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
April 17, 2012 5:14 pm
If you get a tax refund, what will you do with it? This year, one in two Americans receiving a tax refund (50 percent) say they plan to spend the extra money on bills or other household expenses, as opposed to vacations (15 percent), leisure activities (8 percent) or gifts (4 percent), according to a recent poll from Cricket Communications.
The survey also noted that more than three-quarters (78 percent) of Americans receiving their refund will be "smarter" about how they spend it, with more than half (55 percent) pledging they are more likely to use refund dollars on practical "needs" instead of "wants."
To give you tips on stretching tax refund dollars, Cricket has partnered with certified financial planner and savings expert Robert Pagliarini, author of "The Other 8 Hours," and "The Six-Day Financial Makeover."
• Set up an emergency fund - Stocking away six to twelve months of expenses can really help if you find your home equity line of credit has been reduced -- or you face unexpected medical fees arise.
• Open a 529 college savings plan - According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of a college education continues to rise every year. Between 1999-2000 and 2009-10, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 37 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 25 percent, after adjustment for inflation. Planning early and setting aside money for college now is the most important thing you can do for your children's collegiate success.
• Seek out classes to boost budgeting skills - Taking a refresher course at a community college or neighborhood center can help boost financial planning skills that you currently have or help you learn a new one.
• Research the best deals on monthly expenses - There are expenses you will incur each month, such as food, transportation and cell phone costs, which are easy to re-evaluate and cut -- as long as you do the right research. For example, choosing a pre-paid wireless provider such as Cricket will help you save hundreds of dollars each year, without sacrificing all of the fun apps, games and music that your family enjoys. Cricket has the latest devices with a no-contract plan that includes unlimited talk, text and data for less than half what you'd end up paying at a larger wireless provider.
April 17, 2012 5:14 pm
Q: What are the benefits of having a co-op?
A: In addition to being able to take advantage of tax deductions, the National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) says shareholders will find that co-ops have low turnover rates, lower real estate tax assessments, reduced maintenance costs, resident participation and control, and the ability to prevent absentee and investor ownership.
Also attractive: housing cooperatives come in all shapes, sizes, and types. They include townhouses, mid-and high-rise apartments, garden apartments, single-family homes, mobile home parks, artists’ cooperatives, and senior housing.
For more information about co-ops contact NAHC at (202) 737-0797, or log on to www.coophousing.org.
April 16, 2012 7:14 pm
I recently looked over the earthy and Easter egg varieties of new colors that designers and DIY-ers will be slapping on this season. From chili pepper oranges and yellows to cool grays or blues, there's plenty to soothe or stimulate.
Don't just say blue. sample deep cobalt blue or blue green shades of peacock and turquoise. Even neutrals are spicier this year, with khaki and gold standing in for black and white.
Gray is popular, as are the nearly neutrals, like lilac tones. These purples are so subtle that they look gray, with reds so deep they look brown.
Pantone’s Chicago unveiling of the Spring/Summer 2012 Color Trends Report revealed nine palettes for 2012: Nonchalance, Subtleties, Resilience, Indigo Effects, and Transcending Time, Back to the Fuchsia, Reflections, Nouveau Neon and The Comics.
Anyone looking to paint on the cutting edge of the latest color schemes can match their mood to any of the appropriate Pantone offerings:
Nonchalance – These are easy to read and enjoy, according to Pantone. The reassuring colors coax a feeling of tranquility and relaxation with no suggestion of anxiety in the surroundings. The comforting pastel pinks, ethereal blues and soft egret white wrap us in carefree baby blanket colors, harmoniously blending with the more mature taupe, gray and grape tones.
Resilience – This represents a group of sturdy hues that work very well together. It speaks of hand-hewn objects of substance, sustenance and solidity in a range of natural, outdoor shades. There are nuances of the deepest browns, varietal mushroom tones, foliage green and greenish yellow. A dash of flamingo orange adds an exotic touch to this otherwise organic grouping.
Indigo Effects – These shades evoke a mood of broad expansiveness and depth – enveloping and protective, yet mysterious. The colors are variations on a blue theme – celestial and majestic blues, purpled and deep blue indigos – all deftly brushed with contrasting strokes of maroon, mauve and moody gray.
Metallics – These are taking the lead in a season in which modern materials are key. Transparent plastics and highly polished surfaces like lacquer and polished metals are everywhere, but you’ll see them in combination with vintage looks.
April 16, 2012 7:14 pm
Spring brings many new beginnings, especially around the home, as people look to freshen up their living spaces this season.
