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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Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?

May 10, 2013 11:49 am

To celebrate National Home Remodeling Month in May, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers recommends that homeowners consider the safety risks, time delays and hidden costs before attempting do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvements.

According to the 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS) from the HUD/Census Bureau, home owner do-it-yourself (DIY) projects accounted for 37 percent of all home remodeling projects performed nationwide from 2010-2011 but only 18 percent of all remodeling spending. DIY home improvement projects tend to be smaller, require less technical training and expertise and cost less, with 50 percent of homeowners spending less than $950 on these projects. At the same time the median spending on professional remodeling projects is close to $4,000.

One of the most expensive remodeling projects is a kitchen addition, with half of these projects costing more than $27,000. Very few homeowners attempt or manage to add a kitchen on their own. The AHS data show that more than 80 percent of kitchen additions are done professionally. Replacing roofing is also largely outsourced to professional remodelers, 82 percent of these projects are completed by professionals. Homeowners also tend to hire professionals when it comes to home improvement projects that require technical training and, often, a professional license. Close to 90 percent of all remodeling projects that involve adding or replacing a HVAC system are done professionally. Almost two thirds of projects that replace internal water pipes, electrical system, major equipment and appliances are completed by professionals. Not only that homeowners might not have the right tools and knowledge to complete these projects, but many warranties become void by improper installation.

Homeowners are more adventurous and successful in finishing smaller projects. About half of all plumbing fixture replacements are completed with no professional help. More than half of all bedroom and recreation room renovations are completed by homeowners as well. These tend to be smaller projects, with half of them costing less than $1,500 and $1,600, respectively. Professional bedroom and recreation room renovations are bigger in scope with median spending of $5,000 and close to $7,000, respectively.

Source: NAHB Eye on Housing

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Valuable Pieces of Wisdom from Mothers across the Country

May 10, 2013 11:49 am

A Place for Mom® (APFM), the nation's largest senior living referral service, released results from its second annual Mother's Day survey to shed light on maternal relationships, including valuable pieces of wisdom from moms across the country. Leading themes of wisdom were shared on topics including life and happiness, kindness and compassion, career and money, love, strength and coping, humility and morality, and family and children.

"As we celebrate Mother's Day, we are inspired by the valuable advice and insights received from the moms and daughters we help each day," said Sean Kell, CEO of A Place for Mom. "Our Senior Living Advisors provide strength and guidance to families in need, and this survey was a wonderful opportunity for us to benefit from the wisdom of those we serve as they care for their loved ones."

A sampling of the wisdom shared from mothers across the country, according to the survey were:

• You cannot control what life gives you, but you can control how you handle it.
• Seek first to understand, not to be understood.
• Work hard and always have something for yourself.
• Don't give up. Remember your roots. Stay strong, and if all else fails, have a good cry (but privately)!
• Doing the right thing isn't always easy, but it's easier than the alternative.
• It is important to be kind to your family, because you are stuck with them forever.
• No matter what obstacle you are facing, no matter how difficult, daunting or terrifying, if you attack it with everything you are made of you will always prevail.
• Surround yourself with people that lift you up and make you laugh!
• Love is what matters most in the world.
• Always have a good pair of red heels and red purse.

With over 300 Americans ages 18-65 polled, survey results showed that many Americans describe their mothers positively and state relationships have grown closer over time.

Words used to describe mom were:
o Inspirational (90 percent)
o Loving (29 percent)
o Strong (27 percent)
o Caring (22 percent)
o Hard-working (22 percent)
o Unselfish (20 percent)

Mothers have positively influenced key areas of their children's lives including:
o Relationships with others (40 percent)
o Decision-making (34 percent)
o Self-esteem (24 percent)
o Career (12 percent)

Over time, more than half of adults surveyed have strengthened their relationship with mom and have:
o Become closer friends (54 percent)
o Become each other's support system (39 percent)

Moms (45 percent) and sons/daughters (40 percent) seek each other's advice before making major decisions

Source: A Place for Mom

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips to Ease First-Time Homebuyer Jitters

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

Traditionally, spring marks a busy period of time for housing market activity. With the heat of summer seemingly only weeks away, first-time homebuyers should learn strategies for finding their ideal home while keeping financial priorities in check. Buying a home can be the largest and most important financial decision one can make, so it is important to be aware of all the factors that go into making a responsible purchasing decision.

