RE/MAX 440
Peter Cerruti
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309
Quakertown  PA 18951
 Phone: 215-429-7273
Office Phone: 215-538-4400
Fax: 267-354-6992 
petecerruti@yahoo.com
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Peter Cerruti

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Simple Ways to Improve Personal Finances

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

(Family Features) As more Americans make strides towards responsible spending and debt management, there are still ways to improve the control of family finances.

According to a recent survey, less than half of cardholders always pay their entire credit card balance. With more than half of individuals carrying credit card debt, there are ways to promote good spending and personal finance habits, such as:

Limit Number of Credit Cards

Limiting the number of cards you own can help limit your spending and increase the likelihood you can pay above the minimum balance. Before you start cutting up your plastic, remember having more than one credit card can have merits. One idea is to have three cards: one in a safe place at home for emergencies and two with you at all times.

Reap the Rewards

Use the rewards programs available to credit card holders to cash in on things your family really needs. Whatever rewards you are seeking, there is likely to be a card suitable for you.

Evaluate All Debts
Many carry debts beyond credit cards, including student loans, car payments and mortgages. Evaluate your debts and decide which ones have the highest interest rates. Making it a priority to pay down these debts first will save you more money in the long run.

Create a Budget
It’s never too soon to put yourself in control of your money and stop letting it control you. A budget will give you financial peace of mind and it can help you stretch the income you have. Calculate your income and expenses and set your monthly budget. Though you may not be on-point every month, the simple act of tracking your spending will be a huge step forward in your quest towards responsible spending.

Source: BOA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Securing Your Summer Home for the End of the Season

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Many homeowners close their home by shutting the door, locking it and setting the alarm. If you own a home that you won’t be living in for months at a time, this simply isn’t enough to guarantee security.

According to Chris Falkenberg, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent and president of Insite Security, an unprecedented amount of people fail to take the necessary steps to ensure their homes are properly protected for the fall and winter months. While working with clients and companies on risk preparedness and physical security planning, Falkenberg suggests the following tips for keeping homes safe while you’re away.

Have a Professional Check Your Alarm
Having a professional check your alarm system on an annual basis can help ensure that you are never prone to failures when your safety and security is on the line. A trusted and experienced electronic security installer will be able to assess your system prior to closing the house up for the season to determine if any part should be replaced in a preventative nature. “Like any other electrical component, alarms will fail as some parts simply wear out. You don’t want them to fail when you need them most,” says Falkenberg.

Close Contacts
If your alarm is set off, someone needs to be alerted that something is awry at your home. If you live too far away to travel to the home yourself, having a family friend or contact in the community that is available on short notice to go to the house and open the door for police is a must. Police can then conduct outside inspections and look for indoor damage from water or excessive cold and hot temperatures. Your alarm will detect the problems but it is the response to those signals and the further analysis that gives the alarms their best value.

Assess Fire Risk before Leaving
Fires are a huge risk to summer homes. It’s extremely important to make a thorough assessment of fire risk, both as to what equipment can be put in the house to prevent fire and also what kind of insurance coverage you should have if a fire does occur in a closed summer home. Falkenberg recommends having your insurance placed into effect by an independent agent who writes insurance for many different carriers and one who will make sure that all your valuables are covered. You don’t want to find out that you weren’t adequately covered after an incident occurs.

One fire risk that is always an issue is turpentine, other types of flammable cleaning liquids and the rags used for cleaning and finishing, says Falkenberg. Homeowners often leave dirty rags and flammable objects around to spontaneously combust. Though the risk has been known forever, it’s a common mistake often overlooked. Be aware of this if you are renovating, and make sure the contractor is cognizant of this as well.

Install a Sprinkler System if Possible
If you are building a new summer house, installing a residential sprinkler system is a smart idea. Sprinklers can greatly reduce the risk of fire, however, because they cannot be turned off remotely or electronically. They can also be a prime source of water damage. Have an important contact ready on call, and make sure they know where the water values are to shut off the system.

