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
October 19, 2012 5:46 pm
A: Plan ahead. Since your home will become a worksite once the remodeling begins, inconveniences will arise that can be minimized with a little planning. Begin by having a frank discussion with the contractor to set guidelines and develop a clear understanding upfront about the various project stages and the processes involved. Talk, for example, about where building materials will be stored, how to best protect your belongings from dust and debris, areas of your home that will be off limits to workers and whether you will need to vacate the home for any reason over the duration of the work. If a kitchen or bath will be out of commission, plan accordingly. It’s okay to move the refrigerator, microwave and toaster oven to the basement or another designated area where you can prepare meals to avoid eating out.
Equally important are the rules that dictate how workers can conduct themselves in your home. Will they be able to use your bathroom and the telephone? Will they be prohibited from smoking, playing their radios or using profanity? Finally, remember to preserve a safe haven in your home where you can flee the chaos and dust and attempt to maintain your sanity.
October 19, 2012 5:46 pm
The word debt is made up of four letters, and for many people, it has the same connotation as many other four letter words. However, not all debt is bad. For example, most people could not afford to pay cash for a home, but instead must acquire a mortgage loan. Because a home will most likely increase in value during the time it takes to pay off the mortgage, mortgage debt is considered a good investment. In general terms, good debt is defined as debt that allows someone to invest in the future, such as business loans, student loans, mortgages and real estate loans.
Bad debt is generally defined as debt acquired for something that immediately loses value or has no potential to increase in value. Using that definition, a car loan would be considered bad debt. Many people purchase vehicles and are upside down (owe more than the car is worth) in their loans mere months after purchasing. It is also a common practice to purchase a meal with a credit card that has a balance that may not get paid off for three months or more. The meal that was enjoyed at the time and forgotten later ends up costing more because it is not paid for when consumed. Paying interest for dinner, even a nice dinner, charged to a credit card is bad debt.
Money Management International (MMI) offers the following tips to avoid and reduce bad debt:
- Don't carry balances on your credit cards. If you do purchase something that cannot be paid off at the end of the month, make certain you can pay it off in 90 days or less.
- Purchase a used or less expensive new vehicle and make sure you make a substantial down payment. A smaller loan will help assure you do not become upside down in your auto loan.
- Don't use credit cards to purchase clothing or consumables unless you will be paying the balance off each month.
- Be wary of spending more than you can pay off each month on rewards credit cards. Paying interest charges will negate the promised benefit of the rewards.
October 19, 2012 5:46 pm
Even if the temperatures are still mild in your neck of the woods, there is no denying that winter is on its way, and it’s time to winterize your home. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), many winter-related disasters can be prevented if people take a few simple steps to protect their home from freezing temperatures, snow and wind.
"Standard homeowners policies cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice dams, and wind damage caused by weight of ice or snow, as well as fire-related losses," said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. "Coverage for flooding is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and from some private insurance companies. Winter-related damage to cars is generally covered under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy."
Melting snow can inflict significant damage to property and winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, noted the I.I.I. Winter storms were the third most costly type of natural disaster in the United States in 2011, with $2 billion in insured losses in 2011, according to a report by Munich Re. From 1991-2010, winter storms resulted in about $26 billion in insured catastrophe losses (in 2010 dollars), or more than $1 billion a year on average, according to ISO.
The Farmers Almanac predicts winter weather will return to areas from the Great Lakes into the Northeast. Most eastern states, as far south as the Gulf Coast, will see snowier than normal conditions and cooler temperatures. AccuWeather.com believes there is a significant chance that the next three winters will be particularly frigid. "These winters could be similar to the winters of the late 1970s," they said. "While the most consistent cold is to the north, severe bouts of cold deep into Texas and Florida would be capable of affecting agriculture more so than has been seen in that last 20 years or so."
The I.I.I. offers the following tips for winterizing your home:
OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSE
Clean out gutters.
Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, a condition where water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
Install gutter guards
. Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
Trim trees and remove dead branches.
Ice, snow and wind could cause weak trees or branches to break and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.
Repair steps and handrails.
This may prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
Seal cracks in holes in outside walls and foundations.
Use caulking to protect water pipes and make sure that skylights and other roof openings have proper weather stripping to prevent snowmelt from seeping in.
