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
September 30, 2013 6:42 pm
No matter how careful we are with money, everyone has holes in the budget: small indulgences or careless mistakes that end up costing big dollars. The finance experts at Kiplinger’s point out six common money-wasters it makes good sense to avoid:
Carrying a balance – This can cost hundreds of dollars each year in interest – and also costs you down the line in the form of lower credit scores that trigger higher interest rates on loans. If you can’t pay off balances each month, at least keep your balance to less than 25 percent of available credit.
Paying late fees on missed deadlines – It’s easy to miss a payment occasionally. But if you miss a credit card payment by even one day, you will pay a late fee of $25 ($35 if it's the second time in six months) – and your credit score could also take a hit. A history of on-time payments accounts for 35 percent of your FICO credit score -- more than any other factor. If you have a good payment record, you should call your card issuer and ask that a one-time late fee be waived.
Buying insurance you don’t need – Unless you have people financially dependent on you, you may not need as much life insurance as you are paying for. You can also probably do without credit-card insurance (use the premium to pay down debt), rental-car insurance (most auto policies carry some coverage) and mortgage life insurance (a regular term-life insurance policy is more comprehensive).
Overspending on gas and oil – Most cars do fine on regular gas. Be sure tires are properly inflated for best gas mileage – and most cars today require oil changes every five or six thousand miles, not every 3,000 as they once did. Check your owner’s manual regarding regular maintenance – and opt for a fuel-efficient car.
Keeping unhealthy habits – The average price per pack of cigarettes in the U.S. is $6.03, but health-related costs per pack are $35, according to the American Cancer Society. Over a year, those added costs can amount to $12,775 for a pack-a-day smoker. Another habit to quit: indoor tanning. There is a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services – and as with cigarettes, the true cost of tanning -- one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation -- is higher than the price you pay per session.
September 30, 2013 6:42 pm
(BPT) - Colder weather's arrival means homeowners across the country brace themselves for the battle against bold, foraging deer. But with recent reports that Lyme disease - transmitted by ticks that live on deer - is even more prevalent than health officials once thought, keeping deer away from your backyard is not just a cosmetic or financial issue any more. Your success at deterring deer could directly affect your family's health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated about 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each year. Only about 30,000 of those actually get reported to the CDC. Many more likely go undiagnosed since Lyme symptoms can mimic other ailments and even disappear altogether for a time. Lyme disease is now the most common tick-borne illness, according to the CDC, and its health consequences can be severe.
Lyme disease is named for the river-side Connecticut town where it first emerged in 1977. A number of children in the area began exhibiting arthritis-like symptoms, a hallmark of the disease. A bull's-eye target-shaped rash at the bite location may be the first indication that a person was bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease, but not everyone will see or develop the rash. Symptoms such as joint pain, headaches, neck stiffness and heartbeat irregularities may get mistaken for flu or other illnesses.
In the northeast, mid-Atlantic and north-central states, deer ticks carry the disease. On the Pacific Coast, blacklegged ticks (who also like traveling on deer) spread Lyme disease, the CDC says.-
Year-round, especially during fall and winter, you should check your own body, children and pets for ticks. Deer ticks are often so small you won't even feel their bite, so visual inspection is important. If you suspect you've been bitten, talk to your doctor right away.
The CDC says that reducing your exposure to ticks is the best defense against contracting Lyme disease. While you can't vaccinate your family against Lyme disease (the vaccine maker stopped production in 2002, citing lack of consumer demand), you can "vaccinate" your backyard against deer that carry Lyme-bearing ticks. Keeping deer away from your backyard can help reduce your chances of encountering ticks in your home environment.
Look for a proven effective, natural deterrent that has been independently tested, like Bobbex Deer Repellent. The topical foliar spray uses taste and smell aversion ingredients to deter deer, moose and elk from browsing and causing other damage to ornamental plantings, shrubs and trees.
As part of your deer and Lyme prevention efforts, keep these facts in mind:
- Prevention is easier than cure - in both cases. Even after treatment with antibiotics, 10 to 20 percent of Lyme patients have symptoms that last for months or even years, the CDC reports. Once deer move into your yard, they can be difficult to evict, and they can cause hundreds of dollars in damage. It's easier to keep deer away - and avoid Lyme altogether - than to rectify the problems created by deer and the ticks they carry.
- A single whitetail deer can consume 8 to 12 pounds of foliage a day.
