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 25, 2012 3:08 pm
Word of the Day
Graduated payment mortgage. Mortgage loan for which the initial payments are low but increase over the life of the loan.
May 25, 2012 3:08 pm
A: Once your home is available to be shown strive to keep it in tip-top shape. This will require a lot of effort on your part, but you want buyers to feel welcomed and not turned off by unmade beds, cluttered floors, and grungy bathrooms.
Realize, too, that your life will be temporarily inconvenienced. When an agent – yours as well as others – calls wishing to bring a buyer to see the home at the last minute or on the same day, respond favorably. Remember your goal is to get the home sold, and that can only be accomplished if people get to see it. Flexibility is the key to a quick sale.
Plan not to be present when buyers pass through. It is awkward and unsettling for them to have the owners present. If you cannot leave, sit in the backyard. But do not attempt to have conversations with the buyer. Speak only when spoken to; be brief and polite.
Finally, pay special attention to pets, particularly dogs. They can be intimidating. Put them on a leash and in the backyard. Better yet, when possible, take them with you. And be keen to pet odors. They can turn buyers away.
May 24, 2012 7:02 pm
As employment demographics have stalled and shifted over the past few years, a significant number of unemployed Americans have decided to go back to school. If you are among this group, or if you have a graduating high schooler bound for college in the fall, it is a good time to take an in-depth look at where the jobs are before deciding on a major.
A 2012 study by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workplace zeroes in on the five majors most likely to result in steady employment:
1. Information technology – It should come as no surprise that an IT degree is valued by a host of employers. IT grads, who study such specialties as computer hardware and software support, research and communication, and/or the relationships between computers and humans, had an unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent last year as opposed to am 11.4 per cent rate in the general population.
2. Health care administration – The unemployment rate of graduates in this field has been as low as 2.9 percent in recent years – and the growing need for preventative care as well as a generation of aging baby boomers will continue to make health care administrators a valued and sought-after group of employees for hospitals, nursing homes and more.
3. Criminal justice – Growing demand for public safety will call for more police officers, but also for employees with a broad knowledge of public administration. Students who focus on law, psychology, and/or sociology should find steady employment in the field of criminal justice.
4. Marketing and communications – Wordsmiths and creative thinkers who can design and market new products and services already are a valued commodity. The Georgetown study says students of consumer behavior, international markets, market research and communication can expect to meet a growing call in related fields like market research analysts, public relations specialists and social media experts.
5. Accounting – Math proficiency and a bachelor’s degree in accounting will prepare job-seekers for a great variety of jobs in financial markets over the next few years, especially as employers in the financial sectors seek to comply with new standards and a host of stricter laws and regulations.
May 24, 2012 7:02 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.
May 24, 2012 7:02 pm
Summer creates many great photo opportunities, but also picture-taking challenges. The following tips can help you avoid common photo-taking challenges, such as lighting, blurriness, candid photography, and more.
• Photography Dos & Don'ts - Although it's often said the only rule to photography is there are really no rules, there are still some helpful guidelines to better enhance even the simplest snapshots.
Rule of thirds - envision an imaginary grid - 9 equal squares - now align your subject on one of the two vertical gridlines, adding balance and interest to your snapshot.
Viewpoint - try shooting your subject from above, far away, or very close up to create a major impact.
Framing - use trees and other natural elements to frame your photo and isolate the subject.
Shutter speed - never be afraid to experiment with shutter speed to convey motion. Slow creates blurry, and Fast creates stop-action clear.
• Don't be afraid of the dark - During summer, some of the best photo opportunities happen at night at campfires and 4th of July fireworks. However, photographing at night creates challenges.
Take advantage of the night sky - use the street and moonlight to help light up your subject. Turn off the flash on your camera to enhance the natural light.
Embrace the blur - experiment with moving cars and flickering candles, but try to stabilize your camera, and/or use a one-touch-timer button. Use water to reflect light.
• Take advantage of candid action - Everyone takes fantastic posed photos but this summer, work on your action shots. Whether it's a summer time baseball games or a swim meet competition, here are tips on capturing candid shots.
Make a point to catch people in action - some of the best pictures are when subjects are unaware of the camera.
Do not use flash - it can take away from the natural background and make the image look less candid and more posed.
Take your camera or camera phone with you everywhere this summer - keep your camera/phone chargers with you at all times.
Zoom options - when zooming you lose the quality of the subject. Take your photo with minimum zoom, and then use the zooming and cropping function inside Mixbook's photo book editor to enhance.
Experiment with your shots - don't be afraid to take too many photos -- rule of thumb: take 3-5 photos of each subject.
