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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 
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Peter Cerruti

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REALTORS Urge Preserving of Homeownership Tax Policies

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

As Congress pursues comprehensive tax reform it should focus on doing no harm to housing and America’s 75 million homeowners by maintaining current tax laws for homeownership and real estate investment, the National Association of REALTORS® said.

NAR President Gary Thomas testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee concerning Federal tax provisions that affect residential real estate. Thomas said that homeownership has had long-standing support in the country because of its many benefits to individuals and families, communities and to the nation’s economy.

“REALTORS® know that homeownership is an investment in your future and for many people, owning a home helps them gain a foothold into the middle class,” said Thomas. “NAR remains committed to preserving the current tax measures for homeownership so that millions of Americans can continue to build the kind of financial security that owning a home can provide.”

In his testimony, Thomas said the current tax code contains housing-related provisions that help facilitate homeownership, build wealth for families and provide stability to communities. Altering these policies could marginalize current and future home buyers as well as jeopardize the nascent housing recovery and the overall economy.

Thomas urged specific support for maintaining the current deduction for home mortgage interest. The mortgage interest deduction helps many families become homeowners, which is the foundation for a healthy middle class, and it is vital to the health and stability of housing markets.

The mortgage interest deduction primarily benefits middle- and lower income families. Sixty five percent of families who claim the deduction earn less than $100,000 per year, and as a percentage of income, the biggest beneficiaries are younger middle-class families.

“The mortgage interest deduction makes sustainable homeownership more affordable for millions of middle-class families; these families are the nation’s backbone,” said Thomas. “Protecting these hard-working Americans should be Congress’ top priority as it pursues comprehensive tax reform. On behalf of our one million REALTOR® members and millions of homeowners, we urge Congress to do no harm to housing.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Real Estate Spending Trends - Grounds, Lawn and Landscape Care

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

A new U.S. online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape industry professionals, shows that consumers are looking to increase spending on hardscapes (outdoor kitchens, patios, decks, water features, and walkways) and other specialized services (irrigation and lighting). Hardscaping is comprised of outdoor living spaces and paved, non-living components of a landscape.

The study surveyed 2,219 adults ages 18 and older, of whom 1,830 have a lawn or landscape. Consumers were asked about their spending on professional lawn and landscape services from lawn care and landscape maintenance to tree care, water features, and outdoor lighting.

Overall Spending Trends

While overall consumer spending is expected to remain steady in most categories, landscape maintenance (mowing, edging, leaf cleanup) will see a modest increase in spending ($700 on average in the coming year vs. $600 in the past year), while spending will increase to hire a professional for hardscapes and specialty services ($2,300 on average in the coming year vs. $1,680 in the past year).

“Despite the sluggish economy, our core landscape maintenance services are holding steady, while consumers are deciding to increase their investment in projects that encourage ‘staycations’ and outdoor entertaining, and ultimately improve the resale value of the home,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP.

Who is spending the most on landscape services?

Men outpace women when it comes to hiring professional landscape help over the past year (39 percent vs. 32 percent), and younger adults, ages 18 to 34, stand out as most likely to have hired professionals for the building of outdoor living spaces, patios, and walkways over the past year (9 percent vs. 3 percent of those age 35+).

In general, 35 percent of those with a lawn/landscape have hired professionals to do lawn and landscape services over the past year, with those in the South (38 percent) and West (40 percent) being more likely to have hired a professional than those in the Midwest (29 percent.)

Why do consumers find value in hiring landscape services?

The most often cited reasons for hiring a professional for lawn/landscape services are as follows: “They don’t have the knowledge, skills or physical ability” (42 percent), and “they don’t have the right equipment” (42 percent) to do the landscape work themselves.

Interestingly, younger adults (18 to 34) were more likely than their older counterparts to say “don’t have the patience” as a reason to hire a professional.

“Eighteen to 34 year olds might be more digitally connected than their parents, but they are still putting a high priority on outdoor entertainment areas. They are looking to landscape professionals to take on work that is not only time-consuming, but also requires a high degree of expertise to be done well,” added Hickman.

Source: www.loveyourlandscape.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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More People Will Be Building with Recycled Building Materials This Spring

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

Every spring, more and more people start home improvement projects. Good news for the earth: This spring, many of those people will be building with recycled building materials.

In a recent poll by Hometalk.com, 91 percent of respondents said that they had either used recycled building materials this year, or were planning to. You can see the growth in use of recycled building materials in these numbers:

• Consumption of composite lumber made from recycled plastics increased by 58 percent in recent years, according to Recycling Today.
• The primary market for recycled plastics is the composite lumber industry, according to The American Chemistry Council.
• According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, 88 percent of today's structural steel is made from recycled materials.
• The Harvard Graduate School of Design reports a sharp increase in the use of sustainable roofing materials.

