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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
Fax: 267-354-6800
email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Q: What Are the Benefits of Prepaying My Mortgage?

November 22, 2013 6:39 pm

A: You get to save thousands of dollars and shave years off the life of your loan because the additional payments made toward your monthly principal basically constitutes a partial prepayment of your mortgage.

Each mortgage has specific terms describing how and when prepayment may occur.  Some lenders impose a penalty if you repay the loan too soon.

The total savings potential also will depend on how long you plan to live in your home.  If you expect to move in the near future, do not expect to reap savings as large as those gained by people who pay ahead of schedule until they own their home free and clear.  

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Protect Your Landscape with Environmentally Friendly De-Icing

November 20, 2013 6:27 pm

With slippery season quickly approaching for many folks across the country, I want to help you be prepared with some ideas about how to apply environmentally-friendly de-icing around your property.

Diane MacEachern at The Daily Green (thedailygreen.com) recently posted a package of eco-friendly ways to de-ice your walks and driveway including:

  • Snow shovel - Minimize snow and ice by shoveling, and the sooner after snow stops falling, the better.
  • Go electric - If you prefer to use a snowblower, get an electric model. Gas-powered blowers generate a lot more air and noise pollution.
  • Get a grip - Scatter sand or even birdseed for traction. The grains won’t melt snow or ice, but they will give you more grip on icy surfaces.
  • Scrimp on the de-icer - Remember, the job of a de-icer is to loosen ice from below to make it easier to shovel or plow. The recommended application rate for rock salt is around a handful per square yard you treat. Calcium chloride will treat about 3 square yards per handful.
  • Pick your salt carefully - If you do use salt, choose wisely. Sodium chloride (NaCL) may contain cyanide. Calcium chloride (CaCl) is slightly better since less goes farther, but it is still not ideal, since its run-off still increases algae growth, which clogs waterways. Potassium chloride is another salt to avoid.
  • Whatever you use - Keep it away from landscape plants, especially those that are particularly salt-sensitive, like tulip poplars, maples, balsam firs, white pines, hemlock, Norway spruce, dogwood, redbud, rose bushes and spirea bushes.
  • Skip the kitty litter/wood ashes - Neither melts snow and ice, and they get messy when it warms up.
  • Avoid nitrogen-based urea - Products with this additive are more expensive and not effective once the temperature drops below 20°F. Plus, the application rate for urea during a single deicing is ten times greater than that needed to fertilize the same area of your yard. Remember that the urea you apply to the ground will eventually run off into the street, down the drain, and into lakes and streams.

 

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The Five Top Trends in Retail Merchandising

November 20, 2013 6:27 pm

Business analysts have been saying for years that shopping malls are a dying breed. But retailers are fighting back with some unusual shopping opportunities.

“Put your shoes on and head to the mall,” suggested retail trend-watcher Allie Eberle. “You may be surprised at what you find.”

Eberle mentioned the five top trendy business outlets you may find coming soon to your local mall:

Man Cave Pedis – Just in time for holiday gift card-giving come spas for men providing manicures and pedicures in a man-friendly environment featuring masculine designs, deep leather loungers,  and flat screen TVS showing sports.

Pop-up stores –They may feature gourmet chocolates, upscale clothing boutiques, or European cutlery or leather goods. They settle in the mall for a couple of months to  introduce new products to American consumers. Then they’re gone in two or three months, hoping consumers will seek their inventory online while they make room for other pop-up ventures.

Airport mini-spas – Patterned after the ones becoming popular in major airports, these mini-spas offer impromptu hairstyling, cosmetic re-dos, manicure and massage services guaranteed to get you out and on your way in 30 minutes or less.

Crossover stores – Like bookstores selling coffee, these enterprising retailers invent clever crossover services like jewelers selling leather goods, wine shops offering gourmet foods, or cigar stores providing instant shoe repairs.

Techie try-outs – Believe it or not, sales of product at these grown-up toy stores are not the main objective. They are in the mall to let you meet and greet the latest electronic gadgets, try out the latest video games before buying, or help grandma learn to use an iPad – the theory being that if you like what you see, you can buy now or look for a deal online.

