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 23, 2012 6:58 pm
A: With a refinancing, you pay off an old loan on your home and take out a new one, usually at a lower mortgage interest rate. To refinance, you will generally need to have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income. You can borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs, debt consolidate, and college tuition.
When you refinance, you will incur all the closing costs that go along with getting a new mortgage. So unless you are doing extensive renovations and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points below your current loan rate, you may want to select another financing option.
May 22, 2012 6:48 pm
In our last segment, I began exploring the many ways new green building systems are being exposed to the mainstream as part of Epcot's VISION House, where millions have an opportunity to explore the major themes of whole-home automation, energy generation and efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality and high-performance materials and durability.
We previously revealed how home sprinklers can help protect the environment, as well as save lives. Now, we will take a look at how a new roofing product from a Roswell, Ga. based company called Boral is also hard at work reducing carbon emissions that have such a negative impact on public health and air quality.
VISION House utilizes BoralPure "Smog-Eating Tile," a first of-its-kind product in sustainable concrete roofing tiles that reduces the formation of smog. The revolutionary Smog-Eating Tile can be installed on both new residential and commercial buildings, as well as re-roofing projects.
According to information available at the Epcot exhibit, in one year, 2,000 square feet of Boral Smog-Eating Tile mitigates the same amount of nitrogen oxide—a major component of smog—produced by one car driving up to 10,800 miles.
The smog eating technology works via a catalyst embedded in the upper portion of the roof tile. When exposed to sunlight it speeds up oxidization reducing nitrogen oxide, which can be generated from fossil fuel burning processes resulting from operation of motor vehicles.
Working much like a catalytic converter in a car, the Boral tile incorporates a photo catalytic agent, titanium dioxide, to break down nitrogen oxide molecules and significantly reduce their impact on the environment.
Nitrogen oxide molecules can cause respiratory diseases along with permanent damage to plants and trees.
For more information on Boral Roofing and its clay and concrete roof tile systems, visit BoralNA.com.
May 22, 2012 6:48 pm
These days, most people are looking for bargains. But, says personal finance blogger Len Penzo, a bargain may depend on your definition. A lower-than-usual price on an item you use regularly might certainly be a bargain. A cheaper ‘knock-off’ of that same item may not be – especially if it wears out more quickly.
For those for whom the bottom line is almost always about price, here are Penzo’s recommendations regarding things that are worth paying more for:
• Bed sheets – Considering that we spend about a third of our lives in bed, you’ll be more comfy with soft, breathable cotton sheets than with cheaper, rougher synthetics.
• Non-stop flights – They’re not always easy to find, but they may be worth paying more for to arrive fresher and more relaxed at the end of a long journey.
• Coffee – for brewing at home, a good brand generally taste better than a store brand or even some well-known brands. If you find one you like, stick to it.
• Carpet padding – a thicker carpet pad will not only provide more comfort, but can extend the life of your carpet.
• Toilet paper – There are plenty of cheap brands, but the expensive brands get the job done better, so you may be using less of it in the long run.
• Shoes – a good, comfortable pair of shoes will likelier avoid blisters and sore feet and outlast a cheaper pair.
• Clothing – Cheaper clothes are okay for kids, who outgrow them soon enough. For adults, a few, good quality pieces will endure the tests of time and changing fashions far better than cheaper wannabes.
• Tools – Good quality tools, especially those with a lifetime guarantee of repair or replacement, will likely last as lifetime without needing repair or replacement.
• Internet service – It’s worth paying more for blazing fast connection, which you often do not get from a bargain service – but you may need to check them out to see the difference.
• A nice neighborhood – Especially if you are raising a family, it may be worth giving up some square footage or other amenities in order to live in a better neighborhood.
May 22, 2012 6:48 pm
As the economy improves, consumers are hitting the road and increasing their summer vacation budgets, with 53 percent planning to spend more than $1,500 compared to 39 percent in 2011. Orbitz surveyed nearly 1,000 U.S. travelers about their summer travel plans and of those surveyed 77 percent are taking a vacation this summer, with more than half (56 percent) planning to travel by car and 39 percent by air. The majority of consumers (60 percent) said gas prices will be a factor in where they travel this summer.
Based on the Orbitz survey, more consumers are planning to travel in July (31 percent) rather than in June (18 percent) or August (20 percent) with the rest of travelers still undecided. With increased airfares and hotel rates this summer, researching deals and being flexible on travel dates can stretch summer vacation budgets.
"Hotel prices in many of the most popular destination this summer are cheaper in June vs. July, including those in eight of the Orbitz top 10 summer destinations," says Jeanenne Tornatore, Senior Editor of Orbitz.com. "Travelers that can be flexible on travel dates should consider a June getaway when daily hotel rates are 6 percent less expensive, on average."
3 Tips to Avoiding the Budget Barrier
Consumers should not let budgets be the barrier to taking a more than memorable vacation this summer. For those looking to take a fabulous vacation without stretching their finances, Tornatore shares a few summer budget travel tips:
• Follow the sale. Even with rising travel costs this year, summer promotions and deals are plentiful.
