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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
Fax: 267-354-6800
email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Q: What Is a Variance?

June 20, 2013 4:39 am

A:  A variance is a request made to your local jurisdiction to deviate from current zoning requirements.  If granted, a variance will allow you to use your land in a way that is normally not permitted by the zoning ordinance because it waives a certain requirement of the zoning ordinance.  For example, it may allow the owner of an odd-shaped lot to reduce slightly the setback requirements in order to accommodate a building, or permit the building of a gazebo in the backyard.

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Q: Once I Choose a Contractor, What Items Should Be Covered in the Contract?

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

A: According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, a well-written contract should contain the following information:

  • The contractor’s name, address, telephone and license number, if applicable;
  • Details about what will and will not be done;
  • A detailed list of materials for the project, including model, brand name and color.
  • The approximate start date and substantial completion dates.
  • A written notice of your right to cancel a contract within three business days of signing, without penalty – provided the contract was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premise.
  • Financial terms that are spelled out clearly, including payment schedules and any cancellation penalties.
  • A one-year minimum warranty identified as either “full” or “limited” to cover materials and workmanship, as well as the name and address of the party who will honor the warranty.
  • A binding arbitration clause, in the event a disagreement occurs.

You may also want to include a statement that you will not be responsible if payment to the contractors’ subcontractors and suppliers are not made.  You may also want to establish that the contractor should obtain all the necessary permits and that all blank spots in the contract be filled in with phrases like “does not apply.”

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Tips to Keep Your Guests Entertained This Summer

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Family Features--When planning outdoor gatherings, don't let your guests lounge for too long. Get them up and interacting with a few fun games and activities provided by planning expert Katie Brown. Plan an assortment of activities designed to engage all ages with these tips:

  • A bubble refill station: Engaging activities are fun for kids -- they can blow big bubbles in the yard while the parents watch and mingle.
  • A cookie decorating station: Create a theme for the party and have guests colorfully decorate cookies to reflect the party theme.
  • Classic picnic games: What outdoor gathering is complete without a round of croquet, horseshoes or bocce ball? Consider a classic race game, such as the three-legged race, potato sack race or wheelbarrow race.
  • Photobooth fun: Hang a large vintage picture frame from the branch of a sturdy tree. Supply a bucket of props and disposable cameras so guests can create a memento that will last a lifetime.
  • Water balloon toss: Have guests take turns throwing water balloons in bowls set up at varying distances. The winner is the person who lands the most unbroken balloons in the bowls.
  • If you plan to give guests more than just the thrill of victory as a prize, aim for a fun summertime theme. Give out beach towels, pool toys, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, kites, coolers or beach bags. These also make great party favors.
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4 Things Parents Should Know before Paying for College

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

From $20,000 to $65,000 a year—that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.

“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions, www.studemontgroup.com. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”

Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:

• The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.

• Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.

• Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.

• Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application For Federal Student Aid; CSS profile – College Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.

John McDonough is the managing member at Studemont Group, which is primarily focused on helping retirees gain peace of mind with unique market rescue and recovery programs. He is also founder, president and CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions.

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2013 Summer Travel Trends and Tips

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Looking to book a last minute summer vacation? Here are some guidelines to help get the most out of your summer vacation:

There's still time to book
For those who don't start to think about summer travel until it's actually summertime, that's ok too. Stay informed for such deals by subscribing to travel alerts and newsletters.

Be flexible
If you don't have a timeframe for travel in mind, sometimes last-minute tickets can be a cheaper alternative to planning far in advance. Being flexible about flight dates and airports can also help with itinerary options, as well as reduced prices.

Beating the crowds
With many families on summer break and people utilizing their vacation time, summer crowds can be hard to avoid. The key to enjoying the popular attractions and getting to see the sights without never-ending lines is timing. Arriving early or visiting later in the day will be the least crowded times, and usually a bit cooler temperature, which can be more comfortable. Explore streets and towns around the major tourist attractions to still capture the essence of a destination's culture, history and cuisine, but without the grueling foot traffic. Or, if you have the time, take a train or airbus to explore nearby cities and countries.

