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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

Winter Can Be Hazardous: Tips on Preventing Home Fires

December 15, 2011 1:56 pm

The cold weather and winter conditions often bring an increase in home fires as many people use alternate heating sources such as space heaters, fireplaces, or coal or wood stoves to stay warm. Fires related to heating are the second leading cause of home fires in this country, and fixed and portable space heaters are involved in 74 percent of fire-related deaths.

As the winter months continue and people look to keep their homes warm with various heating sources, including portable heaters, the Greater NY Red Cross urges everyone to use caution when turning to these heating methods and offers the following safety tips on fire prevention: 

• Keep all potential sources of fuel like paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least three feet away from space heaters, stoves, or fireplaces.
• Portable heaters and fireplaces should never be left unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any embers in the fireplace are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
• If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
• When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over as another safety measure.
• Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
• Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
• Have wood and coal stoves, fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces professionally inspected and cleaned once a year.
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Word of the Day

December 15, 2011 1:56 pm

Right of survivorship. A feature of joint tenancy giving the surviving joint tenants the rights, title and interests of the deceased joint tenant. Right of survivorship is the basic difference between buying property as joint tenants and as tenants in common.
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Question of the Day

December 15, 2011 1:56 pm

Q: How much, on average, can I expect to spend on home maintenance?

A: Expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows, and routine system repairs and maintenance.

An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Also, adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousands dollars.
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Homeowner 101: Exploring the Community Association

December 14, 2011 5:54 pm

It used to be that if you were moving into an apartment or anything but a sophisticated private community or condo complex, you dealt with a property manager or landlord. But I recently learned that today, even modest condo clusters, apartment complexes and entire neighborhoods are ruled by community or homeowners associations.

In a recent post from HALT, a Washington, D.C. based organization aiming to help Americans navigate the legal system with or without a lawyer, the number of community associations has exploded in the past decades, growing from 10,000 in 1970 to a quarter million today.

An estimated 50 million Americans now live within community associations. So if you’re in the market for a condo, townhouse or co-op, there are some important things you should know about your rights and responsibilities if your future home is part of a community association.

HALT says community associations require individual owners, as members of the association, to be bound by contract to a set of rules that is enforced typically by an elected group of members called the board of directors. The board also collects payments from members to cover the costs of operating and maintaining the association.

Community associations can exercise a tremendous amount of control over the residents living within them, including restrictions that dictate things like what color you paint your house, what type of shrubs or flowers you plant in your yard—even what your garbage can must look like.

HALT publishes a checklist for potential tenants and residents bound by community or homeowners associations. The organization advises you to:

Carefully read the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions or CC&Rs. Determine whether or not the requirements and obligations of tenants are compatible with your needs and lifestyle.
• Obtain a copy of the bylaws. Carefully examine the by-laws and any additional rules or documents to be sure you will be a good fit in the association.
• Review the association’s financial status. Determine that the association is financially stable by reviewing its operating budget, reserve account and insurance cover- age. Also find out what your financial role will be—ask how much the assessments (or bills) are and what the process is for collecting and raising them.
• Visit the association and attend a board meeting. Get a sense of what living in an association would be like by visiting the association and talking to members. Also attend a board meeting or review minutes of previous meetings to get a feeling for how the association is run.
• Plan to get involved. Know that this legwork is only the first step. Prepare to stay informed by attending meetings and reading all notices issued by the board of directors once you move in.

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Time Is Running Out: Winterize Your Home

December 14, 2011 5:54 pm

Winter is upon us, and if you haven’t already done your prep-work, now is the time. Preparing your home for a frosty season can save you time, money and the headache of dealing with sky-high heating bills. Plus, a well insulated home is environmentally friendly, as it uses less energy, so you’re helping the planet and your wallet. Now that’s a winter win.

To prepare your house for winter, some important steps you should take include:
• Replace or clean filters of forced air furnaces monthly.
• Have your heating system inspected annually by a qualified professional.
• Make sure you are not losing heated air through loose or faulty connections in your home's ductwork.
• Seal windows and doors with weather stripping or caulk.

Source: www.dom.com
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Scary Weather? The Scoop on Shoveling Snow

December 14, 2011 5:54 pm

Many residents will be doing a fair amount of snow shoveling this season, which leaves some people thinking about all the pain that will come once they’re finally back indoors. However, shoveling snow can actually be good exercise if done safely and correctly.

"Shoveling snow for about fifteen minutes at a time counts as moderate physical activity, similar to a brisk walk," says Terry Carolan, PT, NCS, ATP, clinical manager at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. "Adults are generally advised to do about 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise at least three to four days a week and shoveling can help provide that—especially during the winter months when both outdoor temperatures and personal motivation tend to drop."

However, snow shoveling, like most types of exercise, does present some physical risks.

Kessler, a leader in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, offers these guidelines:

• Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

• Avoid caffeine or nicotine, as they can cause extra stress on the heart, especially among individuals with a history of or are at high risk for a heart attack.

• Dress in layers and be sure to wear a hat, gloves, and sturdy, non-skid footwear.

• Do some basic warm-up exercises before shoveling, such as walking for a few minutes or marching in place. Stretch the muscles in your arms and legs. Warm muscles will work more efficiently and are less likely to become injured.

• Try to shovel fresh snow rather than partially melted and packed snow.
- Lift small amounts at a time using your legs, not your back.
- Scoop snow in a forward motion and step in the direction as you throw the snow. Avoid twisting and tossing the snow over your shoulder or to the side.
- If possible, try pushing the snow forward rather than lifting.

