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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
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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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Tom's Blog

This Spring, Make Your Home Improvements Colorful

April 16, 2013 5:10 pm

Spring is finally here, and people are looking to update their homes and turn their design dreams into reality. In fact, two-in-three (62 percent) homeowners are planning a painting project, according to the National Home Color Survey from Sherwin-Williams.

From simply updating a room to a complete home transformation, homeowners are looking for ways to add color to their space. The home's most colorful features, paintings/wall hangings (39 percent), walls (23 percent) and furniture (15 percent), are often used to express people's creativity and interests.

"I love to see people get out of their neutral groove and add a splash of color to rejuvenate a room, whether it's with eye-catching accessories or a fresh coat of paint," says David Bromstad , HGTV® star and celebrity interior designer. "Color can really set the mood for a room and bring personality to your home."

Bringing More Color into the Home
The National Home Color Survey indicates three-in-four homeowners (74 percent) would like to incorporate more color in their homes, especially the living room (29 percent), bedroom (19 percent) and kitchen (10 percent).

That said, the most commonly used living spaces are in need of the most paint this year, with 32 percent of homeowners focusing on their bedrooms, 29 percent tackling the living/family room and 28 percent updating their bathroom. In addition, 15 percent of people believe their home's exterior could use a refresh.

National Painting week kicked off on April 15. To inspire homeowners. NationalPaintingWeek.com will feature color inspiration, painting ideas, expert tips, product information and one-of-a-kind projects from 14 top design bloggers.

Tips to Rejuvenate Your Home with Color

  • Identify a colorful object as the focal point of the room. Select a few colorful pieces to build your room around, such as artwork or a lively piece of furniture. Throw in some fun accessories like geometric patterned pillows, bright lacquered picture frames or unusual light fixtures.
  • Explore color. Use a range of color selection tools to help select colors for your space.
  • Highlight unexpected areas. Colorful paint can turn ordinary areas like ceilings, banisters or doorframes into extraordinary spaces. If you want to keep walls neutral, paint a piece of furniture, such as a chair, headboard or the back of a bookshelf. Or balance neutral walls with bright trim on doors, windows and ceilings.
  • Use colorful patterns for the illusion of space. When working with a small or challenging space, use paint to create optical illusions. Horizontal stripes can help small rooms feel more spacious, while vertical stripes can add the illusion of height to low ceilings.
Source: www.NationalPaintingWeek.com.
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5 Ways to Keep Your Social Security Number Safe and Guard against Identity Theft

April 15, 2013 5:06 pm

As hackers devise more innovative ways to steal information from cyberspace, most consumers know that keeping your Social Security number (SSN) from strangers is one of the surest ways to guard against identity theft.


“The fact is, the fewer places your information resides online, the less chance it will be stolen,” says Credit.com’s Adam Levin. “Yet some of us are inclined to give our numbers out any time somebody asks for it.”

For example, he added, the forms you fill out at a doctor’s office routinely ask for your SSN – primarily to help in tracing you down if you default on your bill. But, in most cases, the office will be satisfied with the name and phone number of a relative who can provide the number if needed.

Levin points out five instances when you should never provide your SSN:

Companies or organizations who ask by mail or email – No matter how ‘official-looking’ a letter or email appears, credit card companies and retailers have no reason to ‘confirm’ your personal information. Call the customer service number listed on the back of the suspect credit card to reaffirm that your information is secure.

Anyone who telephones or stops you on the street – Don’t divulge your number to anyone on the phone, especially of you have not initiated contact – and don’t give it to anyone in any public place no matter what allegedly ‘free’ product or service they promise to give you.

Public schools - Your utility bill confirms your address, and your email and phone number give them channels to contact you in an emergency. Asking for your SSN is simply not necessary.

Little League, summer camp et al – For the same reasons, your SSN should never be required by sports organizations or other children’s groups. If you use credit to pay for the activity, it may be needed. If you pay upfront or with a direct debit to your bank account or credit card, they don’t.

