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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

Word of the Day

December 12, 2012 6:20 pm

Construction loan. Type of loan where money is doled out as construction takes place; borrower must obtain a permanent long-term mortgage from another source to repay the construction loan. Also called an interim loan.
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Q: How Much, on Average, Can I Expect to Spend on Maintenance?

December 12, 2012 6:20 pm

A: Expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows, and routine system repairs and maintenance.

An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Also, adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousands dollars.
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Don’t Get Burned By Furnace Repair Scams

December 11, 2012 6:10 pm

I often write about improving your energy efficiency by selecting the right heating source and keeping it maintained in top performing condition. But this means possibly exposing yourself to furnace-cleaning scams, which are becoming a growing concern according to the Better Business Bureau.

While most furnace repair and oil company furnace maintenance services are honest, reputable and fair, others use fraud and scare tactics to get consumers to pay for new heating systems, even when they are functioning properly according to a recent report.

BBB offers these tips to help avoid getting fleeced by a furnace repair scam:

Always get a second or third opinion as to whether repairs or replacement are needed. All bids should be in writing and provide a full description of services provided and materials used.

When considering a bid, compare more than cost. Check the size and efficiency rating of the equipment each bidder proposes, and then ask how they arrived at recommending a particular sized system. If you are told your furnace must be replaced because it is too small, think back to whether it has ever failed to properly heat your home.

Check the warranty on your heating system. Many of them come with long-term warranties.

If you determine repairs or replacement is necessary, select a contractor with a solid reputation for dependable, reasonably priced work.

In some cases, a serviceman may claim that your furnace has cracks inside, or is leaking dangerous fumes, and may write a report or estimate that stipulates “System unfit for safe operation. Unit shut off and left off.”

Soot on surfaces, on carpets and around air inlets is an indication of a malfunctioning unit, but may be caused by an old gasket rather than cracks in the furnace itself.

Finally, ask friends, neighbors and family members for recommendations, and check out any company you’d like to hire at www.bbb.org for a Business Review.
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Getting Kids to Ease the Holiday Workload

December 11, 2012 6:10 pm

For working families, adding holiday chores to the everyday workload can be daunting. With gifts to buy and wrap, a house to decorate, and a freezer to fill with seasonal goodies, it’s easy to raise the stress factor – especially when housebound and excited children seem constantly underfoot.

But having kids in the house can ease the workload a bit if you make them responsible for some of the routine chores you generally do yourself.

“Giving kids chores not only builds character but gives them a sense of purpose and value,” says Denver homemaker Emily Cates, who blogs on organized homemaking. “Even the youngest can do their part and free you to do what you have to.”

Cates, a mother of four including six-year old twins, lists age-appropriate chores for children, suggesting you post a chart in the kitchen so kids can check off their daily achievements before Santa comes to town:

Kids Under Five:

  • Put their toys away
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Bring in the mail
  • Help tidy the family room
  • Help feed the pet
  • Help dust

Ages 5-7:

  • Any of above, plus…
  • Set the table
  • Water indoor plants
  • Answer the telephone
  • Sweep outside walk
  • Help put away groceries
  • Help load dishwasher

Age 8-10:

  • Any of above, plus…
  • Sort laundry into proper loads
  • Fold finished laundry
  • Take out the garbage
  • Take trash barrels to curb on collection day
  • Clean the bathroom sink
  • Use hand-held vacuum to clean small floor areas
  • Help prepare dinner
  • Run his/her own bath

Age 10 and over:

  • Any of above, plus…
  • Load washing machine, move clothes to dryer
  • Clean toilet, bathroom and mirrors
  • Vacuum
  • Make lunches
  • Clean up the pet business from backyard
  • Walk the pet
  • Help with dinner preparation
  • Load and unload dishwasher
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Top Tips for Training Your Dog

December 11, 2012 6:10 pm

(Family Features) Sit. Stay. Heel. These simple commands can make a huge difference in the life of a pet parent. Whether you’re introducing a new dog or puppy to the family, or you have a dog with some behavior issues, training can help ensure a well-adjusted pet and a happier family.

