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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
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Q: Can an Older Homeowner Who Is Cash Poor but House Rich Use Their Home to Tap into the Equity?

June 15, 2012 6:34 pm

A: Yes, but not so much by refinancing. A reverse mortgage is a better, and increasingly popular, option for older Americans to convert home equity into cash. Money can then be used to cover home repairs, everyday living expenses, and medical bills.

Instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to the homeowner, who continues to own the home and hold title to it.

According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, the money given by the lender is tax-free and does not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits, although it may affect the homeowners’ eligibility for certain kinds of government assistance, including Medicaid.

Homeowners must be at least 62 and own their own homes to get a reverse mortgage. No income or medical requirements are necessary to qualify, and they may be eligible even if they still owe money on a first or second mortgage. In fact, many seniors get reverse mortgages to pay off the original loan.
Repaying a reverse mortgage is not necessary until the property is sold or the owner moves. Should the owner die before the property is sold, the estate repays the loan, plus any interest that has accrued.
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Canning Tips: Perfect Pickles in 7 Easy Steps

June 15, 2012 4:34 pm

Preserving your own pickles means you have your favorite pickle flavors available all year round.
To can pickles, you will need a large boiling water bath canner or pot with a rack that will allow 1 inch of boiling water over the tops of the jars. Ideally it should be 4-5 inches taller than the jars you plan to can in. You will also need a jar lifter, bubble freer, saucepan, pint canning jars with rings and new lids plus the pickle mix and other ingredients specified on the package.

Seven steps to making perfect pickles

Step 1: Choose pickling cucumbers, not slicing cucumbers. These are short and blocky for their size -- about 4-inches long. They should be firm and green in color with no blemishes. Remember for pickles you must cut off 1/16-inch from the blossom end to help prevent soft mushy pickles (the blossom end contains an enzyme that will cause softening). Keep the cukes cool in the refrigerator until you have enough to make a batch but do not hold them too long or you will end up with shriveled pickles.

Step 2: Fill the water bath canner half-full with hot water and place on the burner, set the heat to medium. Heat another kettle of water for filling the canner after the jars are added.

Step 3: Scrub the cucumbers with a vegetable brush to remove all surface soil. Make sure all utensils and your kitchen is clean.

Step 4: Prepare the pickle mix. If you don’t want to make your own pickle marinades, mixes make it easy for you to make many of your favorites including sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, kosher dills, spicy dills, and many more. If you just want one jar for the refrigerator, buy the single refrigerator pickle mixes. If you want to preserve more for later, the mixes for canning yield 4 or 5 pints per package, according to the package directions. Heat it in a large non-reactive pot, stirring until the ingredients are well mixed and the mixture comes to a boil.

Step 5: Choose the style of pickles you want -- whole, spears, or slices and prepare the cucumbers for the jars. Pack the raw cucumbers into sterilized hot jars (jars that have been boiled in water for 10 minutes), making sure to leave 1/2-inch of headspace at the top of the jar.

Step 6: Divide the hot pickling mix evenly among the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. If more liquid is needed heat 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and fill to the desired level. Wipe the rims of the jars, add prepared lids and screw bands. Use a jar lifter and lower the prepared jars into the canner (make sure the rack is in place and the jars are not touching). When all filled jars are in the canner, check to see that the water is at least 1-inch over the tops of the jars, if not, add more boiling water to the canner. Put the lid on the canner and set the heat to high. Start timing the canning process when the water has returned to a full rolling boil. Process for the specified amount of time. At the end of the processing time, turn the heat off and remove the lid. Let the jars sit in the canner for 5 minutes to complete the canning process.

Step 7: Cool the jars. Remove the jars to a cooling rack or towel leaving them upright. Allow jars to cool for 12 to 24 hours then check to make sure all jars are sealed. Wash jars, label and store in a cool, dry place. The rings can be removed for storage. Jars that have not sealed should be placed in the refrigerator and used soon.

