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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
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Kitchen and Beyond: Stainless Steel & Top Kitchen Trends For 2013

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

As I begin the first few tentative steps into my own 'kitchen and beyond' remodeling project, we'll be sharing with you a number of ideas and tips learned along the way. One of the early resources for ideas about kitchen remodeling was Stanton Homes (stantonhomes.com) in Apex, NC.

Many of the latest homes that company is designing locate kitchens directly off, or open to the home's large great rooms. These Stanton kitchen now looks less "kitcheny" and more often like an inviting place to gather and entertain, with decorative elements that are strong right now include natural finishes like wood and stone complimented by glass, shiny metallics, special attention to lighting details, and even crystal.

Andrea Enns, Stanton Homes' Interior Design expert also reaffirmed that it is quite a "safe" to invest in stainless steel appliances and finishes. Enns says since stainless steel has been used in the best kitchens for over a century due to its universal appeal, its ability to provide a sterile surface, its shiny appearance, as well as its association with luxury.

On another front, the Consumer's Voice for Kitchen and Bath Remodeling (myconsumersvoice.com) is promoting three new kitchen trends for 2013, including:

  • Soft Contemporary – A simpler approach of the modern kitchen, a soft contemporary design doesn’t have as many harsh lines, but more soft accents throughout the space. This look can be achieved through modern accents in a more traditional space such as contemporary bar stools or lighting.
  • New Traditional – Instead of the “transitional” kitchen name, new traditional is much like transitional but has more emphasis on classic touches. Instead of the large, overbearing feel of a traditional kitchen, the new traditional design feels much lighter.
  • Eclectic – This design trend is less of one style as it is a mixture of many. We see a lot of spaces putting together different finishes, patterns and textures to create a space that is truly one of a kind.

We will focus on other remodeling and historic restoration projects as our 'Kitchen and Beyond...' series continues.
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Word of the Day

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

Discount broker. Full-service broker who charges less than the prevailing commission rates in his or her community.
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Q: Do I Really Need a Real Estate Agent?

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

A: Most home sellers hire real estate agents to list and sell their homes. Most of those who do not are known as For Sale By Owners, or FSBOs. They market and sell their homes themselves.

However, a small number of people sell without marketing their homes. They include homeowners who transfer property to family members or landlords who directly offer tenants the first right to purchase property before they place it for sale on the market.

In the end, most FSBOs eventually hire an agent because the agent will handle all the details of a successful home sale – including the contract, forms, and disclosure statements – and expose the home to the widest range of prospective buyers through the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
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IRS Red Flags: Top 5 Reporting Tips That May Spare You from a Tax Audit

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

The IRS audits only slightly more than 1% of all individual tax returns annually. So the chances you will be audited are slim. But, say the audit-watchers at Kiplinger.com, there are several hot spot areas on your return that can raise the chances of IRS scrutiny:

  • Making too much money – People with incomes of $200,000 or higher had an audit rate of 3.93 percent, or one out of about 25 returns. The audit rate drops significantly for filers making less than $200,000, and the majority of them are conducted by mail. Of course you don’t want to earn less money. But understand that the more income you report, the more likely you'll hear from the IRS.
  • Failing to report all taxable income – The IRS gets copies of all 1099s and W-2s you receive, and their computers are pretty good at matching the forms with the income reported on your return - so make sure you report all income.
  • Taking large charitable deductions – Charitable contributions are a great tax write-off and worthwhile besides. But claiming disproportionately large deductions compared with your income raises a red flag with the IRS. Be sure to keep all supporting documents, including appraisals for donations of valuable property.
  • Claiming the home office deduction – This can be a great deduction if you qualify. But to qualify, you must use the space in one room of your home exclusively and regularly as your principal place of business – and you must be able to prove it.
  • Deducting business meals, travel and entertainment - Schedule C is a treasure trove of tax deductions for self-employed people. But it's also a gold mine for IRS agents, who know from experience that self-employeds sometimes claim excessive deductions. Big deductions are ripe for audit, so keep detailed records and receipts, including names of those you entertained and the nature of each business meeting or discussion as well as the need for related travel expenses.
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Don't Eat Away Your Retirement

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

Saving is tough, and every now and then, it’s nice to splurge—especially on a meal out. Or maybe grabbing a mid-day meal is your preferred way of easing the stress of the workday. But if you go out for lunch four days a week, over the course of a 40-year working life, you've eaten away nearly $60,000!

