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

My Blog

Reclaiming Your Bedroom

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

Our bedrooms are supposed to be our safe havens – our private sanctuaries. Yet more often than not, they’re home to piles of laundry to put away, dusty work-out equipment, and mismatched shoes. How can one relax in that environment?

Thanks to some great strategies from author Julie Morgenstern via HGTV.com, your bedroom can soon become the zen-like environment it was intended to be. Here are Morgenstern’s top tips for organizing and reclaiming the boudoir:

1. Under-bed Storage. Sliding or rolling under-bed storage bins serve as a wonderful extension of your closet space. Use them to rotate seasonal items, store bigger, bulkier items like backpacks, purses and blankets, or house a change of sheets. These items will remain nicely hidden with the help of a bedskirt. Be sure to label the bins to avoid frantic and messy searching.

2. Put Shoes in Their Place. One of the quickest fixes to a bedroom closet overrun with shoes is to invest in a shoe rack. Morgenstern recommends an expanding tiered shoe rack below your clothes as opposed to an over-the-door hanging shoe bag. Once you have a clear visual on just how many shoes you actually own, odds are you’ll realize it’s time to give some away.

3. Control Jewelry Chaos. A hanging jewelry organizer can help tame that tangled mess of necklaces and earrings on your bureau. These organizers usually come with or snap onto a hanger and have plenty of clear pockets to keep items free and clear of each other.

4. Create a Reading Nook. That lovely chair you have in your room was not meant to be adorned with dirty laundry and back-logged magazines. Morgenstern says it’s time to rescue your reading chair by adding the proper organization, such as a side table with drawers or shelves for your reading materials, journal or e-reader. If you’re a magazine and/or newspaper fan, a magazine rack would work best

5. Make Your Bed Every Day. So simple yet so tempting to blow off. Treat your bed as the sanctuary it is by positioning it for use every day, says Morgenstern. If you spend three minutes each morning to tuck and fold, you'll develop a habit of keeping order in the room, which may translate into motivation for picking up the pile of clothes on the floor.

6. Put Specialty Garments in Storage. If your wedding dress or special occasion fur is taking up space in your primary closet, have it professionally cleaned and boxed, then put it away in an attic or basement.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Choosing Your Most Sustainable Mortgage Option

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

I recently ran across some good advice from Scott Sheldon (bayarearealestatetrends.com) who blogs about how the shrinking inventory of available housing is taking some homebuyers' focus off the bottom line.

Sheldon says pre-approved buyers typically focus on purchase price, when in most cases, it’s the monthly payment over time relative to the purchase price that dictates whether or not that particular property can be identified as an opportunity.

Sheldon goes on to say that consumers are beginning to place more emphasis on sustainable payment over time considering they could be paying more for the property than anticipated. And today's real estate market conditions are causing many buyers to switch mortgage loan programs during the pre-approval phase and well into after they’ve gotten into contract.

While qualifying for the mortgage is the end result, to perform on a purchase contract, Sheldon says the appropriate loan program promoting long-term payment sustainability becomes the next critically important piece of the puzzle.

In his blog, Sheldon details the following borrowing options:

• Conventional loans represent the lowest cost combination of rate and payment over time. This type of financing represents the cream of the crop available in the market today. When it comes to conventional loans, twenty percent down to avoid monthly mortgage insurance, with the lowest possible payment being 3 percent is common.

• FHA loans—including first-time homebuyer options—are typically geared toward consumers entering the real estate market for the first time. This type of financing, however, is eligible for anyone and is not solely a first-time homebuyer program.

• Fannie Mae's Homepath.com program offers two main advantages: no appraisal requirement and no monthly mortgage insurance requirement. The cost of these two advantages comes in the form of a higher risk based pricing, an inherently higher cost loan.

• VA loans for military families through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees loans for veterans looking to purchase real estate. The program allows for 100 percent financing and no money down and does not contain any monthly mortgage insurance.

Source: www.bayarearealestatetrends.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Natural Fun Takes a Backseat to Tech Time for Kids & Families

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

From weekday afternoons huddled in front of gaming consoles to weekends spent downloading the latest smartphone app, kids today spend a significant amount of time indoors tethered to technology. A survey commissioned by Busch Gardens® found that 85 percent of moms worry that their children don't experience enough natural, unstructured outdoor playtime – the kind of activity so common in previous generations.

According to the survey of nearly 900 moms conducted by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Busch Gardens®, kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as playing tag, riding bikes, and exploring nature, and these activity levels increase only slightly on the weekends to a little more than two hours.