While recycled lumber and composite decking lead the pack in popularity, other recycled building materials are seeing an increase in consumer demand. For instance, Hometalk.com member Brooks Custom, a fabricator of unique upscale counter tops, has expanded his line of counter tops to include recycled woods, metals, and concretes in order to meet customer demand for these materials.

"At Brooks we are experiencing an increased demand for Antique Chestnut and Southern Yellow Heart Pine from barn beams. These woods are very attractive and include lots of distress marks and imperfections. Our stainless steel countertops look crisp and new but steel is one of the most recycled metals in the world. Over 80 percent of waste steel is recycled and turned into new products, including countertops. Glass is another highly-recyclable material that has gained popularity, and we've seen an uptick in glass specialty tops," said Todd Costello.

"Many of the most popular projects on Hometalk.com are projects that incorporate recycled building materials. People seem to get extra enjoyment out of remodeling and building with these materials. I expect to see even more Hometalk.com members posting projects that involve recycled building materials as the spring remodeling season heats up," said Miriam Illions, Director of Community Development at Hometalk.com.

Source: Hometalk, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Prevent House Fires and Boost Home Safety with a Few Key Tips

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

Every year home electrical problems cause more than 28,000 house fires and massive property damage. Electrical wiring is the root cause of many of these fires, of which countless could have been prevented. To ensure electrical safety in your home, Constellation, an independent energy provider, is encouraging everyone to review key electrical safety tips.

Faulty or fixed wiring or improper use of electrical cords and other electrical items cause most home fires. Heed the following tips to maximize your home's safety:

• Pay Attention: Flickering lights, buzzing noises, and faceplates that are warm to the touch are all signs that a circuit may be overloaded or wiring may be wearing thin. Each one of those signs is cause for immediate attention from a licensed professional electrician.

• Listen to Your Breaker: If you are continually tripping a switch and having to reset your breaker box, your house is trying to tell you something. There may be a fixture with faulty wiring or too high an electrical load on the breaker. Again, seek professional help.

• Review and Replace: Frayed electrical cords, wobbly ceiling fans, and loose faceplates are more than mere annoyances. You should routinely inspect your home and replace or repair items in need of attention.

• Safety First: Even the best preparation and newest equipment is not a guaranteed protection against fire. Working smoke detectors on all levels of your home is an absolute must. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and you know the proper way to use it.

For more information and safety tips, visit www.esfi.org and www.constellation.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Pest Season Is Upon Us

May 2, 2013 5:12 pm

Spring has sprung! As we begin cleaning, it’s important to keep a look out for pets, as ants, roaches, spiders and other pests that overwinter will likely start to become more active in the next few weeks.

"Now that spring has officially begun, and once temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees, pests will begin making their way out in full force," says Matt Peterson, Orkin's Southeast Division technical services manager. "Insects stay in a hibernation-like state during the winter since cold temperatures slow down their metabolism and reproduction cycles, but as the weather begins to warm, their systems start moving again."

Ants
Many homeowners consider ants to be one of the most serious pests. There are more than 10,000 species worldwide, and about 50 of those in the United States. Ants can infest homes by coming in through the tiniest of cracks, and controlling them is difficult because they leave an invisible pheromone trail for others to follow once they find a food source. There are three main categories of ants: nuisance, health (such as fire ants) and structural (such as carpenter ants).

"Another common sign in the spring is a group of ants with wings which can be confused with termite swarms," said Peterson. "It's a common misconception because of their similar appearance. Correctly identifying an ant infestation determines the best treatment method."

Roaches

In addition to entering a home through cracks and crevices, vents and pipes, other items like grocery bags, boxes and purses can transport cockroaches and their eggs. Because cockroaches are nocturnal, if you see one during the day, that means they were likely forced out by overcrowding—a possible sign of a severe infestation.

Cockroaches are filthy pests. They pick up germs on their legs and bodies and can spread disease, contaminate food and cause allergies and asthma. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), roaches can also carry organisms that cause diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever and viral diseases.

"Roaches burrow in mulch or bark for the winter," said Peterson. "But since the ground temperature has been getting warmer, you may start to see more and more of them as the temperatures begin to increase."

Spiders
According to a recent Omnibus survey, the biggest concerns with spiders are that "they could bite, sting or attack me" (50 percent) and "they're creepy" (44 percent). However, there are only two species of spiders in the U.S. that are harmful to humans – the brown recluse and the black widow. Most other spiders are just nuisance pests and like to feed on other insects, so if you see spiders around the inside of your home, that could be a sign of a larger pest problem.

"Sanitation is really the most important factor when it comes to helping to prevent spiders," said Peterson. "Some spiders like moisture and others like dry, warm areas."