Other Measures Do Not Replace Strong Locks
Just because you have an alarm system doesn’t mean you should neglect having strong locks in place. Secure your home with extra deadbolt locks prior to closing. For houses with lots of glass exposure, consider security window film to make it harder to break.

“The important thing to take away is that this is a starting point—a series of things to think about when trying to consider security risk and mitigating that risk,” says Falkenberg. “People need to focus on themselves and then make sure their security is squared away, or alternatively, get somebody who knows a lot about security to help advise them or safeguard them while they’re away.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Save Cash with These Summer Cooling Tips

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Although we seem to be nearing the end of the summer, there's still plenty of heat left, and it's important to stay cool and safe these last few weeks. Why not save a little money in the process?

Although the weather can impact your energy use, there are some simple ways to lower your electric bill.

The average homeowner spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs, with summer cooling contributing a large part to the total. Of all your summer electric use, air conditioning is the number one cause of higher energy bills.

But whether you run air conditioning or fans to prevent that hot-weather meltdown, the following tips, provided by DTE Energy, will help you stay comfortable without overloading your checking account:

• Increase your thermostat setting. For every degree you increase your thermostat above 72 degrees, you'll reduce your cooling costs by up to 3 percent. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat and let it automatically adjust the setting for you – and apply for a $10 rebate! Find out how at dteenergy.com/energystar.

• Change or clean your furnace filter once a month. A dirty filter restricts airflow and can cause your air condition unit to run longer. Vacuum registers and vents regularly, and don't let furniture and draperies block the air flow.

• Use ceiling fans to assist your air conditioning. Set them to run counter-clockwise (or downward air flow), which provides better air circulation. Remember to turn them off when you leave the room.

• Close blinds, draperies and shades on windows facing the sun to block out the heat, and wait until cooler times of the day to run your dishwasher or clothes dryer.

• Have your central air conditioning unit tuned-up by a professional, plus clear away weeds and debris so that air can circulate freely around the unit.

• One last tip – Be sure to drink plenty of fluids in hot weather and enjoy the summer!

Source: DTE Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Take Time to Tackle Home Maintenance

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

(Family Features) Keeping a healthy home for your family means more than daily chores and the occasional deep cleaning. It’s important to add inspections of often overlooked areas and regular maintenance to your list of tasks.

“Every home can have unhealthy, harmful, or even hazardous areas,” said Mike Holmes, a contractor on HGTV and healthy home expert. “It’s important to check them out, especially during regular maintenance. Addressing these ‘hidden hazards’ helps create a healthy home and keeps your family safe.”

Holmes recommends following his “SAFETY” checklist:

S - Seek out lead in the home.
If your home was built before 1978, it could contain lead. If you disturb any material that contains lead, tiny lead particles could become airborne at home. Talk to a professional to test the entire house, and take the necessary steps to ensure your family’s safety.

A - Address indoor air quality and change your air filter.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution levels can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels. Use an electrostatically charged air filter to help capture odors and airborne particles, such as mold spores, dust mite debris, bacteria and viruses. Plus, changing your filter at the start of every season helps protect and maintain your system.

F - Fix leaks to prevent mold and mildew.
Mold spores need moisture to grow and thrive in warm, humid conditions. Inspect your home for excess water and moisture build-up from leaky roofs, faucets, basement drains, dishwashers and washing machines, and fix them immediately.

E - Exercise caution around appliances.
Before using appliances such as space heaters and toaster ovens, make sure they are working properly. Never drape an electrical cord over a sink. Also avoid overloading wiring or plugging too many appliances into a single wall socket. Be sure to unplug appliances when they’re not being used, and cover sockets with outlet protectors.

T - Test for dangerous gases.
One out of every 15 homes in the U.S. has dangerous levels of radon, according to the EPA. You can purchase a short-term home radon test for less than $20. Test the lowest lived-in level of your home, and if you have elevated levels of radon, call a qualified contractor immediately. Also, test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month by pushing the test button on the unit. Remember to change the batteries every season, and replace the entire unit every 7 to 10 years.

