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
May 25, 2013 10:54 am
In our previous report, your RIS Consumer Confidant introduced some stormy predictions regarding the upcoming and potentially severe hurricane season. According to Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), leading weather researchers are forecasting an active hurricane season.
With that in mind, PCI spokesman Chris Hackett provides homeowners these tips to help protect property and assets from becoming a storm casualty:
1. Inventory household items now to speed up claims processing after the storm - photograph or videotape them for further documentation. Keep this information and all insurance policies in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box.
2. Keep a copy of insurance policies and other important papers with them in a watertight package, along with contact info for you insurance company and agent.
3. Develop an emergency plan - emergency planners suggest discussing hazards that could affect families and consider a home's vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind. Determine escape routes from the home and establish a meeting place. Stock non-perishable emergency supplies and a disaster supply kit with enough food and water for three to seven days. Listen carefully to local authorities and take the necessary precautions to protect life, safety and property. If given an order to evacuate because of threatening weather conditions, do so. Contact a friend or family member and give that person your contact information. Remember to shut off the home’s water and electricity and to lock all doors and windows.
4. Perform routine home maintenance now to avoid major repairs later. Mitigation is a critical component in reducing the amount of damage that may occur when a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall. Most structural problems and weaknesses can also be identified and corrected before major damage occurs.
5. Protect property by covering all windows with plywood or shutters, moving vehicles into the garage when possible and placing grills and patio furniture indoors. Make sure watercrafts are stored in a secure area, like a garage or covered boat dock.
For more information, visit www.pciaa.net.
May 25, 2013 10:54 am
A: Many people do, mainly because determining value can often be tricky. This is especially true in a changing market when local prices either take off dramatically or plunge precipitously, like during the Texas oil bust of the 1980s.
While it is up to a professional assessor to evaluate property value for tax purposes, property owners are usually allowed to contest their assessment until a certain date after they are made public.
Once you contest, you will have to prove why you think your property is worth less – few homeowners contest hoping to pay more taxes! The two most popular ways for determining value are an appraisal and a comparative market analysis. With an appraisal, a professional estimates the property's market value based on recent sales of comparable properties. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value performed by a real estate agent based on similar sales and property attributes. Most agents will offer free analyses to win your business.
Contact your local tax assessor's office for procedures on appealing your property tax assessment.
May 25, 2013 10:54 am
Special assessment. A special tax imposed on specific parcels of real estate that will benefit from a proposed public improvement, such as a street or sewer.
May 23, 2013 6:20 pm
(Tampa, FL)---The warmer weather has us all heading outside to soak up the sun, but it’s also a good reminder to take care of some basic things around your house. Pillar To Post is the leading home inspection company in North America, according to Entrepreneur Magazine. With more than 400 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Pillar To Post provides real estate agents and homeowners, the most professional inspectors and the most comprehensive inspection reports in the industry. Here are their top five home maintenance tips for the warmer months:
Inspect air-conditioners: If you have central air, you’ll want to clean the exterior condenser unit and all of its components, removing debris and trimming back any plants that are growing near it. You should also rinse down the interior of the unit, straighten out bent fins and lubricate the motor. You’ll also want to clean or change the air filters, inspect the drain line for debris and make sure all hoses fit securely. You can do this all yourself with guidance from the unit’s owners’ manual or call in a professional. If you have window units, the job is a little bit easier. You simply have to install the units and clean the filters. This is also a good time to deep clean all the fans and ceiling fans in your home.
Mulch: adding a layer of mulch to gardens and other non-grassy areas helps prevent weeds. It also helps the soil to hold moisture and nutrients during the warmer months, giving your plants a better chance of growing.
Inspect for leaks: Checking exterior hoses and faucets for leaks can lead to big savings. Even a small leak can cost big bucks. Many small leaks can be fixed with a piece of electrical tape. You’ll want to call in an expert for larger leaks.
Clean siding: Avoid streaks by applying the cleaner starting at the bottom and working your way up and rinsing from the top down. Cleaning your home’s siding yearly can help prevent mold, mildew and staining. It also keeps it looking brand new, adding value to your home.
Inspect your crawlspace: check for signs of termites and moisture. Even floors that appear dry can be damp. Dampness can cause damage to the entire house. If you have a dirt floor, installing a vapor barrier is recommended. If you have concrete, sealing it is ideal. This annual check is also a great time to check sewer lines, particularly beneath toilets and sinks, for evidence of leaks.