Peterson recommends the following tips to help prevent ants, roaches and spiders from being attracted to your home:

  • Remove all unnecessary food and water sources.
  • Seal cracks and crevices around doors and windows.
  • Clean up spilled food and drinks immediately.
  • Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home.
  • Thin vegetation and do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide access for ants and roaches to enter your home.
Source: www.orkin.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Tips for Green-and-Easy Grocery Shopping

April 26, 2013 6:58 pm

Earth day has passed, but that doesn’t mean your eco-friendly efforts need to fall by the wayside. What you do on a daily basis can have a huge effect on the world you live in, and one action you can easily “greenify” is grocery shopping—something we all do regularly.

These simple steps will help you make green choices to lessen your environmental impact, and keep more “green” in your wallet, too.

Pick products with less packaging.
Efficient packaging can help lessen the waste stream. Consider cartons—products packaged in cartons are an average of 94 percent product and only 6 percent packaging, providing more value and reducing unnecessary packaging.

Use reusable or renewable paper grocery bags
Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste, according to the Clean Air Council. The next time you go shopping you can help reduce waste by choosing reusable grocery bags or renewable paper bags, which are made from trees, a renewable resource, and are recyclable where facilities exist.

Buy products in recyclable packaging
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to lower your environmental impact. Products made out of paper products can be recycled (where facilities exist) to make other everyday household items like bath tissue, office paper and building materials.

Choose products with renewable packaging
“Natural Marketing Institute data shows that 72 percent of consumers are looking for packaging made from renewable resources,” says Erin Reynolds, Marketing Director at Evergreen Packaging. “With this in mind, look for packaging made from renewable resources, such as cartons. Over seventy percent of a carton is paper, which comes from a renewable source—trees.”

Source: http://www.choosecartons.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Springtime is Greener as Remodeling Gains Speed

April 26, 2013 6:58 pm

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s (NARI) first-quarter Remodeling Business Pulse (RBP) data of current and future remodeling business conditions is reaching new heights, as quarter-over-quarter increases are seen across all sub-components measuring remodeling activity.

As remodelers approach the busy season, overall current business conditions have seen steady increases since March of 2012, now at a statistically significant 5.97 rating compared with the 5.59 rating from one year before.

“Remodelers nationwide are not only experiencing increased activity right now, but many have a backlog of projects well into the fall,” says Tom O’Grady, CR, CKBR, chairman of NARI’s Strategic Planning & Research. “This current condition is worlds away from March of last year and suggests that the recovery is beginning to gain speed.”

Growth indicators in the first quarter of 2013 are as follows:

• Current business conditions up 1.0 percent since last quarter.
• Number of inquiries up 4.9 percent since last quarter.
• Requests for bids up 5.2 percent since last quarter.
• Conversion of bids to jobs up 1.1 percent since last quarter.
• Value of jobs sold is up 0.2 percent since last quarter.

Sharp increases in the number of inquiries and requests for bids speak directly to an increase in consumer confidence, especially in housing.

“Homeowners are tired of waiting to make improvements—many have chosen to stay put—and better financial positioning has them actively approaching professionals to get work done and enhance long-term livability of the home,” O’Grady says.

More specifically, drivers of remodeling activity include needing improvements due to postponement of projects (83 percent reported this as a driver) and improving home prices with 59 percent reporting (an 8 percent jump from fourth quarter data).

Other significant contributors to overall activity:

• Certainty about the future was reported by 44 percent of respondents
• Economic growth was reported by 43 percent of respondents
• Low interest rates was reported by 42 percent of respondents
• Growth in stock market was reported by 39 percent of respondents

Whereas two-thirds of remodelers forecasted the next three months positively in December of 2012, now 76 percent of remodelers believe there will be growth in the next three months. Only 7 percent of respondents reported declines in the near future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Homeowners Who Want To Take Their Spring Cleaning Outdoors

April 26, 2013 6:58 pm

Spring Cleaning is an annual tradition in many homes that helps clear out the clutter and dust that can accumulate after several months spent indoors. Homeowners should keep in mind that their spring cleaning checklist should include several outdoor tasks as well.
Here are a few suggestions for completing a quick and easy DIY Spring Home Inspection.

1. Start with a quick visual inspection of the home and yard and surrounding area checking for any obvious signs of distress or areas of concern.

2. Inspect the roof next. Carefully remove debris and look for missing or damaged shingles or flashing. While you're up there, check the gutters for obstructions that could result in water backups.

3. Check the trees in your yard, particularly those near your home or electrical wires. Looks for signs of disease or damage that may weaken the tree and make it susceptible to strong winds. Trim dead or damaged branches.

4. Inspect fences, railings, stone walls and any other free standing items that may have been loosened during the winter months. Look for leaning or loose parts and check to make sure these items are still firmly anchored.