"As parents, we remember our own moms opening up the screen door on a summer day and telling us 'go outside and play,' and we did, playing with friends from the neighborhood, roller skating and concocting elaborate games," said Stacy DeBroff , founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting. "We fear we're raising a generation of kids with 'Natural Fun Deficiency' who rarely play outside unless as part of planned activities with a coach nearby carrying a whistle and a clipboard."

Based on the survey results, both moms and kids see technology as a deterrent to kids playing outside – 68 percent of moms think their kids spend too much time plugged in, and 44 percent of kids prefer texting to kickball.

However, the obstacles to outdoor-based family time include more than just technology. More than two-thirds of moms feel that family fun often takes a backseat to day-to-day obligations.

Here are some tips to combat 'Natural Fun Deficiency':

For Kids
• Keep it Low-Key: Don't worry about creating a master outdoor curriculum for kids. Instead, encourage them to build a fort, suggest they invite the new neighbor kids over for a backyard soccer game, or challenge them to make the ultimate mud pie.

• Team Up with Fellow Moms: When it comes to planning play dates, the survey showed that almost 60 percent of moms never or rarely think about organizing an outdoor-focused get-together, despite the fact that 75 percent of moms want their kids to be more open to outdoor adventure. Work with other moms to banish time in front of the TV or gaming console and instead suggest that kids go outside for a backyard scavenger hunt or game of kickball.

• Group Learning Activities: Surprise the kids with learning experiences disguised as pure fun.

For Families

• Plan a Family Getaway: According to the survey results, 70 percent of moms rely on vacations as a time for kids to unplug and get away from technology. Planning a family getaway can be a great way for everyone to set aside pressures and obligations and re-connect as a family.

• Explore the Great Outdoors: To jumpstart natural, outdoor fun, identify vacation spots with enough outdoor activities to entice everyone in the family. For example, a beach vacation offers opportunities for swimming, water sports, and beach exploration, while a visit to a theme park provides everything from thrill rides to water fun to animal encounters in natural settings.

• The Family Who Plays Together, Stays Together: Support kids' newfound outdoor experiences by creating fun, easy-to-arrange family activities. Take advantage of extended daylight hours to eat dinner on the patio or schedule an impromptu picnic dinner in the backyard. Or walk the dog as a family each weekend morning.

Source: Busch Gardens

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Aging in Place? These Kitchen Design Trends Are Really Hot

May 4, 2013 10:46 am

As more homeowners are making the commitment to aging in place, I continue to seek out new resources to help folks with ways to transition their homes for the “'extended stay.” So it was great to discover aging in place expert Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD, CAPS (www.mjpdesign.com), a relatively close neighbor from Connecticut. She noted that design trends toward more open spaces and generous daylight have forced designers to use fewer wall cabinets and the response from consumers is tremendous.

Peterson also points out that more renovations include placing appliances at comfortable heights. Peterson says she used to be a lonely voice encouraging splitting double ovens so each might be placed at a more accessible height, but today, clients are asking for them.

She says beware, however, because this is one of those Universal Design concepts that only works when it fits into the design.

Another source, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Charlie Hudson of Hudson Remodeling in Lynden, WA offers these aging-in-place/universal-design tips:

• Install bath and shower grab bars. When properly installed, grab bars are effective in helping prevent slips and falls. Typically, they are the first item people turn to when looking to improve bathroom safety.

• Replace a traditional tub with a walk-in shower unit. Wonderful step-free shower units can be created in the same space currently used for a bathtub. Walk-in showers can be installed as prefabricated units or as a custom project using materials like tile and glass.

• Consider remodeling to add a ground floor master suite. This type of remodel not only allows seniors to stay in their own home as long as possible, it can also help those recovering from injury or illness.

• In the kitchen, relocate (or raise) the level of your dishwasher to make loading/unloading easier; install pull-out shelves in lower cabinets for easier access.

• Change hardware throughout the house; using levers or “D” pulls can make it easier for all abilities to open and close doors and cabinets.

• Install handrails along interior and exterior staircases; make sure those areas are well lit as well.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Seller's Guide to Multiple Offers

May 4, 2013 10:46 am

With the real estate market heating up for spring, if you're selling your home, you could find yourself in the position of receiving multiple offers on your house in a short span of time – even within one day. So, with the ball in your court, how do you decide which offer is most attractive to you?

If you are considering multiple offers, the first thing your real estate agent may want to do is to make it clear to all parties that you have or expect several offers, and that all prospective buyers should be putting forward their "best offer." Although you and your agent are under no obligation to disclose the existence of multiple offers, it will probably benefit you as negotiations begin. Since you and your agent are the only party with visibility to all of the offers, you have the upper hand – each prospective buyer, without visibility to the terms of competing offers, will be forced to put forth the very best that he or she can manage in the hope of winning the sale.

