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
May 11, 2012 2:18 pm
Q: Are home improvements deductible?
A: Yes, but only after you have sold your home. According to the IRS, home improvements add to the basis, or value, of your home. A tax-acceptable improvement is defined as one that adds value to your home, "considerably" prolongs your home's useful life, or adapts your house to new uses. Examples include installing new plumbing or wiring or adding a bathroom. If the work done on the home is purely for maintenance, the cost cannot be deducted and generally cannot be added to the basis, or value, of your home. However, repairs done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home are considered improvements and therefore pass the deductible test.
May 10, 2012 6:16 pm
I am here with more sound advice on home inspections, this time coming from Chuck Gillooley, a REALTOR® from San Carlos, Calif.
But Gillooley says there’s one key function of the house that these inspections don’t usually cover — and it’s an area can lead to an unwanted surprise and an expensive fix for the new buyer: The sewer lateral.
Gillooley says the sewer lateral is that single piece of pipe that connects all of the waste lines in your home with city sewer system. The reason it hasn’t been traditionally inspected until recently is because once the sewer line exits the crawl space of a typical home, it runs underground to its junction with the sewer system, thus making it impossible to visibly inspect the condition of the pipe.
If for whatever reason the wall of the pipe is breached, Gillooley says the door is open to all kinds of problems including having raw sewage leaking into the ground below the house according to Gillooley.
Depending on which path the sewer lateral takes to connect to the sewer system, repairing this line can be expensive. If the entire line needs to be replaced, which is usually the case, it requires digging a trench to expose the complete run of the pipe — which can often run right underneath expensive landscaping, or worse, under your driveway.
Until a few years ago, it was difficult to assess the condition of the sewer lateral line. But today, Gillooley says plumbers utilize small video cameras that they can snake through the line and examine the condition of the entire pipe. Some cities in Gillooley's region now require that the sewer lateral of a home must be video-inspected (and in some cases certified) prior to the home changing hands.
At an approximate cost of between $250-$500, Gillooley says a video inspection of the sewer lateral is relatively inexpensive - especially if it uncovers a condition that may cost upwards of $10,000 to fix.
May 10, 2012 6:16 pm
Cooking can be so much more than simply getting dinner on the table. When you cook with your kids, it can lead to better relationships with food and with each other.
Getting kids involved in the kitchen gives them life skills they'll need, teaches them about new foods and healthy eating, and it can be a great way to have fun and bond together.
Kids of any age can play a role in cooking up a good meal, even the youngest ones:
• Scrub fruits and vegetables
• Tear salad greens
• Snap fresh beans
• Wipe tables
• Pour liquids into batter
• Spread peanut butter or butter on bread
• Mix muffin batter
• Shake ingredients together
Four- and five-year olds can
• Mash soft fruits and vegetables
• Measure ingredients
• Juice citrus
• Beat eggs
Older children can help with more complex tasks, including slicing ingredients for a meal and cooking parts of it themselves.
May 10, 2012 6:16 pm
Grilling season is here, and that means it's time to get fired up for the smoky flavor of your favorite foods cooked in the great outdoors over charcoal.
• The key to great grilling is building the right fire. Below are some general tips.
• Use different briquet arrangements depending on what's going on the grill.
• Thinner pieces of meat respond best to high temperature, direct-heat grilling, which requires spreading the coals out evenly across the grate.
Thicker pieces of meat cook beautifully all the way through, without burning on the outside, with a two-zone fire.
• Stack briquets to one side of the grate for high and low temperature zones. Begin cooking directly over the coals until the outside of the meat has reached the desired doneness; then move the meat to the other side of the grate (the low temperature zone) to finish cooking.
May 10, 2012 6:16 pm
Exclusive agency listing. Listing where the owner reserves the right to sell his property himself, but also agrees to list with no other broker during the listing period besides the appointed real estate broker.
May 10, 2012 6:16 pm
Q: How can I make energy efficient improvements to my home?
A: Begin by focusing on those small cracks and crevices around doors and windows. According to Lowe’s, a 1/8” space between a standard exterior door and its threshold is equivalent to a two square inch hole in the wall. Close those gaps to save up to 15% in heating and cooling costs and also reduce the demand on your heating and cooling system. Other energy efficient steps: lower your water heater’s thermostat setting; blanket or insulate the water heater to reduce the amount of heat lost by the unit, particularly if it is located in an unheated area; insulate water pipes, at least the hot water pipes to prevent heat lost that can cause your water heater to work harder; change furnace filters to prevent reduced airflow through the heating/cooling system and overheating that can lead to premature compressor damage in the A/C systems; and install water-saving shower heads.
