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 21, 2013 6:24 pm
Variance. A permit granted as an exception to a zoning ordinance that allows a property owner to meet certain specified needs.
August 21, 2013 6:24 pm
A: Don’t jump too quickly to discard reusable fixtures. If your tub is in relatively good shape, consider having it re-glazed instead of replaced, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. As for the walls around the tub, cultured marble sheets are cheaper to install than marble tiles and also easier to clean. Fiberglass is also less expensive than tile. If space is extremely limited and you cannot “steal” it from other areas of your home, purchase a jetted tub and shower combination or install a pedestal lavatory instead of a vanity cabinet with a sink. Remember, installing a large jetted tub can overtax your water heater, so consider adding a water heater that is dedicated to the tub to prevent problems later.
August 20, 2013 6:18 pm
Before it gets too cold and wintery, or if you live in a region primarily blessed with sun and fair weather year round, I suggest you can let even more of that sunshine in, and benefit from more passive solar heating, by adding a skylight or two to your home.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy says recent developments in skylight design use innovative elements like sun-tracking, open-sided cylinders; large lens-like elements; or mirrored reflectors mounted adjacent to a conventional skylight to provide daylighting without daytime heat gain or nighttime heat loss.
Such a skylight may connect to a mirrored pipe or "light pipe" with a diffusing lens that mounts on or is recessed into the ceiling of the room below. Most tubular skylights have this feature, although these designs do not provide views or ventilation.
Ventilating skylights usually open outward at the bottom, and some units vent through a small, hinged panel. Skylights may be opened manually with a pole, chain, or crank, and automated units with electric motors or pneumatic devices are also available.
Some models incorporate moisture sensors to automatically close the skylight when it rains. Larger skylights that can be used as emergency exits are sometimes called "roof windows" and are located within a few feet of the floor.
Skylights are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Non-rectangular units usually use plastic glazing, but higher quality ones use glazing that can be flat, arched, domed, pyramidal, or "warped plane" -- flat on the low side and concave in section on the high side.
These pyramidal, arched, and domed shaped skylight designs also do not require the additional framing needed to slope a flat skylight for proper drainage on flat or low-slope roofs.
Tubular skylights are smaller than most other skylights. They consist of roof-mounted light or solar collectors, which increase their daylighting potential without the need to increase their size.
Ultimately, the agency says the most energy-efficient skylight must be properly installed to ensure it achieves its energy performance, so it's best to have a professional install your skylight.
In the next segment, we'll dig into more of the issues you need to consider before your skylight project can begin.
August 20, 2013 6:18 pm
As kids and their parents get back into the swing of school, it's important to keep traffic safety in mind.
Drivers should remember that as the new school year begins, kids will be walking, crossing streets and maybe even horsing around a bit on their way to school. Parents should also talk to their kids about getting to and from school safely.
Here are 10 tips for adults and children on back-to-school traffic safety:
- Don't text while driving. Don't talk on your phone or send text messages while you're driving. Apart from the safety concerns, it's important to practice what you preach -- don't text and drive.
- Watch out for hot spots. Keep an eye out for those child "hot spots" like marked school zones, as well as areas near bus stops and bike lanes.
- Yield to school buses. Don't try to overtake the bus (like one impatient driver in Ohio who was sentenced by a court to wear an "Idiot" sign around her neck) -- it's a moving violation (and rude, too). If a bus has a flashing, alternating red light, you are legally required to stop and wait for the light to turn off.
- Expect the unexpected. Children can dart out unexpectedly. Follow the speed limit, yield to crossing guards and be vigilant.
- Budget extra travel time. School areas are congested, so allow for more time to get where you're going. The extra time will help you avoid bouts of road rage and avoid accidents.
- Exercise crosswalk safety. Tell your kids to cross streets only at crosswalks or stoplights and to always looks both ways before crossing.
- Use the buddy system. Make sure you have the contact information of your child's walking buddy and know their walking route. If the children are under 10, an adult chaperone may be necessary.
