she gets home, not answering the door for any visitors and reviewing relevant emergency phone numbers and exit plans.

3. Set ground rules for social media sharing. Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than ever before. As parents, it's necessary to evaluate the information your child is sharing and advise them on security risks of sharing too much identifying information. Set ground rules for what your child can disclose online, and teach your child how to set privacy controls so that photos, location and personal information do not end up in the wrong hands.

4. Lock down valuables on the field. Lockers help keep gadgets, wallets, house or car keys and other belongings secure while in class, but what keeps them secure outside of school? Keep valuables locked up with a small, portable safe that kids can easily fit in their backpacks, gym bags or lock down to a fixed object while attending after school activities.

5. Inspect to protect. While talking with your children about safety guidelines, fall is also an ideal time to create or practice a fire safety plan. Start with inspecting your home thoroughly ensuring all smoke detectors are functioning properly and review the sound of the alarm with children so they know what do to when it goes off. Make an evacuation plan by visiting each room in your home, designating two ways out and check that all windows and doors open easily. Lastly, designate a safe meeting place outside the home where your family can gather after exiting. This meeting place should be close to the home, but not too close to be in danger from the fire, and in front of the house so that fire safety personnel can easily see you as they arrive. It should also be somewhere easy to find in day or night, such as near a telephone pole, tree or mailbox. Most importantly, practice the escape plan.

Source: Master Lock

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Guard Children and Pets from Lyme Disease

September 17, 2014 4:33 am

Even as weather cools down, it's important to remember children and pets are at greater risk of being infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Because people and their pets often spend time in the same environments disease-transmitting ticks are found, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offer guidance to households with children and pets.

According to the AVMA and the AAP, people whose animals have been diagnosed with Lyme disease should consult their physician about their own risk. Likewise, people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease should consult their veterinarian to assess their pet's risk based on the animal's lifestyle and possible environmental exposures.

People or animals may be bitten while hiking or camping, during other outdoor activities, or even while spending time in their backyards. If a child or pet is diagnosed with Lyme disease, it is likely that other family members or pets also have been in an environment that could lead to exposure. Therefore, the initial case of Lyme disease in a household should serve to flag the risk of exposure and suggest a need for other family members or pets to notify their physicians and veterinarians, who can advise about further evaluation or testing.

There are many things humans can do to avoid exposure to tick bites, including: avoiding areas where ticks are found; covering arms, legs, head and feet when outdoors; wearing light-colored clothing; using insecticides; and checking for ticks once indoors.

Likewise, people with pets are encouraged to speak with their veterinarian about tick preventive products, to clear shrubbery next to homes and keep lawns well maintained, and to check for ticks on themselves and their animals once indoors.

Source: AVMA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Housing Survey: A Third of Homebuyers Would Exceed Budget for the Right Home

September 17, 2014 4:33 am

The majority (61 percent) of Americans who say they're likely to buy a house in the next five years have put a home buying budget in place, but a third (36 percent) would go over the planned purchase price if they wanted the house enough, according to a recent survey by BMO Harris Bank. Among current homeowners, 49 percent stuck to their budget when buying, but 19 percent went over and 20 percent didn't have a budget for their current home.

On average, American homeowners who went over budget exceeded it by $31,587. Those who came in under budget (13 percent) went lower by an average of $25,083. Half (49 percent) set a maximum amount they could spend and stuck to it.

"A budget is an essential piece to the home buying process. Putting one in place takes time, and has to consider a variety of factors including savings, income and interest and mortgage rates," said Kevin Christopher, Head of Mortgage Sales, BMO Harris Bank. "What we're seeing from our survey is that homebuyers don't always leave themselves that cushion. Implementing and stress-testing a budget is key, not only during the pre-approval process but to ensure that when interest rates go up, homeowners are prepared."

Taking First Steps

First-time buyers are less likely to have a fixed budget that they will stick to (54 percent), and are more likely than those who have owned to say they are willing to go over budget (44 percent). A third (32 percent) say they expect their parents will help pay for the cost.

While only 13 percent of first-time buyers are currently pre-approved for a mortgage, 83 percent plan to go through the process before they purchase a home. There is some worry about the process, with 64 percent concerned they might not be pre-approved.

Putting Money Down
The survey of American homeowners also found:
  • The vast majority (89 percent) of homeowners had a mortgage at some point and half (52 percent) have had a home equity line of credit (HELOC) at some point.
  • A third (35 percent) are paying their original mortgage, while a similar percentage (30 percent) have refinanced, and 35 percent have paid off their mortgage.
  • Americans expect to have their mortgage fully paid off by age 59.
  • While not surprising that older homeowners are more likely to have paid off their homes, 40 percent of those over 65 are still paying off their mortgage.
The average down payment that Americans planning to buy in the next five years will make is 25 percent, and 87 percent feel confident they will have the down payment they're hoping for to buy their next house.