Y - Yield healthier results with regular upkeep.

Keep up with regular home maintenance to help keep your home healthy and your family safe. Fix small problems now to avoid big repairs later. Remember, big repairs come with big price tags and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe living conditions.

Source: 3M

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Tips to Relax and Save on Labor Day Trips

August 6, 2013 9:52 pm

Looking to plan a getaway for Labor Day weekend? Here are some tips for travelers who want to get out and explore over the long weekend without spending too much money.

1. Celebrate the long weekend in the Big Apple. The Wellington is available Sunday and Monday night for as little as $157 a night. Walk to Central Park or Broadway from the hotel.
2. Booking early is always a smart move. Thousands of hotels offer lower rates for bookings purchased 21 days in advance.
3. Atlantic City is a relaxing and exciting Labor Day destination, with rooms filling up fast. Enjoy fun casinos and a walk on the boardwalk.
4. Some of the top destinations for Labor Day include Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Orlando, London, San Diego, Washington DC, Myrtle Beach, San Francisco and Miami.
5. Use Southwest Airlines' low fares to get to your destination. Many flights are available for as low as $59 to some of the most popular spots throughout the country.
6. South Beach sizzles over Labor Day. Try one of Getaroom.com's value boutique hotels such as the Harrison Hotel to enjoy nearby beaches, great Cuban food and world-class shopping.
7. New Orleans offers great food, music, and a glimpse into the nation's past. Enjoy first-class accommodations from $99 a night at the St. James hotel.
8. Many hotels in Las Vegas offer very low rates during Labor Day. Every major hotel has a pool and ice-cold air conditioning to help you beat the September heat. Try The Quad for rates as low as $32 a night and an unbeatable center Strip location.

Labor Day is a time to reflect on all of the hard work that made the country great and also marks the end of the summer travel season. With proper planning and some help, Labor Day travel can be enjoyable and within any budget.

Source: Getaroom.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renters Insurance Can Provide Important Financial Protection This Hurricane Season

August 6, 2013 9:52 pm

Although the majority of homeowners purchase insurance for their home, when it comes to renters, only 65 percent have renters insurance, according to a poll conducted for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The number of renters is steadily increasing. According to an April 2013 U.S. Census Report, the share of housing occupied by renters rose to 35.4 percent in 2013—up from 34.1 percent in 2009. And in some of the country's largest cities, renters significantly outnumber homeowners. In New York City, 69 percent of households rent their homes, followed by Los Angeles (61.8 percent), Chicago (55.1 percent) and Houston (54.6 percent).

"One of the biggest insurance problems after Sandy was the large number of renters who did not have coverage for their homes," pointed out Jeanne M. Salvatore, the I.I.I.'s consumer spokesperson and senior vice president. "It can be extremely expensive to have to re-buy the entire contents of your home, so a renter’s insurance policy provides very important financial protection when there is a hurricane or other covered disaster."

The good news is that renters insurance is relatively inexpensive. In fact, the average renters insurance policy cost only $185 per year in 2010 (the latest year this data is available), according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That’s less than $16 per month.

When you purchase renters insurance, your belongings are covered against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage—for example, if an upstairs neighbor's tub overflows and damages items in your apartment. However, renters insurance does not cover damage from flooding. Flood insurance is available for renters from FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

Renters insurance includes additional living expenses (ALE) coverage if you are unable to live in your home because of a hurricane, fire or other disaster listed in the policy. ALE pays for hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

Like a standard homeowners insurance policy, renters insurance includes liability protection. This covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home or elsewhere by you, a family member or your pet and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court.

There are two main types of renters insurance policies:

1. Actual Cash Value coverage
pays to replace your possessions up to the limit of your policy, minus a deduction for depreciation.
2. Replacement Cost coverage pays the real cost of replacing your belongings (regardless of depreciation) up to the limit of your policy. This will usually cost about 10 percent more but is a much better value in the long run.

If you have expensive jewelry, furs, sports or musical equipment, or collectibles, you may want to consider adding a floater to your policy. Most standard renters policies include a limited dollar amount for such items. A floater is a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and may even cover them if they are accidentally lost.

