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
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.
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.
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."
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
● 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.
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.
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.
June 12, 2013 2:08 am
A: It is a loan against the equity in your home. Financial institutions will generally let you borrow up to 80 percent of the appraised value of your home, minus the balance on your original mortgage.
You may incur all the fees normally associated with a mortgage, including closing costs, title insurance and processing fees.
June 10, 2013 11:14 pm
Moving to a new house, condo, or apartment this spring? Before filling your home with furnishings, there’s something you might want to do first: paint. Experts of every stripe – from REALTORS® to authorities on painting -- say that one of the very best times to do interior painting is just before moving into a new home. Here are six reasons why, according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute:
1. It’s easy now. Interior painting is a very simple project – and not at all physically demanding -- when you can move freely within a room. Why wait till later when you may have to move heavy furniture from side to side, or work around big items, to do your painting?
2. It saves time. Painting can take a lot longer when you have to cover and uncover things, move them back and forth, and take down and re-hang artwork. It’s better to paint just before moving and short-circuit these time-consuming and unproductive steps.
3. It can save you money – lots of it. If you’re using a professional painting contractor, he or she can complete the work far faster in rooms that are empty. That’s extremely important, since time charges for labor typically account for 80 percent of the cost of painting, according to Zimmer. “Bottom line: Calling in a contractor before moving into a home can drastically lower the cost of painting the space,” she says.
4. It safeguards your furnishings. No matter how carefully you or your contractor work, there is always the chance of a paint spill, or a few stray flecks finding their way onto a prized possession. Painting before bringing in your furnishings keeps these items out of harm’s way.
5. It can simplify interior decorating. Don’t yet have your furnishings? There’s no better way to set the stage for your décor than by adding a fresh paint color scheme before decorating. Doing so greatly simplifies the selection of new furniture, carpeting, and accents, allowing you to choose just the right tints, tones, and shades to make your new home picture perfect.
6. It feels good. Adding a new coat of paint makes any home seem cleaner, fresher, more welcoming, and best of all…more “yours.” To keep your paint job looking great, Zimmer recommends the use of top quality 100 percent acrylic latex paint; it will produce a more stain resistant finish that will look new-home fresh for years to come.
June 10, 2013 11:14 pm
Improvements in container gardening equipment and techniques have cleared the way for even the most “brown thumb” city dwellers, and anyone without a yard, to grow their own groceries.
“There’s nothing to stop anyone who wants a garden from having one,” says Roy Joulus, CEO of Greenbo, a company that designs innovative products for urban gardening.
“Plants add a great deal to our quality of life – from cleaning the air we breathe to keeping us in touch with nature. Fresh, home-grown herbs and vegetables not only taste so much better than supermarket produce, they’re convenient, and you know exactly where they came from and what was used, or not used, on them.”
While hydroponic and vertical gardening systems have been developed to maximize the yield in small spaces, Joulus says starting a balcony garden needn’t cost much. Start with the right materials and choose plants that are right for your conditions, and you’ll soon be eating from the pots on your porch.
He offers the following tips, especially helpful for balcony gardeners.
Plant the right plants for the amount of sunlight you have:
Most herbs and vegetables require six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So what do you do if you have just one balcony and it doesn’t get that much sun?
• Choose edibles that can take partial sun/shade (three to six hours of sun in the morning or early afternoon) or light shade (two to three hours of direct sun or lightly shaded all day.)
Some partial shade herbs: cilantro and parsley (both prefer cooler weather); dill, bee balm, spearmint chamomile.
Some light shade herbs: garlic chives, peppermint, rosemary.
Some partial or light shade veggies: lettuce, broccoli, green onion, collards, cabbage, peas, carrots, strawberries, beans, sweet potatoes.
• Remember, pale-colored surfaces increase the light your plants receive. Plants in regions with short growing seasons usually need the full six to eight hours of light per day.
Choose the right pots:
Bigger pots require less water and are less likely to blow over on high-rise balconies where the winds can be fierce. Terra cotta allows moisture to escape fairly quickly, which is helpful for people who like to water a lot. Non-porous plastic or glazed pots hold water longer and are better for windy balconies, where soil dries out quickly. Use brightly colored containers to add style and visual interest to your garden.
• Most vegetable plants require even watering – don’t let them dry out completely and don’t keep them soggy. Apply water directly to the soil.
• Make sure your containers have drainage holes or a drainage system. If they have an attached tray to catch excess water, don’t allow the plants’ roots to sit in the water, which promotes rot and fungus. Either empty the tray regularly, or use a design that holds the water away from the roots.
Use the right dirt:
• It’s important to use dirt that allows for good drainage. Most edible plants don’t like to sit in wet dirt, and soil without good drainage tends to become compacted – a difficult medium for plants that like to stretch their roots out. You can buy a sterile soilless potting mix, a soil-based potting mix, or mix up your own batch using 1 part compost, 1 part perlite and 1 part potting soil.
