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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
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Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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Tom's Blog

Thrift Store Bargains too Good to Pass Up

October 29, 2013 6:54 pm

Thrift stores are not just for the economically disadvantaged. According to Jeff Yeager, career bargain-hunter and author of, “The Cheapskate Next Door,” they are for anyone who wants to save money on a variety of goods and help out a non-profit charity besides.

But there are helpful hints for finding the best thrift store deals. Yeager points out a few:

Shop in the best areas – It stands to reason that thrift stores located closest to affluent residential areas will receive higher quality donations for re-sale.

Shop at the right time – Since many people gather up their donations and deliver them on weekends, selections may be better earlier in the week. But if you find a shop you like, ask a clerk when most ‘new’ merchandise hits the sales floor.

Shop off-season – Cold weather gear will be cheapest in summer, and you may find a great bikini – or even a bargain lawn mower! – in February.

Take your time – A lot of designer stuff turns up in thrift stores, though you may have to paw through a lot of merchandise to find it. You can often find clothing with original sales tags still attached or vintage accessories you can’t find anywhere else.

Haggling is in – Don’t be shy about asking for a discount or offering less than what an item is marked. In most thrift stores, prices are negotiable.

Try before you buy – In many thrift stores, all sales are final. Try on that pair of jeans before you buy, even if you think it is your size.

Think creatively – Old jars, tins, and baskets can make a great base for gifts. So can glass or silver-plated trays. Holiday décor can be refurbished as needed, and gently used books, toys, and board games may offer years of extended pleasure.

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Word of the Day

October 29, 2013 6:54 pm

Escrow company.  A firm that specializes in handling the closing of a transaction.

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Q: Are 40-year Mortgages a Good Idea?

October 29, 2013 6:54 pm

A: The main reason buyers sign on for these type of loans, which add 10 years to the traditional 30-year mortgage, is to take advantage of smaller monthly payments.

According to real estate experts, the shorter-term loan is usually more advantageous for the homebuyer. The drawback becomes apparent simply by calculating the cost of additional interest payments, which can total thousands for the privilege of just saving the difference of a few dollars in monthly mortgage payments.

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Finding Work after 50: Five Tips for Over-50 Job-Seekers

October 28, 2013 6:54 pm

Yes, discriminating on the basis of age is illegal. But as any over-50 job-seeker will tell you, it happens all the time, often in ways too subtle to pinpoint. Yet a growing percentage of the population hopes to work past the traditional retirement age. So, in this era of aging baby-boomers, what are the best strategies for landing a job after age 50?

“The key,” said retail hiring manager Tim Applebee, “is helping the interviewer understand that you are the solution to his problem.”

Applebee offers five tips for showcasing your value rather than your age:

Make your resume count – Don’t try to make it “ageless.” You probably look within a few years of your age anyway, so make the most of those 25 years of experience. But point out your ability to apply past experience to help meet new objectives.

Leave history and attitude behind. Your goal is to look ahead. Research in advance to get a real feel for the company’s mission and goals. Fine-tune your resume and interview to emphasize your success with past challenges and how the skills you used can help resolve current company challenges.

Update your presence. Do your best to appear professional and energetic. Take a hard look at how you are perceived by others. Decide for yourself if touching up your hair or updating your wardrobe will present you as more contemporary.

Technology matters. It may not be enough to have a basic comfort level around computers. If you are applying for a sales job, you should know about mobile technology like smart phones and Web 2.0 applications, and how to find hotspots for your laptop. If you are applying for a marketing position, know how to use programs such as Powerpoint, Excel and Publisher and how to start and/or post to a blog.

Network creatively. Don’t hesitate to maximize the network of people you have acquired over the years – or to seek glowing referrals from them. But if you are not already a member, join LinkedIn – a free networking resource that can not only help you tap into  new connections, but provides a great way to show potential employers that you’re up to speed on social networking.

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Don't Compound the Hazard When Hiring an Asbestos Contractor

October 28, 2013 6:54 pm

The discovery of hazardous material like asbestos lurking in one's home is disturbing enough. Homeowners in this situation can get it resolved without compounding the problem by hiring an improper or unscrupulous contractor to do the work.

The Alvarado Group of Madison, WI recently posted some good advice from Gary Mason, a Wisconsin Registered Home Inspector. Mason says if you think asbestos may be in your home, don’t panic, usually asbestos material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers.

