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 4, 2012 6:54 pm
Valid contract. One that meets all requirements of law, is binding upon its parties, and is enforceable in a court of law.
October 4, 2012 6:54 pm
A: When a homeowner falls behind on three payments, the bank will record a notice of default against the property. When the owner fails to pay up, a trustee sale is held, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The lender that initiated the foreclosure proceedings will usually set the bid price at the loan amount. Successful bidders receive a trustee's deed as proof of ownership.
Trustee sales are advertised in advance and require all-cash bids, which can include cashiers’ checks. Normally, a sheriff, constable, or lawyer conducts the sale and acts as the trustee. Because these sales typically attract savvy investors, inexperienced buyers should come extremely prepared.
October 4, 2012 4:52 pm
I recently had a crash course in replacement windows courtesy of the Better Business Bureau and the folks from Connecticut-based Windowland, which was voted two years running to the Qualified Remodeler Top 500 program.
The BBB advises consumers to balance cost effectiveness with energy efficiency, inasmuch as more efficient windows, doors and skylights can result in significant long-term energy savings.
Start by looking for products that carry the Energy Performance Ratings label from the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). The label can help determine how well a product will perform its key functions - keeping your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, while keeping out wind and resisting condensation.
If you are looking for a well-insulated room, look for the following information about the windows you are considering:
Check the window’s “U-Factor.” During the cold winter months, you’ll want to make sure your windows are trapping heat. U-Factor ratings generally fall between 0.20 and 1.20. The lower the U-value, the greater a window's resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.
Another rating to study is the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) - how much solar radiation is admitted through the window. SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1, and the lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits in the house.
Consider the Visible Transmittance (VT) is an optical property that indicates the amount of visible light transmitted through the window. VT is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The higher the VT, the more that light gets transmitted.
And since heat loss and gain occur by Air Leakage (AL) through cracks in the window assembly. The lowest AL rating, means the least air will pass through cracks in the window assembly.
The higher the Condensation Resistance (CR) rating, the better a product is at resisting formation of condensation. CR is expressed as a number between 1 and 100.
For more information on the Energy Performance Ratings label, visit ï»¿http://www.nfrc.org.
October 4, 2012 4:52 pm
Kids have always worked. They’ve raked leaves, washed cars, and supervised children while Mom and Dad go out on dates. There’s only one problem, says Gregory Downing: While these typical kid jobs do result in a bit of pocket cash, they do very little to teach kids the all-important principles of entrepreneurial wealth building.
Directly trading your time for money is very limiting,” says Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time as well as an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids. “This is especially true in a global economy characterized by skyrocketing prices and a shortage of ‘good’ jobs.”
The good news, says Downing, is that your kids can put an entrepreneurial twist on these classic childhood jobs—or at least take their earning potential to a higher level. Here are ten ideas to help you get started:
The Tutoring Source (and Babysitting Broker). School is back in session and, as always, there will be plenty of students who need a little extra help to thrive academically. Perhaps your child can provide that help. But rather than being just another service provider in a crowded market, why not suggest she be the front person? She might create a database of qualified locals and book appointments for her subcontractors. She can charge $10/hour for the services, and pay each of her contractors $8/hour. The same principle can work for babysitting.
This is great management experience and really illustrates the magic of passive income. On any given afternoon, she might be earning money from four or five or even more tutoring jobs. Meanwhile, she can be enjoying a fun extracurricular activity or perhaps earning even more money by holding a tutoring session of her own.
The Thriving Cider Stand. The lemonade stand is a classic childhood business. And just because summer is over doesn’t mean your kids have to close up shop. As the weekends get cooler and the leaves begin to change, they can simply switch over to, say, hot apple cider. No matter what they’re selling, the refreshment stand can teach many valuable lessons.
Kids can learn about profit by buying their own ingredients and doing their own marketing. They can shop around for better pricing, learn the benefits of buying in bulk, or negotiate with a local grocer for a better deal on repeat business. They can differentiate themselves by holding “buy two cups get one free” sales or throwing in a free cinnamon sugar cookie with each purchase.
The Dog Days of Entrepreneurship (Dog Walking). Taking Fido for a walk every day is a good way for kids to make a little extra money. (This is especially true in the cooler months as the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler and people are unable—or just unwilling—to venture out in the evenings.) Add two or three more canine clients to the mix and it becomes a great learning experience in multitasking and client management.