In fact, seven out of 10 homeowners are planning home improvement projects, with nearly half (49 percent) citing painting as the most-desired need, followed by landscaping at 47 percent and remodeling a room at 29 percent, according to the 2012 Spring Home Improvement Survey conducted by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and Sherwin-Williams.
"We know people are looking for more cost-effective ways to enhance their space," says Paul Zuch, certified remodeler and NARI chairman. "Some of the most impactful transformations for a room are economical projects like painting, resurfacing cabinets or changing kitchen or bathroom hardware. But it is important for consumers to use quality materials to make it worth the investment. While it's tempting to go easy on the wallet, spending a little more on quality products saves money in the long run."
"Painting can add energy and liven up any home—whether it is revamping the bedroom, giving new life to an old piece of furniture or staining the deck," says Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing, Sherwin-Williams.
The Spring Home Improvement Survey also showed that seven out of 10 homeowners believe a room or area of their home is currently in need of painting. The top vote for a new coat of paint goes to bedrooms and bathrooms (both at 29 percent), and living or family rooms are next in line (28 percent).
April 16, 2012 7:14 pm
When a tree is planted between property lines, disputes may arise, and an otherwise neighborly relationship may be strained. Or perhaps a tree fell, and now no one knows who should cover the cost. From dangerous tree removal to the just plain annoying tree debris landing in the yard, there are ways to work out tree problems and maintain good neighborly relations.
Most shared tree problems fall into three main categories:
1. Hazardous Tree Removal: The neighbor's tree is dead, split or leaning. The homeowner next door wants the tree removed before it falls in the yard and perhaps hits the house or other property.
2. Property Damage: The neighbor’s tree has fallen and damaged property. Payment for tree removal service and damage repair is required.
3. Poor Maintenance: The tree is growing over the next door neighbor's roof. Debris keeps falling in the yard, pool or patio. The tree needs professional maintenance to resolve the problem.
“Don't touch a neighbor's tree,” advises Lou Giroud, ISA Certified Arborist and President, Giroud Tree and Lawn. “By law provided there is no trespassing, a homeowner has the right to take care of the portion of the tree on their property. However, to avoid conflict and potential legal issues, get the neighbor’s permission before taking any action.”
Here's how to proceed. “Start with an evaluation by an ISA Certified Arborist,” suggests Mr. Giroud. "Ask the Arborist to assess the situation and provide a recommendation in writing. Share the professional evaluation with your neighbor, especially if the tree is deemed a hazard and removal by a tree removal service is required.
The next step is to reach out to the neighbor. “In working with thousands of tree issues between neighbors,” explains Mr. Giroud, “I’ve found that the best results are gained through friendly communication.”
1. If the neighbor is approachable, call or visit. Schedule a time to talk about the tree problem. Calmly present the issue and share the recommendation from the tree service company. If the neighbor can’t pay for the work, offer to pay for it or share in the cost.
2. If the neighbor is never home, write a friendly letter explaining the concern and attach the Arborist’s recommendation.
3. If the neighbor doesn’t respond, send a certified letter. As a last resort, hire an attorney specializing in tree law.
Disputes with a neighbor can cause a lot of stress. An ISA Certified Arborist can evaluate the situation and help make the job of negotiating with a neighbor a little easier.
Source: Giroud Tree and Lawn, http://www.giroudtree.com.
April 16, 2012 7:14 pm
What is a QDRO? To those of us unversed in the common acronyms of divorce law, this means Qualified Domestic Relations Order. However, notes Find Law writer Andrew Chow, if you have a retirement account, and you're facing a divorce, you may quickly become quite familiar with this acronym.
Chow breaks down the basics of a QDRO, below:
A QDRO is a court order that allows an alternate payee— a spouse, an ex-spouse, a child, or some other dependent— to collect money from a retirement account. This may be needed for spousal or child support, for example. In some states, a retirement account may also be considered community property that must be divided upon divorce.
Because QDROs can be complicated, it's probably wise to consult an attorney experienced in dealing with them. But here is some basic information about QDROs:
What Qualifies as a QDRO?
In general, a QDRO is a court-issued judgment, order, or decree that formally approves a property-settlement agreement that involves a retirement plan. A QDRO must contain the following information:
• The name and last known mailing address of the participant, and each alternate payee;
• The name of each plan to which the order applies;
• The amount or percentage, or method for calculating the amount or percentage, to be paid to the alternate payee;
• The number of payments, or time period, covered by the QDRO.
How Does a QDRO Work?
A QDRO generally describes how retirement assets will be divided between the retirement plan's participant and his alternate payees. A QDRO is required for any retirement plan covered by ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
The plan's administrator must approve the QDRO, provided it meets certain requirements. QDRO transfers from a retirement account do not incur an early-withdrawal penalty.