May 9, 2012 6:10 pm
(ARA) - The number of kitchen styles and design options for homeowners to consider during the building and remodeling process is enough to make a person go crazy. Avoid feeling overwhelmed by simplifying your options.
Keep an eye on trends
Traditional? Transitional? Contemporary? The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) recently surveyed more than 350 designers to identify the top trends and styles they tend to incorporate into their kitchen and bath designs. According to this survey, transitional style, a combination of traditional and contemporary, is now the most popular style in both kitchens and bathrooms.
This marks the first time (since the NKBA began tracking annual design trends) that "traditional" is no longer the most common type of design. The survey also showed that contemporary is the next most common style - with shaker, arts and crafts and cottage also following as frequently used styles.
Richer, warmer and darker wood species and finishes are dominating in popularity. "Hickory cabinets are catching on, as the dramatic grain variation is ideal for creating a rustic look," says Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education for QualityCabinets. "Despite the growing trends, maple and cherry are still homeowner favorites for cabinetry."
Determine your style
While it's good to be aware of the trends, keep in mind that you are the one who will have to live with this kitchen. Incorporate design elements that you and your family will enjoy for years to come. If you don't plan to stay long, consider resale value and how kitchen design might help or hurt it.
Determining your personal style is the most crucial step before the kitchen remodeling process can begin (after budgeting, of course). Take pictures of other kitchens that you like and tear out pages from magazines. Scan home and design blogs to get ideas. Apartment Therapy recently revealed the best home design blogs with its award (as nominated and voted by readers), The Homies 2012. These blogs are a good place to start.
Several websites offer great resources and inspiration galleries for homeowners trying to plan their kitchens. QualityCabinets has an Idea Gallery that showcases a wide range of options, from more formal and traditional to sleek and contemporary. Pinterest is another great place to collect home and design ideas and save them to later share with your designer.
Work with a professional designer
While many people think they know their desired kitchen style, many have a difficult time articulating and identifying exactly what they want. A professional designer can help you design a kitchen that is comprehensive and consistent in design style.
The difficult task is designing a room that comes together as a whole versus bits and pieces. This is where a designer comes in and can turn a nice-looking kitchen into one that is both stunning and functional. Designers can also help you add a personal flair through the accessories, organizational features, hardware and finishes you choose.
May 9, 2012 6:10 pm
Nothing amps up the style in a home quite like a vintage or antique look. Still, many people shy away from antique décor, associating it with hunting through flea markets and excessive spending on one-of-a-kind items. Design duo Robert and Cortney Novogratz are the stars of HGTV's Home by Novogratz and parents to seven children.”
Known for using vintage and eclectic items to create fun and stylish interiors that are also family-friendly, they point out that with all of the resources available on the internet, you do not need to be an avid "antiquer" to create an eclectic look and feel in your home.
To help you get in on the vintage trend, Cortney and Robert Novogratz are sharing their secrets for creating unique and family-friendly spaces that fuse style with purpose:
Embrace the Possibilities
When shopping for vintage pieces, consider how they can be repurposed. You can use an antique chest as a coffee table that doubles as stylish storage for blankets and toys. You'll find new ways to incorporate pieces you're drawn to by keeping an open mind.
Add History to Your Home
Vintage items, from coffee table books to maps and globes, can be incorporated into lively gathering spaces -- or even your kids' bedrooms. Parents with an eye for style shouldn't be concerned about adding unique items to their home. While you do not want to not put the most expensive pieces in your kids' bedrooms, collectables like classic books and vintage maps make perfect decorative learning tools.
Mix It Up
A mix-and-match approach can give a home an eclectic yet comfortable style, adding a touch of livability to ultramodern spaces and personality to more traditional decor. This works well for a dining room table. You can have mid-century candelabra as a centerpiece with bright-colored modern candles to balance the look. We also love using mismatched vintage plates when we entertain guests for dinner.
May 9, 2012 6:10 pm
Many people don’t spend enough time thinking about their will, but it is extremely important to keep your will updated. As life changes, so do potential beneficiaries and heirs. If you do not keep your last will and testament updated, it may not reflect your wishes given your new circumstances. The following are good situations in which changing a will may be wise.
• Marriage: When you get married, both you and your spouse should each create a new will. Most states have laws that award a percentage of your estate to your spouse upon your death, including those states that recognize gay marriage. However, if you want to devise your will differently, you should specify this in your will. Furthermore, adding your spouse to your will may change the percentage of your estate, or of a specific asset, that another beneficiary or heir was previously written to receive. Changing a will should reflect this new proportion as you see fit.
