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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

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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Top Black Friday Shopping Tips

November 18, 2013 10:21 pm

This year, with many stores planning to open super-early on Thanksgiving, the turkey may not even be cooked, never mind cold, before bargain-hunters are out hitting the stores. For those hoping to scoop up the best Black Friday buys this Thanksgiving weekend, Consumer’s Report suggests adopting these savvy shopper tips:

Be prepared – Study the ads beforehand. Many retailers advertise their in-store specials early, so check a Black Friday-focused website such as bfads.net or blackfriday.info to see where the best deals are.

Shop online first – Before you brave the crowds, check to see if the retailer is offering the same or even better deals on its website. Some retailers offer online sales during Black Friday week that include many of the same deals to be offered in-store. There may even be some online-only specials, like no-cost shipping.

Use social media – Check the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite stores or brands to see if they're offering discount incentives when you "like" their page or follow them.

Get appy – Load your smart phone with a few comparison-shopping apps, such as ShopSavvy or ShopKick, that let you compare prices while you're in the store.  If you see that an item is cheaper at another store, try showing that price on your phone to a store manager and see if he or she will match that deal.

Check the return policy – You may find it’s different for a Black Friday special. Are all sales final? Is there a shortened return or exchange policy? Can you get a refund or only store credit? What about a restocking fee on a returned item?

Check the warranty – Some manufacturers offer "derivative" models during promotional periods like Black Friday. Be sure you can live with the warranty terms being offered.

Avoid buying pricey accessories – An easy ways to blow your great deal is to pad the deal with pricey accessories. This is where retailers make their money, so avoid the hard sell at point of sale.

Avoid bait-and-switch tactics – Sometimes, retailers will advertise a great deal on a certain TV but denigrate it once you're in the store, hoping they can push you to a more profitable model. Stick to your budget and resist efforts to ‘upgrade’ you to a model that may not be such a great deal.

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Small Kitchen Tricks with Big Impact

November 18, 2013 10:21 pm

In our last segment, I dove into the subject of downsizing kitchens. Whether it's simplifying arrangements of cabinets and appliances as we age in place, or a desire for a modern or minimalist cooking zone, there is no shortage of good advice on how to get started and get through it.

Mariette Mifflin, a housewares and appliances writer at about.com says a large number of baby boomers are eyeing moving to low maintenance apartments or condos, while others will plan to retire to their smaller cottages or vacation homes to age in place.

Mifflin says consider the many more compact appliances that offer energy saving options, like an economy dry settings on dishwashers, 1 and 2 hour auto shut-off on coffee makers, and low water features on washers.

According to Mifflin, delay start has now become a great energy saving option for those areas that pay for electricity based on when they use it, with peak and off-peak rates. You can set a dishwasher with this feature while you're loading it, but it will only start later in the evening when energy off-peak rate is lower.

Cambria Bold design and lifestyle editor for The Kitchn (thekitchn.com) says don't be afraid of using darker colors - done right a darker color scheme can actually make a smaller kitchen space appear bigger.

At cultivate.com, Susan Serra writes that visual tricks will be actively incorporated to create a more open feeling. For example, backsplashes that are more simple in design than ever before, such as single sheets of glass (a hot material), engineered stone or other seamless surfaces, such as stainless steel.

The reason this works: A seamless backsplash has a huge effect on a kitchen's "visual clutter,” is a natural complement to the modern kitchen and a practical solution for small kitchens where appliances are in close proximity to surfaces.

Serra says large interesting nooks and crannies decoratively illuminated in the kitchen can create new focal points as well as adding a spacious look. And she says appliances will largely disappear from view in 2013, allowing even high-end, chef's style appliances to be seamlessly incorporated into any kitchen space.

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3 Keys to a Legally Binding Car Sales Contract

November 18, 2013 10:21 pm

Drafting a legal and fully enforceable car sale contract may seem like a daunting task, but it's actually more doable than you'd think.

Here are three must-have provisions in every car sale contract:

Identify the parties and the product. To make your contract valid, list the buyer and seller's names and addresses. Identify the car and include a description. Be sure to include the year, make and model of the car as well as the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

Specify the sales amount, offer, and acceptance. Enter the sales amount for the car. Make sure to specify that in return for the consideration amount, the seller releases the title of the car to the buyer. The seller should also hand over all legal documents that are needed to successfully transfer title to the buyer.

Sign and date the contract. To seal the deal, make sure both the seller and buyer sign on the dotted line and date the contract. To play it extra safe, have witnesses present and have them sign, too.

Additional Provisions Worth Including

Sellers may want to include an "as is" clause. To do this, explicitly state that the transaction is "as is" and make clear the seller hasn't agreed to or promised any type of express or implied guarantee or warranty.

By contrast, buyers will want a cancellation period. Either way, establish terms on defects, repairs or other costs.

Leave a space on the contract to enter the number of miles on the odometer. Fill this in at the time of the sale. Include a representation and warranty that the number is accurate, to the seller's best knowledge, and hasn't been tampered with.

Remember to state the contract will end and you two will owe nothing else to each other -- commitments, covenants, promises, or otherwise -- once the sale is complete. Include a provision on returns, too.

Of course, you could take the easy way out and use a template vehicle sales contract like those for purchase at LegalStreet.com. For specific guidance about whether a car sales contract's terms are legal or favorable to you, consider calling an experienced contracts attorney near you.

Source: Findlaw.com

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Q: What Is Equity?

November 18, 2013 10:21 pm

A: It is the cash value of your property over and above what is owed on it, including mortgages, liens, and judgments.  

The amount of equity almost always grows in a home over the years, although regional economic slumps or overbuilding might result in a temporary dip in prices.

