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Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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Tom's Blog

Word of the Day

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Replacement cost. The cost at today’s prices and using today’s construction methods, of building an improvement having the same usefulness as the one being appraised.

Question of the Day

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Q: What about the difference between a conventional and non-conventional loan?

A: They are the same as conforming and non-conforming loans. A conventional, or conforming, loan is one not insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the Veterans Administration (VA), two federal government agencies that make homeownership possible and generally more affordable for a large segment of the population.

However, that said, many major banks and private lenders now offer non-conventional, or non-conforming, loans for lower-income borrowers and those with blemishes on their credit.

In fact, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now the leading sources of non-conventional loans, thereby making the process of buying a home a lot easier for more people—but not necessarily cheaper. The interest rates on these loans are much higher than rates on conventional mortgages.

Create a Holiday Wreath that Reflects Your Style

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Winter White
Get a first-frost look with a simple paint treatment.

Step 1: Choose an artificial wreath with no attached lighting, or update a wreath that you have on hand from past holidays.

Step 2: Spray the wreath with one coat of white paint; let dry. To create the flocked look shown here, spray the wreath with one to two coats of orange-peel ceiling texture paint. Allow to dry.

Step 3: Lightly spray a pinecone decorative pick with gold spray paint. Let dry.

Step 4: Tie white ribbon into a bow, and secure with 22-gauge wire. Attach a gold bow to the white ribbon using wire. Secure the bow to the wreath’s metal frame using wire. Separate the pinecones from the pick, and attach to the bow.

Squared Away
Mix live greenery and silver ornaments for a tailored twist.

Step 1: Select a square live wreath. Choose an assortment of shiny silver ornaments and matte-finish ornaments.

Step 2: Cut an 8-inch length of 22-gauge wire for each ornament. Loop the wire pieces through the ornament hangers.

Step 3: To secure each ornament, pull the wire through the wreath and wrap it around the metal frame. When tying the ends of the wire on the back of the wreath, follow the same grid to help align the ornaments. Bend and adjust the wire to straighten your pattern after all the ornaments are attached.

Fresh-Cut Snowflake
Turn Christmas tree trimmings into a one-of-a-kind wreath.

Step 1: Gather six pieces of trimmings from your live Christmas tree. Use shears to cut the pieces to the desired lengths (ours measure approximately 13 inches).

Step 2: On a workspace, place two sprigs face down and end to end. Cut a length of 9-gauge wire that measures two inches longer than the span of the two sprigs. The wire will serve as a spine for the wreath. Using pliers, create a loop at one end of the wire.

Step 3: Lay the wire on top of the sprigs with the loop flush with one end. Use 22-gauge wire to secure the sprigs to the 9-gauge wire at various points.

Step 4: Use the 22-gauge wire to secure the remaining four sprigs to the 9-gauge wire in an X pattern.

Step 5: Add evergreen sprigs, such as boxwood and pine clippings, to the front of the wreath near the center using 22-gauge wire.

Step 6: If desired, use jute twine to add a clear glass finial ornament near the center of the wreath.

Good to Know
Place extra trimmings in vases to carry the fresh-cut scent of the season throughout your home.

This article is excerpted from Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine. For more information, please visit

Protecting Your Pet during the Holiday Season

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Many pet owners are unaware of the health hazards for pets during the holidays. The following tips ensure your four legged friend has a happy holiday.

Holiday Havoc—The holidays can be a stressful time for pets. In many households, the holidays bring frequent visitors and major changes in the daily routine. As such, it's important to provide pets with a private area of their own. This should be a room or area of the home where guests are not allowed. Pets will find comfort in being able to retire to a quiet place where they can escape the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Above all, it's important for pet owners to allow a little extra time during the holidays to pay special attention to their pets.

Poisonous Plants—Though seemingly harmless, holiday plants can be highly toxic for our four-legged friends. Poinsettia ingestion can cause mild intestinal problems for pets and irritation to the mouth and stomach. Pets that ingest certain types of mistletoe can become ill as well. Other plants like holly, amaryllis and lilies are also known to be quite toxic to pets, so make sure that when decorating the house, these items are in areas not frequented by pets or at levels pets cannot reach.

