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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 There Standard Ways to Determine How Much a Home Is Worth?

January 29, 2013 6:24 pm

A: Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.

Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.

A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.

You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.
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Basements & Roofs – Planning a Rocking Rec Room

January 28, 2013 6:44 pm

We have been talking about basements a lot recently. Not only am I interested in taking a look down those stairs and shining a light on some of the most common winter basement issues, I want to provide tips on turning that dark hole into wholly usable space.

Enter Randy Glazer of Atlanta's Glazer Remodeling & Construction (glazerconstruction.com). He says basement build outs and rec room remodeling can help transform your basement from a place for storage into a place for fun.

According to Glazer, whether you have a pool table, ping-pong set-up, pinball machine or air hockey game, you want to ensure that your guests have ample space to enjoy them. That means removing non-load bearing walls will open up your basement space to give you more options for placement.

Also, be sure that lighting you choose doesn’t hang too low over the tables. Speaking of lighting, Glazer recommends using as much natural light from windows and basement doors as possible.

And if your basement doesn’t open outside, use track lighting, wall lamps and under shelving lighting to save space.

Ceilings are a great place to add an element of design to a finished basement, too. Leave the ductwork exposed for an industrial look, select a reflective ceiling to make the basement look bigger or install hanging shelves for storage.

A custom built bar is an excellent entertainment addition to a basement and can serve many purposes. Have it flow into the media room for seamless design, and install floor to ceiling cabinets or shelving for additional storage.

In our next segment, we'll hit rewind and talk about retiring or repurposing your rec room or other finished basement space - stay tuned!
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7 Financial Moves to Make Now

January 28, 2013 6:44 pm

So you’ve started the New Year with resolutions to lose weight, get organized, and get your financial house in order. Time Magazine’s business and money mavens can’t help you much with the first two – but they do recommend seven financial moves you can make right now to improve your overall financial picture in 2013:

  • Refi your mortgage into a 15-year loan – At today’s low rates (about 3.36%), refinancing your 30-year mortgage of $250,000 into a 15-year loan will cost you less than $300 per month more and save you $220,000 over the life of the loan. Plus, you’ll pay off the loan in half the time. (Shop for a no- or low-cost refi.)
  • Open an online bank account – Online banks like ING Direct and Ally offer paper checks and/or online bill paying as well as higher interest rates than most brick and mortar banks.
  • Save early and often – Regularly putting away a percentage of every paycheck will add up faster than you imagine. If you think you can’t afford to save, start with one or two percent and work your way up as you realize it’s easier than you thought.
  • Buy top consumer brand stocks – Well-known brands tend to do well in any economy. Brands like Coca Cola, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson and Johnson have paid dividends every year for the last 25 years.
  • Transfer credit card balances – Some banks are offering 0% promotional rates for 12- and 15-month periods. If you are carrying a balance and paying more than that, it’s a no-brainer to shop for one of these money-saving offers.
  • Buy residential real estate – Home prices are rising, but interest rates are at historic lows. If you can, buy now to cash in later before you are priced out of the market.
  • Renovate wisely – If you are planning home improvements, invest in those that will likely raise your home’s value most when you decide to sell. Choose projects like adding a bath, installing double-pane windows, or updating the kitchen.
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7 Steps to Simplify House Hunting

January 28, 2013 6:44 pm

House hunting is a complicated process. From finding the right home, to locking down a mortgage rate you can afford, it is a process that requires an attention to detail and a well-thought-out plan. Below are seven steps to take as you begin house hunting to ensure you stay focused and on budget.