• Search all nearby airports and consider traveling on off-peak days and times to help curb higher airfare costs. Expanding search options to include airports within a reasonable radius to departure and arrival destinations will provide more flight and price options. Also, traveling on off-peak days such as early in the week versus the weekend will save consumers green this summer.
• Book a package deal. Avoid a la carte booking and combine air, hotel and car together to optimize savings.
Additional Findings from the Orbitz Summer Travel Survey
• More travelers feel guilty about leaving behind their pet (33 percent) than their children (30 percent) when they go on vacation.
• Americans wish the U.S. would follow Europe's suit regarding paid time off, with 44 percent of survey respondents believing the government should mandate companies to offer at least four weeks of vacation per year.
• Nearly half (47 percent) of survey respondents are getting summer travel ideas through social media platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest.
• 54 percent of consumers said they would attend the Summer Olympics in London this year if money were no object.
• The majority of consumers plan to travel domestically (81 percent), but more consumers are planning to travel internationally this year (19 percent vs. 11 percent in 2011).
May 22, 2012 6:48 pm
(ARA) - It's moving season. In a buyer-friendly market, home shoppers can be pretty particular in their search for a dream home. Increasingly, buyers are seeking flawless, move-in ready homes, and while traditional home inspections are a must-have, something equally important lurking beneath homes often goes overlooked.
A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection and is regularly waived in the purchasing process. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Buyers should reconsider including this important step before they sign a deal.
If a problem occurs, a sewer line replacement costs at least $4,500, but prices vary widely and costs increase dramatically by region, depending on depth and length of the underground pipes and if street repairs become part of the issue.
"Just a couple of years after purchasing our home, we had a $15,000 sewer line disaster in our lap," says Jennifer Schappacher of Cincinnati. "The sewer line clogs began not long after we moved in.”
The Schappachers looked at only a few houses before deciding on one in a quiet shady neighborhood. It was charming with large, mature trees that shaded the entire street. But since the house was built in 1959, its concrete and clay underground sewer pipes were vulnerable to heavy root intrusion from the big trees. As those roots entered the pipe joints in search of water, they pushed the pipes apart and allowed surrounding soil to spill into the pipe, narrowing a 6 inch diameter pipe to just 1 inch in some sections.
Generally, a plumber can complete a sewer line camera inspection for $250 to $550, depending on the region. While not cheap, it's a relatively small price to pay when buying a home, especially if it helps a buyer avoid thousands of dollars in unforeseen repair bills.
To avoid unexpected and costly plumbing problems, have a plumber conduct a video camera sewer line inspection, in addition to a standard home inspection, before buyers purchase a home. The process involves passing a waterproof fiber optic video camera through the pipe. The specialized cameras are equipped with bright LED lights so the inspection will reveal any cracks, breaks, offset or collapsed sections of pipe. The plumber will often provide a DVD copy of the inspection as part of the service.
"Sewer inspection camera equipment is expensive and often is only utilized by well-equipped plumbing companies, but the video inspection service itself is easy to complete and well worth the extra step," says Roto-Rooter master plumber Larry Rothman.
Root growth is the most common cause of sewer line damage and is often responsible for blockages and separated pipe sections. Outdated and eroding pipe materials are also a common culprit in sewer line deterioration. Older pipes are much more susceptible to root intrusion than new plastic pipe.
Inspections are especially important if:
* The home is 20 years or older.
* There are mature trees around the property.
* The home has been vacant for a period of time.
* The concrete surrounding the home is cracked or raised.
* There is considerable visible root growth in the yard.
May 22, 2012 6:48 pm
Freddie Mac. Common name for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, which buys and sells loans in the secondary mortgage market.
May 22, 2012 6:48 pm
A: The interest rate on a purchase money note is negotiable, as are the other terms in a seller-financed transaction. To get an idea about what to charge, sellers can check with a lender or mortgage broker to determine current mortgage rates on loans, including second mortgages. Most interest rates, however, are generally influenced by current Treasury bill and certificate of deposit rates.
Because sellers, unlike conventional lenders, do not charge loan fees or points, seller-financed costs are generally less than those associated with conventional home loans.
Understandably, most sellers are not open to making a loan for a lower return than could be invested at a more profitable rate of return elsewhere. So the interest rates they charge may be higher than those on conventional loans, and the length of the loan shorter, anywhere from five to 15 years.
May 21, 2012 6:44 pm
On Earth Day, I learned about the VISION House in INNOVENTIONS at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort. Inspired by Green Builder Media’s VISION House home series, guests can explore the major themes of whole-home automation, energy generation and efficiency, water conservation, indoor environmental quality and high-performance materials and durability.
In the next couple of segments, we'll take a look at some of the most advanced systems on display at VISION House.
