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
August 27, 2013 7:09 pm
With 1,300 new stepfamilies forming each day, there is a constant flow of families starting over in a brand new home. The interior decorators with Decor&You, one of America's leading, full-service interior decorating franchises, understand how difficult moving can be and share four key tips on how to handle one of life's toughest transitions.
"The process of starting a life over with a stepfamily in a new home can be both exciting and challenging," says Decor&You Founder and CEO Karen Powell. "Whether you are moving across the country or across town, the pressures of blending two families can be stressful on everyone. It's important to make sure every family member has a voice in choosing the new residence and creating an environment that everyone can call home."
Decor&You shares the following tips on how to create a smooth transition into a new home while taking your "blended family" into account:
1. Carefully consider the size and floor plan of the home you buy. While there is no single "right" home for a blended family, a house with as many bedrooms as bathrooms will allow the family the opportunity to learn how to live with each other without feeling too crowded. Allow the children to decide if they prefer to have their own bedroom or to share a bedroom with a sibling.
2. Turn a first-floor den into an extra bedroom. Turning the lower-level room into a bedroom allows teenage children or college students to feel independent and maintain their privacy.
3. Consider a renovated house with bedrooms at both ends. Buying a home with bedrooms on both ends and a common living space in the center allows blended families to maintain a degree of physical distance, while still meeting in the middle at mealtimes or for recreation.
4. Include everyone in the decorating process. Involving the entire family in decorating the new home makes starting over much easier and allows all members to feel included. Give a few options for different elements of shared spaces and let each family member share their opinion.
August 27, 2013 7:09 pm
Mortgage. Legal document that creates a lien on property; it secures the repayment of a loan.
August 27, 2013 7:09 pm
A: They can remain on your credit record for seven to 10 years. However, a borrower who has worked hard to reestablish good credit may be shown some leniency by the lender. And the circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy may also influence a lender's decision. For example, if you went bankrupt because you were laid off from your job, the lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, it is unlikely the lender will readily give you a break.
August 26, 2013 7:06 pm
If it’s been a while since you shopped for a new refrigerator, you may be surprised at how much they have changed – both in style and functionality. But a few key decisions can go a long way toward helping you choose the right refrigerator for your kitchen and your lifestyle.
Clerks at a well-known big box chain store offer six guidelines to making the right purchase:
Choose the size – Consider how much storage space you need. The average fridge for a family of four varies from about 18 to 25 cubic feet. If you entertain a lot, or tend to shop in quantity, larger is better. But also consider the outer size. Know the dimensions of the space in which the fridge must fit before you go shopping.
Choose the style – Top mount models, with the freezer on top, are the most common and least expensive, and customers may choose right-opening or left-opening doors. Bottom mounts, with the freezer at the bottom, often feature pull-out freezers. Side-by-sides, in which the fridge accounts for two-thirds of the size and the freezer one-third, are handy – but the narrow shelves make fitting some items more difficult. Today’s trendy French door models are much like bottom mounts, except that doors open from the center out. In most models, you can also choose from white, colors or stainless steel finishes.
Pick your features – Most models are available with standard, or add-on features such as adjustable shelves, ice makers, water and ice dispensers, soda can storage and more. Consider the features most useful for your family, but remember, too, that the more gadgets you choose, the more that can possibly break down.
Going green - Over the course of the past 20 years manufacturers have made tremendous gains in making home appliances more environmentally friendly and less costly to operate. Although typically more expensive to purchase, Energy Star appliances consume around 40 percent less energy than their counterparts and can save you up to $150 annually.
Consider brand and price – Most major brands are reliable, but comparison shopping is a must if price is important. Once you have determined the size and features you want, shop around, keeping in mind that dedicated appliance stores may offer more choices, while big box stores focus more on the budget-minded.
August 26, 2013 7:06 pm
(BPT) - Sometimes the vacation bug bites without much notice. If you find yourself craving a travel adventure in the near future, you might worry it will be too complicated or costly to plan without adequate time. But the truth is, sometimes last-minute trips offer the best opportunity to score big bargains, if you know where to find them.
There's no need to ignore your last-minute itch for travel. Try a few travel tips and planning strategies to ensure your trip is not only memorable and stress-free, but saves you cash, too.