Dangerous Decorations—Items like tinsel and ribbons may be potential choking hazards for pets, and tree ornaments, usually fragile in nature, can be hazardous if broken. Water used at the base of live Christmas trees is often stagnant and may contain fertilizers or other preservatives that can upset a pet's stomach. Lastly, curious pets can run into trouble when investigating candles or potpourri, so be sure to keep these items out of a pet's line of sight!

Fattening Foods—While it may be tempting to share a holiday meal with your dog or cat, it's probably best to rethink that strategy as many holiday foods can be unhealthy for pets. Things like chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and even onions can be toxic to pets. Xylitol-containing sweets and gums can make pets very ill, and foods with high fat content have been known to cause pancreatitis, especially in dogs.

For more tips, visit and

Word of the Day

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Reserve account. An account for money collected each month by a lender to pay for property taxes and property insurance as they come due.

Work from Home? Get the Most Out of Your Job

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

A recent article in the Kansas City Star cited evidence suggesting that more and more employees are seeking opportunities to work from home, while many managers and business owners are still reluctant.

According to the Star, middle managers are fearful that allowing employees to work from home will adversely affect productivity. According to Martha Jenkins, however, this does not necessarily have to be true. Jenkins and her company, Jenkins Coaching, offer practical advice to small business owners and contractors who work from home, helping them make the best use of their time.

Jenkins says that employees wishing to work from home can take certain steps to ensure productivity, and perhaps win over their bosses.

Jenkins has offered five tips to those seeking to make home-based employment work without a lapse in productivity..”

According to Jenkins, clear communication and well-understood expectations are essential for making home-based employment work.

1. Ensure you know what your employer’s expectations are: See to it that there are no unanswered questions about work hours, breaks, company equipment, and so forth.

2. Ensure that your results are communicated to your employer: Working long hours will not matter if your boss is not aware of what you accomplish.

3. Set up an effective work space: Make sure you have a work area that is free of distractions and is also comfortable and separate from the rest of your house.

4. Establish boundaries with your family and friends: Make sure they are aware of the demands of working from home.

5. Assess your progress on a regular basis: Record your achievements and mark your progress along the way, and make regular evaluations to your work habits.

Jenkins says working from home is ultimately successful when it is treated like a job. “In order to convince an employer you are serious about it, the bottom line is to behave in as professional a manner as possible.”

Tips to Get Financially Fit In the New Year

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

With 2012 just around the corner,, a comprehensive resource for information, education and "do-it-yourself" tools for people coping with personal debt, is providing tips to help consumers reach a better financial future in the New Year. Written by industry expert and author Jean Chatzky, Director of Education for, these tips are geared to consumers looking to set realistic, achievable financial goals.

Chatzky's five tips for getting financially fit in the New Year include:

1. Make a plan for the year. Determine your overarching goal and write it down, whether it is paying down debt, putting more in retirement savings, or paying for a vacation in cash. Then, set some benchmarks by breaking that goal down into manageable pieces. If you'd like to save $5,000 by the end of the year, recognize that that's $400 a month, $100 a week. If you focus on that weekly amount, you're more likely to get there. And in all cases, it will help to track your spending for the first month by saving your receipts and recording them regularly or using an online program. Once you do, it will be easier to cut back.

2. Automate - but pay attention. Most people benefit from a relatively hands off approach to their savings. Set it up so your employer pulls money out of every paycheck and deposits it in your 401(k), or allow your IRA provider to deduct a set amount from your checking account. That way, you don't have to make the decision to save. But that's where the automation should end. You need to look at those investments once in a while and see that you're on track. Make part of this year's resolution about rebalancing your investments, either right now or on your birthday.

3. Put a windfall to work. Right now through the first few months of the New Year are ripe for windfalls. You might receive an end-of-year bonus, raise, or a tax refund. The best thing you can do with this money is pretend you never received it. Funnel a bonus or tax refund directly into savings, without giving yourself a chance to spend it (if you're carrying credit card debt, use this cash to pay it off or make a solid dent in your balance). When you get a raise, bump up your retirement contribution to match the increase in salary - research shows that otherwise, you'll adjust spending to the new amount and hardly feel like you're earning more.