Help your child set up a client database to keep track of client contact information, schedules, payments due and received, and any special requests or needs. Help her learn to gauge her own limits. Once she feels she’s at the outer edge of her ability to serve clients well, it’s time to stop accepting new clients or to bring on a partner or employee.
Taking this business to the next level can be easy and fun. Your child might offer every tenth walk free. Or, she might throw in a free dog washing with every new contract. Likewise, there are good opportunities to “spoke off” a whole new service: If she does a great job as a dog walker, she might offer her clients pet sitting services.
The Savvy House Sitter. Being given the keys to someone’s house, and perhaps the temporary custody of a beloved pet, is an honor. Explain to kids just how much trust clients are placing in them—and explain that if they go “above and beyond” they can shore up the relationship in a big way (not to mention generate enthusiastic referrals).
For sure, kids need to clean up any pet messes or spills, water the plants, check the mail, and take out the trash on trash day. That’s just basic good service. But they might also offer to tackle other projects for a small extra fee: scrubbing bathrooms, washing cars, mowing the yard, or organizing photos.
The Music Moneymaker. If you have a child who is musical, perhaps a skilled pianist or budding violinist, he might offer his talents at weddings, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, and the like. Help him get his business off the ground by developing business cards and fliers or perhaps a simple website that includes a video or audio sample of his work. Above all, tell him to make sure he is never, ever less than 100 percent professional and accommodating—people’s special events are precious to them and most will not hire anyone without a glowing referral. Be referable!
Once your child has a handful of successful weddings and parties under his belt, he might move on to offering his talents at corporate functions. While this may seem a daunting prospect, it will give him a valuable look at how the business world operates. (Many business professionals will appreciate the courage and initiative he shows by asking and may very well give him a chance!)
The Birthday Party Business. Putting together a great party is a lot of work for busy parents, between buying supplies, sending out invites, and managing activities during the party itself. By offering to help execute all the exhausting details (from following up with non-RSVPers to dishing out the ice cream), your child can free up frenzied parents to just enjoy the big day with their child and 20 of his or her closest friends.
To get the business rolling, she might call neighbors and family friends who have small children and explain her services to them. (Yes, it’s daunting, but it will be a great lesson for your child in the value of picking up the phone.) She can offer a discount or free trial for the first customer or two and let referrals and word of mouth take it from there.
When your child is ready to take the business to the next level, she can offer to paint faces, make balloon animals, or do the pedicures and manicures at the sleepover. And as the business grows in popularity (or the parties grow in size), she can start putting together her own power team and learn to manage others.
The Gumball Machine Maestro. This is a great way to teach kids about passive income as well as help them polish other critical business skills. Setting up a gumball machine requires developing a nose for a great location and knowing the demands of a particular demographic. (Obviously, a gumball machine at a high-end restaurant won’t do as well as one placed in the lobby of a kid-friendly diner!) It also will require diligent maintenance: refilling the machine, keeping it clean, making sure the mechanism works, and best of all, collecting the money.
The hardest part may be convincing the owner of the property to let him put his gumball machine there. (It would be a tough task for most adults!) He may need to experiment with different tactics: Offer the store owner a flat fee? Offer her a percentage of the profits? Promise a cut to the owner’s favorite charity? He’ll quickly find his stride and start to develop serious negotiation skills that will serve him well in the future.
The Bead Business Wizard. Designing and creating bracelets and necklaces to sell teaches kids to manage inventory and pay attention to the trends so that their product can stay new and interesting. Are more bracelets selling than necklaces? Are bright colors selling better than pastels? Is there an unmet market niche selling jewelry to boys, and might your child be able to come up with some cool designs that appeal to them?
This might also be a chance to learn about business philanthropy. Help kids devise a campaign for selling the jewelry so that part of the proceeds goes to a charity of their choice. Perhaps the bracelet designs could coordinate with the colors of a particular charity. If the business really takes off, your kids might hire others to make the bracelets and expand their operation.
The Brainy Bake Sale or Smart Car Wash. These events are classic fundraisers but they tend to be indistinguishable from one another. Encourage your child to think differently about the one he oversees. Teach him about the value of pricing goods and services competitively: Just because he’s charging more doesn’t mean he’ll make good money—especially when a less expensive car wash event is happening in another part of town.
You might help your child conduct market research by visiting other area sales. See what others are doing in the way of advertising. Help him devise a marketing strategy (using social media where age-appropriate), draw up a flier, visit local businesses and ask to advertise, and so forth.