Source: www.vayama.com.

 

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Word of the Day

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Marketable title.  Good and clear title that is free from reasonable doubt as to who the owner is.

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Q: Do Builders Provide Financing?

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

A: Many builders offer financing incentives to help move more buyers into a project. In fact, major building companies often have their own mortgage brokerage subsidiaries, while many

other builders routinely refer buyers to "preferred" local lenders. If it is a buyer's market in your area, you can be sure developers will offer incentives such as low-down-payment financing or interest rate subsidies.

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Lighten Up Your Home for Summer

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Summer: The kids are getting out of school, the temperature is starting to rise, and you're ready to finally throw open the windows. However, once you take a look around your newly re-opened home, you may find it's not as ready for summer as you are.

Heavy, insulating textiles and unaccountable clutter have probably invaded your rooms, and you need an efficient way to keep the inside temperature down. Your home is about as ready for summer as a snowball.

According to the National Soap and Detergent Association, removing clutter from a home will decrease the amount of time spent on housework by 40 percent. Start by sorting through the contents of closets and cupboards and donating those items that you no longer use. Clearing out closet space will allow you to find a new home for items that are congesting your living space, giving you more room to enjoy and utilize space for BBQs and summer visitors.

In addition to clearing away the clutter, storing dark and heavy textiles and bringing out lighter and brighter ones will also open up your home. Consider colorful, patterned bedding to cheer up your room, as well as printed pillows to brighten chairs and couches, further channeling the bloom of summer straight into your home. Your floors can join in on the makeover by swapping out thick or woolen rugs for ones made of cotton or sisal, which add an organic feel to your home.

One more plus to swapping out rugs is that lighter rugs will retain less heat in your home than heavy ones, which will help to keep your home cooler. Dealing with the ever-increasing summer temperatures in an energy efficient manner is certainly another part of your home's summer makeover. The most natural and energy saving way to keep your home cooler this summer is to improve your windows. According to dailyfinance.com, direct sunlight can raise a room's temperature by 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit, so improving your window coverings will help reduce heat gain in your home.

Budget Blinds offers the best energy saving solutions for reducing heat gain from your windows with these customizable options:

  • Drapery - Drapes installed around windows will not only add elegance and texture to a room, they can also reduce heat gain by as much as 33 percent.
  • Screens - Improving windows by adding retractable screens will help your family capitalize on the cooler times of the day and reduce AC use. Screens can also be added to porches to allow you to experience the warmth and sun of summer without fear of invading pests.
  • Window Film - Investing in window films, especially high-reflectivity films, will both protect your furniture from sun-bleaching and help reduce heat gain while still allowing you to keep your summer view. Window films are especially important for East and West facing windows which attract the most direct sunlight.
  • Solar Shades and Blinds - Solar Shades are designed specifically to help shield against the sun's heat and reduce glare inside your home. And, according to Energy.gov, horizontal or vertical slat-type blinds are particularly effective at reducing heat gain by as much as 45 percent.

These window solutions will work well with your preexisting window coverings and will create a comfortable environment within your home during the summer. Moreover, applying layers of window treatments, such as window film and drapes, will increase your windows' energy efficiency and help your home retain heat during the winter too.

After lightening up the interior of your home with new textiles, and improving the energy efficiency of your windows, the last stop on the road of any summer home makeover is the garage. Taking the time to invest in a garage organization system will pay off later this summer when you no longer have to wade through spider infested boxes to reach your belongings. Adding racks to the walls of your garage will utilize the room's vertical space, and just as with your closets, clearing out items that you no longer use will free up even more space!

Source: Budget Blinds

 

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Long Live Your Pet

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

(Family Features)--Pet parents do everything they can to ensure their dogs and cats are around as long as possible. Pets, much like humans, need a healthy diet and plenty of exercise to help them live a long and happy life.

