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
January 31, 2012 5:28 pm
Flu season is no joke. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this cyclical virus affects as much as 20 percent of the U.S. population each year.
So my attention was drawn to advice from cleaning experts at The Maids, who remind homeowners that while they may already be armed with an array of physical preventatives—from flu-shots to Emergen-C, neti-pots and home remedies—they may not be doing everything it takes to stop the flu from spreading.
The Maids make it a policy to clean for health year-round, and recommend the following tips to stop the flu from invading your home:
• Wash your hands regularly in warm soapy water. For quick clean-up, use antibacterial hand sanitizer. Make an effort not to touch your mouth or nose without first washing your hands.
• Wear rubber gloves when cleaning household items to protect yourself.
• Spray disinfecting spray on a cloth, or use antibacterial wipes on toys, doorknobs, appliance handles, keyboards, remote controls, light switches, phones and facial tissue box covers. Viruses can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.
• Wash items like towels and bedding in hot water with soap if someone has been sick in the home. Be sure not to share these items until they are thoroughly cleaned.
• Change vacuum bags monthly, or even more frequently.
• Boil toothbrushes for one minute in water and vinegar, run through a dishwasher cycle or purchase new brushes.
• Wash mop heads in a solution of ¼ cup bleach and one gallon water, dry thoroughly, then store. Not only will mop heads pick up germs and dirt, but they also can also grow mold and mildew if they don’t dry out completely.
• Disinfect the bathroom and kitchen, especially the faucet and toilet handles, daily. The kitchen and bathroom are the most used rooms in the home and possibly the most contaminated.
Here's to a flu-free winter for all!
January 30, 2012 7:20 pm
In December, I declared 2012 would be the 'Year of the Rehab.' But it is also important to remember that whether you're engaging in a major construction project, changing a light bulb, or warming up a hot cup of soup, keeping safe at home should be your ultimate goal 24/7.
That brings us to a new reminder from the National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org) and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors phoenix-society.org. Those agencies are partnering up and urging the public to be cautious when handling hot liquids and soups.
According to a study released by the Journal of Burn Care & Research, prepackaged microwavable soups, especially noodle soups, are a frequent cause of scald burn injuries. And scalding is the second leading cause of burn injuries in children, older adults and people with disabilities.
To help prevent scald injuries, the NFPA and Phoenix Society offer these safety tips:
• Teach children that hot things can burn.
• Test the water at the faucet. It should be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).
• Always supervise a child in or near a bathtub. Before placing a child in the bath or getting in the bath yourself, test the water. Test the water by moving your hand, wrist and forearm through the water. The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch.
• Place hot liquids and food in the center of a table or toward the back of a counter.
• Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried. Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
• Allow microwaved food to cool before eating and open it slowly, away from the face.
• Choose prepackaged soups whose containers have a wide base or, to avoid the possibility of a spill, pour the soup into a traditional bowl after heating.
• Treat a burn right away. Cool the burn with cool water for 3-5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help if needed.
For more tips view the NFPA’s scald prevention tip sheet at nfpa.org/safetytips.
January 30, 2012 7:20 pm
Clipping coupons and using promo codes are two ways the average shopper can save money on grocery bills and other commodities. But for smartphone users and the app-happy, says U.S. News and World Report, there are newer ploys for saving cash as you shop.
Here are six shopping habits the cyber-savvy should adopt:
• Compare prices with shopping apps – With Amazon’s shopping app, you can compare prices at multiple stores simply by scanning a bar code or doing a product search from your smart phone or tablet. Amazon also works with independent sellers who may be offering lower prices than retail merchants— so it pays to comparison shop.
• Keep up with Facebook deals – More and more retailers are posting Facebook-only deals and special offers on their Facebook page throughout the week. Check your News Feed now and then to take advantage of such offers.
• Subscribe to local daily deal sites – Besides the major daily deal sites, which post great deals on travel packages and luxury goods, there are dozens of smaller daily deal sites specific to your local area. Check your local newspaper's shopping section for information on local deals and do an online search for deal sites specific to your city. You may be rewarded with deep discounts on a variety of goods and services.
• Use online coupons to stockpile – Search for printable online coupons for products you use on a regular basis and use them to buy in bulk—taking advantage of double coupon and in-store coupon offers—whenever these items go on sale.
• Read online reviews and testimonials – Save money and make better buying decisions by doing a search for unbiased online reviews, recommendations, and testimonials from your peers on Facebook. This can be especially helpful—and save you money on return shipping costs—if you like to buy online.
• Join the less-cyber savvy in checking receipts – Mistakes can be made and scanners are not always accurate, so do as all smart shoppers do and watch the cash register as prices are rung up. Then check receipts carefully to be sure no errors have been made and you have received all the discounts you are entitled to.