The most curious collaboration has to be with the National Fire Protection Association, whose innovative exhibit showcases home fire sprinklers as an important addition to the home. Through this partnership with Green Builder Media, NFPA President Jim Shannon hopes to educate visitors on the key environmental benefits of sprinklers.
It's a startling fact, but Shannon says greenhouse gases released by burning buildings can be reduced by 98 percent when automatic fire sprinklers are installed.
The study, conducted for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (homefiresprinklers.org) also found that automatic sprinklers can make a favorable global or environmental impact because they reduce fire damage up to 97 percent; reduce water usage to fight a home fire by upwards of 90 percent; and reduce the amount of water pollution released in the environment.
The VISION House role is tied to the NFPA's coordinated effort to encourage the use of home fire sprinklers through the “Bringing Safety Home” initiative, which includes a variety of proven, effective ways that home fire sprinkler advocates can communicate the impact of sprinklers.
Among the most important stats - the NFPA points out that:
• If you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.
• People in homes with sprinklers are protected against significant property loss—sprinklers reduce the average property loss by about 71 percent per fire.
• Home sprinkler systems respond quickly to reduce the heat, flames, and smoke from a fire, giving families valuable time to get to safety.
• Roughly 85 percent of the time, just one sprinkler operates.
May 21, 2012 6:44 pm
We have all heard stories about average people who made it big in one field or another and became super-rich. Finance writer Farnoosh Torabi, writing for Yahoo! Finance, interviewed a score of now-wealthy Americans to get a bead on how they went from rags to riches.
From Torabi’s research, here are five simple but telling traits and everyday habits of the very wealthy that may help you in your quest for financial independence:
1. Street smarts count – Many of today’s wealthiest Americans were not intellectually gifted or academically inclined. In fact, it is often the goof-off or the class cut-up whose active imagination and gut feeling leads to a bright idea or product that winds up making a fortune. Schooling should never be ignored, most maintain – but trusting your gut will almost always open the door to success.
2. Identify and act on opportunity – The rich are reportedly always looking around for the next big idea – like a fun gadget, or a new use for land or equipment in what is normally is ‘off-season.’ But coming up with the idea is just the beginning. True entrepreneurs, most say, will act on the idea and find a way to bring it to fruition.
3. Enjoy your money – While saving is a key habit of successful people amassing riches, many wealthy entrepreneurs recommend putting away half of each little windfall and spending the other half on something fun, like a vacation. Enjoying your money is instrumental is keeping oneself motivated to keep achieving, according to many of those surveyed.
4. Prioritize retirement saving – While putting the kids through college is a worthy goal, saving for your own retirement is primary for the wealthy. The thinking is, it’s okay to take out a loan for college, but there is no loan you can take out retirement.
5. Eliminate self-doubt – No matter how intimidated they may feel by people who are smarter or wealthier, successful people believe in themselves and have a core belief that that they have the right to be wealthy, too.
May 21, 2012 6:44 pm
(ARA) - Summer means longer days, warmer temperatures, and more time spent outdoors. The pleasant weather brings more opportunities to improve your lifestyle and start a new commitment to wellness. With a few tips, you can be on your way to fit and fun summer living.
1. Eat fresh. Summer is prime time for fresh produce, and incorporating fruits and vegetables into your daily menus is a delicious way to a fit lifestyle. Visit your local farmer’s market and stock up on fresh produce. Serve more veggies with every meal, and think cool, refreshing smoothies for snacks!
2. Move it. Getting fit doesn't need to mean hours at the gym, especially during these warmer months. Simple activities like going for a bike ride or taking your dog for a walk are great ways to get moving while also enjoying the outdoors. Swimming is a great low-impact, full-body exercise that lets you work out while cooling off. Or try another sport that you wouldn't be able to participate in during winter, such as golf, outdoor basketball, or beach volleyball. Making an activity part of your routine is a great way to keep at it, so set aside a window of time for exercise each day. Take advantage of the warm weather and get moving outdoors for a fit and fun-filled summer.
3. Relax. Summer is the perfect opportunity to unwind and treat yourself to some "me" time. Focus on doing things you enjoy, such as finishing that book you've been reading for months, learning to play tennis or how to surf, or simply basking in the sunshine. Whatever you choose, make time each week to let go and de-stress. Summer is a popular season for vacations to the beach and other outdoor destinations, but you can also find tranquility in your own backyard. Meditation and yoga are calming activities that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, too.
4. Sleep. You can improve your lifestyle even when you're not awake. Good sleep habits are essential to physical and mental well-being, and inadequate rest can curtail your efforts to eat right and exercise. Muscles need time to repair and regenerate after working hard, making proper rest a vital component of any fitness routine. Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, adding fans or blankets as needed, and remove or turn off bright lights and electronic screens. Get into a nightly routine, and try not to eat or exercise for at least an hour prior to going to sleep. When you're well-rested and rejuvenated, the other aspects of your improved lifestyle will be even more enjoyable and effective.
With a few lifestyle adjustments, you'll be on your way to happy, healthy summer living.