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
August 2, 2012 5:58 pm
I occasionally like to provide important updates to property and homeowners about flood insurance.
The latest news on this front is the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 was signed into law Friday, July 6 by President Obama. The reforms include increasing access to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for some residents whose homes were impacted by flooding from federal land that resulted from wildfires.
Remember, homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding. And if you're shopping for a house in a designated Special Flood Hazard Area (deemed at high risk), then federally regulated or insured mortgage lenders must, by law, require you to buy flood insurance as a condition for the loan.
Even if you are not required by law to buy flood insurance, you should consider it based on these facts:
• Floods and flash floods happen in all 50 states.
• Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property.
• Flash floods often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
• Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.
• New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths.
• You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Check the floodsmart.gov Community Status Book to see if your community is already an NFIP partner.
• It takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it's important to buy insurance before the floodwaters start to rise.
• In a high-risk area, your home is more than twice as likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
• Anyone can be financially vulnerable to floods. People outside of high-risk areas file over 20 percent of NFIP claims and receive one-third of disaster assistance for flooding.
• The average annual U.S. flood losses in the past 10 years (2001-2010) were more than $2.7 billion.
• When your community participates in the Community Rating System (CRS), you can qualify for an insurance premium discount of up to 45 percent.
For everything you need to know about flooding risks and flood insurance, visit www.floodsmart.gov.
August 2, 2012 5:58 pm
In September, college students will be pouring back onto campuses across the country. As they do so, they should be aware of pests that can be hidden inside furniture or housing. Temperatures so far this year are the hottest on record, which has led to a more active and increased insect population. According to a national survey by HomeTeam Pest Defense, 84 percent of homeowners experienced a problem with pests in 2011 and weather has given them a boost this year.
"Bugs are thriving and they aren't just a nuisance to homeowners. College students about to set up residence should take some precautions when it comes to pests," says Kim Reynolds, entomologist and regional technical director for HomeTeam Pest Defense.
"Before purchasing used furniture, check it carefully for Drywood termites and German cockroaches," continues Reynolds. "If you are moving furniture that has been stored over the summer, or if your dorm room or apartment comes furnished, check for these pests in all furniture (especially desks and dressers)."
Reynolds also says that used, previously stored or furnished mattresses and couches should be carefully checked for bed bugs (summer is the peak season). Moving vans, plus the constant rotation of tenants in college dorms and apartments make it all too easy for these pests to hitch a ride from one location to another.
Residents should thoroughly inspect the property before moving in and report any problems to their R.A. or property manager. HomeTeam Pest Defense recommends the following:
• Look for signs of termites in furniture—like chipping away in wooden parts of the furniture or mysterious sawdust on the floor. Drywood termite swarmers are commonly mistaken for winged ants. They can be found in furniture because they survive and breed in very little moisture and do not require soil.
• Check furniture and living spaces for German cockroaches, which can hide easily and fit into very small cracks and crevices. They are only about a half an inch long (much smaller than most common cockroaches) and are most active at night.
• Inspect your mattress, box spring and headboard for bed bugs. Pull back creases and folds in the mattress fabric where they like to hide. Look for the bugs themselves (adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed) or tiny black or reddish dots that might be signs they are present. They feed off blood and hide in cracks and crevices near warm-blooded human hosts.
• Inspect corners, behind refrigerators and inside cabinets and drawers to remove cobwebs (also keep an eye out for cockroach and rodent droppings). Make sure window screens do not have tears or holes. Mice can enter a space through an opening the size of a dime and rats can enter through an opening the size of a quarter.
• Check for leaky pipes and dripping water in bathrooms and kitchens. Most household pests only need small amounts of water to breed and survive.
“Move-in day is not the only time to be concerned about pests," says Reynolds. "Many fall pests, like stinkbugs, rodents and crickets, have arrived early this year and in abundance. They will begin to look for a way indoors when cooler weather arrives."
HomeTeam Pest Defense suggests the following tips for college students to help prevent pests:
• Dust and vacuum your living space often.
• Store food in tightly sealed containers or storage bags.
• Pick up after yourself. Clothes and towels (damp or not) left lying around can be a warm environment for pests to live under.
