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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Leaving Your Home Alone? Make Sure it Stays Safe

December 17, 2016 1:03 am

There’s nothing like leaving it all behind and getting out of Dodge for a few well-deserved days of R and R. But that vacation high will quickly disappear if you return to trouble on the home front. So while you’re packing for your getaway, make sure you’re also prepping the empty home you’re leaving behind. Take the following steps prior to leaving your home unattended for a few days to ensure you won’t return to an upsetting or costly scenario:

Turn off the main water valve that leads into the house and check for leaks. If a pipe bursts while you’re away, water could ruin your floors, furniture, walls and possessions.

Put your water heater on vacation mode. The pilot light will remain on, but you'll save the cost of unnecessary heating. If you have an electric water heater, turn the temperature dial down or turn it off at the circuit breaker panel.

Adjust the thermostat. Set the thermostat to 55 degrees in the colder winter months if there’s a chance pipes could freeze. Or consider a smart thermostat that will let you control the temperature remotely from your mobile device.

Put the lights on a timer. Total darkness or lights blazing round the clock are both good ways to let burglars know you’re out of town. Invest in a timer or smart home app that lets you turn the lights on and off remotely.

Notify your security company. If you have a security alarm system, notify the monitoring company that you plan to be away. Consider an outside motion sensor that will alert your neighbors and the police if anyone attempts a break-in.

Be smart on social media. We all love to share a vacation picture or two, but hold back on the details. Don’t share your departure date or check-in to out of town locations. This lets thieves know precisely where you are – which is not home.  

For more information on protecting your real estate investment, contact me.

Source: 128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric

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Will Renters Pay More For An Energy Efficient Pad?

December 15, 2016 1:00 am

You might think that renters across the U.S. would be most concerned about making their monthly rent payments. But we were surprised to learn that more of today's renters are worried about their utility bills than their rent.

The latest Freddie Mac research shows more renters are worried about rising utility bills than rising rents, and nearly half of the renters surveyed say they are willing to pay more for rentals with cost-saving water and energy features.

A large majority (88 percent) agreed multifamily properties with green energy, and water-saving features would help reduce their utility bills, with 84 percent saying green properties are generally better places to live.
Nearly half (47 percent) say they are willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly rental. Renters in the South (52 percent) and West (49 percent) were more likely to say they would pay more than those in the Midwest (39 percent) or Northeast (44 percent).

David Brickman, executive vice president and head of Freddie Mac's Multifamily business says it is striking that so many are apparently willing to pay more for properties with features they believe will reduce their utility bills.

Other significant findings from Freddie Mac's new research show:
  • Most renters say the rental experience is satisfying and affordable.
  • More than half expect to rent their new home.
  • Down Payments are ranked below other savings goals.
  • Concern about household finances is rising.
By generation, Gen-Xers' showed the biggest increase in concern about household financial situations over the past year (53 percent to 70 percent), followed by Millennials (64 percent to 68 percent) and Baby Boomers (61 percent to 62 percent).

Overall, the percentage of renters who say they have enough money to go beyond each payday fell from 41 percent to 34 percent over the past year. The percentage of renters who say they either live payday to payday, or don't have enough for basics between paychecks, rose from 59 percent to 66 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Holiday Lesson in Light Safety

December 15, 2016 1:00 am

Nothing is more festive than a home ablaze with holiday lights. However,  it's important to remember that your favorite holiday décor could pose serious hazards, like fire or electrical injury. To avoid this, make sure you take the proper precautions.

- Use good quality light sets. A good quality light set should be sturdy with a minimum of 22 gauge (awg) wiring, no loose connectors, and have fuses at the plug to protect against overheating.

- Test your lights and check cords for damage. It's always a good idea to plug in your lights before you hang them to look for bad bulbs and frayed cords.

- Use lights, extension cords and surge protectors that are specifically rated for outdoor use when hanging lights outdoors. You'll know they are outdoor-approved by clearly marked labels and tags.

- Limit the length of your light strings. Many holiday light manufacturers advise connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together. LED light sets can be longer, but it's important to avoid running extension cords, wires or strings of lights across driveways, sidewalks, stairs, or anywhere they could present a tripping hazard.

- Take proper safety precautions when using a ladder to string lights. Safe ladder usage means setting the ladder on stable ground and about one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder reaches up.

- Use a timer to ensure that your lights and other decorations are only lit between sundown and bedtime. This will help illuminated décor from overheating.