Supermarkets – A frequent shopper card is neither a loan, nor a bank account. It’s a tool grocery stores use to track your purchases, primarily for marketing purposes. Yet many supermarket chains request customers’ Social Security numbers on their application forms. Refuse to provide it.
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Move Your Workout and Your Family Outdoors

April 15, 2013 5:06 pm

(Family Features) Playing together outdoors is the perfect way for families to bond while staying active and fit, but when seasonal allergies come into play they can keep many families on the sidelines. Allegra is setting out this season to show people there's no reason to suffer if you have the right relief, and has teamed up with basketball star Lisa Leslie to share fun, affordable workout tips that help families enjoy the outdoors even during allergy season.

"As an athlete and a mom, there's nothing I enjoy more than getting outside to shoot hoops or run around with my kids, but when our allergy symptoms act up it can keep my whole family indoors," says Leslie. "I am thrilled to show families that with the help of Allegra their seasonal allergies don't have to stop them from being outdoors and having fun."

Lisa shares how to utilize simple household items and a little imagination to transform any backyard or outdoor space in to a family fitness center:

Scavenger Hike: Turn a family hike into a scavenger hunt; come up with a fun list of challenges like climbing over a log, finding a pinecone, skipping down an entire trail or racing to the birch tree and back.

Driveway Drills: Using chalk and cardboard boxes you can create your own basketball court on the driveway. Have the kids draw free throw lines and see who can bounce or throw the ball into the cardboard box "hoop."

Time for Fun: Use your kitchen timer or a stopwatch to time kids in sprints, relays and jumping jack sessions; record times on a dry erase board to help kids track their personal best times.

Source: www.allegra.com.
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Heavy Metal in Your Water, Part II

April 15, 2013 5:06 pm

In our last segment, I noted that Connecticut just issued a statewide advisory for all homes on well systems to begin supplemental testing for arsenic and uranium. So we'll wrap up our crash course on wells and contaminants by scoping in on two main culprits.

We will begin with arsenic - a classified human cancer-causing agent - which has been associated with increased risk of lung, bladder and skin cancers.

The type of uranium found in groundwater is not considered a radioactive risk and is therefore not a major cancer concern. However, the toxicity of the uranium metal has been associated with adverse effects on kidney function.

You should test for arsenic and uranium when you buy a house with a well or at the time a new well is drilled. Since it is possible for both contaminant levels in well water to fluctuate, it is a good idea to test for arsenic every 5 years.

If you have a treatment system to remove arsenic or uranium from your water, you should test every year to be sure your treatment system is working properly.

Because uranium gets into your body only through ingestion (and not through the skin or through inhalation), it is not necessary to treat all the water in your home, only the water you drink. Reverse osmosis (RO) and ion exchange are the most common types of treatment systems used for uranium removal and are both very effective.

You should also think about whether the uranium treatment system you are considering will also remove radium. If you need to treat your water because of high uranium and the system you select will also remove radium, then you do not need to test your water for radium.

However, if a uranium treatment system is not effective for radium, Connecticut health officials recommend that testing your water for radium. If you have elevated radium in addition to uranium, you will need to select a system that will effectively remove both contaminants.

To learn more, or get more localized information on water issues where you live, go to: water.epa.gov/drink
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Word of the Day

April 15, 2013 5:06 pm

Mortgagor. Party or person that borrows money, giving a lien on the property as security for the loan; the borrower.
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Q: Can the Seller Include Contingencies in a Contract?

April 15, 2013 5:06 pm

A: Yes. For example, if you decide to sell your existing home first before buying another one, you can make the sale of your home contingent on finding a replacement home. Some sellers opt for this contingency to avoid a double move, such as moving to a hotel or rental until a new home is found and made available.

However, there is one problem with this type of contingency: it can inconvenience the buyer, particularly if his own home is in escrow. He may not be willing to wait for you to move.

This strategy has a better chance of working when the market is relatively strong, your home is a rare find, the price and terms of the transaction are very favorable for the buyer, or the buyer is in no hurry to move.
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Tips for Fresh Produce: Soil and Epsom Salt

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

On a sixth-generation farm that the Barbee family has owned for more than a century in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, Brent Barbee has discovered a new way to increase his harvest and make his fruit taste sweeter. He's using Epsom salt.

