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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 Victims Whose Homes Are Damaged by Natural Disasters Granted Any Tax Relief?

March 26, 2013 5:58 pm

A: Damage, destruction, or loss of property from fires, floods, earthquakes and other disasters are deductible from both state and federal income taxes.

If destruction is caused by an event deemed a federal disaster by the president, homeowners can deduct their losses in the tax year before the event happened by filing an amended return. This helps to dramatically cut the wait for tax refund money that can immediately be used to make repairs or pay for living expenses.
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Grinding, Chopping & Organizing Ideas for Your Kitchen

March 25, 2013 5:54 pm

Every once in awhile, I like to drop in on the folks at Get Organized (shopgetorganized.com) to check out the cool new gadgets to help make your life more interesting, fun and easy. So this month we're going back into the kitchen to scope out a few new and classic kitchen tools.

Remember your mom's or grandma's heavy metal meat grinders? That classic metal design remains very popular as a kitchen accessory, with reliable models starting at around $30.

Use your classic metal grinder to process fresh ground meats, tasty hash or delicious vegetables with the turn of a crank. Even basic models adjust for coarse to fine chopping, and these units typically attach easily to counters or table tops.

Get Organized offers an alternative model of metal and plastic that is dishwasher safe for about $25. This manual winding meat grinder is a fast, easy way to grind uncooked meat into perfect spaghetti strands for making it more malleable.

It features a no-slip suction cup base, a safety pusher, three exchangeable blades and extrusion plates.

At $50, the space-saving Elevat carousel tool is another clutter reducing accessory to consider. It comes with six essential cooking utensils - solid and slotted spoon, spaghetti server, slotted and flexible spatula, and ladle - that hang from a slim, rotating base for easy accessibility.

Each Elevat carousel tool has a hygienic stand built into the grip to raise the head off the counter to prevent contact, mess and the spread of germs.

And if you love nuts, for about $25, you can go nuts with Hazel, the cast aluminum nut chopping squirrel accessory. Coarsely chop nuts for a salad or dessert by filling 'Hazel' with almonds, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts.

Then, twist the tail to dispense your precision chopping into a glass, 8 oz., dishwasher safe and mess-free measuring jar so there's no waste. In our next segment we'll check out some cool new small appliances for your kitchen.
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Termite-Proof Your Place

March 25, 2013 5:54 pm

Before you begin your annual spring cleaning, pay mind to one home problem that can’t simply be dusted away: Termites.

"Pest proofing and home improvement projects are often designated to the
spring season. Now is the perfect time of year to remind homeowners to
take the necessary steps to protect their greatest investment from costly
damage," says Scott Fortson, President of Terminix Service, Inc.

Termites feed 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the cellulose found in
wood and paper products. They can silently chew through structures
undetected and cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year,
an expense that isn't typically covered under homeowners'
insurance policies.

Follow these tips to guard against these pests:

  • Carefully inspect the perimeter of the home for mud tubes and
  • rotting wood.
  • Divert water away from the home through properly functioning
  • downspouts and gutters.
  • Repair fascia, soffits and rotted roof shingles.
  • Keep basements, attics and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry.
  • Maintain a one-inch gap between soil and wood portions of the home.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house and check it for
  • pests before bringing it indoors.

"Because termites aren't often detected until it's too late, we advise consumers to arrange for termite protection from a qualified pest professional."

Source: www.TrustTerminix.com.
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60 Second Fixes That Result in a Healthier You

March 25, 2013 5:54 pm

Making better food choices and regular visits to the gym will improve your overall fitness. But researcher Jeff Csatari, writing for OMG! Insider Health, offers ten quick fixes that take 60 seconds or less, but will improve your health in small ways that can add up to make a big difference:

  • Boost HDL cholesterol – Grab a three-ounce handful of unsalted pistachios as an afternoon snack. Doing so could raise your HDL (good cholesterol) by as much as six percent, according to studies at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia.
  • Ditch toxic drycleaning – Avoid drycleaners who use perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen in animals. Visit greenearthcleaning.com to find cleaners who have switched to a harmless silicone solvent.
  • Add cinnamon – Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee grinds before you brew a pot. The anti-oxidant rich spice may reduce blood pressure and lower stress, studies show.
  • Dry-brush your teeth – Brush your teeth with a dry brush for 30 seconds before you squeeze on the toothpaste. It can cut tarter by 60 percent and reduce the risk of bleeding gums.
  • Get some ferns – Moisturize dry skin by putting potted ferns around your home or office. They transpire to add moisture to the air, a natural hydrator for skin.
  • Suck on a mint – Researchers say the smell of peppermint can boost exercise performance. Sucking on a mint alters perception of how hard you are exercising – so you may exercise longer because the workout doesn’t seem so strenuous.
  • Check your pee – Nutritionists say many Americans are dehydrated to some degree. Drink enough water so that your urine is the color of pale lemonade.
  • Stand in the corner - Step away from your computer and stand facing the corner of a room. Raise your hands to shoulder height and put your elbows, forearms and hands against each wall. Lean in and hold the stretch for 15 seconds to flex your chest and back muscles and relieve stress and sore muscles.
  • Try a cheap sparkler – Ditch that afternoon coffee or energy drink for a glass of club soda with a squeeze of lime. The carbonation and aroma will energize you.
  • Decorate your plate – Never eat a meal that doesn’t contain a fruit or vegetable. (Fries don’t count.) Long-term studies show doing so can reduce the incidence of digestive tract cancer by as much as 70 percent.
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Word of the Day

March 25, 2013 5:54 pm

Real estate investment trust (REIT). Entity that allows a very large number of investors to pool their money in the purchase of real estate, but as passive investors. The investors do not buy directly. Instead, they purchase shares in the REIT that owns the real estate investment.
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Q: When Do Foreclosure Proceedings Begin?

March 25, 2013 5:54 pm

A: Usually after the borrower has missed three consecutive mortgage payments. The lender will record a notice of default against the property. And unless the debt is satisfied, the lender will foreclose on the mortgage and proceed to set up a trustee sale, where the property is sold to the highest bidder.
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Move It or Lose It: 5 Moves to Put Seniors Back in the Game

March 22, 2013 5:52 pm

For Americans 65 and older, falling down can be the worst thing to happen to them, according to statistics from the National Council on Aging:

• One in three seniors experiences a significant fall each year
• Every 18 seconds, a senior is admitted into an emergency room after losing balance and hitting the ground
• Every 35 minutes, an elderly person dies from a fall -- the leading cause of death for seniors

“The projected cost in health-care expenses for 2020 due to fall-related injuries in the United States is $55 billion,” says Karen Peterson, a therapist with multiple certifications, and author of “Move With Balance: Healthy Aging Activities for Brain and Body.” She’s also the founder and director of Giving Back, a nonprofit organization that grows and spreads programs that support senior health.

“It’s important for seniors to keep moving and learning, that’s what helps improve balance and coordination, and even helps build new neural pathways,” says Peterson, who emphasizes the cognitive importance to her workout programs. “But if you’re rather frail, or just very fearful of falling, you’re less likely to get up and move around.” These activities benefit all seniors, from 55 to 105.

Peterson says a fun, social program of games and activities that include exercises specifically designed for seniors helps them address multiple issues, including those that tend to keep seniors sedentary – which only lessens their strength and balance.

Last year, her program was independently evaluated from Hawaii’s Department of Heath, which found a statistically significant reduction in falls from seniors – 38 percent. It also won the MindAlert Award from the American Society on Aging.

“Seniors of all ages need to continually work on improving their balance, coordination, strength, vision and cognitive skills. When they do, they’re less likely to fall – and more able to enjoy life.”

Peterson suggests these moves, which address many different areas of the body:

• The cross-crawl:
After various light warm-ups, begin with the basic cross-crawl, which focuses on the fundamentals of balance. March in place, lifting the knees high. At the same time, reach across and touch the lifted knee with the opposite hand or elbow; alternate and keep going. This can be done sitting, standing or lying down. Once any of these exercises are mastered, Peterson says, participants should continue to challenge themselves. For even greater balance work, and to exercise the vestibular system, close your eyes and count backwards from 100 by threes. “It’s not fun if you’re not conquering a challenge,” she says. Her book includes several challenges for each exercise.

• Forward toe-touch dancer: To improve motor skills, physical coordination and cognition, there are many dance exercises that are appropriate for seniors. If needed, use a chair for assistance. Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Now, simultaneously extend your left foot and your right arm forward. Keep your left toes pointed down, touching the floor; or for more difficulty, maintain the toes a few inches off the floor. Repeat this move with your left arm and right foot. Hold each pose for several seconds, and increase holding time.