Still not convinced that bringing lunch to work is a smart decision? Read the following reasons, courtesy of BMO Harris Bank.

  • It's healthier. Packing your own lunch gives you complete command over exactly what you eat and how much you eat. Think portion control.
  • It's cheaper than eating out. A typical sit-down lunch at a restaurant can run you anywhere from $8 - $15. Add tax and tip on top of that, and you could be spending as much as $350 PER MONTH on lunch.
  • You can make new friends. Since everyone shares the employee lunchroom, eating your lunch there (and not at your desk) may provide you the opportunity to have conversations with others whom you may not typically interact.
  • Leftovers. Leftovers aren't just for dinner. The next time you make one of your favorite meals, prepare at least one extra, smaller, portion to take to work. Pasta typically heats up easily.
  • Time is your friend. You aren't wasting precious minutes getting to your lunch destination, standing in line, or waiting for your order to be prepared.
Can't see yourself going cold turkey and bringing your lunch every day? Then start out small. Even taking it to the office twice a week will help build your savings.

"You can save hundreds of dollars each year if you simply cut back on that morning latte," says Julie Curran, Regional President, BMO Harris Bank. "You'll be amazed how quickly the savings add up."

Source: BMO Harris branch.
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5 Tips for a Successful Franchise

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

The current economic climate has many Americans adjusting their career paths, and exploring new opportunities—including starting their own businesses. Since 2001, the number of people who primarily work on their own has increased by 1.3 million to reach 10.6 million, a significant 14 percent, according to a recent Forbes article.

Read the following advice for those harboring franchise dreams, provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

  1. Think demographics. Consider the population composition, nationally, globally and in your community. What are its needs, behaviors and preferences? How do people live their daily lives? You'll want to identify where consumers in your target market spend their money and how they make financial decisions to determine what products and services they'll find worthwhile. Then deliver on one of those products or services.
  2. Doing what you love pays. Know yourself. Awareness of your preferences and natural strengths, and pursuing your interests is critical. You're most likely to excel and work hard when you find the work meaningful and you are passionate about it.
  3. Address unmet needs. The most successful businesses meet important yet unmet needs, which allows them to occupy niches with little or no competition. Apple with its iPhone, did just this — bringing together, in a mobile device, information useful to people while on the move. Home Instead Senior Care also founded its business on the unmet need of a growing senior population and the generation's intention to age in place.
  4. Don't underestimate the power of good timing. Interest rates for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, for example, are at an all-time low. Starting a business when rates are favorable can help lock-in terms that free capital over time and reduce overall business costs.
  5. Partner for success. Do you have a great business mind, but your spouse is terrific with people? Your talented spouse can balance weaknesses (and vice versa) that could otherwise hinder your success. A husband-wife partnership enables you to bring a robust and well-rounded skill-set to market. Those not quite ready to give a new business idea a try may consider buying into an existing franchise.

Source: Home Instead Senior Care
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Word of the Day

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

Depreciation. Gradual decline on paper in market value of real estate, especially because of age, obsolescence, wear and tear, or economic conditions.
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Q: What If I Am Not Happy with the Listing Agent and Want to Terminate the Contract?

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

A: Experts say unhappiness is not a legal reason to terminate a valid home sale-listing contract. Legally, to cancel a listing, you must be able to prove the agent's lack of "due diligence." This means the agent isn't taking the normal steps to properly market your home, such as putting your listing into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), advertising on the Internet and in local newspapers, and posting a for-sale sign on the property.
If your home is overpriced, perhaps you need to consider reducing the price to spark buyer interest. Otherwise, you may need to meet with the listing agent and his or her supervising broker to discuss the problem. If the agent is doing an awful job, you might suggest the listing be transferred to a more effective agent within the same brokerage firm.