• Bring summer vacations photos to life - Don't lose track of all those great photos, keep them organized with photo books.
Upload hard copy photos - scan and upload copies to your free Mixbook account
Fill an entire photo book with just one click - using Mixbook AutoMix magic wand tool.
Choose from a wide variety of summer-themed photo books - including camping, summer days, cruise, and destination styles photo books.
May 24, 2012 7:02 pm
As students graduate from colleges and universities across the country and begin to plant the seeds for their financial future, it’s important they start off on the right financial foot.
“Graduation is an exciting time for students who are often anxious to gain financial independence,” says Terry Jorde, Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) senior executive vice president and chief of staff. “It’s important to remember that the financial decisions you make now will affect your future for years to come, so take a moment to outline your short- and long-term financial goals and come up with a monthly budget that will work for you. Believe me, this is one simple exercise that will be well worth any recent grad’s time. You’ll thank yourself a few months and a few years down the line.”
Jorde suggested that students who don’t already have their own individual bank accounts (not cosigned by mom and dad) open one immediately. “Look to a community banker who can work with you one-on-one to make a financial plan that suits your individual needs,” says Jorde.
Other tips from ICBA include:
• If you don’t have strong financial literacy skills, take some time to educate yourself on money matters, such as credit and ways to save for retirement. There is an abundance of resources available from programs such as FDIC Money Smart.
• Understand credit, how to build it and what hurts it.
Set up online banking to help you manage your finances from anywhere.
• Start saving for retirement now even if it does seem like a long way away. Many employers offer investment matching plans to help you get started.
• Set up an automatic savings account that pulls from your account every month as soon as you get your paycheck. Some employers also allow you to defer savings to another account. If you don’t see it, chances are you won’t miss it so much. Having a safety net in your savings account will help you stress less.
• Stay on top of any student loans, don’t miss deadlines and consolidate if appropriate. Some companies will help you pay off your student debt; make sure to ask about this when negotiating your new job.
• Review your banking, credit card and loan statements regularly so you can be aware of any errors.
• If you move, notify your bank, card and loan issuers immediately.
• If closing a bank account, confirm that the account and appropriate lines of credit have been closed by verifying with the bank.
• Take advantage of working with financial planners at your bank who can help you create your financial roadmap and a smart monthly budget for this stage in your life.
“This stage of a grad’s life is all about empowerment—and financial matters are no different,” says Jorde. “We congratulate this year’s college grads and wish them a prosperous financial future.”
To learn more about ICBA, visit www.icba.org.
May 24, 2012 7:02 pm
Grace period. Specified period of time to meet a commitment after it becomes due, without penalty or default. For example, most lenders allow a two-week grace period after the due date of the mortgage payment before a late fee is imposed.
May 24, 2012 7:02 pm
A: Many people flock to refinance while mortgage interest rates are low, particularly when rates are about two percentage points below their existing home loans.
Other factors, like when to finance, will depend on how long you plan to hold on to your home and whether you have to pay considerable fees to refinance. It also will depend on how far along you are in paying off your current mortgage.
If you expect to sell your home relatively soon, you are not likely to recoup the costs you incurred to refinance. And if you are more than halfway through paying your current mortgage, you probably will gain little by refinancing. However, if you are going to own your home for at least another five years, that is probably long enough to recoup any refinancing costs and realize real savings as a result of lowering your monthly payment.
In fact, if it costs you nothing to refinance, you can gain even more. Many lenders will let you roll the costs of the refinancing into the new note and still reduce the amount of the monthly payment. Plus, there are no-cost refinancing deals available.
Contact your lender, and its competitors, before you refinance.
May 23, 2012 6:58 pm
(ARA) - Now, more than ever, homeowners are adding to the value and comfort of their homes by renovating bathrooms into private retreats with luxurious touches that rival those of an upscale spa or resort.
Ron and Susan Bishop of Adams Township, Pa., recently completed an extensive remodel of the master bathroom in their 20-year-old home. The remake covered nearly every square inch of the space, including the installation of new cabinets, tile, floor coverings and lighting. The couple says one of the biggest highlights is the custom shower enclosure, which uses a fused-on coating to keep its showroom appearance over time.
When considering an update for your bathroom, whether you choose to do an extensive remodel or a smaller project, most kitchen and bath designers agree on these tips:
Consider the size of the bathroom. If you have a small room, look for ways to make it feel more expansive. A sleek, stylish glass shower enclosure helps your bathroom appear more spacious, and in most instances, a frameless shower enclosure will provide the cleanest, most open look. If you decide to go with a framed shower enclosure, you'll have two choices: frameless sliding doors or framed doors. For framed doors, be sure the finish of the metal framing and handles matches your bathroom fixtures.