Barbee says he used to fertilize every time he watered, but fertilizer causes salt buildup in soil. Now he uses Epsom salt through drip irrigation to help separate fertilizer bound to the soil and make it available to the plants. It reduces the total amounts of fertilizers he needs, and makes the fertilizers he uses more effective.

"The Epsom salt makes the nutrients more available," he says.

Barbee spent the first day of spring mixing Epsom salt with water at a ratio of 10 pounds per acre. For residential gardeners, that's the equivalent of an eighth of a pound – or about a quarter-cup of Epsom salt – per 500 square feet. It's a step that's even more important with sandier soil.

Barbee uses the same solution on several of his other crops, including lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Once his cantaloupe and watermelon grow to the size of a baseball, he also uses the mixture as a weekly foliar spray, helping them taste sweeter.

"It was an old myth, but we tried it, and it works," Barbee said. "You do a blind taste test, and you can tell the difference."

Barbee grows more than 40 crops, from apples to zucchini. His harvests are so successful that last year, he had an additional 50,000 pounds of produce to share with the Society of St. Andrew. The group's national volunteer-driven gleaning network has helped people in need receive more than 143 million pounds of produce that would have otherwise gone to waste.

"You don't farm for the money," Barbee said. "It's something in your heart."

Barbee offered the following tips for residential gardeners:

  • Fertilize your soil in the winter, about a month before growing season starts, and then add Epsom salt when you set the plants. Use an eighth of a pound of Epsom salt – or about a quarter-cup – per 500 square feet. With sandier soil, you may want to fertilize about two weeks before growing season begins.
  • Look for yellowing between the veins of leaves, because it could be a sign of magnesium deficiency that might require Epsom salt.
  • Work with your county extension agent to test your soil by sending a sample before planting. This should be done every 1 to 3 years, depending on the cost. If there are problems with plants, county extension agents can also ask smart questions to help with a diagnosis.

"Taking care of the soil," Barbee said, "will take care of you."

To donate to the Society of St. Andrew, please visit: www.endhunger.org.

Sources: www.barbeefarms.net, www.epsomsaltcouncil.org
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Tech Talk: Understanding 'the Cloud' and What It Can Do For You

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

(BPT) - News headlines, commercials and chatter between colleagues - recently there has been a lot of hype around "the cloud," but the term can be complex and confusing. What exactly is the cloud, and furthermore, what does it mean for you and the way you use technology? Although the concept feels relatively new, it's simpler than you may think.

You've probably heard a lot about storing and sharing information on the cloud, but did you know there's a good chance you're already utilizing the cloud regularly without even knowing it? Every time you check or send an email online, you're sending information through the cloud, in other words, through a network of servers, software and services in a remote location.

Much like connecting your television to a cable connection, you connect your tech device to the Internet to access content stored in the cloud. When you use cloud storage, what you can do with your technology devices - from desktop to tablet to smartphone - expands greatly.

The cloud isn't just for tech elites - it can make life easier no matter how tech-savvy you are. Whether you're heading a global conglomerate or are simply the head of your kid's soccer team, the cloud can help streamline what you need to do online. Beyond checking email, the cloud lets you work with other people online with documents that can be edited simultaneously, store large files so you don't have to keep them on hand, and easily access and share important photos and personal documents, like travel plans.

There are two simple ways you can start seeing the many benefits of the cloud immediately. First, personal cloud email services make staying in touch with friends, family, and professional contacts easy. Is it time you upgraded your email experience? Outlook.com is a free, personal email service from Microsoft that has tools to keep your email streamlined.

With Outlook.com you can access easy-to-use, automated tools to help you get through your inbox quickly. Set up your preferences that mirror how you live your life: bills can automatically go in one folder, important documents archived in another. You can even "sweep" out all of your old daily deals or newsletters with just a few clicks.

Spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter or other social media websites? Outlook.com works with your favorite social media sites. You can add contacts from your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks, so that changes like address updates in those accounts are automatically updated. You can save time and energy by chatting, updating, and even posting comments or accepting friend requests in a few clicks all from your inbox.

The second way you can experience instant benefits from the cloud is through a personal cloud storage service. Microsoft's SkyDrive provides 7 GB of free storage which is more than what most competitors offer, and additional storage is available at rates that are also lower than most competitors. Outlook.com and SkyDrive work together, and SkyDrive works with your smartphone, tablet, PC, or Mac, so you have access to your photos, documents, and other important files anytime, anywhere, automatically.

Do you ever have a ton of photos you want to email to a friend, but you can't because the files are too large to send all in one email? Or sometimes you just want to share those photos with specific people instead of to everyone on Facebook. Just upload the photos to SkyDrive and email the link to the people you choose! You can share photos beautifully only with the people you choose, without taking up space in their inboxes.

Another invaluable benefit to personal cloud storage services is the ability to work with others on projects from anywhere at any time. With SkyDrive, you get free Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote in your browser, so multiple people in different places can work on the same document, at the same time. Plus, you get to choose who can view and edit these documents.

No matter how simple or complex your computing needs, the cloud can help keep you more organized, -save time, save space in your inbox or on your desktop, and sometimes it just plain saves you from losing an important document or email. Learn more about how the cloud can change the way you use technology by visiting www.outlook.com and www.skydrive.com.
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Are Your Pots Past Their Prime?

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

(Family Features)—Mealtime can be a daily challenge no matter the size of your household. Part of that challenge can be having the right cookware. More than simply tools in the kitchen, cookware is a way to enjoy the process of cooking and bring family and friends together. The notion of upgrading your cookware may be far from mind, but having the right pot or pan will keep family and friends coming back for more.

A recent survey concludes that most Americans own a piece of cookware that is approximately 17 years old. This survey also reveals that three out of 10 Americans admits to not knowing how to properly gauge the wear and tear of their cookware. When you know how to properly evaluate your cookware, you’ll have confidence in your supplies, making the process of cooking even more rewarding.

Step One: Check Your Cookware

Look at your pots and pans to assess the wear and tear of each. Check for signs of chipping, rusting, or warping that may affect the performance. Flip it over and look at the bottom to see if it is burned, which could affect how the pot or pan heats. Also, check the handles and lids to see if they are bent or missing.

Step Two: Test It Out

Once you’ve checked the condition of your cookware, it’s time to test it out. Chipping, rusting, and warping can affect the cooking or cleanup performance of your pots and pans. Be sure to test your cookware to ensure these flaws are only cosmetic. If your cookware is nonstick, a good test is to fry an egg – if it sticks to your pan then it is likely time to buy yourself a replacement.

Step Three: Reevaluate Your Needs

Once you’ve reviewed and tested your cookware, you can decide what you should keep, what to reinvest in and what you need to recycle. Start by asking yourself how often you cook, how much do you cook, and do you find yourself needing different sizes and shapes of pans while cooking?

A good rule of thumb when looking for new cookware is to look for pots and pans that are branded by manufacturers with a long track record, such as those which carry the DuPont™ Teflon® brand logo.

Finally, it’s important to feel the cookware in your own hands. Visit your local retail store and pick them up. Find out if the handles feel comfortable, the weight is good – and if you love the color and style. Most of your favorite retail stores have great selections to meet your needs.
Source: www.NothingMessesWithIt.com.
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Q: What Basic Services Can I Expect an Architect to Provide?

April 14, 2013 9:02 am

A: Most projects require a set of basic services. They are as follows: preliminary, or schematic, design; design development; preparation of construction documents (drawings and specifications); assistance in the bidding or negotiation process, and the administration of the agreement between you and your builder or contractor, if needed. Some projects will require other services, such as pre-design work, which includes budgeting and financing packages, as well as planning and zoning applications. Projects may also include special cost or energy analyses, models and tenant-related design.
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