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 15, 2013 3:30 pm
Choosing what to plant, and where, in your yard should go beyond simple landscaping preferences. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reminds customers to plant the "right tree, in the right place."
Even trees that are small when planted may grow to heights that can interfere with overhead distribution power lines and planting any type of tree near larger, higher-voltage transmission power lines should be avoided all together. Calling 811 before digging will also help customers plant trees in a location where roots won't interfere with underground electric and gas lines.
There are many benefits to planting trees: they keep homes cool by providing shade, enhance property values and clean the air. However, if the right tree is not planted in the right place, it can potentially damage electric and gas lines, causing power outages, gas leaks and other serious public safety concerns. In fact, more than 90 percent of tree-caused power outages come from healthy trees and branches that fall or grow into power lines.
Keep in mind the following tips for planting the right tree in the right place, especially if you are planting trees near distribution power lines:
• Only plant a tree near distribution power lines if it will grow to less than 25 feet at maturity. (This information is available at your local nursery.)
• Avoid planting any type of tree near larger and higher voltage transmission power lines; only use low-growing plants.
• Whenever homeowners or contractors are grading, installing sprinklers or planting a tree, PG&E urges them to call 811 at least two days before starting a project, to have underground gas and electric lines marked. For more information about USA visit www.call811.com.
• Keep all trees, equipment and people at least 10 feet away from power lines.
March 15, 2013 3:30 pm
March is National Nutrition Month, encouraging Americans to "Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day." Now in its 40th year, this annual campaign offers important advice on healthful eating. To help you make informed food choices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reminds you to Read the Label.
The Nutrition Facts Label found on all packaged foods and beverages serves as your go-to guide for choosing and comparing foods. Now in its 20th year, this handy resource lets you know exactly what you're eating and helps you make choices that can improve your long-term health.
You can use the Nutrition Facts Label every time you shop for food. Follow these tips to get started, and you'll see how easy reading the label really is!
• Check the serving size. All of the nutrition information listed on the Nutrition Facts Label is based on one serving of that food. But, it's common for one package of a food to contain more than one serving.
• Consider the calories. If you want to manage your weight (lose, gain, or maintain), pay attention to the calories. The key is to balance how many calories you eat with how many calories your body uses. As a general rule, 400 or more calories per serving for a single food is high and 100 calories is moderate. And remember, if a package contains two (or more) servings and you eat the entire package, you are consuming two (or more) times the number of calories and nutrients listed on the label.
• Choose nutrients wisely. You can also monitor your intake of specific nutrients by using the Percent Daily Value (percent DV) on the Nutrition Facts Label. This is especially helpful for "nutrients to get less of" such as sodium, saturated fat, and cholesterol, which can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. Follow this easy guideline when looking at nutrients on the Label: 5 percent DV or less of a nutrient means the food is low in that nutrient, and 20 percent DV or more means it's high!
Start using the Nutrition Facts Label today and you'll be making informed choices about the foods you are consuming. Identify serving size, look at calories, and be aware of nutrients – especially the ones you and your family are trying to get less of. That's how you can celebrate good nutrition every month of the year!
March 15, 2013 3:30 pm
Q: What Should I Consider when Redoing My Kitchen?
A: It is tempting to discard existing appliances when you build new cabinets around them. Rethink the idea. If the appliances are workable, keep them – and save yourself from $1,000 to $5,000, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Also keep the present location of major fixtures, appliances and utilities relative to the plumbing, gas and electrical outlets. Rearranging plumbing, wiring and jacks can be very expensive. Refacing existing cabinets can reduce the cost of your kitchen remodel considerably and eliminate the need for new flooring, countertops and appliances. If you must get new cabinets, options such as spice racks and slide out wire baskets can be added later. Also, install cabinets without soffits to decrease labor cost; and avoid trim moldings, or use a simple trim. If you must have a new wood trim to match the new cabinets, order pre-finished trim to decrease labor cost; avoid having the painting or staining done on-site. Other helpful tips: choose neutral colors for fixtures, appliances and laminates and avoid the need for a new floor by sanding and refinishing a hardwood floor that may be underneath the existing vinyl flooring.
