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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Have a Safe Spring: Top Tips for Preventing a Robbery

March 23, 2012 4:02 pm

Robbery is one of the greatest fears for homeowners across the country, and when it occurs, can be financially and emotionally devastating for homeowners and their families. Yet most break-ins tend to be opportunistic, rather than pre-planned, meaning that implementing the simplest measures can help to deter criminals away from your home.

Common Sense
Keeping a spare key in a plant pot may seem like a handy back-up plan, but professional burglars know all of your hiding places. Make sure you store your keys away from the front or back door and keep any spare car keys in a concealed place. It's also important to remove temptation; keep valuables out of sight of the windows and make sure they are all closed and locked securely when you leave the house.

High quality locks on all of your doors and windows are extremely important and are usually a requirement for your home insurance.

Security Lights
Dark doorways and shadowy gardens make great hiding places for an opportunistic burglar. Cheap security lights are readily available from hardware shops and are easy to fit yourself. More expensive sensor lights will draw attention to any thieves watching your home, but are usually mains operated and need to be installed by a qualified electrician.

Cameras and Alarms
Video cameras will provide you with useful evidence after a theft, but they can also help prevent the crime in the first place. If you do have an alarm or cameras make sure you clearly display signs to let criminals know that they are being watched. No alarm? You can always invest in a dummy alarm box to deter opportunistic thieves.

Put yourself in the place of a potential burglar; what type of property would be easiest to target? An unoccupied one of course. Before going away for an extended period, cancel all deliveries to stop post and milk piling up in the doorway. Install plug timers to switch on lights and radios at random periods to create the illusion that someone is at home.


Planning a Trip? Be Wary of Vacation Scam Artists

March 23, 2012 4:02 pm

Spring often the time to plan your summer getaway. In an interview with Jay Kalin of Rent, Kalin cautions consumers—both travelers and property owners—to be on the lookout for scams that are linked to summer vacation rentals and vacations.

"Internet sites, or other online classified ads, are a popular place for consumers searching for last minute rentals or homeowners trying to earn more rental income during the summer vacation season," Kalin says. "Unfortunately, they are also popular with scam artists looking to lure unsuspecting consumers into their traps.

Technology, while a powerful and helpful resource, also makes it easy for thieves to copy photos and descriptions from legitimate vacation rental websites and create false Internet ads," Kalin says. "It is important for consumers to conduct thorough research before making any payments or committing to any plans."

Scammers will structure their ads in a way that forces consumers to respond quickly and often ask that rental payments be wire-transferred in order to guarantee reservations.

Here are a few of Kalin’s tips on screening your vacation home:

Before sending payment:
1. Vacationers can ask for a electric bill account number or copy from the owner and call the electric company to verify it by name and address.
2. Ask for their insurance and agent name, policy number and phone number. Check the number and address out and call the Insurance agent to verify owner and address.
3. Ask for a copy of the homeowner’s driver’s license.
4. Ask the homeowner for his property number at the assessment office for that area, and call for address verification and name.

Consumers should also be suspicious of vacation home listings that request detailed personal data, such as social security numbers or bank account information, which may be claimed is necessary to verify your credit worthiness as a renter. In reality, these listings are a type of "phishing" scheme, used by identity thieves to steal personal information.


Word of the Day

March 23, 2012 4:02 pm

Collateral. Something of value given or pledged to a lender as security for the repayment of a loan.

Question of the Day

March 23, 2012 4:02 pm

Q: How does refinancing work?

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're 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.

Get Creative with Wall Space

March 22, 2012 5:56 pm

I often find myself staring at the wall and thinking 'what if...?' So it was with great joy that I discovered a trove of tips and new posts about whipping one's walls into great shape at Ballard Designs this month.

According to the folks at Ballard, changing your wall decor can be the simplest, most affordable way to reinvent a room while making a statement about your personality. But before you get started, check out the following tips and tricks:

• As a general rule, hang any artwork so that the center point of the piece or grouping is at approximately eye level. You may want to consider hanging art slightly lower in a dining room, since guests will likely be sitting when looking at it.
• Test your imagined arrangement before putting hammer to nail by laying everything out on a table or on the floor. Move the pieces around until you have an arrangement that you like. Or lay the pieces on a large piece of kraft or wrapping paper, trace around each piece and mark the hanging points. Then, tape the paper to the wall and hammer in the nails. Remove the paper, and hang away.
• Art hung over a piece of furniture should not be wider than the width of the furniture. Generally art should be about 75 percent the width of the furniture.
• When hanging art over the fireplace, create a grouping about the same size as the fireplace opening. One large piece, or several small pieces that appear as one unit create a more memorable effect.
• When you are grouping four or more pieces, one above the other, consider a vertical line— the art should be visually balanced on both sides of an imaginary vertical line.
• When creating a cluster of items on a wall, make sure the pieces are similar either in color scheme, frame style, or subject matter.

For more ideas that will make you look like a decorating genius,  click here.

Handling Bad Checks: 3 Tips to Help You Collect

March 22, 2012 5:56 pm

Bad checks can be a huge hassle for small businesses, and not just because of lost revenue.’s Andrew Chow recently wrote on how to handle bad checks, as well as tips for accepting checks in general. 

“Bad checks generally fall into one of several categories: Insufficient funds, a closed account, stopped payment, or forgery,” wrote Chow, who explained that your options to pursue payback may include a civil lawsuit, or even a criminal complaint. 

