Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
October 4, 2013 6:54 pm
Prepayment penalty. Fee charged by the lender when a borrower repays the loan early.
October 4, 2013 6:54 pm
A recent national survey about home improvement projects indicates that more people will be renovating or establishing home working spaces and play rooms this fall and winter. So I tapped a couple of experts on the subject, who will convey some important tips and ideas in the next two columns.
The team at Lars Remodeling & Design (larsremodel.com) in La Mesa, CA suggest homeowners begin their home work space installation or renovation by deciding on the main purpose of the space and who will be using it.
If there’s more than one person involved, the space can be divided by wall or enclosures. There should be plenty of room for a desk, seating for meetings and perhaps a lounge area.
Then decide what special items are important for a comfortable and functional workspace. You might need items such as a drafting table, separate computer workstations, countertop and table space, special machinery or a large screen for videoconferencing or webinars - and don’t forget space for storage and files.
According to the folks at Lars, one of the drawbacks of having a home office is the ever-present sound of home and family, which can sometimes overwhelm the background of a telephone conversation.
So soundproofing the office walls and doors can prevent screaming children and a loud TV from filtering into your businesses day while keeping your confidential discussions and financial conversations confidential.
When choosing your floor and ceiling materials, select those that absorb sound rather than make it echo.
Builder Scott Stonebreaker (stonebreakerbuilders.com) says homeowners should begin their project with a floor plan. Get some graph paper and draw the setup you want.
On paper, Stonebreaker says you can move elements around a number of times until you find the fit that is right for you. Remember to include the locations of electrical outlets, phone jacks and other hookups in this planning stage.
There are also computer software programs available if you prefer a mouse to a pencil.
In our next segment, we'll tackle repurposing space for a children's play space.
October 4, 2013 6:54 pm
If you're creating an app, be sure to keep a few legal tips in mind when you strike e-gold.
According to ABI Research, smartphone and tablet users will download 70 billion apps this year. And the total global mobile app market is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2015, reports TechCrunch.
When it comes to creating an app, a flourishing app industry can spell legal liability. So before you start milking your FarmVille cash-cow, keep these five legal tips in mind:
Be upfront about your app's costs – yes, all of them. You are practically inviting legal issues when you shroud your app with hidden fees. Tacking on extra costs here and there is penny-pinching that could end up costing you big-time in court. Make sure the app clearly conveys all potential monetary charges -- both initial download and in-app options.
Ensure proper consents and disclosures regarding user data and privacy. First, identify what information from the user and the device will be collected and shared with others. Next, make sure that information is clearly disclosed and consented to before data is collected or shared. If there's a possibility that your app will be used by minors, disclosing your privacy policies is particularly important.
Follow applicable standards and regulations. Remember, if your app deals with kids' data, health data, or financial data, make sure that you're complying with relevant rules and regulations, which are more complex.
Understand the differences between mobile platforms. Each mobile operating system uses a different application programming interface (API), which includes different security features and permission handling, according to the Small Business Administration. So don't just assume one size fits all; adapt your code accordingly.
Above all, your app shouldn't have any unpleasant surprises from a user experience standpoint. Good luck!
October 4, 2013 6:54 pm
With adventurous food tastes and concerns ranging from personal health to ethical agriculture and livestock practices, more people are exploring alternative diets.
But that’s not always easy – or palatable.
“You have paleo and primal diets, pescatarian and raw foods, vegetarian and vegan, and they all have wonderful merits, especially when compared with the processed foods many Americans continue to eat,” says Holistic Chef and Certified Healing Foods Specialist Shelley Alexander, author of “Deliciously Holistic,” (aharmonyhealing.com).
“My focus is on easy-to-follow healing foods recipes that make delicious, completely nourishing meals. Some will appeal to those who adhere to a strict diet, such as vegan, and all will make people feel noticeably healthier without sacrificing any of the enjoyment we get from sitting down to eat.”
Alexander offers five recipes that can be used for any meal of the day or night, including:
• Mango chia ginger granola (raw, vegan): 2 ripe mangos, peeled, cored and sliced in one-inch cubes; 2 cups Living Intentions chia ginger cereal; 2 cups nut or seed milk. Put ingredients in a bowl and enjoy! The cereal is gluten-free, nut-free, and raw- and vegan-diet friendly, and extremely nutritious. Preparation takes five minutes or less and is hearty enough to satisfy appetites the entire morning. The ingredients can be substituted for dietary needs or preferences.
• Portobello mushroom and grilled onion burgers (vegan): Marinade for the mushroom is essential – 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil; 1 tablespoon wheat-free Tamari or organic Nama Shoyu soy sauce; 1/8 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika; 1 peeled garlic clove (grated or minced); 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper; 2 teaspoons organic maple syrup – grade B. The burgers include 4 large Portobello mushrooms – cleaned and patted dry; 1 large white onion (peeled and cut into thick slices); olive or avocado oil to cook mushrooms and onions; 2 sprouted whole grain hamburger buns –toasted; Dijon mustard; ¼ cup baby romaine lettuce – washed and patted dry. Marinate mushrooms and onions for 30 minutes. Drizzle with oil and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, turning mushrooms halfway through. Serve immediately.