According to the American Kennel Club, dog training can:

  • Help your dog become a welcome member of the family and the neighborhood.
  • Correct behaviors such as jumping on people, digging, chewing and barking.
  • Provide mental and physical activities for your dog.
  • Deepen the bond between you and your dog.
  • Ensure your dog’s happiness and safety.

Training You Can Do at Home

Beyond teaching the basics of sitting and staying, training can include correcting behaviors. One common dog behavior that often needs correcting is jumping on people. “Dogs are sociable animals and often sniff muzzles when they greet each other,” says Debbie McKnight, training expert for PetSmart. “A dog that jumps on someone to greet them is often trying to make contact with the person’s face. It’s important to teach them an acceptable alternative for these social situations.”

Teaching your dog to sit first and then allow interaction can be a good solution. Here are helpful tips on how to make your pet a great greeter:

  • Have everyone that interacts with your dog ask him to sit as he approaches them.
  • If he sits, they can bend down to greet him.
  • If he jumps up, they stand up immediately, fold their arms and stare at the ceiling, repeating the signal to sit.
  • As soon as he sits, reward him by continuing with the greeting.
It’s important to reward your pet so they are constantly being reminded of how to behave.

Take Your Dog to School

Professional training classes are beneficial for many dogs and are available for several different levels, from basic classes that can help them socialize properly, to more advanced classes that can keep them safe and correct behaviors. Goals for each level of training are different and are set by the pet owner based on what they learn in class.

For example:

Beginner dog goals may include:

  • Not jumping on people
  • Loose leash walk around the block

Intermediate dog goals may include:

  • Three minute down-stay
  • Heeling down the block

Advanced dog goals may include:

  • Heeling through a crowd
  • “Go to your bed” when the doorbell rings
  • Coming when called at the dog park

Professional training is a complement to what you do at home, and practice is important at all levels. As a dog progresses through training, pet parents should make the behaviors they ask for harder during everyday practice. So rather than a basic sit before his meal, for example, try a sit-stay command for 15 seconds from 10 feet away.

Source: www.petsmart.com/training.
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Word of the Day

December 11, 2012 6:10 pm

Consideration. Something of value, usually money, given to induce another to enter into a contract.
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Q: What Can I Do about Unseen Problems Like Toxic Gases?

December 11, 2012 6:10 pm

A: Problems with your chimney, mechanical devices on your heating appliance, and pressure within the home can all cause combustion spillage, the unwanted flow of combustion gases into your home. Present in these gases are toxic elements such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

The best way to prevent spillage is to hire a professional – preferably one who specializes in building inspection, indoor air quality, ducting, chimneys and heating equipment – to do a yearly maintenance check of all your combustion appliances. These appliances include a gas-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, an oil-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, and a fireplace.

The service professional can check for heat exchanger leakage, evidence of start up spillage, and condensation in the chimney. Maintenance normally includes a tune-up, or in the case of a chimney, clearing it of debris and fixing cracks on the inside wall.
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A Bill Worth Watching - and Maybe Supporting

December 10, 2012 6:06 pm

So much of what goes on In Washington gives me a headache. But, in my opinion, there is one legislative item that could be of great benefit to consumers and homeowners. This bill, introduced into the Senate and in committee now, seeks to extend tax deductions for building upgrades, make it easier for taxpayers to get deductions, and give more money back.

The bipartisan legislation is called the Commercial Building Modernization Act (S.3591) and it would reform the existing Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Deduction, which is widely known by its federal tax code section: 179D.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, Section 179D is a federal tax deduction for the costs of installing energy-efficient systems in commercial and multi-family buildings, and it was introduced as a part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Section 179D is set to expire at the end of 2013, but the Commercial Building Modernization Act aims to extend it to Dec. 31, 2016.

The 179D offers up to $1.80 per square foot in deductions for a 50 percent reduction in total annual energy and power costs, and partial tax deductions are also available for improvements to a building envelope, HVAC or lighting systems.

The Commercial Building Modernization Act offers deductions from $1.00 per square foot for a 20 percent source energy savings, up to $4.00 per square foot for an improvement of 50 percent or more in energy savings.

