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Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Top Career Tips for Woman

April 29, 2013 5:12 pm

What becomes of the women who graduate with MBAs from Harvard Business School? Do most go on to fulfilling careers, or do they drop out of the work force when they become moms?

“The number that has been floated for years, and is quoted by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in her book ‘Lean In,’ is that 15 years after graduation, only a third of them are working full-time—and they’re working for their male classmates,’’ says executive and business coach Debora McLaughlin, author of “The Renegade Leader, 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits,” and the forthcoming “Running in High Heels.”

“That statement suggests that, even when they hold advanced degrees from an Ivy League university, women are less ambitious, less willing and less committed than their male fellow graduates. I just don’t believe that.”

In fact, McLaughlin is right. Harvard Business School recently surveyed more than 6,400 male and female alumni and found that well more than half the women aged 31 to 47 were working full-time. Sixteen percent were working part-time, and 10 percent were caring for children full-time.

Ninety-five percent of the men were working full-time.

“This tells me that women are making difficult choices. Certainly, to do what it takes to get into Harvard and complete an MBA, they’re ambitious,” McLaughlin says. “But women, especially those who want to become mothers, face extra challenges in trying to strike a work-life balance. And, let’s face it; it’s still a male-dominated business world that lacks understanding of the needs of working moms.”

No matter where a person – male or female – earns her master’s in business administration, there’s a lot they won’t learn in business school, McLaughlin notes. She offers her own MBA for successfully having it all:

• M – Management skills: A lot of the female professionals and business owners McLaughlin works with don’t enjoy managing people. “They may have gone into a particular industry because it’s their passion – whether it’s architecture, engineering or small business. They want to move up, but in business, that almost always involves assuming managerial responsibilities,” McLaughlin says. You can’t duck this and you won’t be successful if you’re half a manager. Find a mentor, an executive coach, a good course or just read up on current management tools – you’ll be happier and so will your employees. And you’ll be on the path to becoming an inspiring leader.

• B – Balance: Finding the right work-life balance for you is essential! If your dream is to own that corner office or grow your business into a Fortune 100, carefully “choose your regrets,” McLaughlin advises. Will you regret giving up your career to manage a home and children? Will you regret the lost mommy time if you continue working full time? Be bold, ask for what you need. “Why do women give up their careers and men do not?” McLaughlin asks. Striking a balance means being unapologetic about what you need when you need it. When you say “yes” understand what you are saying “no” to.

• A – Advancement: In order to achieve your dreams of success, you have to put yourself out there. “You have to show up and speak up, be authentic and unapologetic,” McLaughlin says. Although women now account for more than half the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States, they fill only16.6 percent of the seats on Fortune 500 boards and women CEOs represent only 4 percent. Get the experience that puts you in the position to be a board candidate, McLaughlin advises. Actively network, find female role models who can help you to achieve the kind of success you’re aiming for, and be seen and heard in the workplace.

“If you have a fingerprint to leave on the world and you want to live your life with the greatest impact, know that you can,” McLaughlin says. “You can have all that you want, when you want it.”

Debora McLaughlin is the best-selling author of “The Renegade Leader, 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits” and the forthcoming book, “Running in High Heels.”

For more information, visit www.TheRenegadeLeader.com.
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Word of the Day

April 29, 2013 5:12 pm

Qualification. Act of determining a potential buyer’s needs, abilities, and urgency to buy and matching these with available properties.
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Q: What Should I Know about Zoning Issues and Approvals?

April 29, 2013 5:12 pm

A: Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes, or sometimes a combination thereof. Designed to protect property owners and communities from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws can be very rigid and inflexible. On the other hand, they can protect your property value and ensure against the stationing of a mega-store right next to your home. Before you begin any remodeling job, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project. You can visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board to get a copy of your local ordinance and determine how you will need to seek approval for your project. Take nothing for granted; some communities even require approval to erect fences.
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Helpful Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

(Family Features) For years, research has shown that having a pet can be very beneficial to a person's health. In addition to warming your heart, a cute and cuddly friend can also help protect it by helping to lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve your overall mood.

From online websites to local drives, the opportunity to adopt is abundant. Millions of dogs and cats are looking for their forever home. With the many joys associated with pet ownership, there are also many things to consider. Here are several tips to be mindful of regardless of whether you are a first-time or seasoned pet parent:

Visit the Vet: Get your new buddy checked out at your local veterinarian's office. While many pet adoptions include a complete medical check-up with the adoption fee, it's still important to ensure they are up-to-date on all shots and preventatives. The vet is also a valuable resource to answer any questions you may have about the proper care of your new companion.