1. Skip air travel and save at the pump
Last-minute plane tickets are costly, so for spontaneous trips, consider hitting the road instead. Pack up the car, RV or motorcycle and let the road be the gateway to your next great vacation. Download an app that tracks gas prices, like gasbuddy or Gas Guru -so you can always find the best price per gallon to cut down on fuel costs. Want better fuel economy? Improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure, says the U.S. Department of Energy.
2. Uncover hidden gem locations
Popular tourist towns with massive crowds will always cost more than those hidden gems visited by fewer folks. Get destination inspiration on websites like www.LiveLifeLocal.com.
3. Be flexible and ask for discounts
If you can be flexible with travel dates, you might be able to score a last-minute deal. Booking accommodations for weekdays rather than weekends will save you cash, and often there's more availability last-minute. If you know you want to travel in the near future, call hotels and campgrounds and see if they offer discount rates for open rooms/sites. Often rates are reduced 24 to 48 hours prior, but you need to ask. For hotels, a discounted room is better than a vacant room. For you, a fantastic deal awaits. Check out sites like Orbitz.com, Expedia.com or Booking.com.
4. Plan activities en route
Getting there is half the fun when you plan stops along the way. When you're short on time, go online to map your route and discover unique places to stop along the road to your final destination. For example, LiveLifeLocal lets you map your route and suggests nearby activities. To help organize and plan your stops along the way, you can add your preferred activities to a "collection" on your online vacation portfolio. It's a great way to quickly research and organize a last-minute vacation, plus it is free. Just add a title and save it for easy access, then share adventures on your favorite social media sites and make all your friends jealous.
5. Package and save
When it comes to saving money, package deals are a great way to ease a tight budget. Can you bundle activities together and purchase all your tickets for a deep discount? Does your hotel offer any freebie activities to local attractions along with a reservation? Always ask about possible discounts and packaged savings so you can get the best deals throughout your last-minute trip.
Give in to the wanderlust and take that last-minute trip with confidence. Whether you're hitting the road solo or bringing the whole family along, a few simple strategies will ensure a trip to remember without breaking the bank.
August 26, 2013 7:06 pm
(Family Features)--No one wants to believe a house fire could impact their family, but house fires occur more often than people think. According to the NFPA, home fires kill an average of seven people every day and caused $11.6 billion in property damage during 2010. One of the most important tools in keeping your family safe is a working fire alarm.
In a recent survey by Omnibus, more than 50 percent of people reported removing the batteries from their home’s smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm can make all the difference in whether a family has the critical time to escape a home fire.
On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire. That’s why it’s so important to keep a working smoke alarm on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area and to have an escape plan in place for your family.
Other essential home fire safety guidelines include:
- Test alarms once a month.
- Keep extra Energizer batteries on hand for fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Install a fire extinguisher in or near kitchen.
- Keep flashlights with fresh batteries at your bedside for help in finding the way out and signaling for help in the event of a fire.
- Develop and practice emergency escape plan.
- Participate in the “Change Your Clock Change Your Battery” campaign. Each year when you change your clocks for daylight saving time, change the batteries in your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
When you change your clocks for daylight-saving time, change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and remind your friends, family and neighbors to do the same.
August 26, 2013 7:06 pm
Tenants in common. Style of ownership in which two or more persons purchase a property jointly, but with no right of survivorship and separate undivided interests. They are free to will their share to anyone they choose, a principal difference between this form of ownership and joint tenancy.
August 23, 2013 6:33 pm
If you are headed into rough waters with your mortgage, or the storm has already hit, you might want to check out knowyouroptions.com, a site operated by Fannie Mae.
According to the website, even if you haven’t missed a mortgage payment, but are worried you might fall behind soon, now is the time to take action. Homeowners in this position may be eligible to refinance or modify your mortgage loan, lowering your payment and making it more affordable.
Or, if you’ve missed payments and find yourself buried under late fees and past-due amounts, the site says you may qualify for a temporary (or permanent) solution to help you get your finances back on track and avoid foreclosure.
If you are preparing to qualify for assistance, just keep in mind this information from a recent Fannie Mae survey.
During the application and modification evaluation process one in three delinquent borrowers have difficulty providing income documentation (like paycheck stubs). Often, it’s because some of their income comes from non-traditional sources, such as from tips, side jobs, or subletting.