• Wild blueberry smoothie (raw, vegan): 3 cups vanilla Brazil nut milk (there is an additional recipe for this); 2 cups fresh or frozen wild or organic blueberries; 1 peeled banana – organic or fair trade; 2 to 3 cups organic baby spinach; 1 small avocado – peeled and pitted; ¼ teaspoon cinnamon; (optional) a preferred protein powder or superfood. Blend until creamy. Blueberries are an amazing fruit packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.
• Raw corn chowder (raw, vegan): 4 cups organic corn kernels (best during summer months); 2¼ cups unsweetened almond milk; 1 clove peeled garlic (remove inner stem); 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice; ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika; 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract; ½ avocado (peeled and seed removed); unrefined sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste. Blend ingredients and strain; top with corn kernels and diced organic red bell pepper. Among other nutrients, corn provides lutein – an important carotenoid that protects eyes from macular degeneration.
• Dijon honey chicken wings: 1/3 cup Dijon mustard; ½ medium peeled lemon – remove all the white pith; ¼ cup raw honey; 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt; 2 large, peeled garlic cloves – grated; 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; 12 whole chicken wings – rinsed and patted dry; ½ teaspoon paprika. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend ingredients in a blender, except for wings and paprika, until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove tips of cleaned wings and store in freezer for future stock. Place wings on lightly greased baking dish, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, place in oven. After 30 minutes baste wings with juices from pan, then brush mustard sauce all over wings, sprinkle with paprika and continue baking for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Wings should have internal temperature of 165 degrees when done. These are a healthy and tasty alternative to deep-fat-fried wings.
Shelley Alexander has enjoyed a lifelong love of delicious, locally grown, seasonal foods. She received her formal chef’s training at The Los Angeles Culinary Institute. Alexander is a certified healing foods specialist, holistic chef, blogger and owner of the holistic health company, A Harmony Healing, in Los Angeles.
October 4, 2013 6:54 pm
A: You can get a home loan from several different sources—a credit union, commercial bank, mortgage company, finance company, government agency, thrift (which includes savings banks and savings & loan associations), mortgage broker, and even the seller.
Note, however, that many lenders have tightened their credit standards in light of increasing foreclosures and higher delinquency rates. Begin your search by calling at least half a dozen lenders to inquire about the types of financing available, current rates on each loan type, loan origination fees and number of points, other loan features and their credit requirements for borrowers.
Once you actually apply for a mortgage, the lender will pull a recent copy of your credit report. That inquiry and any and all others are recorded and become a part of your credit file. Normally, several inquiries during a short period are viewed negatively, as a sign you are trying to open several new accounts. Such a move lowers your credit scores; and lower credit scores mean you will be offered a higher mortgage interest rate.
However, there is a caveat. Credit scoring software generally detect that you are shopping for a single mortgage, if you shop within a short, 30-day window. So multiple inquires pulled roughly within this time frame will only count as one inquiry and should not affect your FICO, or credit, score.
Checking your own score also will not lower your credit score.
October 3, 2013 6:51 pm
School activities are picking up and as daylight hours dwindle, it's more important now than ever to ensure that safety stays top of mind for all family members.
"With busy schedules and back-to-back school activities, it's important for families to remember to keep safety and security a priority," said Rebecca Smith, vice president, marketing for Master Lock. "Now that school year routines are established, it's a perfect time to address safety topics with your family, such as guidelines for social media use and getting to and from home safely."
Follow these top five tips from Master Lock to stay safe this fall:
1. Be aware of surroundings. As dusk and darkness creep up earlier each day, remind children to follow safety precautions on their way to and from home. Whether walking all the way home or just to a parked car, students are advised to be aware of their surroundings, stick with a friend or in a group, stay in well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and always observe traffic rules.
2. Establish a "home alone" routine. Sometimes situations arise where children and teens will be home without supervision, whether coming home after school to an empty house or due to busy weekend activities. It's natural for parents to feel uneasy at first, but with some planning, both parents and children can feel confident when the time comes. Set guidelines with your children to follow when home alone including, locking the door immediately after entering the house, calling to check in as soon as he or she gets home, not answering the door for any visitors and reviewing relevant emergency phone numbers and exit plans.
3. Set ground rules for social media sharing. Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than ever before*. As parents, it's necessary to evaluate the information your child is sharing and advise them on security risks of sharing too much identifying information. Set ground rules for what your child can disclose online, and teach your child how to set privacy controls so that photos, location and personal information do not end up in the wrong hands.
