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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

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

Sales contract. Contract that contains the terms of the agreement between the buyer and seller for the sale of a particular parcel or parcels of real estate.
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Q: What Is APR?

September 4, 2012 5:30 pm

A: The annual percentage rate, or APR, is an interest rate that differs from the loan rate. It is the actual yearly interest rate paid by the borrower, including the points charged to initiate the loan and other costs.

The APR discloses the real cost of borrowing by adding on the points and by factoring in the assumption that they will be paid off incrementally over the life of the loan. The APR is usually about 0.5 percent higher than the loan rate and is commonly used to compare mortgage programs from different lenders.

The Federal Truth in Lending law requires mortgage companies to disclose the APR when they advertise a rate. The APR is usually found next to the mortgage rate in newspaper ads.
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Fall Gardening 101

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

Can you really start a garden in fall? It’s not too late to begin planting certain lettuces, cabbages and cauliflower if you choose the right variety.

A column on late summer gardening at extremehowto.com also advises that you can also plant fast-growing varieties of carrots, peas and beets. And many leaf vegetables and salad crops are hardy enough to last well into autumn, including kale, Swill chard, lettuce and arugula.

Another source for you folks in the south eastern part of the country is Louisiana State University AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske, who assures that many varieties can be planted at this time of year.

It is also good times to plant seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, collards, mustard, turnips, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, lima beans and southern peas, bulbs for green shallots and Irish potatoes. Also, in late August and early September, transplant broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

Insects are a worse problem, Dr. Koske says. This late in the season, gardeners often find several generations of insect pests, each one larger than the previous.

Fall gardeners must be more observant and prepared to battle insect pests. The good news is that fall is generally dry, and diseases could be less of a problem unless they are insect spread.

Other fall crops will need to be planted during the second part of the fall gardening season, which begins in September-early October. Seeding for these include carrots, endive, lettuce, onion, parsley, English peas, bulbing shallots and radish.

And you can plant garlic as late as October in the southern regions that hold on to warmer weather, or generally stave off frost well into December.
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3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Paying Your Kitchen & Bath Contractor

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

With the stabilizing of the real estate market, more homeowners are spending money on remodeling projects. If they are not careful, homeowners can end up paying more than they ever expected. Duane Wilson, owner of Cornerstone Design & Remodel--a San Diego-based Kitchen & Bath Contractor--provides valuable tips on how to avoid 3 of the most common pitfalls.

A homeowner makes a large deposit, then gets no work done
This is one of the most common scams among unscrupulous contractors. They ask for a big deposit or to pay for all of the materials upfront, then the homeowner never hears from them again. To avoid this pitfall, homeowners should not pay for work or materials upfront and should avoid any large deposits.
In California, it is against the law for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent or $1000 (whichever is less) for a down payment. They cannot legally ask for upfront payment for materials or work. The one exception is if the contractor is ordering customer-requested custom materials. In that case, they can ask for payment upfront.

Suppliers or subcontractors come after the homeowner for payment

Homeowners are responsible for suppliers and subcontractors who do not get paid on their job. They can even put a lien against the home where they did the work. To avoid this pitfall, there are several strategies a homeowner can use:

Pay the supplier or subcontractor directly
Issue joint checks to the contractor and supplier/subcontractor
Get an unconditional lien release from suppliers/subcontractors

Homeowner is liable for an injury on the job, including lost wages

If the general contractor does not have valid insurance, the homeowner is liable for any injuries on the job. This includes paying lost wages, if someone gets hurt and cannot work for a period of time. To avoid this pitfall, check that the general contractor has valid liability and workman’s comp insurance.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid these and other potential pitfalls is to work with a reputable contractor who has a history of paying suppliers and subcontractors on time. Happy remodeling!

Source: Cornerstone Design & Remodel
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Five Shopping Tips for Navigating Labor Day Sales

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

With Labor Day weekend upon us, retailers are luring consumers with promises of end-of-summer savings and inventory blowouts. The founders of Deal Décor have leveraged their retail expertise, derived from years of experience at Home Depot, Target, Gap and Williams-Sonoma, to arm shoppers with the best practices to get the merchandise they want, at the best possible price.