Think outside the box. Taking a creative approach to bathroom necessities can help you make the most of your space. For instance, the majority of shower enclosures are square or rectangular, but today's designers encourage you to think about other shapes. Don't be afraid to consider a circular or oval-shaped enclosure, a triangle or even a standard shape with an artfully bowed glass door, which can redefine the space and make your bathroom more versatile.
Brighten things up. Repainting your bathroom with light colors can make it feel more spacious. If your bathroom has windows or skylights, use window treatments and accents that maximize the amount of light that comes through to give the room a more airy feel.
Find the best use for your space. Move bathroom cleaning items to a hall closet if you are stretched for storage space in your bathroom, especially if you have freestanding storage units that are taking up valuable floor space. If you need more storage space, consider adding built-in compartments if possible between your wall studs to maximize useable space.
It's been shown time and time again that remodeling a bathroom can add to a home's value. Whether you want to sell or just enjoy your home more, it's one of the most practical and dramatic ways to make your home more appealing.
May 23, 2012 6:58 pm
(ARA) - While most people want to help the environment in theory, when it comes down to buying green cleaning products for their office or small business, many put concerns about effectiveness and cost above whether a product is "green."
Close to 60 percent of office workers polled by Staples last year for Earth Day said that while they thought their company was green, they could always do more, with only 30 percent saying they buy sustainable paper and cleaning products for their break room. This spring cleaning season, Staples examines the cost and effectiveness of green cleaners to see if the facts match the public's perception.
Examining the effectiveness of green cleaners
Many green cleaners available today feature labels from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment (DfE) program and/or Green Seal. The U.S. EPA Design for the Environment (DfE) program uses the DfE label on chemical-based household and commercial products that meet the program's stringent human and environmental health criteria. Green Seal certification ensures that a product meets rigorous, science-based leadership standards. This gives manufacturers the assurance to back up their claims and purchasers confidence that certified products are better for human health and the environment.
What many people don't know is that for any cleaning product to earn either the DfE or Green Seal eco-labels, the product must undergo performance testing to verify that it meets or exceeds the performance of conventional cleaning products in the same category. When designed the right way and used for the right application, green cleaners work as well or better than conventional cleaning products.
Previously, it had been difficult to find a disinfecting green cleaner. Consumers and businesses that needed a disinfectant for specific applications couldn't find a greener option and had to resort to traditional cleaners. However, new cleaners are being introduced (like Seventh Generation's Multisurface Disinfecting Spray) that combine both cleaning and disinfecting agents made from natural plant-based sources and free of the harsh chemicals found in traditional disinfectants. Shifting to a green cleaning regimen can help improve indoor air quality for building occupants and janitorial staff and reduce the need for protective gear and additional safety concerns. But do green cleaners cost more?
Green cleaners - can they be less expensive than the alternative?
While some environmentally responsible cleaning products can cost more, not all do. For instance, based on a price comparison of products on Staples.com, the average ready-to-use all purpose cleaner costs 15 cents per ounce, while the green equivalents from Clorox (Clorox Greenworks All Purpose Spray) and Staples Sustainable Earth Brand (Sustainable Earth All Purpose spray) average 14 cents per ounce. The cost of the average glass cleaner is 10 cents per ounce, the same cost per ounce for Sustainable Earth's alternative.
Other factors to weigh when comparing price include the concentration of the cleaner. Sustainable Earth makes a Neutral Cleaner concentrate that will yield up to 257 gallons of cleaner when mixed with tap water for only $29.99, less than 12 cents a gallon. Compare that to the average price per gallon ($15.48) for a regular gallon of pre-mixed all-purpose cleaner on Staples.com and, as long as you're willing to buy in bulk and mix the cleaner yourself, it's really no comparison.
What about when it comes to paper products used to clean offices, like hard wound/roll paper towels? The average hardwound paper towel costs 1.2 cents per foot, while the costs of green alternatives from Envision Recycled, Scott, Kleenex and Sustainable Earth actually average 1.1 cents per foot. But it's not just the price of green and non-green paper towels that can affect the overall cost and impact on the environment. Consider too, the way paper towels are distributed. According to CleanLink.com, the most cost-effective towels are hard wound/roll towels, as they "feature controlled portion dispensing, which reduces consumption because folded systems allow users to take more towels than are required."
While there are many factors to consider when purchasing cleaning supplies, including price, labor costs, distribution method and employee safety, in most cases green cleaning supplies match the traditional offerings in value and performance.