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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
Fax: 267-354-6800
email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Safety First: Pool Tips for a Happy Winter

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

While winter isn’t what you think of when someone says “pool season,” there is no reason to let your regard for safety drop with the temperatures. The following tips, from the professionals at Hawaiian Pool Builders, will help you keep your pool and spa in top shape, and your family safe, all winter long.

1. Check all the straps around the perimeter of the pool. Straps should be tight and not tangled. If any straps are loose, tighten them up to ensure even tension. If these are not tightened, small children might be able to crawl under the cover. It would be next to impossible to see someone that was physically under the cover.
2. A pool or spa cover is an essential piece of safety equipment. Inspect the cover for rips or tears. With a few inches of snow on the cover a child OR adult could unexpectedly walk on the cover and exaggerate the tear, subsequently falling though.
3. Make sure all the breakers to your pool equipment are turned off from the main breaker panel. No need to worry about a child accidently turning on your pump with no water circulation.
4. Inspect fences surrounding the pool to ensure locks and latches are working properly. Though it’s winter, it’s important to be sure unsupervised children are not able to access the pool while playing in the back yard.

Source: www.Hawaiianpoolbuilders.com.
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Word of the Day

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

Sales contract. Contract that contains the terms of the agreement between the buyer and seller for the sale of a particular parcel or parcels of real estate.
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Question of the Day

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

Q: What should I consider once I decide to add on?

A: If you must construct new space, ask yourself the following questions:

- Can I finance the home improvement with my own cash or will I need a loan?
- How much equity is in the property? A fair amount will make it that much easier to get a loan for home improvements.
- Is it feasible to expand the current space for an addition?
- What is permissible under local zoning and building laws? Despite your deep yearning for a new sunroom or garage, you will need to know if your town or city will allow such improvements.
- Should I make the improvement myself or hire a contractor?
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Get Ready for Winter's Worst

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

Enviro-Log®, Inc., an eco-friendly, consumer products and recycling company, wants to ensure you take safety precautions to prepare your family, home and car for the worst winter has to offer. In addition to chilly conditions outdoors, power outages during cold weather can cause the temperature inside your house to drop rapidly. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), there were 34 extreme-cold deaths in 2010. 

"The snowstorm that hit the East Coast in late October left millions of customers without power for days, which is why we encourage every household to have an emergency kit," says Ross McRoy, president of Enviro-Log. "The basic home emergency kit should include: one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food, a radio, flashlight, extra batteries, matches or lighter, first aid kit, moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation, cell phone with a portable or solar charger, and an alternate heat source such as firewood or firelogs."
The Farmers' Almanac is forecasting an unusually cold and stormy winter, predicting severe weather for the Northern Plains, parts of the Northern Rockies and the Western Great Lakes. The Farmers' Almanac also predicts that a very active storm track will bring much heavier-than-normal precipitation in the Northeast, along the Great Lakes, and from the Southern Plains through Tennessee into Ohio.
The following tips will help you prepare your family, home and car for cold weather: 

Make a family emergency plan. Everyone should know what to do during an emergency in case all family members are not together. Pick a place to meet and make sure everyone knows the address of the location. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you program a family member as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. 

Winterize your home. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and use weather-stripping on doors and windows, and cover windows with plastic. Use insulation for exposed pipes and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. It is also important to learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts). 

Carry a survival kit in your vehicle. According to the National Weather Service, about 70 percent of winter weather-related fatalities occur as a result of people stranded in automobiles. You should store an emergency kit in your trunk stocked with the following items: blankets/sleeping bags, cellular phone or two-way radio, windshield scraper, snow brush, flashlight with extra batteries, extra winter clothes, shovel, tow chain, matches, traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter), emergency flares, jumper cables, snacks, water, road maps and an alternative heat source such as firewood or firelogs. 

Source: www.enviro-log.net
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Home Trend Alert: Creating a Home Spa

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

During this high-stress time of season, relaxing is crucial if you want to still have your sanity when the new year rolls around. For today's time-crunched homeowners, the need for relaxation and rejuvenation is even more prevalent. 

However, finding time for a spa treatment or relaxing retreat is often difficult amidst busy schedules and lengthy to-do lists.

One simple solution for relaxing is creating a luxurious home spa. While decadent Jacuzzi tubs and walk-in showers are a great way to unwind, one home spa device trending now is the steam bath.

Available for almost any sized space, steam baths are easily installed during new home construction and bathroom remodels. Some companies offer generators with a slim design that can be mounted out of sight in a cabinet, closet, basement or insulated attic up to 50 feet away from the shower. In addition to the generator, a basic steam system only requires a control and a steam-head to provide a relaxing retreat as well as a wealth of health benefits. From hydrating skin and soothing sore muscles to providing relief for allergies, asthma and arthritis, the power of steam is unrivaled.

Source: www.steamist.com.
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Handyman Connection: Save Money and the Environment with Green Home Improvement Projects

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

In the dead of winter, when staying warm and cozy can mean making the heater work overtime, many homeowners look for home improvements that will keep energy bills from soaring. Handyman Connection, a network of home repair and remodeling contractors in North America, has released a list of green home improvement projects that help save energy use any time of year. 

"There are a lot of things you or a professional handyman can do around your home to help cut back on energy use," said Scott McKenzie of Handyman Connection. "That's something that will benefit both your budget and the environment." 