In fact, while the majority of borrowers surveyed by Fannie Mae believed they had provided all necessary documents required as part of their modification application, in reality, only 6 percent met the existing requirements for a completed package, he says.
Starting July 1, mortgage companies can offer eligible borrowers a more affordable payment without requiring them to provide income documentation using Fannie Mae’s Streamlined Modification product.
With a Streamlined Modification, more borrowers will benefit from a simple, straightforward process to modify their existing loans, he notes.
The Federal Housing Finance Administration says to be eligible, the loan must be owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Homeowners must be 90 days to 24 months delinquent, and have a first-lien mortgage that is at least 12 months old with a loan-to-value ratio equal to or greater than 80 percent.
Loans that have been modified at least two times previously are not eligible. Click on these links to see if your loan is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
The Streamlined Modification program will expire December 31, 2015.
August 23, 2013 6:33 pm
(Family Features)—Whether it's energy-efficient appliances or the best materials for sustainable countertops—use this guide to help create the eco-friendly kitchen you've always wanted.
Dreaming of a fresh, modern kitchen that is also eco-friendly and strikingly beautiful? Achieving this transformation is more attainable than you may think. Environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo provides these helpful tips on how to add earth-friendly updates to your kitchen:
When searching for a new refrigerator, be sure to look for more than just the Energy Star label to ensure maximum energy efficiency. It is also important the new appliance fits your needs and the size of your kitchen. A larger refrigerator uses more energy. If the one you select is too big for your needs, you will be wasting energy and money.
Blocked wood countertops
With their rugged durability and timeless style, butcher block countertops are making a huge comeback. Though typically made from cherry, walnut and oak, greener options like high pressure laminate can contribute to US Green Building Council LEED accreditation as an eco-friendly material to use in your home.
For a more sustainable approach to kitchen flooring, there are several options available. If you love the hard, classic appeal of wood, look for reclaimed, recycled or sustainably sourced materials. Bamboo is also a beloved choice among eco-conscious remodelers for its biodegradable nature and high renewability.
"Going green at home can be overwhelming, so I always advise people to not sweat the small stuff and focus on the one room of the house where it matters the most: the kitchen," says Seo. "Being kind to the planet in the kitchen can also be kind on your wallet over time, so it's worth it to invest in sustainable upgrades."
Recycled materials are the star of the show when looking to add green touches to your backsplash. There are three main types of recycled materials: ceramic, metal and glass. Old bottles and windows make up the materials in glass tile; old plates and clay vases are recycled to become ceramic tile; and those old soda cans become aluminum metal tile. All of these materials come in a variety of shades and styles to fit the look of your dream kitchen.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, using an Energy Star labeled dishwasher is the most efficient use of energy and water, even more so than hand washing. When looking to update your dishwasher, pay close attention to the EnergyGuide labels, which include the annual estimated costs to run them. This valuable information can help you compare models to find the best fit for your family's needs.
A dream kitchen that is both eco-friendly and chic is easier to attain than you think. With a few changes not only will you be smiling, but so too will Mother Earth.
August 23, 2013 6:33 pm
The anticipation of having a baby is an exciting moment, but also a time that many people become apprehensive about their family's finances. Creating a financial safety nest will help protect you and your growing newborn.
Below are six ways to help give you peace of mind for your family's financial future:
- Pay down debt: Before you start a family, pay down debt early to make sure you are ready to address any major financial costs in the future.It will be easier to attend to the many needs of your family knowing that you are on track to a financially secure future.
- Consider long-term goals: Prioritize and prepare for long-term expenses. Ask yourself how many children you plan to have, what type of school will your child attend -- consider private school tuition costs, and what type of car you should buy.
- Inquire about maternity/paternity leave: Find out your employer's policy on paternal leave, and how much paid and unpaid time you're given. Create a budget for any lost income and save early.
- Choose a family health insurance plan: Review policies and benefits to understand which options best accommodates the needs of your family both in coverage and affordability.
- Life insurance protection: Consider purchasing life insurance for your child -- premiums may be lower depending on the child's age when you purchase their policy. Getting coverage for children at an early age may ensure that they have coverage in the future.
- Estate planning: Include an updated will, healthcare proxy, and durable power of attorney. Talk with a financial planner and attorney to help guide you through the best options for your family.