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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
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Tom's Blog

Easier Mortgage Processes, Positive Attitudes Inspire Renters to Buy

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

(BPT) - Owning a home has been an integral element of the American Dream for generations. But is ownership right for you? And if it is, how do you know if it's the right time in your life to purchase a home?

Thirty-two percent of American households are renters, according to the National Multi Housing Council. Generally, more people younger than 30 occupy rentals, while the percentage of people who own their home increases with age, NMHC statistics indicate. People decide to buy a home for many reasons, but the recent real estate market downturn caused many Americans to rethink their assumptions about renting and owning.

Even with many real estate experts predicting the market will continue to improve, it pays to carefully evaluate how homeownership does - or doesn't - figure into your long-term financial goals. If you've been renting and wondering if it's time to apply for a mortgage and buy your own home, consider these points:

1. Renting isn't always the cheaper option, and comparing your monthly rent payment directly to a mortgage payment won't give you a clear picture of the financial impact of either option. Online calculators, like Guaranteed Rate's rent vs. buy online calculator, can give you a better understanding of the comparison. With mortgage rates consistently low and rental markets competitive across the country, real estate experts agree that in most major metropolitan areas it will still be cheaper in the long run to buy than continue to rent.

2. While the days of zero-money-down mortgages are essentially over, it's a misconception that you need a huge amount of money to buy a house. Yes, you'll almost certainly need a down payment, but different lenders will require different percentages. Research your mortgage options before you begin house hunting so you'll know how much you'll need to save in order to secure a mortgage - and the home of your dreams.

3. Although the mortgage application process is detailed, it doesn't have to be drawn out and tedious. Many lenders now allow you to initiate the process online, and Guaranteed Rate has recently overhauled its website to allow borrowers to apply for a loan, track the approval process and receive their home loans all online. The eighth-largest retail mortgage company in the U.S. allows customers to choose and customize their loans, submit an application and receive an official approval letter all at www.guaranteedrate.com. Automating the application process compresses the traditional time frame from days - sometimes, even weeks - into minutes. As part of the process, applicants also receive the credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.

4. Buying a home affords you the opportunity to really grow your roots, but the flipside is that in order to get the most out of your investment, you need to stay put for a while. If you anticipate being in your current job and living in your current town for at least five years, the long-term investment of buying a house will make more sense for you. If you anticipate a job change or a move within a few years, you may want to hold off on buying a house. The good news is, doing so gives you more time to save toward a down payment so you'll look even more appealing to lenders when you are ready to buy.

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Yard Safety 101: The Mower

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

Even the most careful of parents may not realize that there is danger lurking inside of the garage. Surprisingly, the lawn mower is one of the most dangerous household tools. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, each year 68,000 people are treated in the emergency department for lawn mower related injuries, and 9,400 of them are children under the age of 18. Most childhood injuries due to lawn mowers are related to riding mowers, and most are injured in their own yard.

Most common injuries associated with mowers can include lacerations, amputations, fractures, infections and skin defects.

Read on for tips on staying safe around lawn mowers.

Safety

  • Children younger than 15 should not be in the yard when someone else is mowing
  • Children younger than 12 should not use walk-behind mowers
  • Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers
  • Children or adults should never be allowed as passengers on ride-on mowers

The Safe Lawn Mower

  • Allows automatic blade disengagement when the mower is placed in reverse
  • Has a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is released
  • Has a blade safety device for ride-on mowers that disconnects the blade from the power source when the operator leaves the operating position
  • Operating the Mower
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.

Protecting Yourself and Others

  • Wear hard-soled, sturdy shoes around mowers (no sandals or sneakers)
  • Wear hearing and eye protection when operating a mower
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.

Source:  www.cincinnatichildrens.org.

 

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Word of the Day

July 12, 2013 6:52 am

Survey.  An exact measurement of the size and boundaries of a piece of land by civil engineers or surveyors.

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Tips to Simplify Traveling With Baby On Board

July 10, 2013 8:26 pm

Summer is the season for travel, and for new mothers, it may be the first time ever heading out for a long trip with baby on board.

"No new parent wants to leave the side of their little ones, but travelling with an infant brings on a whole new set of challenges and requirements," says Amanda Spakowski, birth doula and founder of The Nesting Place. "Babies may be small, but they can be high maintenance, so planning ahead and creating a checklist of must-have items can help lighten the load and allow for a stress-free trip."

When Flying

  •         Plan feeding time during take-off and landing, which will help ease ear pain.

When Driving

  •         Add removable window shades for your car windows to protect your baby from the sun.
  •         Make sure to use a rear-facing car seat for safety.

When at the hotel

  •         Pack diaper rash cream, bags for dirty diapers, enough diapers for the trip and infant acetaminophen for relieving pain and fever - if your baby is teething, consider bringing teething gel.
  •         Book a crib when making your room reservation - or remember to bring your own travel Pack 'n Play.