As you peruse the terms offered, here are a few things to think about that may make some of the offers more attractive than others:

• Price. At first glance, it seems intuitive that you would want to accept the offer for the greatest amount of money for your house. If you have multiple offers in front of you, you may be tempted to take the highest offer. And while a fair price is a large part of what makes an offer attractive, there are some additional terms that you should consider as well.

• Closing date. When do you want the sale to close? If you are hoping for a quick close to the sale so that you can get into a new home or just to ensure that the sale is finalized and there are no surprises, you should take into consideration what each buyer is offering in terms of the closing and possession dates. Conversely, if you need to stay in your home a while longer while you are waiting on a new home or because you want to finish out a school year, it might be wise to accept a bid that will allow you to move out at a later date. You may want to also state which closing date you want, up front so that offers come in with dates that are attractive to you.

• Buyer's financing. If you are serious about accepting an offer, you're going to want to make sure that the sale will actually go through. Your buyer's financing is of paramount importance; if a buyer is a risk to secure financing, you may want to look elsewhere. How can you determine this? Always consider a pre-approval letter over a mere pre-qualification. Pre-approval suggests a very good bet that the buyer's lender will extend financing based on a completed assessment of the buyer's risk. A buyer who is willing to put down a large amount of earnest money should also be seen as serious about the offer they are making.

• Other contingencies. You will want to examine the contingencies listed in each buyer's offer. An offer contingent upon the buyer selling an existing home is far less attractive than an offer with no such contingency. Aside from a regular home inspection, a buyer may also request additional inspections for pests, air quality, asbestos, and other features of the property. A buyer with fewer of these requests may be more attractive to you than a buyer whose purchase is contingent upon multiple inspections.

Although it may seem like there is a lot to consider when comparing multiple offers, it's an enviable position to be in. The sluggish real estate market of the past few years has meant that fewer sellers have seen concurrent multiple offers. If you are fortunate enough to end up with multiple offers to choose from, consult your real estate agent and discuss which offer best fits your needs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Travel Insurance FAQs

May 4, 2013 10:46 am

With summer around the bend, many travelers will be heading out on much-needed vacations and should hopefully be seeking out travel insurance. Here is a list of the questions most commonly asked by travelers on the lookout.

1. Doesn’t my credit card have travel insurance?
No, not in the way most travelers want it to. Credit cards that have “travel insurance” provide little coverage, but nothing in comparison to a separate policy from a travel insurance company. Some cards provide cancellation coverage, but with an annual limit ($1,500-$2,500 per 12 month period), and the list of covered reasons is limited. Interruption coverage is limited as well, as is travel delay coverage. Most importantly though, is that almost no credit cards provide medical expense or evacuation coverage.

2. Won’t my regular health insurance cover me abroad?
Not completely. Most regular health insurance plans provide partial or no coverage while you are traveling in another country. For Medicare, there is never coverage abroad. Countries with “universal health care” might assist with minor needs, but they are under no obligation to do so. In the event of major or ongoing medical expenses, they would cease to help, and they would never pay to evacuate you or help you return home.

3. Will my cruise line refund me?
A little. It depends on when you cancel, but generally you won’t get much back. Most cruise companies have a declining refund schedule where they refund less and less the closer to the departure date, until they refund nothing at all. Generally within two weeks there is zero refund, and even canceling a month before will usually only get you a 25 percent refund.

4. Are hurricanes covered?
Yes, many plans cover hurricanes and weather under trip cancellation coverage. To be covered you need to 1) make sure it is listed as a covered reason, 2) buy before the storm is named, 3) insure for the full trip cost, and 4) some plans require that you buy soon after your trip payment to avoid the waiting period.

5. Are pre-existing conditions covered?
Yes, many plans offer a waiver that removes the pre-existing condition exclusion. To be covered you need to 1) buy your plan soon after your first trip payment, 2) insure for the full trip cost, 3) be medically cleared for travel at the time of purchase.

6. What does travel insurance cost?
Insurance costs 4-8 percent of the trip cost (pre-paid, non-refundable expenses). Basic plans can be very budget-minded at less than 4 percent, and premium vacation plans can be over 12 percent. Travel medical insurance is sold on a trip=length basis, and can be as little as dollars per day.

7. When should I purchase my plan?
Within days of making your initial trip deposit. There are many benefits to purchasing the plan sooner, including maximizing the period of cancellation coverage, and being eligible for pre-existing condition coverage and hurricane coverage.

8. How do I know I can trust the company?
The companies featured by Squaremouth.com are companies that have years of experience with solid AM Best ratings of financial stability, and they comply with a Zero Complaint Policy.