Below are Chow’s top three tips to help kick-start your bad-check restitution case: 

1. Follow an established policy for check acceptance.
Experts recommend jotting down the customer's driver license number and phone number on the check. This gives investigators an additional way to track down the check writer, in case the check turns out to be a fraud.
Other good policies to follow include:
• Only accept checks with a complete address on the front—no P.O. Boxes.
• Only accept checks signed in your presence.
• Don't accept out-of-state checks. 

2. Notify the customer in writing.
Many states require a business owner to provide written notice to a customer who passed a bad check due to insufficient funds; written notice may also be required for other types of bad checks as well. This gives a customer time to correct an honest mistake. 

Check with your state's laws, or contact an attorney, to see what's required in a written notice where you live. 

3. Contact local prosecutors or an attorney.
If a customer fails to respond to a written notice—usually within 10 to 30 days—that generally opens the door to civil lawsuits, and perhaps criminal charges like theft or fraud. 

Some local jurisdictions have "bad check restitution programs" specifically to help small businesses collect on bad checks. Check with your local prosecutor's office, or consult a collections lawyer about which options apply in your bad-check restitution case. 


Fix Financial Clutter—for Good

March 22, 2012 5:56 pm

Properly managing financial paperwork can be a headache, but can prevent identity theft and provide proof of important transactions. However, seeing the benefits of document management is often easier than understanding what should be saved, how long it should be saved for, and what can be tossed. 

The following tips will help you weed through your money clutter: 

• Keep your documentation organized for easy reference in the event you need to access the paperwork. Consider creating files for pay stubs, tax filing information, warrantees, important receipts, and account statements.
• Take important documents—including home and car titles, social security cards and wills—to a bank safety deposit box for safe keeping. Be sure to keep a list of those documents at home, and note where the safety deposit box resides, in case of an emergency.
• Determine what documents should be kept over the long term, what should be saved over the short term, and what can be tossed. For instance, paperwork verifying tax deductions should be saved for seven years. In most instances, bank statements can be discarded after one year, as can pay stubs after verifying W-2 information is correct.
• Save space by scanning key documents and storing them on your computer, or on a portable storage device which could be kept in your safety deposit box.
• Finally, shred any documents with identifying or personal information prior to disposal. This will reduce your risk of identity theft and help keep your accounts secure. 

"Too many people learn too late that it's vital to save certain financial documentation, and M&I wants to prevent that," says Kara Kaiser, Regional President of M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "We want people to be financially savvy and prepared. Whether you need to prove contributions to an IRA or provide tax-related documentation to the IRS, organizing and managing your financial paperwork can reap dividends over the long term."


Word of the Day

March 22, 2012 5:56 pm

Closing statement. Written account of all expenses, adjustments, and disbursements received by the buyer and seller when completing a real estate transaction.

Question of the Day

March 22, 2012 5:56 pm

Q: Are impound accounts required for all mortgage loans?

A: They can typically be waived on a conventional loan if the loan amount is 80 percent or less of the purchase price. But the lender might charge you an additional 1/4 point for this option to waive the escrow.

One way to avoid an impound account on an owner-occupied mortgage is to raise your down payment amount slightly. The exact amount necessary to avoid the escrow will vary with the lender. 

In some states, lenders let buyers set up separate accounts in which they place specific funds and then pay the insurance and property taxes themselves. These are called pledge accounts, and they must be set up before you close on the home.

An impound account can usually be dropped on an owner-occupied loan once the loan-to-value ratio equals 80 percent or less. But restrictions apply: payments will have to be current and your record of making on-time payments pretty solid. Contact your lender if you meet these requirements and want to drop your impound account.

Top 5 Ways to Achieve Spring Decorating Success

March 21, 2012 5:52 pm

Spring is here and with it comes a natural urge to freshen up the lair where you've spent the past few dark winter months curled up eyeballing DIY cable shows, catalogs and color swatches. Yes, I know that nothing inspires decorating like turning that calendar page to April.

With this in mind, we'll spend some of our time this month looking at ways to spruce up your home and property, and maybe save a few dollars—or some major-league stress—in the process. So without further adieu, let’s turn to Decor & You Decorator Lynda Getz of Connecticut (

Getz says that people need to take a breath before they plunge into the choppy waters of a decorating project without an experienced guide. So Getz developed her top five decorating risks and potential blunders—which she shares freely.

Getz says many people are overwhelmed with the challenge of creating a great room. She suggests people consider the following list of risks and tips before they spend countless hours, money and time on a decorating project:

1. Color - Getz says colors can set a mood, energize and create an ambiance of warmth and tranquility in a room. But, there is a science behind creating the right tone, both in color and aura. There are important Color Theories to understand when developing a color plan for a home.

2. Lack of Time - The lack of time causes many to settle for less than an ideal outcome to their decorating projects. Getz warns you not to rush through decision-making when you want the results to last for many years.

3. Furniture Selection and Value Decisions - Safety and value are important considerations when purchasing furniture and accessories. It's hard to identify lesser quality or "curbside furniture" that will only last a few years, according to Getz.

4. Safety and Environmental Impact - Non-eco-friendly materials are being used in furniture today. Getz says formaldehyde and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are commonly used in imported furniture and will affect the air quality of any room and cause short-term and long-term health problems.

5. Missing Master Plan - Get it right the first time by developing a master plan that will compliment your own personal style, and save you both time and money. Getz' final word? Create the plan and then buy to the plan.

To learn more, check out Getz' website,

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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440

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