Source: http://store.mrswagesstore.com/
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Avoid Scams: Odd-Job Expert Offers Tips for Economic Survival

June 15, 2012 4:34 pm

Most adults of a certain age believe they’ve had some colorful jobs. Chances are likely, however, that Bethany Mooradian has them beat.

“I began finding random jobs after receiving my degree in puppetry because I realized that most puppeteers don’t make that much money,” says Mooradian, author of I Got Scammed So You Don’t Have To, a how-to book for finding legit work in an economy of scammers. “At one point, I was even Ronald McDonald’s bodyguard.”

Beginning in 1999, in order to make ends meet while pursuing her artistic passions, she looked for odd jobs. It wasn’t long before the search for and execution of odd jobs became a lifestyle. She gave so much advice to her friends on how not to be scammed, that she decided to write a book about it.
Mooradian came up with an acronym to help as a general outline to avoid scams: SCRAM.

S = scrutinize the source
C = check for affiliate links and fees
R = research the heck out of every detail
A = ask for more information
M = mouse over images and links to see what website you end on before you click.

“I was scammed in a work-at-home gig from a magazine ad when I was young and naïve,” she says. “It was before the Internet was widely used, so it wasn’t as easy to check it out, and I hadn’t yet developed my SCRAM method.”

While the odd, random job or source of supplemental income usually does not replace the income of a fulltime job, there are several ways of making money people often overlook, or simply don’t know about.
Mooradian emphasizes that anyone can find extra ways to earn income from what they already know how to do, “No one ever goes to college to learn how to ‘work at home.’ It’s simply a matter of taking your skill set and translating that into a home-office or flexible work environment instead of a 9-5 job.” Here are five income opportunities most people are not aware of.

• Being a Virtual Assistant: If you have computer and internet skills, you can work as a VA doing general secretarial work, or processing orders for large-name corporations at home. Many companies are seeing the benefit of “homesourcing” instead of “outsourcing” because overhead is reduced, and customers get to speak to local operators who understand the language and culture.

• Merchandising: Have you ever walked up to someone shelving products in a store to ask for help and they reply, “I’m sorry, I don’t work here?” Those are merchandisers. They’re hired to set up displays, check prices on items, and shelve products like magazines, food items, and greeting cards. Merchandisers have specific locations to service, but with fairly flexible hours.

• Landlord (rent that extra space!): Many people own property because they want their personal freedom. But for those who’ve fallen on hard financial times, like millions of Americans, finding a good, trustworthy person to rent your extra room, a storage space, garage, or a parking space is a great option.

• Mystery shopper: Mooradian has created a video and book training course on this topic titled “The Mystery Shopper Training Program,” which can be found on her website, as well as through Amazon.com and local bookstores. Mystery shoppers are paid to surreptitiously check out the behavior of employees in retail shops, bars, restaurants, apartment buildings, car dealerships, banks, and even on cruise ships and travel resorts.

• Use your talent: You don’t have to have movie-star aspirations to get work as an extra in movies, television shows or industrial/training films. Many times you can call up your local film board to find casting directors in the area to get on their “extra” list.

Voiceover work can also be done from the comfort of your home if you have a powerful enough microphone, and you can also be a “standardized patient” acting out diseases to help medical students with their board exams.

“The Internet is full of information, but finding useful leads for jobs or making extra money can be like searching for a needle in the proverbial haystack, which is why I provide over 300 legitimate companies, ideas, and resources for money-seekers,” she says.
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Beachstyle Summer Fitness: Work Out Like a Surf Legend

June 15, 2012 4:34 pm

We’ve all seen suffers running around at the beach, looking like the epitome of healthy living. But you don’t need to be a surf star to work out like one. While designed with the beach in mind, big wave surfer Dave Kalama has outlined the following workout routine to be able to be done at the park, gymnasium or even your backyard. "Try to jog about 50 to 100 yards in between each round of exercise," says Kalama.

