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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 Home Improvement Cost Controls or Budgeting Ideas Might Be Helpful?

June 7, 2013 7:00 pm

A:  Plan ahead and create a realistic budget.  Decide on the items and materials you would like to have in a room and set your budget accordingly.  This will prevent hasty, and costly, decisions down the road.  The experts suggest setting aside 10-20 percent of your budget to cover unforeseen problems and miscellaneous charges.  Then, choose less expensive products that will help you achieve the look you’re trying to obtain.  Avoid labor intensive design features, such as tiled floors. You may also want to pursue your home improvement in stages, if you can’t afford to pay for the entire project at once.  If possible, avoid too many take-out meals and/or hotel stays.  Try isolating construction areas so that your living space isn’t interrupted and other household space can be used to heat or prepare meals once the kitchen is being remodeled.

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Disaster Preparedness: A Quick Review

June 6, 2013 7:04 pm

Nearly every state in the Union is at some risk for tornadoes, and earthquakes are possible, if not probable, in 45 American states. Floods, fires, and hurricanes can happen anywhere.

In the aftermath of the recent killer tornado in Oklahoma, it’s time for every family to review – or perhaps establish – a workable plan to help keep the family safe in the event of a natural disaster.

From the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), here are steps for every family to follow:

  • Make a plan - Go to ready.gov or other websites to learn about natural disasters that could occur in your area. Recognizing the hazards and possible warning systems will help you formulate a plan for coping with, and recovering from, disaster.  Making a plan should include being sure each family member knows where the family plans to reunite after the danger is past and/or which relative to call and check in with in another state.
  • Build a kit – Prepare and keep updated an emergency kit in your home and office. A basic kit should include a gallon of water per person for three days and enough food for three days (including a can opener), plus supplies such as a flashlight, radio and batteries, a first aid kit and a whistle, moist towelettes and garbage bags for personal sanitation,  and a wrench to turn off utilities. Go online now for more information on other supplies to keep in your disaster kit, such as pet food, cash, and more.
  • Be a volunteer - Our nation’s emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they cannot do it alone. Stay informed and volunteer with a local Citizen’s Corps Council (citizenscorps.gov) or local disaster preparedness group.
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Maintain Your Deck for Years of Summer Fun

June 6, 2013 7:04 pm

A deck is a great investment. It increases your home’s usable living space at a fraction of the cost of adding an inside room. Remodeling magazine estimates a properly maintained deck will return about 77 percent of its original cost. But, no one wants to buy a home where they are going to immediately incur costly deck repairs. 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 tips for caring for decks:

Deep Clean: This is best done on a cloudy day before the weather gets too hot. Start by sweeping the deck and removing debris that’s trapped between the deck boards. A putty knife is great for this. You can attach it to a pipe or dowel rod so that you don’t have to bend over the entire time. Then, wash wood decks and all railings with a standard deck cleaner. You can also mix bleach and water at a ratio of one-to-one. If you have composite deck, make sure you use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material.

Seal the deck: This should be done 48 hours after the deep clean. You can test if your deck needs sealing by splashing some water on it. The water should bead up. If it soaks into the deck, you need to reseal it. Most decks will need to be resealed annually.

Inspect and Repair: In the warm, dry summer months, inspect the deck for signs of rot. This is easily done by poking a flat-blade screwdriver into areas that look worn. If you can push the screwdriver more than a quarter-inch into the deck, you should repair it. Small areas, anything about an inch or smaller, can be chiseled out and treated with wood preservative. If the rot covers a larger area, you should consult a professional to evaluate the deck and recommend repairs. Also, you’ll want to tighten any screws that are loose on the railing and add galvanized lag screws to posts that need extra support.

Preventive measures: Before winter comes, secure or replace loose and missing nails. Trimming back bushes near the deck will prevent mold, moss and rot. Moving planters, chairs, tables and other items that are on the deck will prevent the deck from becoming discolored.

For more information, visit www.pillartopostfranchise.com.

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TOP 5 RC - Steps to an Updated Outdoor Entertaining Space

June 6, 2013 7:04 pm

(BPT) - With milder weather finally here, it's time to start planning your outdoor projects. Is your outdoor patio or deck looking a bit dated and dingy? Does it reflect your home's personality? Whether you're planning to host outdoor festivities with friends and family or just grilling up gourmet creations, a few changes can really liven up your outdoor space and add value to your home. Follow these simple steps for an updated look that will create a more enjoyable area.

