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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

5 Credit Myths to Ditch Now

January 17, 2013 6:26 pm

Everyone knows that having a good credit score marks you as a credit-worthy individual with increased buying power. But, said consumer finance consultant Jill Krasny, many people have critical misconceptions about what makes for a good credit score.

Krasny offers five common credit misconceptions:

  • Having too much available credit can hurt your score – False. There is nothing in the credit scoring formula that penalizes a consumer for having too much available credit. If anything, it may increase your credit worthiness in the eye of lenders, who operate on the theory that having a lot of credit available but low balances and on-time payments make you the best possible risk.
  • Income is part of your credit score – Wrong. Credit reporting agencies do not even include your income on your report. Lenders are interested only in whether your pay your bills on time.
  • Once married, a couple’s credit score is combined – Wrong again. All consumers, married or not, have individual credit files and scores. But it is important to manage your finances carefully, especially when it comes to shared debts.
  • Carrying balances on credit cards is better for your score – Not. The only thing a running balance will get you is interest charges. Paying off your bill on time each month shows credit activity as well as credit worthiness.
  • A credit repair agency can get negatives off your report – False. If late payments are listed accurately on your credit report, no agency can legally remove them, no matter what they promise. If the information is correct, the only thing you can do is make on-time payments going forward. If the information is not accurate, you should file a dispute with the credit reporting agency, asking them to correct the inaccurate information or remove the negative info that doesn’t belong to you – which credit agencies are obligated to do within 30 days under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
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National Foundation for Credit Counseling Launches Spanish Version of MyMoneyCheckUp

January 17, 2013 6:26 pm

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recently announced the expansion of MyMoneyCheckUp™, the NFCC’s free innovative online financial resource tool for consumers.

The tool is now available in Spanish at https://www.miayudafinanciera.org and www.DebtAdvice.org, bringing Hispanic populations and communities a unique and much-needed method of assessing personal financial health.

“Our mission at the NFCC has always been to provide the public with the resources necessary for financial stability,” says Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “The introduction of MyMoneyCheckUp™ in Spanish allows us to bring the tool to a much wider audience.”

As of 2011, the Hispanic population comprised 16.7 percent of the United States population, the largest minority group following African-Americans. In addition, 20.3 percent of U.S. households speak a language other than English.

Recognizing the need for expanded financial resources to the Hispanic community, Experian provided a generous grant to translate MyMoneyCheckUp™ into Spanish.

“Experian is so pleased to work with the NFCC Member Agencies in helping families with their financial capability and in making this valuable tool available to a wider audience,” says Maxine Sweet, Experian Vice President of Public Education. “We have a shared goal of helping everyone learn to live credit smart. That starts with a clear understanding of your financial position and having readily accessible tools to help guide your future.”

The English version of MyMoneyCheckUp™ originally launched in 2011 to provide consumers with a means of evaluating four key areas of personal finance: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for retirement, and home equity.

After answering a series of topic specific questions, a personalized assessment of the individual’s overall financial health and associated behaviors is generated. With areas of concern identified, the analysis suggests changes that consumers are encouraged to implement in order to become more financially independent. The traditional red, yellow and green traffic light colors signal whether the consumer should continue on their current money path, proceed with caution, or stop and make a change respectively. Individuals can also complete an optional budget to further help them assess their financial health.

“When developing the tool, one goal was to make financial education more readily accessible to a broad segment of the population. Thousands of Americans across the country have already benefited from the English version of MyMoneyCheckUp™. It is our hope that the Hispanic community will now take advantage of this simple and free personal finance assessment tool, and embrace the opportunity to improve their financial stability,” continues Cunningham.

Since 1951, The NFCC and its members have promoted financial education, sound money management, and positive financial habits to millions of people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, giving them the knowledge, capability, and support needed to achieve their financial goals. The NFCC Member Agency services are provided for free or at low cost, and are available in both English and Spanish.

For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org.
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Word of the Day

January 17, 2013 6:26 pm

Earnest money deposit. Money that accompanies an offer to purchase as evidence of good faith. It is almost always a personal check, certified check, or money order rather than cash.
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Q: What Is the Difference between List Price and Sales Price?

January 17, 2013 6:26 pm

A: The list price is your advertised price, or asking price, for a home. It is a rough estimate of what you want to complete a home sale. A good way to determine if the list price is a fair one is to look at the sales prices of similar homes that have recently sold in the area.