The best way to determine how much renters insurance you need is to create a home inventory. This is a detailed list of all of your personal possessions along with their estimated value. An up-to-date home inventory will also make filing an insurance claim faster and easier. The I.I.I. offers free home inventory software and a mobile app at www.knowyourstuff.org.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Tips for Summer Picnic Food

August 6, 2013 9:52 pm

Picnics are a great way to enjoy the last of those lazy summer afternoons in the sunshine and can be a cost effective family day out. Emma Bridgewater, the handmade kitchen and dinnerware company, has created the following five tips for the perfect picnic.

1) Keep food simple
Think about how practical certain dishes are when you prepare for a picnic. Dishes that work brilliantly around a dining table may not be so sensible served balanced on a picnic rug. Finger food eliminates the need for cutlery and will usually mean less mess at the end of the meal.

2) Choose foods that travel well
Hopefully you'll be taking advantage of a really beautiful day, in which case your picnic will be just one part of the day's fun. With this in mind, choose food that travels well. This will give your dishes a better chance of staying in tact, as well as keeping sandwiches from being disappointingly soggy by lunchtime. The most delicious sandwiches are often the simplest. Use lettuce or baby leaf spinach to surround mayonnaise-based sandwich fillings to keep the bread dry.

3) Create a finger-food salad
Chop up chunks of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks to make a finger-food salad. Serve in bowls with hummus for dipping for a delicious raw vegetable treat. This way you can still serve healthy food without the need for knives and forks.

4) Keep the desert simple
Bring a sponge cake and a bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries or grapes for a refreshing end to your picnic. Avoid sticky foods and cover cakes and sugary deserts to keep insects at bay. Keeping desserts simple is also likely to reduce the amount of cleaning up required at the end of the picnic.

5) Serve fresh and fruity drinks
Homemade lemonade or fruit juices can be kept cool with an ice pack in your picnic basket. Serving drinks in sturdy tumblers with a wide base mean they won't get spilled when you spread out on a picnic rug on uneven ground. Wine glasses and champagne flutes may look elegant at a picnic, but can leave guests struggling to hold a delicate glass, cutlery and plate of food.

Source: http://www.emmabridgewater.co.uk/

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Timely Tips for Home Buying

August 5, 2013 9:52 pm

Regardless of market conditions, a home is not only a place to live, but also a financial asset and a plan for the future. But is it the right time for you to buy? Here are a few general rules to consider:

- Steady employment. It's essential to have a reliable source of income.

- A solid credit score. A bad credit score will increase mortgage interest rates. Potential homeowners should clean up their credit report and ensure that long-term debts are paid before considering homeownership. And when selecting a house, a potential buyer should determine the qualities that best suit his or her situation.

- An affordable price. The total cost of a home should generally be less than 2.5 years' pay. Ensure that the down payment and monthly mortgage payments are manageable.

- Location, location, location. Where a home is located can change its value dramatically. Being in a district with good schools, for example, is important -- both for raising the family and for resale value. Also consider what's going on in the community. Are peace and quiet high priorities, for example? Then perhaps a rural or suburban environment would work best. By contrast, if a desire for high culture and a fast lifestyle is a factor, then an urban setting might be preferred.

- Size matters. Is the home big enough, and will it allow for future growth?

Finally, when buying the house …

- Get some help from the pros. Using a real estate agent and a home inspector is important in selecting a good home and making an appropriate bid.

- Make the right mortgage move. When selecting a mortgage, determine whether it's better to pay additional points: One portion of the interest paid at closing may lead to greater savings down the road. If the plan is to stay around for a while (i.e., more than five years), experts say it's usually better to take the points.

Follow these tips and make your home-owning dream a reality. Buying a home is truly a life milestone, and it can be a big step toward financial security. Finding a good house in a nice neighborhood could be the key to making a home investment pay off.