March 15, 2013 3:30 pm
Refinance. To pay off one loan by taking out another on the same property.
March 15, 2013 3:30 pm
(Family Features)--Whether it's a tablet with an educational purpose or a big screen displaying the latest video game, the use of electronic technology is skyrocketing among kids. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children ages eight to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours with electronics every day.
Unfortunately, all of that screen time can cause eye fatigue, and ultimately have an impact on your child's overall vision and eye health.
To view things closer, our eyes automatically adjust by drawing inward; our pupils get smaller to focus, and our eye muscles adjust so we can see a clear image. As a result, extended use of electronic screens can cause tired, blurry or irritated eyes.
Intense focus on a video screen also leads to a diminished blink rate, which can result in eye injuries.
Although there is no scientific evidence that computers and handheld electronic devices directly cause vision problems, using these devices wisely can help prevent eye fatigue and strain, as well as associated headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes.
To help protect your child's vision, consider these tips from Ameritas, a leading provider of dental, vision and hearing care plans:
• Know that prolonged use of electronic devices can exacerbate underlying eye conditions, so electronics should be used in moderation. Limit screen time to two hours or less a day (including watching TV, playing video games and using mobile phones).
• Encourage intentional blinking while electronic devices are in use to help refresh eyes with natural moisture that helps prevent bacterial infections, dry spots and corneal breakdown.
• Reduce additional eye strain by managing glare from windows and using low-watt bulbs in light fixtures.
• Keep computer screens 20 to 28 inches away from the face.
• Practice a rule of 20s to give eyes a rest. Every 20 minutes, ask your child to look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds before refocusing attention up close again.
• Move around and change positions periodically while using a device.
• Watch for signs of eyestrain while electronic devices are in use, such as squinting, frowning at the screen or rubbing eyes.
If vision problems or discomfort arise, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor for a professional evaluation.
When taking into account time at the office in front of a computer screen, many adults regularly use electronic devices for as long as, or even longer than, their children. Following the same advice not only sets a good example, but it can help protect your own eye health.
March 15, 2013 3:30 pm
(BPT) - Improved value, curb appeal and livability are the benchmarks for any smart home improvement. But some upgrades you do for the sheer joy of it. The best home improvements deliver all those smart qualities and speak to your heart at the same time.
With spring home improvement season approaching, here are five home improvements that you can do for the love of spring - and the love of your biggest investment:
Add/replace a skylight
Abundant natural light and fresh air are among the joys of spring, and replacing an old, energy-inefficient skylight, or adding one where none existed before, is a great way to welcome sunlight and spring breezes into your home. Sunlight's positive effect on mood is well-documented, and adding a fresh-air skylight, which comes with a screen, offers other health benefits as well. Opt for an energy saving solar powered fresh-air skylight and you can enjoy the benefits of passive ventilation to reduce humidity and stale air in your home along with more natural light.
From a practical standpoint, installing an Energy Star-qualified skylight like those made by VELUX America can help you control heating, cooling and lighting costs in your home. Replacing an older, less efficient skylight with a new solar-powered, fresh-air skylight with a rain sensor, can also ensure your home stays protected from spring showers. You can also choose solar powered blinds for even more energy efficiency, and both are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To learn more about energy-efficient skylights, visit www.veluxusa.com or energystar.gov.
Add/improve a deck
The trend toward outdoor living spaces continues, with decks being one of the most sought-after amenities among home buyers. In fact, adding a wooden deck can recoup more than 77 percent of the deck's cost when you sell your home, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report.
If you don't already have a deck, adding one - whether wood or composite - not only enhances your home value, it will be a great place to celebrate the arrival of spring. If you already have a deck, consider value-enhancing upgrades like new balusters, lighted post caps, built-in seating and even planters.
Install a kitchen backsplash
Spring brings a bright, colorful feel to the world and you can easily incorporate that sentiment into your kitchen by adding a backsplash. A project easily within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers, backsplashes are both functional and decorative. Granite, ceramic or glass tile protects the wall behind the range or cook top from splatters of food or grease while brightening valuable workspace and serving as a visual focal point for the room.
