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

DIY Tips for Common Plumbing Problems

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

Whether you're a new homeowner or have been handy with a wrench, snake and other tools for years, there are some situations that require more than a plumbing amateur's skills. From the kitchen sink to the toilet and pipes underneath your home, these problems can occur at any time. As a homeowner, you should know how to handle them and when to call a professional.

Clogged Drains or Toilets
When the water that's sitting in a bathtub, toilet or sink won't go down the drain, you have a problem. Start the repair process by first determining what caused the problem. Is it a clump of hair or a grease build up? Something worse, perhaps? Whatever the case, finding out about it first is essential to finding a solution.

Most toilet clogs can be handled with your trusty plunger. The clog in your drain will likely go away if you use a commercial grade drain cleaner. If you decide to use a commercial drain cleaner, wear gloves and a protective mask at all times.
If the clog persists after a few times, it might be time to call the professionals. Don't overdo it with the drain cleaner because you might end up hurting yourself and damaging the pipes.

Professional plumbers have tools that can help identify the problem much easier, such as snakes and video cameras. They'll be able to use one of their many de-clogging tools to remove your clog in no time.

Burst Pipe

Regardless of the reason, a burst pipe can cause thousands of dollars in damage if not rectified in an appropriate amount of time. The best way to fix a burst pipe is with a C clamp. The first step is to turn off the water completely. Then, place a piece of rubber over the exposed area of the pipe. Secure the rubber by placing a piece of wood on top and then tightening down both pieces with a C clamp. Make sure you tighten the C clamp until both the piece of wood and rubber are secure.
In most cases, burst pipes can only be fixed temporarily by homeowners. Once you've turned off the water and secured the pipe, call a professional; they might have to replace the pipe altogether.

Leaky Fixtures
A leaky fixture, such as a faucet, can be extremely annoying. Luckily, you only need a few tools and some basic knowledge to fix this type of problem.

First, remove the handle by removing the screw that attaches it to the faucet. Then, try tightening the packing nut which is located at the base of the stem. After you've tightened this nut, place the handle back onto the faucet and test to see if the leak is gone.

If this simple process doesn't work, you may need to replace some necessary parts, such as washers or nuts, or it may be time to get a new faucet altogether.

No Hot Water
Lack of hot water is an issue that millions of people across the United States experience on a daily basis. If you have an electric water heater, some of the causes may be a tripped circuit breaker, a bad thermostat or a faulty electric heating element. Once you've finished the troubleshooting process, the best thing to do is to replace any parts that you find are broken. Most plumbers have extensive knowledge of water heaters and should be contacted immediately.

Source: Mammoth Plumbing

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Updates Make Homes Environmentally Friendly

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

(BPT) - Green living not only helps the environment, it helps your pocketbook. When making upgrades to your home - whether it's replacing a light bulb or a total living room makeover - incorporate energy-efficient and repurposed materials to make your living space more environmentally friendly.

Emily J. Reynolds, an interior design faculty member at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, a campus of South University, encourages green living through reuse of existing materials.

"There is a special feeling you get when you see a piece of furniture by the side of the road, fix it up, and put it to use again," she says.

Reynolds locates used furniture at resale stores including Goodwill and the Salvation Army, or at yard sales. "When you are searching for furniture, know that it does take a little patience to find the right piece." Reynolds says it's important to pay special attention to the form of the piece and to look for high quality construction.

If refinishing pieces sounds like too much work, professionally restored furniture is also available and fits in with today's trend toward distressed looks in furniture.

"Prices are often much lower for these pieces than if you purchased brand new pieces, plus you cut down on the negative effect of transporting new furniture to your doorstep," Reynolds says.

Reusing old pieces also fits into the current trend toward eclectic interior design. "Pieces of different styles can be mixed in imaginative ways to create a harmonious space," according to Reynolds.

When updating your home on a smaller scale, little changes can make a big difference, according to Sofeeka Hasiuk, one of the interior design faculty at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. "For instance, use no-VOC (volatile organic compound) paints for walls, furniture, or accessories," she says. This keeps potentially harmful chemicals from getting into the air and into your lungs.

Shine the light on your green living space with LED arrays - an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional light bulbs. "They last longer and consume significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs," says Hasiuk.