1. Establish your goal. Searching for your dream house? Upgrading your current digs or looking to downsize? Whatever the goal is behind your impending home purchase, be sure you understand it clearly before beginning your house hunt. This will eliminate wasted time spent viewing homes that don’t meet your top priority.
2. Create a wish list. Once your primary objective is in place, it’s time to list all of the additional features and amenities you expect from the property you eventually buy. Do you want a swimming pool in the backyard, a balcony off of your master bedroom or crown molding throughout? Brainstorming must-haves and also-nice-to-haves helps to further narrow down your search field.
3. Hire a real estate agent. No one understands the intricacies of a local housing market like a real estate agent with years of experience helping others buy and sell property within it. Save yourself time and headache and hire a highly rated agent to see you through the process.
4. Get pre-approved. Knowing exactly how much you can afford to spend ahead of time helps the house hunting process goes much smoother, not to mention, eliminates the disappointment of learning you don’t have enough saved for the home you’ve had your eye on all this time. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will set your budget straight off.
5. Ask questions and take notes. This is probably the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, so don’t hold back if you have questions or concerns. Ensure you have no lingering questions about the property, mortgage financing terms or anything else that could lead to regret down the line. And don’t forget to write down important notes as you view house after house — things that seem important in the moment are easily forgotten after five open houses.
6. Do some recon work. Spend time hanging around the house you have your eye on, and during different times of the day. Does it get noisy? Is the traffic a nightmare? What are the neighbors up to? The worst thing would be to lock into your mortgage, only to find that while you love your house, you hate the neighborhood around it.
7. Look out for hidden expenses. Finally, it’s important to investigate more than just the house itself to find out if there are potential money traps within. For example, find out when the home’s appliances, water heater, roof, etc. were last replaced so that you aren’t surprised with a big expense shortly after moving in.
Source: GoBankingRates.com
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Q: How Do You Determine How Much a Home Is Worth?

January 28, 2013 6:44 pm

A: The short answer: A home is ultimately worth what is paid for it. Everything else is really an estimate of value. Take, for example, a hot seller’s market when demand for housing is high but the inventory of available homes for sale is low. During this time, homes can sell above and beyond the asking price as buyers bid up the price. The fair market value, or worth, is established when “a meeting of the minds” between you and the buyer takes place.
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Word of the Day

January 28, 2013 6:44 pm

Escrow account. Special bank account into which escrow monies are deposited and from which they are disbursed. Lawyers and real estate brokers maintain escrow accounts to hold money in trust for others.
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The Most Essential Pots & Pans for Any Kitchen

January 25, 2013 4:28 pm

I know all too well the clutter of hastily stored pots and pans jammed into 'the cabinet' every time the door is opened. Almost every kitchen has one.

But there has to be a better, and even more appealing way, to store the variety of pots and pans a typical homeowner needs to conduct their weekly culinary exercises with relative ease. And if one has to limit themselves because of space constraints, what are some of the most essential pots and pans.

J. Kenji López-Alt, Chief Creative Officer at seriouseats.com, recently blogged about it, and suggests the following:

  • All-Clad 12-inch Skillet with Lid
  • 10-inch cast iron skillet
  • 10-inch non-stick skillet
  • 3-quart saucier
  • 14-inch wok
  • 16-quart stockpot
  • An enameled Dutch oven

Focusing on a few of his picks, López-Alt,says:

Whether you stir-fry or not, a wok is one of the most versatile tools in the kitchen. It's perfect for indoor smoking, grilling, and steaming. It's by far the best vessel for deep-frying; its wide shape and large volume make it easy to fit plenty of food in there with minimal contact and oil-use, with virtually no danger of splattering the stove-top with hot oil - or worse, overflowing.

He says an enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven is the ideal vessel for slow braises and soups. In the oven, thick walls and a heavy lid make for really great low-and-slow heat transfer meaning your stews and pot roasts will come out more tender and juicy with minimal evaporation during cooking.

On the stovetop, the Dutch oven's tall, wide sides make for easy and splatter-free browning of large amounts of meat and vegetables, with plenty of heat retention. And if you opt out of buying a wok, López-Alt says a Dutch oven is also great for deep-frying.

Finally, there's the large skillet, what López-Alt, calls the true workhorse of the kitchen. He says it's perfect for rapidly browning large quantities of vegetables or meat, excellent for braising and reducing sauces, and has a tight-fitting lid making it oven safe.
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9 of Grandma’s Laundry Tips that Still Work

January 25, 2013 4:28 pm

Back in the day, when Grandma had few of the myriad stain-grabbing products that flood the market today, she learned and shared a few old-fashioned methods for getting the family’s clothes clean.

