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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
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Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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Tom's Blog

Word of the Day

February 5, 2013 6:38 pm

Fixtures. Any personal property that has been permanently attached to real property and therefore included in the transfer of real estate. The kitchen sink
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Q: What Are Some of the Guidelines for Purchasing HUD Foreclosures?

February 5, 2013 6:38 pm

A: If you have the cash or can qualify for a mortgage, you can buy a HUD home. Down payments vary depending on whether the property is eligible for FHA insurance. If so, the down payment can be lower than the 5 to 20 percent required on conventional loans.

HUD requires that all accepted offers be accompanied by an earnest money deposit equal to 5 percent of the bid price, not to exceed $2,000, but not less than $500.

Foreclosure properties are sold "as is," meaning limited repairs have been made but no structural or mechanical warranties are implied. If a HUD home needs to be fixed - and not all of them do - it can still be a bargain. HUD adjusts the asking price to reflect the fact that the buyer will have to invest money to make improvements. The agency also might offer special incentives such as an allowance to upgrade the property or a bonus for closing the sale early. And buyers can request that HUD pay all or a portion of the financing and closing costs. Contact your real estate agent for more details.

To learn more about HUD foreclosures, visit their web site at www.hud.gov.
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The Busy Person's Guide for Entertaining on Short Notice

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

(BPT) - Ideally, you'll have a few days notice to get everything in order when you're hosting guests. But everyone knows that's not always the case. Drop-ins happen and you can make a choice between panicking or embracing the spontaneity of a last-minute get-together with your friends and family. The key to being an unflappable host is having a simple process to get your home guest-ready in a hurry.

You don't have to be a neat freak or Michelin chef to make an impromptu gathering at your house a success. You simply need to prioritize what is most important to get done, and rely on some help from modern technology to speed up the process. Here's a guide for entertaining on a dime that will make unplanned visits more pleasant surprises rather than major inconveniences:

Enlist a full-time housekeeper. Maybe you don't have the means to put someone in charge of keeping your house clean, but you can put gadgets on the job full-time. Rather than spending time to clean floors yourself, let a robot do the work for you. iRobot Mint, which features both a sweep and mop mode, can effectively handle the job of cleaning your hard floor surfaces all by itself. Mint works with cleaning cloths made by brands like Swiffer, as well as its own specifically designed microfiber cloths that can be reused hundreds of times. It automatically cleans along walls, around furniture and into corners, while avoiding stairs and carpet, so there's no need to supervise while it does its job.

Get into party mode with the touch of the play button. Connect your home stereo system with Bluetooth-enabled technology that can allow you to cue up the tunes simply by giving the orders through your smart phone or another connected device. Curating party playlists can be a fun activity during your downtime so you can be all set to go when you get the call that guests are on the way.

Whip up delivery on speed dial. Store a list of your go-to numbers for food delivery service on your phone so you can make the call once you know you'll be having visitors. If you're not one who likes to order out, keep a stash your favorite snacks or appetizers in the freezer for quick reheating when guests arrive. Last-minute guests won't be expecting a three-course meal, so convenience is more important than elaborately prepared meals.

Ditch the dishes. Make things easier for you and festive for your guests by keeping decorative paper plates and napkins on hand. Storing a stash of these in a kitchen drawer is ideal for last-minute hosting since it means you don't have to worry about hurriedly washing the dishes or creating a mess that you'll need to clean up later.

Embrace quick fixes. You wouldn't normally throw everything that's been left out in a storage room, but it won't hurt if you're just hosting company for a few hours - you can put everything in its proper space once they're gone. Keep items like stain sticks on hand for quick coverage of stains and smudges you've been meaning to get to tackle. Start by clearing the entry way, move to the living room and forget about areas your guests probably won't see.

Last-minute hosting doesn't have to be stress-inducing, especially since your guests won't be looking for the royal treatment if they're coming over on short notice.

Source: www.irobot.com.
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Renters: Make Sure Your Security Deposit Is Safe

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

For those of us considering moving out of our rentals, securing your security deposit can be a make-it-or-break it moment for our finances, as you will most likely be needing a security deposit for wherever you’re headed. Unfortunately, many renters never see their security deposit again. Recently, Rent.com surveyed 1,000 U.S. renters, and the results were startling:

  • More than a quarter (26 percent) of all renters have lost their security deposit at some point
  • 37 percent of men and 44 percent of 18-24 year olds said they did not get their deposits back because they moved out early
  • More women (9 percent than men (3 percent) lost a deposit due to pet damage
  • 36 percent of renters who did not get their deposits back said the landlord gave no explanation
    • This is likely illegal although tenant/landlord laws vary by state but according to several state law sites (ag.ny.gov, ca.gov, oag.state.tx.us, illinoisattorneygeneral.gov, mass.gov) the landlord must return the deposit less any lawful deduction.