Remember, limit the listing contract to 90 days, in case you become unhappy and would like to get another agent after the contract expires.
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Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Add ‘Hugelkultur’ to Your Yard Care Vocabulary

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

In researching this latest segment on mulching, I turned to the land of high-performance cars and timepieces to learn about Hugelkultur—a German word for building a new garden area with branches or even trees as the base. And we got a good lesson in Hugelkultur from groworganic.com, and Toby Hemenway, author of 'Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.'

According to the site, those who have adopted the practice stateside sometimes refer to Hugelkultur as wood composting. Similar to sheet mulching or a traditional compost pile, the hugelkultur mound can be low or steep.

Organic waste is layered on top of the branches, and a cover crop or plants make the top layer. First timers shouldn't be concerned when the pile begins heating up -- for a few years this can make it a season-lengthening spot for growing tender vegetables.

And as the wood breaks down the temperature will drop, and air pockets will take the place of some of the lost wood. This mixture of soil organisms, oxygen, and moisture will create superb soil.

The book points out that a downed tree can also keep on giving to your garden’s ecosystem if you use it as the base of your mound, and heap branches at its sides, then layer on organic materials, and add plants on the top.

That newly fallen tree will use up a lot of nitrogen as it decomposes, so be sure to add bone meal and blood meal amendments over time. A tree trunk that is already rotten will not use as much nitrogen, and those nitrogen-rich amendments would not be necessary.

A fallen tree also acts as a reservoir of water, and as it slowly decays it will release that moisture. So bushes or small trees planted on the mound will reach their roots down to drink the moisture from the rotting tree to such an extent that they can survive in arid climates without extra water.
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Live Well This Winter with These Tips

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

(BPT) - Dreaming of spring despite the cold weather outside? You're not the only one. Many people start thinking of warmer temperatures as soon as the mercury drops. Instead of sitting inside this winter, use these tips to "think spring" so you'll be ready when the thermometer rises again.
Get moving

Exercise is essential to staying healthy, especially during winter, when it's tempting to hibernate. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, plus muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. One way to get moving while having fun is to exercise with a friend. You could join a dance or fitness class together, go hiking, cycling or cross-country skiing in a nearby park, or try rock climbing.

Even if your hectic schedule doesn't leave much room for daily trips to the gym or local park, you can still incorporate exercise into your regular winter routine. Playing outside with your dog or kids, keeping dumbbells at your desk, walking down the hall to deliver messages in-person versus via email, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are just a few examples of how you can get moving despite inclement weather. Even doing your daily chores - like getting outside to shovel snow - is a great way to build physical fitness and endurance.

Set a goal
Planning a vacation for springtime can give you something to look forward to through the cold winter months and is great motivation for remaining committed to a healthy lifestyle. Organize an exciting adventure with your family or friends - like hiking, mountain biking or kayaking - to take your mind off the dreary weather outside and keep you inspired to stay in shape. Plus, you can find some great travel deals during the off-season.

Remember to laugh

Don't let the overcast weather bring you down. Smiling and laughing are good for your health any time of year. Recent Stanford University research suggests that a good giggle fit can actually lower stress and act as a mini-workout. Try grabbing your friends for a game night or to watch a funny movie. Besides making you feel better, laughter is also contagious, so you just may make those around you feel better, too.
Although spring may seem light-years away, you can use these tips to help you "think spring" now and commit to a healthy winter lifestyle. That way, when the trees start to bloom and the air feels warm again, you'll be ready for whatever comes your way. Try this delicious smoothie recipe to get you started.

Try a smoothie
Nutrition has an incredible impact on wellness, and incorporating whole foods into your daily routine can help you stay fit through the winter months. A quick and easy way to begin incorporating more nutrient-packed foods into your diet is with fruit and vegetable smoothies. Try making a fruit salad smoothie in your blender to start your day. Toss whole fruits and vegetables into the machine, and its powerful motor will blend the mix into a smooth, on-the-go treat that tastes great and gives you natural energy.

Source: www.vitamix.com
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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440

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