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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
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Keep Cool during Sultry Days while Spending Less on Energy

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

Sweltering hot days make it harder to keep your home cool, straining air conditioning systems and energy budgets. Below are some simple tips to boost comfort and save on electric bills during the sultriest of days:

• Change or clean your air conditioner (AC) filter monthly during the cooling season.
• Ensure air can move freely around the AC unit coils. Remove surrounding leaves and plant overgrowth.
• Use ceiling and oscillating fans. Moving air makes the temperature feel cooler and allows for a higher thermostat setting while maintaining comfort. For each 1-degree increase in the thermostat setting, cooling costs can be lowered by about 3 percent.
• Avoid unnecessary trips in and out of the house, which let in hot air.
• Turn off lights, televisions, and computers when not in use.
• Close drapes and shades during the day.
• Plan to do hot work -- laundry and cooking -- during cooler morning and evening hours.
• Keep your kitchen cooler by cooking with a microwave or grilling outdoors.
• Make sure heat-producing appliances like televisions and lamps are away from the thermostat. They increase the temperature near the thermostat and cause the AC to run more than needed.
"There are several low-cost measures that can yield big energy savings," says EEC Executive Director Molly Hall. "Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Incandescent bulbs waste 95 percent of their energy in heat; CFLs burn cooler, use only a fourth of the energy, and come in many styles and color temperatures."
Other low-cost suggestions include:
• Install a programmable thermostat. Leave it on a higher temperature while away, and set it to cool the house 30 minutes before returning home.
• Seal air leaks. Weather stripping and caulking are inexpensive ways to improve efficiency and cut energy costs.
• Ventilate the attic, and check insulation. If you can see the ceiling joists in your attic, consider adding insulation.

Increased electric demands can also place a severe strain on your home's electrical system -- a dangerous shock and fire hazard. Frequent circuit breaker trips or flickering lights, TV screens, or computer monitors are signs of an overloaded electrical system or faulty wiring that should be checked immediately by a professional.

Source: http://www.EnergyEdCouncil.org
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July Is National Block Party Month

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

July has been named "Block Party Month.” Gear up for your party with the following easy tips.

"Block parties are all about connecting or reconnecting with people who have a lot in common with each other, starting with where they live," says Kate Altenhofen, Marketing Manager, Huhtamaki, makers of CHINET. "With these tips, we're hoping to make block party planning easier, while also inspiring new block party traditions this year."

Tips for Planning a Block Party – One or Two Months Out

• Form a small committee - four or five people - and create task assignments
• Check with community officials such as the local police department regarding any necessary permits and to secure a date for the block party (or choose to host off-street)
• Formulate a budget based on itemized expenses (including everything from big things like a moon bounce to little things like water balloons)
• Distribute invitations door-to-door in advance of the party; invite members of your block and also extend the invitation to neighboring businesses
• Coordinate with neighbors to see who can bring grills, tables, and other supplies.
• Suggest that people from even-numbered addresses bring side dishes and odd-numbered bring desserts; encourage one-time use containers to avoid the confusion of returning dishes after the party
• Plan for a variety of activities to encourage participation and mingling; this includes games for kids (face painting, sidewalk chalk, moon bounce).

Tips for Planning a Block Party - Day Of
• Set up long tables for family-style dining
• Set up cans for disposal and recycling as well as a composting can for items such as leftover food
• Consider including a 50/50 raffle to help fund next year's block party (winner receives half of the pot, block party fund keeps the other half)

Source: www.mychinet.com.
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Word of the Day

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

Listing.  Contract used for hiring a real estate agent to sell a piece of property.  Also a piece of property that is for sale.

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Q: What Causes a Foreclosure?

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

A: A lender decides to foreclosure, or repossess, a property when the owner fails to pay the mortgage. Unfortunately, thousands of homes end up in foreclosure every year.

Many people lose their homes due to job loss, credit problems, divorce, unexpected expenses, and during periods of economic instability.

Failure to pay property taxes may also cause a homeowner to lose his home. Trouble can also arise when owners neglect to pay local water bills and home insurance premiums.
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Grilling: Do It Right with These Safety Tips

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

Ahhhh summer! Summer is here and I know that some of the most wonderful things about summer happen when you're just hanging out at home.

But as one of the best traditional summertime activities - outdoor grilling - expands in popularity beyond the summer season, homeowners also need to remember some key precautions.

A recent NPD group survey reports that more people are grilling all year round. In fact, nearly one-third (38 percent) of American households had at least one meal cooked on an outdoor grill in an average two-week period during the year.

Even in the winter months of December, January and February, more than one-quarter (27 percent) had eaten at least one grilled item in a 14-day period. July, however, remains the peak month for grill fires, accounting for 18 percent of all home fires involving grills

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says five out of every six grills involved in home fires (84 percent) were fueled by gas while 13 percent used charcoal or other solid fuel. And almost one-third of structure fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace or patio.