Other simple tips from the experts include:

* Use a programmable thermostat to increase energy efficiency. This will have a positive impact on the environment and your wallet.

* Replace traditional cleaning products with eco-friendly products or baking soda, lemon juice or vinegar. Plus they cost a lot less.

* Choose sustainable hardwood or tile flooring over wall-to-wall carpeting. They last longer and are easier to clean.

Once your home is greener, keep the trend going. As you purge pieces from your collection, be sure to recycle them properly or donate them so that they may be used again. "Sell or donate those pieces so they can continue being used. Avoid placing items in the landfill if at all possible," says Reynolds.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for a Clean, Guest-Ready Home

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

(Family Features) Now is the season for enjoying backyard BBQs and poolside parties with friends and family – not being trapped in the house for pre- and post-party cleaning. With a little planning, you can minimize time spent on daily chores and maximize time spent soaking up the sun and creating memories with guests. Here are a few quick tips to clean and prep your home for get-togethers – anytime day or night.

Load the dishwasher first. When you’re throwing a get-together, the last thing you want is to open the dishwasher to find dirty dishes. Make sure to run the dishwasher the day before your guests arrive to ensure everything is clean when you need it.

Prepare dishes for the wash cycle. To ensure dishes get clean and dry the first time, scrape away large pieces of food and excess leftovers before loading, and the dishwasher will take care of the rest. Make sure your silverware gets the right water coverage by loading some pointing up and some pointing down, including knives. And remember, safety first, especially if kids are helping. If you don’t plan to run the dishwasher immediately, remember to rinse foods such as mustard, mayonnaise and tomato based products as they may cause discoloration of plastics if allowed to sit for a long period of time.

Fill the upper rack, load the bottom. Cups, glasses, stemware, small plates and bowls are all welcome in the top rack. Make sure any plastic items go on top, too. Be sure to load open-ended items into the washer facing down for the best cleaning and draining. No more tumblers full of water. Save your biggest items for the edge of the lower rack. Face everything else – plates, large bowls, etc. – toward the center of the rack for a thorough clean.

Make it a family event. Throw a family cleaning party to get everyone involved with the get-together prep, making it quick and fun. Get creative and play a game to assign rooms to different family members. Put all rooms that need to be cleaned on a piece of paper, place them in a hat and have everyone pick. From dusting to loading the dishwasher to taking out the trash, the extra hands will be a big help, and before you know it, everyone will be out of the house and into the backyard to enjoy the sunshine.

For more tips to make your home a clean and welcoming environment, visit www.frigidaire.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is Your Clothes Dryer Shrinking Your Energy Budget?

August 19, 2014 5:57 am

Regular readers know I talk a lot about new developments and technologies related to home appliances. But despite great strides many manufacturers have voluntarily made creating more energy efficient appliances, clothes dryers that still play an important function in millions of homes across the nation are still a major energy concern.

According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released in mid-June, clothes dryers in U.S. homes are wasting up to $4 billion worth of electricity annually because energy-saving standards for the common appliance have not been significantly updated for almost 30 years,

The NRDC report, “A Call to Action for More Efficient Clothes Dryers,” finds that today’s typical electric clothes dryer can easily consume as much energy as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher combined.

Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards believes it is time to bring U.S. clothes dryers into the modern era and achieve some of the massive efficiency gains all the other major home appliances have seen.

The NRDC’s analysis suggests incorporating existing technology used abroad and adopting recommended technical and policy changes could slash U.S. dryers’ $9 billion annual electricity bills by 40 percent. And it can prevent roughly 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to taking three coal-fired power plants offline.

A key reason for the energy waste is that U.S. dryers continue to use decades-old technology that bakes water out of clothing with brute force, wasting a lot of energy and blowing hot-air exhaust to the outdoors.

NRDC’s report recommends steps consumers can take in the interim to cut laundry-related energy use and utility bills:

  • Use the washer’s maximum spin speed to lessen the amount of water remaining in the clothing before reaching the dryer
  • Choose cold water in the washer will also save up to 50 cents per load in energy costs
  • Select dryer cycles like delicate that reduce energy use (but increase drying time)
  • And no overfilling the drum, this gives clothes more room to tumble dry more quickly

Read the report at http://www.nrdc.org/energy/efficient-clothes-dryers.asp.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mind-Body Practices that Can Change Your Life

August 19, 2014 5:57 am

There is a lot of advice floating around out there about the best ways to manage your life and improve your professional success.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently interviewed five mega-successful individuals – including media magnate Oprah Winfrey and author/entrepreneur Arianna Huffington – to unearth some of the mind-body practices they say helped propel them to success.