• Common Law Marriage: If you and a partner live in Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington, D.C., you may be considered a married couple under your states Common Law Marriage law. Generally, there are several requirements that must first be met for a valid common law marriage. If you meet these terms, the law may treat you and your partner as a married for probate purposes. Be sure to check your states law.
• Obtaining a new partner, without marriage: Only if married will your partner automatically receive assets from your estate. So, if you find yourself with a new loved one, changing a will to reflect what you would like to leave that partner is necessary. However, if you are registered domestic partners in California, Maine, or New Jersey, reciprocal beneficiaries in Hawaii, or civil union partners in Vermont or Connecticut, then the rules may be different; so, be sure to check your states laws, if you live in one of those states.
• Divorce: Upon divorce, some states revoke any gifts you leave your spouse in your will. Other states do not. Changing a will upon a divorce is very important. You will want to either specify what you want to leave your former spouse, or else specify how those gifts should now be distributed.
• A new baby: There are laws in some states that give children some portion of your assets upon your death. However, not everyone wants their property to be distributed the way the state laws specify. If you welcome a new baby into your family, be sure to specify what gifts, the baby shall receive, by changing a will. Perhaps more importantly, be sure to appoint a guardian for the baby. This will be the person who will care for your baby should anything happen to you.
• New stepchildren: Stepchildren are not automatically entitled to inherit a share of your property in many states. Therefore, if you would like for your stepchildren to inherit any of your property, be sure to specify your wishes by changing your own will.
• Moving from a community property state to a common law property state: The laws governing what each spouse owns vary depending on whether the couple lives in a community property state or a common law property state. Therefore, if you are planning on moving to a new state, check that states laws. If it differs from the one you currently reside it, be sure to change your own will, according to your new property ownership status.
• Changing your mind about heirs: Of course, things can happen in life that cause people to change their minds about the way in which theyd like their property distributed. Changing a will to reflect these new wishes is important.
• New or disposed of assets: If in your will you leave all of your property or a percentage of your property to your heirs, then when what you own changes, there is no need to change your will. However, if you have willed certain gifts to people in your will, and you no longer have those properties, be sure to remove said property from your will. Additionally, when you acquire new property, be sure to account for that in your will.
May 9, 2012 6:10 pm
There are many ways to share the news that you're expecting. Some couples tell loved ones in person, some over the phone. But many people are now taking to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and even Pinterest to reveal the exciting news.
"As both a mom and blogger, I've noticed many trends in the last year, both in how the news is shared and how the overall pregnancy is approached," said Beth Feldman, president of Role Mommy, an online community and events company.
Here are just a few of the trending ways you can share the joy and celebrate your pregnancy:
Gender Reveal Cakes - Ask your ultrasound technician not to tell you the results. Instead, have them seal the gender results in an envelope. Then, take the envelope to a bakery, which can tint cake batter pink or blue, then cover it with icing. At a special party, cut into the cake to reveal the baby's gender.
Dadchelor Parties - Moms-to-be aren't the only ones getting celebrated. Dadchelor parties, also known as man-showers, diaper parties and daddymoons, are fun ways for expectant fathers to celebrate their last, child-free months, as well as the upcoming baby. Feldman recommends setting the date of the party at least one month before the baby's due date.
Pregnancy Portraits - Professional photographers are receiving more visits from moms-to-be as they pose for portraits and immortalize their pregnancy as a treasured keepsake. Many maternity photos are taken at the beginning of the third trimester. Review the photographer's portfolio to ensure their style is a good fit with yours. Discuss the types of photos you want, what to expect at the shoot and options for albums, prints and other photo-related merchandise.
Babymoons - These vacations are when parents-to-be take a trip before the arrival of their baby. It can be an exotic excursion or a quiet weekend getaway close to home. Whatever you choose, Feldman advises you minimize travel time and maintain access to medical facilities.
Themed Baby Showers - Celebrities are taking this event to an extreme, as seen with Jessica Simpson's over-the-top Charlotte's Web-themed extravaganza. For unique shower ideas, visit the Hostess with the Mostess (www.hwtm.com). You'll find suggestions for boy and girl parties, as well as gender-neutral, themes for twins and multiples, and styles that range from fancy to casual.
Finding out that you're pregnant is a very exciting, emotional time. If you want to start planning for your baby's arrival as soon as possible, the Early Result Pregnancy Test by the makers of First Response® is the only test that tells you six days before your missed period. And that allows you to start planning for your pregnancy sooner -- including how you'll tell your loved ones that a bundle of joy is on its way.