When out and about

  •         Bring hats and SPF 30 sunscreen or higher - if your baby is under six months remember to keep them entirely out of the sun and refrain from using sunscreen.
  •         If you aren't breastfeeding, bring formula and add cooled boiled water as needed.
  •         Bring a plastic bib for your baby - it'll save you a change of clothes in case of spills.

General Tips

  •         Bring a bag containing a few of your baby's favorite toys to keep them happy and distracted, as well as a blanket for park visits.
  •         It's important to keep your baby on the same sleep schedule, so when on the go consider using white noise to help them ease into a deeper sleep. A sound machine is a great tool to pack!

Source: The Nesting Place, Hotels.com

 

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Your Guide to Coping on a Long Haul Flight

July 10, 2013 8:26 pm

With cheaper and more regular flights around, an increasing amount of people are jet setting to the other side of the world. However, for people who are not used to flying or flying long haul, it can be quite daunting as well as tiresome. Below is a guide on how to cope with going long distance.

Firstly, if you're flying to somewhere like Sydney or Beijing, rather than opting for a straight flight thinking that you will get there quicker, it may be an idea to search for flights with transfers or stop overs so that you can get off the plane, stand up, have a walk around to get some fresh air.

Keep yourself entertained. Most airlines that operate long distance flights do have in-flight entertainment such as a TV at the back of the seat behind you. However, if you are on a 7 - 14-hour flight then you may want something more than a film to prevent you from getting bored. Most people pack away their holiday books or magazines in their suitcase; make sure that you pack these in your hand luggage instead - you never know when you might fancy a read!

Throughout the flight, you should drink plenty of water. The temptation during long haul flights, when drinks are free, is to opt for hot, fizzy or alcoholic beverages but you need to make sure that you keep hydrated, as dehydration is one of the worst aspects of flying.

Although most major airlines do offer a blanket or an eye mask, always be prepared. If you find it difficult to sleep on planes, then ear plugs and eye masks may be something you want to pack in your hand luggage. It is also a good idea to ensure that you are wearing layers so you can adjust accordingly to the air condition and have a comfortable flight.

Finally, if you can, try and find a flight that sets off at night, that way you may find that for half of the journey you are sleeping and by the time you wake up you will nearly have reached your destination.

Source: SportsDirect.com

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Save Money and Do Good with Reusable Containers

July 9, 2013 6:26 pm

(BPT)—Even as the country moves out of the great recession, many Americans are still in a money-saving mode - looking to conserve wherever possible. Good news. There are simple ways to save money especially if you go back to the time-honored concept of BYO - "bringing your own" container of coffee, lunch or water as part of your daily routine. This can do a world of good not only for your pocketbook, but also for the environment, and even your health. Here are some tips to get you started:

Bring your own coffee or tea

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 25 billion foam cups each year. And 500 years from now, those cups will still be sitting in a landfill. Despite the convenience of foam cups, small changes such as bringing coffee or tea in a reusable container can have both an environmental and economic impact.

Bring your own lunch

Many grownups still have fond memories of a school lunchbox featuring their favorite TV or movie character. Bringing your own lunch in an insulated lunch carrier is a good way to keep your favorite foods fresh and tasty, and a smart way to save money. According to a report in Time magazine, bringing your lunch to work can cut your weekly costs by 80 percent. To keep foods fresh while on the go, insulated reusable containers are an ideal option. They come in all shapes and sizes to keep snacks or lunch foods hot or cold for hours, saving you the cost of going out and making it easier to stay away from unhealthy temptations.

Keep yourself hydrated

As you get in the habit of bringing your own reusable portable container, don't neglect the one thing every human needs for basic good health - water - to help you hydrate throughout the day. According to the Mayo Clinic, water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Lack of appropriate water intake can lead to dehydration, draining your energy and making you feel tired. The Institute of Medicine determined that adequate water intake for men is roughly 104 ounces and is roughly 72 ounces for women. Instead of purchasing bottled water in containers that will also end up in landfills, bring plenty of your own water in a portable, reusable container. One easy option for quenching thirst while on the go is the 24 oz. Hydration Bottle with Meter that is made of BPA-free Eastman(TM) Tritan and has a rotating meter built into the lid to help keep track of your daily water consumption. Embracing the bring-your-own mentality can make a world of difference economically and environmentally.

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Time to Make A Splash? Keep Your Kids Safe in the Water

July 9, 2013 6:26 pm

Summer is the time for swimming, be it at the beach, lake, or pool. However, you want your kids to stay safe while having fun making a splash. The following tips, provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can help you stay safe and accident-free.