1. Stretch.
Start your workout with some light stretching for 10 minutes. Remember that your muscles aren't yet warm, so you don't want to push yourself too far.
2. Run. Warm up your muscles with a 20 to 30 minute run. If there's a beach nearby, run barefoot. This strengthens the toes, soles of the feet, ankles, calves and shin muscles and has added cardio benefits. If you aren't near the beach, run in your local park or gym. Adding intervals of sprinting will enhance this part of the workout.
3. Pull-ups. If you're outdoors, use a sturdy tree limb for this workout, and make sure you have someone there to spot you. Pull-ups increase strength in the shoulders, triceps, biceps, forearms and hands.
4. Crunches. The best part about crunches -- you can do them anytime, anywhere. But wherever you decide to do crunches, make sure you continue to do them until "failure" or absolute fatigue sets in, in order to get the full benefit. Crunches provide abdominal and oblique strength.
5. Lunges. Do at least four sets of 25 lunges, alternating your legs. Pay attention to your form, and remember to stay in control while you lunge and as you straighten to a standing position. This will help increase leg and gluteal muscle strength.
6. Cycling. Whether you're working out at the beach, the park or the gym, cycle to and from your workout location when possible. This will help increase cardio and warm-up, as well as warm-down your muscles.

Source: Schick Hydro
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Word of the Day

June 15, 2012 4:34 pm

Interest. A fee paid for the use of money; also a share or right in something.
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Q: Can I Refinance a Home Loan More than Once?

June 15, 2012 4:34 pm

A: You most certainly can. During the most recent refinancing boom, for example, many homeowners refinanced their home loans two or three times within relatively short periods of time because interest rates kept treading downward, making it extremely attractive to trade in one loan for another.

Just remember that refinancing is basically like applying for a mortgage all over again. Each time you refinance, you will still have to go through the application process, get a home appraisal, and likely incur closing costs. Also, if you have a pre-payment penalty clause in your present mortgage, you will have to pay that penalty if you refinance. So be certain that it is actually worth it for you to refinance.
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Financial Aid Awards: 4 Things Parents Should Know

June 14, 2012 6:34 pm

Early summer is traditionally the time when most colleges and universities are sending out financial aid letters to the families of incoming high school graduates and returning students.

Unfortunately, notes CBS MoneyWatch correspondent Lynn O’Shaugnessy, many of these letters are confusing at best, not clearly spelling out what your student’s aid package is actually worth or how much the family will be expected to contribute.

O’Shaugnessy points out four things a family should look for when reviewing a financial award letter:

• Grants and scholarships – This is money that will not have to paid back. A good financial aid package will include a healthy portion of grants and scholarships.
• Cost of attendance – Annual cost is one of the critical things you need to know to determine how good the financial aid package is – but some schools do not include the total cost of attendance (tuition, books, room/board and fees, such as health fees) in the financial aid letter. Be sure these costs are itemized.
• Watch out for loans - The only loans in an aid package should be government loans with more favorable terms that families qualify for due to their lower incomes. Such as subsidized Stafford loans. Some schools will try to make their aid offering look better by including PLUS loan for parents or an unsubsidized Stafford loan, which are available to parents of all incomes and will need to be repaid.
• Family contribution - You won't know if your award is a generous one unless the letter includes what the parents and the child are expected to contribute. These contribution figures will be based on the calculations that are generated when a family files for financial aid. There should be a line in the letter stating what a school expects the child to contribute (it will be minimal) and what the parent(s) must contribute.

If any of this information is not conclusive, parents should contact the school for clarification before accepting.
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The Busy Remodels of Summer: Tips to Consider, Part 2

June 14, 2012 6:34 pm

Between spring cleaning and summer inspiration, it’s not uncommon to be bitten by the remodeling bug this time of year. And thanks to popular home improvement shows and the ever-growing “DIY” movement, you might be tempted to hit the hardware store and start hammering, painting, or grouting this weekend. But before you jump in with power tools blazing, Dan Fritschen, author of Remodel or Move?TM Make the Right Decision and founder of www.remodelormove.com, has a few things for you to consider.

It’s a good time to think ahead to winter. You might not want to contemplate winter’s chill while you bask by the pool, but according to Fritschen, it’s a good idea. 

