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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Word of the Day: Title

January 17, 2012 6:50 pm

Actual ownership; the right of possession; also the evidence of ownership such as a deed or bill of sale.
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Question of the Day:

January 17, 2012 6:50 pm

Q: What do zoning regulations do?

A: Zoning is the government’s way of controlling the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put.

Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes – although they also can allow for more than one use in a given jurisdiction.

Designed to protect you, your neighbors, and the community from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws in many communities can be very rigid and inflexible.

On the other hand, they can protect your property value and give you a piece of mind. This is particularly true in instances where the community debates whether to locate a prison in your neighborhood or a neighbor illegally builds a second story onto his home that blocks your view of the lake or mountains.

Before you begin any remodeling jobs, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project.
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Use Lighting to Makeover a Room

January 16, 2012 4:48 pm

Regardless of the size and shape of a space, lighting matters. From fresh and airy, to intimate and cozy, lighting sets the tone of a room and should be an integral part of its design and layout. Ever wonder how designers make the rooms you see in magazines or on decorating shows look so good? It doesn't always depend on paint colors or fabric choices. A little light can go a long way. And you can make dramatic changes by doing something as easy as switching out a light bulb.

So if you want to give a room a makeover, or just freshen it up a bit, use these tips from the lighting pros at SYLVANIA to brighten things up.

Types of Lighting
Not only does a good lighting plan make a room more inviting, it also makes it more functional. To create a good lighting plan, you'll need different kinds of light:
• Ambient - Provides overall illumination and a comfortable level of brightness, allowing people to see and move around safely and easily.
• Task - Helps you perform a specific activity, such as reading or playing games, by concentrating light in a particular place.
• Accent - Sets the mood and highlights certain areas and objects, such as paintings, walls and collectibles.
• Decorative - Fixtures become an element of the space themselves, such as chandeliers or pendants.

The type of light bulbs you use matter as well. Due to the EISA Act of 2007, traditional incandescent light bulbs will eventually be phased out; however there are several energy-efficient options, ranging from CFLs to halogen or LED light bulbs. No matter what room you're looking to improve, there is an energy-efficient light option that will be a perfect fit.

Dining Room

• Using dimmers and layering with light gives you flexibility for different occasions.
• For an elegant look, blend low levels of light sources throughout the room.
• When installing light over the dining room table, be careful not to create shadows on the faces of your guests. Placing additional light sources elsewhere in the room helps to balance the light.
• Use adjustable accent lamps with SYLVANIA halogen bulbs to highlight plants, artwork, or special furniture pieces. These bulbs are fully dimmable and use between 22 and 33 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

Living Room
• For general lighting, use fixtures with a dimmer. The light source is concealed, and with dimming capabilities you can change the lighting of the room for various activities from reading to movie watching.
• Wall sconces and floor lamps are good sources of task lighting for reading or playing games, while track fixtures can be used to highlight art work or unique wall treatments such as wall washing or glazing.
• Place light sources at various heights within the room to add visual interest.
• Use translucent shades on table lamps to contribute to the ambient light level.
Bedrooms
• General lighting can be provided by ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, fan lights, recessed downlights or wall sconces that use halogen or LED bulbs.
• Use a floor-mounted directional fixture to project light through plants from the floor to soften a room with interesting shadows. Place the light behind a large plant or indoor tree and aim it through the leaves towards the ceiling.
• Use a low wattage energy efficient bulb to brighten up the closet. These bulbs have a long life and offer energy-efficiency and quality color.
• Provide light for reading by choosing swing-arm or flexible bedside lamps.

Source: www.SYLVANIA.com
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Top Tips for Saving Water in 2012

January 16, 2012 4:48 pm

With the new year also brings new opportunities to make a difference in your state's water supplies by conserving. With just a few simple steps, you can reduce water use inside and outside the home, adding up to big savings overall. Some can even cut down on the workload at home.

"In California, the next drought is always just around the corner," says Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

"Having enough water is critical to every aspect of our lives. We must all do our part to conserve our state's most precious resource to ensure we have enough for future generations."