5. Examine porches and decks to ensure stability, paying particular attention to handrails and stairs.

6. Remove debris from the yard, including refuse, loose branches and gravel or dirt that may have accumulated as a result of snow removal efforts. Look for holes or sunken areas that could be a tripping hazard.

7. Inspect house siding and shutters, looking for loose, damaged or soiled areas in need of repair or cleaning.

8. Be sure to examine all your windows and screens and make any necessary repairs.

9. Check the driveway and any walkways for cracks or shifting that could create a tripping hazard and make any necessary repairs to avoid additional damage resulting from exposure to the elements.

10. Examine the foundation for cracks or bulges that could lead to leakage issues if left unattended.

Source: Freemont Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Healthy? Would You Know If You Weren't?

April 25, 2013 6:58 pm

Not too long ago – just after World War II – few people in the United States brushed their teeth with any regularity. Now, the mere thought of going an entire day or night without brushing one’s teeth is simply out of the question for most.

Hopefully, someday in the near future, a similar attitude will prevail regarding mental well-being, says Dr. Matt Mumber, an oncologist and author of “Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit,” coauthored by Yoga therapist Heather Reed.

“Human happiness and well-being are rudderless without awareness, which I define as the quality of paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment from an inquisitive, nonjudgmental and focused perspective,” he says.

An easy way to think of optimal wellbeing might be to envision a three-legged stool, says Reed.

“The three legs include physical activity, nutrition and that underappreciated component missing from too many Americans’ lives – stress management, or a healthy mental state,” she says.

After checking off a healthy diet and exercise from the list, how does one go about ensuring a healthy mind? Mumber and Reed say the key is mindfulness, which they define as paying attention on purpose, non-judgmentally and as though your life depended on it. Framed another way, mindfulness means focusing on something without trying to change it, like the sky holding passing clouds without clinging to them.

They describe the states necessary for attaining mindfulness:

• Beginner’s mind is the ability to see things with new eyes. The Bible warns against putting new wine in old wine skins – doing so risks tainting the new stock. A beginner’s mind opens people to the world of possibilities that exist in the present moment. That does not mean throwing away good ideas from the past; rather, it means to entertain new ideas with a truly open sensibility.
• Trust: Believe in your authority to know your own body, thoughts and feelings. We need to have the confidence necessary to trust that our thoughts and feelings at any given moment have value.
• Non-judging is the ability to see things for what they are, to hold an open and neutral place for whatever comes up within and around you, without thinking of anything as categorically better or worse than anything else.
• Patience is a willingness to continue with the process of paying attention on purpose even when it appears that no progress is being made. Learning and growing through mindful practice happens with time, and we can’t force the outcome.
• Acceptance refers to allowing whatever comes up in the moment to be held in our field of awareness. This is not the same as giving up or being passive; acceptance is merely acknowledgement.
• Letting go is refusing to attach to specific thoughts, feelings or behaviors. This can feel like losing something, but every time we let go, we open ourselves to something new and, potentially, deeper.
• Non-striving: In our goal-oriented society, this may seem counterintuitive. However, non-striving refers only to practicing mindfulness without expectation of some future goal or dream, which helps us better live in the now.

“By having our three-legged stool firmly planted in awareness, we can drop into what we typically call a sense of spiritual wellbeing," says Mumber.

Source: www.sustainablewellnessonline.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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First-Quarter Economic Growth Stronger Than Expected

April 25, 2013 6:58 pm

Recent data indicate that economic growth in the first quarter has accelerated to an above-trend—but likely unsustainable—pace of 3.2 percent, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group. A significant buildup in business inventories provided a one-time boost to first quarter growth and is expected to resume a more balanced level in the second quarter. Meanwhile, several other key indicators late in the first quarter, including a downbeat March jobs report, were soft, presaging a more moderate pace for the rest of the year. The Group expects growth to come in at approximately 2.3 percent for 2013—still modest by recovery standards, but a pickup from the 2012 and 2011 pace of 1.7 percent and 2.0 percent, respectively.

“The April forecast reflects the growing realization that 2013 is off to a good start from a GDP perspective, but we expect the stronger-than-expected first quarter pace to slow somewhat in the second quarter,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “On the downside, tax hikes, sequestration, and the euro-zone crisis still pose significant risks to our forecast, and the fiscal tightening will likely affect consumer spending and other economic activity in coming months. However, the housing recovery continues to broaden and may be more robust than we anticipate, helping to offset fiscal headwinds.”

The continued housing recovery and rising home prices are expected to provide a cushion to growth this year and present the most likely source of upside to our forecast. Residential investment has made a positive or neutral contribution to economic growth for seven consecutive quarters, ending in 2012, with similar activity expected in 2013. Housing’s contribution to growth also continues to climb home as sales reached multi-year highs in the early stages of 2013.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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