The good thing is you can borrow against the equity that builds up in your home and use it for any number of reasons, including home improvements and to pay for college costs.  It also is a source of income for you once the home is sold.

Equity is also what makes seller financing possible.  If you have money to spare, you can always lend some to the buyer and collect interest on it.

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Word of the Day

November 18, 2013 10:21 pm

Buy-down. Cash payment to a lender to reduce the interest rate a borrower must pay on a new mortgage loan.  Commonly used by builders to sell new homes.

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Protecting Your Home from Electrical Hazards

November 15, 2013 8:18 pm

Family Features—What comes to mind when considering safety hazards around the home? Do you think of electrical safety, fire prevention and reducing the risk of electrical shock? Often times, our quest for new kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors takes priority, while the projects to increase home safety are put on the back burner. One project, however, that should not be put off is evaluating the electrical safety of your home.

“There is no time like the present to take a good look around your home and make the simple, yet necessary changes to eliminate electrical hazards and create an added layer of protection for your home and family,” said Tom Kraeutler, home improvement expert and syndicated radio show host of The Money Pit.

Kraeutler notes a good start is to take inventory of the outlets around your home. Take notice of any outlets that could benefit from being replaced by an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI), Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) or tamper-resistant outlet.

AFCI versus GFCI

AFCIs and GFCIs sound similar, but what do they mean? While AFCIs provide protection from arc-faults that may lead to electrical fires, GFCIs help protect homeowners from electrical shock due to ground faults.

Arc-fault protection is extremely important as arc-faults are often unseen and can occur anywhere in the home’s electrical system, including within walls as well as appliance cords.

AFCI receptacles are relatively new to the market and detect arcing electrical faults to help reduce the likelihood of the electrical system being an ignition source of a fire. They are perfect for a remodeling project or new home construction as the latest National Electrical Code® requires AFCI protection in a growing number of locations throughout the home.

GFCIs on the other hand are designed to reduce the occurrences of shock or electrocution due to ground faults. Many homeowners are familiar with GFCI devices as they are proven safety products that have saved many lives since their introduction to the market.

Whole house safety

Did you know the Electrical Safety Foundation International reports home electrical fires account for an estimated 51,000 fires each year, resulting in nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries and $1.3 billion in property damage? Just as alarming, the Foundation reports that nearly seven children are treated daily in hospital emergency rooms for electrical shock or burn injuries caused by tampering with a wall outlet.

Recent technological advances in the AFCI, GFCI and tamper-resistant outlet market have made achieving whole home electrical protection simpler than ever. This is due to the creation of devices capable of providing necessary protection, as well as cost-effective and easier to install options.

“AFCI protection was once only available through the home’s circuit breaker,” Kraeutler explained. “Now, AFCI receptacles are available for a safe alternative for added home protection.”

In addition, GFCI options are available in slim design for added space in an electrical box to make installation simpler. They also offer a tamper resistant design for increased safety by blocking access to the contacts by most foreign objects, thereby reducing shock and electrocution incidents.

Take proactive steps to update your home’s electrical devices using the following tips:

  • Keep an eye out for electrical wiring damaged during installation or afterwards through over-stapling; crushing; bending; penetration by screws and nails; and through rodent or insect damage.
  • Over time, cabling may also degrade further due to exposure to elevated temperatures or humidity, eventually leading to arcing faults and potentially a fire.
  • Install AFCI receptacles in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways or similar rooms or areas.
  • Use GFCI receptacles anywhere water may be present, such as kitchens, bathrooms, garages, basements, porches, pool areas and laundry rooms.
  • For added convenience, try a self-test GFCI that automatically tests itself to confirm that protected power is available.
  • Consider replacing standard outlets with tamper-resistant outlets which employ an automatic shutter mechanism designed to protect children attempting to insert foreign objects.

Source: Leviton

 

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Four Quick Steps to a Guest-Friendly Home

November 15, 2013 8:18 pm

Having extra bodies in your home overnight can be stressful at any time, but house guests for the holidays – when you are already deep into shopping and preparing – can seem like more than you want to take on.

The home and style editors from Better Homes and Gardens offer four do-ahead suggestions that should help to make your guests feel welcomed and comfortable and calm your last-minute jitters about hosting:

Clear the clutter – Keep an eye out for any knick-knacks or furniture you can store in the garage or closet in order to provide extra space for your guests’ luggage and belongings.

Prep the sleeping space – Whether it is a guest bedroom or a pull-out sofa in the den, place a basket nearby with extra linens, a few magazines or books, and a small alarm clock. If your guests will be spending some time on their own, include a map and/or guidebook for the local area. Try to make sure there is adequate reading light, and – somewhere on a small table or dresser top, place a small plant or a vase of fresh flowers with a welcome note propped up against it.

Prep the bathroom – Clean the guest bathroom, or a shared one, thoroughly, and consider replacing a tired-looking shower curtain or towels. Find a spot for a basket containing spare towels and personal items, such as lotion, shampoo, and toothbrush, or other items that might have been forgotten. Plug in a nightlight to help light the way from the sleeping area.

Prep the kitchen – Before your guests arrive, ask them about any food or snack preferences or other items they would like to have on hand. On a tray near the coffeepot, or on a counter, place a selection of coffee, tea and cocoa along with sugar and creamer so your guests don’t need to rummage through the cupboards. You may want to include some cookies or fruit for impromptu snacking anytime the mood strikes.

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Word of the Day

November 15, 2013 8:18 pm

Closing statement. Written account of all expenses, adjustments, and disbursements received by the buyer and seller when completing a real estate transaction.

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