Good nutrition is key. There are many factors involved when it comes to choosing a pet food for your dog or cat. Keep in mind if your pets aren't digesting the ingredients properly, nutrition is not being absorbed. Get maximum nutrition from every bite by purchasing a natural, high quality food with a digestive health support system. Ingredients to look for include:

  • Probiotics -- or good bacteria -- help keep your pet's immune system healthy. Find a brand of food that contains live probiotics that are added to the food after it has been cooked and cooled. This process assures maximum survival of the probiotics, so that your pet reaps the full benefits of their food.
  • Prebiotics stimulate the growth and maintenance of good bacteria, like probiotics, in your pet's digestive tract.
  • Fiber plays an important role in human digestive health, and it also plays an integral role in your pet's digestive health. Look for foods with fiber-rich ingredients, such as oatmeal, flaxseed, pumpkin and papaya to promote digestive regularity.
  • Digestive enzymes help your pet's body break down proteins, fiber and carbohydrates. This ensures your pet is getting the nutrients from their food, while reducing stress on their organs. This is especially crucial for aging pets.

Get pets moving every day. Dogs and cats used to have to work for a living. Many were bred to be mousers, hunters, herders or protectors. Most pets today have a much more sedentary lifestyle. They spend their days lying around, waiting for their human companions to come home and are rewarded for their patience with a big bowl of food. However, regular exercise supports healthy circulation of both nutrients and waste and is essential for a pet to have a happy and long life.

Experts recommend cat owners plan a daily play session. Toys that mimic the actions of their natural prey -- birds, mice or bugs -- should get them up and moving. Dogs need to be walked for 20 to 30 minutes each day, while larger breeds often need much more. At your next veterinarian visit, ask if your pooch is healthy enough for an exercise program and ask for recommendations based on breed.

Adequate exercise is an important step toward good health. It's also a great way to reduce such unwanted behaviors as chewing, digging, scratching or whining.

Source: www.HolisticSelect.com.

 

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Five Tips to Taken before Hitting the Road

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Family Features—Millions of Americans are expected to take a summer vacation this year. If you're one of those hitting the road to reach your final destination, here are a few reminders to help ensure you're road-trip-ready.

1. Check under the hood. 
Even if you properly care for your vehicle year round by keeping up with regularly scheduled maintenance, it is wise to check your vehicle's oil, coolant and wiper fluid levels before heading out on the road. Hot summer temperatures can cause your engine to overheat, so keep an eye on all of the warning lights on your dashboard -- from the engine light to the gas gauge.

2. Inspect your vehicle
. To help avoid any unfortunate surprises, do a thorough check of your vehicle, paying special attention to the only part that actually touches the road -- your tires. Be sure to properly check all four tires with a tire pressure gauge. The optimum tire pressure required for your car can be found on a sticker in the door jamb, on the inside of the glove compartment door or in the owner's manual.

"The proper inflation is essential for the performance and longevity of a tire," says Ron Margadonna of Michelin. "In fact, keeping your tire pressure at the recommended level can boost fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon."

3. Check the weather. 
Unexpected storms are common during the summer months and the first few minutes of a rain shower can be a dangerous time for drivers. Oil and grease trapped on roadways rises to the surface and can create slippery driving conditions that can impact the traction and grip of your car. In fact, stopping on a wet road can take up to four times the normal distance as a dry road. It's best to slow down and increase the space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

4.Prep friends, family and your home
. Remember to tell neighbors, friends and family that you'll be out of town. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on the house and have someone pick up your mail and newspaper. It's also a good idea to set up timers on lamps and lights in various rooms throughout your home so it looks occupied.

5. Review the route. 
No matter how well you plan your journey, you can never predict what obstacles you might encounter along the way. Road construction, traffic detours or bad weather can be troublesome if you don't have a backup plan. It's best to review your route and understand the alternate roads that can help you arrive at your destination safely, stress free and ready to enjoy your vacation.

Source: www.MichelinMan.com.

 

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