Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
March 21, 2013 5:50 pm
Unless you are in the habit of checking every transaction on your monthly credit card bill, you may fall prey to the extra or unauthorized charges that find their way to the statements of one out of every four credit card users each year.
These ‘grey fees’ appearing on your bill may not actually be fraudulent, according to the consumer watchdogs at BillGuard. More likely, they are legal if unwanted charges that were hidden in the fine print of another transaction.
Financial expert Farnoosh Torabi urges consumers to examine credit card bills closely. Be on the lookout for – and question the responsible merchants – about grey area charges that may have been incurred in five common ways:
- Free-to-paid goods or services – Often incurred while shopping online, these are fees for turning free trials into ongoing paid purchases. For example, you sign up online for a free trial of cosmetics or vitamins. It seems like a good deal, but the fine print in the offer may include ongoing charges and/or future deliveries. Unless you cancel the ongoing service, you may continue to be billed.
- Unwanted offers – Say you purchase a pair of running shoes online. Unless you read the fine print, and perhaps uncheck a box, you may also inadvertently sign on for a subscription to a runner’s magazine or some other unwanted ancillary product.
- Negative opt-out marketing – You order something online and when it arrives, another product is included in the package. Don’t assume it is a free gift. Read the fine print on the invoice, because in accepting it, you may be agreeing to receive additional products monthly, for which you will be billed.
- Automatic renewals – Just because you’ve cancelled a service or subscription, such as a gym membership or even a credit card, doesn’t mean it has been instantly cancelled. Check your statements for annual or other fees that may have been charged before the cancellation took effect.
- Cost creep – It may amount to only pennies or dollars monthly on the cost of what you pay for product insurance or cable or other services. But watch your bills and be alert for unexplained cost creep-ups that keep occurring without explanation.
March 21, 2013 5:50 pm
Are you a basketball lover? Planning on purchasing tournament tickets?
"The NCAA Tournament is one of the most exciting dates on the sports calendar," says Gary Adler, NATB General Counsel and Executive Director. "It's important that March Madness fans do their due diligence to make sure that the tickets they buy are legitimate. Consumers need to know the following tips to ensure a great experience from the time they purchase a ticket to the time they sit down in the arena to watch their favorite college team in action," Adler adds.
5 Tips for Safely Purchasing Tickets to NCAA Tournament Games:
- Check to see if the reseller is a member of the NATB at www.natb.org
- Know the difference between a ticket broker (legitimate and accredited reseller) and a ticket scalper (unregulated and unlicensed ticket seller).
- Check the ticket broker's refund policy. Only buy from a ticket reseller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction.
- Always use a credit card-do not use cash.
- Always ask for section, row and seat number to avoid obstructed view seats or seats that do not exist.
Lastly, feel free to ask questions to make certain you get all the answers you need to feel comfortable with your ticket purchase.
March 21, 2013 5:50 pm
Listing. Contract used for hiring a real estate agent to sell a piece of property. Also a piece of property that is for sale.
March 21, 2013 5:50 pm
A: Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, use and occupancy, and maintenance. The codes are established and enforced by local politicians and government officials, who also tend to modify them constantly. The codes are usually enforced by denying permits, occupancy certificates, and by imposing fines.
While codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire. Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors.
There are building codes for most remodeling jobs. So if you have done significant remodeling, make sure you save proof of the permits involved in the project. There is a good chance potential buyers may request them. Failure to obtain the appropriate permits before you undertake a project could later result in fines or other serious consequences, such as having a structure ordered to be torn down because it was constructed improperly.
March 20, 2013 5:42 pm
Almost on a daily basis, news reports detail the marketplace factors that can affect businesses large and small. No matter what the potentially game-changing info coming out of Washington, D.C., or China, though, there are winning strategies that not only endure but should be part of every workplace’s culture, says financial expert and small-business advocate Chris Hurn.
“With some merit, analysts are always reviewing contingencies that may change investments by businesses; most recently, the ‘fiscal cliff.’ But there are many ways to invest in your own business regardless of the economic climate,” says Hurn, author of “The Entrepreneur’s Secret to Creating Wealth: How the Smartest Business Owners Build Their Fortunes.”