- Home remedies rarely work for keeping deer away, and trying to treat Lyme on your own can have severe health consequences. Untreated Lyme disease can cause arthritis, severe joint pain and swelling, and even chronic neurological problems such as numbness, tingling in the hands or feet and short-term memory problems, the CDC says.
- Even though many plants, bushes and trees will lose their leaves during fall and winter, it's important to continue applying deer repellents year-round. Remember, deer forage aggressively when food becomes scarce. Fall and winter are the times when they're most likely to enter your yard - bringing their disease-carrying cargo with them while ravaging your foliage, trees and shrubs.
September 30, 2013 6:42 pm
Multiple listing. Agreement that allows real estate brokers to distribute information on the properties they have listed for sale to other members of a local real estate organization. Allows the widest possible marketing of those properties. Commissions are split by mutual agreement between the listing broker and the selling broker.
September 30, 2013 6:42 pm
A: Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance.
In some areas, if you have a legal description of the property (name, address, tax map, and parcel number), you can call the zoning office or city hall, or even e-mail your request for information.
Some communities also have their zoning maps and ordinances online and in local libraries.
September 29, 2013 6:36 pm
With autumn approaching, I have begun rummaging around the basement for gear that will be required to take care of the annual pre-winter property cleanup. While poking around on the web later, a few new fall cleanup tools popped up that looked pretty interesting.
The right knife. Gardeners.com started off with something very simple, but apparently with high utility. They recommend anyone heading out for yardwork carry the Hori Hori Knife (available everywhere - around $25).
It can be used to cut back perennial foliage, plant bulbs, divide plants, cut open bags, pop dandelions out of the ground, set out transplants, cut twine, even pry the lid off a paint can. The sharp, serrated steel blade easily divides plants, severs weed roots and cuts through twine and packaging.
It's sharp enough to cut back perennials during fall cleanup, according to its makers. Just grab the tops in one hand and slice off the dying foliage near the ground with the knife.
WORX Electric Leaf Shredder. If you're raking up mountains of fall foliage, you can reduce them to a manageable size with an electric leaf shredder, and do good things for your landscape and the planet. Instead of bagging the leaves and having them hauled away, shred them and use them! This shredder can reduce 11 bags of leaves into just one. (available everywhere - around $125)
GreenWorks Electric Chipper. For heavier chopping jobs, the electric chipper fills the bill. The Electric Chipper chops twigs and branches up to 1-3/8" in diameter. It's quieter and cleaner than gas-powered chippers, but effectively turns hedge trimmings, storm and pruning debris into landscape mulch. Just plug it in, put on your safety glasses, press start and you're ready to go. (available at dozens of DIY and gardening sites and stores - around $150).
The WORX JawSaw. This electric chainsaw is concealed within the jaw-like housing, allowing an operator to safely and easily cut branches up to 4" thick. Between cuts, the blade retracts back into the housing. Steel teeth hold branches in place while cutting. Cut fallen branches where they lay, without lifting.
September 29, 2013 6:36 pm
BPT—As the months pass and the end of the calendar year approaches, it's time to update your do-it-yourself list. Several home winterization projects will help keep your home in good repair come spring.
While some projects should be left for the experts - like cleaning out the chimney - there are several most homeowners can accomplish themselves. These projects are easy to tackle, and the end result will make a huge difference to your home all winter long and into the spring months.
Flushing gutters - Leaves and small tree branches often fall onto the roof of your home during the summer months, and then wash into the gutters when it rains. Sometimes they'll flush out, but other times this debris can build up, and prevent the water from draining down the gutter pipe. In winter, this water can back up and freeze, causing an ice dam, which can then damage the roof shingles, and cause leaks into the home and garage when it rains. Be sure to flush the gutters clean, and if you've noticed icicles in certain areas in the past, consider installing a heating cable to help keep the water melted and moving down the gutter and into the yard.
Sealing concrete cracks - When water gets into cracks in your sidewalk or driveway and freezes, it can expand, creating a much larger crack come spring. Over time, large cracks will eventually turn into damaged concrete, requiring complete replacement. Tiny cracks that appear shortly after the concrete is poured are not a problem, but those that appear over time and continue to grow are good candidates for repair. There are a variety of patching materials from Sakrete that can be used to repair cracks. Small narrow cracks can be filled with latex, polyurethane or other products typically found in caulk type tubes or plastic squeeze bottles. They have the advantage of not requiring mixing and being applied directly into the crack.-Sakrete Top n Bond is a much more versatile product that can be used to repair any cracks ranging anywhere from extremely fine to several inches across. In addition, Top n Bond is a portland cement-based product just like the concrete slab. This allows for a better blending of the both the existing slab and the repair material. Should the need or desire to completely resurface the slab arise in the future, the Top n Bond will easily bond to the surface for a "like new" surface.
