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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: Are there ways to save money when using a contractor?

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.
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Word of the Day

May 23, 2013 6:20 pm

Settlement.  The day on which title is conveyed.

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7 Ways to Cut Cost on Airfare

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.

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Tips for Extending your Home into Your Patio

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.

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Aging in Place Primer: Reducing Maintenance

May 23, 2013 2:20 pm

I recently referenced reporting by Nell Bernstein at caring.com, who pointed out two important factors about planning for aging in place. Bernstein says the steps to successful aging in place include learning how to "future-proof" a home -- before a health crisis or other emergency strikes.

Household maintenance is another significant area of concern. Little chores can cause big problems in the form of falls or other mishaps, unless you have on-site assistance at all times.

In the event you don't, the National Association of Home Builders lists many factors homeowners can take into consideration when looking to simplify or reduce maintenance chores.  

Consumer seeking to modify an existing home for aging in place or build a new home to meet long term should consult the NAHB Aging-In-Place Design Checklists which include the following points:

Exterior

  • Low-maintenance exterior (vinyl, brick)
  • Low-maintenance shrubs and plants
  • Deck, patio or balcony surfaces are no more than ½ inch below interior floor level if made of wood

Overall Floor Plan

  • Main living on a single story, including full bath
  • No steps between rooms/areas on the same level
  • 5-foot by 5-foot clear/turn space in living area, kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom

Entry

  • Accessible path of travel to the home
  • At least one no-step entry with a cover
  • Sensor light at exterior no-step entry focusing on the front-door lock
  • There needs to be 32 inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door
  • Non-slip flooring in foyer
  • Entry door sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and safety.
  • Doorbell in accessible location
  • Surface to place packages on when opening door

Other Reduced Maintenance/Convenience Features

  • Easy to clean surfaces
  • Central vacuum
  • Built-in pet feeding system
  • Built-in recycling system
  • Video phones
  • Intercom system

View the complete checklist here.

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Word of the Day

May 23, 2013 2:20 pm

Second mortgage.  Lien on property that is subordinate to a first mortgage.  In the event of default, the second mortgage is repaid after the first.  Also called a junior mortgage, and in some circumstances a home equity loan.

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Q: Is a Home Equity Line of Credit Similar to a Second Mortgage?

May 23, 2013 2:20 pm

A: A home equity loan, like a second mortgage, lets you tap up to about 80 percent of the appraised value of your home, minus your current mortgage balance. But because it is set up as a line of credit, you will not be charged interest until you actually make a withdrawal against the loan, although you will be responsible for paying closing costs.

The withdrawals can be made gradually as you begin to pay contractors and suppliers for handling your remodeling project.

The interest rates on these loans are usually variable.  Of particular importance: make sure you understand the terms of the loan. If, for example, your loan requires that you pay interest only for the life of the loan, you will have to pay back the full amount borrowed at the end of the loan period or risk losing your home.

 

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This Summer, Keep Kids Learning

May 22, 2013 2:00 am

(Family Features)—During the school year, kids focus on the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. Make summer a time to explore their interests. Plan trips and activities that keep them learning and enjoying their favorite topics.

  • Learning is as close as your computer. Both YouTube and Ted Talks feature short videos that educate and inspire.
  • When visiting the library for books this summer, pick up a few DVDs covering your child's favorite subject.
  • Arrange a mini-internship. If one of your kids loves animals, ask a veterinarian if your child could observe at the office for an afternoon.
  • Explore the great outdoors at summer camp. Instead of sending your kids away, look for local day camp options focusing on nature, sports or other activities.
  • Volunteer opportunities abound. Look for charity work tailored to your child's interest to combine learning with helping others.
  • Connect with clubs in your community, such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H. Each group encourages learning, outdoor activities and friendship.

The most important part of summer should be family so use those extra days of freedom to spend more time together. Involve your child in the daily routine. A trip to the grocery store is a great place to see math, reading, problem solving, and decision making in action. They'll learn a lot about etiquette and social skills just being along for the ride during "grown-up" activities.

Attend free outdoor movies, explore museums, visit relatives or play group games. Also set aside crafting afternoons to paint, play with modeling clay or make special projects, such as Stamped Alphabet Magnets. Not only will everyone have the fun of making them, they can be used on the refrigerator all summer to keep kids spelling or simply share special messages.

Source: www.joann.com

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Juice for Good Health

May 22, 2013 2:00 am

Drinking to good health via juicing is seeing a resurgence in popularity as a new generation discovers the benefits of juiced vegetables, says nutritionist and juicing icon Cherie Calbom, MS, author of a new book full of juicing tips, tricks and recipes, “The Juice Lady's Big Book of Juices and Green Smoothies.”

“For decades, people with acute medical conditions and those striving for optimum health have turned to juicing nutrient-dense ingredients,” says Calbom.

“You can supplement your diet with a glass of fresh juice, or go on a days-long cleansing ‘juice feast.’ And you can use different combinations of ingredients to improve your mood or boost your energy or even help alleviate physical ailments.”