“Plan now for ‘winter’ remodels like replacing a furnace, adding insulation, or getting more efficient windows or siding added,” he recommends. “Most people aren’t focused on these types of projects during the summer, so you’ll have a better chance to get a good deal and to schedule the work at your preferred time.” 

You can soak up the sun while adding curb appeal. You might not think about your yard when you consider remodeling, but the fact is, curb appeal is important! What your yard looks like and how it is landscaped influences how others (and you!) perceive your home in general. 

“For obvious reasons, summer is ideal for landscaping, planting, putting in patios and walkways, and more,” Fritschen says. 

The long sunny days can save you money and power your home. If you’ve been considering adding solar panels to your home, now’s the time. Prices for solar panels are at super low prices—as little as $1 per watt for 200-watt panels—so for $2,000 you can buy panels that can generate 2 kw of power during peak sunshine periods (like this summer!). 

“Buying that 2 kw of power in the example above would cost you about 24 cents per hour according to the Energy Information Administration,” points out Fritschen. “And while installing a full solar system will cost more than $2,000, when all is said and done, with all the rebates and the benefits to the environment and your pocketbook, it is still a good investment. The lower cost of the solar panels and the long sunny days of summer make generating power from the sun smarter than ever.” 

You might just dig up a sweet deal. Yes, the economy is (slowly) getting better, but it’s nowhere near the remodeling heyday of 2007, so contractors and retailers are working hard to win your business. 

Depending on where you live, you might be able to find discounts of 10 percent or more on many materials and appliances for your remodel. Plus, even though summer is a busy season, many contractors are bidding their best prices in an attempt to get back to the business levels they had prior to the economic slow-down. 

This could be a good time to take an interest in interest. Right now, most of us aren’t thrilled with the economy, including the fact that interest rates are at historical lows. It’s likely that if you have cash in a savings account, you probably aren’t earning very much right now. So why not use that money on a new kitchen or finished basement that you’ll enjoy every day? 

“Also, if you’re borrowing to pay for your remodel, then take advantage of the lower interest rates on mortgages and other types of loans,” recommends Fritschen. 

And on the subject of money, here’s another interesting thing to consider: “203k FHA loans enable you to borrow on the value of your home after the remodel is complete,” Fritschen shares. “Having just a single loan for the purchase of a home plus the cost of repair/renovation can be a huge money saver.” 

Source: www.remodelormove.com. 

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8 Ways to Be a Better Customer—and Get Better Service

June 14, 2012 6:34 pm

You start your morning running late and sprint into your local coffee shop for your morning cup of joe. As you breathlessly place your order, you notice the barista doesn’t smile at you. She utters a flat, “Here you go” as she hands you the steaming cup—Why didn’t she put the cardboard sleeve around it? you wonder irritably—and moves on robotically to the next customer. As you bolt for the door, hands burning, you think Well, she was unfriendly…when did customer service get so terrible? 

It’s true, says Ron Kaufman: As the way our society does business has changed, customer service in general has fallen into crisis mode. But in the case of the rude barista, ask yourself this: Did you look her in the eye? Did you say “good morning”? Did you say “please” or “thank you”? In short, how much of the bad service experience do you have to own? 

“Often, we get poor service because we’re poor customers,” says Kaufman, author of the New York Times bestseller Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet. “It’s a two-way street. When we’re rude or impersonal to service providers, we get rude and impersonal treatment back. This creates low expectations on both sides, which affects our next service interactions.” 

In other words, bad customer behavior breeds bad customer service, which breeds bad customer behavior…and so on. To break the cycle and do your part to create uplifting service, be what Kaufman calls a “service champion”—someone who takes responsibility for uplifting other people’s experience, even when those other people are serving you. 

“The crisis we’re facing has a lot to do with the way companies think about service,” says Kaufman. “They tend to silo it in one department rather than making great service a part of their overall culture, and that just doesn’t work in our global economy. Customers can’t do a lot about this, except take their business somewhere else. But what they can control is whether or not they contribute to the traffic of goodwill that flows equally between customers and service providers.” 