Founded in 1994, Pillar To Post is now the largest home inspection company in North America with over 400 franchisees, located in 47 states and 8 Canadian provinces. The company expects to open a total of 75 new locations by the end of 2013; long-term plans include adding 500-600 new franchisees over the next five years.
For more information, visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com.
May 23, 2013 6:20 pm
There have been countless anecdotal claims about the benefits of practicing meditation since the Eastern tradition has become more popular in the West. Now, there’s plenty of Western-based scientific evidence to support them, says Dr. Matt Mumber, a radiation oncologist and co-director of a non-profit integrative oncology program.
“Meditation is to the brain what physical activity is to the body. We’ve found meditation to be an important facet of health care, both for prevention and maintenance as well as in the treatment of disease, including cancer,” says Dr. Mumber, co-author with colleague and Yoga instructor Heather Reed of “Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit.”
Mumber and Reed, who are co-facilitators of non-profit residential retreats for cancer patients, say one can experience sustainable wellness by developing a life practice grounded in the cultivation of awareness. This awareness is paying attention without attachment. The ability to be aware can be increased by a meditation tool called mindfulness.
“Life is a constant series of adjustments, matching your inner being with your outer doing,” Reed says. “One way to heighten your awareness is through practicing meditation.”
Mumber and Reed say there’s plenty of new evidence that the resulting sense of balance and peace is not just a psychological effect:
• Mindfulness meditation leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density: Recently published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, shows that measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress occurred with study participants who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks.
• Meditation practitioners have longer attention spans: Published by the journal PloS Biology, a study analyzed people with three months of rigorous training and found that they gained a drastically improved attention span – not only longer, but less susceptible to internal or external distraction. They also showed improved memory and enhanced performance in several tasks, from driving a car to playing piano.
• Reduces stress and blood pressure: Presented to the American Heart Association by researchers at the at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, a study including 200 high-risk patients for heart attack found that meditation reduced their chances for heart attack by 50 percent.
“Studies involving people seeking to reduce stress and other problems in their lives via meditation will continue, as well as for those who want to enhance performance of various duties,” Mumber says.
“For those skeptical of the medical benefits of this Eastern practice, there’s now plenty of Western proof.”
For more information, visit www.sustainablewellnessonline.com.
May 23, 2013 6:20 pm
Having suffered hurricane damage in the past, I wanted to pass on a few important tips from the insurance industry regarding the upcoming and potentially severe hurricane season.
According to Chicago-based Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), leading weather researchers are forecasting an active hurricane season. The Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science recently released its 2013 Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability.
The forecast calls for 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four classified as major (Category 3, 4 or 5). CSU also projects a 72 percent chance of at least one major hurricane hitting the United States, as compared to a 52 percent average over the course of the last century.
The report states that the east coast, including the Florida peninsula, is projected to have a 48 percent chance of a major hurricane, compared to a 31 percent average over the last century. And the Gulf coast, including the Florida panhandle, is projected to have a 47 percent chance of a major hurricane, compared to a 30 percent average for the century.
Additionally, the North Carolina State University Coastal Fluid Dynamics Lab is forecasting 13-17 tropical storms, compared to a 63-year average of 10.8, and this includes 7-10 hurricanes, with 3-6 major hurricanes, as compared to averages since 1950 of 6.3 and 2.7, respectively.
The PCI's Chris Hackett advises home and business owners to prevent the loss of life and minimize property damage, it is vital that coastal residents create a family disaster plan, maintain an emergency supply kit, and stay informed about approaching storms.
Hackett. added that storm proofing of structures is one of the most effective ways to promote public safety and reduce the costs of homeowners insurance. Taking proactive steps to strengthen structures not only protects policyholders' families and assets; it also strengthens the property insurance market, on both the state and federal levels, by reducing risk exposure.
In the next segment, we'll pass on a number of tips and things to consider as you batten down for the anticipated severe 2013 hurricane season.
May 23, 2013 6:20 pm
A: Chances are you will have to pay the going rate for contractors in your area. Architects or designers will typically cost 12 to 20 percent more.
But remember you will want a home improvement that is done right the first time. That said, there are still ways you can save if you do decide to work with a contractor:
- Shop around for the most reasonable bid - not necessarily the cheapest.