- Avoid danger zones. Tell your children to avoid walking or riding bikes behind school buses and other dangerous blind spots.
- Practice school bus safety. Train your kids to be very careful when exiting the bus. School bus fatalities can occur when kids run out in front of the bus or get struck by passing cars.
- Wear bike safety equipment. Children who bike to school should wear helmets, light-colored clothing and reflective devices.
August 20, 2013 6:18 pm
As children head back to school, parents will be filling out forms with personal information and sending their kids off with information in their school bags. Children make a tempting target for identity thieves as theft of a child's identity may go undetected for years—with possible serious consequences—including damaged credit.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 19,000 cases of child identity theft were reported in 2011, up from about 6,000 in 2003.
To help safeguard your child's identity, TransUnion recommends the following to parents:
- Be mindful of the personal information that your child is carrying. Make sure their information is kept in a safe spot and not just tossed in the bottom of a school bag. Help your child memorize their personal information.
- Remind your child that they should never give out their personal information, especially to a stranger, and it should only be given to a teacher or other person they trust and know.
- Consider hand-delivering directly to the school any forms with personal information or medical records instead of sending them with your child.
Possible warning signs of child identity theft include:
- The child begins to receive suspicious mail, like pre-approved credit cards and other financial offers normally sent to adults, in their name.
- The parent tries to open a financial account for the child, but finds one already exists or learns the application is denied because of a poor credit history. A credit report already exists in their name. If the child has one, they may have been targeted already, since typically, an application for credit, a credit account, or a public record starts the compilation of a consumer credit file.
August 20, 2013 6:18 pm
Rent control. Government-imposed restrictions on the amount of rent a property owner can charge.
August 20, 2013 6:18 pm
A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Remember your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.
The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses” – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.
August 20, 2013 12:12 am
Identity theft begins when someone’s personal information gets stolen or lost and is used by identity thieves for a variety of fraudulent purposes. Anyone who has ever been a victim can attest to how difficult and time-consuming it can be to straighten out your credit standing, tax status and/or bank accounts.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers four tips to help protect yourself from becoming a victim:
- The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media tools to request personal or financial information – nor does it send emails stating you are being electronically audited or that you are due for a refund. If you receive such an email claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to the IRS at email@example.com
- Identity thieves access personal information by different means, such as stealing your wallet or purse, posing as someone who needs information about you, looking through your trash, or accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site. Be alert to pickpockets and scams, shred any correspondence containing personal data, and provide account information only via secured websites.
- If your Social Security Number (SSN) is stolen, anyone can use it for a variety of fraudulent purposes. You must provide your SSN to your employer when you are hired, but stow it in a secure place after that. Do not routinely carry in your wallet.
- If you believe you may be at risk of identity theft due to a stolen wallet or questionable bank or credit card account activity, you should alert the IRS. You will need to provide proof of your identity via some government-issued document such as an SSN, driver’s license or passport, along with a copy of any police report you filed and/or a completed IRS Form 14039 affadavit. For more information, call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-908-4490.
August 20, 2013 12:12 am
It's not unusual for parents to begin talking to their kids about college early on. Tutors help keep them on track at school, and after school activities, sports and hobbies are often encouraged not only to keep kids busy, but to keep them well-rounded and build up their future college applications.
While you make sure your child is well prepped for college, you should also be preparing your finances early on.
“Can you afford the college that will give them the best chance in life? Will paying for their education force you to have to work well into your golden years? These are the questions I ask parents every day,” says John McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions, CollegeFundingFreedom.com.
“Many parents really don’t know how to begin answering these questions; they are afraid of walking into a financial situation that they won’t be able to safely walk out of. But the alternative – saddling their children with debt well into their 30s and 40s – is not an appealing alternative.”
McDonough reviews four disturbing trends in the challenge of paying for a college education:
• The net worth of today’s 30-somethings: Adults in their 30s have 21 percent less net worth than 30-somethings 30 years ago, according to a new Urban Institute report. Why? Much of it has to do with high-interest student loans and credit card debt. The return on investment of a college education is excellent—college grads earn 84 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. But paying off that investment without outside help is exceedingly burdensome for a graduate.