  • All caregivers should learn CPR.
  • Never leave a toy in or around a pool.
  • Never leave children alone in or near a bathtub, even for a minute. There are no "bath seats" that are proven be safe and not result in drownings.
  • Never leave children alone in or near the pool; this includes inflatable and other children's pools. An adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision."
  • Swimming lessons are recommended for children ages 1-4 years. New studies suggest that these children may be less likely to drown if they have had swimming lessons. Teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT guarantee your child is safe in water.
  • Make sure there is a telephone by the pool in case of an emergency.
  • If you use an inflatable or plastic pool, make sure you dump the water out of the pool after each use and turn the pool upside down when finished.
  • Install a fence at least four-feet high around all four sides of the pool. Four-sided fences can cut the drowning risk in half. Pool covers and pool alarms are not a substitute for fencing.
  • Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height small children can't reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment nearby, including a shepherd's hook (a long pole with a hook on the end) and a life preserver.
  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties." They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
  • Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
  • Teach children never to swim alone.
  • Counsel teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.

Source: www.cincinnatichildrens.org.

 

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Simple, Helpful Kitchen Tips

July 9, 2013 6:26 pm

(Family Features)--So much of life happens in the kitchen – from hurried morning breakfasts to after-school snacks with the kids – it’s likely to be the most travelled room of the home.

Unfortunately, all this activity in one room can cause many messes and much required upkeep. By following a few simple steps, you can keep this important space tidy, clean and smelling great.

Here are some simple tips to keep your kitchen clean and inviting:

Add Some Citrus

Does your garbage disposal have an uninviting stench? Here’s one simple solution – use orange or lemon peels to freshen the drain or disposal. Simply run cool water from your faucet, turn on the disposal, throw in the peels and take in the fresh citrus scent. This is a perfect way to use old fruit that is no longer good enough to eat.

Make Dishes Sparkle

Dirty plates, pots, pans, glasses and utensils pile up quickly in busy kitchens. Get dishes sparkling clean with a dish liquid that leaves your hands feeling touchably soft. In a recent survey conducted by Kelton, 33 percent of those who wash dishes by hand said their skin is usually dry afterwards.

Keep Up With Countertops

The kitchen countertop is the easiest place to collect a mess so it’s important to keep it tidy. Because so many countertops are made with fine woods, stones and other specialty materials, it is important to know what cleaning products you can use on them so they keep their beautiful appearance. In general, avoid abrasive cleaners and never use steel wool or other harsh brushes which can scratch the surface. Invest in protectors such as trivets for hot cookware, or trays for oil bottles and other cooking items that keep permanent residence on countertop space.

Love Your Oven

Ovens are often the most neglected appliance in the kitchen. Open them up to find baked-on spills, burnt-on food, as well as splatters covering the exterior. Be sure you’re giving your oven the maintenance it needs by cleaning it at least once each season. Whether you’re using a homemade cleaning concoction or a heavy-duty store-bought brand, it is important to scour every nook and cranny. Also, give attention to the range top and ensure all extra food debris has been removed and cleaned.

Source: www.palmolive.com

 

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Q: What is an unsecured loan?

July 9, 2013 6:26 pm

A: The interest rates on these loans are often higher than on secured loans and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction for the interest paid.  However, the costs to obtain an unsecured loan are usually lower. And the relative ease of getting this type of loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less. The lender evaluates applications based on credit history and income.

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Got A High Interest FHA Loan? Maybe It's Time To Streamline

July 8, 2013 2:58 pm

These days, many of us are looking to pinch every penny we can.

So I read with interest a recent post by Dan Green, a loan officer who blogs on themortgagereports.com, writing about the FHA Streamline Refinance program.

Green says the FHA Streamline Refinance is a special mortgage product, reserved for homeowners with existing FHA mortgages. He  believes FHA Streamline Refinances are the fastest, simplest way for FHA-insured homeowners to refinance their respective mortgages.

The FHA Streamline Refinance program's defining characteristic is that it does not require a home appraisal. Instead, the FHA will allow homeowners to use their original purchase price as the home's current value, regardless of what it is actually worth today.

Green says for  the FHA Streamline Refinance program, the agency does not care if you are underwater on your mortgage. Rather, the program encourages underwater mortgages.

Even if you owe twice what your home is now worth, the FHA will refinance your home without added cost or penalty. This "appraisal waiver" has been a huge hit with U.S. homeowners, allowing unlimited loan-to-value (LTV) home loans.

Beyond this "no appraisal" feature, however, the FHA Streamline Refinance behaves very much like any other loan product. It's available as a fixed rate or adjustable mortgage; it comes as a 15- or 30-year term; and there's no FHA prepayment penalty to worry about.

Another big plus, Green says, is that FHA mortgage rates are the same in the FHA Streamline Refinance as with a "regular" FHA loans. There's no penalty for being underwater, or for having very little equity, and homeowners find they qualify very easily for the program.

Earlier this decade, in an effort to help U.S. homeowners, the FHA abolished most of the typical verifications required to get a mortgage. So, Green says, there's no need for a home appraisal, you can be out-of-work, without income, carry a declining credit rating and have no home equity.

Yet, he says, you can still be approved for an FHA Streamline Refinance. Learn more at http://www.fha.com/fha_streamline_refinance.

 

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