Read these tips before tackling Labor Day sales:

Carry a smartphone.
There's no better way to judge value than to price-compare an item on the spot while at the store. Retailers with both brick-and-mortar locations as well as an e-commerce site will often display a lower price on their online store. Share your research with the salesperson, and get a better price instantly.

Check for fine print on “Price Guarantees.”
Many retailers claim that they will price-match an item, but when pressed, they will often find a loophole to wiggle out of it. For example, a consumer may buy a sofa from a store, and later find it online at a lower price. When he or she goes back to the store, the retailer may argue that the competitor’s product is named differently and therefore classified as a different product. Consumers should clarify the limitations on price comparisons before buying under the terms of a price-match guarantee.

Closeouts are long-term commitments.
At the end of a season, as is the case with Labor Day, stores are trying to closeout certain items to make room for inventory appropriate for the next season. Consumers may believe they’ve discovered a great deal, but they don't realize that what they are buying isn't returnable. Before buying, inspect the product. Deal Décor recommends opening the box before walking out of the store.

Broadcast your voice through social media.

Use your social network and influence to demand accountability from retailers. Comment on the retailer’s Facebook page when you have a poor experience or feel that they have misrepresented something. Some retailers go out of their way to make amends for mistakes.

Almost everything is negotiable.
Most consumers don’t hesitate to negotiate for a car. This is also an option for furniture, mattresses and many other products. Do not hesitate to ask for a discount, even on sale or clearance items. You won’t get it if you don’t ask!

Source: http://www.dealdecor.com.
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Word of the Day

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

Right of first refusal. A person’s right to have the first opportunity to either lease or purchase real property.
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Q: Can I Deduct Improvements Made to My Home?

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Remember your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses” – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.
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Word of the Day

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

Right of survivorship. A feature of joint tenancy giving the surviving joint tenants the rights, title and interests of the deceased joint tenant. Right of survivorship is the basic difference between buying property as joint tenants and as tenants in common.
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Why Fall is the Time to Tackle Invasive Plant Problems

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

(ARA) - The crisp days of fall will soon be here, but a long dry summer has left many homeowners looking out on lawns and gardens overtaken with invasive weeds and vines. A yard full of these noxious plants is sure to make it difficult to enjoy the cooler outdoor temperatures.

In 2012, the nation faced one of the hottest summers on record in the last 60 years. With more than two thirds of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought, conditions were ideal for pesky weeds to flourish.

Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass and clover easily tolerate hot temperatures and dry soil, overtaking lawns and gardens and lingering throughout the cooler fall months. Ivy and other aggressive vines thrive in the summer heat, climbing and covering bushes and trees and ultimately killing the plants underneath with their shade.

Left untreated, invasive plants can quickly become health and safety hazards. Kudzu can grow up to a foot per day, causing tree limbs to break under its weight, damaging homes and outdoor living spaces. Common grass weeds like nettles and thistles sting and prick the skin, and contact with dangerous plants like poison oak, ivy and sumac cause moderate to severe allergic reactions in almost all people.

"Fall herbicide treatments are the most effective way to eliminate unattractive and potentially harmful plants from lawns and gardens so that those spaces can be enjoyed throughout the cool fall months," says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products.

"This is the best time of year to eliminate invasive plants," Hobbs adds. "Weeds move the products of photosynthesis like water, glucose and oxygen to their roots for winter food storage in the fall, enabling the roots to soak up herbicides as well." Two to three treatments are usually all that is needed to completely destroy these types of plants.

Effective herbicide options exist for every type of weed and vine. The Environmental Protection Agency rigorously tests herbicides for potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. As with all pesticides, users should always read labels and use and store products accordingly.