The Next-Level Landscaper. Your child might offer “free samples” of his work around the neighborhood in an effort to expand his business. He might work up a flier that offers a free service—for one leaf raking, weed pulling, or yard trimming (even better if you make the bonus something you’ve noticed a particular yard really needs).
Does he own a lot of equipment? He might rent it out when he’s on vacation or away at camp. He can arrange for a friend to keep up with yards while he’s away: This will keep customers happy and give the friend an opportunity to earn a little extra money on the side.
For more information, visit www.GregoryDowning.com.
October 4, 2012 4:52 pm
According to the according the National Association of REALTORS®, who notes that the sale of existing homes rose in August, it looks like fall may be a prime time for those looking to sell their houses before the end of 2012.
And as lovely as your home may be, there are always things you can do to take it to the next level, especially when it comes to curb appeal. Fitting in a few simple exterior home improvements can add value to your home before the weather turns cold, helping to snag those end-of-season real estate browsers. So what upgrades can you make that are easy, cost-effective and will make potential buyers “fall” in love with your home this season? Here are a few tips:
Front door décor – The front door leaves a lasting first impression of your house. While completely replacing the front door is an option, simply sanding and repainting your existing door can make a big difference and save on costs. For a little extra: Add a nice fall foliage wreath, or a doorknocker to accentuate your home’s entrance.
Sync hardware – Mismatched exterior hardware can make your home appear disheveled and create a non-cohesive aesthetic. By streamlining your house numbers, lock, door handle and exterior light fixtures with matching finishes, you can give your home a consistent, put-together look in less than a day without a large investment. For a little extra: Upgrade your lock with a high-end deadbolt with cover plate for added curb appeal and security.
Make-over your mailbox – Sitting at the end of the driveway, the mailbox is often forgotten about when it comes to your outdoor décor. Making sure your mailbox complements your look and feel is yet another way to catch the eye of a potential buyer. If you don’t live in an area with strict rules, spruce up your standard letter holder with trim, new paint or fancy finish (and steer clear of novelty sport or hobby mailboxes). For a little extra: Add a trellis behind the mailbox for extra landscaping and a pop of color.
Great greenery – A well maintained lawn can tie together the overall look of the outside of your house, presenting a clean and sleek front to accompany your home’s entrance. With fall being a transition time for many plants, adding mums or ornamental grasses in hearty autumn colors to complement changing leaves can bring depth to your yard. For a little extra: Add reusable window boxes and porch containers filled with gourds, cornstalks and leaves to create an autumn feel.
Light the way – A well-designed walkway leading to your front door can make your home seem even more warm and inviting. Make sure the path is well lit by installing outdoor lighting that not only provides illumination and value, but also security. For those without a walkway, installing a lamppost or lantern at the end of our driveway is a good option. For a little extra: Incorporate solar lights along your front door walkway for an easy and cost-effective makeover that is also energy efficient.
Preparing your home for sale, especially as the busy summer season is ending, can seem stressful, but with a few quick, easy and cost-effective improvements you can increase your home’s curb appeal no matter the season.
October 4, 2012 4:52 pm
Useful life. The period of time over which a commercial property can be depreciated for federal income-tax purposes. Also known as economic life.
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
Despite lingering warm weather in many parts of the country, the calendar tells us fall is here, which means it’s time to prepare our homes and yards for winter’s onslaught.
“If you live in an area where winter brings snow, it is especially important to be prepared,” noted consumer advocate Tim Parker at Investopedia.com. “Even in milder climates, there should be five must-do chores on every homeowner’s list this fall.”
Parker advises now is the time to:
Clear the gutters - Once the leaves fall, do a thorough cleaning of gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters impede rain and snow runoff, and could lead to pooling water and possible damage to the gutters and the underlying roof structure. If you don't like cleaning out your gutters, invest in gutter guards.
Do an energy audit - Sealing areas where the heat or air conditioning is escaping can result in substantial savings over time, as even the smallest leaks add up. You can do an energy audit yourself by examining for cracks or separations in doors and windows where you can see daylight coming through. In some areas, utility companies may provide free energy audits.
Trim trees - Have your trees trimmed every few years to assure that accumulated ice or rain doesn't cause a dead branch to fall onto your roof. Once the leaves fall and you can see the branches clearly, look for larger-sized branches that might fall onto your roof or a neighbor's.