California homemaker Nancy Hayven, who is collecting hundreds of such tips for publication in a new book, shared nine of her favorite old-tyme methods for removing the most worrisome stains and dirt:

  1. Ink, wine or fruit stains – Saturate well in tomato juice for at least 30 minutes before washing. (Tomato juice also works well for removing stains from the hands.)
  2. Grass stains – Simple fixes are to spread the stain with butter, then lay the article out in the sun – OR wet it with lemon juice and sprinkle with salt before laying it out in the sun.
  3. Grease stains – Mix four tablespoons of rubbing alcohol with a tablespoon of salt. Shake or stir until the salt is dissolved, then apply with a sponge.
  4. Blood stains – Grandma’s best remedy was soaking in cold water, then laundering in cold water with soap or detergent.
  5. Cocoa or chocolate stains – Use borax and cold water. Launder after soaking and add a few tablespoons of borax to the washload.
  6. Carpet stains – (ONLY works on a fresh stain.) Combine one part white vinegar to three parts water. Soak into the stain for three to four minutes. Using a sponge, rub the area gently from the center out, then blot with a soft cloth.
  7. No-streak window cleaning – Wash with a mixture of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Dry with a soft cloth.
  8. Non-drip candles – Soak candles in cool salt water before burning to prevent the wax from dripping. To remove wax drips from candlesticks, out the candlesticks in the freezer for a few hours before scraping.
  9. Cleaning copper – (including copper-bottomed pots) Mix lemon juice and baking soda or cream of tartar into a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Rub onto the copper with a soft cloth, then rinse with water and dry.
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What Millennials Know, Don't Know and Should Know about Retirement Saving

January 25, 2013 4:28 pm

(BPT) - While it's never a good idea to make blanket assumptions about any group of people, Millennials, in particular, are defying stereotypes. Take, for example, the convention that holds young people are too busy spending their income to think about retirement. A recent survey by Prudential Financial indicates this is far from true of Millennials - Americans born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

While their retirement days may be in their distant future, planning for those years is very much on their minds, the survey revealed. In fact, 81 percent of those surveyed agreed that saving for retirement is a must, even during a recession. Seventy-three percent say they are highly motivated to save for retirement now, and nearly half (42 percent) check their existing retirement accounts at least once a month.

"Saving for retirement ranks highly in this generation's list of financial priorities, and we are encouraged that these younger workers are taking responsibility for their future," says George Castineiras, senior vice president of Total Retirement Solutions for Prudential Financial. "This survey demonstrates that Millennial workers prioritize saving for retirement ahead of leisure spending, saving for a vacation or even a house."

Still, the survey also indicates Millennials need more overall knowledge and tools to help them with their retirement planning. Castineiras offers some tips for young workers thinking about their retirement savings:

When you see a chance, take it - If your employer offers 401(k) participation, take part and contribute the maximum allowable. This is especially valuable if your employer matches any part of your contribution. The Prudential study found that, when presented with an opportunity to save for retirement, Millennials take advantage of it: 63 percent of those eligible to participate in employer-sponsored plans do so, contributing an average of 7 percent of their annual salaries.

Take advantage of technology - Retirement calculators are a great way to understand how much you need to save now in order to have the income - and lifestyle - you desire in retirement. Calculators abound online and most are free. To download Prudential's mobile retirement income calculator, go to the app store or go to the Google play store and type "Retirement Income Calculator" in the search field.

Talk it out with those in the know - Discuss retirement planning with your grandparents and parents. There's no better way to understand the realities of retirement than by talking with those who are living it. Seek their insight into what they feel they did right and what they would do differently. Watching older loved ones struggle financially can be an eye-opener; 83 percent of those surveyed said that seeing what can happen to people who don't save enough for retirement makes them want to save more.

Don't be afraid to ask for help - It pays to educate yourself on retirement planning, but the reality is few of us will ever become experts on the subject. Talking to an experienced, knowledgeable advisor can help make your retirement planning efforts easier and more effective. Companies like Prudential Financial can deliver retirement planning solutions to help younger workers be well prepared to face retirement.

"Millennials are embracing the need for retirement planning," Castineiras says. "With the right kind of preparation and professional guidance, young workers can get and stay on the path to future financial security."
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Q: How Do I Find Government-repossessed Properties?

January 25, 2013 4:28 pm

A: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acquires properties from lenders who foreclose on mortgages that it insures. These properties are then available for sale to potential homeowner-occupants and investors only through a licensed real estate broker. HUD will pay the broker's commission up to 6 percent of the sales price.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also acquires properties as a result of foreclosures on VA guaranteed loans. These acquired properties are marketed through a property management services contract with a federal bank that then lists them for sale with local real estate agents.
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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440

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