If you’re renting, review the following tips—provided by rent.com--for maintaining your apartment and your relationship with your landlord:

“It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission” does not apply here
. When renting, it is always best to get written permission from your landlord before doing any renovations, changing paint color, etc.
Read your lease. Many renters miss the specific guidelines laid out by their landlord regarding the return of their deposit. A list should be made and agreed upon regarding the conditions of the apartment at the end of the lease BEFORE you sign it.
Snap a photo. It’s always a good idea to take some photos of the apartment when you first move in. Make sure they are time/date-stamped! Then repeat the process on move out day. This way pre-existing damage is documented and the blame cannot fall on you!
Be reasonable and your landlord might be too. There is no guarantee that a landlord will negotiate you breaking your lease but maybe there is a compromise that can be met. For instance, you could help find a replacement tenant, agree to pay rent for an additional number of months or until a new tenant is found, etc.

Source: www.rent.com.

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What to Do If You Didn't Get Your W-2 Forms

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

So you want to get your federal income tax return done early, but you still haven't received your W-2 in the mail.

What should you do?

The IRS requires employers to file a Form W-2 for each employee. These forms must be sent out to employees by February 1. If employers fail to do so, they could face some costly consequences.

For each W-2 form an employer fails to send out on time, the IRS may slap the employer with a $50 penalty. That's in addition to an employer's potential penalties for improperly filing a W-2, such as providing incorrect information on the form and not reporting the proper Taxpayer Identification Number.

That being said, one option if you haven't received your W-2 forms by February 1 is to report your employer to the IRS. You can contact the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040.

But before you do that, you may want to contact your employer to see if they've actually sent out your W-2, Examiner.com suggests. Perhaps they had the wrong address on file, or perhaps it got lost in the mail and it wasn't your employer's fault. See if you can get to the bottom of what happened.

In any event, even if you do contact the IRS, they won't force your employer to give you a W-2. All they might do is make note of it. It won't absolve you from filing your tax return on time.

If you want more time to file your tax return, you can always file for an extension. This is generally only a good idea if you are certain you won't be owing any taxes. Because if you owe taxes, you still have to pay the taxes on time, even if you're allowed an extension to file your return.

If you plan to file on time without your W-2, you can complete a Form 4852, entitled "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." You may need to dig up your old pay stubs and do some calculating, but if you want to get your taxes done on time, this might be the least taxing way to do it.

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

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

Fiduciary. Person acting in a position of trust, responsibility and confidence for another, such a broker for his client.
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Q: How Do I Respond to a Low-ball Offer?

February 4, 2013 6:36 pm

A: Let your agent know it is too low to warrant a counteroffer and that you are willing to negotiate but only once a more reasonable offer is made. Ask the agent if the buyer was shown comparable market values of similar homes that have recently sold in your area; and ask if the buyer was ever properly qualified. You do not have to settle for less if you are realistic about your chances of getting more.
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Tips to Avoid Food Safety Disasters

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

You rarely stop to consider the safety of your food before you bite into a home cooked meal. Unfortunately, many of us skip some crucial steps we should be making daily to ensure the cleanliness of our edibles and avoid food related illnesses.

A new study analyzing outbreaks of foodborne illness has found contaminated salad greens make the most people sick, but contaminated poultry have resulted in the most deaths. In light of this study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Home Food Safety program—a collaboration between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods—encourages Americans, rather than avoid certain foods, to practice safe food handling at home instead.

"While this study found produce accounted for nearly half of food poisoning illnesses, everyone should still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Rachel Begun.
"Safe food-handling procedures can help protect you from foodborne illnesses while still allowing you to enjoy these tasty and nutritious foods."

"One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water, especially when it comes to the particularly nasty norovirus," Begun says. "The norovirus accounted for 46 percent of the illnesses according to this study, and while hand sanitizer is great to reduce the spread of some germs, research shows us that soap and water is best," she said.

Begun encouraged Americans to visit www.HomeFoodSafety.org for tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning, and offered the following advice:

Produce

  • Properly wash all fresh fruits and vegetables, whether they have a peel or not, with cool tap water just before eating.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Cut all fruits and vegetables on a separate cutting board from raw meats and fish. Color-coded cutting boards can help you remember which is which.
  • Cook raw sprouts, such as alfalfa and clover, to significantly reduce the risk of illness.

Meat and Poultry


  • When buying and handling meats, always look for the Safe Food Handling label on the package, and make sure the meat is tightly wrapped. At the grocery store, pick up the meat last and ask to have it bagged separately from other groceries to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Store meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Use fresh, raw chicken within one- to two days of purchase, meats within three to four days, and throw away ground meats, sausage and organ meats after two days. Cooked meats should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.
  • Wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat, and use a separate cutting board for raw meats and fish to avoid cross contamination.
  • Defrost meats in the refrigerator or in the microwave by using the defrost setting. Never defrost on the counter. Cook meat that has been thawed in the microwave immediately and do not re-freeze thawed meat.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.
Sources: www.homefoodsafety.org, www.eatright.org, www.conagrafoods.com.
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How to Save Your Skin from Harsh Winter Weather

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

In many parts of the country, winter weather is being especially unkind. While you may be bundling up in your winter wear and cranking up the heat, have you stopped to think how your skin may be faring?