The first step is figuring out how much you can afford to spend on homeownership, which means an honest assessment of the household balance sheet. Once you have a clear idea of where you stand financially, you can then make a responsible decision of what you can afford, including your down payment, monthly mortgage costs and other expenses like utility costs, property insurance and taxes.

Here are a few tips:

Making an affordability assessment
Housing costs, including mortgage payments, property insurance and taxes, should not take up more than one-third of your income. In addition to this, servicing your overall debt, including loans, utilities, credit card payments and lines of credit, should not account for more than 40 percent. If you can land safely within these parameters, then homeownership is an affordable and realistic option.

Coming up with the down payment
In general, the bigger the down payment you come up with, the less interest you'll pay over the life of your mortgage. Financial institutions may offer special accounts designed to help you save for that first home. Consider opening a savings account specifically to fund your down payment. One easy way to save is to set up an automatic monthly deposit from your checking account to your savings account, allowing you to build the balance over time.

Choosing the right mortgage for you
Your mortgage needs to fit in with the rest of your financial priorities -- which could mean increased flexibility or security. Consider the following when choosing your mortgage:

• Choose a shorter amortization period - In general, the shorter the life of the mortgage, the lower the overall interest cost. Consider choosing a 20-year amortization rather than a 30-year amortization to save you money on interest costs and help you become debt-free sooner.

• Fixed vs. variable - Variable-rate mortgages have been a winning strategy over the long term, but fixed rate mortgages (currently at historic lows) provide cost certainty and peace of mind.

• Stress-test your mortgage payments - Use a mortgage payment based on a higher rate to stress-test your budget; total housing costs (mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance, etc.) should not consume more than one-third of household income.

Applying for pre-approval
A pre-approval establishes the amount you can reasonably afford to borrow towards the purchase of your first home. Consider the following benefits to getting pre-approved:

• Have a good idea of your finances - You will receive a better idea of how much you are qualified to borrow, saving time looking at homes that meet your affordability range. Your term and amortization, as well as estimated monthly payments, are provided at approval so you can use these figures when planning your overall budget.

• Moving quickly - If you are pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll be able to move quickly to make an offer when you finally find the perfect home for you.

Source: BMO Harris

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Season Raises Growing Concerns for Deck Collapses

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

Spring is synonymous with deck season and barbecuing, but is also the time of year when the majority of deck collapses occur. There is also a heightened risk of deck failures in areas that get a considerable amount of winter moisture, and freeze and thaw weather.

An improperly built or deteriorating deck can cause unnecessary and often serious injuries, even death. Between 2003 and 2007, deck failures or collapses caused close to 35,000 injuries and several deaths in North America. With over 40 million decks and patios in North America over 20 years old, there is a significant safety concern as collapses have been increasing at an alarming rate, causing injuries and property damage.

"The reasons behind a deck collapse can range from the age of the deck, to poor maintenance, exceeding load capacity and poorly built systems," said Tory Weber, CEO of SigmaDek. "We see homeowners who put a hot tub on the deck, fill it with thousands of pounds of water, then add eight people to it, and never do an inspection first."

The North America Deck and Railing Association shares tips for consumers to consider before deck season. They should look for:

• Split and decaying wood: This includes ledger board, support posts, joists, deck boards, railings and stairs.
• Sound flashing: Flashing is a metal or plastic guard that directs water out and away from sensitive areas. It's often installed where the deck and house come together, keeping moisture and debris from collecting between the house and the deck's ledger board.
• Loose or corroded fasteners: This includes nails, screws or anchor in the ledger board.
• All railings and banisters are secure.
• Stairs are in place and secure.
• Any source of fire is placed well away from flammable surfaces.