Get to Grooming:
Many people think it's only "for the dogs," but both canines and felines need to be groomed on a regular basis. Though this task may seem uncomfortable for your pet, beginning this routine will make the task more predictable for them. Your vet can help you select the proper brush and bath supplies for your pet.

Avoid Odors and Stains:
Accidents happen so be sure that you have a plan to fight stains and odor with the proper household cleaners. For your feline friends, make sure that the litter box is easily accessible. A litter like ARM & HAMMER™ Ultra Last Clumping Cat Litter is long-lasting, with powerful odor destroyers to continuously eliminate even the worst odors and keep your home smelling fresh and clean.

Pet-Proof Your Home:
Make sure your home is a safe haven for your new furry friend, from the floor to the ceiling. Cats love to scratch and dogs love to chew. Providing them with the proper toys will not only keep them happy, but will also help protect your furniture and personal items.

Instill Good Behavior: Begin
good behavior habits from the moment you bring your pet home. Though nipping may seem adorable at first, this behavior may become a pattern that could become a big problem later. Use simple words to praise and command, setting boundaries and confirming you are the boss. For more formal training, seek your local animal trainer or enroll your pooch in an obedience class.

Source: www.UltraLastLitter.com.
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How to Get More for Your Money

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

It used to be that "middle class" meant "comfortable." Yet today, some are finding that lifestyle is slipping away as they struggle to maintain their standard of living.

Today, the best way to maintain the lifestyle you're accustomed to is to become smarter with the money you do have.

Here are a few ways you can maximize your money:

Budget for your specific needs. When every dollar counts, you can't afford to let anything slip through the cracks. That's where a budget comes in. Creating one—and actually using it—can help you take control of your money. Start by keeping a spending journal so you can see where your money's going. Next, subtract your fixed monthly costs (i.e. mortgage or rent, car payment, utilities, savings, etc.) from your monthly income. The remaining money is what you have left for variable expenses, such as groceries, entertainment, gas, etc. How you divide this money is up to you -- the only catch is you have to stay within your budget limits.

Plan ahead to avoid ATM fees. Avoiding this extra cost is as simple as planning ahead. Paying $3 here and there may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. For example, paying $3 at a non-bank ATM, four times a month adds up to $144 each year. That's money that could have been put away in savings or spent on other items.

Find a credit card that benefits you.
Look for one that rewards you for the money you spend.

Save money on everything. With a bit of advance planning and research, you can save money on everything from groceries and gas to haircuts and entertainment. Many of these savings can be found online and through mobile apps. Follow your favorite businesses via social media to learn about exclusive discounts and sales. Mobile apps can help you find the lowest prices on gas and other items you use every day.

Source: BMO Harris Bank
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Need to Perk Up Your Lawn? Time for Lime!

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

I know fairer spring days bring homeowners outside to take a good look at their lawns and landscaping. This brought to mind an article Rhonda Gaster of the North Carolina State University's Lee County Center (http://lee.ces.ncsu.edu) which talks about soil testing and the application of lime to enhance the health and beauty of one's lawn.

Gaster says making a soil test before planting any landscape or garden can provide lots of important information. A typical soil report will present two recommendations: a lime recommendation and a fertilizer recommendation.

Lime is a soil additive usually made by pulverizing limestone (there are other materials that can be used to make lime). Lime's main function is to decrease soil acidity and provides some important plant nutrients.

For most plants, the target pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. There are two types of lime: calcitic and dolomitic.

Calcitic lime is mainly calcium carbonate, while dolomitic lime contains both calcium and magnesium carbonates. If you have sandy soils, dolomitic lime will be the best choice because sandy soils do not hold onto calcium or magnesium well.

If you have a clay soil, Gaster says you will need to base your lime choice on the amount of magnesium already in the soil (if the Mg% is greater than 20, apply calcitic lime).

Lime can be applied at any time during the year, but it will take several months to fully benefit the soil. Try to apply lime before rainfall or plan to irrigate after application.

Gaster says consumers will find both powdered and pelletized lime available. The pelletized lime is easier to use and makes less of a mess.

The lime recommendation is based on the soil pH, and will be expressed in the unit M on a soil report. This unit is the same as lbs per 1,000 square feet.

Only apply 50 lbs of lime per 1,000 square feet at a single application. If your recommendation is higher than 50, apply the initial 50 lbs, then apply the remainder six months later.
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Word of the Day

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

Maturity date. Date on which principal and interest on a mortgage or other loan must be paid in full.
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Q: Is a Vacation Home a Solid Investment?

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.

Other things to consider:

Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?

What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?

If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?