• Student loan debt is even greater than credit card debt: That’s right—topping all Americans who have made poor decisions with their credit cards are ambitious high school graduates, whose collective student load debt shoots past $1 trillion! More important than this being a crucial social epidemic, it’s potentially a very real problem for your child. President Obama scored some political points in identifying with most Americans when he said his student load debt was paid off only after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Two-thirds of students leave college with some form of debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.
• Fluctuating interest rates: Recent controversy over federal Stafford loans interest rates adds to the insecurity of borrowing as a college financing strategy. Given the unpredictability of Congress, which allowed the U.S, credit rating to drop while standing on political principles, one can’t reliably predict whether interest rates will rise or fall.
• Your children cannot refinance their loans: While a borrower who has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in gambling debt can refinance their payments, student loans remain at fixed rates. In collecting money on student loans, there is no statute of limitation, and today it’s very common – the norm, actually – for student loan holders to take nearly two decades to pay off their debt. With the annual average cost of public universities exceeding $22,000 per year, and the same often surpassing $50,000 at private universities, it’s no surprise.
August 20, 2013 12:12 am
(BPT)—With kids across the country heading back to school, a common question at family dinner tables will be: "What did you learn today?"
Kids will be learning reading, writing and arithmetic as they head back to school, but what about lessons involving money? For most people, our relationship with money is based on our childhood experiences, and many children look to their parents for these important lessons. Yet, according to a recent Capital One survey of parents and teens, less than half of teens have worked with their parents to develop a budget for spending and saving their money.
As students prepare for a new school year, it's a great time to start fresh with new resolutions around spending and saving. Talk to your kids about wants vs. needs, saving, budgeting, using credit wisely and other money management habits that can last a lifetime.
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Crunch numbers together and establish a budget. As your teen starts earning an income through a job or an allowance, ask him or her to pitch in and contribute toward purchases he or she might otherwise take for granted. Create a budget together totaling your teen's contributions and what you can afford to contribute, and then stick to it when you head out to the stores.
- Only shop for what's needed. Sit down together to make a list of what essentials your teen already has, what is needed and how much is budgeted for this shopping trip. This comes in handy for back-to-school shopping as well as the holiday shopping season.
- Do your homework. This is a good way to show your teen that homework extends beyond the classroom and well into adult life. Researching the items on the shopping list before leaving the house allows your teen to comparison shop, looking at prices and the quality of the items. For teens on-the-go, there are also a great deal of apps available that can easily compare pricing of items. And not surprisingly, you might discover your teen has different priorities than you when it comes to deciding which items to purchase. Only 22 percent of teens surveyed considered the price of an item to be the top priority, whereas 46 percent said style and appearance were more important. Run a calculation of how much money could be saved between the lower-priced items and the items on the "want list."
- Set financial goals. Remind your teen to look beyond high school and discuss what items he or she would like to own in the future. It might be an electronic product, a car, paying for a future vacation, or helping to pay for college. The survey found that 83 percent of teens plan to attend college after high school, but 51 percent of those teens were not saving money to help pay for it. Help your teen set up a plan for how they will spend and save the money they earn or receive as gifts.
- Lead by example. Encourage good financial behavior by teaching your teen how to write checks, the use of credit cards and their associated fees and the importance of paying bills on time. Have them around the next time you pay your monthly bills, so they can see how much is spent on utilities, auto insurance and even food. This gives them a good picture for their future and how they might need to make financial decisions to cover essential expenses.
- Introduce investing basics. Open a custodial account and help your kids pick the stocks they like most. Contribute a portion of their allowance or agree to match your teen's contributions, and watch the account grow together. Set monthly meetings to review investments, make changes and pick new stocks to purchase. Beginning the stock discussion early will empower your teen with the comfort and knowledge they'll need when they are an adult.
By taking time to discuss spending, saving, budgeting and investing, you can help your teens save money now and point them in the right direction for a successful financial future.