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

December Deals May Trump Black Friday Savings

November 21, 2014 6:46 am

According to ShopAdvisor, procrastination may be just the ticket for those seeking the hottest holiday deals. A recent survey points to December 18 as last year’s best day to snag low prices in-store and online. The virtuousness of patience was further borne out by data showing last year's post-Black Friday discounts reaching double digits, even for some of the most coveted brands.

Surprisingly, 42 percent of the products tracked by ShopAdvisor were actually priced higher on Black Friday than in the four weeks leading up to it. Luxury goods remained undiscounted from November through January.

Other noteworthy findings:
  • The average discount was 17.5 percent on December 18 versus less than 5 percent on Black Friday.
  • Discounts were 30 percent deeper weekdays than on weekends from after Black Friday through the holiday shopping period.
  • While discounts continued from December 26 through New Year's Day, the deals were not as strong as those offered on December 18.
"The question becomes, are retailers planning to backload deals again this year? The perception of a stronger economy may embolden them to behave that way," says Scott Cooper, CEO, ShopAdvisor. "What is now clear, if it wasn't already, is that Black Friday is more about sport than savings – consumers competing for real deals on just a handful of limited quantity doorbusters, not widespread season's-best pricing."

Source: ShopAdvisor

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Inspect Your Car before Heading Home for the Holidays

November 21, 2014 6:46 am

Before you pack up the car to head home for the holidays, make sure your vehicle is ready for the journey. Conducting a thorough vehicle inspection will help you avoid the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down miles away from home.

"It's easy to remember to get your family ready for the holiday festivities, but what about preparing the car that's going to get you there?" said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. "Having a pre-inspection performed on your car will give you peace of mind as you travel and help make your journey safer."

Before leaving home, the Car Care Council recommends a check of the following, often overlooked, items: tires and tire pressure, brakes, hoses and belts, air filters, wipers, exterior and interior lighting, and fluid levels, including engine oil, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

"A pre-trip inspection provides the opportunity to have service repairs made at home by your own trusted technician who knows the vehicle, and helps reduce the chance of costly and dangerous trouble on the road," said White.

The Car Care Council also recommends that drivers keep important telephone numbers in their cell phone or glove box in case of a breakdown or travel emergency. Vehicles should have a roadside emergency kit that includes items such as a first aid kit, a tire-changing jack, a tire pressure gauge, jumper cables, a flashlight and a blanket.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Household Financial Priorities Reflect Economic Improvement

November 21, 2014 6:46 am

According to a recent report by Bankrate.com, Americans' feelings about job security, comfort level with debt, net worth, and their overall financial situation all showed improvement compared to one year ago.

For the third consecutive year, Americans' top financial priority is getting caught up on bills or staying current on living expenses. Nearly half of Americans say that they are most concerned with getting a handle on their bills.

Staying current or getting caught up on bills was the most common priority across all age groups, but highest among those ages 50-64. Americans age 65 and older were more likely than any other age group to say providing financial assistance to family members or friends was their top priority. Other commonly cited top financial priorities include paying down debt (22 percent) and saving (17 percent).

Savings, however, are still a weak spot for Americans, with nearly one-third of Americans saying they're less comfortable with the amount of contributions to their savings.

Source: Bankrate

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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'Friendsgiving' Growing in Popularity

November 20, 2014 1:01 am

In recent years, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving meal at home with family has given way to trends like ‘Friendsgiving’ and shopping in retail stores on Thanksgiving Day. Is this the new normal among young adults today?

Leading global app Skout recently conducted a survey that sheds light on the answer. The survey questioned more than 1,300 adults on their thoughts and plans for the holiday. The results aren't what most would expect.
- Eighteen percent of adults age 30-39 are planning to spend Thanksgiving with friends, compared to just 11 percent of adults age 18-29 planning to do the same.

- The majority of adults age 18-39 agreed that retail stores should not be open on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can enjoy time with friends and family.

- “Awkward conversations” topped the list of factors most likely to ruin Thanksgiving (46 percent).

- Nearly half the country will be holding a potluck-style meal this year. Forty-four percent of adults surveyed plan to share kitchen responsibilities with their host and celebrate the holiday with a potluck.

- Over half of males (59 percent) surveyed have faked a store-bought dish as homemade. Fifty percent of vegetarian responders admit they’ve also faked a homemade dish.

- Fifty-three percent of adults plan to tune in to a Thanksgiving Day football game.
Source: Skout

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Spruce Up Your Home for Holiday Entertaining

November 20, 2014 1:01 am

From tackling holiday stains to cleaning the crevices most commonly inspected by mothers-in-law, keeping a clean home around the holidays can seem like an impossible task. Between entertaining unexpected guests and hosting get-togethers with friends and family, having a clean home is never more important than it is around the holidays.

"The holidays are a fun, but often stressful time of year. People are busy shopping, cooking and volunteering, and have little time to keep a clean and tidy home," says Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids. "The good news is that there are simple tips and strategies to getting a home in tip-top shape -- from being selective with holiday décor to having a laundry closet packed with your trusty cleaning solutions -- making cleaning easier and far less stressful."

