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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
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Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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Tom's Blog

Is Your Home Making You Sick?

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

(ARA) - Your home - it's your castle, your sanctuary. But could the place you go to escape the rest of the world be bad for you? Formaldehyde, chloroform and even asbestos could be in your home and you may not even know it.

First, the good news. "Today we're designing houses that are green-friendly," says Dan Lee, Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of Dallas, a campus of South University, and the president of Lee Design Group. "Materials today have fewer chemicals and less carcinogenic substances."

But if you're in an older house or did some remodeling or refurbishing on your own, there could be substances in your home that are bad for your health. "There's something called volatile organic compounds or VOCs," says Kathleen Wakefield, Interior Design and Design & Technical Graphics program coordinator at The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston. She adds, "They are emitted from certain solids and liquids like paint."

Wakefield says that short-term exposure to VOCs can cause nausea and irritation to the eyes, while long-term exposure could damage your kidneys and liver. VOCs are also emitted from carpet foam made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). So Wakefield suggests that if you're putting down carpet you stay elsewhere for a few weeks while the chemicals are being released. And keep windows open if possible to air out the space more quickly and not trap the compounds in your home.

Lee suggests you avoid carpet altogether. "Go with wood or natural stone floors over carpets and make sure you're shopping for PVC-free floors," he says.

When adding a little color to your home, look for paints with low or no VOC emissions. It should be right on the label. According to Wakefield, federal limits for flat paint are 250 milligrams per liter, and 380 milligrams per liter for all other kinds. California standards are more stringent - 100 milligrams per liter for flat paint and 150 milligrams per liter for all others.

If you're building your home from the ground up, consider using copper plumbing. "Builders have gotten away from copper and switched to PVC," says Lee, "but copper is a natural sterilizer. If water sits in copper, it's being sterilized. In PVC, it's growing something."

If your home was built in the '70s, '80s or '90s, the press board used could contain formaldehyde, explains Lee. And the plastic laminate in those homes was almost always glued and manufactured with formaldehyde as well. And if your home was built before the '60s, the floor and wall coverings may contain asbestos gluing agents.

If you're careful about the materials you're using in your home building and remodeling projects, make sure that caution extends to the household products you bring into your house as well, says Lee. Many fabric softeners actually contain chloroform, benzyl acetate and pentane. These are cancer-causing agents, warns Lee. Also, make sure you're using natural pesticides in the yard as well.

Wakefield advises researching products on the internet before you go out and buy them. She also advises hiring an interior designer that specializes in environmental and sustainable design for any home improvement and renovation projects you undertake.
Source: The Art Institutes
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Q: What are the benefits of seller financing?

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

A: Seller financing is a viable option when the seller does not immediately need the entire cash equity they have accumulated in the home.

In return for providing financial assistance to the buyer, the seller receives tax benefits, attracts a larger pool of potential buyers, generally completes the sale sooner, and gets good interest earnings.

As for the buyer, seller financing offers less rigid qualification requirements and cost savings by eliminating nearly all loan fees.

Fear of default often makes many sellers reluctant to take back a second note or finance the entire purchase. A thorough credit check should help to dispel many of these fears, although the mortgage also allows the seller to foreclose on the property in case of default.

A seller may also require the buyer to carry hazard insurance on the property and include a due-on-sale clause, a provision in the mortgage note that allows the seller to demand full repayment if the borrower sells the property. Other financing, disclosure and repayment-term requirements also will need to be met.

It is a good idea to consult an attorney when putting together this kind of transaction.
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Word of the Day

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

Real property. Land and buildings and anything permanently attached to them.
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Natural Ways to Freshen Up Your Home

August 16, 2012 6:40 pm

With all that goes on inside the home, it can be hard to keep it smelling fresh. Last night’s dinner, the kid’s dirty soccer jersey sitting in the laundry, and Fluffy’s litter box—well, they all can create lingering odors.

When it comes to ensuring the home looks, feels and smells clean, 64 percent of homeowners have even gone to extreme measures to rid their homes of pungent odors, such as replacing a rug or carpet (34 percent), purchasing a new trash can (26 percent) or replacing a couch or another piece of furniture (17 percent), according to a survey commissioned by Filtrete Filters from 3M.

But if you've become accustomed to the scents of your own home, how can you really know if it's odor free? Healthy living expert, Building Biologist and author Lisa Beres shares these simple solutions to naturally create and maintain a fresh home:

Kitchen refrigerator: Remove foul odors and stains from leftovers in the fridge by cleaning the drawers and shelves with a homemade cleaning solution. Simply add a few drops of natural dish soap to a bowl of baking soda and stir until it creates a thick paste. Also, store an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help eliminate odors before they start. Replace it with a fresh box at least every three months.