There is no danger unless the asbestos is disturbed, fibers are released and then inhaled. Mason also offers these tips for homeowners considering a corrective-action contractor:

  • Before work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, cleanup, and the applicable federal, state and local regulations which the contractor must follow (such as notification requirements and asbestos disposal procedures).
  • Assure that the contractor avoids spreading or tracking asbestos dust into other areas of your home by sealing off the work area using plastic sheeting and duct tape - also turn off the heating and air conditioning system.
  • Insist that the contractor apply a wetting agent to the asbestos material with a hand sprayer - wet fibers do not float in the air as easily as dry fibers and will be easier to clean up.
  • Make sure the contractor does not break removed material into smaller pieces. This could release asbestos fibers into the air.
  • At the end of the job, get written assurance from the contractor that all procedures have been followed.
  • Upon completion, assure that the contractor cleans the area well with wet mops, wet rags, sponges and/or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. A regular vacuum cleaner must never be used.
  • Air monitoring to make sure there is no increase of asbestos fibers in the air, and to assure that the contractor’s job is done properly. This should be done by someone not connected with the contractor.
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How to Financially Survive Your Golden Years

October 28, 2013 6:54 pm

Americans are living longer these days from an average 47 years in 1900 to more than 78 years as of 2010. We are also experiencing a deluge of adults reaching retirement age now that includes 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day.

By 2030, when the last of the baby boomers have turned 65, nearly one in five Americans will be retirement age, according to the Pew Research Center’s population projections. Money will be a big problem for many of them, especially if boomers develop health problems that affect their ability to live independently, says insurance expert and CEO of Life Care Funding Chris Orestis.

“With 30 percent of the Medicaid population consuming 87 percent of Medicaid dollars on long-term care services, we can see that’s not going to be sustainable,” Orestis says. “More individuals will be forced to find their own resources to pay for those needs. That’s why states such as California, Florida, New York and Texas are embracing legislation requiring seniors to be notified that they can convert their life insurance policy for 30 to 60 percent of its death benefit value. The money can be put into an irrevocable fund designated specifically for any form of care they choose.”

Orestis details more ways in which seniors might handle long-term care and other budgetary issues:

• Senior discounts really add up! Restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, travel deals and other merchants give various senior discounts with minimum age requirements ranging from 55 to 62. Some of these places are worth making habits, with 15 percent off the bill at Applebee’s, 30 percent off at Banana Republic and 60 percent off at Food Lion on Mondays! Don’t forget your free cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts if you’re 55 or older, and don’t be shy – at many of these places you’ll have to ask for the discount.

• Long-term care is a matter of survival, so use your best options. The practice of converting a life insurance policy into a Life Care Benefit has been an accepted method of payment for private duty in-home care, assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care and hospice care for years. Instead of abandoning a policy when they can no longer afford the premiums, policy owners have the option to take the present-day value of the policy while they are still alive and convert it into a Long Term Care Benefit Plan. By converting the policy, a senior will remain in private pay longer and be able to choose the form of care that they want but will be Medicaid-eligible when the benefit is spent down.

• Your “last act” may be decades away, so plan accordingly. It makes sense to finally enjoy your money after a lifetime of savings, but be smart about it. Take time to organize your paperwork and create a master file that holds things such as insurance policies, investments, property, wills and trusts, etc. so you have your financial picture in one place. Also, live smart today and hold off on that new car if you don’t need a new one. If your current car is paid off and you sit tight for an additional two years, you’ll save $7,200 on a new car with $300 monthly payments. Refinancing your home may also be a very good idea, since rates are still hovering around their all-time lows. Get at least three quotes, compare rates, terms and potential penalties to make sure you’re getting the best deal.  Also, live healthy and buy more fruits and vegetables and less junk food to lessen the chance you’ll need long-term care in the future.

Source: Life Care Funding

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Word of the Day

October 28, 2013 6:54 pm

Fee simple. Ownership of real property that is to be used and/or sold at the owner’s discretion.

 

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Q: How Do Building Codes Work?

October 28, 2013 6:54 pm

A: Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, use and occupancy, and maintenance. The codes are established and enforced by local politicians and government officials, who also tend to modify them constantly.  The codes are usually enforced by denying permits, occupancy certificates, and by imposing fines.

While codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire.  Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors.

There are building codes for most remodeling jobs.  So if you have done significant remodeling, make sure you save proof of the permits involved in the project.  There is a good chance potential buyers may request them.  Failure to obtain the appropriate permits before you undertake a project could later result in fines or other serious consequences, such as having a structure ordered to be torn down because it was constructed improperly.