Johnson’s secrets for a spic and span home include:

Double-duty holiday décor – Holiday décor is essential to giving spaces a more festive appearance, but it can also double the amount of housework you have each day. Give your holiday décor a second life – fill a vase or hurricane with sparkly tinsel leftovers that may have fallen to the floor and use it as a festive holiday centerpiece. Coal can serve as a great odor absorber, too.

Holiday stain fighters –While red wine, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy are real crowd-pleasers, they aren't so kind to upholstery and carpets. If you notice that one of your guests left the evidence behind, blot it right away with a white cloth until all of the liquid has been absorbed. If the stain's dry, whip up a quick solution of dishwashing liquid (1 tbsp), white vinegar (1 tbsp) and warm water (2 cups) to remove the stain.

Last-minute cleaning tricks – If your home needs tidying before guests arrive, set aside 15 minutes to make your home appear like you've spent a full day cleaning it.
  1. Grab a microfiber cloth and broom and set your kitchen timer.
  2. Sweep up the porch, fold the throws in the living room and fluff your throw pillows.
  3. Put a fresh stock of toilet paper in the bathroom, put away your toothbrushes and leave a festive box of tissues behind.
  4. Throw the dishes in the dishwasher and turn it on -- by the time dinner is ready, you'll have clean (and warm) dishes that are perfect for serving.
Source: Merry Maids

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Set the Stage for Comfort in Your Guest Room

November 20, 2014 1:01 am

Guest rooms are one of the more under-utilized spaces in any home, and homeowners are often at a loss when it comes to decorating them. With these simple and inexpensive additions, your guest room will become a home away from home for all of your out-of-town visitors.

Liven it up.
Since guest rooms are used less frequently than others, it makes sense to inject some vitality to the space. Before your guests arrive, pick up a fresh bouquet of flowers or a potted plant. They’ll appreciate the greenery while they enjoy the comforts of your home.

Pull out all the stops.
Create a hotel-like atmosphere with key amenities. Extra blankets and pillows, travel-size toiletries, a fluffy bathrobe, slippers or even a coffee maker with a selection of roasts will go a long way towards making your guest feel at home.

Make it a part of your home.
One of the easiest ways to make a guest room feel comfortable is to give it a “lived in” appearance. Add textural accents in layers (think pillows and area rugs) and arrange decorative accessories you already own on empty surface areas.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Food Safety Tips for Holiday Meal Prep

November 19, 2014 1:13 am

As friends and family gather together during the holidays, you want to make sure that you keep out any unwelcome guests in the form of harmful food borne bacteria. The following tips will ensure food safety and a great time for everyone at your table.
  • Wash your hands and clean all prep surfaces and tools regularly during food preparation. Bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, especially on your hands, utensils and cutting boards. Unless you wash your hands, utensils and surfaces the right way, you could spread bacteria to your food and your family.
  • Soiled cloths are a hot breeding ground for bacteria. Wash them in the hot water cycle of your washing machine.
  • Keep raw foods and ready-to-eat foods separate. Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can still spread illness-causing bacteria to ready-to-eat foods unless you keep them separate. When juices from raw meats or bacteria from unclean objects accidentally touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods like salads, bread or cooked vegetables, cross contamination can occur.
  • When shopping, keep raw meats away from other foods in your shopping cart and in grocery bags.
  • Use separate tools and utensils. Never use the same utensils, cutting boards or containers for ready-to-eat foods that were previously used for handling raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Keep hot food "hot" and cold food "cold." Use a properly calibrated food thermometer to be sure. Cooking foods to a proper minimum internal temperature kills harmful pathogens. Many people think they can tell when food is "done" simply by checking its color and texture, but there's no way to be sure it's safe without a food thermometer.
  • Always check the food temperature in the thickest part of the roast or turkey and check in two or three different spots for a rice dish or casserole.
  • Refrigerate leftovers quickly after serving to prevent bacteria growth and potential food poisoning.
  • Perishable foods cannot be left at out for longer than two hours at room temperature, or one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Never marinate or thaw foods on the counter at room temperature. These should be done in the refrigerator or in some other safe manner.
Source: Bart Christian

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Don't Let Hackers Ruin Your Holidays

November 19, 2014 1:13 am

With the holiday shopping season here, it's important to protect ourselves online. Major data breaches have been in the news regularly as thieves have made off with sensitive data from millions of consumers. By being aware and taking precautions, we can prevent ourselves from being victims of cybercrime, hackers, ID theft, viruses and more.

A survey by CreditCards.com indicated that as data breaches exposing consumer credit, debit card and other personal information become more common, nearly half of cardholding shoppers say they're reluctant this holiday season to return to stores that have been hacked.

“You can’t depend on your favorite retailer to protect your information from cyber crime, hackers, big data marketers and identity theft,” says Vince Mazza, co-founder of Guard Street. “You must actively manage your security and privacy."