Great kitchens sell homes, and the room is one of the most-used in any home. Upgrading your kitchen is almost always a good investment, one that improves resale value and your enjoyment of your home.
Upgrade bathroom floors
Bathroom renovations are also popular and a minor bathroom remodel can return more than 65 percent of the cost at the time of resale, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. While replacing countertops and fixtures are common remodeling tasks in a bathroom, don't overlook the biggest surface in the room - the floor.
Many modern builders install vinyl floors in bathrooms because they are durable and cheap. Switching out this common material for stone or ceramic tile is a great way to brighten the room and give your bath a whole new look.
Improve your entryway
Your front door and entryway are the first impression visitors have of your home's decor. A welcoming entry invites guests in and gives you a mood boost every time you walk through it.
This year, celebrate spring by replacing an old worn wooden door with a sturdy, decorative steel door - an improvement that recoups nearly 85 percent of its cost when you sell, according to Remodeling Magazine. To really celebrate spring, add a screen door. You'll be able to let in fresh air and spring breezes while keeping insects out. Plus, a screen door is essential Americana, creating a welcoming openness that epitomizes the joy of spring.
March 12, 2013 5:22 pm
A: Opinions vary about which professional to call first. Some say the architect comes first because “you have to design it before you can build it.” The architect, who is trained to resolve problems creatively, can help define the project in ways that provide meaningful guidance for the design. The architect can also do site studies, help secure planning and zoning approvals, and perform a variety of other pre-design tasks. On the other hand, a contractor will be the one you interact with on a regular basis and the person who will likely be in your home every day, possibly for an extended period depending on the scope of your work. Many contractors have in-house design services, or design/build firms, and can possibly offer better price and integration between design and implementation. Others may have several architects with whom they work directly, which could also provide a smooth integration between design and implementation.
March 12, 2013 5:22 pm
Lessor. Someone who rents to another party through a lease; the landlord.
March 12, 2013 5:22 pm
Having a financial advisor can be a great way to protect your assets, whether you’re having them manage your business finances, personal or family finances. However, an irresponsible financial advisor can do more damage than none at all.
Below are a few warning signs that something is wrong with your relationship with your investment professional:
• Your advisor does not return your phone calls.
• The transactions on your statements don't make sense to you.
• Your account statements include transactions you did not authorize.
• You find unidentifiable debits or credits on monthly account statements.
• You see a dramatic drop in value of stock in a short period of time.
• The market is "up," but you're losing money.
• The majority of investments recommended by the broker are declining in value.
• Your broker tells you to view market news as entertainment.
• Your broker fails to disclose important information regarding an investment purchase.
• Your broker begins trading in high risk and speculative investments.
• You are paying capital gains taxes, despite the fact that your account value is decreasing.
• Financial results are markedly different from publicly announced expectations.
These warnings signs do not necessarily mean you are a victim of fraud, but there are other rules that may also protect you, such as those pertaining to sustainability.
March 12, 2013 5:22 pm
We often tell our client families that there is no "one size fits all" formula for transitioning a family business from one generation to the next. There are multiple variables in every family and business that impact how to best address the process in a given situation, making it challenging to offer tools like checklists to help with preparations. Yet, while each situation is unique, there are some experiences most businesses will face for which there is some common wisdom. One such situation is the experience of getting the next generation of family employees started professionally in the business.
Any transition is essentially a hand-off, much like runners in a relay passing the baton or a trapeze artist swinging from one bar to another. And, just like a relay team requires each successive runner to be in position and ready to run hard and well, the transition of a family business requires a new generation that is ready to take the baton-both in the right positions and adequately prepared. And, just like getting ready for the big race requires years of training and dedicated effort, preparing to transition the day-to-day management of the family enterprise from one generation to the next takes years of preparation before the successor generation is sufficiently ready to assume that tremendous responsibility.