Source: www.mistersparky.com

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Scam Alert: Holiday Hoaxes Cost Consumers

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

While you may be brimming with holiday cheer and good will, scamsters are on the prowl for a quick buck. According to ScamAwareness.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about financial fraud, consumers should be on the look-out for the following three holiday scams:

1. Online Shopping Scams
With online sales tallying more than $1 billion on Thanksgiving Day alone and jumping 12.1 percent versus last year on Cyber Monday, the internet is prime hunting ground for criminals. According to the National Retail Federation, customers are expected to spend an estimated $117 billion online this holiday season, so it’s no wonder that internet purchase scams are the top fraud complaint reported by U.S. consumers each year. Scam artists offer merchandise, gift cards and even pets at a steep discount. Consumers should never wire money for an online purchase. A money transfer is the same as cash and once it is received it cannot be recovered. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

2. Charity Scams 
The holidays bring out the best in most of us, which makes this the number-one time of the year for charitable donations. Scammers take advantage of this outpouring of goodwill by creating new charities or misusing the name and brand of a well-known charity to get donations sent directly to them. Before donating, consumers should verify that the charity and its web address are legitimate. When sending the money, use a check or credit card instead of a wire transfer or cash for donations.

3. Employment Scams
Who couldn’t use a little extra cash for holiday shopping? Savvy scammers are taking advantage of those looking for extra work by developing several employment scams. Some offer jobs that involve spending money up front for "training" or a "start-up kit"… which, of course, the victim never receives. Other fraudsters may send a fake check to a "new hire" and ask them to cash it, keep some of the money as payment, and then wire what's left back to them. The victims in both of these situations end up losing their money and a job they thought they had. Consumers should be aware that no legitimate company will ask them to pay money in order to earn money.

Consumers who think they've been scammed should contact their local police immediately. More information about these scams and others can be found at scamawareness.org. For more helpful financial and real estate information, feel free to contact me directly.
 

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Are Your Holiday Decorations Making You Sick?

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

Most of us like decking the halls during the holidays. However, a recent report from a leading national environmental services company is shedding new light on how the most popular holiday accoutrements could be hazardous to your health.

Whether it's "Christmas Tree Syndrome" or candles that can release unwanted fumes - homeowners, family members and visitors can be at risk. So AdvantaClean (advantaclean.com) has created a "Healthy Home Holiday Check List," so homeowners can celebrate without sickness.

AdvantaClean CEO Jeff Dudan says Christmas Tree Syndrome, for example, can affect people regardless of whether there are real or artificial trees present, according to Dudan.

He says researchers at State University of New York found that 70 percent of the molds found in live Christmas trees can trigger severe asthma attacks, fatigue, sinus congestion and more. Fake trees can cause problems too — especially if they are not wrapped properly and have accumulated dust and mold spores. AdvantaClean offers the following suggestions.

For live trees:
- Hose off your tree to remove pollen and mold and let it dry before you bring it into the house.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when carrying the tree to avoid sap touching your skin.
- Families with severe allergies should avoid buying a live tree. If you must have it, bring it in the home for no more than a week.

For artificial trees:
- Wrap the tree securely, store in a cool and dry place.
- Wipe down the tree and ornaments.
- Go easy on the spray snow to frost your tree and windows. Aerosolized chemicals can cause irritant reactions in the eyes, nose or lungs.

Since most candles with heavy fragrances are made of paraffin wax and are scented with synthetic fragrances derived from petroleum, they can emit chemicals and fumes that irritate breathing, triggering allergies and asthma - and produce unwanted soot.

So for better breathing choose candles made from soybean, palm, hemp or beeswax. For safer smells use candles that are scented with essential oils.

For more ideas on how to make your home more environmentally safe and healthy year-round, visit advantaclean.com/blog/

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How to Heat Your Home Safely

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

As the weather cools, we tend to turn inward and crank up the heat. While this is a great idea for staying cozy, it can lead to some health and safety problems. Here are some tips to stay safe.

General furnace safety
If you're turning on your furnace for the first time in months, remember to:  

- Never store or use highly flammable products in the same room as any natural gas or heat-producing appliances.

- Never store ordinary combustibles such as rags, mops or paper on or near an appliance.

CO poisoning prevention
Heating units and other appliances should be properly maintained to avoid the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Have natural gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor. In addition:

- Vacuum and clean in and around the furnace regularly, particularly around the burner compartment, to prevent a build-up of dust and lint.

- Never store items in, on or around an appliance as this can obstruct airflow.

- Most forced-air units have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. Check furnace filters every month during the heating season and clean or replace the filter when it becomes visibly dusty or dirty. 

- When installing a new or cleaned furnace filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly. Never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of producing CO.

- Check the appearance of the furnace flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor to have the condition corrected.

- Never use an unvented natural gas heater in a home. 

- Never use an oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home. These appliances are not designed for this purpose and can cause CO poisoning.

- Make sure all natural gas appliances—such as stove tops—are safely maintained and vented properly.

-Install a CO alarm in your home. Though these alarms may provide an extra level of safety, keep in mind that they require routine maintenance and replacement at least every three to five years to perform properly.

- Even with alarms in place, regular natural gas appliance maintenance is still required. Inspection and routine maintenance are still an effective defense against accidental CO poisoning.

- If you suspect that you or someone else is suffering from CO poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Source: www.socalgas.com

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Financial Well-Being May Be Best Gift This Season

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

While gifting loved ones with holiday cash or gift cards has been a long-standing option, retailers are offering new ways this season give your favorite people some financial well-being instead of the latest toys, fads or fashions.

