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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

Avoid These Big Buying Blunders

April 1, 2013 9:40 pm

PERKASIE, PA, Apr 01, 2013—Whether you’re purchasing your first home or your third home, there are several mistakes that can cause serious trouble with your purchase. Avoid the following missteps to help smooth the searching and buying process.

1. Not using an agent

Many people try to cut costs when looking for a new home. However, a real estate agent is a professional, skilled at searching and price negotiating. They also have access to the MLS, and know the area you’re trying to buy in. “The money you spend on hiring an agent will come back to you, both in the form of a more pleasant buying experience, and in landing a better price,” says Thomas Skiffington, Real Estate Professional of RE/MAX 440 & RE/MAX Central.


2. Not getting a property inspection

“It’s vital that you insist on having your future home inspected by a professional before you close,” says Skiffington. It may look like it’s in top shape, but a visit from a qualified home inspector can give you peace of mind that the basement isn’t full of mold, or that the roof isn’t in need of replacement.

“You home inspection will help with negotiations, as well,” states Skiffington.

3. Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage

This is a waste of your time, your agent’s time, and the seller’s time. “Most agent’s won’t work with a client who has not been pre-approved, and sellers will be wary, too,” explains Skiffington.

Even if you have perfect credit and think getting pre-approved will be a cinch, doing this first will save you the hassle later, and show sellers that you’re serious.

4. Visiting properties you can’t afford

If your dream home isn’t currently in your budget, then you can do two of the following: Continue renting until you are in a better financial situation, or focus on your perfect starter home. Sure, it may not have that wrap-around porch or artist’s loft, but a home is a great investment.

“Pick a place you will be happy living in for the next five to 10 years, but do not visit homes you can’t afford,” says Skiffington. “Not only is this a waste of time for everyone involved, you will also break your own heart when you fall in love with a property out of your reach.”

5. Not assessing wants vs. needs

Similar to visiting homes you can’t afford, not adequately assessing wants and needs can be a waste of time, and prove to pull up properties out of your budget. You may need a place near a good school system, or that provides a quick commute. You may need a place with an extra bedroom for in-laws or future children. But do you need a fully renovated basement?

“Sit down with your family and figure out what is essential, and what would be a terrific extra,” recommends Skiffington. Let your agent know, and then start your hunt.

6. Searching before you’re ready

Just like you shouldn’t search before you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, you also shouldn’t search if you aren’t seriously ready to buy. Banking on that raise you’re getting next month? Hold off on the home search.

7. Not reading the fine print

This is where your agent can help you. Be sure to read and understand all documents before signing, even if your excitement—or a looming deadline—is pushing your pen to paper.


“Understand everything you have read, including all contingencies and fine print,” says Skiffington. “Then, sign away with confidence.”

For more information on buying a home, please contact RE/MAX 440 & RE/MAX Central at tskiffington@remax440.com, 2154537653, or RE/MAX 440 & RE/MAX Central.

Tom Skiffington works with his team members on a daily basis to bring success to all his sellers and buyers in culminating closed transactions in the least amount of time at the best possible price. His philosophy -- "because excellent service is so important, my team of real estate specialists and the RE/MAX support staff assist me with each and every real estate transaction. From the minute you hire me as your Realtor, my partners help me to find you a new home or to sell your present home. My team is committed to provide you with the best service in the industry. Right through closing, we will work hard for you. To us, you are Number One!" Introducing Tom's Team Members -- Carol Copelin, Buyer Agent for the Skiffington Team. When you decide to purchase a home with the Skiffington Team, Carol will make sure you have all the necessary information to view and see homes as quickly as possible. She will also coordinate all the paperwork to make sure your offer is presented properly. Her expertise is extraordinary and you can expect courteous professional service. In her spare time, Carol enjoys reading a good book and traveling. Josh Moser, Listing Manager for the Skiffington Team. When you decide to put your home on the market, Josh will be there with you every step of the way helping you feel confident with the process and making decisions in this goal, a Hassle Free accomplishment. With Josh on your side you can't go wrong. His hobbies include reading, fitness and snowboarding. Tom also makes his moving truck available to clients -- Below are some of the awards Tom has achieved. Accomplishments CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, E-Pro, CLHMS (Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist), SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist), RECS (Real Estate Cyberspace Society) Inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Chairman's Club Platinum Club 100% Club and various other awards Tom has consistently exceeded 150 transactions per year for the last several years Licensed in 1988 Continuing Education Certified ECOBroker Energy Advantage Certified ECOBroker Environmental Advantage Certified ECOBroker Green Market Advantage Areas of Specialization Tom specializes in representing buyers and sellers alike in both residential and commercial sales in Bucks, Montgomery and Lehigh Counties. Special Interests/Hobbies Tom's hobbies include computer technology and communications.
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Tips to Simplify Your New Home Purchase

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

Buying a home is a huge step. Learning to maintain and improve it is a long series of baby steps, sometimes painful and sometimes rewarding.