The sales price is the actual amount the home sells for.
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Use Your Green to Go Green in 2013

January 16, 2013 6:22 pm

Many of us are interested in making eco friendly changes. But with all of the information available, deciding what energy efficient features to invest in can be confusing. When it comes to purchasing eco friendly amenities, electronics and the like, you want to be sure you’re investing in the best choice. Some great ideas about using your green to stay green came to me from Miriam Berg, who manages digital content for the Alliance to Save Energy.

Berg recently blogged on a number of cool things you can buy that will keep returning you some green in the form of energy savings. They include:
  • Designer CFL bulbs which are available in a variety of flower and butterfly shapes. Berg says the shapely Plumen line saves up to 80 percent on energy and lasts 8 times longer than a standard incandescent.
  • Berg also likes motion-sensing digital picture frames that display different photos every time you enter a room, and automatically turn off when you leave to save electricity.
  • Personal care products like electric shavers, hair clippers and trimmers with ENERGY STAR-certified battery chargers can save up to 70 percent compared to those with conventional charging systems.
  • Cordless power tools like screwdrivers, drills, and saws – as well as cordless yard care tools like lawn mowers, string trimmers, and shears are also on Berg's list. All use about 30 percent less energy with ENERGY STAR-certified battery chargers.
  • Berg is also steering DIYers to air-powered caulk guns -- so you don’t have to squeeze so hard every time you need a line of caulk. They also cut down on mess because it’s easier to stop the flow of caulk with an air compressor than with a manual gun.
  • Finally, Berg says the Nintendo Wii ($129) is the game for gamers who care about energy efficiency. Although no video game console is lauded for saving energy (in fact, Energy Star doesn’t label them), the the total annual cost for a heavy Wii gamer is $4.16, while the original Xbox or PlayStation 3 could cost upwards of $35 a year to power up. But that’s just pocket change compared to the amount of energy Berg says you save by turning off your console when it’s not in use – that single practice can save up to $100 a year.
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5 Gifts to Ensure Happy, Healthy Dogs

January 16, 2013 6:22 pm

Today’s modern world shows how much our relationship with animals has changed, says animal chiropractic consultant Dr. Rod Block.

“Back before the mechanical wonders of industrialization, we relied upon animals to carry the brunt of our work; essentially, their purpose was to haul loads, plow fields and chase down prey,” says Block, author of “Like Chiropractic for Elephants,” a book in part about his experience treating elephants and other animals for chiropractic problems.

“Today, tractors and other marvels of the post-industrial era have largely replaced the duties of the working animal. In a world where humans distance themselves more and more from one another, these animals have become our companions, family members and closest confidantes.”

More friends and custodians of animals – including dogs, horses and, yes, elephants – realize that they too suffer from spinal irregularities, he says.

“Of course, any living creature with a spine is vulnerable to injury, which can incur years of suffering and even death,” he says.

With that in mind, he offers gift ideas for the furry family member that cannot tell you with language what it needs:
• Dog harnesses: For those who haven’t already noticed, collars and choke chains hurt dogs that have a habit of pulling during walks. Collars centralize stress on their neck. Ideally, you should train your dog to not pull -- there are how-to books and programs that can help. In the meantime, and even after successful training, a dog harness works best on that rare occasion when, for example, a squirrel piques their interest. Harnesses appropriately distribute weight throughout a canine’s torso. They’re also appropriate for cats on leashes.
• Need a chiropractor? … Some animals go many years before their caretakers realize they have a significant mobility problem, or that there is an affordable solution to the problem. Many simply do not consider alternative health measures for their horse, dog or cat; they think their only options are expensive, invasive surgery, or nothing. To spot problems early, always monitor how they walk or run, and how they hold their head. “Pay attention to their movements, and how they respond to touch,” he says.
• Don’t overfeed: An overfed dog or cat, just like an obese human, experiences damaging health consequences. Excess weight puts stress on the skeleton and joints, and obese cats and dogs can get diabetes. Feed them the appropriate amount of pet food, and do not give them scrap from the dinner table. If your dog has grown accustomed to begging at meal times, put him in another room when you sit down at the table. Our pets do not have the right digestion system for many human foods.
• Dog beds: Know your dog. You wouldn’t give a child’s bed to a large adult; consider what’s appropriate for your dog’s length, weight and sleeping style. This knowledge will help you when confronted with the many styles of beds: bagel, doughnut and bolster beds; cuddler or nest beds; dog couches; round, rectangle or square beds; or elevated beds with frames. Also, consider manufacturer differences. Each may have its own definition of “large dog,” for example.
• Holistic options: As health-care avenues have expanded for humans, so too have they for pets. Often, the answer for human and animal well-being is not an overload of prescription medication. Acupuncture is a valid option with no adverse side affects that has shown positive results, especially for large animals like horses. In general, use common sense; an overstressed environment is not good for any living thing. Consider researching the latest alternative-health options for your animal.