January 30, 2012 7:20 pm
Heating your home during the colder months uses a large percentage of the energy you use throughout the entire year.
And with winter weather finally setting in, most of us are likely to crank up the temperature indoors to ward off the cold outdoors.
But at a time of year when many of us are already stretched against a difficult financial climate and high energy prices, how many of us can really afford to have the heating on all the time?
The follow advice, offered by Glow-Worm heating, can help you get the best from your heating systems during the cold winter months.
Ensuring your heating system is running efficiently and that you are not wasting any energy can therefore help you to make big savings on your fuel bills.
"Accurately sizing a new or replacement boiler is very important. But it's also very important for homeowners to ensure their whole heating system is working as efficiently as possible. This may mean new or replacement radiators, controls, under floor heating or even investment in renewable technology,” says Pippa Wibberley, commercial director at Glow-worm.
Program it. Many people believe that keeping their heating on all day, even when out, is more efficient as it will take less energy to bring their home up to the desired temperature.
In fact, a far more efficient way to heat your home is to program your system to operate when you need it most. This helps to create a more efficient heating system which can deliver significant savings on household energy bills.
Radiator rules. Your heating professional may suggest installing thermostatic radiator valves. This means applying a valve to each radiator, which will control the temperature of a room by regulating the flow of hot water to the radiator. If a room is not used, then the thermostatic radiator valve can also be turned off completely.
Check it out. It's important to arrange an annual maintenance check for your boiler and central heating system. A check-up can sometimes seem unnecessary when nothing is broken, but your service engineer can help to ensure that everything is in good working order and reduce the risk of any breakdowns during the cold snaps of winter. It's also very important to get your boiler serviced annually as in many cases, you will need to do this to keep your manufacturers warranty valid.
January 30, 2012 7:20 pm
Recent news is reporting lower unemployment and a slow growth in the economy, but forecasters warn of a steady rise to consumer debt. The average household in America is still burdened with just over $15,000 in overall credit card debt. While credit card debt is still the main culprit of debt advice seekers, student loans are on the rise, reporting the second most frequent form of debt. Regardless of what kind of debt is strapping consumers, many feel they are without options in this current debt-ridden climate.
Make Sure You Have a Plan
It was Harry Truman who spoke about a plan, "make no small plans, instead, make 1 big plan and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." You are going to get out of debt, but you most certainly need a plan. If you are going to take on your debts, you must be honest with yourself and know your weaknesses. If you are eating out too much, acknowledge it and cut back. If shopping spending sprees are impulsive and out of control, either cut yourself off cold turkey or set a monthly budget as a precaution and do not exceed it. Simple lifestyle acknowledgements will allow you to tackle your debts more effectively.
Look Into Debt Relief Options
Debt negotiation is an alternative to bankruptcy that can help eliminate one's debts. In short, an agent from one of these companies will intercede with the various creditors of the debtor, making the payment schedule easier for the consumer. Laws and regulations surrounding debt negotiation have recently changed making it more reliable than before.
Debt consolidation is another option you may want to consider. By consolidating your debt, make one low monthly payment instead of several. Unlike credit cards, the interest rate for debt consolidation is tax deductible and can even improve your credit rating because you are essentially paying off higher interest debt faster.
Credit counseling and debt management are further options for those in debt and focus on the interest rate. By working with a non-profit consumer credit counselor, creditors often lower the overall interest rate, waive late fees, and attempt to bring your debts current.
January 30, 2012 7:20 pm
Usury. Charging a higher rate of interest on a loan than is legally allowed.
January 30, 2012 7:20 pm
Q: What are closing costs?
A: Closing, or settlement, costs are expenses over and above the price of the property. Both the buyer and seller incur some of these expenses when transferring ownership of a property. Who actually pays, however, often depends on local custom and what the buyer or seller negotiates. Closing costs normally include title insurance, loan points, escrow or closing day charges, property taxes, and document fees. The lender provides an estimate of closing costs for prospective homebuyers.
January 27, 2012 5:14 pm
Outdoor kitchens have been a growing trend over the past few years, and one of the top accessories gracing these outdoor eating arenas has been wood-fried ovens. Now, the trend is coming indoors.
A wood burning oven—which can be used for all sorts of cooking and baking, from pizza to pie to bread—can amp up kitchen creativity, draw in family and friends and allow you to try a variety of new food.
There are two types of wood-fired ovens: "black ovens," also known as “Roman ovens,” are heated by burning wood in the same chamber as your food
In contrast, “White ovens” are heated by heat transfer from a separate combustion chamber so your oven (and your food) stays ash-free.
