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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
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Tom's Blog

Word of the Day

August 20, 2013 12:12 am

Settlement. The day on which title is conveyed.

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Q: What is Universal Design and How Does It Relate to Remodeling?

August 20, 2013 12:12 am

A: Universal design is an approach to design that focuses on making all products and environments as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, physical ability, or situation.  In recent years, the housing industry has recognized the importance of a "universal" approach to residential design that modifies standard building elements to improve a home's accessibility and usability.  This allows for more equitable, flexible and simple use.  Many books exist on the subject, including Residential Remodeling and Universal Design: Making Homes More Comfortable and Accessible, a resource guide offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HUD’s guide provides technical guidance on selecting and installing universal features during home remodeling or renovation. The modifications can range from expanding doorway dimensions to replacing kitchen appliances.  The guide emphasizes eliminating unintentional barriers and using designs and features that could benefit people with a broad range of needs.

 

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Trusting the Weakest Link: What Data Breaches Mean to You

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

(BPT)—You've seen it in the headlines. Hundreds of data breaches, often at large corporations, happen every year - and consumers suffer the consequences.

Data breaches have become a constant reality of a connected world. Although many people choose to ignore the problem, you can take steps to defend yourself.

What is a data breach?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a data breach "includes the loss of control, compromise, unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized acquisition, access for an unauthorized purpose or other unauthorized access, to data, whether physical or electronic."

In other words, a breach occurs when a corporation, organization or institution is intentionally hacked or robbed, or inadvertently exposes information through a clerical or technical error. Data breaches aren't always due to malicious attacks. Sometimes they're the result of a mistake, but the consequences are still grave.

When a data breach occurs, confidential information, such as your Social Security number, bank account details, credit card numbers, personal health information or even wireless phone and utilities accounts are released.

In 2011, there were 855 data breach incidents, according to "2012 Data Breach Investigations Report" from Verizon Enterprise. In the past, corporations like Sony and Citibank have had the misfortune of experiencing such a crime. The real misfortune, however, is the victimization of the consumer.

Why should you care?

The odds are you'll be part of a breach sooner or later. The Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report cites 174 million compromised records in 2011.

Unfortunately, it's completely out of your hands. Let's say you do everything right on your end: shred documents, use secure websites, etc. You're still only as safe as your weakest link.

That weak link could be anywhere your personal information resides - at your doctor's office, employer, bank, favorite restaurant or even the place you got your hair cut last week. You may be doing a lot right, but what about everyone else?

The worst part is that victims of data breaches often become victims of identity fraud. According to a study done by Javelin Strategy and Research, "Data shows that consumers who received breach notifications in 2012 had a substantially higher risk of identity fraud - over 4 times higher - than those who didn't receive these notifications."

In addition, the Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report also shows that only eight percent of victims discover their own breaches. So 92 percent learn about it from a third party, but that can take weeks or months. The longer your information is out there undetected, the higher your risk for fraud.

If you do receive a letter, your information is out there for good. Even if you don't experience fraud immediately, you could later - several months or even years later. That's why it's important to take privacy seriously.

What can you do?

While companies continue to boost security in order to respond to this threat, here are a couple of ways you can strengthen your defense against data breaches.

  • Do not provide your Social Security number unless it is absolutely necessary - simply ask if it's required.
  • Never use your name, a child's or pet's name in your passwords.
  • Create passwords with upper and lower case letters, non-sequential numbers and symbols. Change them at least quarterly.
  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts; this will minimize the damage in case your information is compromised.
  • Review your bank statements monthly and your credit reports annually. Even if you haven't received a notification letter, you could already be a breach victim.
  • Above all, it's important to stay cautious. Data breaches might be an inevitable consequence of a connected, wireless culture, but that doesn't mean you should become complacent.

Source: LifeLock.com

 

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Baby Monitor Hacked: 4 Simple Steps to Prevent It

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

Two parents in Texas learned the hard way that baby monitors can get hacked. They heard a creepy voice calling out to their sleeping 2-year-old daughter.

The hacker cursed and said explicit things to the child, and even called her by her name. He also took control of the camera and could see into her room, reports CBS News.

The Texas parents didn't call the cops, and the hacker hasn't been located. But for parents who use baby monitors, there are some simple steps you can take to try to keep creepers at bay. For example:

  • Set a wireless network password. If a password isn't set, anyone can join your wireless network. Cracking into webcams is similar to breaking into a website. If a password "is not set, or is weak, the website that is used to manage the device can be compromised," a security specialist told CBS News.
  • Use WPA2. Use Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) to set up a password. WPA2 has strong encryption standards, making it more difficult for hackers to compromise. A WPA2 in conjunction with a good password is golden.
  • Create a unique password. Think "QWERTY" is special? Well, it's not, and neither is "password" or "12345!" A strong password is long and contains numbers, upper-and-lower case letters, and $pec!@l ch@r@cter$.
  • Change your password. Even a strong unique password can be compromised. Another important precaution to take is to change your password every so often. Changing a password every 90 days is pretty standard.