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Tips for New Pet Parents

October 25, 2013 6:36 pm

(BPT)—Whether you're acquiring a new puppy or kitten for your household or adopting an adult pet from a shelter or rescue organization, the following tips will help you get off on the right foot with your newest family member.

What's up, doc? Just as you require regular visits to your doctor and dentist to make sure you stay healthy, so does your new pet. A veterinary visit should be a once-a-year event, minimum, and more frequent check-ups may be needed, depending on your pet's age and health status. Regular visits are likely to include a thorough exam, weigh-in, immunizations and parasite checks (a heartworm test and fecal exam). Blood tests and dental cleanings are also routine procedures.

Healthy eating. Your new pet may be eyeing your plate with interest, but don't give in. Pets shouldn't eat like people. Cats are carnivores; they need plenty of protein in their diets - roughly twice the percentage that you do - and they need it in the form of meat, poultry or fish. And while your dog, like you, is an omnivore, that doesn't mean he should share your meals. A food formulated especially for dogs is much better and treats should make up no more than 10 percent of a dog's caloric intake.

Parasite prevention. You've probably heard of pests like heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas and ticks but understanding how and when to prevent them is a different matter. Dogs and cats can become infected with heartworms, although the resulting disease differs somewhat between the two species. Heartworm disease can be deadly, or it can reduce the quality of life of both dogs and cats. Mosquitoes spread heartworms and dogs and cats need to be protected year-round, thanks to a mosquito's ability to survive in a variety of environments. A bonus is that many heartworm preventives also protect pets against other internal parasites. For more information on how to protect your new pet against heartworms and other parasites, talk to your veterinarian and visit the American Heartworm society website at heartwormsociety.org.

Bathing. Most of us wouldn't dream of letting a day go by without a shower or bath. But daily bathing is unnecessary for pets and can dry out their skin and hair. Most dogs are fine with a bath every three months, unless they get extra dirty or have silky hair. Cats usually keep themselves clean without any help although brushing long-haired cats on a regular basis is advised to keep their fur tangle-free and help prevent hairballs.

Making a connection. Dogs and cats relate to their owners in different ways. As a pack animal, dogs expect you to lead their pack and give them rules to follow. Dogs make faces - in fact, it's estimated that they have 100 different facial expressions, thanks to their mobile ears. Cats attach to their people as social partners and use affectionate behaviors, such as purring, kneading and rubbing against you to show their affection. They're also quite vocally expressive and can produce more than 100 different sounds.

Sleep habits. While cats have a reputation for dozing, both cats and dogs spend more than half their time in slumber. Like babies, puppies and kittens sleep more than adults, although their sleep patterns can be erratic. Keep in mind that excessive sleeping can be a sign of boredom. Most pets will be glad to forego a nap for playtime or a walk.

Bringing a pet into your home is one of the greatest joys in life, but it means new responsibilities. Understanding your pet's behavior, as well as the do's and don'ts of pet health care, will help make your bond with your pet a lasting one.

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Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time?

October 25, 2013 6:36 pm

A home sale transaction can present one of the most stressful situations a person will encounter in their entire life. So what about those forced into situations where they are selling and buying at the same time?

Agent Teresa Hamilton of Lafayette, LA (teresahamilton.com/Blog) points out that if the timing of either transaction is thrown off by issues out of their control, sellers may find themselves either owning two homes at the same time or with no home at all and desperately searching for a short term rental.

Hamilton says closing on the sale of both homes simultaneously allows the seller to avoid a multiple move scenario. They also avoid having to secure a temporary residence and other hassles related to selling their old home before closing on a new one, and the expense of carrying two mortgages, two sets of utilities, and the care of a vacant house or management of a rental.

Anthony Lamacchia (mlrealtyne.com) out of Waltham, Mass., offers the following tips for homeowners in this situation:

  • Negotiate a longer period until the closing date when you obtain a buyer for your home. Instead of the typical 45-day closing try to negotiate 60 or even 90 days so you have time to find the home you want.
  • Disclose in your listing that closing the deal is “subject to seller finding suitable housing” to alert buyers that you have to find a home to move to.
  • Or if you don’t disclose the above contingency publicly in your listing on MLS, you can still try to negotiate it into your offer and purchase and sales agreement.
  • Sell your home to a buyer and request that they allow you to rent it back from them for a month or two until you find a home.
  • Consider temporarily living with family or even try a short term rental.

Lamacchia believes this last alternative is actually the least stressful way to buy because the seller has the money in hand which makes it easier to buy. There is also less stress in doing one thing at a time.

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