Read the responses of these entrepreneurs and decide for yourself if making any or all of their five suggested changes may help vault you to greater accomplishment:

  • Deepening the human connection – Entrepreneur Seth Godin, author of “Tribes,” tries to tap in to the human desire for connection and belonging. He advises investing heavily in relationships that matter, cultivating strong ties to friends and family that increase trust and personal security and open the mind to better networking and decision-making.
  • Creating energy through exercise – More than one highly successful individual recommends regular physical exercise as a means to opening the mind. Whether it’s walking, yoga, or workouts at the gym, cultivating a healthy body can increase creative energy.
  • Getting enough sleep – If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you will crash and burn at some point, said Huffington. Good sleep habits increase mental acuity and foster a balanced emotional state.
  • Being grateful – Successful people are grateful people, said Winfrey. They remember to appreciate what they have every day and to say thanks often along the journey. The more you do that, Oprah says, the more successful you become.
  • Using stillness as a motivator - Whether it’s meditation, yoga or any other method of achieving a calm state of mind, respondents noted that being perfectly still for some period of every day promotes inner peace, increases the ability to react appropriately, and helps you to better solve problems.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Be Wary of Fall Home Maintenance Scams

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

When autumn arrives, many homeowners prepare their homes for cooler weather by hiring specialists to clean and make repairs. Be mindful of cons during this time of year – scammers use this opportunity to swindle homeowners out of thousands of dollars for unnecessary work. Be wary of these four scams typically advertised during the fall season.

Chimney repairs – Scammers disguised as chimney sweeps will tell you your chimney needs to be inspected, and then use hard sales tactics to get you to make expensive, unfounded repairs. Don’t fall for it.

Gutter cleaning – Fraudulent gutter cleaners tend to prey on the elderly or those who cannot clean their gutters easily. They will assure you that they’ve worked in the neighborhood before, and quote you a very low estimate in return for shoddy, incomplete work.

Energy audits – Many scammers offer a “free” energy audit to reduce heating costs, claiming to be a representative from your local utility company. They insist on costly upgrades for your attic, such as solar blankets or insulation, and may or may not burglarize your home while conducting the audit.

Ductwork cleaning – Ductwork cleaning is rarely a necessity, so take caution. Scammers are known to damage your heating system while cleaning it in order to leech more money out of you for repairs. They also may create indoor air hazards.

Before scheduling maintenance with an unknown service provider, research the individual or company through your local BBB or the Internet. Seek out referrals from trusted family and friends, check for proper licensing and never pay upfront.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Edge Lower

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) showing average fixed mortgage rates following bond yields lower. Averaging 4.12 percent for the week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage once again is at its 2014 low.

"Mortgage rates were down slightly amid a week of light economic reports,” notes Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “Of the few releases, retail sales were virtually unchanged in July after a 0.2 percent increase in June, ending five months of increases. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales were up 0.1 percent last month."

Survey findings include:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.12 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending August 14, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.14 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.24 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.27 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.44 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.97 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.98 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.23 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.36 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.35 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.
Average commitment rates and average fees and points reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Source: Freddie Mac

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Employers Look for 3 'Cs' When Hiring

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

(BPT) - Whether you are an employer looking to hire someone or the person looking to get hired, it's all about competency. Only 11 percent of employers believe recent graduates have the skills needed to succeed within their work forces, according to a recent Lumina Foundation report. Two-thirds of employers say recent college graduates may have the skills and knowledge for entry-level positions, but less than half believe recent graduates have what it takes for advancement to higher level jobs, according to a 2013 survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

So what are these essential competencies that candidates are missing? At the top of the list are the three ‘Cs’: critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Hiring officers look for candidates with good problem-solving abilities, the ability to work in teams, and those who have good verbal and written communications skills. For the traditional college graduate in his or her early 20's, much of their focus in school was spent on mastering subject matter, not necessarily on cultivating the three ‘Cs’. They may have a degree, but not much else in the way of experience. On the other hand, working adults who are earning their degrees later in life have had ample opportunity to hone these skills and are lacking the credential - a diploma - to get hired or promoted.

