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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

Word of the Day

February 28, 2013 3:46 pm

Installment payment. Periodic payment, usually monthly, of interest and principal on a mortgage or other loan.
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Q: Are There Routine Steps I Can Take Now to Avoid Major Home Improvements Later?

February 28, 2013 3:46 pm

A: Get in the habit of taking an annual inventory of every single space in your home to check for potential problems. Examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring – basically everything. Try to fix trouble spots as soon as you uncover them. This proactive approach will help you avoid major repairs to your home later.
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98 Ice Storm Data Still Serving Snowbound Homeowners

February 27, 2013 5:44 pm

Fifteen years ago last month, a massive ice storm hit parts of Canada. I recently learned that the country's national housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), used data gathered from that historic storm to develop a number of guidelines for property owners that folks anywhere should consider.

First and foremost, the report recommends homeowners determine the balance between removing roof ice and damaging their roof. Tools, such as hammers, shovels, scrapers, chain saws, and devices such as shoes with ice spikes can damage roofing materials or the structure below.

And chemical de-icers can discolor shingles, break down membranes and corrode flashings and drains. De-icers can also damage plants on the ground.

According to the data, the first line of defense is carefully monitoring your roof during an ice storm emergency:

First: Observe and evaluate the situation every day. Is the ice causing a structural problem? Is there water damage? Do you have to do anything?

Second: Evaluate your capabilities and limits. Do you have the equipment, the agility and the help to work safely and efficiently? If you don’t, get professional help before the situation becomes urgent.

Third: To prevent damage, do as little as possible. Total clearing has the greatest potential for damage to the roof and to people and property below. Often, clearing dangerous overhangs and icicles and making drainage paths is enough.

To promote drainage on a sloped roof, the report points out that your goal is to make drainage paths through ice on lower edges of a roof because that’s where most ice dam and water back-up problems occur. Always shovel off loose snow first to expose the ice.

Finally, the report reminds property owners that removing ice mechanically from a sloped roof is always dangerous — both for the person doing it and for the roof. If you are not careful, removing ice can invalidate your shingle warranty. If ice must be removed, the CMHC recommends to have it done by a professional with proper equipment and training.
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Car Care Council Tips Help Save Money as Gas Prices near $4

February 27, 2013 5:44 pm

Consumers' pain at the pump is back with gas prices rising for 33 consecutive days according to the Washington Post and the average price of gas moving closer to or exceeding $4 per gallon, depending on your location. While you can’t combat the rising prices, you can maintain your vehicle to make the most out of your mileage. A few simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance tips can help alleviate the pain.

"You can't control the price of gas, but you can control how much gas you burn by performing proper maintenance and how you drive. Performing simple and inexpensive maintenance can save as much as $1,200 per year in gas costs," says Rich White , executive director, Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council offers these gas-saving maintenance tips:

  • Keep your car properly tuned to improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.
  • Replace dirty or clogged air filters and improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
  • Improve gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil.

Driving behavior also impacts fuel efficiency. The council offers these gas saving driving tips:

  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 50 mph. Each 5 mph over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.25 per gallon for gas, according to www.fueleconomy.gov.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Warming up the vehicle for one or two minutes is sufficient.
  • Avoid quick starts and stops. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.
  • Consolidate trips. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much gas as one longer multi-purpose trip.
  • Don't haul unneeded items in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces fuel economy up to 2 percent.
Source: www.carcare.org.
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Five Easy Tips to Motivate Your Child to Read

February 27, 2013 5:44 pm

It’s almost here! Read Across America Day on March 1, 2013, is the largest celebration of reading in the country and a reminder that reading never goes out of style—even as books make a move from paper to tablet.

Reading is an important part of childhood development, and should extend beyond the classroom.
Not sure where to start, or how to get your child involved?

In celebration of the National Education Association's Read Across America program, Sylvan Learning is offering five simple tips to jump-start reading in your family and inspire children to develop a lifelong friendship with the written word.

Make it A Habit

Depending on your family's schedule, reading time might be in the morning, afternoon or before bed. Whatever time you choose, stick to it! Consistency is key to building good habits.