Calm Down, Parents

Take this incident as a teachable moment on using passwords, but don't get paranoid. Baby monitor hijacking is a rarity and happens on a "slim-to-none" basis, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

If your child is one of the very, very few to fall victim to a monitor hack and be harmed by it, only then should you call the police or speak to an attorney.

But for the rest of you, know that millions of monitors have been sold, in addition to webcams used as makeshift monitors. Yet they haven't been making headlines because no serious hacking danger accompanies using them.

This incident will certainly give fodder to newbie parents who take worrying about their babes to unprecedented heights -- can you even imagine the shot nerves of a technophobic new parent?! -- but you must resist the urge to overreact.

Source: findlaw.com

 

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Seven Steps to a Last-Minute Vacation Bargain

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

The clock may be ticking toward Labor Day and Back-to-School, but it isn’t too late to find a last-minute vacation bargain.

Travel writers at USA Today suggest seven steps to finding a deeply discounted travel opportunity that may be too good to refuse:

  • Pack your bags – Rock bottom prices at beachfront hotels and resorts are often offered just before Labor Day. Get your bags packed so you can just add toiletries and medications when the right opportunity is found.
  • Plan ahead – If you are going to need pet or house sitters or have to arrange for time off, pick the week you want to go and plan ahead to secure them at short notice.
  • Decide what’s important – If you don’t have a particular destination in mind, you will have many more opportunities to choose from. However, if you do have a destination in mind, you will have more of a focus for your bargain hunt.
  • Set your budget – A week-long tropical cruise on three days' notice can give you impressive savings, until you factor in the cost of booking a flight 72 hours in advance. You may elect to focus on destinations you can drive to. In any case, once you have a budget established, make every effort to stick to it.
  • Build a community – There are plenty of bargain travel deals online. But another way to find cheap last-minute travel is with a package tour, and a cancellation can leave a travel agent scrambling to fill an empty slot. Call or visit a few and let them know what you're looking for.
  • Join a travel site –Search for one dedicated to your kind of travel, such as cruising or beach vacations. Being on an e-mail list may help you secure a last-minute deal.
  • Be open to the unexpected – If you're just looking to get away from it all, be open to what comes along. It may not be the destination you had in mind, but the more specific the travel deal you're looking for is, the harder it will be to come by. Perhaps four nights out of town at a posh bed and breakfast (for the cost of only two nights) isn't what you had in mind when you started bargain hunting. But your bag is packed, and it may be just the ticket you need!
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Word of the Day

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

Write-off. Depreciation or amortization an owner takes on a commercial property.

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Q: What are FHA and VA?

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

A: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is an agency within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Its main goal is to help provide housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income families. FHA has single-family and multi-family mortgage programs but does not generally provide mortgage funds.  Instead, it insures home loans made by private lenders.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees home loans made available to veterans, reservists and military personnel, without any down payment.  VA loans frequently offer lower interest rates than normally available with other kinds of loans, thereby making it easier for veterans to qualify for a home loan.

The maximum loan amount VA will insure varies by region. There is no restriction on the purchase price as long as the borrower has the cash to make up the difference between the loan amount and the purchase price.

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Colorful Autumn Additions

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

(Family Features)--A nip in the air and the changing color of leaves can only mean one thing --
fall is around the corner.

While dusting off your favorite sweaters and corduroys, don't forget to dress up your home
décor as well. Here are some tips from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores to bring the cozy charm
of autumn into your home:

Pull in nature. This season is all about celebrating nature's bounty, so bring that celebration
home. Pumpkins and gourds of every shape and color make inexpensive additions that
brighten any tabletop or mantle. Or, place as many of these beloved squashes as you can on
a bale of hay outside the front door for a display the whole neighborhood can enjoy.


Try transitional pieces. Situated right before the busy holiday season, some fall styles can be
eased into both decorating schemes. Rich, wine-colored berries and bittersweet arrangements
look wonderful for both fall and winter.

Add new color trends. According to color experts, fall 2013 will be a season filled with
vibrant purples, bright blues and dazzling greens. These colors blend perfectly with the
autumn décor you already own. Watch as plum hues pop when paired with the traditional fall
foliage of burnt orange, copper, gold and brown. Create your own glittering display with this
Colorful Candle Ring, which features lively, on-trend hues certain to make your fall more
glamorous.
 