Candles and air fresheners: Store-bought air fresheners can contain synthetic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which can irritate eyes, skin and throats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, create your own air freshener by combining 10 drops of an essential oil -- such as lavender or eucalyptus -- with two cups of water.

Pests and repellants: Pesky ants and other insects can make their way into your kitchen pantry when they're on a mission to find food, but dousing them and your kitchen's surfaces in toxic repellent isn't a healthy solution for the home or the family. Instead, set a line of coffee grounds, lemon juice, cinnamon or cayenne pepper around doors and windows to create an effective barrier they won't cross.

Damp towels: Wet towels from a shower, a trip to the gym or a day at the pool can be a breeding ground for mildew to develop if they sit too long without drying. To rid towels of the mildew smell, first wash them once in hot water with a cup or two of white vinegar. Then wash them again with a natural or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Finally, dry the towels in the dryer on high heat. To avoid mildew and associated smells in the future, hang towels up right away to ensure they dry thoroughly.

Source: www.Filtrete.com.
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Give Your Kid’s Lunch an Upgrade

August 16, 2012 6:40 pm

Most parent’s want their kids to get adequate nutrition. But with a busy life, even the best of intentions can get put on the backburner. A recent survey from Walmart found that moms consider the back to school season a fresh start over January 1, and that 61 percent of moms resolve to get their families eating healthier during the school year. In addition, nearly half of the surveyed moms felt that their biggest challenge to accomplishing this is the cost of healthier foods.

Food and lifestyle expert Evette Rios has some easy tips to help families pack a healthier lunch, and turn a good lunchbox into a great lunchbox:

Avoid junky snacks. Children who eat a poor quality breakfast or lunch may have a craving for junkier snacks, so offer healthier snacks like nuts and dried fruit.
It's not juice if it's not 100 percent. If you are going to serve juice make sure its 100 percent fruit juice.
Don't be afraid to give them a sweet treat. Instead of a candy bar or cookies, try a flavored yogurt, which will give them a boost of calcium.
If kids help select it or cook it, they'll eat it. Give them a choice and involve them, but guide their choices. Let them cruise the produce aisle and pick out the fruit they want to eat. Show your children how to cut veggies into bite-sized pieces that they can dip into a favorite sauce. Also, have them make trail mix with low-salt nuts and dried fruits, and portion it into single serving bags.
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Bug Buster: Itch Relief Basics

August 16, 2012 6:40 pm

From bug bites and dry skin to poison ivy and chronic skin conditions, itching makes life very uncomfortable. And it's an annoyance that gets under just about everyone's skin.

Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults have suffered from some kind of itch in the past 12 months; and for 26 percent of those polled, the itch was bad enough to see a healthcare professional, according to a recent poll conducted online by Harris Interactive for TriCalm, a new anti-itch gel.

You know it when you feel it, but what exactly is an itch, and is there anything you can do about it?

Anatomy of an Itch
The skin is your largest organ, and the average body is covered by about 20 square feet of it. Because it's so large and exposed, it comes in contact with a lot of potential irritants. Itching, known as pruritus, is a built-in defense mechanism against those irritants.

Sometimes the body's immune system overreacts to an illness, producing an itchy rash. (See sidebar story, "When is an Itch More than Just an Itch?") But for most non-illness related itching, here's how it works:

Stimuli -- such as dust, pollen, bug venom or plant oils -- land on your skin.
When the irritant gets past the surface layer, skin receptors get irritated.
The receptors send a signal to your brain.
You start to itch.

The natural response to an itch is to remove the irritant -- so the scratching begins. The scratching sensation interrupts the itching sensation because it tells your brain that the irritant is gone. While this may give some initial, immediate relief, scratching ends up irritating the nerve endings in that spot even more -- and can open up the skin, exposing it to more irritants. And more itching.

Itch Treatments

It's important to make sure you know the cause of the itching so you can take appropriate measures to stop it. There are some things you can do to help reduce itching and soothe irritated skin:

Avoid scratching -- Cover the area with bandages or dressings if you can't stop scratching. If needed, trim your fingernails and wear gloves to bed.
Apply cool, wet compresses.
Apply a topical anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area.
Moisturize your skin with a high-quality cream at least twice a day.

Kids Get Itchy, Too
The TriCalm poll found that itches make kids -- and their parents -- feel pretty bad.

81 percent of parents are miserable when their kids are miserable from itch symptoms.
62 percent said itching keeps their children up at night.
68 percent indicated they've used creams to treat itch symptoms.
75 percent said they worry about using steroid treatments on their children to treat itch.

When is an itch more than just an itch?
It's obvious when an itch is caused by a bug bite or poison ivy. But what if you're not sure what's causing the itch?