9. What is the refund policy?
A 100 percent refund of premium within the Free Look Period is guaranteed by all companies. This allows travelers to review their policy and return it for any reason within the time period (less a small administration fee $5-$8).

10. How do I buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be quoted and purchased instantly online using a credit card. Since travel insurance is a temporary insurance product, there is generally no underwriting period or medical examination required. You can get a quote online, buy with a credit card, print your email confirmation, and you’re all done.

Source: www.travelinsurancereview.net

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Reasons to Celebrate National Raisin Day

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

Have you heard through the grapevine? National Raisin Day is tomorrow! As a delicious and naturally sweet addition to favorite recipes and snacks, California Raisins are an all-time classic in lunch boxes, gym bags and grocery carts across the nation. Here are 10 of our favorite reasons to love this all-natural, dried-by-the-sun, small – but mighty – fruit.

1. On-Screen Stars. How many wholesome, healthy snacks can claim an Emmy nomination? Introduced in 1984, the California Dancing Raisins starred in an Emmy-nominated 1989 TV special, Meet the Raisins. The dancing raisins were officially named: Ben Indasun, Justin X, Grape and Tiny Goodbite.

2. Fill Your Tank with the Good Stuff! California Raisins come by their sweetness naturally. Because raisins contain no added sugar, the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food-A-Pedia website shows that a serving of the fruit contributes no empty calories.

3. California Dreamin'. California is the raisin capital of the world and almost all California Raisins are grown within a 60-mile radius of Fresno – in California's sun-drenched San Joaquin Valley.

4. Budget-Friendly Fruit. The USDA ranks raisins as the most economical dried fruit, making raisins the most budget-friendly dried fruit of them all.

5. Year-Round Goodness. Perfectly portable, California Raisins don't spoil, bruise or need refrigeration. They are available January – December and always ready to munch on as a travel snack or an on-the-go, naturally sweet treat.

6. Mighty Good for You. California Raisins are the small fruit with big nutrition. According to the nutrition facts label, a quarter cup serving of raisins has 9 percent of your daily value of fiber and potassium and 6 percent of your daily value of iron. Plus, just a quarter cup of raisins is a serving of fruit.

7. All-Natural Nibble. Their ingredient list says it all: raisins. California Raisins have no cholesterol, no fat and no added sugar.

8. Fruit-tastic! Raisins proudly carry the Produce for Better Health Foundation's Fruit & Veggies—More Matters logo because they are 100% fruit.

9. Heart Smart. Even sweeter news – a recent study presented at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session suggests eating raisins three times a day may significantly lower the mean value of post-meal systolic blood pressure among individuals with prehypertension when compared to consuming popular, pre-packaged non-fruit snacks.

10. All-Around Awesome. Last but not least, exceptionally versatile, California Raisins add delicious, one-of-a-kind flavor to both sweet and savory recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time too.

Source: www.loveyourraisins.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Americans Set Higher Standards for Their Communities

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

Americans' expectations for their communities have risen and in some cases changed, according to findings released from the Y Community Snapshot. Respondents rate education and community involvement as increasingly vital to building and sustaining strong communities, a +7.4 and +4.8 percent change from 2012. The survey also found a 30 percent gap between what people say is most important in creating a strong community today and how satisfied they are with their own community's performance in those areas.

Y Community Snapshot participants ranked providing a safe environment for children as the top priority for a second consecutive year. Their local school systems were ranked as the second most important factor impacting their community's strength – up from fifth place last year. In addition, 64 percent of parents believe an educational achievement gap exists within their community, specifically as it relates to an individual's income, status or wealth.

The Y Community Snapshot, commissioned by YMCA of the USA (Y-USA), is a consumer survey measuring how Americans view quality of life in their communities nationwide. The survey is based on factors such as community member involvement, and the quality of a community's services ranging from education to promoting healthy lifestyles.

According to the survey, Americans are looking more to education to help improve the quality of life in their community. In fact, five of the top 10 most important community strength drivers focused on education and children. Forty percent of respondents believe that it's the responsibility of schools, colleges and other educational institutions to improve the quality of life across communities.

Additionally, the ability to offer employment opportunities and job training for teens and young adults jumped into the top 10 most important drivers for building a strong community, with an increase of more than 5 percent over last year.