Save Our Water offers these tips for saving water in 2012:
• Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes
• Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth
• Keep showers to five minutes or less
• Replace water-guzzling toilets with low-flow models.
• Turn off automatic sprinkler system during the winter months
• Water outdoors only when needed, and consider replacing grass with low-water shrubs and flowers
• Use a broom instead of a hose to clean outdoor spaces
• Install aerators on faucets to slow the flow

Source: www.saveourh20.org
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Dirty News: Majority of Moms Miss the Mark on Germ Knowledge

January 16, 2012 4:48 pm

Do you know what it takes to keep your nursery clean and your baby healthy? Probably not, according to a recent study commissioned by Playtex, surveying moms and moms-to-be on their germ-related knowledge. The survey revealed that the majority of moms scored in the 'D' range—meaning that most don't make the grade when it comes to minimizing the spread of germs in the nursery.

According to the survey, most moms have the basic germ knowledge down pat. Nearly all respondents (95 percent of new moms and 97 percent of expectant moms) correctly answered that it is best to wash your hands after every single diaper change. Similarly, 87 percent of both new and expectant moms recognized that there is no such thing as the "five second rule" and correctly identified the rule as a myth since germ transfer is instantaneous.

However, moms' germ knowledge seriously faltered on detecting and disinfecting germ hot spots in the nursery—areas where most bacteria typically gather including the floor, changing table, toys, and laundry hamper. And according to Dr. Benjamin Tanner, a germ expert and microbiologist who partnered together with Playtex for this study, putting an emphasis on cleaning these spots is a key element in helping to keep the nursery as germ-free as possible.

According to the survey, only about half of those surveyed (49 percent of new moms and 51 percent of expectant moms) correctly answered that germ hot spots should be disinfected at least once daily. And only about a third (32 percent of new moms and 35 percent of expectant moms) was aware that the changing table is the nursery's number one germ hotspot.

Moms' knowledge further faltered when asked about the best ways to eliminate germs and knowing whether or not those germs can be harmful to their baby. Less than half (47 percent) of new and expectant moms polled knew the correct amount of time a disinfectant must remain wet on a surface to effectively do its job, and a majority (53 percent) of those surveyed incorrectly thought that exposing children to germs strengthens their immune systems.

To help moms brush up on their germ knowledge and pass with flying colors, Playtex partnered with Dr. Tanner to educate moms on simple things they can do to keep their nurseries clean.

"Keeping the nursery as clean and as germ-free as possible is such an important aspect for most parents," says Dr. Tanner. "But when we surveyed moms, we found that they generally aren't aware of the best ways to do it. The good news is, with the right knowledge, keeping germ levels to a minimum in the nursery is much easier than most moms think."

To help moms improve their germ knowledge and simplify their nursery cleaning routines, Dr. Tanner developed a number of simple steps including:

• Disinfect germ hot spots (floor, changing table, toys and laundry hamper) at least once a day to kill any harmful bacteria that may be lurking. Make sure to focus on these key areas more than others when disinfecting in the nursery.
• Develop a mess-free changing routine, helping to minimize the spread of germs in the number one germ hotspot in the nursery: the changing table.
• Use an EPA-registered disinfectant when cleaning and always allow it to remain wet for 5-10 minutes before wiping to let it do its job. Afterwards, wipe the surface down with water to get rid of any chemical residue that may irritate your baby's skin.
• Keep a separate hamper in the nursery specifically for heavily soiled baby laundry. These clothes should be washed using hot water, which will help prevent bacteria from spreading in the wash.
• The belief that exposing children to germs strengthens the immune system is a major misconception. Germ exposure should always be avoided.
"In a typical day most moms spend three or more hours in the nursery with their little ones, which makes it essential that it's a clean place," says Carolyn Turoczi, Brand Manager at Playtex. "Creating a space that is as germ free as possible doesn't need to be an overwhelming task.

Source: www.playtexbaby.com
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Jumpstart Your Garden: Seedstarting Tips for Success

January 16, 2012 4:48 pm

Even as midwinter snow and cold are hitting every state, more consumers than ever are trying to start plants from seed according to Gardener's Supply, a national online gardening retailer. The company has seen an increase in seedstarting among beginner and avid gardeners.

"Seedstarting is a great way to save money in the garden and for the past few years, we continue to see a significant increase in consumers wanting to either start seedstarting or elevate their capability with new equipment and lights," says Maree Gaetani, director of gardening relations. "The calls and questions to our 1-800 help line have ranged from 'how do I start' to more advanced questions about 'heatmats and grow lights.'