Repairing potholes - Any missed cracks in past years with asphalt driveways probably have become potholes by now thanks to the freezing and thawing of water during the winter month. But you don't need to replace the entire driveway to take care of these problems. Sakrete U.S. Cold Patch is a strong patch product made from 95 percent recycled materials with no odor or mess. Just sweep the area in and around your pothole, pour in the patching mixture, and roll over the area with a car tire, allowing you to use the driveway immediately. Make certain the entire hole is completely filled and tamped down to prevent water from seeping into the patch. Because U.S. Cold Patch doesn't contain solvents and raw asphalt, there is no danger of tracking the material into the house or garage.
Extra insulation against heat loss - Colder temperatures affect pipes, doorways and windows. Protect pipes from freezing by wrapping any pipes exposed to the cold with pipe insulation. Also check your doors and windows for leaks or gaps. Find gaps by lighting a candle and holding the flame near the closed window and door seams. If the flame flickers, air is moving through the seam where there is a gap. Fill those gaps with caulk or weather stripping to form a better barrier against the cold.
These home DIY projects don't take a lot of time to accomplish, and will benefit your home and property during the winter months and as spring arrives. Be sure to put them on your home winterization to-do list each fall, so you can enjoy the winter in comfort.
September 29, 2013 6:36 pm
Tax basis. The price paid for a property plus certain costs and expenses, such as closing costs, legal counsel, and a commission paid to help find the property.
September 29, 2013 6:36 pm
A: Talk with your lender immediately. The lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan or the temporary reduction or suspension of your payment, particularly if your income has dropped substantially or expenses have shot up beyond your control. You also may be able to refinance the debt or extend the term of your mortgage loan. In almost every case, you will likely be able to work out some kind of deal that will avert foreclosure.
If you have mortgage insurance, the insurer may also be interested in helping you. The company can temporarily pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet and are able to repay their “loan.”
If your money problems are long term, the lender may suggest that you sell the property, which will allow you to avoid foreclosure and protect your credit record.
As a last resort, you could consider a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. This is where you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender. While this will not save your house, it is not as damaging to your credit rating as a foreclosure. Exhaust all other viable options before making a decision.
September 27, 2013 2:12 pm
Absent-minded mistakes in the kitchen cause many cuts, burns, and other injuries. The October 2013 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, identifies the kitchen products that cause the most harm and simple ways to avoid them.
"It's easy to make a mistake in the kitchen when you're in a rush or in a post-workday haze," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "But there are simple things you can do to avoid landing in the hospital."
ShopSmart ranked the kitchen products that send the most people to the emergency room. In descending order, they are: knives, ranges, cookware, slicers and choppers, microwaves and blenders. Below are some simple ways to avoid getting hurt when using these products and appliances. Importantly: Always keep a fire extinguisher with a minimum 5-B:C rating on hand.
Knives. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones, so keep knives sharpened and stored in a block. Use a cutting board that doesn't have a slippery surface, and place a damp towel under it to keep it from moving.
Ovens/ranges. Install an anti-tip bracket to secure the unit in place. Never place heavy roasts and other food on an open oven door.
Cookware. Always use oven mitts to pick up hot pots and pans. If a grease fire starts, smother the flames with a cookie sheet or lid for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the fire is out.
Slicers and choppers. Don't leave motorized models on for a long time; they can overheat. Never reach into a slicer or chopper. Because many parts, including blades, are dishwasher safe, don't handwash them.
Microwave ovens. Be careful when removing a wrapper or cover from microwaved food; steam can escape and cause a nasty burn. Let food cool a minute or two before removing it from the microwave. Boil water on the stove; water heated in a microwave can become super-heated and erupt violently without warning.
Blenders. Most blenders don't have safety interlocks, so don't reach inside, especially if it is plugged in. To clean blades without touching them, add hot water and a bit of dishwashing liquid to the blender container and let it run on high for a minute, then rinse. If the blender has a container that disassembles, wash the parts in the dishwasher, as the rubber gasket can harbor bacteria.