Test your home generator – If you live in an area with extreme weather or have medical or other essential devices that require electricity, investing in a home generator might be wise. If you have one, test it, along with your snow blower, to be sure it is working. Also check extension cords for signs of wear and repair or replace them if required.
Clean and inspect your yard – Aside from raking the leaves, check the foundation of your home. It should be built up so that water flows away from your home. Also, disconnect hoses that won’t be needed for a while and store them in the garage, and replace any outside light bulbs that are burnt out.
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
Are You Raising Your Kids to Make Tomorrow’s Forbes 400 List?
Forbes has just released its list of the 400 Richest People in America. The combined net worth of these men and women clocks in at a staggering $1.7 trillion dollars. And here’s the truly amazing part: Some 70 percent of this year’s 400 built their fortunes from the ground up. If you’re a parent, this statistic may lead you to wonder: Will my kids ever have a shot at this kind of success?
Absolutely, says author and speaker Gregory Downing—but first they’ll have to learn to think and work like entrepreneurs.
“The Forbes 400 list proves that you don’t have to be born wealthy,” asserts Gregory Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time , as well as an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids. “You just have to have the right skills and know how to leverage them. But here’s the thing: Your chances will dramatically improve if you can learn these skills, and the mindset to apply them, at an early age.”
Of course, raising billionaires might not be your goal. Maybe you just want your kids to grow up to be financially stable, live comfortable lives, and maybe retire someday. Even if that’s the case, Downing insists, they must learn to think about working and building wealth in a new way. That’s because the world is undergoing a profound shift.
“The old path—get good grades, go to college, get a good job, and save money—no longer leads anywhere you’d want your kids to go,” he says. “Degrees are a dime a dozen. College grads are moving back home with six-figure debt. Gold-watch jobs are a relic of another era. We’ve entered the age of the entrepreneur, and those who blindly pursue the rules of an earlier time will be left behind.”
Teaching kids the basics of entrepreneurship is not a radical notion, insists Downing. It’s a necessity. Even people who do end up working for someone else will be expected to think and work like entrepreneurs. The more we narrate the mindset and the skills of entrepreneurship to our kids—and even better, let them experience the reality for themselves—the more suited they’ll be for tomorrow’s workforce.
“Teaching these foundational skills is not optional if we want our children to be able to maintain even a minimal standard of living,” warns Downing.
He says there are certain fundamental truths parents need to teach their kids about being an entrepreneur. Here are some of the most important (keeping in mind that their appropriateness may depend on the ages of your kids):
Mindset matters. The old path to success—get good grades, go to college, get a good job, work hard for 40 years, and retire comfortably—no longer works in a flat global economy. Even if your children manage to find a “good job” (and there are fewer and fewer of them), the income it yields may not be enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Multiple streams of income will be necessary—Downing stresses the importance of having all three types: earned, passive, and portfolio—and kids need to get their minds around this reality now.
“It’s critical that kids learn how to think about money in a new way,” says Downing.
Opportunity is everywhere. Develop a nose for finding it. As a parent, it’s up to you to point out opportunities as you see them. If you’re at a golf tournament in July you can say, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to sell ice water, sunscreen, and hats?” Or if your child is talking about how no one at afterschool daycare can ever seem to get their homework done, you might say, “Wouldn’t it be great to start a business where high school students come to afterschool daycares to tutor younger kids?” Ask them how they think such a business might work.
“Do this regularly and before you know it, kids will be thinking up ideas on their own,” says Downing.
Your brand will create the foundation for your business. Depending on their ages, your kids may or may not be familiar with the word “brand.” But explain to them that, basically, it comes down to what they want to be known for. Neatness? Friendliness? Trustworthiness? Then, start a dialogue on how to make that happen—and how to avoid doing things that might tear down that brand.
You need a differentiator. Help your kids determine what makes their business different and explain how it will bring them more business. Maybe they offer an exceptional level of personal service. Maybe they cater to a certain group or meet a particular need. Maybe they’re eco-friendly. Help kids talk through what makes them different and better. Ask them how they might play up their differentiator and use it to get themselves seen in a crowded marketplace.
Know the value of marketing. Having a great business idea is one thing. Telling people about it is another. Help kids figure out ways to maximize their exposure without spending a ton of money (which they probably don’t have) or turning off potential customers with a hard sell approach. Teach them to introduce themselves and talk about their business when it’s appropriate: “I heard you mention your dog, Buster. I wanted to let you know I have a pet sitting business if you ever need that.”
