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
June 28, 2012 5:18 pm
A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.
Some of the tax benefits mirror those for a primary residence. Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible, which helps to offset the cost of the home payment. And if you treat your second home as a rental property, you can fully depreciate it as well. But you are only allowed to occupy it for two weeks a year, or 10 percent of the total rented time, whichever is less.
Before taking the leap, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.
June 27, 2012 7:14 pm
This time of year, the heat is literally on to make affordable, sustainable improvements to home comfort. "Our favorite products offer all kinds of savings," says Tom Kraeutler, home improvement expert and syndicated radio show host of The Money Pit. "They save water, electricity and even human energy, with simple installations and everyday convenience."
Kraeutler recommends five sustainable solutions for summer comfort.
Hands-free convenience for the kitchen
"The MotionSense Arbor pulldown faucet provides hands-free kitchen convenience," says Kraeutler. "Just activate it with a few simple hand movements, and you can wash hands, clean dishes and prepare meals, all with greater water savings and reduced risk of cross-contamination." MotionSense's Wave Sensor and Ready Sensor allow hands-free water flow, with a side handle for manual operation. Featuring transitional styling, it's available in Chrome, Oil Rubbed Bronze or Spot Resist Stainless finishes. Learn more about MotionSense at http://www.moen.com.
Easy-care, efficient replacement windows
"If you have old, drafty windows that are hard to open or need frequent scraping or painting, replace them with beautiful, energy-efficient windows from Andersen," says Kraeutler. "Andersen's 400 Series Tilt-Wash Double-Hung Insert Window is available at The Home Depot and is custom-sized to fit inside an existing window frame, with minimal disruption to your home." Easily installed from inside, it features a tilt-to-clean function for easy care and High-Performance Low-E4 glass. Design an efficient new view at http://www.andersenwindows.com.
Smarter lighting control
Lights that are left on can be a big energy drain and bulk up your electric bill. Install the Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor, and lights will turn on automatically when you enter a room and off again when you leave. Maestro's sensing technology ensures that lights stay on when a room is occupied, and detects natural light so that fixtures only turn on when needed. It works with all types of light bulbs and doesn't need special wiring. Switch to automatic energy savings at http://www.lutron.com/occvacsensors.
Better bulbs for your bottom line
"The right light can do wonders for your home's energy efficiency, ambience and comfort," says Kraeutler. "And Philips AmbientLED bulbs provide dimmable soft-white light that lasts over 22 years, on a fraction of the energy used by incandescents." Philips AmbientLED bulbs are available in a range of shapes and wattages, provide instant-on light, and are mercury-free. Find the right Philips AmbientLED bulb for any lighting fixture at http://www.philips.com/beautifullight.
Customized cooling for summer
Mitsubishi Electric residential cooling and heating systems provide energy-efficient comfort to specific rooms or a whole house, all without ductwork. "These compact cooling systems are 35 percent more energy-efficient than central A/C systems and 40 percent more energy-efficient than window units, and that means big savings during the hottest days of summer," says Segrete. Mitsubishi Electric cooling units have long-life allergen filters, a whisper-quiet sound level, and offer a variety of convenient control options. Design more efficient cooling at http://www.mehvac.com.
June 27, 2012 7:14 pm
License. A privilege or right granted to a person by a state to operate as a real estate broker or salesperson.
June 27, 2012 7:14 pm
A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.
Other things to consider:
• Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
• What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
• If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?
• What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?
June 27, 2012 5:14 pm
Putting down roots is usually considered a good thing, right? But when you're literally putting down roots, as in planting a tree, you need to take several factors into consideration BEFORE you break out the shovels.
Trees are hardy plants, and their roots fight back against man-made limits around them, according to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). That's why planning is important - because as roots grow, they can break walls, pipes and patios, causing damage to properties.
"Before you plant a new tree, you need to understand how a tree could damage your property and take appropriate measures to prevent that damage," advises Tchukki Andersen, Board Certified Master Arborist and staff arborist with the TCIA.