Guard Street recommends these five tips:

1. Shop securely and anonymously. Use a secure virtual private network to shield cybercriminals and hackers from tracking your online activity from your mobile device, desktop or laptop. Be wary of free Wi-Fi or VPN – it may cost you a loss of privacy. Use a disposable email address should you need to enter an email address to enter websites or gain access to information. Try www.privacymart.com.

2. Stop and think before sharing information.
Don't provide information if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the request. Be careful of links taking you to sites that ask for your personal information. If an organization asks for your social security number to validate your identity, request another question.

3. Stay on top of your statements. Review credit card statements every month for any unauthorized charges and make sure to keep an eye on the smaller charges. Thieves will charge smaller amounts to test to see if you notice and then change larger amounts later.

4. Beware of email scammers. Some emails from scammers may mention big retailers who were hacked including Home Depot or they may offer free credit monitoring -- never click on these links! Many are fake sites that try to steal bank information or passwords. If an email looks creditable from a retailer, go to the retailers site directly instead of clicking on links.

5. Keep a clean machine. Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.

Source: Guard Street

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Save Big Bucks This Winter with an Energy Audit

November 19, 2014 1:13 am

(BPT) - If you are winterizing your home to protect against the headache of frozen pipes and potential water damage, conducting a quick, three-step energy audit now can help prevent nasty surprises when the heating bill arrives.

It's human instinct to increase the heat during the coldest winter days, but this comes with increased heating costs that can stretch the household budget. Air leakage contributes significantly to home heating costs – the U.S Department of Energy suggests that floors, walls, ceilings and windows account for 41 percent of air leakage in homes. Air escaping from the home's envelope means the furnace has to work overtime to compensate and maintain a comfortable living temperature. As a result, energy consumption remains high, monthly bills continue to climb and any efficiency achieved through other methods is fruitless.

A simple energy audit can help you better understand your home's performance and ensure your heating bills don't break the bank this winter.

Start by thoroughly cleaning all vents, filters and ducts. Use a vacuum to remove any dust and debris around your furnace's filters. Then, have a professional clean your ductwork. Cleaning can noticeably improve the performance of your home's heating system, allowing it to run more efficiently.

Having a home energy auditor complete a "blower door" test will allow you to better understand how air flows through your home. This comprehensive test measures how much air is moving through any cracks around doors, windows and other potential problem areas. A well-sealed home should have no leaks. The energy auditor will also use equipment such as a "smoke pencil" and infrared camera to further assess the home's overall performance and identify problem areas that need to be addressed.

Finally, have an insulation professional assess your existing insulation's performance. Gaps, cracks and inconsistency of insulation coverage can significantly impact your home's energy performance, as well as your monthly heating bills. A licensed insulation professional can make recommendations as to how to address air leakage effectively with a better-performing insulation material. Spray foam insulation works well in all climates to fill cracks and gaps, stop air leakage and help reduce the strain on your heating and cooling equipment. This insulation material both insulates and air seals the home helping to noticeably reduce monthly heating and cooling bills.

While air leakage can cause your heating bills to jump significantly this winter, completing a quick energy audit and having a well-insulated home can help you get through the cold winter months.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Get the Most from Your Insurance Dollars

November 18, 2014 1:25 am

When it comes to filing an insurance claim, knowledge is power.

“The best time to learn about the claims process is before you have a loss,” notes Jeanne M. Salvatore, the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) chief communications officer. “Knowing what to do can make filing a claim less stressful if you have a loss.”

The I.I.I. recommends the following steps when filing an insurance claim:

Contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible, either by phone or online.
When speaking to your insurer, have your policy number (if you have it), location of the incident, extent of the damage, cell phone number or other contact information. Ask them these specific questions: Is the damage covered? How long do I have to file the claim? Does the claim exceed the deductible? How long will it take to process the claim? Will an estimate be needed?

Document the loss.
Create a file for your claim—the better organized you are the simpler and easier the entire process will be. Take pictures of the loss and write up a summary of exactly what happened. Keep lists of any damage and write down the names and contact information of anyone involved in the claim. This includes the name and title of everyone you speak to at your insurance agency and/or company.

Submit the claim.
Once you have notified your insurance company, you will be told what information you will need to supply to them. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them. Your claims representative is there to help you. Keep copies of all forms and any information or materials you provide to your insurance company. The company will likely send an adjuster to inspect the damage and help settle the claim. There is no charge for this service.

You may also be contacted by public adjusters who have no relationship with your insurance company. Public adjusters charge a fee for their services—as much as 15 percent of the total value of your claim settlement. Keep in mind that they can’t get more money for you than what is stated in your policy.

Know who to contact if you are not satisfied with your settlement.
Most consumers find that their claim is paid quickly, easily and fairly. If you are not satisfied with how your claim is being settled, talk to your agent or claims representative. Tell them about your problem and ask them to intercede on your behalf. If you are still not happy with the results, contact the head of the claims department or another person in authority at your insurance company. Send them a written note explaining why you are not satisfied and back your complaint up with facts, figures and any pertinent documents.

If you cannot come to an agreement with your insurance company, you may consider contacting your state department of insurance. Explain the reason for the disagreement so that the department can investigate your claim and help resolve any difference you may have with your insurer.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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