Specifically, you might work with them to develop several “scripts” (elevator speeches) about their business to use in a variety of settings. Also, help them create some simple business cards to hand out.
Sometimes you have to give something away up-front. Explain that before people will be willing to pay for your product or service, they need a taste of how great it is just to get their attention. That might mean giving out a free sample of their homemade salsa or offering a free hour of math tutoring to new customers.
“The trick is always learning how much to give away without giving away the farm,” says Downing. “This is a balancing act that will need to be walked again and again throughout an entrepreneur’s life.”
A big part of success is learning how to buy your own supplies and manage your own business. When your child wants to start a lemonade stand, you will be tempted to provide the lemonade mix, the cups, and the poster board for the sign in order to give your child a leg up. You may also want to get out the calendar and figure out a schedule that works for him and takes advantage of high traffic. While you can offer helpful hints and be supportive, don’t do these things for him, says Downing.
Know the difference between revenue and profits. This is a big part of the reason for the previous point. Kids need to understand that the $40 they receive from customers isn’t all free and clear profit. What about the costs of the lemonade ingredients? What about the cups? What about the marketing materials? Beyond that, what about the value of their time? Have them subtract the cost of the supplies and then divide the rest by the number of hours they spent sitting at the lemonade booth.
The highest price won’t necessarily earn you the most money. Teach kids the importance of finding the “sweet spot” on pricing. If they price too high, they may not get many customers. If they price too low, on the other hand, they may get lots of customers but make so little profit that they’ll go out of business.
“Learning to set the right price won’t just attract more customers; it will keep them coming back,” notes Downing. “It’s so much easier to make money off return customers and referrals than to constantly have to seek out new customers.”
Don’t overcommit. Learn to manage your workload. Sometimes kids get so excited when business starts rolling in that they take on more customers than they can handle. Then, they either have to skimp on quality or fail to meet all their commitments. Teach kids that both will hurt their reputation.
“Kids need to learn to evaluate their capabilities and be realistic,” notes Downing. “Just a few dissatisfied customers can ruin a reputation.”
Being able to manage others will help your business grow. This may sound a bit far-fetched, but a motivated child could make it work. For example, a lemonade stand owner could start another stand at the other end of the neighborhood and ask a friend to staff it for a cut of the profits. Or a dog walker could hire a “poop scooper” assistant to clean up the client’s yard while he is taking Rover for his daily stroll (a nice add-on!).
“All entrepreneurs need a power team to help them be successful,” reflects Downing. “The more practice kids have at managing others, the better.”
Bite the bullet and have the tough conversations. Whatever their age, business owners will face uncomfortable moments. Your kids may have to deal with unhappy customers or customers who don’t pay on time. Don’t step in and handle these problems for them. Instead, guide them through their fear of confrontation and provide pointers on finding win/win solutions and remaining calm and professional.
“Some people never learn to have tough conversations,” says Downing. “If you can help kids learn to have honest conversations about money—when a customer forgets to pay them for part of their time, for example—you’re giving them a valuable gift they will appreciate later.”
Nothing replaces picking up the phone. Kids love to text and we all know it. That’s their world, for better or worse. But they need to learn that most adults appreciate a phone call when things aren’t going exactly right. “Mrs. Laney, I wanted to let you know I was throwing the ball to Princess and I accidentally broke the lamp on your end table in the living room. I am so sorry.”
Failure happens. Learn from it and move on. Every business and business owner will fail at some point. That’s okay. In fact, it shows that she is pushing beyond her comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. Make sure your child understands that it’s how you deal with failure that matters. When something goes wrong, use it as a teachable moment to help her reevaluate her strategy. What decisions might have led to this mistake? What might she do differently next time?
“Don’t let kids use failure as a reason to quit,” stresses Downing. “Failure is not a get-out-of-trying-new-things card. It’s an impetus to do something great next time.”
A good mentor can make all the difference. You may assume you’re the one who should teach your child, and you certainly do have a critical role to play. But there may be other adults in your family’s sphere of influence who have demonstrated the ability to achieve in business. Nurture those relationships.
“A cornerstone of my philosophy is learning from other successful people,” says Downing. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been open to learning from the experts, and my son wouldn’t be where he is without learning from me.”
For more information, visit www.GregoryDowning.com
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
Urban renewal. The acquisition of run-down city areas for purposes of redevelopment.
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.
Other things to consider:
- Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
- What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
- If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?
- What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?