Source: SigmaDek

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates at or Near All-Time Record Low

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving lower for the fourth consecutive week continuing to support the ongoing housing recovery. The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage hit a new all-time record low at 2.61 percent for the week, as did the 5-year ARM at 2.58 percent. The previous record low for the 15-year fixed was 2.63 percent set the week of November 21, 2012.

Notable Highlights

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.40 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending April 25, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 3.41 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.88 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.61 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.64 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.12 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.58 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.60 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.85 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.62 percent this week with an average 0.3 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.63 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

"The housing market is getting a boost with mortgage rates hovering at or near record lows. For instance, existing home sales averaged an annualized pace of 4.94 million over the first three months of this year, the most since the fourth quarter of 2009,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “More impressively, new home sales topped 424,000 during the first quarter, which was the strongest since the third quarter of 2008. The sales pickup is helping to support house-price gains. For instance, the Federal Housing Finance Agency reported that February marked the thirteenth consecutive month that it has recorded an annual rise in its U.S. house price index, which rose by 7.1 percent in the twelve months through February, the most since May 2006. Even with these gains, this U.S. index is still 13.6 percent below its peak set in April 2007."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Will Really Make You Happy?

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion—helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.

“Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused,” says Wallace, author of “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,” which topped Amazon’s Self-Help Best Seller list.

“Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about.”

The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says.

Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life’s inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.

“We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas,” Wallace says.

One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misperceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples.

• Misconception 1: Happiness is about getting the big things right. It’s natural to think that if we were suddenly rich, beautiful and living on the beach somewhere, we’d be happy. But that type of good fortune turns out to have a surprisingly small impact on happiness. The happiest people are most often not those in the most enviable circumstances, but those who cultivate positive emotional outlooks and actions. So how can we do it? “Take concrete steps to practice optimism, gratitude, kindness and self-compassion in your everyday life,” says Wallace. “The cumulative effect of those everyday choices can have a tremendous impact on how you experience your life.”

• Misconception 2: Happy people suppress negative emotions. Happy people actually experience sadness, grief, worry and other so-called negative emotions nearly as frequently as unhappy people do. The difference is what happens when those feelings occur. Happier people are generally able to experience negative feelings without losing hope for the future. “They give themselves permission to feel sad, angry or lonely, but they remain confident that things will get better. As a result, their sadness progresses into hope and action rather than regressing into anxiety and despair.”

• Misconception 3: Pursuing happiness is self-centered. The strongest of all conclusions drawn by researchers into emotional well-being is that our happiness is determined more by our relationships with other people than by any other single factor. The happiest people build their lives around good, trusting relationships. “If other priorities are getting in the way of your relationships,” says Wallace, “take steps to shift the balance back to where it will really make a difference.”

• Misconception 4: I’ll be happy when I achieve my goals. Have you ever noticed that when someone wins the Super Bowl or an Academy Award, or when you achieve a long-sought ambition, that wonderful sense of accomplishment and happiness seems to fade faster than you’d expect? “That’s just the way our brains work,” says Wallace. “Committed goal pursuit is one of the keys to a happy life, but most of the happiness we get from striving for goals comes while we’re making progress toward them, not after we achieve them. That’s why it’s so important that we choose goals that are in synch with what we love and value, and that we make a conscious effort to enjoy them along the way.”

Source: www.lyndawallace.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Garden Detective: Clues to Determine and Deter Unwanted Animals in Your Yard and Garden

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

Holmes and Watson, Riggs and Murtaugh, Starsky and Hutch—when it comes to sleuthing out just what critter is munching on your spring garden, you may feel like your partnership with Mother Nature is as contentious as any that ever graced the big, or small screen. After all, how are you supposed to fight the "crime" of a decimated garden if you can't identify the suspect who's been devouring your daylilies?