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Word of the Day

November 20, 2013 6:27 pm

Mortgagee. Party or institution that lends money; the creditor.

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Q: Should I Avoid an Adjustable Rate Mortgage?

November 20, 2013 6:27 pm

A:  Because adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, fluctuate with the market, they offer less stability than fixed-rate loans.  If an ARM is adjusted upward, monthly payments will increase, and for a lot of people that can be too big a risk to take.  On the other hand, should rates drop dramatically, homeowners can reap the benefits of lower rates without refinancing, thereby saving thousands of dollars.

Lenders first introduced ARMs in the 1980s when interest rates soared into the double digits, forcing many people out of the home buying market.  They tied the rate to a variable national index, such as U.S. Treasury bills.

Today, many first-time buyers who have difficulty qualifying for a home loan, still settle for adjustable rate loans because the initial, “teaser” interest rate of the mortgage is normally two or three points lower than a fixed rate loan.  ARMs are particularly attractive if you plan to be in your home a short time.  They tend to adjust yearly or every three years, usually within certain limits, or caps, that prohibit the interest rate from shooting up too high.  Make sure terms such as these are spelled out in any ARM agreement you choose.

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How-To Bring Emotion to Your Home: Colors and Texture

November 19, 2013 6:24 pm

(BPT) - Home decor can convey many different emotions - from warmth and comfort on cold and dreary winter days to elegance and festiveness during the holiday season. The colors and materials you use set the stage; everything from the textures that appear in the accessories, the arrangement of the furniture and even how sound reverberates in a room.

It's important to give your home new energy by occasionally redecorating one or more rooms. When redecorating a room to create a new emotion in your home, be sure to consider all the elements, from the floors to the ceiling, that harmoniously work together in developing the room's ambiance. Here are some elements that can define a room's emotion, whether you seek the look of a European industrial sleek getaway, or a rural rustic retreat.

Flooring - Colors, patterns and even sheen work together to create feelings in a room through flooring. Flooring options range from stone, marble, ceramic and wood - to name a few - and all of these come in a multitude of colors and patterns. Some homeowners choose to design their floors to blend in, creating a neutral backdrop for the rest of the room's decorations. Others design the floor to be the focal point of the space, with dramatic colors. Work with a designer to determine what style of flooring will help create the feeling you want in your room. Bigger pieces allow for smaller grout joints thus facilitating maintenance and creating an increased perception of the space.

Walls - A warm, almost rustic ambiance permeates a room surrounded with beautiful grained wood decorating the walls. However, wooden walls also require a bit of maintenance with cleaning and refinishing, and can be easily scratched or dented. A great way to keep the beautiful look of wood with durability against dents and scratches is to use ceramic tiles that emulate the grain and striation of oak wood, extending the warmth of the room for a modern or rustic base. Because they're ceramic tile, they are durable, easy-to-clean and hypoallergenic.

Or consider bringing texture into your room by adding visible and touchable textures with dramatic raised patterns to your walls. Wall coverings range from refined to intense, creating beautiful sculptured finishes to walls. These interesting and unique designs can immediately transform the energy in a room as a feature wall.

Furniture lines - Bathrooms are usually the first rooms to be upgraded and redecorated, because guests and homeowners alike use them so frequently. Often these rooms are small; using wall mounted vanities and furniture with clean lines can help create a larger sense of the space. Geometric patterns also impart a sense of order to a room. The Porcelanosa Ciclo series capitalizes on this concept, with wall-hanging vanities, pivoting wall shelving units and raised sinks to illustrate geometric patterns highlighting excellent - but out of view - storage.

Discuss with your designer your thoughts on flooring, walls and furniture lines to create the perfect blend of emotions in your room's decor. Once finished, it will be a room you'll enjoy spending time in, and can't wait to show off to visiting guests this holiday season.

Source: Porcelanosa

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How Safe Is Your Portable Heater?