Other key findings include:
  • Public education is the number one area respondents say they would allocate local tax dollars to in order to strengthen their community. Nearly half of parents (46 percent) rate their community's school system or child's school as average or below average in providing the resources, services, people and programs to help students who want or need additional or extra assistance, support and opportunity.
  • Three of four respondents (72 percent) feel the "educational achievement gap" reduces, limits or negatively impacts a young person's chances, opportunity or ability to succeed in adult life.
  • About three-fourths (72 percent) of parents say they currently use or have used some form of childcare (defined as "any service,” excluding personal babysitter, where someone else is caring for your children, including daycare).
  • Over 40 percent (43 percent) of parents who currently use or have used childcare rely upon before or after-school programs or daycare.
Source: YMCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Demand for Pet Friendly Rentals on the Rise

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

Findings from a recent Apartments.com survey reveal it is more likely renters could be living next door to a pet owner compared to recent years. This year, 75 percent of renters surveyed said they are pet owners, compared to 43 percent in 2012. These findings align with the improving U.S. economy, according to an American Veterinary Medical Association survey released last year; the difficult economy played a very strong role in the first decline in pet ownership since 1991.

Half of the pet-loving renters surveyed by Apartments.com would like to believe their fellow apartment residents also adore their four-legged companions. Fortunately, it turns out they are not far off, as nearly 60 percent of renters who do not own pets said they still enjoy living around others with pets.

While nearly 65 percent of the pet owners surveyed said they live in a two-bedroom apartment or larger, many indicated they were ambivalent to the size of their space when choosing a pet. In fact, more than 75 percent said the size of their apartment only played "some importance" to "no difference" when picking a pet. The five most popular apartment pets among the pet owners surveyed are:
  1. Cat: 45 percent
  2. Small dog: 38 percent
  3. Medium dog: 21 percent
  4. Large dog: 19 percent
  5. Fish: 6 percent
Budget-savvy renters should plan for costs associated with living with pets, as 63 percent of pet owners indicated they are required to pay a pet deposit. In fact, a majority spend more than $150 annually in deposits and/or monthly fees.

However, deposits and fees do not always cover every type of pet. Renters should be specific in clarifying what types of pets are allowed, as pet restrictions vary from one apartment building to another. In fact, only 28 percent of renters surveyed said they live in a building that has no restrictions on what type of pet they are allowed to have.

The survey also reveals nearly seven out of 10 respondents adopted their pet from a rescue or shelter. As part of this survey, Apartments.com committed to donating $1 for every survey response to North Shore Animal League America, the world's largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization.

Source: Apartments.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Recognize and Understand Hidden Fees in Your 401(k)

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

You wouldn’t authorize a company to dive into your checking account at will to withdraw money for undisclosed “services rendered,” right? But according to financial advisor Philip Rousseaux, that’s exactly what many Americans are unwittingly doing.

“While a new law now requires disclosure of previously hidden fees applied to 401(k) plans, it’s up to you, or your financial advisor, to find and review that information and determine whether the fees are reasonable,” says Rousseaux, founder and president of Everest Wealth Management, Inc.

By some estimates, up to 90 percent of fees attached to retirement plans are hidden. As of July 1, 2012, the new Department of Labor rule requires all hidden fees attached to retirement plans and mutual funds be disclosed to employers and employees.

Rousseaux offers these tips for examining and understanding retirement plan fees:
  • Trading fees: Trading fees apply to mutual funds, which generally comprise more than half of a 401(k). These previously undisclosed fees are brokerage commissions that are charged to the plan holder every time a fund is traded. The charge is a percentage of the fund’s value, usually ranging from less than 1 percent to less than 2 percent. In some cases, trading fees can double the cost of the transaction. “If your funds are being frequently traded, you may be spending quite a bit on trading fees – in addition to the other fees associated with managing the fund,” Rousseaux says. “If you can’t determine whether the trading fees are reasonable, you should consult with an independent financial advisor.”
  • Revenue sharing: These fees occur when mutual funds and other plan providers pay a third party for administrative services such as record-keeping, which the fund is expected to perform. These may be labeled “sub-transfer,” “agent/sub-TA” or “shareholder servicing” and they’re built into the plan’s expense ratio, so it’s not a double charge. Again, the idea is to review these charges and ensure they seem reasonable.
  • 12 b-1 fees: This term – named for the section in the regulation that allows for it – applies to marketing and distribution costs. They’re generally paid as commissions to brokers who service retirement plans and they also may be paid to non¬investment professionals such as record keepers or insurance companies. Most mutual funds have share classes that provide for varying revenue amounts from 12b-¬1 fees. Brokers and record-keepers have an incentive to use funds with 12b-¬1 fees and to share classes with higher 12b-¬1 fees because they make more money.
Rousseaux notes that it’s also important to look at the expense ration for your plan, which should now be stated in dollars under terms of the new Labor Department regulation.

“Generally, the lower the ratio, the bigger the fund will grow,” he says.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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