And while Mother Nature may happily grace your garden with rain, warmth and sunshine, she may not always be on the same team when it comes to keeping critters out of your gardens and landscapes. Foraging pests can destroy your yard literally overnight.

It is possible to thwart garden thieves, but first you have to know what animals have been dining on your plants and shrubs. Once you've identified the culprits, you can settle on effective animal repellents that will persuade pests to leave your garden alone. Here are some facts to get your detective work under way:

Devouring deer - Ragged bites, typically a foot or more above the ground indicate deer damage. Deer are notorious for devouring gardens and landscapes. You'll see them, and their offspring, every year, making dinner of your daisies, daylilies and other ornamental plants.

Ravenous rabbits - If plant damage is low to the ground—a few inches above the soil—and includes stems clipped cleanly at an angle, you're probably dealing with rabbits. These four-legged foragers will eat just about any kind of vegetation, including your fabulous flowers, bushes and other woody plants. If you don't want bunnies nesting and raising families near your garden, remove brush and other debris that could provide them with shelter.

Voracious voles - When flower bulbs disappear from the ground or plant roots go missing, chances are you have voles—mouse-like creatures that burrow underground and that are highly destructive to gardens. Exit holes are further indications that voles are tunneling under your garden. Teeth marks around the base of trees, droppings or trails in the grass can also indicate the presence of voles.

Greedy groundhogs - Mounds of dirt beside burrow entrances are a sure sign of groundhogs, a garden pest that eats just about every type of green plant. Groundhogs can destroy a garden. These solitary herbivores live in burrows underground.

Once you've identified the culprits assaulting your garden, you'll need the right tools to take care of them. Most traditional pest-control measures—row covers, netting, noise deterrents, predator urine or even human hair strewn around the yard—simply don't work. Fences can do the job, but they're expensive and you may live in a community that restricts the type and height of fences you can erect.

Some small animal repellents, however, do work. Bobbex-R is all-natural, environmentally friendly and proven effective at protecting ornamental plantings from small, four-legged garden critters. In testing by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the product—which works through smell and taste aversion—received a 100 percent efficacy rating at repelling rabbits. Usable in any weather, it won't burn plants or wash off. Use it as a bulb dip to deter underground damage, or spray it at the mouth of burrows to prevent animals from re-entering. It’s safe for humans, pets, birds and aquatic life, too.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Multifamily Industry Launches New "Apartments. We Live Here." Campaign

May 8, 2013 3:11 pm

The National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) today unveiled a new integrated campaign titled "Apartments. We Live Here." The campaign tells the story about how in communities across the country, apartments work—helping people live in a home that's right for them. Whether it's young professionals starting out, empty nesters looking to downsize and simplify, workers wanting to live near their jobs, married couples without children or families building a better life, apartment homes provide a sensible choice to meet their specific housing needs.

Utilizing print, radio and digital ads, direct mail and a new, experimental info-driven experience at www.weareapartments.org, the campaign highlights the 35 million apartment residents building their lives and the $1.1 trillion economic contribution the industry and its residents add to the economy each year.

"'Apartments. We Live Here.' is about connecting policymakers all across the country not only with the dollars and jobs associated with multifamily construction and operations, but with the millions who call an apartment home," said Kim Duty, NMHC Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Industry Initiatives. "Communities are stronger when they have a mix of housing, and that includes apartments."

"Our population is changing and we need housing options like apartments to keep up. In 1955, married couples with children made up 44 percent of America, but today they're only 20 percent. The fastest growing groups over the next decade will be young adults and empty nesters—those who may find apartments a good fit. We need more housing choices for America, which is what the 'Apartments. We Live Here.' campaign is all about," said Greg Brown, NAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.

The advertisements serve as a window into the home of apartment residents by highlighting their personality through snapshots of their daily lives. The first wave of the campaign will begin in Washington, D.C. on May 6.

The ads and additional campaign information can be found at http://weareapartments.org/about-campaign.

Sources: NMHC, NAA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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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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