To help get new homeowners off on the right foot, the editors at The Family Handyman –some of the sharpest DIY Veterans around—offer their best tips for choosing, maintaining and improving a home.

These hints include:

1. Scout the neighborhood: Ask questions. When you are checking out your future home, try going on separate occasions and different times of the day. Ask neighbors about the area, schools, etc. This will give you a real indication of what the people and place is really like. You’ll feel more confident with your decision to move in once you have done all the proper research.

2. Check crime stats: Before buying, get a report of police calls in the neighborhood. A bargain price may be due to the crime rate in the area.

3. Verify everything: Get the house history and insist on full written disclosure from the seller about remodeling, repairs, old damage, leaks, mold, etc. Check with the city or county, and get—in writing—the property's permit history, zoning, prior uses, homeowners' association restrictions and anything else you can find out. Forget “location, location, location” and think “verify, verify, verify!”

4. Get a licensed home inspection: This is extremely important. Don't let your real estate agent choose the inspector. Hire someone who works for you without any conflict of interest. Inspect the inspector before you hire. Ask to see a sample home inspection report. Comprehensive reports run 20 to 50 pages and include color photos showing defects or concerns. Also ask about the length of the inspection. A thorough inspection takes a minimum of three to four hours. You should walk through with the inspector, you’ll learn a lot about your house. You may pay more for a certified inspector, but in the long run, it’s worth it. For a list of certified inspectors by the American Society of Home Inspectors, visit ashi.org.

5. Get a home warranty: Piece of mind is important. A home warranty can save you from faulty appliances and you can get the brand new items you need.

6. Make a homeowner’s journal: Buy a ring binder and keep insurance papers, repair receipts and all other paperwork pertaining to the house in it. Storing all your house information in one handy place makes life easier for the homeowner and can be a sales “plus” when selling the house later.

 

7. Get to know your house before making big changes: Live in your home for 12 to 18 months before undertaking any major renovations such as additions or knocking down walls. What you initially think you want may change after you've lived there for a while.

8. Tackle one project at a time: It’s important to take it easy, one project at a time. If you tear right into the porch, kitchen remodel, and outdoor fence replacement at the same time – you’ll have the whole house and yard torn up at the same time. It might come together, but having everything going on at once will just add a lot of stress.

9. Check the furnace filter: Look for clues when it comes to the furnace. This can give you some insight into whether the previous owner took care of regular maintenance.

10. Don’t be afraid to DIY: Ninety percent of a DIY project is having the guts to try. Worst case—you mess up and then bring in the professional. Best case—you save money, learn something new and feel a great sense of accomplishment. 

11. Finish projects . . . now: Don't learn to live with incomplete projects. If you do, the last couple of pieces of trim can linger for years!

12. Budget for trouble: The worst will happen sooner or later. As long as you’re prepared, it will just be an expense rather than a financial shock.

13. Ask neighbors about pros they trust: If you're looking for plumbers, electricians or other pros, ask your neighbors. You tend to get decent advice if you get it from people who live near you.

14. Offer to buy the tools too: You can always use more tools. If you buy from a couple that's downsizing, you might get a great deal if you purchase their garden tools, tractors, snow blowers and tools in general.

Source: www.familyhandyman.com


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4 Steps to your Best Travel Insurance Purchase

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

These days, travelers are offered travel insurance at nearly every turn in their travel planning process – from their travel agents, online booking sites, at the airport – anything to make an extra fee off the traveler.

It’s important to understand, however, that there is a best way to buy travel insurance. Below is what you need to know:

1. Get prepared

You know the minute you book your first flight or reserve your cruise, you’re going to be offered travel insurance. Stop right there! The travel insurance offered on booking engines and by cruise lines may not be the right coverage for you. In fact, if you’ve purchased their coverage before, did you even read it to see if you’d have the coverage you need? If your mother or your child is hospitalized, for example, and you want to be by their side, do you have coverage for that trip cancellation?