Woody tree roots thicken as they grow, gradually pushing toward soil near the surface which is best suited for root growth. As a result, they often grow against the underside of pavement and become intrusive.
Some masons and landscapers may deal with intrusive roots by grinding down or removing them. But this can be expensive and is very harmful, because it leaves a tree vulnerable to disease.
Cutting major roots also reduces a tree's ability to take up nutrients and water, leaving it more susceptible to drought. Finally, cutting roots can reduce a tree's structural support, which increases the danger of the tree toppling during heavy weather events.
The TCIA recommends when cutting problem tree roots:
• The farther you cut from the trunk, the less threat to the tree's health, and the less danger of creating a hazard
• Try not to cut roots greater than two inches in diameter
• Prune roots back to a side or sinker root (growing downward) when possible
Roots that may become severed recover better when you:
• Cut them cleanly with a saw instead of breaking them with a backhoe
• Mulch and water well after root pruning
• Consult a qualified arborist when cutting within a distance equal to five times the trunk diameter to the trunk
In our next segment we'll talk about root management and picking the right tree for your site.
June 27, 2012 5:14 pm
How often do you scarf down lunch in front of your computer, inhale a snack in the car or eat your dinner while catching up on your favorite TV shows? While this may seem like a great way to save time—and we’re all about multitasking—it’s actually not a good habit to develop and can lead to over eating, and create a major disconnect between our mind and our appetite.
"When we are out of touch with our eating, and with our bodies, it is easy to overeat and for weight to creep upwards," says Jenny Conviser, Psy.D., co-owner of Insight Psychological Centers and a leading expert in the treatment of eating disorders. "Some of the strategies we use in working with patients who struggle with binge eating disorder, can be useful to everyone who wants to establish mindful eating patterns."
Even if you have a healthy relationship with food, you may not be giving it your full attention. Mindful eating helps you appreciate each meal, learn when you’re hungry and when you’re just stressed or bored, and allow you to maintain a healthy weight. The following tips can help you eat mindfully.
Create a peaceful eating space. Even if you’re just clearing a corner of your desk (not in front of your computer!), creating a clear spot for you to enjoy your meals can help you feel a sense of calm that is hard to harvest when sitting at a cluttered surface.
Make time. It should take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal. While most people scarf their meals down in less than half of that time, aim to take a 15-minute break to focus on eating your meals. When we eat on the fly, our brains often don’t register the meal completely, which can lead to over eating later.
Eat sitting down. This battles mindless munching while standing at the fridge or pantry. Since we aren’t eating in front of the TV anymore (right?!) this means taking your snack to a table and focusing on your food, which will make you less likely to over-eat just because you’re zoning out—or focusing on the newest episode of Real Housewives.
Hone in on hunger. When you have the urge to eat, picture yourself sitting down to a full meal. If this is appealing, then you’re probably hungry. If not, you may be stressed, tired or bored. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. Distract yourself instead. Call a friend, take a walk or work on a project. Hungry? Go ahead and eat, right away. Waiting too long to eat or skipping meals can lead to unhealthy binges later.
Use your senses. Now that you’re taking the time to focus on your food, begin to notice each sensation. Savor flavors and textures. Focus on smell, color and taste combinations. By being conscious of each bite of food, and enjoying food as a full sensory experience, chances are you will appreciate it more, and possibly need less to feel satiated.
Check in with yourself. Our portion sizes are usually out of control. Now that you’re focusing on your food, begin downsizing your portions or taking breaks midway through your meal to check in with yourself. Are you truly still hungry? If not, wrap up the rest of your meal for later.
June 27, 2012 5:14 pm
With summer here and vacation season underway, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Educational Foundation, in partnership with the PROTECT Initiative, have released five medicine safety tips for families traveling with young children.
According to a recent travel report, more than three in five U.S. adults (64 percent), or an estimated 154 million Americans, plan to go on at least one vacation over the next several months.