Clear it off

The first step when updating any patio or deck is to remove all items from the area; this includes furniture, planters and even the weathered layer of grime that sits atop the wood. Use a power washer to really remove any mildew and debris. By starting with a clean surface, you'll be able to see the current state of the wood. If the stain is faded or wearing away, consider re-staining it. Wood exposed to the outdoor elements should be coated with an oil-based finish, never a latex or acrylic paint. Paint is more susceptible to weathering, fading and flaking. Oil-based stains soak into the wood and result in better and longer-lasting results.

Mini-rollers are the perfect size for applying stain to railings, spindles and any other small areas of the deck. The covers are available in 4 1/2- and 6 1/2-inch lengths and come in all fabric types, including fabric that works well with oil-based finishes. If your deck is currently painted, be sure to scrape away any flaking areas from the deck flooring, the steps and handrails. 

Dress it up and add some color

Is your existing outdoor furniture looking a bit drab? Repaint it and dress it up with outdoor pillows and cushions. Change up the layout of the furniture for another fresh look. By moving furniture into a more square or circular shape, you'll increase conversations. If a focal point exists, such as a fire pit or great view, arrange furniture to face that. For a more embellished look to your railings, replace existing spindles and ball tops with more decorative ones. Repaint planter boxes and add in colorful accessories such as rugs, lawn ornaments and small plants. Flowers, herbs and many vegetables can be grown in planters, boxes and any other small space.

Lighten up your space

Many outdoor gatherings can carry on past sunset, so lighting your deck area is important. There are hundreds of options available to lighten up any outdoor area. You can create whatever atmosphere you prefer. Solar lamps are a smart, energy-efficient way to light the walk and seating areas, while Chinese lanterns hanging in the trees create a fun, party feel.

Lights lining railing walkways will direct attendees to and from the gathering areas safely, and an enclosed bonfire pit or portable fireplace is a great way to gather people for post-dinner carousing. Sufficient lighting will encourage guests to stay past dark and allow everyone to enjoy a warm summer evening.

By following these simple steps, you'll be spending more time outdoors and have a fresh space to enjoy with family and friends all summer long.

 

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Word of the Day

June 6, 2013 7:04 pm

Tax credit.  An allowed deduction that can be subtracted from your income tax.  If you are entitled to a $1,500 credit, and your income tax would otherwise be $10,000, the credit would reduce the tax due to $8,500.

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Q: How Long Do Bankruptcies and Foreclosure Stay on a Credit Report?

June 6, 2013 7:04 pm

A: They can remain on your credit record for seven to 10 years.

However, a borrower who has worked hard to reestablish good credit may be shown some leniency by the lender. And the circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy may also influence a lender's decision. For example, if you went bankrupt because you were laid off from your job, the lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, it is unlikely the lender will readily give you a break.

 

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5 Frugal Habits of the Rich

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

It stands to reason that people who live modestly and invest wisely are on the surest pathway

to wealth and financial freedom. Frugal shopper Kyle James, who operates a website called

RatherBeShopping.com, makes a habit of tracking the ways wealthy people spend their

money.
 

From his observations, here are five widespread frugal habits endorsed by many of the rich

and/or famous:

1.Drive a modest car – Some people allow the car they drive to define their character or

image. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg drives a $30,000 Acura sedan, the kind

of decision seconded by many wealthy people who know the purpose of a car is simply

to get us from place to place.

2.Buy a modest house – As many people know, Warren Buffett still lives in the Omaha,

Neb., home he bought in 1958 for $31,500. Taking his cue, and not undertaking a large

monthly mortgage payment, will allow you to use the money you save to build up a

savings and retirement fund.

3.Don’t carry a full wallet – Walking around with a wallet full of cash, or a credit card or

two, can make it tempting to buy more than we need.  Texas oil executive T. Boone

Pickens still shops with a grocery list and carries only enough cash to buy what he

plans to buy.

4.Don’t pay full price – Actress Hilary Swank, who has a net worth of more than $40

million, is frequently seen using coupons at the grocery store – and First Lady Michelle

Obama often opts to shop at Target. Looking for bargains leaves you with more money

to save or invest.

5.Have an action mentality – Almost all self-made millionaires are people of action.

They do not have a “lottery mentality,” waiting for something good to come their way.