In other words, he says, when you are an appreciative and considerate customer, service providers will often go the extra mile to serve you better. But if you rant and pound the table, people may serve you grudgingly, if at all. 

Read on for proven steps you can take to be a better customer and enjoy receiving better service:
Be appreciative and polite. Remember, there is a fellow human being on the other end of your phone call, the receiving side of your email, or just across the counter. “Begin each interaction with a quick, ‘Hi. Thank you for helping me. I really appreciate it,’” advises Kaufman. “This takes about two seconds and can dramatically improve the mood of a service provider.” 

Get your service provider’s name and use it. You can make this short and friendly by first offering your name and then asking, “Who am I speaking with, please?” Or if you are face-to-face, simply ask, “May I know your name?” “Once you know it, repeat it with a smile in your voice,” says Kaufman. “This creates a personal connection and makes it much harder for a service provider to treat you like an anonymous account holder or policy number.” 

Be upbeat. Many service providers face customer after customer all day long. The routine can become tiresome. “When an energetic and smiling customer appears, that person often enjoys special care and treatment in return,” notes Kaufman. “What you send out does come back. Attitudes—positive and negative—really are contagious.” 

Provide information just the way they want it. Many service providers need your data in a sequence that fits their forms, screens, and procedures. “Have all your information ready to go, but give it in the order they prefer,” advises Kaufman. “Saying, ‘I have all my information ready. Which would you like first?’ lets the provider know you are prepared and will be easy to work with. The time you take getting everything in order will save time in the service conversation, too.” 

Confirm next actions. Repeat what your service provider promises to do. Confirm dates, times, amounts, responsibilities, and commitments. “This helps you move together through the service process, catching any misunderstanding and correcting it along the way,” says Kaufman. “Be sure you both understand what will happen next: what they will do, what you will do, and what both parties have agreed to going forward.” 

When appropriate, commiserate. Sometimes service providers let their frustration show. A slow computer, a previous customer, high call volume, pressure from a manager, or some unwelcome personal event may have upset them. “When you hear an upset tone, be the one to soothe it,” suggests Kaufman. “You might say, ‘It sounds like things are tough right now. I really appreciate your help.’ This brief moment of empathy can be an oasis in their world.” 

Show your appreciation. A sincere “thank you” is always appropriate. “If your service provider deserves more, give more,” says Kaufman. “A nicely written compliment can make a huge difference in someone else’s day, or even career. And who knows? The person you praise today may serve you again tomorrow. 

“If you want to take showing your appreciation a step further, ask the service provider how they’d like to be recognized. For example, a realtor might prefer a testimonial for her Web site over having you send a complimentary note to her manager. A younger service provider might love it if you Tweet about them while an older generation service provider mind find more value in a completed comment card. Show your appreciation in the way your service providers want to be appreciated; after all, they served you the way you wanted to be served!” 

Spread the word. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in uplifting service that’s certainly true. The next time you receive uplifting service at your favorite coffee shop, at the hardware store, at the post office, wherever you are, ask the service provider if you can take their picture and then ask for their manager’s name and contact information. “Send the picture to the service provider’s manager with a message that reads, ‘This person’s service makes me admire and appreciate your organization.’” says Kaufman. “Expressing your satisfaction to their manager in this way will speak volumes to the service provider and will inspire not only the service you receive in the future, but the service they provide to all of their customers.” 

“Keep in mind that while this advice will help you get better service from service providers, much of it can also be used to experience more joy and satisfaction from your relationships with your colleagues, friends, and other loved ones,” notes Kaufman. “What goes around really does come around. 

“When you treat someone well, whether it’s your spouse, a vendor at work, or the person you meet at the coffee shop in the morning, he or she is more likely to step up and treat you well, too,” he adds. “We all live and work in a whole world of relationships based on service. As you uplift and upgrade the service you provide, the world will uplift you.” 

Source: www.UpliftingService.com
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Word of the Day

June 14, 2012 6:34 pm

Installment payment. Periodic payment, usually monthly, of interest and principal on a mortgage or other loan.
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