To lower some of the costs for upgrades upfront, building owners would be able to receive up to 60 percent of the deduction based on expected energy savings. And to ensure the energy savings are achieved, the remaining 40 percent of the deductions would be disbursed after the applicant proves the upgrades actually save the claimed amount of energy.

The bipartisan legislation would also simplify the process of applying for the deduction.

An added bonus to achieving greater national energy security, the legislation also would help strengthen the American economy by generating an estimated 77,000 new jobs in construction, manufacturing, and service, according to a 2011 analysis by Real Estate Roundtable, Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Green Building Council, and others.
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Four Factors for Choosing the Best Heating/Cooling System

December 10, 2012 6:06 pm

Whether it’s time to replace your old air conditioning system or install one for the first time, it’s a project that will result in year-round comfort for your family. Installing a new system is not cheap. It will likely cost several thousand dollars. But because the efficiency of most new systems has increased so much over the years, the system you choose will likely save you money in heating and cooling costs over the long run.

“Getting what you need at the outset,” says California system installer Ron Hassebroc, “will ensure that you don’t need to purchase upgrades later on.”

Hassebroc offers four factors to consider when choosing a new central air conditioning unit:

The BTU measure –
The British Thermal Unit (BTU) measure affects the system’s ability to cool. The higher the BTU rating, the more powerful and quick the performance. The BTU measure you need is based on the size of your home, it’s insulation and other factors – so while a low BTU rating may not efficiently cool your home, choosing the highest BTU may be a waste of money and energy. Rely on the expertise of the salesman or installer to determine the BTU measure you need.

The Seasonal-Energy Efficiency Rating – Known as the SEER rating, this measure helps ensure the system will work at peak efficiency, providing the best use of BTUs for the lowest price. DO look for the highest SEER rating possible – and choose an Energy Star unit, since their SEER ratings are typically 14 percent higher than competing models.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV) – a higher MERV rating means your unit’s filter works better, trapping more dust and other airborne particles. Ratings are on a 1 to 12 scale. While 12 is ideal, offering the best air purification on the market, anything above 9 is still very clean.

Installation costs –
These can vary depending upon the existing ductwork in your home and the size of the unit you have selected. Get estimates before you purchase a new unit. When factoring installation costs, you may find that a seemingly more expensive model will actually cost less overall if installation is included in the price.
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Consumers Cutting Back on Holiday Splurges

December 10, 2012 6:06 pm

The November poll hosted on the National Foundation for
Credit Counseling (NFCC) website queried consumers regarding holiday
spending. The results revealed that 50 percent of consumers intend to
spend less on holiday purchases this year than last, indicating they are
in a worse financial position, while thirty-seven percent plan to spend
nothing at all, as they fear further financial distress.

While this total of 87 percent is a shocking number, when asked the same
question in 2011, 91 percent of respondents indicated their intention was
to cut back or spend zero on holiday gifts, demonstrating a positive
year-over-year trend.

“This statistic speaks loudly, and underscores that consumers are not
willing to repeat the mistakes of Christmases past by spending
irresponsibly this year,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.

A seemingly contradictory statistic was revealed in the NFCC’s October
poll where 70 percent of those participating felt that their best
financial days were in front of them. Taken together, the two polls
suggest that Americans are both optimistic and realistic, a combination
that could lead to a brighter financial future.

“It takes optimism to endure the difficult economic times of the past few
years,” continued Cunningham. “However, it takes a dose of realism to not
become an emotional spender during the holidays. It appears as though
consumers have learned a tough lesson, and will emerge better equipped to
face future financial challenges.”

Looking at the other poll answer options, 11 percent intend to spend as
they did in 2011, stating that their financial situation is now stable,
while 3 percent will spend more, feeling as though they are in a better
financial position this year.

Holiday spending can financially make or break retailers. The same is
true for consumers. Don’t let it be your personal fiscal cliff.

The actual November poll question and responses are as follows:

This holiday season I will…

  • Spend as I did last year because my financial life is stable = 11 percent
  • Cut back on spending, since I am worse off financially this year =
  • 50 percent
  • Spend more than last year because I am in a better financial
  • position = 3 percent
  • Not spend at all, because I anticipate further financial distress
  • = 37 percent

For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org.
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