4. Lock down valuables on the field. Lockers help keep gadgets, wallets, house or car keys and other belongings secure while in class, but what keeps them secure outside of school? Keep valuables locked up with a small, portable safe, such as Masterlock's 5900D SafeSpace, which kids can easily fit in their backpacks, gym bags or lock down to a fixed object while attending after school activities.
5. Inspect to protect. While talking with your children about safety guidelines, fall is also an ideal time to create or practice a fire safety plan. Start with inspecting your home thoroughly ensuring all smoke detectors are functioning properly and review the sound of the alarm with children so they know what do to when it goes off. Make an evacuation plan by visiting each room in your home, designating two ways out and check that all windows and doors open easily. Lastly, designate a safe meeting place outside the home where your family can gather after exiting. This meeting place should be close to the home, but not too close to be in danger from the fire, and in front of the house so that fire safety personnel can easily see you as they arrive. It should also be somewhere easy to find in day or night, such as near a telephone pole, tree or mailbox. Most importantly, practice the escape plan. While 71 percent of Americans have a plan, only 47 percent of those have practiced it.
October 3, 2013 6:51 pm
Before you begin the chore of fall pruning, I want to reiterate a warning homeowners have heard here before. Do-it-yourselfers who attempt to work with trees near overhead electrical wires often underestimate the danger potential.
According to the Tree Care Industry Association, terrible accidents can happen when a homeowner uses pole-mounted cutting tools and/or metal ladders to trim backyard trees and shrubs because they can conduct electricity.
When trees grow near overhead electrical wires, they can contact the wires and become energized. Trees and wires are dangerous, full of electrical power that can injure or kill humans.
There are several things that can go wrong for do-it-yourselfers trying to trim tree branches. For example, if proper tree cutting techniques are not understood, the cut branch can swing in unpredictable directions as it falls and could easily land on an energized wire.
Here are a few tips to avoid trees in wires:
- Look for power lines before pruning trees and large shrubs. If lines are anywhere near the tree, don't attempt any tree work. Professional tree climbers have the training and equipment needed to perform these tasks safely.
- Never climb a tree in order to prune it. Even if the wires aren't currently touching the tree, remember that the trees branches will shift once you begin climbing or removing limbs.
- Wearing rubber-soled shoes or rubber gloves while tree pruning will not protect from a fatal shock.
- Never extend long-handled saws or pruners into a tree without checking for power lines. Electricity is always trying to go somewhere, and it will easily travel through metal, water, trees, and/or the ground.
- Don't move ladders or long-handled pruning tools around the yard without first looking up. Always read and heed ladder-use safety labels.
- More important, the association recommends you hire an insured, tree care professional with the experience, expertise and equipment to safely take down or prune trees in wires. Require proof of liability insurance, and check to see if the cost of the work is covered by your insurance company.
October 3, 2013 6:51 pm
October is Fall Car Care Month, so use it as an excuse to make sure your vehicle is ready for the harsh winter weather ahead. Taking a few simple steps now can save you the headaches and cost of an emergency breakdown later, says the Car Care Council.
Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the Car Care Council recommends the following proactive steps to make sure your car is ready for winter driving.
Battery – Keep the battery connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Cold weather is hard on batteries, so it's wise to check the battery and charging system. Because batteries don't always give warning signs before they fail, it is advisable to replace batteries that are more than three years old.
Heater, Defrosters and Wiper Blades – Check that the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system are working properly as heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons, such as defrosting. Wiper blades that are torn, cracked or don't properly clean your windshield should be replaced. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months. When changing the blades, be sure to also check the fluid level in the windshield washer reservoir.
Tires – Check the tires, including the tire pressure and tread depth. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires lose pressure when temperatures drop.
Brakes – Have the brake system checked, including brake linings, rotors and drums. Brakes are critical to vehicle safety and particularly important when driving on icy or snow-covered roads.
"Getting your vehicle ready for winter while temperatures are still mild is a proactive approach to preventive maintenance that helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected repairs when severe winter weather strikes," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.
October 3, 2013 6:51 pm
Blanket mortgage. Single mortgage that covers more than one real property, i.e. – a house plus the vacant lot next door.
October 3, 2013 6:51 pm
A: Your real estate agent has information on lender loan requirements and will be able to calculate a rough monthly figure you can afford based on the maximum monthly payment for the loan, taxes, insurance, and any type of maintenance fees. This pre-purchase evaluation by the agent can save you a lot of time spent looking at properties you cannot afford.
Lenders also routinely calculate what you can afford and can pre-qualify you for a loan even before you begin your home search. This way, you know exactly how much you can afford to buy.
Lenders generally stipulate that you spend no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment or 36 percent on total debts.
Ultimately, the price you can afford to pay for a home will also depend on other factors besides your gross income and outstanding debts. They include the amount of cash you have available for the down payment, your credit history, current interest rates, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender, and the type of mortgage you select.