Don't Leave Home without It
Bring reading tools with you wherever you go. Having a book, e-book or tablet handy at all times will help your child fit in reading at every chance he gets.

Change Screen Time to Reading Time

Prioritize reading as a free-time activity on a tablet instead of playing a video game or watching TV. Download an audio book or a series of e-books for your child's leisure reading.

Share the Joy of Reading

Reading doesn't have to be a chore. It can be a fun activity. When children are pressured they may read only to please their parents. It is important to help your child find books at the appropriate reading level on subjects that interest them. Once you find books that can pique your child's interest, you may find her reading ahead on her own.

Spice It Up
Any subject, no matter how interested your child is in that subject, can begin to feel dry if you focus all of your attention upon it. Offering a variety of texts is especially helpful: read non-fiction, stories, fables, mysteries and also newspapers, e-books and magazines.

"Encouraging children to read helps transform reading from a chore to a treat. Then, this basic skill becomes a learned behavior and an intellectual habit. Among reading's benefits, many research studies have found that children who are read to or who read on their own at home do better in school," says Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., senior vice president of education outreach for Sylvan Learning.

Source: www.sylvanlearning.com.
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Word of the Day

February 27, 2013 5:44 pm

Inspection.The act of physically examining and testing a piece of property to ascertain certain information.
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Q: How Do I Get Help for Remodeling Following a Natural Disaster?

February 27, 2013 5:44 pm

A: The Small Business Administration (SBA) not only assists businesses after a natural disaster, civil disturbance, fires and other catastrophes, it also provides disaster loans to individuals – including homeowners and renters. The loans, which cover uninsured or underinsured losses – are issued after the President or SBA Administrator signs a disaster declaration. Homeowners can then apply for loans up to $200,000 to assist with the repair or replacement of their primary residences and receive loans up to $40,000 for personal property losses. The low-interest loans have terms up to 30 years. To begin the process, applicants must register first with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to obtain a FEMA Registration ID number.
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For Californians, Homeowner Bill Of Rights Becomes a Reality

February 26, 2013 5:44 pm

Regional Spotlight—The California Homeowner Bill of Rights became law on January 1, so I - a former SoCal resident - thought it would be a good idea to take a look at this new legislation.

According to information from the California Attorney General's Office, the California Homeowner Bill of Rights will ensure fair lending and borrowing practices for California homeowners; is designed to guarantee basic fairness and transparency for homeowners in foreclosure; and could perhaps serve as a model for other states.

Key provisions of the new bill include:

Restriction on dual track foreclosure: Mortgage servicers are restricted from advancing the foreclosure process if the homeowner is working on securing a loan modification.

Guaranteed single point of contact:
Homeowners are guaranteed a single point of contact as they navigate the system and try to keep their homes – a person or team at the bank who knows the facts of their case.

Verification of documents: Lenders that record and file multiple unverified documents will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $7,500 per loan in an action brought by a civil prosecutor. Lenders who are in violation are also subject to enforcement by licensing agencies.

Enforceability: Borrowers will have authority to seek redress of “material” violations of the new foreclosure process protections. Injunctive relief will be available prior to a foreclosure sale and recovery of damages will be available following a sale.

Tenant rights: Purchasers of foreclosed homes are required to give tenants at least 90 days before starting eviction proceedings. There are added provisions if a tenant signed a fixed-term lease before transfer of title at the foreclosure sale.

Tools to prosecute mortgage fraud: The statute of limitations to prosecute mortgage-related crimes is extended from one to three years. And the AG can use a statewide grand jury to investigate and indict perpetrators of financial crimes across multiple counties.

Tools to curb blight: Local governments and receivers have additional tools to fight blight caused by multiple vacant homes, from more time to allow homeowners to remedy code violations to a means to compel the owners of foreclosed property to pay for upkeep.

If you would like to learn more, visit www.oag.ca.gov/hbor.
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Decoding Cat Behavior

February 26, 2013 5:44 pm

(Family Features)—Cats are known as mysterious creatures. While some of the things they do can be puzzling at times, you don’t have to be a super sleuth to decode your pet’s behaviors.