January 27, 2012 5:14 pm
Tip 1: Identify three experienced agents who are familiar with your neighborhood. Look for agents who have “for sale” signs placed in your neighborhood. Ask each to prepare a market analysis (how much is it worth?) and a marketing plan (how do you plan to market my home?). Ask lots of questions about both. Include the main points of your marketing plan in your listing agreement so that all parties will know what is to be expected (i.e. frequency of ads and the publications/websites where they’ll appear, frequency of open houses, etc.). Limit the length of the listing—two months or less is good, but no more than three months. If the agent is doing his/her job as set out in the listing agreement you can always renew the listing when it expires. If they’re not producing results you’ll be able to document the reasons if you decide to cancel the listing early or be able to show them why you aren’t renewing the listing with them.
Tip 2: Price your property realistically, especially in slow markets. When markets are slow buyers are psychologically unprepared to overpay—and they apply stringent standards of value. They will heavily discount many expensive and unusual improvements unless they appeal very strongly to their own personal tastes.
Tip 3: Consider providing owner financing if you can, but be cautious. If you can provide some financing, even if it’s a small second trust, you may be offering ‘the’ deal maker. At the same time you can often earn a considerably higher interest rate than you would have earned with the same money otherwise. Caution: Fluctuating real estate markets can wipe out your security in the event of foreclosure. Foreclosures cost money and a second trust only gets paid after the first mortgage is satisfied, and then only if there's money remaining from the sale. Make sure to run a credit check on the buyer and make sure that they put up a substantial down payment if you’re providing owner financing.
Tip 4: Make sure you don’t prematurely give away any bargaining leverage. All home purchase agreements must be in writing to be binding. If someone asks if you would take a specific lower figure and you agree, that’s not an enforceable contract. All you have done is to lower your asking price. The correct response should be “I’ll consider all written offers.”
Courtesy of the American Homeowners Foundation and the American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, www.AmericanHomeowners
January 27, 2012 5:14 pm
Jane was not looking forward to going through her parents’ belongings to get their house ready to sell. Their health had been failing for some time and they finally agreed to move to a retirement community. Now that they were both comfortably moved into their new apartment, it was up to Jane to get rid of the things they no longer needed.
Her parents had lived in the same house for more than 50 years, so Jane expected to find things that should have been tossed out years ago. But she was amazed to discover 50 years of tax returns and bank statements carefully stored in boxes in the attic. Her parents had saved all their financial records!
Many people are confused about what records they need to keep and for how long. They hold onto tax returns, bank records, brokerage statements and other financial information simply because they don’t know if they’ll need it again. Like Jane’s parents, the documents get packed in boxes that eventually take over valuable living or storage space.
Financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning (www.TheNewThreeLeggedStool.com), says tax time is a great time to get organized.
“Most people are going through their records to get ready to file their return,” he says. “This is the time to get smart about what you need to keep and then set up a system to store it efficiently going forward.”
Rodgers suggests these five steps to help you effectively organize your finances for 2012 and beyond:
1. Out with the old – Discard the records you no longer need: Tax returns older than seven years; bank records and credit card statements that are not related to the tax returns you’re keeping; brokerage statements that aren’t related to purchases of current holdings. Be sure to shred all your old documents before throwing them out.
2. Go digital – Convert the documents you plan to save into digital images that are stored on your hard drive. Invest in a good scanner and scan as you go through your paperwork, shredding and tossing the hard copies as you go. On your computer, file by tax year, so your 2011 folder will contain your tax return for 2011 and all pertinent bank records and receipts. Organize the previous six years the same way. Next year you can delete the oldest folder when you add the 2012 folder.
3. Save a forest – All of the financial institutions you deal with would prefer to send your statements electronically. Stop receiving paper statements. Instead, download your statements electronically and store them in your new filing system. Most banks and credit card companies keep at least a year’s worth of statements available. You need to download these files only once a year to complete the year’s file.
4. Save backups in case of emergency – Make backup copies of your files on a CD. Choose a CD-R (recordable) as opposed to a CD-RW (rewriteable), because CD-R cannot accidentally be overwritten. Depending on your computer operating system, you may be able to continue adding data to a CD-R each year, until the CD is full. However, some operating systems won’t allow that, so you’ll need a new CD for each year.
5. Go paperless – Your new electronic filing system can be expanded to include all your financial records, from car maintenance receipts to pay stubs. Wills and insurance policies can also be scanned and stored but, of course, keep the originals of those in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe.
Gone are the days of saving your financial documents in box and shoving it into the attic. Technology advances have made organizing your personal finances easier with minimal cost. Make 2012 the year you get organized by moving your finances into a 21st century filing system.
For more information, visit www.rodgersspeaks.com.