The percentage of Americans planning to travel between May and October 2012 is up from 64 percent last April, and 56 percent in April 2010.
"Thousands of young children end up in emergency departments every year after getting into medicine while their parents or caregivers are not looking," says Dan Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's Medication Safety Program. "Accidental ingestions don't take a vacation, so it's important for parents to keep medicines and vitamins up and away and out of sight at home, and also when families are away from their homes and staying in hotels or as guests in other's homes."
Tips for safely storing medicines and vitamins on-the-go, include:
1. When packing for a trip, keep your medicines in their original child-resistant containers. Other containers, such as pill organizers and baggies, often lack child safety features and can be easily accessed by young children.
2. While staying in a hotel, secure your medicines and vitamins in a location that your children cannot see or reach, such as a high cabinet or passcode-protected hotel room safe.
3. As a guest in another person's home, do not be shy about asking where you should put your medicines and vitamins so they are up and away and out of the sight and reach of children.
4. Remember to never leave medicines or vitamins out on a table, countertop, or bedside table where your children could reach them no matter where you are – always make sure the safety caps are locked and put them away every time they are used.
5. Program the national Poison Help number – 1-800-222-1222 – along with other emergency contact numbers into your cell phone, so that they are available in case of an emergency.
June 26, 2012 7:10 pm
A: You can find out more about an existing property and neighborhood before you buy than you can a new home in a newly developed community.
When the home is on the outskirts of town, ask the developer about future access to public transit, entertainment venues, shopping centers, churches, and schools. Also review local zoning ordinances. A remote area can quickly turn into a fast food haven.
You want to ensure the neighborhood will not spiral out of control and lose its residential appeal.
Other things to consider:
• Ask homeowners already living in a development about the builder. If none currently live there, find out where the builder has previously built and speak to those owners to find out if the builder followed through on promises and needed repairs.
• Ability to make changes. Most homes in a development resemble each other. But the developer may impose restrictions on house color, landscaping, renovations, and other items that a homeowner may want to alter.
• Do not buy into the highfalutin images created by marketing experts. Form your own opinions about a property and only buy where you feel comfortable. After all, you are the one who will be living there.
June 26, 2012 7:10 pm
Lease. Contract that conveys the right to use property for a period of time in return for a consideration, usually rent, paid to the property owner.
June 26, 2012 7:10 pm
(ARA) - Between work, school, children's activities, family obligations and travel plans, today's busy families are left with little time to keep their homes tidy and well-organized. With summer fast approaching, it is important for on-the-go families to realize that home organization does not have to be difficult or time consuming.
If you follow these tips, you will learn to prioritize your home organization needs, delegate responsibilities, and ultimately save valuable time:
Make a plan: Keep a small journal in which you list all the areas you would like to tackle before the summer. This will remind you what to focus on and help you organize and clean in less time.
"Busy families need a good system of organization - places to put things and labels for identifying what you've stored so you can easily find whatever you need quickly and easily," says Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
Teach your family to pitch in: If you're the main housekeeper, it's reasonable to ask family members to help with chores such as loading the dishwasher, picking up toys, taking out the trash and doing the laundry. Delegating small chores throughout the year makes larger organization projects a much easier task.
Stick to a schedule: Try a dry-erase weekly planner calendars, allowing you to create chore charts for family members and assign each task a time slot or day of the week. Place the chart on the door of the refrigerator, so everyone sees it regularly. Schedule a cleaning task as you would a play date or other fun activity.
Tackle one room at a time: To prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed, it is important to identify the areas that need to be organized. From there, determine which tasks are most necessary in each of those rooms. For example, in your home office, you may need to declutter your desktop by filing away papers in magazine files or organizing financial information in a freestanding accordion file.
Use bins and labels to organize trash: Instead of simply dividing items into separate piles that will likely get knocked over or mixed up, use plastic bins and adhesive labels that say keep, recycle, or donate.
These simple steps make home organization more enjoyable and manageable for a busy, active family. Follow the tips to freshen up your home and get ready to enjoy summer.