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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: Should I Hire a Home Inspector for a New Home?

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

A: You would think not since it is new and the developer has to adhere to local construction guidelines. However, err on the side of caution – always hire an inspector, whether the home is old or new.

You can ask the builder to provide copies of any inspection reports on the property, architectural plans, surveys and pertinent construction documents for your inspector to review.

The inspector should either be a professional home inspector, an engineer, an architect or a contractor. When hiring a professional inspector, look for one who belongs to a home inspection trade organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

This group has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members.  Membership in ASHI is not automatic. Proven field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems and appliances are required.  

As for rates, they vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs increase based on the scope of the inspection.

 

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5 Easy Ways to Build Savings

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

You’ve heard it before: a great way to save money is to have ten percent of every paycheck automatically deposited into savings. Maybe you do that, and maybe you don’t – and if you don’t do it yet, perhaps you will decide to start.

For the die-hard resisters, there are some other good ways to build up your scanty savings. From a panel of consumers in Brea, California, here are five ways to get you started:

Fill a jar with fives – Filling a piggy bank with loose change is nice, but it will never make you rich. Try this: Every time you get a $5 bill in change, stuff it into a jar – right out in the open, where you can see it every day. Chances are, you won’t miss the fives in your wallet, but you may be surprised at how quickly the jar fills up. When it’s full, put the contents into the highest interest savings account you can find – and start stuffing the jar again.

Start by saving for the short-term – Got your eye on a new iPad – or some other indulgence you know you can’t really afford? Start saving spare nickels, dimes and dollars with an eye toward that single purchase, Reward yourself when you reach goal, and now that you’re in the habit, keep saving and bank it for the long-term.

Save your coupon savings – If you’re at all frugal, you are probably clipping and using grocery coupons. Add up the amount you are saving on each week’s grocery bill – then put that amount into savings.

Cut your personal expenses – Can you make do with a cheaper cell phone plan? Brew your own morning coffee? Give up magazines you don’t need, or cable stations you don’t watch? Make a list of your monthly personal expenses. Pare it ruthlessly, and put your savings into the bank.

Watch out for bank charges – Banks these days are charging fees for ‘inactive’ accounts, not meeting a minimum balance, or ‘services’ you didn’t know or forgot about. Check monthly statements and be aware if your savings are being slowly siphoned off. If fees are eating into your balance, move the account elsewhere.

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4 Simple, Smart Ways to Save toward Summer Travel

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

(BPT) - Americans may still be cutting back in other areas, but when it comes to summer travel they're willing to start spending again. Economic uncertainty aside, 78 percent of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer, and one in four of them plan to spend more this year on summer travel, according to a recent survey released by TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation.

More than half (55 percent) of Americans will spend the same on summer vacation this year as last year, and 26 percent say they will spend more, according to the survey. Just 16 percent intend to spend less on travel in 2013.

Summer vacation is an important American tradition. Traveling together gives families, couples and friends the opportunity to relax, bond and experience new places.

"As valuable as summer vacation can be to our emotional well-being, it's important to ensure that the costs of traveling don't adversely affect our overall financial health," says Carrie Braxdale, managing director of investor services, TD Ameritrade, Inc. ("TD Ameritrade"). "Like managing any large expense, paying for vacation comes down to planning and saving."

Consider these four important points when you're thinking about how you will fund this year's summer vacation:

1. Early planning pays off - While occasionally you may be able to score a great travel deal at the last minute, it's more likely you'll find the best hotel, airfare and rental car rates by planning and booking in advance. Decisions such as your destination, lodging arrangements and transportation plans will all affect the ultimate cost of your vacation. By planning ahead and tallying costs before you incur them, you will be able to save toward your travel goals and reduce the chance of overspending, running up credit card debt or - even worse - diverting funds from long-term savings goals like retirement.

2. Build a vacation budget - Just as budgeting helps you stay on track with day-to-day and month-to-month spending, establishing a vacation budget can help you keep control of travel costs. Decide in advance how much you will spend on transportation, lodging, food and attractions before you make a single reservation. Once your vacation is under way, track expenses every day and stay on budget. This will help ensure you don't overspend on food, activities or souvenirs you didn't plan for.

3. Keep a level head - Even if it's the trip of a lifetime, try not to allow your vacation to carry you away. Don't get caught up in the moment and overspend by putting all your travel costs on a credit card. Going into debt to fund a vacation ensures you'll be paying for it - at a high rate of interest - long after you've returned home.