• When visiting home or friends at other campuses, be careful where you put and store your belongings to avoid carrying pests back with you.
• Always wash your bedding in hot water and dry on high heat.
August 2, 2012 5:58 pm
In today’s multitasking mayhem, it can be easy to get distracted at work. And for small business owners or up-and-coming entrepreneurs, there are constant demands on time, decisions to be made, and stress about the bottom line.
For entrepreneurs who think that multitasking is the answer, numerous studies have shown that multitasking is not an efficient way to work. It has even been suggested that this common practice can limit one's ability to make decisions, decrease short-term memory and even lead to weight gain.
"I haven't met a business owner yet who doesn't wish there were more hours in the day," says Jim Sathre, Senior Vice President, M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "They always feel stretched so thin between work and family, but much of that stress can be eliminated using more effective time management."
Sathre offers a few ways that business owners can refresh and revise their workday habits to work more efficiently and make the best use of their resources.
1. Prioritize your to-do list. Differentiate between things that must get done, things that should get done, and things that can wait. Then tackle the tasks accordingly. But be realistic about how much you can accomplish in one day.
2. Focus. Jumping sporadically from one task to another isn't efficient. For example, set aside times during the day to reply to email and phone messages rather than responding to them throughout the day.
3. Delegate whenever possible. You have staff for a reason – use them! You'll probably always have more on your task list than you can reasonably tackle, so this change will be especially important.
4. Utilize outside resources. Talk to your business partners – bankers, CPA, lawyers, etc. – about ways you can streamline operations. Brainstorming with these groups can lend a crucial outside perspective on potential business improvements.
5. Learn to say "no." Be realistic about the constraints on your time, and what tasks you really need to take on. This can be hard at first, but both you and your colleagues will be better off if you make an honest assessment.
6. Make time to be away from the office. Don't fall prey to the misconception that more hours at the office will create more success. Everyone needs a chance to recharge, and those times away from work will give your mind a chance to relax and refocus.
Controlling the time you spend managing your business finances can be made easier when you engage your banker. Many banks offer a complete line of cash management tools all designed to help businesses improve their bottom line. Among the options are products to help you speed up collection of receivables, better utilize cash on hand, manage automatic payroll processing, and perform remote deposit capture, to name a few.
"Changing your time management habits isn't easy, and it won't happen overnight," said Sathre. "But in the long run, these modifications can be well worth the effort."
Business owners who can become more efficient and effectively manage time can lead a more balanced life, and perhaps even have increased business success and personal peace of mind. However, it will require some dedication and a lot of practice.
Source: BMO Harris Bank
August 2, 2012 5:58 pm
For parents, school day mornings are typically rushed. Getting the kids out of bed and on the bus is one thing, but managing to whip up breakfast, pack lunches and get everyone out the door on time requires planning and preparation.
As the morning rushes by, there's little time to pack a unique lunch or make snacks for everyone, including mom and dad. In fact, according to a national survey commissioned by DOLE® and conducted by Wakefield Research, 73 percent of moms say they have eaten their child's snack in a pinch.
To help save time and energy each day, check out these simple lunch-packing tips to revamp your morning routine and help create a smooth and stress-free school year.
Leverage last night's leftovers. Don't stick to the same old sandwich, juice box and snack regimen. Try adding instant rice to leftover chicken, transforming leftover steak into a hearty chili, or boiling some pasta to add to leftover hamburger meat. These simple tricks to repurposing yesterday's meal will save the family time and money this school year.
Share a smile. Lunch doesn't have to be elaborate every day. But there are plenty of fun, creative ways to make a simple lunch exciting, especially for the kids. For instance, cut sandwiches into different shapes with cookie cutters (you can find animal shapes and even puzzle-shaped cookie cutters online). Make the kids smile with a simple note or googly eyes on their sandwich wrapper. Try putting contact paper inside the lid for games or dry-erase notes that the kids can leave for you, too.
Keep it cool. There are plenty of ways to preserve your lunch so it's still tasty in the afternoon. Think outside the thermos and try freezing a yogurt cup or a juice box to keep lunches cold throughout the day.