• Make sure you have a good snow shovel. Many newer models offer ergonomic features to facilitate lifting and throwing.

• Pace yourself. Take frequent rest breaks and avoid over-exertion.

• Most importantly, if you experience any pain in the chest or arm, shortness of breath or profuse sweating, stop shoveling immediately and seek appropriate medical attention.
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Top 10 Things to Consider When Redesigning Your Garden

December 14, 2011 5:54 pm

While winter may not be gardening season, many seasoned gardeners know that planning ahead will provide you with better blooms come spring. Plus, what better way to stay warm this winter than focus on sunny days ahead?

Paul Ellison of Floral & Hardy Gardens design shares his top 10 tips for planning a garden design project.

1. Get references. Before contracting work with a garden designer, speak to previous clients and visit completed projects. This way you can gauge quickly the quality of work, ask the opinion of the owner and see how a project has aged since installation.

2. Agree fixed costs. Always agree fixed costs for the project up-front. With no certainty as to how long a project will take, agreeing to pay day rates can cause the overall price to skyrocket. Make sure that the fixed costs agreed include: a breakdown of design and each phase of the project.


3. Read the small print. Ensure a formal contract is in place and always read the small print; investigate anything you're not sure about before committing to sign.

4. Agree to timescales. Agree estimated project timescales, but do have an understanding that uncontrollable elements, such as the weather, may cause some delays.

5. Make sure construction work is guaranteed. Ensure that all construction work is guaranteed; investigate the type company you are hiring. Generally a limited company will be able to offer better value for money than a sole trader; the larger scale of a limited company means that greater purchasing power can translate into savings on materials- which are passed directly to the client.

6. Choose a company to design and build your garden. Make sure the company you choose is designing and building your garden; many garden designers outsource to independent contractors. The risk is that a larger chain of design and labor is more likely to result in communication issues and differing standards of work.

7. Plan ahead for winter. Consider the ways in which you would like to use your garden throughout the entire year; a good garden designer will not forget the winter months.

8. Consider your needs. Consider the practical side of you garden; do you need storage for children's toys or garden equipment? Be sure to build this into your plan.

9. Discuss future maintenance. Ask about the level of post-project maintenance of a proposed design. Unless you are an avid every-day gardener you will want to ensure your garden requires minimal upkeep.

10. Ask for advice. Seek professional advice before embarking on a project yourself; garden renovation can quickly become complicated. Before attempting complicated landscaping, such as changing landforms and bodies of water, seek professional guidance.

Source: www.floralandhardy.co.uk
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Word of the Day

December 14, 2011 5:54 pm

Right of first refusal. A person’s right to have the first opportunity to either lease or purchase real property.
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Question of the Day

December 14, 2011 5:54 pm

Q: Are there standard ways to determine how much a home is worth?

A:
Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.

Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpaying.

A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.

Lenders normally require an appraisal – which run between $200 to $300 – before they will approve a mortgage loan. This protects the lender by ensuring the home is worth the money you want to borrow.

You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.
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Holiday Safety Alert: Consumer Injuries Involving Decorating on the Rise

December 13, 2011 5:54 pm

Holiday decorating plans do not normally include lacerations, falls and fires. Unfortunately, these hazards make an unwelcome appearance in the homes of thousands of consumers each year. To help avoid hidden decorating dangers, CPSC and UL are providing families with tips for a safe holiday home.

Reports of falls from ladders while stringing lights and hanging decorations, incidents of lacerations from broken glass ornaments, and other holiday-related injuries are increasing. During November and December 2010, CPSC estimates that more than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations. This is an increase from 10,000 in 2007 and 12,000 in 2008 and in 2009.

Although estimates of deaths and injuries related to Christmas tree and candle fires are down, there are still an alarming number of incidents. Live trees or other evergreen decorations that have dried out burn fast and hot in a matter of seconds if they come in contact with an open flame.

Between 2006 and 2008, there was an annual average of four deaths and $18 million in property damage related to Christmas tree fires. During this same time period, CPSC received reports of about 130 deaths and $360 million in property losses related to candle fires.

"A well-watered tree, carefully placed candles, and carefully checked holiday light sets will help prevent the joy of the holidays from turning into a trip to the emergency room or the loss of your home," says Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.

"This is easily the busiest time of year, but it's important to make time for safety while celebrating the holidays," says John Drengenberg, director of consumer safety at UL. "By committing a few minutes each day to safety, many accidents can be avoided and your holidays will be memorable for all the right reasons."
CPSC and UL suggest using the following 12 safety tips to help keep your holiday home safe this year:

Trees and Decorations
1. Buying live trees,
check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, its needles are hard to pull from branches, and its needles do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin and, when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
2. Setting up a tree at home, place it away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators. Because heated rooms rapidly dry out live trees, be sure to monitor water levels daily and keep the tree stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic, and do not block doorways with the tree.
3. Buying an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant." Although this label does not mean that the tree will not catch fire, it does indicate that the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
4. Decorating a tree in homes with small children, take special care to avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children who could swallow or inhale small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them. 

Candles
1. Keep burning candles within sight.
Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
2. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire and burn easily, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture. 

Lights
1. Use only lights that have been tested for safety
by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Lights for both indoor and outdoor usage must meet strict requirements that testing laboratories are able to verify.
2. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
3. Check each extension cord to make sure it is rated for the intended use.
4. Check outdoor lights for labels showing that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI. 

Fireplaces
1. Use care with "fire salts,"
which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if swallowed. Keep them away from children.
2. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.

Sources: www.cpsc.gov, www.SafetyAtHome.com.
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