4. Cut back wisely - Cutting back on other expenses in order to save toward a vacation fund is a great idea. Just cut back carefully. Never reduce savings, especially retirement savings, just to pay for a vacation. In fact, consider doing the opposite, and cut back on vacation expenses in favor of putting a little bit more into your IRA or 401(k). For example, if you start at age 30 and contribute just $500 additional a year toward your IRA, by age 55 you could have an additional $39,000 for your retirement. That's assuming an 8 percent rate of return over 25 years. If you're unsure how your current retirement savings will affect your financial life once you retire, visit TD Ameritrade's Retirement Center, where you can learn about different types of IRAs and find tools like a Retirement Planner and WealthRuler.

Summer vacation can be great fun, but be sure to save toward it and spend it wisely while travelling. Keeping control of your travel costs now can help ensure you'll have plenty of funds later in life when it's time to take the ultimate vacation ... retirement.

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Wildfire Advice: Fireproofing with Your Landscape

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

I had the unfortunate experience of living through a suburban wildfire situation. So watching yet another spring wildfire tearing through Los Angeles county has prompted a review of firesafe protections for those living in areas that could be more prone to wildfires.

This first of two segments zeroes in on issues you can manage on your property to help hedge against wildfire damage. Some great advice is available from Oregon State University (http://oregonexplorer.info/wildfire/WildfireRiskHomeowners). According to the site, homeowners in fire-prone areas should make sure that the plants and landscaping materials they use are fire resistant.

When planning landscaping projects, remember that a fire safe landscape shows off plants and other garden elements by leaving space between plants and groups of plants. More tips are available through the US Fire Safety Administration, including:

• Create a defensible space perimeter by thinning trees and brush within 30 feet around your home.

• Beyond 30 feet, remove dead wood, debris and low tree branches.

• Eliminate small trees and plants growing under trees. They allow ground fires to jump into tree crowns.

• Space trees 30 feet apart and prune to a height of 8 to 10 feet.

• Place shrubs at least 20 feet from any structures and prune regularly.

• Plant the most drought-tolerant vegetation within three feet of your home and adjacent to structures to prevent ignition.

• Provide at least a 10 to 15 foot separation between islands of shrubs and plant groups to effectively breakup continuity of vegetation.

• Landscape your property with fire resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.

• Create fire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, swimming pools, decks and roadways.

• Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.

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Word of the Day

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

Loan-to-value ratio.  Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property.  Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e. – 75 percent financing.

 

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Q: How Bad Is a Previous Foreclosure on Credit?

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

A: Unfortunately, it is a pretty bad blemish.  A property foreclosure is one of the most damaging events in a borrower's credit record. In terms of the effect on your credit history, a deed in lieu of foreclosure – where you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender – or a short sale – when the lender agrees to write off a portion of the loan that is higher than the value of the home – is not as adverse as a forced foreclosure.

 

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5 Tips to Get a Higher Sales Price

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

Reports of rising home prices as the housing recovery accelerates are prompting more owners to think about jumping into the real estate market. But before they take the leap, potential home sellers need to consider how technology has changed the way homes are sold in recent years.

"Increasing prices are encouraging more homeowners to put their properties on the market," says Brian Balduf, Chairman, VHT Studios, a leader in photography and digital marketing for homes and businesses "But if you haven't been in the real estate market for 5 or 10 years, you may be surprised how much the home-buying experience has changed, thanks to the Internet."

A decade ago, selling your home meant pounding a sign in the yard and having your agent mail out postcards and place newspaper ads.  But that approach is as obsolete as VCRs, pagers and cassette tapes.

Today's buyers are focusing their searches on the web. They're using iPads and tablets to shop and compare homes for sale, typically scanning hundreds of listings, looking for properties that catch the eye.

Grabbing the attention of these web-savvy buyers requires professional-quality photographs, publishing a video on YouTube.com and providing interactive floor plans, says VHT's Balduf.

"Selling your home has become an online beauty contest," Balduf says.  "Buyers are visually-oriented.  So sellers need to provide the best possible pictures of their house on the Internet to grab buyers' attention and motivate them to set up a showing.

Balduf offered these five tips for helping sellers maximize their sales price:

Spring and early summer are the best times to sell. There tend to be more buyers when the weather is nice. Lawns and other landscaping are at their peak so your home will look its best, helping you get a higher sale price compared with listing later in the year.

Use an agent who uses professional photographer. Sellers who provide flawless, high-resolution photos in their listings can expect a sale price closer to the listing price.  Professional photos help listings get more Internet views, and they increase the perceived value of a home by nearly 13 percent. On a $250,000 home, this equates to an increase of $32,500, according to a consumer survey by VHT.