Small Do-It-Yourself Jobs
Not all green projects are major undertakings. There are simple ways for you or a professional handyman to make your home more energy efficient.
• Switch out light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs throughout the house.
• Install occupancy sensors so lighting will come on when people are in the room and automatically turn off when they leave the room.
• Clean or replace furnace filters once a month.
• Clean the air conditioner filter regularly.
• Add insulation to hot water pipes.
• Install a water filter and quit buying bottled water.
• Replace your showerhead and faucets with low-flow versions. This won't reduce water pressure but water consumption and energy costs can be reduced by up to 50%.
• Insulate the water heater and turn it down to 48 degrees and cut your water-heating bill in half.
• Install ceiling fans.
• Weatherize your windows and doors with caulk, weather-stripping and sealants. The average home can lose 30% of its heat or air-conditioning though the windows.
• Replace the thermostat with a programmable one with a timer. 

Bigger Home Improvement Projects
Home remodeling projects are the perfect opportunity to make your home greener. If you don't have the knowledge, tools and time, hire a reputable home improvement company.
• Replace standard toilets with high-efficiency toilets. These newer models use 20% less water, and dual-flush, water-saving toilets can save you about 20% on your monthly water bill.
• Install a new gas water heater with a timer if your current water heater is more than 10 years old.
• Insulate your roof, walls and attic with natural insulation.
• Put in a whole-house fan.
• If you have an attic, put in a solar attic fan to vent hot air out.
• Install solar panels.
• Replace windows with modern energy-efficient windows.
• Avoid formaldehyde-based particle board when putting in new cabinets.
• Take out wall-to-wall carpeting and put in wood flooring. Carpeting traps dust mites and allergens; carpet mould is one of the leading causes of respiratory problems. 

For more information, visit www.handymanconnection.com.
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3 Simple Suggestions for a Healthy Holiday

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

Let’s be real here—the holidays are a time for indulgence. With so many activities centralized around good food, and a plethora of sweet treats going around at the office, it’s hard not to taste them all—and why shouldn’t you? To keep healthy over the holidays, follow these simple steps to ensure the only thing stuffed on Christmas morning is your stocking!

1. Hydrate. Water helps cleanse the body of toxins and moves food through your system. It helps ease bloat and is great for your complexion, too. Plus, with holiday cocktail parties, water will help keep you hydrated if you’ve had a few cocktails. To jump start your water intake, drink two tall glasses first thing in the morning.

2. Keep moving. Suggest a morning or evening walk around the neighborhood with your family to help you digest and keep active while still spending quality time together.

3. Veggie swap. Make sure to serve veggies with every meal to cut empty calories and add filling fiber. Sub out chips or crackers for carrots with your famous dip, serve all meals with a big salad and switch that starchy potato side for some healthy steamed or sautéed veggies.
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Word of the Day

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

Second mortgage. Lien on property that is subordinate to a first mortgage. In the event of default, the second mortgage is repaid after the first. Also called a junior mortgage, and in some circumstances a home equity loan.
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Question of the Day

December 16, 2011 4:00 pm

Q: What are conventional loan limits?

A: These are limits imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the amount of money you can borrow to finance a home purchase. The loan limit generally increases each year and applies to single-family homes in the 48 contiguous states, with higher limits in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands and on homes with two, three and four units.

For example, in 2008, the loan limit is $417,000 for a single-family owner-occupied property, $533,850 for a two-unit property, $645,300 for three-units, and $801,950 for four-units.

Theoretically, no limit applies to the amount a lender can provide under the VA program. But in practice, local lenders generally lend up to $417,000 in 2008 with no money down.

There are also loan limits for owner-occupied homes under the FHA 203(b) program, the most common FHA option. The limits vary depending on whether you live in a "high cost" or "low cost" area, as well as the number of units that are being financed. In general, the FHA loan limit is $362,790 for a single-family home in high-cost areas and $200,160 in low-cost areas.
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Preventing, Spotting and Responding to Natural Gas Leaks

December 15, 2011 1:56 pm

With the winter season here, natural gas usage for heating has increased throughout the region. Southern California Gas Co. urges customers to be aware of potential natural gas leaks.

Leaks in natural gas pipelines can be caused by third-party contractors, hidden corrosion or natural disasters, and can be flammable.

SoCalGas offers these safety tips:

• If natural gas appliances are used in the home or business, it is an indication that natural gas pipelines exist in the neighborhood.
• Most natural gas pipelines are buried underground, but only major pipeline routes are marked above ground with high visibility markers. These markers purposely indicate only the general—not exact—location of major pipelines usually found where a pipeline would intersect a street, highway or rail line.
• Pipeline markers also do not indicate the depth or the number of pipelines in the area. Most lower-pressure lines used to serve residential neighborhoods and businesses are not marked, and could be just inches below ground, which is why it is important to know where they are buried before digging for any reason.
• Be aware of all the possible signs of a gas leak, including a distinct unpleasant smell —the odor additive in natural gas to help identify leaks – a hissing, whistling or roaring sound, a ground fire, as well as dead or dying vegetation in an otherwise moist area over or near a pipeline.
• Even though a distinctive odor is added to natural gas to assist in the detection of leaks, do not rely on sense of smell alone to alert you to a gas leak since there may be occasions when you might not be able to smell the odor additive.

If a leak is suspected:
• Stay calm.
• Don't light a match, candle or cigarette, and don't turn any electrical devices on or off, including light switches, or use any device or equipment that could cause a spark.
• Immediately evacuate the area where the leak is suspected.

For more information visit www.socalgas.com.
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