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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 
petecerruti@yahoo.com
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Peter Cerruti

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Green Ways to Beautify Your Home

March 19, 2013 1:06 pm

(Family Features) When it comes to improving your home, it's easier than ever to make eco-friendly choices that save you money, are better for the environment and make your home more beautiful. Here are a few easy ways you can go green all over the house.

Light it Up - As you make the switch from incandescent bulbs, it's important to look for a bulb that will not only conserve energy and save money, but that gives you the kind of illumination you want. Look for an alternative with even light distribution, such as 3M LED Advanced Light. It lights up a room as beautifully as you would expect, and lasts for 25 years, delivering energy efficiency without compromise. It uses one quarter of the energy used by an incandescent light bulb and can save you up to $140 worth of electricity over the bulb's lifetime. In addition, it contains no mercury and does not need special disposal. Learn more at www.3MLighting.com/LED.

Decorate with Recycled Materials - Whether you're a do-it-yourselfer or want to buy ready-made items, there are plenty of options that keep materials out of landfills. Look for furniture made from reclaimed wood, carpets made from recycled plastic, flooring made from sustainable resources such as bamboo or cork, and wallpaper made from managed timber sources. You can find glassware, dinner sets and accessories made from recycled glass, and textiles like curtains and blankets made from organic fibers.

Save Water with Style - Upgrading your water-using devices can help you use less water and save money. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that products with the WaterSense or EnergyStar labels will cut down on your water usage. For example, replacing faucets and aerators with WaterSense models can save you an average of 700 gallons of water per year. Replacing your showerhead could save 2,900 gallons of water per year, and a new toilet could save you 13,000 gallons of water per year. Look for the EnergyStar label on dishwashers and washing machines - they can use up to half as much water and 40 percent less energy.

Clean Green - Keep your home sparkling clean with eco-friendly cleaners and detergents. Look for products with plant-based ingredients that are free from artificial chemicals, colors and fragrances. And learn to make your own cleaners, too. Baking soda and vinegar are natural products with a lot of cleaning power.

Making some green improvements around your house is easier than you think - and the payoff is a beautiful home and a better environment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Up on Signs of Improving Economy

March 19, 2013 1:06 pm

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey(R) (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates rising this week on stronger signs of jobs growth and consumer spending. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.63 percent, its highest reading since the week of August 23, 2012. The 30-year fixed hit its average all-time record low of 3.31 percent the week of November 21, 2012.

News Facts
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.63 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending March 14, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 3.52 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.92 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.79 percent with an average 0.8 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.76 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.16 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.61 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.63 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.83 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.64 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.63 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.79 percent.

"Fixed mortgage rates rose this week on stronger signs of jobs growth and consumer spending," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac. "The economy added 236,000 new workers in February which helped push down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent. This helped offset the effects of the payroll tax holiday expiration and led to a 1.1 percent increase in retail sales, which was well above the market consensus forecast."

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Too Much Stuff: Helping Kids Cut the Clutter

March 18, 2013 1:06 pm

A certain amount of clutter is part of childhood. It’s an artifact of the speed of children’s development and the range of their thoughts and ideas. Trying to keep children too neat squelches creativity and limits intellectual growth. So an obsession with neatness, if that’s your issue, is your issue. Concentrate on keeping things in hand, not with apple-pie-order.

At the same time, great disorder overwhelms a child’s sensibilities. Some children are more susceptible to this than others, and need more clarity in their stuff. Even for more typically mess-tolerant kids, understanding order is the first step towards self-discipline. Montessori knew this. She knew that an orderly environment is essential for intellectual and creative growth.

So what can you do to reduce kids’ clutter without becoming a neat-freak?

Reduce what’s immediately available. With your child, if possible, sort through things and box up stuff that’s not needed right now. Store these boxes in a closet or basement but do NOT fall into the trap of moving toys to rented storage space. No toys are worth their own apartment! The idea here is to make neatness easier by reducing the number of things needing space.