Hurn reviews the resolutions business owners and entrepreneurs should consider to make 2013 the most positively transformative year:
• Consider buying:
After a business has survived three to six years and is stable, commercial property ownership is a natural next step with benefits that new entrepreneurs often overlook, says Hurn. Ownership is a path to more stability and long-term wealth, and the government program administered by the Small Business Administration – SBA 504 – offers long-term financing at below-market fixed rates.
Often in business, one measure of strength reflects your strength of character, so invest in yourself! Identify business books that focus on areas you need to develop or lessons shared by successful business people you admire. Commit to reading at least one per month.
• Company culture:
Your company’s culture has a lot to do with your success. Come up with three ideas that will improve your company’s culture and take action on them. Improved health, the most universal resolution, can have a profoundly positive impact on the workplace, from boosting morale to increasing productivity.
• Refresh/jumpstart marketing:
Identify three new marketing initiatives that you can implement on a regular and ongoing basis. Start small and track which ideas seem to have teeth. Remember — repetition and consistency are keys here.
• Become an authority in your field:
Research publications in your industry and pitch yourself as a media source. This can net you some free PR later in the year. The key is to focus on media outlets – become a familiar name so they can turn to you as a reliable source. You have to convince contacts that you know your stuff and that you’re available to comment when there’s news to report. If you simply don’t have time for this, consider investing in a reasonably-priced PR firm.
Chris Hurn is CEO and co-founder of Mercantile Capital Corp. based in Orlando, Fla.
For more information, visit www.TheEntrepreneursSecretBook.com
March 20, 2013 5:42 pm
I like to think of one's home as a pretty active environment. But recently, designer Jamie Wolf of Wolfworks in Avon, Conn. (homesthatfit.com) provided a little lesson about the Passive House movement.
Tens of thousands have been built over the past two decades in Europe, establishing an impressive and dependable performance record. And Wolf notes that more international governments are establishing Passive House standards as a key element of their policies to reduce energy use for the long term.
Wolf recently completed the first home in Connecticut certified to the international Passive House standard based on principles originating in the US in the '70s and perfected in Germany in the 1990s
The secret to how Wolf's Passive home is the application of several critical design principles:
- Super Insulation: insulation tuned to the local climate level to assure a stable, draft-free interior
- Thermal Bridge Free Construction: detailing that assures energy isn’t transferred through building materials
- Air-Tight Construction: rigorous attention to sealing all potential air leakage sources
- Net-Gain High Performance Windows: triple glazed, tilt-turn windows tuned to gain more energy than they lose
- Balanced Ventilation: system recovers heat from steady balanced air flow, “the house literally breathes”
- Lighting and Plug Loads: LED and CFL light sources in nearly all fixtures and the best Energy Star appliances
Generally, construction of a Passive House is about five percent more costly than typical construction, however, savings start immediately. Based on analysis done by Home Energy Rater, Wolf says the Connecticut Passive house is predicted to produce income of $380 year, with a predicted annual savings of $5,652 over a code built home.
And the Net Present Value of the energy savings (with inflation) over 30 years discounted at the after-tax mortgage interest cost is estimated to be $199,087.
You can also learn more about whether a passive house may be right for you, by visiting passivehouse.us.
March 20, 2013 5:42 pm
(Family Features)—As the cost of energy continues to rise, homeowners everywhere are looking for ways to cut back on their usage and exercise energy efficiency in their homes. Lighting your house is no minor expense, with recent data from the U.S. Department of Energy showing that an average household dedicates 10 percent of its energy budget to lighting and spends approximately $1,900 per year in total on utility bills.
Remember you can make a difference and green your lifestyle with a simple step that will also save you money. Changing your traditional incandescent light bulbs or CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps often recognized by their spiral design) to LED light bulbs will save not only energy but also dollars off your electricity bill. The bulbs feature longer life spans than traditional light bulbs, while still emitting warm tones to make your home cozy with illuminating, comfortable light. And because LED bulbs consume far fewer watts to deliver the same level of brightness as traditional bulbs, they can save you money daily by reducing that light's energy use by up to 85 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Making the switch to LED bulbs in your home is easier than you think. Quality LED lighting products such as the new line of bulbs from Samsung now available at retail stores, offer average life spans between 15,000 and 40,000 hours depending on the bulb. This can amount to an approximate average of 25 times longer than traditional bulbs.