For more information, visit www.drrodblock.com.
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Top 5 Family Vacations in 2013

January 16, 2013 6:22 pm

While the winter weather is persevering in some parts of the country, consumers all over are dreaming of warmer days, and brainstorming relaxing spring and summer vacations.

Family Vacation Critic® , an online family travel planning guide, which reports that January is the peak month for family-vacation related searches.

"We're seeing parents researching their spring and summer breaks immediately after the holidays. In fact, the first day of January was a very popular day for family vacation planning," says Lissa Poirot , editor of Family Vacation Critic. "With spring break just a few months away, it's important to move quickly to secure accommodations, especially if you're looking for a family room or suite, as these are often the first to be booked."

To help narrow down the choices, Family Vacation Critic offers this list of the top family vacations for 2013, based on family-friendly appeal and recent additions:

Amelia Island, Fla: With 13 miles of beaches, this barrier island has a rich history and laid-back, outdoorsy vibe. In the spring of 2013, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort will unveil its massive $85-million renovation.
Montreal: Montreal's cobblestone streets, marvelous boutiques and creperies make it the ideal destination for those looking for a distinct change of pace. Kids will love the Biodome and La Ronde, the second-largest amusement park in Canada.
Bahamas: Convenient, relatively affordable, and teeming with activities for kids, the Bahamas is always a popular choice for families. Princess Cruise Line's new ship, Royal Princess, begins sailing in 2013, and will stop in the Bahamas on its maiden Caribbean voyage in October.
Park City, Utah: A visit to the 400-acre Utah Olympic Park, a venue for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, is a must. Widely known as a hotspot for skiers, families can trade in their skis for hiking boots and bikes in the summer and explore miles of biking and hiking trails.
Galveston Island, Texas: Galveston Island offers families tranquil beaches, the 242-acre Moody Gardens, and Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The historic Pleasure Pier reopened in 2012 with major renovations after being damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Additional destinations to make the list include San Diego, Calif.; Nantucket, Mass.; Alaska cruises; Turks and Caicos and the Jersey Shore, N.J..

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Word of the Day

January 16, 2013 6:22 pm

Due-on-sale. Clause in a note or mortgage giving the lender the right to call the entire loan balance due if the property is sold or otherwise conveyed.
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Q: Are There Standard Ways to Determine How Much a Home Is Worth?

January 16, 2013 6:22 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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New Year’s Resolutions: 5 Ways to Make Them Stick

January 15, 2013 6:18 pm

Join the crowd if you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, get organized, or climb up the corporate ladder – or to achieve any goal you deem important. But don’t feel bad if, like many, you turn the calendar page to February with a sinking feeling your resolution is headed for the scrap heap.

“The problem for so many,” says Florida behavioral therapist Jenna Wilson, “is that we do not make our goals reasonable or specific enough.”

Wilson provides five practical tips for making – and – keeping – those worthwhile improvements in your life:

  1. Don’t aim too high – Losing 10 pounds is a reasonable goal. Losing 40 pounds may not be doable without some sort of professional intervention. Keeping your goals small and simple is the most surefire way to succeed – and reaching a moderate goal may give you the confidence to maintain your resolution longer.
  2. Define your goals – If you resolve to advance in your job, write down specific steps you will take to achieve the goal: take a class in a subject you need to master…volunteer to take on a new project. If your goal is to improve family relationships, start with a plan to converse more regularly with all the members of your family, or schedule a weekly family game night.
  3. Set a schedule – Determine to ‘lose five pounds by mid-February’ or ‘find a new job in six months.’ Attempting to reach your goals too soon may be setting yourself up for failure. If your schedule involves daily or weekly tasks – like exercising or going back to school – set specific times and days of the week when they will happen.
  4. Don’t be upset by setbacks – We are all human. We make mistakes. We sometimes give in to weakness. But gaining back two pounds after a weekend of self-indulgence is only a temporary setback. Resolve that a setback will not deter you from starting over again.
  5. Ask for support – It may be too difficult to stop smoking or exercise on a regular basis alone, or improve your financial position without professional guidance. Asking for help from a friend, a family member, or a career professional can be the best way to achieve your goals.
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