Remove what’s no longer wanted. Be ruthless. Don’t keep toys or clothes your children have outgrown for your future grandchildren or just because you spent a lot of money on it. Move it out – maybe first to boxed storage but then to Goodwill or to friends. Stuff that is broken and unwanted needs to go to the trash. Don’t save it “for parts.”

Replace the old with the new. If something new comes in, something old goes out, to boxed storage or out of the house completely. Some parents keep a 100 Toys list on the computer – the 100 toys that are in the playroom and a child’s bedroom. When something new is added to the list, something else is deleted. This rule requires a lot of self-discipline but it helps when your child is begging for some item to ask him to consider what he’ll get rid of to make room for the new toy.

Restrain new purchases. Not every nifty thing that catches your child’s eye deserves a place in your home. Resist the impulse to buy souvenirs when you travel or “bribe-toys” to shut your child up on a shopping trip. Avoid the necessity to “collect them all.” Recognize this for what it is – a marketing ploy.

Stuff is just stuff and the lifespan of most toys is pretty short. When you do buy toys and things, buy quality items with real play value.

The secret to an uncluttered life is a shift in perspective. No matter how cute and beloved something once was, your family doesn’t owe it anything, least of all a permanent place in your lives. Permanent places are reserved for the people in your family, and maybe for your pets. Inanimate objects must earn their shelf space or give it up.

Help your children to a proper perspective on “things” and guide them in knowing when to let things go.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Signs You Should Part Ways with Your Financial Advisor

March 18, 2013 1:06 pm

Everyone hopes that his or her financial business investments go smoothly and that the broker chosen can be trusted to look out for their best interests, yet sometimes, it’s best to know when to call it quits. Here are a few warning signs that should alert you that something is wrong with your relationship with your investment professional:

• Your broker does not return your phone calls.
• The transactions on your statements don't make sense to you.
• Your account statements include transactions you did not authorize.
• You find unidentifiable debits or credits on monthly account statements.
• You see a dramatic drop in value of stock in a short period of time.
• The market is "up," but you're losing money.
• The majority of investments recommended by the broker are declining in value.
• Your broker tells you to view market news as entertainment.
• Your broker fails to disclose important information regarding an investment purchase.
• Your broker begins trading in high risk and speculative investments.
• You are paying capital gains taxes, despite the fact that your account value is decreasing.
• Financial results are markedly different from publicly announced expectations.

If the warning signs start to add up, perhaps its best for your own interests to part ways with your financial advisor and seek other options.

Source: aboutsecuritieslaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buyers Value Storage Space, In-Law Suites, NAR Survey Finds

March 18, 2013 1:06 pm

Purchasing a home is an important life decision, and many factors can influence the home choices buyers make.

The National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences examines the features buyers prefer when it comes to purchasing a home, as well as the differences in preferences when it comes to factors such as region, demographics and household composition. The survey captures buyers who purchased a home between 2010 and 2012.

Geography and demography strongly influence what buyers value in a home. The typical recently purchased home was 1,860 square feet and was built in 1996. Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically purchased larger homes. First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes. The typical buyer purchased a home with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Slightly over half of the homes purchased were on a single level.

Southerners tend to buy newer homes; they were more likely to want a home less than five years old and in a wooded lot with trees when compared to other regions. Not surprisingly, buyers in the South also placed a higher importance on central air conditioning.

While more than three-fourths – 78 percent – of all buyers purchased a home with a garage, garages were more popular among new-home buyers, Midwesterners, and suburbanites. Forty-one percent of homes purchased had a basement, but this feature was more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast. Northeastern buyers also value hardwood floors more than people in other regions. Southerners typically bought the largest home at 2,000 square feet. Those in the Northeast followed closely behind with a typical home purchase of 1,850 square feet.

Among buyers 55 and older, 42 percent considered finding a single-level home very important, compared to just 11 percent of buyers under age 35. Single women also placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements. Both single men and married couples placed higher importance on new kitchen appliances.