Many travelers make the mistake of taking the first insurance offered to them thinking it’s one less thing to cross of their list and they can get it done quickly.

Unfortunately, our comment forum is full of travelers who feel they got scammed when that impulse buy let them down and they lost even more money on their trips. The truth is that they took a shortcut and bought a policy they didn’t understand and that didn’t suit their needs.

Figure out what kind of coverage you need before you start booking your trip. Use the information here to select the coverage you need.

2. Buy your travel insurance early

Travelers enjoy some big benefits when they buy their travel insurance soon after their first trip booking. Why? Because some coverage in travel insurance plans requires booking within a certain number of days of that first trip booking.

One of the biggest ‘got-chas’ that travelers complain about when their claims are denied is due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Travel insurance companies need to exclude illnesses and injuries that happened before their coverage starts to keep their costs down. If you’re diagnosed with a condition or have a change in an existing condition but didn’t buy your coverage soon after your first trip payment, you won’t be covered if you have to cancel your trip. You can, however, buy pre-existing medical condition coverage as long as you buy your plan early in your trip planning process.

3. Compare quotes and coverage

When you look for airfare or hotels, you probably use a comparison engine like Expedia.com or Hotels.com to compare features and quotes and get the right flight or hotel room. It’s the same with travel insurance and it’s the smart thing to do.

Once you know what coverage you need, you can enter your trip dates and a few other details (age, country of origin, etc.) into our travel insurance comparison tool and get quotes from all the major travel insurance providers at once.

Need a specific coverage for your trip? Select that coverage to filter the list of available plans, then review each plan’s details to better understand the coverage. Once you find the right policy, click to buy it and you’ll get your plan documents delivered to your email in minutes.

See our instruction for getting quotes and comparing plans for more detail.

4. Use the free-look period

Unique to travel insurance policies, a traveler has the right to review the plan document and make changes or cancel their travel insurance coverage if it’s not right for them. You’ll even receive a refund of your premium (minus a small processing fee in some cases).

The free-look period is the 10-15 day period after you make your travel insurance purchase in which to review the plan details – that means sitting down with a cup of something and carefully reading the policy.

Don’t worry – these policies are not the huge documents you have to understand to get to know your homeowner’s insurance better (you read those, didn’t you?). Compared to those larger, more complicated insurance documents, travel insurance plans are relatively easy to read and pretty short.

Look carefully at these items:


  1. Read the exclusions - so you know what isn’t covered and you won’t be surprised that para-sailing isn’t a covered activity, for example. Call the 24/7 assistance line and ask questions if you don’t understand. These are the reasons your travel insurance claim can be denied, so it’s important to understand them.

  2. Check the coverage limits – the coverage limits are the maximum amounts that will be paid out for a claim and they may be too high or even too low:

    • If your cruise is costing you over $7,000 does the trip cancellation amount cover that and airfare and other costs?

    • If the plan limits are much higher than what you’ll need, call and modify the plan and the difference in the premium will be returned to you.

  3. Look for optional coverage for special circumstances – many plans provide extra coverage for special situations like ‘cancel for any reason’ or ‘cancel for work reasons’ and pre-existing medical conditions, extra sports equipment coverage, and hazardous sports for example.

  4. Double-check your trip details – be sure that the trip details you entered to purchase the plan are accurate, including trip dates, ages of each of the insured parties, and more. Many claims get denied simply because the original trip details were incorrect.

Source: http://www.travelinsurancereview.net
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Home Allergy Solutions: Dust vs. Dirt

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

Living in an older 'historic' home, I believe that some of the dust that has settled on a few ledges and windowsills could be as old as the residence itself. So it was with some relief that the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (acaai.org) came to the defense of homeowners who are constantly fighting a seemingly losing battle against the dust bunnies.

So is dust allergy a sign of a dirty house? The ACAAI says 'no' - however, a dirty house can make a house dust allergy problem worse. And since many substances in dust cannot be removed by normal cleaning procedures, rigorous cleaning methods can actually put more dust into the air making symptoms worse.

The ACAAI offers the following tips for reducing house dust allergens:



  • Measure the indoor humidity and keep it below 55 percent. Do not use vaporizers or humidifiers. You may need a dehumidifier. Use vent fans in bathrooms and when cooking to remove moisture. Repair all water leaks.