"There are many benefits to indoor seedstarting besides saving money," continued Gaetani. "There are also the bragging rights when you've harvested a tomato or are enjoying summer blooms from plants you've started with seeds."

Seedstarting with the right seeds and tools is easy and rewarding. Here are 10 steps along that make seedstarting simple and successful:

1. Choose Seeds Wisely - If you're new to seed starting, stick with easy to grow vegetables and flowers such as tomato, cucumber, basil, squash, morning glories, bachelor buttons, calendula and cosmos. Don't start your seeds too early and create a seed starting calendar. Find the last expected frost date in your area and count back from that date based on the seed packet recommendations to determine when to start seeds indoors. Starting too early will create monster plants that need to be tamed because the outdoor environment isn't ready for them yet.

2. The Right Equipment - You can start seeds in just about any container, provided it's sturdy and allows for water drainage.

3. Start with Organic Mix - Seedstarting mixes can also be found at your local garden centers. Go natural with an organic mix, such as Eco-co Coir potting mix, which is both that's economical and earth-friendly. Derived from recycled coconut husks, Eco-co Coir passed Gardener's Supply extensive seed-starting trials with flying colors, providing excellent germination rates and producing healthy, sturdy seedlings.

4. The Right Light - Even though starting seeds in a sunny southern window may work in some climates, a surer bet is to have an indoor, seed starting light system. Most seeds don't need light to germinate, but once up, they need 12 to 14 hours of continuous full spectrum, bright light to grow strong and sturdy. Gardener's Supply recommends only using T-5 bulbs that emit brilliant, full-spectrum light, providing the ideal intensity and quality of light needed for optimal plant growth. The bulbs last up to 7,500 hours and use 45 percent less energy than standard fluorescent bulbs.

5. Temperature - Most seedlings germinate and grow best with air and soil temperatures between 60F and 80F. The soil temperature is actually more important than the air temperature. The right soil temperature will accelerate germination making seedlings less likely to die from disease. To keep soil warm for quickest germination, place seedlings on the top of a refrigerator or use Soil Heating Cables or Root Zone Heat Mat. Place your trays or pots on top of the water proof cable or mat to keep the soil at a constant 70F to 75F. Once germinated, keep the air temperatures around seedlings between 60F and 70F. This will enable seedlings to grow slow and strong, helping to prevent leggy, weak stems.

6. Once Seeds Come Up
- Once the true leaves form you'll need to thin the seedlings in the pot to one per container. Do not pull out the thinned seedling by hand, use scissors to snip them off at the soil line.

7. Watering - It's important to keep the soil consistently moist as seedlings germinate and grow. Watering from above often displaces seeds and creates divots in the soil resulting in poor germination. A better method is to bottom water the seedlings. Through a natural capillary action, water will moisten the seed starting soil mix.

8. Fertilizing - Once the true leaves emerge, seedlings need a gentle fertilizer specific to seedlings that will not cause root burn or force them to grow too fast. Fertilize weekly until the plants are ready for moving outdoors.

9. Transplanting -
Cowpots are perfect for transplanting seedlings as once they're ready for the garden you can just plant the biodegradable Cowpots. However, for most plants started in smaller (2 inch diameter or less) pots, you'll need to transplant them into pots one size larger while still indoors to keep the seedlings growing strong.

10. Place In the Garden -
Don't rush your healthy, tender seedlings into the wind and weather as they need time to adjust to the outside environment. You can harden off seedlings by placing them outdoors for one hour the first day in a shady location. Increase the amount of time outdoors each day, eventually moving them into a sunny location. By the end of a week you can leave them outdoors safely overnight. At this point they're ready for transplanting into containers or the garden.

Source: Gardener’s Supply
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Word of the Day

January 16, 2012 4:48 pm

Time-sharing. Part ownership of a property coupled with a right to exclusive use of it for a specified number of days per year.
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Question of the Day

January 16, 2012 4:48 pm

Q: There seem to be no shortage of contractors; how do you identify one who is less than reputable?