Among all 33 home features in the survey, central air conditioning was the most important to the most buyers; 65 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. The next most important feature was a walk-in closet in the master bedroom; 39 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. Closely behind was having a home that was cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready, as well as an en-suite master bathroom.

When it came to actually buying a home, among buyers who considered central AC and cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready very or somewhat important, 94 percent bought a home with these features. The next most common feature was an eat-in kitchen; 89 percent of buyers who thought this was important purchased a home with an eat-in kitchen.

Buyers value some features so much that they are willing to spend more money to have them. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with central AC would be willing to pay $2,520 more for a home with this feature. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with new kitchen appliances would be willing to pay $1,840 more for a home with this feature. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom was the third most common feature on which buyers would spend more. Sixty percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a walk-in closet would be willing to pay $1,350 more for a home with this feature.

The features on which buyers placed the highest dollar value were waterfront properties and homes that were less than five years old. Thirty-two percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,420 more for a home on the waterfront, and 40 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,020 more for a home that was less than five years old.

The rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for were a basement and an in-law suite. Thirty-three percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $3,200 more for a home with a basement, and 20 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $2,920 more for a home with an in-law suite.

Source: realtor.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips Help Save Money as Gas Prices near 4 Dollars

March 15, 2013 1:08 pm

Consumers' pain at the pump is back with gas prices rising for 33 consecutive days according to the Washington Post and the average price of gas moving closer to or exceeding $4 per gallon, depending on your location. While you can’t combat the rising prices, you can maintain your vehicle to make the most out of your mileage. A few simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance tips can help alleviate the pain.

"You can't control the price of gas, but you can control how much gas you burn by performing proper maintenance and how you drive. Performing simple and inexpensive maintenance can save as much as $1,200 per year in gas costs," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council offers these gas-saving maintenance tips:

-Keep your car properly tuned to improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
-Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.
-Replace dirty or clogged air filters and improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
-Improve gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil.

Driving behavior also impacts fuel efficiency. The council offers these gas saving driving tips:

-Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 50 mph. Each 5 mph over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.25 per gallon for gas, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.
-Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Warming up the vehicle for one or two minutes is sufficient.
-Avoid quick starts and stops. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.
-Consolidate trips. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much gas as one longer multi-purpose trip.
-Don't haul unneeded items in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces fuel economy up to 2 percent.

Source: www.carcare.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Home Repairs: How Long Will it Last?

March 15, 2013 1:08 pm

It’s a corollary of Murphy’s Law: when you’re least able to afford a major expense, something big will break down. Kiplinger’s tallies up the expenses that should be covered in your housing budget along with the life expectancy your home’s major repairs. Don’t be caught unprepared if it’s time to bite the bullet and make a major home repair this spring!

· Furnace/boiler—If you need frequent repairs or high energy bills, rooms that are too hot or cold or humidity problems, it’s time to invest the $1500-$3000 for a new system.

· Windows—Whether they’re single-paned, drafty, foggy, or hard to open, homeowners should devote $350-$450 per window and expect them to last anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

· Roof—Cracked, curled or missing shingles and wet spots in the attic suggest it’s time to invest the $5-$7 per square foot for new asphalt shingles, expected to last 20 years.

· Hot water heater—If your unit is 10+ years old, it’s time to splurge for a new model, costing from $600 for an energy efficient model to upwards of $3000 for a heat-pump water heater.

· Electrical service—Copper wiring lasts a lifetime, but the service panel lasts 20 years. If your circuit breakers trip often, you don’t have enough outlets or your lights dim when appliances turn on, invest $300-$520 to install/repair circuits or upgrade your service panel for $890-$1200.

· Central air conditioning—If your unit is 10+ years old and you have high energy bills, frequent repairs, or rooms that are too hot or cold, consider investing the $1600-$3200 for a new unit.

It's always smart to have some savings in the bank just in case something major in your home fails you. Consider fixing smaller issues as they come to avoid shelling out too much at one time. You never know what bigger emergency may lie ahead.