"Household balance sheets are now relatively healthy, helped by rising asset prices, moderate income growth and, most importantly, lower debt levels. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, from early 2008 to mid-2013, household debt was reduced by $1.5 trillion, as both borrowers and lenders came to terms with the housing and credit bubbles whose subsequent bursting is held to blame for the Great Recession," said Michael Gregory, Head of U.S. Economics, BMO Capital Markets. "Household credit is starting to flow again -- nearly $480 billion in the past year -- led by mortgages, student loans and auto financing. However, both borrowers and lenders are approaching HELOCs more conservatively, a sign that greater prudence might be the ultimate -- welcome -- legacy of the recent recession. Borrowing within one's means is critically important to maintaining a healthy state of household finances."

Survey results cited in this report are from a Pollara survey commissioned by BMO Harris Bank using interviews with an online sample of 2,500 Americans conducted between April 1st and 7th, 2014. The margin of error for a probability sample of 2,500 is ± 1.96%.


Source: BMO Harris Bank

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Keep Children Happy with Kid-Friendly Spaces

September 16, 2014 4:33 am

(BPT) - Would a great study space ease your child's transition from summer to school? Perhaps an awesome lounge area could convince your teens - and all their friends - that your house is the best hangout spot ever. Whatever your objectives, a few design and decorating tricks can help you create a kid-friendly space in your home.

Good design basics that make grown-up spaces appealing also work in children's spaces. When designing a kid-friendly room, however, it's important to keep in mind not only the purpose of the room (study, fun, sleep, etc.), but the age of the occupant, his or her interests, as well as incorporating fun into the design. Here are some tips to get you started:

Consider creating a theme.
Kids of all ages love themes. To decide which one might be right for your project, consider things your child has shown an enduring interest in. For example, she may be into princesses right now and hate the theme next year. On the other hand, if she's always loved the color pink and has a passion for animals, those elements could be worked into a theme that she'll appreciate for years to come.

Choose flooring that fulfills multiple needs. Carpeting absorbs sound (for when kids play loud video games or music) and is comfortable for youngsters who like to sit or lie on the floor while they do homework, read, watch television or socialize. Stain-resistant formulas and durable fibers ensure modern carpeting can stand up to the rigors of use in a child's room. And, according to the Carpet & Rug Institute, properly cleaned carpet can maintain indoor air quality, making it a viable choice for families impacted by asthma and allergies.

A child's space needs layers of lighting, just as adult spaces do. As you're choosing lighting, keep in mind how your child will use the room. If he will be doing homework, task lighting and desk lights will illuminate study areas. Will the room be a movie room or a "hangout" for older teens? Recessed and dimmable lighting may be appropriate. Don't forget to include natural light in your illumination plans. Avoid heavy drapery and opt for bright colors and lightweight materials for window treatments so windows admit ample light. If you have a larger budget, consider adding a skylight to provide light while preserving privacy.

Organization is key in a child's room, and ample storage facilitates good organization. Depending on the size of the room and how it will be used, shelving, portable cubes, book cases and other furnishings can provide plenty of storage space. For desks, look for desktop organizers that will keep important papers and supplies tidy and close at hand. By helping kids stay organized now, you'll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of good organizational skills.

Remember the fun factor. Whatever the purpose of a child's room, fun should be a universal theme. You can infuse fun in a room in many ways, from creating a video game center for lounge rooms to choosing colorful, texturally appealing carpeting for a bedroom. A touch of whimsy, such as a swing hung from the ceiling or a wall mural of your child's favorite cartoon character, can produce smiles every time kids see them.

With some creativity and the right decorating materials, it's possible to create a space that will make children comfortable, happy and ready to tackle the new school year.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Continue to Show Little Movement

September 16, 2014 4:33 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moved only slightly upward compared to the previous week following the increase in bond yields.

“Mortgage rates were up slightly this week, following the increase in 10-year Treasury yields, despite last week’s disappointing employment report,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist at Freddie Mac. “The U.S. economy added only 142,000 jobs in August, after a 212,000 gain in July and a 267,000 increase in June.”