Furthermore, nearly 20,000 patients go to the emergency room annually because of injuries involving grills. And sadly, children under the age of five account for 22 percent of all thermal grill burns.

With that in mind, the NFPA is offers the following safety tips:
• Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
• The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
• Keep children and pets away from the grilling area.
• Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
• Never leave your grill unattended.
To keep safe whether you grill just a few times a year, or year-round, visit www.nfpa.org/grilling.
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Building Your New Home: Now Is Better than Later

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

Residential construction is on the rise in 2012, with the industry experiencing the highest growth in residential sales it’s seen in over 30 years.

According to the US Census, building permits for privately-owned homes rose to an adjusted annual rate of 715,000 in April 2012, a 23.7 percent increase from April 2011, when there were just 578,000 permits issued. And May 2012’s numbers are the highest since 2008.

With the housing market in recovery mode and new residential construction on the rise, a unique opportunity exists to take advantage of what are still comparatively low material and labor costs while enjoying accelerating appreciation. Whether it’s a new home, addition, vacation home, or a commercial property, analysts agree that those who build now will realize the highest return on their initial investment.

Along with this upward trend, material and labor costs are also expected to increase, making today the perfect time to take advantage of this economic opportunity. Not only will you save money short-term in construction costs, but by building now, you’ll make an investment that will yield a much higher return over time.

With markets such as Florida and Las Vegas aside, one of the most stable nest eggs an investor can choose is real estate. Large, tract-style developments have had more bubble-like risks in the past decade but one-off, unique, high quality homes expose investors to much lower risks. Compared with other options, including stocks, IRA’s, and CD’s, investing in real estate has been proven to outperform on many levels. Comparing the numbers, real estate continues to be a better choice in investing your money than the stock market, especially with recent market performance returns in mind.

There are many benefits to investing in real estate, including leveraging your mortgage to amplify your ROI, the consistency of real estate compared to the volatility of the stock market, and bigger breaks on your taxes. According to a recent article from CNN Money, “If you (or your mutual fund) hold a stock for more than a year before selling, then you owe only a capital-gains tax that tops out at just 15 percent. Second, you can offset any investment losses you realized against your gains on your income tax return.

Real estate, by contrast, delivers a battery of tax benefits, especially for your new home, says Ronald Hegt, a senior tax partner at Hays & Co., a New York City C.P.A. firm. You can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes yearly. And when you sell your house, the first $500,000 in profits are tax-free (for individuals, the first $250,000). You are on the hook for long-term capital gains taxes for any extra profit, but the top federal rate is only 15 percent.”

Interest rates are lower than ever and material costs are remaining relatively steady for now. General contractors are available and hungry for any work they can get, coming off of a two year building slump. “(According to the National Association of REALTORS®) in April 2012, homes changed hands at a record pace of 7.2 million per year, at a median price of $206,000, up 15.1 percent from a year earlier. The last time home prices rose so fast in one year was in November 1980, when prices shot up 15.6 percent,” says Forbes Magazine.

Making the wise choice to invest in real estate this year remains one of the best ways to make sure you get the best possible return on your investment and building a home with a differential – something that sets it apart from other homes on the market – enhances the return. Unique homes are often sold for much more than comparable homes in the same area. Homes with one-of-a-kind features, energy efficiency, and brilliant architecture are providing the best return for home builders. Building your home with energy efficiency at the forefront is a great way to set your investment apart while keeping your heating and cooling costs low over time.

“When it comes to long-term return on a real estate investment and new residential construction, unique differentials, such as energy-efficiency, solid construction and, as always, outstanding location are what make the greatest impact,” says Bryan Warren, the owner and principal broker of an independent real estate company located in Ithaca, New York. “Homes that both inspire as well as provide a return on investment and energy savings throughout the year are going to lead the way through the coming recovery.”

Energy savings can be realized by considering passive solar energy, choosing the right windows and doors, and using insulated concrete forms or structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the home. SIPs also have the added benefit of cutting installation time by as much as 58 percent on the build. With R-Values on SIPs alone ranging from 16-57, SIPs see minimal heating and cooling costs when compared with traditional stick-built homes. The idea that a home’s built-in features can drop their monthly utility bills is a huge draw to potential buyers.

In addition to building “green,” adding an architectural novelty to your home will pack your investment with a high-quality differential, bringing your return even higher. Features such as outdoor kitchens and patios, or unique architectural styles such as post and beam, or timber framing, provide an aesthetic appeal that will lure in potential buyers while providing energy efficiency with the addition of SIPs to enclose the structure. Exposed timbers, quality materials and cathedral ceilings are features that bring your real estate investment the distinction it needs in order to thrive in a growing economy.
“We’ve noticed a promising increase in the number of inquiries about our timber frame homes in the past year. People aren’t just looking for a typical home anymore. They want something different, something that sets their investment apart from other homes.

“Modern timber framing provides the perfect marriage of old-world romance and modern technology creating a spectacular home that easily out-appreciates more conventional architecture.” says Pat Seaman, Owner of Woodhouse Timber Frame Company in Mansfield, Pennsylvania.