Source: Kiplinger's

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survival Plan for Maintaining Financial Stability during Sequestration

March 15, 2013 1:08 pm

Sequestration is now in place, and along with it came a good amount of uncertainty, causing many Americans to wonder how they will be impacted. By some estimates, more than one million employees of federal agencies may receive furlough notices.

Some workers are not adequately prepared to deal with a loss of income, even a short-term one. For those living from paycheck to paycheck or without significant savings, any income interruption is likely to put them over the financial edge.

For example, consider the statistics below from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey:

• Thirty-three percent of respondents admit to not paying all bills on time;
• Thirty-nine percent have zero non-retirement savings;
• Thirty-nine percent carry debt over from month to month, and
• Sixteen percent have utilized overdraft protection in the last 12 months.

“Even if a person does not anticipate being impacted by sequestration, now is a good time for a comprehensive financial review,” says Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Whether due to an unplanned expense or a job loss, no one has ever regretted being financially prepared, and preparation starts with understanding where you stand today.”

The NFCC advises consumers to take the following steps to put themselves in a better financial position, regardless of what the coming months may hold:

• Assess current financial situation
– The NFCC’s free financial self-assessment tool, MyMoneyCheckUp™, is a good place to start. The tool provides consumers with a means of evaluating four key areas of personal finance: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for retirement, and home equity. After answering a series of topic specific questions, a personalized assessment of the individual’s overall financial health and associated behaviors is generated. With areas of concern identified, the analysis suggests changes that consumers are encouraged to implement in order to become more financially independent. The traditional green, yellow and red traffic light colors signal whether the consumer should continue on their current money path, proceed with caution, or stop and make a change. Individuals can also complete an optional budget to further help them assess their financial health. The tool is available in English at www.MyMoneyCheckUp.org and in Spanish at https://www.miayudafinanciera.org.

• Face the financial facts – After completing the financial discovery step, consumers may find the results surprising. Don’t ignore them. Financial problems rarely resolve themselves, particularly in emergency situations. Take action sooner rather than later, as delaying only makes the problem harder to resolve.

• Take control
– Admittedly, some things are beyond a person’s financial control, but some aren’t. Control what you can by doing the following:

-Review your credit report and score, both necessary to fully understand the current financial situation, and provide a framework for next steps.
-Create a cash-flow calendar listing all sources of income. Next, plug in the dates all bills are due. This will ensure that bills are paid on time and protect the credit report and score from future damage.
-Commit to paying down debt, and if necessary, suspend all charging, consistently moving toward solid financial ground.
-Reach out to a legitimate credit counseling agency for help creating a survival plan.

“If there is a quick resolution to the sequestration, nothing has been lost by implementing the above steps,” continues Cunningham. “If not, consumers will be better prepared to face whatever comes their way financially.”

For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Checking Your Sump Pump This Spring Can Help Avoid Costly Basement Flooding

March 14, 2013 1:06 pm

As winter gives way to spring, the threat of water flooding your basement substantially increases. As soil thaws it is overly saturated with water, and when a spring rain adds a few fresh inches, the water finds the easiest path to flow—usually along your home’s foundation, down to the basement and into your sump pump basin. If your sump pump fails, you’ll have a major water damage problem on your hands.

A sump pump is a last defense against flooding, pumping out water from the lowest section of the basement before the water level reaches the basement floor level. As groundwater levels rise, it is diverted into the sump hole. When the water reaches what is called ‘the critical level,’ the sump pump begins to pump the excess out through a pipe that leads outside and away from your foundation.

Just a few inches of water in a basement can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage— including sump pump overflow, frozen and burst pipes—has accounted for about 22 percent of all residential insurance claims. The average claim was $5,531.

The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years, and they do eventually wear out. Fortunately, most sump pump problems can be avoided by a few regular maintenance checks and can easily be fixed by the homeowner.

Here’s a list of common sump pump problems and solutions for each. Before performing any sump pump maintenance, be sure to unplug any electrical power leading to the unit.