Among them, according to Sarah Skidmore Sell at the Associated Press, is Stockpile, a company whose gift cards can be redeemed for stock, which is rolling out its products to more than 14,000 stores this holiday season.

Sold at popular retail chains like Target, Kroger, and Safeway, the gift cards may be purchased for a dollar amount of stock rather than the price for a share – and purchases can be in any amount.

Gift of College, which gives people another way to contribute to college savings plans or pay down student loans, began selling its gift cards at Toys R Us and Babies R Us nationally this month.

All 529 college savings plans grow tax-free, and withdrawals for educational expenses are also untaxed. The giver may get also a tax break, as 34 states and the District of Columbia offer either a state income tax deduction or tax credits for such contributions.

Since the average debt at graduation with a bachelor’s degree was more than $35,000 last year, Gift of College gift cards are becoming so popular that some employers are offering them as holiday bonus gifts for their workers, Sell said.

Financial gifts, whether in the form of cash or gift cards, may have tax implications, so it may be advisable to check with a financial advisor if your gift will be substantial. But in most cases, gifts of cash or any of these new gift card options offer a unique opportunity to send love and best wishes in a way that may help recipients develop an interest in thrift and/or in future investing.

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Protecting Your Home against Wicked Weather

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

While the east coast recently suffered through Hurricane Matthew, severe weather can strike anywhere, anytime. The Massachusetts-based Hanover Insurance Group recently shared these tips to help homeowners protect both their families and their properties during a storm.

Know what's in your home. A home inventory is often overlooked. An industry poll indicated homeowners' insurance claims are processed nearly twice as fast if home inventories are completed in advance.

Gather supplies. It is always a good idea to create an emergency supplies kit. Consider including items such as flashlights, batteries, medicines, a first aid kit, cash, a battery-powered radio, and a week's worth of water and nonperishable food for the household.

Prepare your house. Make any necessary repairs to loose boards, shingles, downspouts or other items that can pose problems in high winds and torrential rain. Move any unsecured items indoors, including grills, toys, planters and lawn furniture. Trim or remove any decaying and damaged tree branches.

Have a plan. Learn the local evacuation routes and make note of where local shelters are located. Have key telephone numbers on hand, such as family, friends, fire and police departments, and your insurance agent.

Stay informed. Sign up for alerts if possible. Many towns offer weather alerts to help inform residents of ways to stay safe.

Check your insurance protection. An independent insurance agent can help ensure comprehensive coverages are in place. Some good questions to consider include:
  • Are current rebuilding costs covered?
  • Should separate flood insurance be considered?
  • Are there any gaps in coverage?
​Source: The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc.

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Holiday Tips for Alzheimer's Families

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

While the holidays are often a joyous time for celebrating with friends and families, for families living with Alzheimer's, celebrations can be a bit of a challenge. Read on for tips on helping your family have the best holiday season possible.

Talk to friends and family before they arrive
Explain that your loved one with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him or herself.  Everyone can help by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. Help visitors understand that in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer's, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. 

Adjust expectations
The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine.

Involve the person with dementia
Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. As the person's abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table.

When the person lives in a care facility
Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities. Bring a favorite holiday food to share, sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in or read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud.

Source: www.alz.org/nyc

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Make Your Home Just a Little Smarter

December 12, 2016 12:57 am

According to a 2016 HomeAdvisor research report, Americans spent on average $564 - $2,260 to install a home automation system, with prices ranging as high as $15,000 to install a hard-wired system. While outfitting your home with a full suite of smart home technology can be pricey and intimidating, there are some smaller ways you can start to incorporate this all-the-rage trend into your abode.

Smart home automation deals with syncing household devices and systems with schedules or responsive sensors, says HomeAdvisor, which means that smart home technology is dependent upon  smartphone apps and wireless internet routers. The goal is to save on costs, and add convenience and security throughout your home.

A good place to start is with your thermostat. A variety of smart thermostats are available, allowing you to automate and control your home’s temperature from your smartphone. Some, like Nest, learn your habits throughout the day and set the temperature accordingly.

You might also want to consider a smart television. An evolution of the Roku and Apple TV external devices, smart televisions have integrated everything you could ever want right into your set - Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Go, Pandora, network TV, gaming and much more.

Another great feature to consider is smart shades or blinds. These programmable, remote-controlled window coverings allow you to schedule open-and-close times in conjunction with the room’s exposure, putting you in control of energy saving and setting the mood.

Speaking of setting the mood, a whole host of smart light dimmers give you the option to control the lights in your home from your smartphone. This is an especially useful security feature while you’re away from your home for extended periods of time.

Another great security option is smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—this technology alerts you to not only what the problem is but within which part of your home it’s happening.

While the smart home technology options are endless and fascinating, keep in mind that they are internet dependent, so if your home goes offline, so will your devices.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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