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How to Handle Your Child's Tooth Trauma

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

As children head back to school, it is important to remember that dental emergencies can happen any time, any place. According to the 2013 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey, one out of 10 children ages 10 or 11 have had a tooth emergency such as a knocked-out tooth, chipped tooth or a loosened permanent tooth at home or at school.

"A knocked-out permanent tooth is a true dental emergency, and there's a good chance it can be saved if you know what to do and act quickly," says George A. Levicki, DDS, president & CEO, Delta Dental of Virginia.

The primary concern should be getting the child in to see a dentist. Time is critical if you want the dentist to be able to reinsert and salvage the natural tooth. Ideally, a child needs to be seen within 30 minutes of the accident.

Whether a tooth is knocked out at school or home, here are several steps to ensure it is saved -- or at least in optimal condition -- by the time the child can see the dentist.

Keep the child calm.

  • Check to make sure the child doesn't have a serious head, neck or other orofacial injury (i.e., a concussion, broken jaw, etc.).
  • Don't worry about replacing a displaced baby tooth. Trying to reinsert it could damage the permanent tooth coming in behind it.
  • Find the tooth and pick it up by the crown (the white part). Avoid touching the root.
  • If the tooth is dirty, wash it briefly (10 seconds) under cold running water and reposition it. Try to encourage the patient/parent to replant the tooth. Bite on a handkerchief to hold it in position.
  • If this is not possible, place the tooth in a suitable storage medium, e.g. a glass of milk or a special storage media for the displaced tooth if available (e.g. Hanks balanced storage medium or saline). The tooth can also be transported in the mouth, keeping it between the molars and the inside of the cheek. If the patient is very young, he/she could swallow the tooth -- therefore it is advisable to get the child to spit in a container and place the tooth in it. Avoid storage in water!
  • Seek emergency dental treatment immediately.
  • If you are a school nurse or your child frequently plays contact sports, purchase an emergency bag handy with a save-a-tooth kit in it (available at most drugstores.) These contain a solution that is better at preserving any live cells on the tooth root until the dentist can put the tooth back into the socket.

"If there is a head, jaw or neck injury, take the child to the emergency room immediately," Dr. Levicki says. "In most cases, tooth injuries are not life threatening. But they can have long-lasting effects on the child's appearance and self-confidence, so it is important to act quickly in the event of a dental emergency."

Source: Delta Dental of Virginia

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An Easy Way to Save Energy and Money

August 16, 2013 5:51 pm

(Family Features)--As the cost of energy continues to rise, homeowners everywhere are looking for ways to cut back on their usage and exercise energy efficiency in their homes. Lighting your house is no minor expense, with recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy showing that an average household dedicates 10 percent of its energy budget to lighting and spends approximately $1,900 per year in total on utility bills.

Remember you can make a difference and green your lifestyle with a simple step that will also save you money. Changing your traditional incandescent light bulbs or CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps often recognized by their spiral design) to LED light bulbs will save not only energy but also dollars off your electricity bill. The bulbs feature longer life spans than traditional light bulbs, while still emitting warm tones to make your home cozy with illuminating, comfortable light. And because LED bulbs consume far fewer watts to deliver the same level of brightness as traditional bulbs, they can save you money daily by reducing that light’s energy use by up to 85 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Making the switch to LED bulbs in your home is easier than you think. Quality LED lighting products such as the new line of bulbs from Samsung now available at retail stores, offer average life spans between 15,000 and 40,000 hours depending on the bulb. This can amount to an approximate average of 25 times longer than traditional bulbs.

Five Reasons to Switch to LED Lighting Now:

  1. Energy Savings: Samsung’s LED bulbs use 75 to 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, which means savings for your energy bill and extra cash in your pocket. In fact, Samsung’s new A19 lamp – a replacement for a traditional 40-watt screw-in light bulb – only uses about $1.20 in electricity over the course of an entire year.
  2. Convenience: Long-lasting life spans of 22 to 36 years means you will only have to change the bulbs a few times in your lifetime – this means you won’t be bothered to replace a dimming bulb for decades at a time.  
  3. Versatility: LEDs come in all different shapes and sizes to fit any room or fixture in your home. The bulbs create a warm, natural illuminating light that set a comfortable ambience of your choosing inside, and many can be controlled by a dimmer to cascade any amount of light within your rooms.
  4. Save Money: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing just 15 bulbs in your home with more energy efficient versions can save an average of $50 off your energy bill annually – or up to $1,800 on your energy bill over the course of your LED bulb’s lifetime.
  5. Instant Lighting: Instead of waiting seconds or minutes for your lights to reach full brightness, LED lamps light up immediately to full brightness to illuminate your space.

Source: www.samsung.com.

 

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