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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

How-To: Help Your Kids with Their Homework

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

It has been decades since you tackled the topics your kids are bringing home from school—but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them with their homework.
Students who do their homework consistently tend to have better grades. It's not always easy to get them to do their homework, especially after a busy day, but these tips can help:

Talk to your children about their homework. It's important that your kids understand why it's important to do their homework and the positive impact it has on grades. Homework helps them practice what they've learned as well as prepare them for upcoming classes. Plus, by doing their homework they develop the discipline and skills they need to be successful throughout their school years.

Talk to the teachers. Different teachers might expect different things from parents, so be sure to talk to them to figure out your role. For example, some teachers prefer parents review their kids' homework; others prefer parents make sure kids do their homework. Teachers can also tell you how much time your child should spend doing homework and what to do if the homework is too easy or too difficult.

Select a fixed time to do homework. The best time to do homework is the one that works best for your child and you. It can be before or after playing, watching television or dinnertime. What's important is that homework time is consistent. Avoid leaving it for the end of the day, when your child is tired and sleepy.
Pick a quiet area and eliminate distractions. To help your children focus on homework, pick a place in the house where there's plenty of light and no distractions. It doesn't have to be fancy. It can be the kitchen table or a desk. Make sure the TV is off and put away electronic devices, unless they're essential to doing homework.

Get them the resources they need. You don't have to be an expert in all subjects to help your kids with homework. However, you need to make sure they have the tools they need to succeed. If you need expert help, you can always take them to the library or help them with their search online. You can also visit kids.gov to find information on homework topics. The Department of Education also has several resources to help your child with homework in different areas, including math, reading and writing.

Source: GobiernoUSA.gov and USA.gov
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Things to Consider Before Downsizing

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

Kids off at college? Tired of all that extra real estate maintenance? There are many reasons for considering downsizing your home: you no longer need the space after the children have moved out; you may want to move closer to family; or you may want to move into a condominium to escape more arduous chores such as yard work and snow removal. Before you make the decision to downsize, consider the following:

Decide whether you are ready to move and when you would move.

Have your home appraised to determine the potential proceeds from a sale.

Start looking for opportunities to buy a smaller home. Estimate how much you can save in reduced housing costs, and how much money you should set aside.

Research possible additions to ease life in your current home such as an elevator, or research locations of active adult retirement communities.


Source: BMO Harris Bank
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Q: What is seller financing?

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

A: Also known as a purchase money mortgage, it is when the seller agrees to “lend” money to the buyer to purchase and close on the seller’s home. Usually sellers do this when money is tight, interest rates are high or when a buyer has difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan or meeting the purchase price
.
Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not actually give the buyer cash to complete the purchase, as does the lender. Instead, it involves issuing a credit against the purchase price of the home. The buyer executes a promissory note or trust deed in the seller's favor.

The seller may take back a second note or finance the entire purchase if he owns the home free and clear.
The buyer makes a sizeable down payment and agrees to pay the seller directly every month.
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Word of the Day

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

REALTOR®. A real estate broker or agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, a professional real estate group that subscribes to a Code of Ethics. Not every broker or agent is a Realtor, a word that is a registered trademark and always capitalized.
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Want to Retire Abroad? Do Your Research

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

Are you planning to retire in the next few years and dreaming up a quiet retreat in the south of France or Italy? It may sound lovely, but be sure to remember that vacationing abroad and living abroad are two very different things. Before you make living abroad a permanent part of your retirement plans, consider the following questions:

Which is the better option for you: a permanent move or temporary move? You can always take an extended vacation once you’re not working any longer.

Living in a foreign country is different from vacationing. Factors such as food costs, housing options, language barriers, health care, cultural isolation and family pets should be taken into consideration.

Ensure you know the impact of non-residency on retirement income and savings.

Ensure you know the tax and estate implications.

Also, think about any family or friends—seeing them will be more difficult, and possibly financially inconvenient.

Source: BMO Harris Bank
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Freshen up your Kitchen for Fall

August 17, 2012 2:40 pm

(ARA) - As the season changes, many of us will get the itch to tackle any number of home improvement projects before winter. For some, a complete remodel is in the works. For others, just a few quick fixes are needed to make the home a more enjoyable space during the long winter months or in preparation for holiday entertaining.

With the kitchen at the heart of the home, it's an obvious place to take time for a few updates this season. Here are a few ideas to help give your kitchen a fresh look without spoiling the budget.

Overhaul cabinetry without breaking the bank
Although replacing kitchen cabinetry can be a very costly home improvement project, it usually makes the biggest impact. With unlimited options to choose from and varying price points, it's easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Even if your budget is small, don't give up on the idea of updating your kitchen cabinetry because there are plenty of affordable solutions.

Add some personality and shine
Hardware and faucets are touched every day, and wear and tear are inevitable. Just switching out these pieces can make a dramatic difference by adding a fresh shine, some personality and even greater functionality to the space. If your cabinetry hardware seems a bit dated, opt for one of many modern options for an instant, low-cost update. Replace the kitchen faucet with a sleek, better-functioning style to elevate the kitchen design, but also introduce a newer water-saving solution.

Don't underestimate the power of paint
With color trends constantly changing, and the focus on color in the home becoming more prominent, a fresh coat of paint can change the look and feel of a space almost instantly. With the changing season, opt for colors that add warmth and comfort or choose a bright color to combat the gray of winter. Paint can also help cover up unsightly wall marks and stains and provide the backdrop for new decor and furnishings for a whole new look. To ensure your new look has staying power, make sure to purchase a quality paint specially formulated for the kitchen.

Lighten up in the kitchen
Kitchen lighting is easy to overlook. If there are outdated lighting fixtures in your kitchen, or simply not enough light, consider adding new whimsical pendant lights or splurge on a stunning chandelier to create a focal point. Simply adding lighting under the wall cabinets and dimmer switches can introduce a new ambiance to the space. A visit to your local home center or lighting showroom will give you plenty of ideas.
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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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