Steve Dale, certified behaviorist, author and host of “Steve Dale’s Pet World” radio show, has answers for common questions about feline quirks.

What does it mean when my cat rubs her chin and body against me?
A lot of cat owners assume that rubbing is a sign of affection. What we do know is it might actually mean is that your cat is marking her territory. Cats don’t only rub their people in this way – they may rub up against doors, chair legs and the computer on your lap.

Cats have scent glands in their cheeks and sides. So when they rub on something, the cat is leaving its personal mark, depositing pheromones. This lets other cats know that they’ve staked a claim to a particular bit of territory – including you. So in a quirky feline way, it is a sign of affection.

When my cat sniffs something, sometimes her mouth is open and lips are pulled back – what is that about?

The feline sense of smell is much stronger than that of humans. While people have about five million odor-sensitive cells in their noses, cats have about 200 million. Cats also have an extra olfactory organ, called the Jacobson’s organ, located on the roof of the mouth and connected to the nasal cavity. So when your cat gets a whiff of something unusual or especially interesting, she will open her mouth and inhale the scent so it reaches the Jacobson’s organ. This intensifies the smell and gives your cat more information about whatever she is sniffing.

I’ve heard that spaying or neutering cats makes them lazier – is that true?

Spaying and neutering can help cats live longer lives, prevent unwanted litters and reduce territorial behaviors. However the hormonal changes that come with spaying and neutering can cause an up to 20 percent increase in appetite and an up to 30 percent decrease in metabolism. These changes mean that spayed or neutered cats are almost 3.5 times more likely to be overweight than other cats, putting them at an increased risk for obesity. Feline obesity is an epidemic and can eventually lead to other health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis and non-allergic skin conditions.
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Financial Considerations beyond the 'Fiscal Cliff'

February 26, 2013 5:44 pm

(BPT) - With the agreement reached at the eleventh hour of 2012 to avert components of the so-called "fiscal cliff," nearly all taxpayers will be affected in some way.- With that in mind, there are still many things you can do this year to prepare for potential additional tax changes and to take control of your financial situation.-

Below are 10 options from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for you to consider as you prepare for your financial future in 2013 and beyond.

1. Consider an IRA-qualified charitable distribution.

People 70 1/2 and older, who are required to take minimum distributions from their traditional IRAs, may give up to $100,000 directly from their IRAs to qualified charities. This will satisfy the required minimum distribution, or RMD, requirements and no taxes will be due on the amount of the contribution.

2. Know your tax bracket.
Now that tax rates are higher at some levels, it's more important than ever to know which tax bracket you fall into. Ask your financial representative and accountant about strategies to keep your taxable income at a reasonable level.

3. Consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.
Given current historically low federal tax rates, you may want to consider locking in now and paying taxes while rates are low for most people. If you choose to convert later, you may be doing so at a higher rate.

4. Look closely at your 401(k) contributions.
You may want to consider making after-tax Roth 401(k) contributions, due to the low tax rates. Conversely, higher-income earners may want to focus on making pre-tax 401(k) contributions to decrease their taxable income.

5. Consider investing in municipal bonds.

The interest earned on municipal bonds is generally exempt of federal income tax and can help to diversify your overall portfolio.

6. Consider cash value life insurance.

In addition to protecting your family financially after you die, fixed cash value life insurance also can help you reach your broader financial goals while you're living by helping you to diversify your assets.

7. Understand the benefits of inherited IRAs.

They can help your beneficiary take distributions over the maximum period allowed by federal required minimum distribution (RMD) rules, and give your assets the potential to continue to grow tax-deferred for your heirs.

8. Consider harvesting long-term capital gains.

Sell eligible assets while top tax rates for most taxpayers on long-term capital gains is just 15 percent.

9. Consider using unneeded life insurance and annuity contracts to pay long-term care insurance premiums.

The exchange may be free of federal income taxes and help preserve your estate and way of life. This is especially important to households hit by the 3.8 percent Medicare surtax and higher income tax rates.

10. Review your financial and estate strategies
Based on history and our debt situation, it's likely federal (and state) income tax rates will increase sometime in the future. Review your financial and estate strategies and take appropriate actions now that estate law is permanent.
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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440

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