Snack attack. With an on-the-go lifestyle, it's important to keep snacks on hand should hunger strike. In fact, according to the DOLE survey, 77 percent of women say they can't get through a normal day without a snack. After you pack up the family's lunches in the morning, be sure to grab some healthy snacks for your desk drawer or your purse so you can have a quick bite when necessary. The kids always need a pick-me-up after their school sports and activities, so make sure to have some fun snacks in the car.
August 2, 2012 5:58 pm
Prepayment penalty. Fee charged by the lender when a borrower repays the loan early.
August 2, 2012 5:58 pm
A: Let your agent know it is too low to warrant a counteroffer and that you are willing to negotiate but only once a more reasonable offer is made. Ask the agent if the buyer was shown comparable market values of similar homes that have recently sold in your area; and ask if the buyer was ever properly qualified. You do not have to settle for less if you are realistic about your chances of getting more.
August 1, 2012 5:52 pm
Under yet another unhealthy air warning, I started thinking about places where the air is almost always clean, crisp and healthy. This brought me to the American Lung Association’s latest State of the Air Report (stateoftheair.org)
For 13 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from state air quality monitors to compile the State of the Air report. This year’s report details the trend that standards set under the Clean Air Act to cleanup major air pollution sources—including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines, and SUVs—are working to drastically cut ozone (smog) and particulate pollution (soot) from the air.
The current study found that over 127 million people live in counties that received an F for pollution – that’s four out of 10 of us! And More than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health.
The Lung Association’s annual air quality report grades cities and counties based, in part, on the color-coded Air Quality Index developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to alert the public to daily unhealthy air conditions. The 13th annual report uses the most recent, quality-controlled EPA data collected from 2008 through 2010
Major improvements were seen in 18 of the 25 cities most polluted by ozone, including Los Angeles, which had the lowest smog levels since the report was first published in 2000. Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were among 17 of the 25 cities most polluted by annual particle pollution that experienced their cleanest years yet.
Four cities — Pittsburgh, San Diego, Philadelphia and Visalia, Calif., had their lowest-ever, short-term particle pollution level. For the first time, Birmingham, Ala., Detroit, Mich., and York, Pa., dropped completely off the report’s 25 most-polluted cities lists.
But it was Santa Fe, N.M., which was ranked as the cleanest city in the nation.
August 1, 2012 5:52 pm
Is your gas tank on empty? How about your wallet?
"Gas prices have surged by about 15 cents a gallon in the past month according to AAA," says Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan, "and the Alliance calculates that American households will spend some $3,325 to fuel their vehicles this year. So if you plan a road trip this summer, be sure to use our fuel-efficiency tips to maximize mileage and savings."
Tips for Vehicle Maintenance
• Tune up. Fixing a car that's out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, saving about $77 a year. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor in an older car, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent, or more than $1,200!
• Keep tires properly inflated to improve mileage by up to 3.3 percent, or about $57 a year, as under-inflated tires can lower mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure in all four tires. Proper inflation also improves tire longevity – and driver and passenger safety. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cautions not to rely on the pressure setting on the tire's sidewall, but to consult your owner's manual or look for a sticker on the driver's side door jamb or in the glove box.
• Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil or risk lowering your gas mileage by 1-2 percent, wasting up to $40 annually. DOE also advises looking for the phrase "Energy Conserving" on the American Petroleum Institute performance symbol to ensure that the oil contains friction-reducing additives.
• Get the junk out of the trunk! Remove unnecessary items in your vehicle's trunk – an extra 100 pounds could reduce your mileage by up to 2 percent, wasting about $38 a year.
• Also nix a loaded roof rack, which can cut fuel economy by 5 percent, or about $93 per year.
Tips for Smart Driving
• Avoid aggressive driving. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds, wasting more than $925/year, and 5 percent around town, wasting about $93/year.
• Avoid speeding. Mileage usually decreases rapidly above 50 miles per hour. Each five mph over that speed is like paying another 24 cents per gallon.
• Avoid idling, which gets 0 miles per gallon, wasting a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use – yet it takes only a few seconds' worth of fuel to restart your engine.
• Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, save gas and money.
• And don't forget to engage the overdrive gear to reduce engine speed, which saves gas and reduces engine wear.
• Plan your trips. Combining errands into one trip saves not only time but money, too. Taking several short trips from a cold start each time can use twice as much fuel as one multipurpose trip covering the same distance with a warm engine.
• Beat the traffic. When possible, drive and/or commute during off-peak hours to avoid stop-and-go traffic. You'll reduce stress as well as gas costs!
Tips for Smart Commuting
• Use a more fuel-efficient vehicle, if you have a choice, whenever possible.
• Consider alternatives to driving solo. Take advantage of carpools and ride-share programs to cut your weekly fuel costs by as much as half – and save wear on your car. Many urban areas allow vehicles with multiple passengers to use High Occupancy Vehicle, or HOV, lanes which are typically less congested, further improving your fuel economy. Carpooling twice a week with two others can save each of you about $144/year.
• Also consider telecommuting from home, if your employer permits it. Doing that just twice a week can save you more than $430/year.
• Look into public transit options, too. The American Public Transportation Association has links to information about public transportation in each state.
August 1, 2012 5:52 pm
While it’s always smart to call in the professionals for large problems, there are many things consumers can tackle themselves when it comes to air conditioning and heating.
Cleaning. It pays to always check the simple things first. Often all it takes to get an AC system blowing cool air again is a simple cleaning, a job that requires very little technical skill. Cleaning the inside of an outdoor AC unit may take the better part of an afternoon, but for many that will be better than having to pay for a professional to do such a simple job.
Thermostats. Another effective DIY solution involves AC systems that don't want to turn on. Again, it pays to check for the simple problems before calling a service tech. First, check the thermostat to ensure the settings are correct, then take a look at several power switches - most systems will have a switch on the home's main electrical panel and one set near the outside unit. Many times a system won't start because of a simple tripped breaker.
Water. Water pooling near the outdoor AC unit is another common problem. In many cases, this is another easy fix. First, check to make sure none of the pipes are leaking, and replace any that are.
August 1, 2012 5:52 pm
With fall just around the corner, vacationers are in a frenzy to pack in last-minute summer vacations. Before hitting the beach, cruise ship, resort or another vacation destination, be prepared to reject the many indulgences that go hand-in-hand with a bit of relaxation!
When we’re traveling, it’s easy to overindulge in local flavor, bursting buffets and cheap eats, but weeks of hard work can be undone in just a couple of weeks. Cruise ships are particularly notorious for their 24/7 buffet services, making it challenging to stick to a plan when tasty food is in constant rotation.
However, the following tips can help you overcome the craving for more:
1. Before dining, plan out your portions. Arriving to a meal with your mind set on the appropriate food size is helpful for controlling a potential binge. Consider ordering an appetizer as a meal, and pair it with a salad. Or, ask your server to box half of your entree to-go before it arrives at the table.
3. Stay hydrated. Often, lack of hydration is mixed up with feeling hungry, so keep drinking water to make sure your body is hydrated and free from any muddled hunger signals!
4. Snack, snack, snack. Instead of a few large meals throughout the day when you’re extremely hungry, pack different healthy snacks such as vegetables, fruit or nuts. When you’re ready for a main meal, you’ll likely make better choices as you won’t be ravenous.
Want to exercise, but don’t want to be shackled to a hotel gym? Go outside! Take the opportunity to explore your new locale paired with your favorite exercise regimen. Pack your workout clothes and check these ideas:
1. Love to bike? Many destinations offer bicycle rentals for solo or private tours. Ideal for navigating longer stretches of land, biking offers opportunities to get active while sightseeing from the view of a local.
2. Morning jogs also enable tourists to view their destination while getting in a decent workout. If you’re in a beach city, consider a breezy coastal jaunt; if it’s a woodland area, take up a trail for added adventure.
3. Local sports, especially ones that are not familiar to you, can be an exciting way to learn about your destination’s culture while maintaining an active lifestyle.
4. Walk. Even if you’re not interesting in beach volleyball or a morning jog, walking to your destinations is a terrific way to tour the city and stay fit.