A: They often give themselves away. The telltale signs:
• Pressure is used to get you to sign a contract;
• Verifying the contractor’s name, address, phone number and credentials is impossible;
• Cash payments are only accepted, not checks made out to a company;
• Payment for the entire job is demanded up-front, whereas most remodelers typically require a down payment of 25-50% of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33% for large jobs.
• The contractor suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam – a sure way to lose your home;
• The contractor offers information that is out-of-date or no longer valid;
• No references are available;
• An inability by the contractor to communicate the project well;
• Exceptionally long guarantees are offered;
• The contractor fails to listens and talks over you; and
• The contractor fails to notify you of your right to cancel the contract within three days; this “right of recision” is required by law and allows you to change your mind without penalty if the contract was provided at a place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premise.
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Garage Door Upgrade Amps Home Renovation Value

January 12, 2012 6:38 pm

Homeowners seeking a renovation project that will add long-term value and attract buyers should consider a facelift for their garage, a national study on remodeling costs and value has found.

At a time when buyers are evaluating homes based on curb appeal and online photos, the 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report released last month by Remodeling magazine confirms that replacement of a basic garage door with a mid-range or upscale model is one of the smartest and best value buys prior to a home sale.

Statistics show that more than 90 percent of home buyers turn to the Internet first in their home searches, often basing their decisions to learn more about a property from the photos they see of a home's exterior. With large portions of a home's facade often comprised of a street-facing garage door, it's no surprise that garage door replacement is, for the second year in a row, rated among the best home renovation projects for returning value at resale.

At 71.9 percent on average, mid-range garage door replacement is a top-five improvement for return on investment (ROI), the Cost vs. Value Report found, ahead of both bathroom and major kitchen remodels. Meanwhile, an upscale garage door replacement delivers a 71.1 percent ROI, making it the second highest-rated upscale improvement.

"Many homes incorporate a design that places a garage front and center to a home's view from the curb," says Joe Dachowicz, vice president of marketing at Overhead Door Corporation. "Because of this, garage door replacement is, and always has been, a great investment because it's a relatively low-cost improvement that makes a dramatic impact on a home's curb appeal."

Along with enhanced curb appeal, garage door replacement can also deliver a boost to energy efficiency, Dachowicz says.

"This year's Cost vs. Value Report revealed that homeowners continue to look for projects that improve curb appeal and reduce maintenance and operational costs," Dachowicz says. "By upgrading an old garage door with an insulated one, homeowners can achieve both goals with one project."

The 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value survey determined that garage door replacement was a top-five value-returning project after evaluating a typical $1,500 cost to replace a basic garage door with a mid-range garage model. The survey determined the value of that replacement at home sale to be nearly $1,100. This equates to a 71.9 percent ROI and is the fourth-highest rated project a homeowner can undertake, according to the study. Meanwhile, the roughly $3,000 cost to replace a mid-range model with an upscale one had an estimated value at sale of about $2,130, equating to a 71.1 percent return.

Source: www.overheaddoor.com
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How to Legally Lay Off an Employee

January 12, 2012 6:38 pm

It's one of the toughest decisions for any employer, small or large: Should you lay off your employees, and how should you do it so you don't get sued?

The decision about layoffs is entirely up to you. But as for how to implement layoffs, here a few legal considerations.

You've been WARNed. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN Act, is a federal law that requires 60 days' written notice before a plant closing or a "mass layoff." The federal WARN Act applies to employers with more than 100 workers, but state versions of the WARN Act may apply to smaller employers, according to HRHero.com.

Don't discriminate. Federal and state laws place some employees in a "protected" class. For example, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits an employer from treating older workers differently than others. So make sure your planned layoff doesn't discriminate.

Don't retaliate. Layoffs can't be in retaliation for a worker's complaint. That could be grounds for a workplace retaliation lawsuit.

Employees on leave. For employees on family or medical leave at the time of an announced layoff, an employer must show their leave is unrelated to the layoff, and that the worker would've lost his or her job regardless.

Members of the military.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires employers to reinstate servicemembers to the jobs they would have held had they not been called to duty. An employer can't layoff a servicemember unless the employer can prove circumstances have drastically changed.

Continuing health insurance. Under federal law, most employers with group health plans must allow a laid-off employee to continue to pay for the same health coverage for a specified period of time.
Severance agreements. These offer an employee an incentive, such as additional compensation or benefits, in exchange for agreeing not to sue an employer. But remember, an employer can't force employees to sign a severance agreement. An employee must also get time to consider the agreement—either 21 or 45 days, depending on the worker's age, according to the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.

Source: www.bills.com
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