• Debris in The Sump Basin. Always check to make sure that the sump pit is free from debris. Children’s small toys and debris from items stored around the basin can get into the unit and hinder the float mechanism, causing it to fail. Test the float itself, since they can burn out over time. Fill the pit up with water, making sure it both starts and stops the sump pump as designed.

• Inspect the “Check” Valve. Sometimes, the check valve can be improperly installed. The check valves are set up so that when the sump pump shuts off, no water will go back into the sump pump. The check valve’s arrow should not be pointing toward the sump pump.

• Clean The Weep Hole. Some pumps will have a weep hole, usually between the sump pump and the check valve. You can clean this weep hole out with a toothpick or other tiny object. Be careful not to break anything into the weep hole.

• Clean the Impeller. This is a small filter that can easily become clogged. If your sump pump has stopped running suddenly, or has been making a whining noise, this could be the problem. The impeller should be connected to the sump pump with bolts and may need a good cleaning to work properly.

• Sump Pump Odor. Typical odors are caused from the sump pump trap. The trap always retains some water, but when water doesn’t flow into the basin during the dry seasons of the year, an odor starts to form. You can eliminate the odor by using a bleach-water mixture to cleanse the basin. One part bleach to five parts water will work. You can also fill the basin with water until the sump pump engages, cycling the water and helping to eliminate the odor.

• Install a Back-up Power Source. Purchasing a sump pump back-up power supply or a generator is a great idea to avoid overflow when you have a power outage. Most power outages are caused by heavy thunderstorms that bring huge amounts of rain very quickly. This is when you need your sump pump most. If you lose power the back-up system will take over to get rid of the water as the basin fills up. There are also water powered back-up systems that tap into your home’s water supply to provide the energy needed to run the pump. It is good to invest in the purchase of a back-up system now, rather than face the costs of a flooded basement.

Source: www.advantagerestorationandcleaning.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Do We Like to Do Most in Our Yards? Relax, says a New U.S. Poll

March 14, 2013 1:06 pm

With spring 2013 around the corner, many Americans will finally be venturing out to enjoy their yards. And according to an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive in December 2012, those with a yard/landscape will be looking forward to three yard and landscape activities most of all: relaxing, planting, and spending time with family.

The study, conducted among more than 2,800 U.S. adults (ages 18+) on behalf of PLANET, the national trade association of landscape professionals, finds that yard/landscape ownership is highly prevalent (88 percent) among Americans. In fact, 81 percent of those with a yard/landscape say the upkeep of their yard/landscape is important to the look of their home.

Why Take Care of That Yard/Landscape?
When asked the chief reason for maintaining or improving their yard/landscape, yard/landscape owners are most likely to cite showing pride in their home (42 percent) as the primary motivator, although creating an outdoor relaxing space (16 percent) and raising or protecting their property value (15 percent) also win double-digit support.

But, when it comes to what the yard or landscape is commonly used for, relaxing rises to the top (26 percent), followed by planting flowers/vegetables (17 percent) and spending time with family (14 percent).

Not surprisingly, those with children under 18 in the household are more likely to view the yard as a place where the whole family can interact, and where kids can play.

• 70 percent of people aged 55 and over and 75 percent of retirees say that the upkeep of their yard/landscape is important to them vs. 40 percent of 18-34 year olds.
• Yard owners 55 and over are much more likely than any other age group to use their yard mostly for relaxing (33 percent vs. 26 percent for the 45-54 age group, 18 percent for those 35-44, and 22 percent among those 18-34.)

Hiring Professional Help
Since taking care of a landscape often requires help, if yard/landscape owners were to look to landscape professionals for help, the most important factors they would look for would be price (69 percent) and quality of work (68 percent). Interestingly, men place more value on quality of work, whereas women cite price as particularly important.

“Our members dedicate their lives to helping homeowners keep their yards and outdoor spaces healthy and inviting,” said PLANET CEO, Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP. “We’re glad to see that consumers are taking pride in their well-kept landscapes and find them important areas for relaxation and quality time with family.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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