Samsung is well-recognized in the LED industry because it has experience making nearly all of the components in LED bulbs. They offer consumers high-quality, reliable products, an important fact to consider when investing in LED light bulbs that will power your home and fixture lighting for decades to come. Both energy and cost-effective, these bulbs are the perfect solution when transitioning from traditional bulbs to the highest-quality, affordable and long-term lighting.
Five Reasons to Switch to LED Lighting Now:
1. Energy Savings:
Samsung's LED bulbs use 75 to 85 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, which means savings for your energy bill and extra cash in your pocket. In fact, Samsung's new A19 lamp -- a replacement for a traditional 40-watt screw-in light bulb -- only uses about $1.20 in electricity over the course of an entire year.
Long-lasting life spans of 22 to 36 years means you will only have to change the bulbs a few times in your lifetime -- this means you won't be bothered to replace a dimming bulb for decades at a time.
LEDs come in all different shapes and sizes to fit any room or fixture in your home. The bulbs create a warm, natural illuminating light that set a comfortable ambience of your choosing inside, and many can be controlled by a dimmer to cascade any amount of light within your rooms.
4. Save Money:
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing just 15 bulbs in your home with more energy efficient versions can save an average of $50 off your energy bill annually -- or up to $1,800 on your energy bill over the course of your LED bulb's lifetime.
5. Instant Lighting:
Instead of waiting seconds or minutes for your lights to reach full brightness, LED lamps light up immediately to full brightness to illuminate your space.
March 20, 2013 5:42 pm
Principal. The amount of money borrowed; the amount of money still owed.
March 20, 2013 5:42 pm
A: Always exercise caution and be comfortable and confident about your final decision. This means selecting a competent and reliable contractor with a track record who can complete the job without hassles or negative consequences. What you can do:
- Get word-of-mouth referrals. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for the names of established, local contractors in your area; avoid the telephone book.
- Call trade groups. When all else fails, contact local trade organizations, such as the local builder association or the Remodelors Council, an arm of the National Association of Home Builders, for the names of reputable members in your area.
- Associate with licensed contractors. Many states require contractors to be licensed and bonded. Contact your state or local licensing board to ensure the contractor meets all requirements and has a decent record. The Better Business Bureau and the local Consumer Affairs Office can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and how they were resolved.
- Conduct interviews. Talk with each contractor, request free estimates, and ask for recent references. When dealing with several different contractors, make sure they’re bidding on similar project specifications and quality of work. Remember, the lowest bid isn’t always the best.
- Check insurance information. Most states require a contractor to have workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance. Ask for proof of this insurance and get the name of the insurance company to verify the information and to ensure that all minimum insurance requirements are met. You could be held liable for any work-related injury if the contractor is not covered.
March 19, 2013 5:42 pm
In the last segment, we looked at tips for those heating with oil. So in consideration of equal time, now we'll focus on the growing number of gas heating consumers across the nation.
According to New England based YankeeGas utility, snow and ice can easily damage natural gas meters or appliance vents, causing them to malfunction. The company suggests these simple tips to learn how to stay safe until warm weather arrives:
1. Keep outdoor appliance vents clear of snow and ice.
- All outdoor appliance vents should be cleared of snow and ice.
- A clogged vent may cause your appliance to shut down or malfunction and create a hazardous situation, such as a buildup of carbon monoxide.
2. Keep natural gas meters clear of snow and ice.
- Gently brush away any snow or ice that has accumulated around the meter, regulator vent and any other outdoor piping, using a hand or broom, not a shovel.
- When plowing, snow blowing or shoveling, do not push or pile snow around your meter or outside vents.
- Clear a path to your meter so gas company employees and emergency responders can access it in an emergency.
3. Watch for falling snow or ice near your natural gas meter.
- Falling snow and ice can cause serious damage to your natural gas meter or regulator, which may cause a gas leak.
- Be aware of the locations of utility meters when removing snow and ice from your roof or contact a qualified roofing contractor to perform this work for you.
- And most importantly, anytime you smell a natural gas odor, leave the area immediately and call 911 your local gas company's emergency response number.