  • Remove wall-to-wall carpets from the bedroom if possible. Use a central vacuum or a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly.

  • If you are allergic, wear a N95 filter mask while dusting, sweeping or vacuuming. Remember, it takes over two hours for the dust to settle back down, so if possible clean when the allergic patient is away and don't clean the bedroom at night.

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom at ALL times. Consider using a HEPA Air Cleaner in the bedroom.

  • Encase mattresses and pillows with "mite-proof" covers. Wash all bed linens regularly using hot water.

  • Do not leave out uncovered food at night, and dispose of food wastes in a tightly sealed garbage can. And if it is an issue, schedule regular professional pest control utilizing integrated pest management (IPM) methods.

  • Install a high efficiency media filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 in the furnace and air-conditioning unit. Leave the fan on to create a "whole house" air filter and change the filter with the change of the seasons. Have your heating and air-conditioning units inspected and serviced every six months.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/mold
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Q: What Questions Should Be Asked of an Architect?

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

A: Ask questions that will give you a sense of the architect’s style, approach to design, and methods of work.  For example:  What is your design philosophy?  What important issues or challenges do you see in my project?  How will you approach my project? What will you show me along the way (models, drawings, or sketches) to explain the project? How do you establish fees?  What would be the expected fee for my project?  What is your experience/track record with cost estimating?  If the scope of the project changes later, will there be additional fees?  How will these be justified?  The Washington Chapter of the AIA offers an excellent consumer brochure that provides additional questions and useful information.
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Word of the Day

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

Loan servicing.  Task of collecting monthly payments, handling insurance and tax impounds, delinquencies, early payoffs, and mortgage releases.


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An Illuminating Case for Motion & Solar Lighting

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

One of the easiest and most economical ways to provide enhanced safety and security
is by adding lights to areas of frequent foot traffic, or the more secluded corners of your
property. So I went looking for a few ways to shed a little light on both wired and wireless
exterior lighting options.
 
Mark J. Donovan, who posted for homeadditionplus.com says the heart of a motion
activated light is an infrared sensor that detects infrared waves, or heat waves, that
radiate from moving objects.
 
Most models of the models available can adjust the field of view - including the detection
angle and detection range - to mitigate nuisance triggers like passing vehicles or
shrubbery being blown by the wind.
 
Donovan says when installing a motion activated exterior light it is best to locate it
approximately 6 to 10 feet off of the ground and in locations that are near egresses to
your home, for examples walkways, patios, garage doors.
 
So how much will you have to pay for a good motion sensing light? At $25 to $40,
bestcovery.com points to the Heath ZenithSL-5512-BZ 300-Watt Quartz Halogen for
motion-activated outdoor lighting, because it includes both a motion sensor and a
two-light halogen floodlight for added convenience.
 
It has a 240-degree motion-activated floodlight featuring a “pulse count” that reduces the
amount of times it's triggered due to wind and rain.
 
If you need serious lighting capacity and you want to add the energy-saving aspect of
solar power, look to ycasolarlightstore.com. This site offers a range of solutions starting
at around $50 graduating up to very sophisticated systems.
 
For instance, the Solar Goes Green SGG-F156-2R Industrial Grade LED Solar Flood
Light - with SMD (Surface Mount Diode) LEDs is more energy efficient and 17% brighter
than standard LEDs. And it includes a long life Lithium Ion battery for superior lighting
cycle time.
 
The SGG-F156-2R Solar Flood light can be configured as a Dusk to Dawn Floodlight, or
as a Solar Powered Motion activated security light using the adjustable motion PIR
detector.
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First-Time Home Buyer? Tips for a Smooth Sale

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

 

Attention to detail and proper preparation can alleviate much of the stress and save time for first-time home buyers.

Coby Crump, President of the Lubbock Association of REALTORS®, says to keep in mind personal finances, the bigger picture, and professional assistance to make for a smooth sale.

Before even beginning to look at the first house, Crump said, it would behoove buyers to sit down and consider their financial situation.

"You can waste a lot of time if you view homes without knowing what you can really afford," Crump says.

In addition to monthly payments and a down payment, it is important to consider property taxes and insurance. A REALTOR® can be beneficial in assessing one's finances.