INSIDE YOUR HOUSE
Keep the house warm.
Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees—since the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are located, is substantially colder a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.
Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces.
If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water can then re-freeze, causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing. You may also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.
Have the heating system serviced.
Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
If you're using an alternative heating source, make sure there is adequate space for installation, maintenance and replacement.
. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately. Wrap exposed pipes with heating tape.
Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system
. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly.
Residential fires increase in the winter, so it is important to protect your family with working alarm systems. Also, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector, since a well sealed home can trap this toxic gas.
Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located
. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.
Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage
. If damage is discovered, have it repaired now rather than waiting for a problem to occur. Also, ask about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other methods can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings.
If you are going to be away for an extended period, take special care.
Turn the water off and/or have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, hire someone to check your home on a regular basis so that, if there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly, lessening any damage. Activity at your home will also reduce the likelihood that it will be burglarized.
The I.I.I.'s free Know Your Plan app, available in the iTunes App store, provides customizable to-do lists, communication tools, and other resources to safeguard your home and family—it includes a winter weather checklist to make preparing your home for the cold a snap.
October 19, 2012 5:46 pm
(BPT) - Your backyard is a space where you enjoy quality time with your family - from running around with your kids in the fall leaves to playing catch with your furry friend in the snow. It's a place to escape, but remember accidents can happen anywhere at any time, and just like you childproof your house, you need to ensure your backyard is safe as well.
Keeping your backyard safe begins with your fence. A yard without a fence is a little like a house without walls. Fences help protect children from danger, keeping toddlers out of swimming pools, hot tubs and ponds or keeping them in the yard, away from busy traffic or strangers. Fences can also help keep your own pets in your yard, and other animals out. They can reduce your liability by preventing injuries to uninvited guests on your property, or damage or injury caused by escaped pets.
“A good weekend winterizing project is making sure your fences and gates are functioning properly and are protected from rust, a destructive force that can render gate hardware useless or dangerous,” says Jim Paterson, senior vice president of D&D Technologies, which manufactures gate latches and hinges made of ultra-strong engineering polymers. “In our research, we found that when homeowners consider their fencing needs, rusty metal gate hardware that no longer functions properly or becomes a threat to children was their top concern. Rust-free and adjustable gate hardware is available.”
Seasonal weather, ground settling and other factors can cause a gate to become misaligned over time and not function properly. It's important to have gate hardware that can be easily adjusted to overcome this.
Additional precautions to take when childproofing your backyard:
* Tighten and cover any protruding bolts on swing sets and do not attach ropes or cords, which could become strangulation hazards.
* Remove old tree stumps and rocks, level concrete footings to avoid tripping.
*Seal wooded items such as decks, swing sets and picnic tables before inclement weather sets in.
* Completely fence pool and spa areas with adjustable self-closing hinges, ensuring latches are out of the reach of children.
* Eliminate access to lawn equipment and chemicals. Put these items completely out of the reach of children.
* Keep a first aid kit and a rescue kit for those backyards with water features easily accessible.
Your backyard can be one of the most exciting places for your children through the entire year. A little prevention along the way will keep it safe and provide wonderful memories for your family.
October 19, 2012 5:46 pm
Adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). Mortgage loan on which the interest rate falls and rises with changes in prevailing rates. The mortgage rate is tied to a selected index and may be adjusted annually. Also called a variable rate mortgage.
October 19, 2012 5:46 pm
A: Experts agree that any remodeling project that brings your home up to the level of your neighbors’ is a worthy investment. However, some improvements offer a greater return than others. It depends on the type of work you have done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual “Cost vs. Value Report.” The most recent report, based on the top 16 home improvements for a mid-range home, says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from vinyl siding replacement (with 87.2 percent of the cost recouped), wood window replacement (85.3 percent), minor kitchen remodeling (85.2 percent), bathroom remodeling (84.9 percent), and vinyl window replacement (83.7 percent).
October 18, 2012 5:38 pm
With parents away at work in most homes, and kids routinely tempted by sugary treats, questionable friends and increasingly engaging electronics, it isn’t easy to raise healthy, responsible kids. But getting them off to a good start, and instilling an awareness of good habits and choices, may help them avoid some obvious pitfalls as they grow toward adulthood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offers these ten tips for parents who want to raise healthier kids:
Keep them covered – from earliest childhood, generous use of sunscreen, hats, and protective clothing will help protect them from sunburn and skin cancer.