4. Spend smart. Start the year with a bill audit. Look over every bill that comes in this month, paying particular attention to the ones you pay automatically with a draft from your bank account or bill pay through your bank. You'll likely find you're paying for things you don't need or didn't even know you had - extra cell phone minutes, HBO when your favorite show is in the off-season, an equipment protection program from your satellite TV provider. Call your insurance providers and see if they're willing offer you a better rate. Then make a commitment to save money every day, by clipping coupons, shopping around for the best deals, using energy efficient light bulbs and making sure your doors and windows are sealed for winter to conserve electricity.

5. Earn more. If you're truly not going overboard with the discretionary spending and you still can't get ahead, you may not be earning enough money to support yourself. If you haven't gotten a raise in a while, it's okay to ask for one now, but approach the situation lightly in this still-shaky economy. Go to your boss's office prepared with ammunition - lay out how you save (or earn) the company money and how much competitors are paying people in your position. If you work for yourself, the New Year is the perfect time to raise your rates slightly.

For more information, visit

Question of the Day

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Q: What should I weigh before considering an addition to my home?

A: Thoroughly assess your space. You may find you have the room you need, particularly if there is unused or under utilized areas in your home. Perhaps a garage, attic, side porch, or basement can be converted to fit the use you have in mind. Or, maybe, a small area can be carved from a larger area like a kitchen or living room to create a powder room. These improvements are certainly cheaper than a major construction job.

Top 5 Tax Moves to Make by December 31

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

As December begins and the holiday season and spirit of giving move into full swing, why not make a few tax moves now that could give you added savings when you file your 2011 tax return?

"There is still time for a final push to claim several tax benefits before 2011 winds to a close," said Mark Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. "In fact, many taxpayers will be doing things like giving to charities and pre-paying January tuition, but the key is knowing how these and other common expenses may count as tax deductions if you qualify."

Steber notes the five key considerations taxpayers should be thinking of before December 31 to reduce taxable income and increase deductions or credits to claim:

1. Save more for retirement – By increasing retirement plan contributions, you can reduce your income for tax purposes. Taxpayers can contribute up to $16,500 to a 401(k), 403(b) or Federal Government Thrift Savings Plan; those over age 50 can contribute an additional $5,500.
2. Prepay January payments in December – Taking care of your January mortgage payment, 4th quarter state tax estimate, or winter semester tuition now lets you claim these payments on your 2011 tax return.
3. Get to the doctor! – If you are holding off on a major medical procedure until after the holidays, stop procrastinating and make an appointment now to increase your 2011 medical expense deductions.
4. Give to charity – Giving cash and non-cash donations to charity can give back on your taxes. And volunteering time counts too, which means the more than 80,000 volunteers who lent a helping hand to the Joplin, Mo. tornado victims may be able to deduct their out-of-pocket expenses on a tax return.
5. Save energy, save $500 on your taxes – If you are planning to buy an energy saving hot water heater or install energy efficient windows or insulation to your home, do it now. Up to $500 in credit may be available for making energy-related home improvements.


Homeowners: Prevent Ice Dam Damage This Winter

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

Ice dams can cause serious trouble for homeowners, wreaking havoc on roofs, ceilings and basements. By preparing before the winter storm onslaught, homeowner’s can save their time, money, and sanity. 

"Icicles hanging from the edge of a roof are often the result of an ice dam," notes Paul Quinn, Farmers Insurance Assistant Vice President of Claims Communications. "These ice dams form when water from melting snow runs down the roof and re-freezes as the air temperature dips, or when warm air from inside your home leaks into your attic, and that can cause significant damage to your home." 

Quinn says the meltwater that refreezes on the roof's edge, creates a band of ice along an eve and before long it acts as a dam, holding back a pool of water that can eventually back up under the shingles, seep inside, and soak into the walls and ceilings—"and the homeowner realizes the beautiful snowfall has turned into an ugly mess. 

"If you have an ice dam, you can hire an ice dam removal service, but if you try it yourself, please be careful and do not climb up on the roof to remove the snow or ice dams. That should be done by professionals," Quinn adds. 

"Be prepared this winter. Don't find yourself worrying all winter that your home is going to be damaged from the snow when it can be prevented," Quinn concludes. 


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