"When considering finances, ensure to get pre-approved for any loans," he says. "This allows the comfort to search for homes in a buyer's price range. It can also show a seller that he or she is interested and serious, and can allow for an offer to be made quickly."

Crump adds to keep in mind the bigger picture and ultimate goal when faced with annoyances or hiccups in the process. Be realistic and be prepared to make minor concessions.

"You don't have to set low expectations about your home purchase," he says. "Just know that you may need to give a little on one of your search criteria."

With all hiccups or potential problems, it is helpful to have professional assistance; and this includes a professional inspector and a REALTOR®.

A professional inspector can determine what needs to be repaired or replaced. A REALTOR® will prove to be an invaluable partner for the duration of your buying experience. A REALTOR® belonging to the National Association of REALTORS® is held to a high standard of ethics.


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Make Spring Break Safe and Healthy

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

It's that time of year again –bags are packed and people all across the country are on their way to a week filled with fun in the sun. Spring break is a good time for rest and relaxation, but vacation is also a time when many of us lose track of healthy practices including nutritious eating or common sense safety rules.   

"You can enjoy yourself and a few indulgences while still keeping your health a priority in the midst of spring break travel," says Kimbra Bell, MD, an internal medicine physician with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group.

Below are Bell's tips to stay healthy during spring break vacations:


  • Protect your skin. If traveling to a sun-filled destination, wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and most importantly, do not forget to re-apply every two hours.  This will protect against the sun's harmful rays which predispose a person to skin cancer, including melanoma.

  • Eat healthy. A healthy diet is important – even while on vacation.  Be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in meals and drink lots of water.  Nutritious food will keep the body fueled and well-hydrated, providing plenty of energy to engage in activities all day.  In addition, the foundation for any day is a healthy breakfast.

  • Stay hydrated. Oftentimes spring break can involve various days filled with strenuous activities from rock climbing to various kinds of sports; keeping hydrated is essential with any sort of physical activity.  Remember to stay well-hydrated with at least 48 ounces of water per day.  A general rule of thumb would be a minimum of three to four 16 ounce standard water bottles per day.  

  • Pick luggage wisely. If carrying a purse, wear one that can be strapped across the body and has a zipper, not a snap closure or an open closure. A secure zipper can thwart "pick pocket" attempts and decrease the chances of someone grabbing the purse and running away with it.

  • Get plenty of sleep.   A good night's rest is the foundation for renewing and refueling the body for the next day. Adults should strive to get six to eight hours of sleep each night; even on vacation where sleep can sometimes seem secondary to having fun.    

For college students and young adults who are taking spring break trips, Bell reminds that making smart choices and using common sense is one of the best ways to stay safe on spring break. She recommends the following safety tips:


  • Do not travel alone. While on spring break, always move about in pairs or groups.  Traveling alone increases your chances of being a victim of theft or other crime.

  • Take caution if consuming alcohol. If consuming alcoholic drinks (or nonalcoholic beverages) in a public space, never leave a beverage unattended; this can expose the risk of someone putting an unknown substance into the drink. Discard any drink that has been left unattended. Avoid overindulgence which can lead to serious injury or illness and never operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

  • Protect yourself. For those engaging in sexual activity while on spring break, taking safety precautions is essential. Remember, consuming alcohol can cloud judgment and result in bad decision making; it's crucial to assure that both parties are consenting and capable of making decisions. Sexually transmitted infections (STI) are on the rise among young adults. While the only way to be 100 percent protected against STI is to abstain from sexual activity, condoms can prevent transmission of STI between sexual partners.

  • Check in back at home. While it's easy to stay disconnected while on vacation, vacationers should always keep contact with family or friends at home. Plan to check in with parents or other family members at least two to three times over the course of a trip, which will let them know that you are safe and having a good time. If someone expects to hear from you, an immediate red flag will be raised if you don't make contact.

When in doubt, Bell recommends that young adults follow their instincts and make choices that feel best to them. "Remember, you are your own person and if the group that you are with chooses to engage in an activity that you are not comfortable with, do not be afraid to decline participation," said Bell.  "It's better to be safe than sorry.  Find someone who can escort you back to a safe place, such as your hotel room, and then grab your iPad or a good book and relax by the pool."

Source: www.nmh.org.


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Word of the Day

March 28, 2013 10:06 pm

Loan-to-value ratio.  Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property.  Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e. – 75 percent financing.


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