While it is important to remember that succession of management authority is a process that should evolve over many years, it should be lost on no one that first impressions count. Anyone who has ever begun a new job can attest that early accomplishments often play a significant role in one's long-term success. Of course, there are no guarantees for success, but a family member who starts his or her career in the business with strong objective success or as a clear contributor on a team will be more valuable to the company and likely have continued success than a family member who does not. With that in mind, here's that checklist I mentioned earlier; a list of "Do's and Don'ts" for onboarding new family employees in a family enterprise:
Plan ahead. The most important preparations happen years before the new family employee actually joins the family business, ideally when they go to work at another company. The self-confidence, credibility and learning of outside best practices that come from working elsewhere have immeasurable value for the new family employee once they join their family's enterprise. Outside experience gives the new family hire instant credibility with other employees-credibility that can otherwise take years to develop, as some non-family team members may assume successes the family employee has at the business are thanks to their family connection. Even more important, however, is the self-confidence that is developed when a family member knows without a shadow of a doubt that he or she can succeed in the outside world, too.
Start the new family employee at an appropriate level. If you start them at a level that's well above their skills and experience, then you risk overwhelming them and sending a signal to the rest of the organization that they will be given unfair advantages. If you start them at a level that's too low-because you started at the bottom and they should, too-even if they come with years of outside experience, then you risk putting them in a boring work situation or causing them a lot of frustration that could lead them to leave. Of course, many families believe it is important that their family employees experience all aspects of their business(tiresome jobs included), and that approach has great merit; the only caveat is you may not want to have a college-educated and well-experienced manager bagging groceries for more than a few weeks.
Announce the new family employee's arrival in a matter-of-fact manner. In most cases, it should not be a secret that the new hire is part of the family, and the rest of the company will figure it out quickly, so why hide it? A simple e-mail from the CEO along the following lines will typically work well: "I am happy to announce that my daughter, Jane Doe, will be joining the company as our newest marketing manager."
Have the new family employee report to a long-standing employee and well-regarded non-family member. It's not always possible, but there are great advantages to having the new family employee report to someone who is not also a family member. Most importantly, this kind of reporting relationship will increase the chances that the new family employee will receive accurate performance feedback.
At a minimum, provide the new family employee with the same performance feedback process as all other comparable employees. If all employees receive an annual formal performance review with informal "check ins" quarterly, then that's what the new family employee should receive as well. As it can be challenging for a mid-level manager to provide objective feedback to a member of the owning family, it can sometimes be helpful to develop some support from the HR department or other senior leaders in the business for this process. In addition, there may be a desire to take a more proactive role in the professional development opportunities for family employees if they have the ambition and potential to eventually move into more senior roles in the business.
Involve the board. An outside board member can be helpful to both the older and the younger generation during the time when a new family employee first joins the family enterprise. This board member can provide an important perspective of impartiality to both generations, particularly during episodes of conflict.
Communicate. Too often, the new family employee or the incumbent feels frustrated, angry, confused or even delighted about a particular situation... and they keep that feeling to themselves. It's important for all key parties to check in with each other frequently and informally, simply to keep the lines of communication open. Establish a tradition of a weekly breakfast or monthly lunch to ensure communication stays strong. Family members may have many qualities, but mind-reading isn't one of them!
Create a job for the new family employee. This is really an extension of the second bullet point above. Just as it's important to bring the new family employee into the organization at an appropriate level, it's equally important that a job is not created for them. If the position is not genuine, then others in the company will know that... and they will likely resent the new family employee as a result. In addition, it can be difficult to objectively assess the performance and development of the family employee if they are not in a role or job that has to be done, that provides some accountability.
Put all the responsibility for the career entry and development of the new family hires on just one generation. Onboarding a new family employee in a family enterprise is a complicated and sometimes difficult process that is too big for any one person. It's not the new family employee's sole responsibility to make it happen; nor is it the sole responsibility of the incumbent. Successful onboarding is a responsibility that is shared by both generations.
If you keep the above items in mind while planning for the transition of your family's business, you will take an important step toward increasing the likelihood that your family business will continue long into the future.