For those looking for a strong long-term investment, this is the time to choose new real estate. And if you’re choosing to build, there has never been a better opportunity to engage in a relationship with your architect, builder or home design/build company. For more information, contact Eric C Lindstrom at Woodhouse at 800.227.4311.
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Revive Your Bathroom Quickly, Easily and Affordably

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

(ARA) - Remodeling projects have increased in popularity over the past few years as homeowners have decided to improve on what they have, rather than take a risk in the real estate market. Whether you're hoping to sell your home or create a more enjoyable living space, tackle home improvement projects that make a big impact and add value.

One of the top return-on-investment remodeling projects is updating a bathroom. Bathroom updates even outweigh kitchen projects in terms of getting back what you spend, according to CNN Money. And, if you take a cost-conscious approach and do the project yourself, your investment return will be even better. Renting tools is a key way you can cut costs and bring new life into your bathroom.

There are plenty of remodeling tasks that are easily accomplished by renting tools, versus the cost of buying expensive tools or hiring someone else to do the work. Visit www.rentalhq.com to find an American Rental Association member rental store in your area.

Bring new life to your bath with these tips:

Replace old tile. Outdated tile is a common problem that makes bathrooms look old. Replacing it with fresh new tile that is in style will instantly give the room a modern look. Tiling is a DIY project that anyone can tackle, with the right tools. Rent the necessary items like a tile stripper, a tile saw and a mortar mixer to keep your project costs down.

Refresh the ceiling. Ceilings can become dingy over time, and you might not suspect them as the culprit that's making your room feel dull. You'll notice a dramatic change if you liven it up with fresh new texture and paint. Texture sprayers are an unusual tool for most DIY warriors to own, but you can easily rent one to make the job quick and inexpensive.

Add personality with paint. Another simple fix that can be done is adding a new paint color. It's an easy, quick and cheap project and can totally change the look and feel of the room. Opt for one of your favorite colors or scour interior design websites and magazines to find a trendy color that gets your attention.

Change hardware. Some faucets and cabinet hardware clearly show their decade of origin. Switching out old hardware is relatively simple and a great way to make a dramatic change in the look of your room.

These projects set the stage for creating a new feel for your bathroom. Make the revived space a reality by choosing a decorating theme and accessories that complement it. Items like window treatments, throw rugs and wall art make the room feel more complete and stylish.

Source: www.rentalhq.com.
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Word of the Day

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

Loan origination fee. Paid by the borrower to get a loan; it covers expenses incurred by the lender, such as the cost of the appraisal, credit report, title search, etc.
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Q: Where Can I Find Foreclosure Properties?

June 29, 2012 5:20 pm

A: Look in the legal notices section of your local newspaper. A notice is also usually posted on the property itself and somewhere in the city where the sale will take place.

However, real estate agents are the best source for information about foreclosures before they begin. Often a property will be listed and the agent will know if it is approaching foreclosure. Perhaps the best way to get the information is to have your agent put the word out that you are looking for properties with pending foreclosures.

Another source can be the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage. Of course, they generally will not give you the names of those who are facing foreclosure, but they may give the property owner your card or phone number.

Buying foreclosures is not easy. Savvy investors are highly skilled at nabbing these properties. Inexperienced buyers may find themselves surrounded by pretty stiff competition. They will need to get as much information as possible, including a "foreclosure inspection report" and an appraisal from the lender.
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Rule Your Roots: Hardscaping

June 28, 2012 5:18 pm

In our last segment I introduced you to Tchukki Andersen, a Board Certified Master Arborist and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). We gave you some tips on preventing damage from roots and how to save your tree if the roots get cut.

"Most damage is found six feet or less from the tree," notes Andersen, "since roots become smaller and less damaging the further they are from the trunk."

But this is an important point to keep in mind before you plant. That small sapling could become a large shade tree with roots spreading 30 or 40 feet outward from the trunk in 10 - 20 years.

Andersen suggests these root management options to keep roots clear of hard surfaces or "hardscapes:"

              Installing physical root guides and barriers that redirect tree roots down and away from hardscapes with minimal impact on the tree

              Curving new hardscape features - such as a driveway or patio - around the tree roots

              Suspending hardscape features on small pilings to bridge over roots

So what's the right tree for your site?

Andersen advises selecting trees for your landscape that will cause less damage, matching species with site conditions and - most importantly - not planting large shade trees within 12 feet of hardscapes (sidewalks, driveways).

In areas within five to seven feet of a paved area or structure, plant trees that grow to a mature height of less than 30 feet. In areas within seven to 10 feet of a paved area or structure, plant trees that grow to a mature height of less than 50 feet.

Reserve trees that when mature reach higher than 50 feet for areas with at least 12 feet of clearance around the trunk; this allows adequate space for the roots. Also, before you plant check for overhead utility lines and leave adequate space for that tree to mature.
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