How Do QDROs Get Drafted?
Plan administrators may provide QDRO forms that participants can fill out on their own. But because there are a number of legal requirements for what a QDRO must contain, it's probably best to speak with an attorney about drafting a QDRO that meets your specific needs.
April 16, 2012 7:14 pm
Deed. Written document that when executed and delivered conveys title to real property.
April 16, 2012 7:14 pm
Q: What should elderly homeowners consider when deciding to remodel?
A: According to the AARP, older homeowners prefer to age in place, meaning they want to live in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, despite age or ability level. To do so, many require a few modifications in the home to enhance maneuverability, including the installation of a private elevator and the addition of a bathroom and bedroom to the main level. A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) may prove helpful. CAPS professionals are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants who are trained in the unique needs of the elderly, Aging-in-place home modifications, common remodeling projects, and solutions to common barriers. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), together with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB Seniors Housing Council, and AARP, developed the CAPS program to address the growing number of consumers who will soon require modifications to their homes.
April 13, 2012 5:06 pm
Spring isn't just about flowers and rain showers, but it's also about decluttering our homes and embracing the good ole' tradition of spring cleaning.
Unfortunately, due to the labor intensive duties that go into many of our spring cleaning rituals, we run a high risk for injuries, especially if the proper safety precautions aren't taken.
"We all want a perfectly clean house with the snap of a finger, so we tend to rush through a numerous amount of burdensome tasks in a short period of time, and that's where we put ourselves at risk for injuries," says orthopedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Lana Kang, MD. "Whether it's a fall caused after making a wrong step on a ladder or straining a back muscle, it's best to pace yourself, complete one task at a time, and take regular breaks."
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, more than 35,500 people injured themselves using a stepladder.
Before creating your spring to-do list, make these spring cleaning safety tips a priority.
• Use proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending to avoid back injuries:
• Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart and keep your back upright and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles.
• Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; don't try to lift heavy objects by yourself.
• Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture—such as a chair or the couch—when dusting high hard to reach areas.
• Ladders used for chores—such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees—should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.
• Use care with extension cords: be sure they are properly grounded. To avoid tripping or falling, do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways.
• When working on a ladder, leaning too far to one side and reaching too far overhead can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder. Never climb a ladder without someone nearby who is able to spot you.
• Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – carefully look for others behind you when you do.
• Wear protective gear such as proper eyewear, footwear and thick, well-fitted gloves that serve as a layer of protection to minimize cuts, scratches, and chafing, or injury from dangerous chemicals.
• Read product labels for proper use of chemicals used for cleaning. Store all chemicals in places indicated on the package. This should be out-of-reach of both children and pets. Never place chemicals into unmarked containers or containers labeled for a different substance.
• Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration.
• Be sure to stretch your arms, back, shoulders, knees and hips before starting your cleaning.
• Keep a cell phone within reach in case of accident or injury.
April 13, 2012 5:06 pm
Spring is in full bloom—and so is the spring housing market! The last thing you need when prepping for an open house is odor or airborne pollen and dust, making your clean house seem dirty.
ABC The Chew correspondent and home expert, Evette Rios, knows how to keep a home fresh and clean for showing. She offers some of her top tips, below.
1. When to Go with the (Air) Flow
Rios points out that many don’t realize is that the EPA states that indoor air can be 5 to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. So if the day is nice and the pollen count is low, homeowners should consider opening their windows and doors to let fresh air circulate. On days when pollen is high, consider an air purifier. “Try the Honeywell AirGenius 5, which helps diminish odors and even helps reduce VOCs, airborne allergens, and airborne germs, which is key for families that spend a lot of time indoors,” says Rios, who also suggests using an air purifier when sleeping to keep lungs clear all night long.
2. What Your Fragrance Says about You
When you walk into a home, one of the first things that hits you is the smell, which can be a deal breaker if it’s an open house. Even if your home doesn’t have a strong odor (think kitty litter or last night’s dinner), a musty, dusty smell can still resonate. “Dust has a way of finding its way into the home and can start collecting as soon as you wipe your furniture, floors or countertops clean. Help reduce airborne dust particles with an air purifier,” says Rios, who also suggests using a fan to circulate stagnant indoor air while helping to eliminate odors.
3. Improving the “Ahh” Factor in Your Home
“If you live in an apartment building, air ducts between apartments can be carrying unfiltered air from your neighbor straight to you,” says Rios. “From cooking smells to viruses to pet dander – you name it – just imagine what could be passing through to your dwelling. Use an air purifier to help capture microscopic airborne allergens and help reduce odors in the air.”