Dry Skin -- Itching that doesn't come with obvious skin changes, like a rash, is most often due to dry skin, also known as xerosis. Dry skin usually results from environmental factors like hot or cold weather with low humidity, and washing or bathing too much.
Skin Conditions -- Eczema, psoriasis, scabies, hives, and chickenpox can cause itchy skin. The itching is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as bumps, blisters, and red, irritated skin.
Internal Diseases -- These include liver disease, kidney failure, thyroid problems, celiac disease and some cancers. Typically the itching affects the whole body, not just one area.
Allergic Reactions and Irritations -- An irritation can come from wearing wool, or coming in contact with soaps, chemicals or other substances. Sometimes the substance can cause an allergic reaction, such as poison ivy or some food allergens.
Nerve Disorders -- Multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, pinched nerves and shingles are conditions that affect the nervous system, and thus can cause itching.
Drugs -- Some antibiotics, antifungal drugs or narcotic pain medications can cause rashes and itching.

It's important to understand and treat the cause of itchy skin, so always seek medical advice before choosing a treatment.

Source: TriCalm
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Word of the Day

August 16, 2012 6:40 pm

Real estate salesperson. Person who has passed a state examination for that position, and must work under the supervision of a broker.
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Q: Are there ways to save money when using a contractor?

August 16, 2012 6:40 pm

A: Be an educated consumer: aggressively shop for the most reasonable bid, not necessarily the cheapest. Inexpensive, but shoddy, work will only cost you more money in the long run. After you find a contractor, insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself. Root out any unnecessary costs written into the contract, and compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two. Also, do part of the project yourself. Disassembly and prep work can save you hundreds of dollars.
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Getting Your Price in an Improving Market

August 15, 2012 6:36 pm

For the first time in several years, home prices are rising in many of the nation’s metropolitan areas. This is good news for homeowners who have been waiting to put their homes on the market. But competition can be stiff, and the savvy seller will put a few dollars and a little elbow grease into sprucing up his property to make it more attractive to potential buyers.

From California real estate agent Ellen Parker, here are five tips for improving your home’s eye appeal without breaking the bank:

Curb appeal counts – A buyer’s first impression is important. Be sure the lawns and landscaping are neatly trimmed, no toys or equipment clutter the lawn or driveway, and the front door and mat look fresh, clean, and inviting. Painting or replacing a faded front door can vastly improve the look of the property.

Neutralize the rooms – Especially if you have tended toward bright paint colors, it may be time for a coat of paint to neutralize the living areas of your home. Choosing a safe off-white or cream colored paint can improve the home’s eye appeal for a greater number of buyers.

Brighten the bathroom –
Tired-looking or outdated bathrooms are frequently a buyer turn-off. But you don’t need to completely remodel. Replacing the sink and/or cabinet with a trendy new style or changing out the hardware for something snazzier can make a huge difference. Be sure the hanging towels and bath mat, and the shower curtain if you have one, are fresh and super clean.

Tidy the kitchen – Here again, a fresh coat of paint can improve the look of your kitchen – and even older flooring or countertops will look better when cleaned to a shine. Removing clutter from the countertops – including canisters and some small appliances – will help create a feeling of space. Keep all sponges and towels out of view and be sure the sink is shiny clean and free of dirty dishes.

Let the light in – Dark rooms are another turn-off. Especially when you know your home will be shown, open the drapes and curtains to let natural light in.
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Fall Kitchen Trends: White is the Most Popular Color, Rustic on Rise

August 15, 2012 6:36 pm

We all know there will be hot new fashion trends this fall, but did you know kitchens can have trend, too? While these styles may be off the runway, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep them in mind while stylizing.

With the holidays in mind, many homeowners choose to redo their kitchens in the fall. In fact, white kitchen cabinets are the most popular choice among kitchen renovators this fall.

“Our most popular door style this year has been the white shaker kitchen cabinet, which gives your kitchen a clean and inviting feeling,” explains Benjamin Gordon, Vice President of Kitchen Resource Direct. “White kitchen cabinets also give you tremendous freedom to paint your walls a bold color and add strong accent features to your kitchen. Almost like a blank canvas for your kitchen design.”

Rustic themes are also very popular for fall of 2012. Combining chocolate or coffee glazing to a cabinet door painted white accents the grooves with an antique look. Another rustic style for your new kitchen is to purchase painted cabinets that are rubbed or weathered.

“Don’t be afraid to combine completely different style cabinets with one another in your kitchen,” Gordon recommends.

The paint colors for white kitchen cabinets can come in many shades including bright white, vanilla, buttercreme, linen, antique white, and creme. This makes it difficult to choose when shopping online, so you may want to consider popping in to your local kitchen retailer for a hands-on style session.

Source: Kitchen Resource Direct
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