"The substantial drop in moisture that occurs during the winter months can be damaging to your skin causing dryness, itching, irritation, cuts or sores," says Jill Weinstein, MD, dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group. "It's essential to change your skin care regimen each winter to rehydrate your skin and keep it moisturized."

Weinstein offers the following tips to banish dry skin and give your skin care routine a boost:

Skip the hot bath or shower
– "Although soaking in a hot bath may feel great after being outside in the cold, the prolonged water exposure and heat breaks down the lipid barriers in the skin causing a loss in moisture," said Weinstein. "Keep showers and baths lukewarm and short, and opt for gentle cleansers that won't irritate your skin."
Moisturize frequently – Don't rely on your typical lotion to get you through the cold winter months. Creams offer more moisture than lotions; look for creams with ceramides which can help replenish the damaged skin barrier. Be sure to moisturize every time you wash your hands and get out of the shower and again before bed.
Shower then shave – Shaving can irritate dry skin. Men, shave after you get out of the shower. Women, save shaving for last while in the shower. This will give your pores time to open and your hair time to get softer. Be sure to always moisturize after shaving and change your razor often to prevent dull blades or build-up of bacteria.
Hook up a humidifier – Dry, hot air from a heater can leave sensitive skin parched and make itching and flaking worse. A portable humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home to help humidify the dry air and relieve itchy skin.
Protect your lips – "The biggest mistake you can make is to lick your lips when they are chapped," explained Weinstein. "Even though this may provide short-term relief, eventually your lips will dry out as the saliva evaporates. Help keep them moist by using an ointment-based lip balm or lubricating cream made with SPF and petrolatum or beeswax."
Grab a pair of gloves – Protecting your hands from the cold air and low humidity plays a significant role in preventing dry skin. Make sure your gloves are made of material that does not irritate your skin. During bitter cold days, layer a wool mitten over a cotton mitten to help keep your hands warm and dry. Wearing a cotton glove over your moisturizing cream at night is also very beneficial.
Apply sunscreen – "Sunscreen should be applied daily, not just in the summertime," said Weinstein. "The combination of winter sun and snow glare can damage your skin. Make sure you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply every two hours if you're planning to be outdoors for an extended period of time."
Wear breathable fabrics – Cotton and silk are good choices for the winter months because they allow your skin to breathe. When you wash your clothes, use detergents without dyes or perfumes. Dressing in layers for warmth is important, but also prevents excessive sweating.

"Many cases of dry winter skin will clear up within a few weeks of adjusting your routine," adds Weinstein. "If your skin doesn't improve, consider calling your doctor. You could be dealing with eczema or psoriasis that requires more aggressive medical therapy."

Source: www.nmpg.com
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Better Business Tips: Avoid Compliance Penalties When Paying Taxes

February 1, 2013 6:30 pm

For many businesses it is a necessity to hire contractors to ensure some jobs get done, but tracking payments to service providers properly can quickly turn into a tax compliance nightmare.
The American Accounts Payable Association offers the following 1099-MISC preparation tips to ensure your tax reporting for 2012 is correct.

1. Form 1099-MISC required for noncorporate service providers.

If you paid any service provider (sole proprietors and partnerships) at least $600 for services during 2012, you must provide Form 1099-MISC to them no later than Jan. 31, 2013. If the provider is a corporation you do not have to provide Form 1099-MISC.*

*You must provide Form 1099-MISC to attorneys or medical service providers who do business as corporations. To find out if a service provider is a corporation, have them complete IRS Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.

2. Be on time. If you're sending your Forms 1099-MISC to the IRS by mail, you must mail them no later than Feb. 28. If you're sending an electronic file, you must file it by Apr. 1 with the IRS.

3. TIN truncation extended. The IRS has issued regulations to extend and expand on the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) truncation pilot program for 1099s. The regulations would create a truncated taxpayer identification number (TTIN) for use on electronic and paper payee statements. Under the truncation procedure, the first five digits are replaced with either asterisks or Xs: ***-**-1234 or XXX-XX-1234.

4. No 1099 needed for electronic payments.
If you paid for services with a credit card, debit card, gift card or another electronic payment medium (e.g., PayPal), you're no longer required to send service providers a Form 1099-MISC. The bank or credit card company that made the actual payment will send the contractor Form 1099-K.

5. When in doubt, send a 1099. If you are unsure whether a Form 1099-MISC is required, go-ahead and send one. You set yourself up for penalties if you do not send all qualified service providers their Form 1099-MISC.

Source: www.americanap.org.
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