- Ask friends and family if the contractors they refer stuck to budget.
- Root out hidden costs written into contracts.
- Insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself.
- Compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two.
- Do part of the project yourself, such as some disassembly or prep work.
May 23, 2013 6:20 pm
Settlement. The day on which title is conveyed.
May 23, 2013 2:20 pm
Frequent flyer miles aside – because, as many of us have learned, they may not be available when we need or want them – there are other ways to ensure you get the best possible price on air travel.
From Scott Gamm of TheStreet.com, here are five ways you can try:
Talk to the airline – Some airlines, like Southwest, do not allow their fares to be posted on third-party sites. Dealing directly from the airline could net you a better deal than those you find posted elsewhere.
Book a package – On sites like Travelocity, booking a package that includes the hotel as well as airfare could save you as much as $525. The packages have great flexibility, making them worth looking into.
Choose the days you fly - It's usually cheaper to fly during the week than on weekends, so the middle of the week is golden for travelers. Airlines and hotels know that Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday are the easiest times to travel, so prices are higher then.
Time of day matters - The most cost effective flights are the ones during odd hours of the day - including the first flights of the day at 6 a.m. and the red eyes overnight. The difference an early flight and the same one mid-day could be at least 20% cheaper.
Ask about special fares – the airline will rarely advertise it, but special rates on selected flights are sometime available for students, youths, and/or seniors.
Check airport pricing – In some cases, you can find a better rate by flying into or out of a smaller regional airport. In other cases, because flights are more frequent, the fare is less using a larger airport. Check out the options, if you have them.
Be alert to the oversold flight – If you are flexible on flight times, remember that oversold flights usually offer big discounts to passengers willing to be “bumped’ to a later flight – so step up if volunteers are called for.
May 23, 2013 2:20 pm
(BPT) - In warmer weather, patios transform into the ultimate gathering space for backyard barbecues, reading, relaxing or even exercising. These outdoor rooms become an extension of the house, seamlessly merging the outdoors inside and vice versa.
This summer, many homeowners will tackle revamping the home to expand this transformation between indoors and outdoors, developing a patio space that will be used all season long.
Think about outdoor and indoor living spaces collectively, and choose a design that integrates them into one seamless space. Incorporate elements from the patio into the house and elements from inside into your backyard patio design.
Start with a patio door that will set the stage for your transformation.
"The privacy of a backyard allows you to be adventurous when choosing a patio door. With many design options available, it's easy to find the style that suits your home's needs," says Joseph Ritzert, patio door expert for Pella Windows and Doors.
Choose a sleek sliding patio door to compliment or create a clean look, or if you're short on floor space. An elegant French or hinged patio door is a good option for homes with ample open floor space. Durable, easy-to-care-for doors like Pella 350 Series premium vinyl sliding patio doors are great for families with children and high traffic.
Also, select a patio door with accents to create the look you want, like stylish grilles, or convenient between-the-glass blinds or shades for added privacy, plus a variety of hardware, exterior and interior finishes. Many Pella patio doors offer a retractable Rolscreen that helps keep insects out while letting in fresh air, and rolls out of sight when not in use.
Windows are very important to keep the seamless transformation between the room and patio. But more glass means more exposure to the elements. Low-E options, like Pella's InsulShield Advanced Low-E triple-pane glass with argon, can help protect your furniture from fading in direct sunlight, while enhancing your home's energy efficiency.
"If energy efficiency is your top priority, look for a patio door that is Energy Star-qualified to help maximize potential energy savings and year-round comfort," Ritzert says.
Continue your transformation with landscaping both inside and out to combine the areas. If your patio connects to the kitchen, potted herb plants indoors blend beautifully with potted flowers on the patio. In settings where a patio connects to a living room, potted small trees inside connect well with planted trees framing your patio.
Complete your indoor/outdoor gathering space by using similar materials between the two spaces. If you have decorative woodwork inside, bring it out on the deck with furniture, wooden boxes for your potted plants, in the railings (if needed) or even the trim on the house. Or if you have a lot of fabric inside, carry that over to your patio with weather-tolerant fabrics on your patio furniture.
With these transformations, your beautiful patio space will quickly become the top destination in your home - the gathering spot for all family members when they come home from work or their daily activities.