Calbom says she witnessed the transformation of a woman who had back and arthritis pain, which caused her many nights of interrupted sleep due to pain in her hands. After six weeks of juicing in the morning and before dinner, she lost 12 pounds and felt more energetic in the mornings. More importantly, her arthritic and back pain has completely ceased.

Calbom suggests these cocktails for people burdened with specific ailments:

• Arthritis helper: One handful of flat leaf parsley; One dark green lettuce leaf; three to four carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed; two stalks of celery with leaves; a two-inch-chunk of ginger root; and one lemon, peeled if not organic. This makes 1 serving. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce arthritic joint pain and help combat oxidative damage to joints.

• The asthma helper: Five carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed; five to six radishes with leaves; one green apple; half a lemon, peeled if not organic. This makes one serving and can be served chilled or at room temperature. Radish is a traditional asthma remedy.

• The headache mender: Half a ripe cantaloupe with seeds and rind removed; half of a cucumber, peeled if not organic; a 1- to 2-inch chunk of ginger root, peeled. Cantaloupe and ginger root have been shown to reduce platelet stickiness, which is related to migraine headaches.

• Cholesterol buster cocktail: Four medium-sized carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed, ends trimmed; two ribs of celery, with leaves; two kale leaves; one green apple, such as a Granny Smith, or pippin apple; a 1-inch chunk of ginger root, scrubbed or peeled if old. Ginger root has been shown in numerous scientific studies to reduce inflammation. It’s inflammation that is implicated in heart disease. But if you are looking to lower your LDL, juice an apple with your ginger root. Apples contain antioxidants that help to halt oxidation of LDL. It is oxidized LDL that is most harmful.

• The adrenal booster: One handful of parsley; one dark green lettuce leaf; four carrots, scrubbed well, tops removed and ends trimmed; two tomatoes; two ribs of celery with leaves; a dash of hot sauce; a dash of Celtic sea salt. Serves two. The adrenal glands respond to stress; when they’re overworked and fatigued, you can experience mood swings and weight gain. Hot peppers and parsley are rich in vitamin C and celery is a great source of natural sodium, both of which are very beneficial for the adrenal glands.

“As with any juice cocktail, these drinks are best imbibed as soon as possible after being processed,” Calbom says. “This is ‘live food,’ which has a full complement of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, biophotons and enzymes. You can make it the night before, however, and drink in the morning or take it with you if you keep it chilled in a covered container.”

Cherie Calbom, MS is the author of 21 books, including the best-seller “Juicing for Life,” with 2 million copies sold in the United States and published in 23 countries.

Source: www.juiceladycherie.com

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Keeping Your Finances and Sanity on Track

May 22, 2013 2:00 am

You don’t have to be a trader on the world’s markets to experience the financial roller coaster, says mathematician Lambros Klouvidakis.

“The world has struggled in recent years to absorb the many stresses and negative influences on global markets and everyone’s affected. Look at the senior citizens who lost as much as 40 percent of their retirement investments!” he says. “At one point during the crisis, the Dow Jones Industrial lost 50 percent of its value in less than a week; unemployment shop up more than 5 percentage points and consumer spending, at its worst, dropped by 50 percent.”

Traders, however, gain and lose on a regular basis, and we can learn a lot from their experience, Klouvidakis says.

Klouvidakis offers tips for traders and anyone else experiencing major shifts in their finances:

• Set the right tone immediately. If you’ve lost a chunk of money and your lifestyle is already compromised, understand that you can get it back. Rather than wasting energy trying to blame someone or something, focus your efforts on problem-solving. Not only does this mindset put time to good use, it also diverts you from negative and painful feelings. On the flip side, if you have recently come into a large amount of money, smart investments and shrewd spending are equally important. 

• Take stock of your human assets. Remember, you have important assets that don’t show up on the net worth statement. Education, experience, skills and knowledge are hard to put a dollar value on, but don’t overlook them as a resource. Talk to other traders about ways to use strengths and skills during this time of income change and in the future.

• Share the burden & ask for advice. During times of stress, the support of friends and acquaintances is critical. New traders, for example, have difficulty revealing their vulnerability and inexperience to more seasoned traders, but when they do, they open the door to receiving excellent advice. The same is true for those who are not marketplace professionals but need encouragement.

• Accept change and uncertainty (be flexible). Income changes require that we prepare for a journey of uncertainty. We often cling to the very things that hold us back. Traders who adjust well to change know when to hold on to a position and when to let go. Many of us grew up believing strength meant holding on, when it often takes more strength to let go and move on.

• Don’t forget your family. Trading, looking for a job or studying for a new career can be consuming, but even when things have gone bad—especially when things have gone bad—stay involved with your family and create stability at home. What’s good for the family is also good for you. In difficult times, new traders tend to take others for granted and forget to provide the attention they need and deserve. If necessary, make a strong conscious effort to pull together with family and work through tough times.

Lambros Klouvidakis is the creator of Semathy, an elite foreign exchange consultancy. He is a math expert who has dedicated 12 years of his life to the study of currency exchange behavior.

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