Source: ForeclosedHomes.com

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3 Tips for Beautiful Wood Doors

August 5, 2013 9:52 pm

(BPT) - Your home's front door is more than a portal for family and friends - it makes a statement about your own personal style. Home designers often list the entry door as one of the most cost effective ways to dress up the front of your home for "wow" curb appeal.

This Old House magazine notes that since the front door is the first and last thing we touch when entering and leaving our homes, "it's easy to understand why many of us still like our doors to be made of wood - nothing else matches the material's warmth and satisfying heft."
"People choose wood entry doors first and foremost for their beauty; it's a fine piece of furniture on the front of your home," says Brad Loveless of Simpson Door Company.

For homeowners who enjoy the beauty of wood entry doors, options are now available to stand up to the harshest climates - from the wind-driven rains of Nantucket Island to the desert Southwest. Following are three ways to have the wood door you want and to ensure it will look great for years, no matter what the climate throws at it.

Bring your dreams to life

With doors available in hundreds of wood species, and numerous designs and glass options, it can be hard to envision how a particular door will look on your home. Short of hiring an architect to make a sketch, most people have had to rely on their imaginations. Recently, easy-to-use, free online tools have become available to simplify the door selection process. For example, Simpson's "Test Drive a Door" enables people to upload a photo of their home and view different door options on it. This allows a homeowner to be sure before they buy.

Go for performance
People are used to looking for high performance when shopping for new cars or computers, but might not realize the same approach can apply to doors. Manufacturers have developed high-performance wood doors with superior weather resistance that last in the most demanding exposures, including coastal homes with no porch or roof overhang to protect the door.

One high-performance option to consider is choosing wood species that perform best in moist conditions, as this varies among wood types. Species that have been shown in laboratory testing to have natural moisture resistance include Douglas Fir, Black Locust, Nootka Cypress and Sapele Mahogany, among others.

Another performance option some manufacturers offer in their wood doors is water-resistant composite blocks within the bottom of the door, where water can infiltrate. Doors also are available with full exterior cladding to protect them from rain and sun, while retaining the beauty of wood inside the home.

A strong finish
With any door, whether made of wood, steel or fiberglass, it is crucial to finish it for long-lasting protection from the elements. Doors are sold either factory finished or unfinished. If unfinished, the door must be finished by the door dealer, a contractor or the homeowner.

Manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions for best results from finishing, and those steps typically must be followed to ensure warranty requirements. Chief among these are to finish all six sides - front, back and all edges. As no wood surface should be left unfinished, finish should also be applied to the cut-outs for the handle and lock set, as well as any other openings, such as for mail slots or pet doors.

If the door is exposed to sun, it is generally better to use lighter color paints or stains as those absorb less heat from damaging UV rays.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Time to Make a Splash? Keep Your Kids Safe in the Water

August 5, 2013 9:52 pm

Summer is the time for swimming, be it at the beach, lake, or pool. However, you want your kids to stay safe while having fun making a splash. The following tips, provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can help you and your children stay safe and accident-free.

• All caregivers should learn CPR.
• Never leave a toy in or around a pool.
• Never leave children alone in or near a bathtub, even for a minute. There are no "bath seats" that are proven to be safe and not result in drowning.
• Never leave children alone in or near the pool; this includes inflatable and other children's pools. An adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision."
• Swimming lessons are recommended for children ages 1-4 years. New studies suggest that these children may be less likely to drown if they have had swimming lessons. Teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT guarantee your child is safe in water.
• Make sure there is a telephone by the pool in case of an emergency.
• If you use an inflatable or plastic pool, make sure you dump the water out of the pool after each use and turn the pool upside down when finished.
• Install a fence at least four-feet high around all four sides of the pool. Four-sided fences can cut the drowning risk in half. Pool covers and pool alarms are not a substitute for fencing.
• Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height small children can't reach.
• Keep rescue equipment nearby, including a shepherd's hook (a long pole with a hook on the end) and a life preserver.
• Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties." They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
• Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
• Teach children never to swim alone.
• Counsel teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.

Source: www.cincinnatichildrens.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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