Ask your agent about posting a video of your home on YouTube. More than 80 percent of all buyers find their homes online, and 21 percent use of look for online videos.

Include floor plans in your listing. Interactive floor plans that show how rooms relate to each other are an increasingly popular marketing tool. Some brokerages have begun making them standard. The combination of floor plans and professionally-taken photos creates the ultimate shopping experience for buyers.

Clear out the clutter. Your house will show better if it's clean and well-organized. Potential buyers are interested in buying your home, not your furnishings. So take a minimalist approach to personal items around the house, such as piles of paperwork, books, houseplants and photos.

"It's obvious from even a cursory glance at many real estate listings that some real estate agents still tend to overlook the importance of good photographs and videos.  But home buyers don't," Balduf says. "Using an agent who works with professional photographer is the surest way to provide stunning, striking pictures of your home and create a great perception of your home that draws more buyers to your listing."

Source: www.vht.com

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10 Ways to Better Your Bones

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

There are few things scarier than a broken bone—especially as we age. But, while it isn’t possible to break-proof your bones, there are some pretty reliable ways to strengthen and protect them.

From Prevention Magazine, here are 10 good tips for keeping your skeleton healthy:

● Get enough D – More than half of adults don’t get enough of this vitamin, essential for

calcium absorption and bone health. Cod liver oil is a great source, so are salmon, tuna,

whole eggs, and D-fortified milk and yogurt.

● Cut back on caffeine – Too much caffeine has been linked to hop fracture. Limit your

intake to 2-3 small cups per day, and watch what you’re getting from sports drinks and

supplements.

● Say ‘ohm’ – Studies show that doing yoga exercises regularly helps increase bone

density. Start with a gentle yin or relaxation yoga class.

● Restrict the vino – Alcohol is known to have a negative affect bone health. Keep

intake to no more than two drinks in an evening.

● Prevent falls – We all lose bone density as we age. Clear away clutter, take your time,

and be aware of your surroundings to guard against falls and broken bones.

● Skip the skinny look – Eat sensibly. Being overly thin may put you in more danger of

broken bones because you may be depriving them of protein.

● Eat like a Greek – Increase Omega-3s and monounsaturated fats with olive oil, lots of

fish, and minimal red meat.

● Don’t smoke – As if you needed another reason! Nicotine and free radicals may harm

your body’s bone making cells.

● Exercise – Moderate exercise, including brisk walking, is known to help build bone density.

● Mind your meds – Some commonly prescribed drugs, such as steroids or protein

pump inhibitors, can cause bone-thinning. Check with your doctor to develop a plan to

counter this unwanted result.

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Prepping for Visitors (while Developing New Habits) with 'Flylady'

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

When it comes to putting those finishing touches on one's home before welcoming guests for spring and summer visits, I sometime become little overwhelmed.

Where do you start? Thanks to Marla Cilley and flylady.net, there is a new method to getting through the madness of spring cleaning and readying for summer parties, hang-outs and visitors.

Her FlyLady system is all about establishing little habits that string together into simple routines to help your day run on automatic pilot. 'Flylady' says, you gotta' walk before you can fly, so she has her devotees start off simple - shining the kitchen sink instead of having it thrown at you.

Cilley offers a detailed lesson plan for everyday activities with practical hands-on tips, that also help build new habits based on a practical sequence of moving through the chore.

And her advice encomapsses a month's worth of tips, with gems like:

  • Establishing a 'Control Journal' with little notes help us to remember the habits we are trying to establish
  • Eliminating 'Hot Spots' - A Hot Spot is an area, when left unattended will gradually take over.
  • Eqip to declutter - garbage bags, boxes, magic markers, and a dust rag. Label the boxes “Give Away,” “Throw Away,” and “Put Away.” Line the “Throw Away” box with a plastic garbage bag.
  • Plan for dinner - as part of your before-bed routine for tomorrow or as part of your morning routine for today. Write this in your Control Journal.
  • Take care of No. 1 - As part of your routines, remind yourself to eat good food, drink your water, and get your rest.
  • Take your time - 'Flylady reinforces using time limits and an ease-in approach to establishing new habits. For example: don't try and clean the whole closet - start by cleaning a shelf and come back tomorrow and do a rack, or a shoe tree.
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Word of the Day

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

Net lease.  Lease requiring the tenant to pay all the costs incurred in maintaining a property, including taxes, insurance, repairs, and other expenses normally required of the owner.

 

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