With just one or two follow-up treatments after an initial fall herbicide application, invasive plants are eradicated at the root, and people can take back their lawns and gardens to enjoy the beauty of fall.
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Tips To Avoid Getting Burned by High-Tech Scams

August 31, 2012 1:22 pm

It's easier than ever to get burned these days—in fact fraud and identity-theft complaints tracked by the Federal Trade Commission topped 1.2 million last year, up 19 percent from 2010 and a whopping 800 percent since 2000. And the fraud artists are using new channels and technology that didn't exist 15 years ago including social media, pop-up ads on your computer, and text-message "smishing" scams.

According to Consumer Reports' investigation, two other factors compound this problem. The first is that according to experts, the need for law enforcement to pursue terrorists has shifted FBI resources from fraud cases. And making the problem even more difficult for consumers is the trend toward "last dollar" fraud, aimed at taking the last dollar from the unemployed or underemployed.

"Fraud operates like a business these days," says Jeff Blyskal, Senior Editor, Consumer Reports. "It's as if thieves have their own Research and Development departments looking into the latest technologies and figuring out new ways to trick you. And the Internet makes it easier to reach and market their schemes to people than ever before. Even if they only fool a small percentage of people, that's still a lot of victims."

Here are some of the latest high-tech scams and what you can do to prevent getting ripped off by them:

We'll remove the virus we found for $100.
Some scoundrels fly under the radar via telephone. A tech-support person, purportedly from a trusted company like Dell or Microsoft, calls to warn you that its security systems have remotely detected a virus on your computer and offers to remove it—for a fee of $100 or more. Of course, there is no virus, so you pay for unnecessary service. The crook may also take the opportunity to install mock antivirus software that later starts "finding" nonexistent malware. That can cost you a bundle for removal. Worse, the tech may also install software that scans your computer to steal your passwords and hijack your computer to generate ads and spread spam.

Protect yourself: Find legitimate antivirus and antimalware software that Consumer Reports has rated, install it on your PC, and keep it up to date. Hang up on anyone outside your home who claims to find trouble on your PC.

You could win an iPad.
Start bidding! Hot electronics are commonly used to entice victims into a shakedown. A pop-up ad on your computer invites you to bid on an iPad, laptop PC, or wide-screen TV, but you must include your cell-phone number to play. Submitting your bid sends a text message to your cell phone that, whether you respond or not, may authorize an unwanted $9.99 a month subscription to some useless service. The charge gets tacked onto your cell-phone bill, where you're unlikely to notice it.

Protect yourself: Guard your cell-phone number like a credit card; don't give it to strangers. Demand refunds from your cell provider if you've been crammed. Tell your wireless and landline carriers to block all third-party billing to your account, and check previous bills for cramming charges.

Buy a gourmet dog-food coupon worth $61—for just $16.
You receive an e-mail that alerts you to a website—not the manufacturer's—where you can purchase high-value coupons. They're not your typical 25 cents off but special coupons for $2 to $60 off or free high-priced products like shaving razors, pricey pet food, diapers, infant formula, coffee, and even restaurant meals. Such giveaways are rarely circulated, but manufacturers do use them to introduce new products or as a goodwill gesture to win back a wronged customer. The problem is there's no way anyone can accumulate enough of those rare coupons to make a business of it, so the ones hawked through websites are likely to be counterfeit or stolen.

Protect yourself: Avoid such coupons.

OMG. Now you really can see who views your Facebook profile!!! Social-media networks are fertile ground for fakery. You might have received news-feed messages from Facebook friends raving about an app that claims to let you see who's checking out your profile. Such messages can be spam in disguise, leading to "bait pages." Other bait involves bizarre or salacious videos. Consumers who take the bait never get the promised software or film.

Instead, the link drives the curious to a fake Facebook website. You're asked to "like" the app or other bait, which forwards the spam to all of your friends. Then you have to complete a survey, which collects personal information and opinions.

Protect yourself: Don't reveal personal information online to anyone who initiated contact with you unless your trust is certain. Look for the survey company's name and go to its website independently by reopening your browser, or call it. Ignore product promos from Facebook friends. Use caution in granting access to your profile. And think before you "like."

Source: Consumer Reports
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