Keep meds out of reach – Kids are curious. Store all medicines, household products, personal care products, and other dangerous substances in locked cabinets that are out of reach of small children.
Make nutrition important – From infancy, serve a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Omit high-fat, high-sugar snacks and help kids understand the connection between healthy eating and good health.
Get their teeth checked – Dental decay is one of the most common chronic infectious diseases among children and often leads to other illness. Use fluoride toothpaste, and oversee vigorous brushing twice daily.
Stress the importance of hand-washing – Good hygiene, including frequent hand-washing is one of the simplest ways to avoid disease. Show kids how to sneeze or cough into their elbow and encourage frequent hand-washing.
Teach pedestrian safety - Set limits on when and where your children walk and cross streets. Teach them about street safety, what traffic light colors mean, obeying traffic signals, and watching for cars.
Get them off the couch – At least 60 minutes a day of exercise helps build healthy bodies. Get kids involved with regular sports programs and/or bike-riding or other exercise.
Use antibiotics wisely – Antibiotic resistance, which occurs from overuse, can cause longer illness, more doctor visits and other problems. Use them only when your doctor has determined they will be effective.
Be generous with compliments – Complimenting your kids when they do something good encourages good behavior and keeps the lines of communication flowing more freely.
Be involved – Take an active interest in your kids’ daily activities – and talk to them. Involved parents can, without preaching, be a positive influence in their children’s resistance to alcohol, tobacco, and other poor choices.
October 18, 2012 5:38 pm
(BPT) - While pumpkins are most often associated with holiday pies, don't underestimate this favorite of the squash and gourd family. Not only is the mighty pumpkin delicious, but it is also quite the multi-tasker.
“Pumpkins are incredibly versatile. They can be used in virtually any application,” says Chef Joseph Brown, culinary chair at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Raleigh - Durham, a campus of South University. From sweet to savory, desserts to dinners, Brown and Chef Arthur Inzinga, culinary instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, offer tips and ideas for making the most of your pumpkins.
Pumpkin can be added to a variety of dishes to provide textural elements as well as flavor. “When pumpkin is cooked down it is very similar to mashed potatoes, but more sweet and flavorful,” says Brown. “It brings a sweetness to the table, which is its most unique aspect.” He adds that anywhere a potato is being cut up and cooked, pumpkin would be a good addition and/or substitution.
Pureed pumpkin can be added to a variety of sauces and soups, and according to Inzinga, “pumpkin is used a lot in conjunction with pasta.” He recommends using it as a filling in gnocchi: “Typically, gnocchi is made with potato puree. You can substitute pumpkin puree.” Brown also notes it can be used as a filling for ravioli.
Adding the bold flavor of pumpkin to a variety of dishes can be achieved with some simple substitutions. Pumpkin chili can be created by augmenting some of the stock and tomato with pureed pumpkin. “This brings a richness to the chili. The pumpkin is going to be as much a textural component as it is a flavorful item,” says Brown. He also adds that pumpkin and tomato go together beautifully. This can be seen in autumn or pumpkin pizza, where the pumpkin becomes part of the sauce. Brown likes to top his pumpkin pizza with barbequed chicken. Inzinga recommends juicing some of the pumpkin pulp and using it as the cooking liquid for risotto or mixing equal parts pureed pumpkin to mashed potatoes. “It can be used as an ingredient in pancakes and waffles to replace some of the liquid and add flavor,” he says.
Pumpkin can also take center stage in dishes such as pumpkin-based bread puddings and ice creams and pumpkin butter. Inzinga says pumpkin butter is much like apple butter and can be created by adding pumpkin pie spices and cooking the pumpkin down until it is a spreadable consistency. He also recommends pumpkin/apple smoothies made with pureed pumpkin, apple juice and a bit of yogurt.
Enjoy the full flavor of the pumpkin by dicing and roasting with other root vegetables, sauteing it to bring out its natural flavors or even putting it on the grill. Brown says the slow heat of the grill brings out natural sugars, removes moisture and condenses the flavor.