• Don’t use garden soil or top soil, which won’t allow adequate drainage.
• On windy balconies, top-dress your container with small rocks to keep the soil from drying out so quickly.
Joulus offers one more tip for high-rise dwellers: Rely on self-pollinating plants, or plants that don’t need pollination by insects, unless you’re willing to hand-pollinate.
“You likely won’t see many bees buzzing around the 40th story,” he says.
Don’t worry about pollination for root vegetables, like carrots and potatoes. Some self-pollinators include beans, peas, tomatoes and peppers.
June 10, 2013 11:14 pm
With all of the summertime fun to be had, for many families, living within their means goes right out the window by the time June rolls around. But if you want to reach financial independence, you must find ways to keep boosting your savings, says John J. Vento, author of the new book Financial Independence (Getting to Point X). He offers several great tips on how to save up this summer.
Stay cool without breaking the bank. Hot summer days mean your AC is practically running non-stop, which means your summer power bills can sometimes break the bank. But you can allay some of these costs by using a programmable thermostat to minimize your utility use and cost or by installing ceiling fans to allow you to use less air conditioning. “You should also make sure your home—especially your attic—is sufficiently insulated,” notes Vento. “If the insulation in your attic is less than 6 inches thick, you are under-insulated. Insulation of 12 inches thick can lower your heating and cooling costs by 25 percent in a year.”
Save on gas. A great way to cut back on how much you’re spending on gas each week is to trade in your car for a bike. “If you live close enough to your work, enjoy the warm weather by biking or even walking to work,” says Vento. “If biking or walking isn’t an option, organize a summer carpool or start taking public transportation. Of course, if you’re able, these are great changes to carry over into the fall and winter.”
Wash your own wheels. It can be tempting to just zip into a local carwash and pay someone else to wash your car. But depending on the level of care you’re paying for, you can spend anywhere from $5 to $30. Get outside and enjoy the weather by washing your own car. You’ll save some money and will probably even do a better job on your own.
Shape up… Insurance companies take into account your physical health. Therefore, people who smoke, have high cholesterol levels, have high blood pressure, are overweight, and have other problems (including depression) will usually have higher insurance premiums than a person who is in good physical shape and health. “Use the summer to make healthy life choices,” says Vento. “Clean up your diet. Stop smoking and start exercising.”
…but forgo the gym membership. “Bathing suit season” as it’s often called will probably have you focusing a little more on your fitness. But rather than throw out a bunch of money on a membership to a gym you might not even end up using that often, think of all of the ways you can workout outside for free. Walk, run, or bike local trails. Use workout videos. Or attend donation-based classes that allow you to pay a much more reasonable amount for your workouts.
Have fun for free. Check out “free events” offered in your neighborhood. Many towns offer free concerts and movies in the park or at the beach during the summer. Or take the family to the park for a Saturday afternoon or evening picnic.
Don’t splurge on vacation. Of course, there’s always a lot of build up around the yearly summer vacation. “But if you don’t have the money to spend, you should absolutely look for more cost-effective options,” recommends Vento. “Instead of going on expensive vacations, traveling first class, eating at the most expensive restaurants, going on all the most expensive tours, and going to overpriced five-star hotels, fly coach, cook in the hotel if possible, and go to a safe, fun, cheaper hotel.”
Go green and save. Summer is a great time to make an effort to “go green” and start making more environmentally friendly choices. “A great way to do this is to refill your cleaning product spray bottles with less expensive refill bottles, instead of buying another more expensive spray bottle,” says Vento. “Or replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). These use more than 70 percent less energy and last much longer, which will save you money on the cost of light bulbs and on your electricity bill. And of course, you should always turn off the lights when you leave a room and take advantage of all the natural light you get during the summer.”
Hang it out to dry. Instead of running your dryer during the summer, hang clothes and other laundry outside to dry. This saves money on your utility bills as well as wear and tear on your clothing.
Become a thrifty foodie. First, give up junk foods completely: Not only are they expensive, they are unhealthy. Second, plan your meals. “Doing so can save you money and time,” says Vento. “When grocery shopping, you will know exactly what you need to buy so there is no excess food thrown out at the end of the week. Take advantage of readily available, in-season fruits and vegetables by cooking more at home. Then brownbag your leftovers for your lunch at work the next day. And finally, buy in bulk or use grocery store rewards cards.”
“Creating a summer of fun should not leave you worse off financially than when the season began,” says Vento. “Be sure to discuss and share your family financial goals with your entire family so that everyone can commit to taking these easy, responsible steps toward saving and building on your financial stability. When you make these smart choices, it makes reaching long-term financial goals all the more achievable.”