September 27, 2013 2:12 pm
If you're in the market for a new home, make sure you carefully examine the houses you visit to see which building products installed in the home can help save on your long-term energy bills. Choosing a home constructed with energy efficient and easy maintenance products can help keep the "green" in your home ... and in your wallet.
"Look beyond the number of bedrooms and bathrooms when visiting homes for sale," says Mark Clement, co-host of MyFixitUpLife home improvement talk show. "Homebuyers should walk in with a checklist that includes seeking out ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances, windows and HVAC systems. They should also be looking for a roof with an exceptional warranty, an energy-efficient fiberglass entry door, and preferably an insulated precast concrete basement. Low-maintenance exterior siding, trim shutters and other details also play into the equation."
Clement, a professional contractor with 20+ years of experience, believes homebuyers can save long-term funds by making smart purchasing decisions in the beginning. "You don't buy a house for today, but a home for tomorrow," says Clement. "You want it to last without having to replace half of the home while you live there."
From his experience, Clement offers consumers this "take along checklist" for evaluating homes "from the bottom up" when visiting houses for sale:
- Basement - Look for a damp-free basement. A fantastic situation is a foundation constructed with precast concrete wall panels rather than poured or block concrete. As opposed to concrete blocks or poured concrete, precast concrete panels provide a dry, comfortable, damp-resistant foundation for a home. The energy-efficient walls help lower energy costs and reduce energy leakage while providing increased living space in a comfortable setting.
- HVAC System - Ask about ENERGY STAR and efficiency ratings on the furnace, air conditioning unit, boilers and heat pumps in any home you look at. Ideally you want products that have the "ENERGY STAR Most Efficient" designation. This special classification recognizes the most efficient products in these categories, which can help you save on energy bills.
A second inspection by an HVAC professional may also pay for itself in a few months of utility bills. HVAC systems are often over or undersized. Ductwork that's too small takes a trained eye to spot. In other words, even if a furnace's rating is 98 percent efficient, if the ducts it runs into are too small the unit will never run at peak efficiency --- and you'll pay for it in your utility bills.
- Entry door - As you look at the home's main entry door, determine what the door is made of. A solid fiberglass door is up to four times more energy efficient than a solid wood door, plus you get the benefits that fiberglass has to offer, including resistance to rot, rust, dings and weather.
Touch the door and check for drafts around the perimeter. If the door feels hot or cold, there may not be enough adequate insulation in its construction. And, look carefully at the weatherstripping to make sure it has not worn out, which can cause air leakage. Also look for bubbling or faded paint at the edges, rust or other signs of wear. If a door needs to be replaced, consider the fiberglass entry doors in the Therma-Tru® Classic-Craft® line. They can come with woodgrain for staining or a smooth surface that can be painted to accent any home design.
- Siding - Look carefully at all sides of the home exterior to see if there is any rotting, warpage, loose or missing pieces or signs of termite damage on the siding. A properly installed cladding should provide years of low-maintenance, comfort and quiet service. Fiber cement, stucco and brick home exteriors are a few options that are traditionally easy to maintain while providing a long-lasting, dependable exterior.
- Windows - Determine when the windows were last replaced in the home and what type of framing material is used. One way to tell their age is to operate them. They should open, close and lock smoothly. Ideally, you're looking for vinyl-framed windows which are extremely easy to maintain. Vinyl is an excellent insulator, and some of the best windows have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction for increased energy efficiency.
Many manufacturers offer ENERGY STAR qualified glass packages with Argon or Krypton gas fill. These harmless gasses help prevent the penetration of ultraviolet rays into the home and help keep a home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, resulting in lower energy bills for the homeowner.
- Trim - Examine the trimwork, porch railings, shutters, louvers and other exterior decorative features on the home. If these are poorly installed or made with substandard products, you may find signs of rotting, insect infestation or the need for repainting or repair. Seek out urethane trim products that are resistant to weather conditions, humidity, rotting and insects. These decorative products offer years of beauty without the hassles of ongoing maintenance.
- Roof - Look up at the roof and search for curling, broken, missing or fading shingles. Ask about the age and material of the roof, and about the roof's warranty. Stay away from natural, untreated wood shake roofs that can be a fire hazard or those roofing materials that can be damaged by hail, insects or severe weather.
Look for a roof that has a strong warranty to assure you won't be replacing the roof often.