Don't forget that the flesh isn't the only part of the pumpkin that can be used. The seeds can be roasted and used as a garnish on breads, muffins or on pumpkin soup; added to homemade granola; or pureed into sauces and pesto. According to Inzinga, the flower blossoms can be battered and fried or stuffed and baked. Both chefs even recommend using hollowed-out pumpkins as bowls and tureens for chili or soup.
“It's important for people to realize that when you go pumpkin picking, those pumpkins are grown for their size and shape, not necessarily flavor,” says Brown. The large pumpkins are less sweet. He says there are hundreds of varieties of pumpkins, and you can get more sweetness and flavor if you are more selective. He recommends allaboutpumpkins.com as a reference for the characteristics of different types of pumpkins.
Tips for roasting a pumpkin:
To roast a pumpkin, Brown recommends roasting it at 350 to 375 F for a medium-length roasting time. The flesh will brown a bit. For a more concentrated flavor, roast at 300 F for a longer period of time and bump the temperature up to 425 F for the last 15 to 20 minutes. Pumpkins are a lot like potatoes - you can tell if they are done by touch. They will get softer the longer they cook.
October 18, 2012 5:38 pm
(BPT) - As the leaves turn and fall to the ground, it's time to start thinking about “buttoning up” your home for winter to keep you and your family healthy and comfortable, your belongings safe and high energy costs at bay.
Heating accounts for 34 percent of all annual utility usage, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One of the most cost-effective ways to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home is to seal and insulate the “envelope” - outer walls, windows, doors and roof. By doing so, ENERGY STAR estimates that a homeowner can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs, the equivalent to lowering up to 10 percent of total energy costs for the year.
Here are a few ways to keep you and your family healthy, your belongings safe and help lower your heating bill:
Preventing the draft
Old, drafty windows and doors can account for home energy loss of up to 30 percent, according to the EPA, which means paying more in the winter to heat your home. By replacing non-performing windows and doors, homeowners can drastically reduce heating costs. A typical home that replaces its single-paned, clear glass windows with energy-efficient windows can realize up to $501 in annual savings, according to the EPA.
“Windows are a great source of natural light, and a great way to admire the picturesque snow-covered trees and lawns while avoiding the brisk winter air; however, they can also be the site of the biggest energy efficiency offender,” says David Harrison, chief marketing officer of Champion Windows, one of the nation's leading home improvement companies. “By installing our Comfort 365 Windows, homeowners can watch their heating bills drop and rid their homes of cold drafts.”
Additionally, old or improperly installed siding can also be the cause of drafts. However, by installing new, energy-efficient vinyl siding and underlayment, homeowners can increase a homes' R-Value, a measure of insulation's ability to resist heat traveling through it.
“Installing energy-efficient siding can help insulate your home against the cold, reduce the amount of air flow into your house, and make it easier to keep warm air in the winter,” says Harrison.
However, even the best windows, doors and siding can be drafty, if they are poorly installed. So it's important to make sure your home improvement is completed by a quality contractor who has a long history of being in the business so you can be sure they will be around if you have any issues down the road.
Water leakage from snow, ice and rain can cause damage to the exterior and interior of your home. This can result in costly damage to framing, structure and insulation, more importantly it can cause issues - like mold - that can be harmful to the health of your family.
The roof is often the site of leaks in homes; however, by installing a new roof and taking the proper precautions, leaks won't be a problem, especially with Champion's Comfort 365 Roof System, which uses a flexible, self-healing barrier in all leak vulnerable areas and is guaranteed with a limited lifetime warranty.
“Your home will settle and shift over time and extreme weather can be an issue,” says Harrison. “It is important to have barriers to provide protection against leaks caused by roof setting and extreme weather. Unlike many companies who only use this on the north side of a home or treat it as an upgrade, Champion uses a flexible, self-healing barrier anywhere your home's roof joins and at all attachment points.”
Other ways to improve the seal of your home to prevent moisture damage, drafts and improve energy efficiency include:
- Sealing leaks
- Adding insulation
- Sealing ducts
“Now is the perfect time to make these improvements,” says Harrison. “Since it's the offseason, homeowners can find great deals and attractive financing to 'button up' your home for winter.”
October 18, 2012 5:38 pm
Zoning. Procedure that classifies real property for a number of different uses: residential, commercial, industrial, etc. in accordance with a land-use plan.