The survey concluded:
  • 30-year fixed mortgage rate (FRM) average 4.12 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending September 11, 2014, up from last week when it averaged 4.10 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.57 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.26 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.24 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.59 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) average 2.99 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it average 2.97 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.22 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury indexed ARM averaged 2.45 percent this week with an average of 0.4 points, up from last week when it averaged 2.40 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Financial Lessons to Learn at a Young Age

September 16, 2014 4:33 am

If you want to secure a good financial future, it is important to develop good habits as early as possible. Even in childhood, people can begin to become financially responsible by doing small jobs to earn money and putting all or most of the money they receive in a savings account. By the time they reach their 20s, the lessons are a bit more complex, especially for those who did not have a solid financial foundation to begin with. Young adulthood is the perfect time to learn these important financial lessons. Creditnet.com, a leading online authority for finances, has announced these top five lessons consumers should learn at a young age:

Building Up Savings
It is never too early to start saving. In fact, due to compound interest, it is best to start as early as possible. A hundred dollars deposited in a savings account at the age of 20 will be worth far more in the long run than a hundred dollars deposited at the age of 30. For example, putting $10,000 in the bank when you're 20 will get you over $210,000 by the time you're 60. If you put the same amount in when you're 30, you'll only get about $160,000 at the age of 60. It may be difficult to think about the distant future at such a young age, but when it comes to retirement, many people wish that they had starting saving when they were much younger.

Saving at Regular Intervals
While it would be nice to put a large chunk of cash away in savings, most people don't have that kind of money lying around. Instead, the thing to do is to contribute to savings regularly. Commit to putting a set amount aside every month; at least a hundred dollars a month is an ideal amount. In many cases, you can have this money automatically withdrawn from your paychecks into your savings account so that it will accumulate almost without your noticing.

Avoiding Bad Debt and Securing Good Debt
Generally speaking, you should not buy anything that you can't pay for. It is all too easy to get into the habit of buying things on credit when you don't have the money to back it up. Unless you know for a fact that you can pay it off before it's due, you should not buy something with your credit card. Instead, you should learn to be frugal, avoiding unnecessary expenses like dinners out, magazine subscriptions and new clothes. However, it can be a good idea to acquire debt for the sake of a large purchase, such as a house. The key is to remember all of the expenses involved with a house beyond just the mortgage and not buy something out of your price range.

Getting Insurance Early
When you're young, it may seem silly to pay out a significant amount of money every month for something that you don't see benefiting you. However, it becomes harder and harder to get good insurance the older you get. You want to have a reliable policy in place so that when you need it, the insurance is available to you. If you don't pay for insurance early, you may end up having to pay much more later on.

Being Financially Aware
Finally, it's important to treat your finances like a priority. You don't have to make a lot of money to be in fairly solid financial shape. As long as you plan ahead and make wise decisions regarding the funds you bring in and the ways that you spend it, you will have at least some tools to help you get ahead in a fiscally challenging world.

Money causes a lot of stress in people's lives, but that stress can be diminished if you get an early start on being financially responsible. Save as much as you can as often as you can, don't go into debt unless you absolutely have to, and buy insurance even if it doesn't seem necessary to stay ahead of the game.

Source: Creditnet

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Tips for Hassle-Free Holiday Shopping

September 15, 2014 4:33 am

Looking to take the stress out of your holiday shopping this season?

Planning ahead and taking steps to protect yourself and your purchases can relieve a lot of shopping-induced stress, according to Jeff Unterreiner, a senior vice president with Assurant Solutions. Unterreiner offers these tips to help ensure your shopping this holiday season is hassle-free:

Budget planning

The easiest way to overspend is to approach your shopping without a budget. Determine ahead of time what you can afford to spend overall, and make sure the gifts on your list fit within your means. A smart strategy: leave yourself a little padding to accommodate potential budget-busting treasures you discover along the way.

Shop early
Start your shopping well ahead of the holidays to spare yourself the headache of unending lines and sold out shelves. Doing so can also help you save money, because it will give you more time to look for sales and promotions. When it comes to larger purchases, be sure you know the return policy and keep an eye on sales even after you buy. If the item is offered for a lower price within a certain timeframe, you may be able to get the difference refunded.

Reward programs
Take advantage of the many reward cards and incentive programs that let you earn cash back, goods and discounts. The holiday season is a great time to sign up, as many retailers offer bonus programs and extra perks for shoppers. In some cases, those rewards can be used immediately to trim your shopping budget or find something nice for yourself as a reward for being a savvy shopper.

Protect purchases
Many of the most-wanted gifts this season, like electronics and jewelry, are also the easiest to break or lose. Ensure your gifts keep giving long into the future by protecting your purchases with extended service plans. These plans offer a range of protection from things like mechanical breakdown, accidental damage, loss and theft, as well as services such as tech support. This protection can last long after the manufacturer's warranty expires.

Beat fraud

The frenzy of the holiday season can make you vulnerable to theft. Be sure you're using a debit or credit card that offers protection in the event of unauthorized purchases. If you don't already, now is also an ideal time to pay closer attention to your transaction log so you can quickly address any unfamiliar charges.

Source: Assurant Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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