What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?
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Choosing Your Most Sustainable Mortgage Option

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant recently ran across some good advice from Scott Sheldon (bayarearealestatetrends.com) who blogs about how the shrinking inventory of available housing is taking some home buyers' focus off the bottom line.

Sheldon says pre-approved buyers typically focus on purchase price, when in most cases, it’s the monthly payment over time relative to the purchase price that dictates whether or not that particular property can be identified as an opportunity.

He says consumers are beginning to place more emphasis on sustainable payment over time considering they could be paying more for the property than anticipated. And today's real estate market conditions are causing many buyers to switch mortgage loan programs during the pre-approval phase and well into after they’ve gotten they have gotten into contract.

While qualifying for the mortgage is the end result, to perform on a purchase contract, Sheldon says the appropriate loan program promoting long-term payments sustainability becomes next critically important piece of the puzzle.

In his blog, Sheldon details the following borrowing options:

  • Conventional loans represent the lowest cost combination of rate and payment over time. This type of financing represents the cream of the crop, available in the market today. 20 percent down to avoid monthly mortgage insurance, with the lowest possible payment being 3 percent is common.
  • FHA Loans/Including first-time home buyer options are typically geared towards consumers entering the real estate market for the first time. This type of financing however, is eligible for anyone and is not solely a first-time home buyer program.
  • Fannie Mae's Homepath.com program offers two main advantages, those being no appraisal requirement and no monthly mortgage insurance requirement. The cost of these two advantages comes in the form of a higher risk based pricing, an inherently higher cost loan.
  • VA Loans for military families through the US Department of Veterans Affairs guarantees loans for veterans looking to purchase real estate. The program allows for 100 percent financing and no money down and does not contain any monthly mortgage insurance.

Source: www.bayarearealestatetrends.com
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Tips to Ease First Time Homebuyer Jitters

April 26, 2013 5:02 pm

Traditionally, spring marks a busy period of time for housing market activity. With the heat of summer seemingly only weeks away, BMO Harris Bank offers first-time homebuyers strategies for finding their ideal home while keeping financial priorities in check.

Buying a home can be the largest and most important financial decision one can make, so it is important to be aware of all the factors that go into making a responsible purchasing decision.

"The first step is figuring out how much you can afford to spend on homeownership, which means an honest assessment of the household balance sheet," says Kevin Christopher, Head of Mortgages Sales, BMO Harris Bank. "Once you have a clear idea of where you stand financially, you can then make a responsible decision of what you can afford, including your down payment, monthly mortgage costs and other expenses like utility costs, property insurance and taxes."

Here are tips for first timers:

Making an affordability assessment
Christopher noted that there are two rules of thumb first time homebuyers can use to determine what they can afford.

"First of all, housing costs, including mortgage payments, property insurance and taxes, should not take up more than one-third of your income. In addition to this, servicing your overall debt, including loans, utilities, credit card payments and lines of credit, should not account for more than 40 percent. If you can land safely within these parameters, then homeownership is an affordable and realistic option."

Many banks offer free online tools to help you wade through the home lending process.

Coming up with the down payment
In general, the bigger the down payment you come up with, the less interest you'll pay over the life of your mortgage. Financial institutions may offer special accounts designed to help you save for that first home. Consider opening a savings account specifically to fund your down payment. One easy way to save is to set up an automatic monthly deposit from your checking account to your savings account, allowing you to build the balance over time.

Choosing the right mortgage for you
Your mortgage needs to fit in with the rest of your financial priorities -- which could mean increased flexibility or security. Consider the following when choosing your mortgage:

  • Choose a shorter amortization period - In general, the shorter the life of the mortgage, the lower the overall interest cost. Consider choosing a 20-year amortization rather than a 30-year amortization to save you money on interest costs and help you become debt-free sooner.
  • Fixed vs. variable - Variable-rate mortgages have been a winning strategy over the long term, but fixed rate mortgages (currently at historic lows) provide cost certainty and peace of mind.
  • Stress-test your mortgage payments - Use a mortgage payment based on a higher rate to stress-test your budget; total housing costs (mortgage payments, property taxes and insurance, etc.) should not consume more than one-third of household income.

Applying for pre-approval
A pre-approval establishes the amount you can reasonably afford to borrow towards the purchase of your first home. Consider the following benefits to getting pre-approved:

  • Have a good idea of your finances - You will receive a better idea of how much you are qualified to borrow, saving time looking at homes that meet your affordability range. Your term and amortization, as well as estimated monthly payments, are provided at approval so you can use these figures when planning your overall budget.
  • Moving quickly - If you are pre-approved for a mortgage, you'll be able to move quickly to make an offer when you finally find the perfect home for you.
Source: BMO Harris Bank
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