Rather, they take appropriate risks, are always looking to improve themselves, and

seek knowledge as the best way to gain a competitive financial advantage.

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Think Outside the Fuse Box: Unique Energy-Saving Home Improvements

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

(BPT)—You've replaced your home's 20-year-old windows with new, Energy Star-rated models, upgraded to electricity-sipping appliances and there's not a single incandescent light bulb to be found anywhere in your house. You may be wondering what more you can do to further reduce your home energy bills.

When you've covered the basic and obvious ways to trim energy use at home, it's time to start thinking outside the fuse box. Here are three unique home improvements that can help make your house even more energy-efficient.

1. Put a stake through the heart of vampire power - Even when they're turned off, electrical devices draw power as long as they're plugged in. "Vampire power" or "standby power" refers to the electricity wasted in this manner. In developed countries, standby power probably accounts for 5 to 10 percent of residential energy use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Fortunately, vampire power is a relatively easy problem to solve. In many cases, simply unplug the power cord - a great solution for your cellphone charger or the coffee pot. When an appliance gets frequent use, however, constantly unplugging and replugging it may not be convenient. In those situations, a simple home improvement may be in order.

Connect outlets to wall switches that make it easy to turn the device off or on at the outlet. Or, you can plug appliances into a device that, in turn, plugs into the outlet and stops electricity leakage.

2. Add motorized shutters to windows - People add motorized rolling shutters to their homes for a variety of reasons, from enhancing privacy and security by making it harder for burglars to break in through windows, to protection against intense sunshine and hurricane winds. But did you know shutters can also boost your home's energy efficiency?

In winter, motorized shades or rolling shutters maximize insulation of windows - a significant point of heat loss in many homes. In summer, they can reduce heat gain, help maintain a more comfortable indoor temperature and protect furnishings from damaging UV rays. Automating motorized shutters with a sun sensor allow you to further improve energy efficiency by raising or lowering shutters throughout the day to fine-tune heat retention.

3. Open the door to energy savings - Your home's front door is the first impression visitors get when they arrive on your doorstep, but it's also a potential source of heat and energy loss. Replacing an old, inefficient or poorly insulated door with an Energy Star-qualified door can pay off with significant heat retention and energy savings.

When looking for a replacement door, insulated doors made of fiberglass or steel, filled with an insulating core such as polyurethane foam, are more energy-efficient than traditional wooden doors. Doors should also fit well into the doorframe, and use weather stripping to block drafts.

Doors wear out, lose efficiency and need to be replaced, according to the Residential Energy Services Network. Replace your old front door with an Energy Star-qualified one, and you may qualify for a federal tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of the door, according to EnergyStar.gov.

Improving your home's energy efficiency is the right thing to do - for both the environment and your wallet. With a bit of creativity and the right home improvements, it's possible to maximize your home's energy efficiency.

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5 Things to Do with Your Family This Summer

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

Summer is a great time to enjoy the outdoors, whether you stay close to home or take a quick trip nearby. Here are some ideas to help you stay active and healthy and spend some time with your family.

Visit a national park. There are more than 400 national parks to choose from, and each one has something special to offer. You can enjoy some time with Mother Nature or sign up for organized hikes, go fishing, horseback riding, or rock climbing. End the day camping and resting next to a campfire.

Cool off at the beach or community pools. If your family likes to spend time in the water, you can always plan a trip to the beach. Make sure to plan ahead and take what you need to build sand castles or play games on the beach. If you live far from the ocean and prefer to stay close to home, you can go to a public pool. Make sure to visit Poolsafely.gov to learn about how to keep your family safe while enjoying the water.

Take a bicycle ride. There are lots of options when it comes to riding your bicycle. You can go around your neighborhood or explore your local parks or beaches. Make it a family routine and teach your children the importance of exercising and staying active. Don't forget to put on your helmet and follow the basic safety rules of riding a bicycle.

Attend local events. Many federal properties host community events where you can enjoy different activities with your family, including farmers' markets, art galleries, concerts and other live shows. Check your local community calendar to see what's coming up.

Organize activities in your home. You don't need to spend money or get out of town to stay active. There are lots of things you can find in your own home to keep your family entertained. You don't need much space to plant a garden.

Source: GobiernoUSA.gov/USA.gov

 

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Word of the Day

June 6, 2013 4:58 am

Maintenance fees.  Paid by a condominium unit owner to the owners’ association for upkeep of the common areas.

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