November 19, 2013 6:24 pm

Around this time every year, as the late autumn chill starts descending on many homeowners, I reintroduce some sobering facts from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

CPSC staff reports that from 2009 to 2011, electric heaters were associated with an estimated 1,100 fire incidents per year, resulting in average yearly estimates of 50 deaths, 130 injuries, and $50.4 million of property loss.

The U.S. Department of Energy (energy.gov) recommends the following guidelines when buying and installing a small space heater:

  • Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. Make sure the heater carries the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) label.
  • Choose a thermostatically controlled heater, because they avoid the energy waste of overheating a room.
  • Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
  • Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also offers these space heater safety tips:

  • Give the heater some space. Placing a combustible object too close to a heater is the leading cause of space heater fires. Allow at least three feet of open space on each side of the unit.
  • Use wall plug-ins. To prevent a fire, never plug a high-wattage space heater into an extension cord or multi-outlet strip.
  • Never run a space heater in an unoccupied room. Always turn off a space heater when you leave the room and before going to bed, especially if young children or pets could come in contact with the device. Unplug the unit as an extra precaution.
  • Before purchasing a space heater, check the label to see if it is the appropriate size for the area you want to heat.
  • Keep electric heaters away from dampness. Operating units in wet areas such as bathrooms can cause electric shock. If you need additional heat in a damp location, purchase a heater specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Every room in which you plan to run a space heater should have a smoke alarm. If operating a gas space heater, also install a carbon monoxide alarm.
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Create a Clutter-Free Crafting Zone

November 19, 2013 6:24 pm

(Family Features)--When creative inspiration strikes, you need to seize the moment and create. But if supplies are strewn from one end of the house to the other and clutter reigns, you may battle a real cramp in creativity.

Even for the most free-thinking minds, a little organization can go a long way to let your artistic aspirations soar. The key is accessibility. Follow these three simple tips to get your space uncluttered and let your imagination run free.

1. Dedicate your space. Whether you're able to allocate an entire room, a closet or even just a corner, allow yourself to hone in on the true purpose of the space - crafting. Store unrelated items elsewhere and establish a designated work zone. You can also achieve versatility with mobile storage. Portable containers and rolling carts allow greater flexibility in how you use the space, while giving you easy access to your crafting supplies. Organizing like items, with specific storage areas for each different hobby or craft, will help you find what you need efficiently.

2. Maximize your resources. Particularly if you're working with a small area, it's important to utilize every inch of space. Don't limit yourself to the floor, think vertically. In a closet, using a custom organizer such as ClosetMaid's ShelfTrack Wire Shelving Organizer Kit, will allow you to customize and reconfigure shelf locations as often as your needs change. You can also find a variety of hanging organizers for the back of the same door you once simply closed to hide the mess.

3. Keep comfort in mind. Set the mood to get inspired with comfortable seating and dÈcor that energizes you and appeals to your artistic senses. A cozy arm chair makes for far more appealing seating than a standard desk chair, especially if your chosen craft requires extended periods of sitting. If you expect to have guests visit the space, be sure to provide seating for their comfort, such as a cushy couch or loveseat.

There are myriad options available when it comes to storage, so you can find just the right size container for each and every item. This helps ensure you're using every inch of space wisely. And, using right-size storage bins helps ensure you are protecting valuable supplies from damage that can result from cramming into too-tight places.

Source: www.ClosetMaid.com, www.StorganizationBlog.com

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Word of the Day

November 19, 2013 6:24 pm

Maintenance fees. Paid by a condominium unit owner to the owners’ association for upkeep of the common areas.

 

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Q: What Guidelines Are Useful for Finding an Architect?

November 19, 2013 6:24 pm

A:  Start by finding out who designed the projects that you like in your community.  Get referrals from people you know, or the local American Institute of Architects (AIA).  Interview three to five firms to get a range of possibilities for your project.  But only select firms that specialize in residential designs, preferably remodeling, and review their portfolios and talk with past clients.  Insist on meeting the key people who will work on your project and ask questions until you’re comfortable and confident about your decision.  Ultimately, select a firm based on its design ability, technical competence, professional service, and cost.  Then, enter into detailed negotiations about service and compensation.  The AIA offers standard-form owner-architect agreements that can help you begin this process.

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