• Sensory integration –
the arrow chart: Look at an arrow chart and call out the direction indicated by each individual symbol. Then, thrust your arms in that direction; in other words, say and do what the arrow indicates. For an additional challenge, do the opposite of what the arrow indicates.

• Side-step walk: Walk sidestepping – bring your right foot across the left and step down three to five inches away from the left foot, ankles crossed. The closer the feet, the harder it is to balance. Alternate crossing the foot in front and then behind the other foot as you move along; repeat several times, then do the same with opposite feet. As a bonus challenge, try a reading exercise from a vision card, designed for stimulating the brain/visual system, while sidestepping.

• The cat jump: This activity is practice in case of a fall; the muscle memory of the movement will be etched in your body. Bend your knees in a squat. Jump a little off the ground with both feet, and land softly, like a cat, without jarring your body. Repeat until you are confident in your ability to prevent a spill.

“Research shows that most falls are preventable,” Peterson says. “These and other exercises, performed regularly, are a great way to achieve safety and a revitalized lifestyle.”

Source: www.MoveWithBalance.org.
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Spring Gardening: 7 Tips to Get You Started

March 22, 2013 5:52 pm

The ground may still be cold, but longer days are a sure signal that now is the time to get ready for spring gardening. Whether you’re looking ahead toward flowerbeds, vegetables, or a combination of the two, the right preparation in the early spring will make the job a bit easier and the result a joy to behold.


From the gardening experts at a major garden center, here are seven tips to help you start the season right no matter where you live:

Water early – on sunny days in the early spring, even if the weather is still on the cool side, give flower beds and planting sites a good soaking to help get them ready for action.

Prune and mulch – Prune any dead or overgrown tree branches, including fruit trees, and add mulch to the ground beneath. (Do not prune early bloomers, such as lilacs.)

Get a head start on weed control
- Apply pre-emergent weed controls for crabgrass, dandelions and broadleaf weeds. They are most effective when applied during this transition season.

Plant slow-growing vegetable seeds
– Once the ground is fully thawed and watered, plant seeds for slow growing vegetables like peas, lettuce and carrots.

Plant trees and shrubs – They do better when planted while the weather is still cool. This is also a good time to spray existing fruit trees to guard against pests and disease.

Start tomatoes indoors – Plant tomatoes in pots indoors six to eight weeks before you are ready to transplant them into the ground. Choose seeds or young tomato plants – and consider potting peppers and eggplants indoors as well.

Put out the birdhouses – Birds begin to seek out nesting places in March, so if you hanker for sound of birdsong, put the birdhouses in place in the garden now.
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Year's Worth of Money & Energy-Saving Tips

March 22, 2013 5:52 pm

In the continuing pursuit to help homeowners save money while helping to make the world a little greener, I tapped The Alliance to Save Energy, which recently posted a dozen ways you can make your home more energy efficient in 2013 (ase.org).

Among those ASE saving ideas are:

New Year, New Light Bulbs - Replace old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy-efficient lighting like new CFLs, halogen incandescents or LEDs – to save between $50 and $100 a year in energy costs.

Spring is Coming
- With spring just around the corner on March 20, get ready to open up your home to new, efficient windows. Replacing single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-qualified windows can save you up to $1000 annually.

Don't be a Fool for Energy Vampires - This April Fools, outsmart the energy vampires in your home by unplugging what you're not using. Use a smart power strip for automatic savings.

Think Global - In honor of EE Global 2013, share one of the other tips with an international friend, family member, or associate to help save energy worldwide.

Cool Off - Make sure your AC equipment is in top running order, since cooling puts the greatest stress on your summer energy bills.

Keep the Heat Out - Plug energy leaks with weather stripping and caulking, and be sure your house is properly insulated to save up to 20 percent on energy bills.

Back to School Savings - If you and your kids are out at school and work, install a programmable thermostat – or even a smart thermostat – to raise your home's temperature while it's empty. This can reduce energy bills by up to 10 percent.

Temperatures Drop, and so do Bills - Keep the temperature of your water heater at 120 degrees, and insulate the hot water storage tank to save money on heating costs.

End the Year on a LOW Note - You made so many energy-saving changes this year, give yourself the gift of a home energy assessment to see how much more energy you can save next year!
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Word of the Day

March 22, 2013 5:52 pm

Title search. A professional examination of public records to determine the chain of ownership of a particular piece of property and to note any liens, encumbrances, easements, restrictions, or other factors that might affect the title.
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