A new approach to higher education taking hold on campuses and in board rooms is called competency-based education. Under this model, students can receive credit for knowledge and skills they already possess. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of Americans believe students should be able to receive college credit for knowledge and skills obtained outside the classroom. Some schools are well-established leaders in this practice. Degree programs like these define what students must know, have well-defined learning outcomes and have a rigorous means of assessing whether students have achieved these outcomes.

How can job candidates, young or older, demonstrate both subject-matter mastery and competence? To start, first evaluate and identify your unique combination of skills, values and personal traits. Research the job that you are seeking and the company that is doing the hiring. Think broadly and don't confine yourself to the same industry in which you may have experiences, either as an employee or a student who had an internship. List the knowledge you have gained and skills you have developed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Three Ways to Avoid Getting Outbid on Your New Home

August 15, 2014 5:09 am

"Bidding for a new home can get pretty fierce in today's market," said Gibran Nicholas, Chairman of CMPS Institute, an organization that trains and certifies mortgage bankers and brokers.  "In some cases, you may be competing with more than a dozen other buyers who are bidding on the same property."  Here are three potential solutions to avoid getting outbid on your new home:

1 - Turn in your loan paperwork BEFORE you place an offer.  In many cases, you are bidding against cash buyers who don't need to wait for financing approvals. Look at it this way: if you were the seller, would you prefer to do business with a buyer who needs to wait for financing approvals, or a cash buyer who can close the deal quickly?  "That's why it's important to be proactive," Nicholas said.  "Provide your mortgage lender with things like your source of down payment funds, your asset documentation, your credit report and your income documentation.  This way, you'll be in a better position to close the deal quickly and compete with those cash buyers."

2 - Pay cash, but do it right. "Keep in mind that you only have 90 days after closing to place a mortgage on a property that you bought with cash if you want to secure your tax deduction," Nicholas said.  "In order to get that loan approval after closing, you'll need to document the source of funds that you used for your cash purchase. Talk to a CMPS professional for more details so that you can avoid problems down the road."

3 - Consider lender-paid mortgage insurance. Lender paid mortgage insurance allows you to accept a slightly higher interest rate in exchange for no mortgage insurance. "This is very useful because it's often less expensive than FHA insurance or Private Mortgage Insurance," Nicholas said.  "The lower monthly payment that results with this option can help you to afford a higher priced home, or at least get more comfortable paying at or above list price for the home you want."

Source: HomeQB.com

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Simple Ways to Balance Back-to-School Lunches

August 15, 2014 5:09 am

(Family Features) When you supply your kids with nutritious and sensible choices, you're ensuring a productive day in the classroom and beyond. It's simple to make lunch and snack time fun by tossing in some new, wholesome options that add variety and appeal for your little learner.

The most important nutrients parents seek when selecting the foods they feed their kids are protein, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin D and iron. While stocking up on foods rich in these nourishing elements is certainly helpful, there's no way to ensure your child will eat them. However, recent studies have found that kids are actually more likely than their parents to be the first of their friends to try new food or nutrition products.

Take the opportunity to start nutritious eating habits at a young age with flavorful food combinations that create balance at snack and meal time. A recent study shows that replacing non-nutrient rich snack foods (like chips) with a combination of healthy alternatives can help reduce calories by 72 percent and keep kids feeling fuller longer.
  • Protein Picks: To keep them feeling satisfied and fuller longer, include a few protein-packed choices in their lunch bag. Some options include roasted chicken, steamed edamame, hard boiled eggs, nuts or cheese.
  • Sweet Additions: Make their midday meal and snack time more complete with the addition of one or two servings of fruit. Some delicious options include apples, apricots, strawberries, blueberries, kiwis or pears.
  • Fresh Finds: Many vegetables offer fiber and other nutrients not found in other snacks. Throw in a bag of chopped vegetables, such as baby carrots, broccoli florets, celery, red bell peppers or sugar snap peas.
With a balanced approach to eating, you'll be able to send the whole family off to school or work prepared for whatever their busy day brings. You may also introduce them to some new favorite foods.

Source: Babybel

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