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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

Simple Tips for Busy Families

October 28, 2011 3:40 pm

A schedule full of fun events like sports practice, dance recitals, movies and activities can be fulfilling for the whole family, but without a plan, your fun weekend may mean more stress, less playtime. 

Recently, Olympic gold medal figure skater and mom of two Kristi Yamaguchi, shared her secret to busy family fun with Smucker’s® Uncrustables. "Like so many parents, it can be a challenge to keep my active family organized, especially on the go," says Yamaguchi. "I am thrilled to share with other moms and dads my favorite tips for unstoppable families." 

1.) When a busy day has you skating from one activity to the next, it's important to be prepared. Bring along a backpack with everything you might need for your on-the-go day, including handheld snacks, like fruit, water, sunscreen and easy activities for down time.
2.) Unstoppable families are always on the move. Post a large calendar in the kitchen or family room to capture and keep track of your family's weekly activities. Assign a different color marker to each member of the family. This will help keep everyone on time and in line.
3.) Let the games go green! Encourage creativity by finding ways to repurpose everyday items into fun activities. A drinking straw and some ribbon becomes a magic wand. Two painted paper towel rolls can become a pair of backyard binoculars. Reuse magazines to make colorful collages and other fun art projects.
4.) Sometimes fast-paced weekdays leave little time for family fun. Set aside time each weekend to enjoy the outdoors and each other's company. Plan hiking trips and bike riding adventures that will appeal to everyone. Put together a "scavenger list" with fun things to look for along the way like a yellow flower, a white cat, a BIG bug and other outdoor items.
5.) Have a little fun while on the run. Store books, games, markers and paper in the car to keep kids entertained on the road or in-between events. Also, make sure to have some kid-friendly tunes to keep the kids singing from your driveway to the soccer field.
6.) Ask around at your local community center or health club about family fitness classes. Try an aerobics or swimming class as a family; it will be a great way to stay active and spend time together.
7.) Like the title of my book Dream Big Little Pig, I always teach my kids they can accomplish anything with practice and perseverance. Encourage your kids to try their best at every activity they pursue and explore their interests no matter how sky-high. You might be raising an award-winning musician or the future President of the United States.
8.) Think outside the toy box when it comes to family activities. An old blanket quickly transforms into a magic carpet when spread across the living room floor. Couch cushions and bed sheets always make the best forts. A simple flash light becomes a projector for shadow puppets in a dark playroom. Use soccer balls, hula hoops and other everyday items to create a fun obstacle course in the backyard.
9.) My family spends a lot of time on the ice and it has shown us the importance of teamwork. Encourage your kids to join a local soccer or basketball team. They'll have fun while learning team building skills.
10.) Don't let a rainy day dampen your outdoor plans. Pitch a small tent in the living room and have a "camp in" complete with a construction paper campfire and sleeping bags. Weather the storms outside with tall tales shared over campfire treats. 

Source: www.uncrustables.com.
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Scare Up Some Fun with a Trick-or-Treat Party

October 28, 2011 3:40 pm

Make no bones about it—Halloween is all about having some spine-tingling fun. This year, why not share the scare by hosting a Trick-or-Treat party for school friends or even the neighborhood? 

With these tips and ideas, you can throw a monster bash on a budget that's not frightening at all. 

Set a Spooktacular Scene 
Whether you want to go all-out scary or keep it all in good fun, you can combine store-bought decorations with homemade creations to save money.
• Line fake gravestones along your walkway. Buy them pre-made, or make them yourself using foam or cardboard and spray paint.
• Perch eerie, fake birds near your doorway, and hang cobwebs anywhere you can reach.
• Place creepy-crawlies, like plastic spiders, everywhere.
• Add scary inflatable figures to your yard—the designs get more elaborate every year, and they store easily when deflated.
• Turn an inexpensive, thrift-store stockpot into a spooky kitchen-table centerpiece. Just add dry ice and warm water for frightfully fun fog. Always wear gloves when you handle dry ice and always store it in a ventilated container.
• A jack-o-lantern is a Halloween classic. Easy stencils make complex witch, werewolf and scary-face designs a breeze.
• Use rechargeable outdoor tea lights and Halloween-themed string lights as safer alternatives to candles.
• Build a scarecrow—all you need is wooden garden stakes, pillows, straw and old clothes.
• Use unexpected items in a whole new way. Spray paint branches or old lamps black and orange and use them as centerpieces; make spooky skeleton cut-outs with poster board; use toilet paper to wrap someone up in a nifty mummy costume; or bring the outdoors in with hay bales and mums. 

Frightfully Fun Games
Kids and grownups alike will get a kick out of these Halloween games.
• Halloween Charades—Write down Halloween characters, places and things on pieces of paper. Fold the papers and put them in a bowl. Then have each person, in turn, pick a piece of paper and act out the written words until the game's audience guesses what's being acted out. Want more competition? Split the group into teams and award candy prizes for correct answers.
• Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin—You'll need a pumpkin (either real or made out of orange construction paper), pushpins or tape, a blindfold and several pumpkin noses (black construction paper will work). Draw eyes and a mouth on your pumpkin's face, and hang it up. Blindfold a player, spin them around, hand them a paper nose (secured with a pushpin for adults and tape for children) and direct them toward the pumpkin. The player who attaches the nose closest to the right spot wins. You could also play Pin the Wart on the Witch, or Pin the Smile on the Scarecrow.
• Pumpkin Decorating Contest—Set out markers, stickers, glue, construction paper, buttons and other household items. Give guests a pumpkin and a 30-minute decoration time frame. Award prizes for the "Prettiest," "Scariest" and "Most Interesting." Don't want winners or losers? Let kids decorate and take home their pumpkins. 

For more information, visit www.walmart.com/halloween.
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Word of the Day:

October 28, 2011 3:40 pm

Mortgagor. Party or person that borrows money, giving a lien on the property as security for the loan; the borrower.
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Question of the Day

October 28, 2011 3:40 pm

Q: What things do lenders view positively and negatively during the application process?

A: When you apply for a loan, long, steady employment is always seen as a plus, as is a large down payment, a good credit rating, a history of regular savings, and property located in a “good” neighborhood.

Not so good in the lender’s mind: frequent job changes without salary increases, self-employment in a new venture, bad debt history, no previous borrowing record, and dilapidated property.

Do not be discouraged. These are standard lender pre-dispositions when evaluating your application, but when it comes to making a loan decision, most lenders will tell you nothing is completely carved in stone.

Consider, too, that credit you have qualified for—say, credit cards—can work against you, even if never used. This is because those credit cards are looked upon as being open credit lines—and while they have not been used, they could be used, and potentially used up to the maximum dollar amount allowed by the credit card companies. As a result, their perceived risks lower your credit, or FICO, score.
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A Plan to Prevent Home Problems

October 27, 2011 5:38 pm

It's an unfortunate part of homeownership—things break down. Heating and cooling systems have limited lifespans and can cost thousands to replace. Home appliances go on the fritz or the plumbing system shuts down, and before you know it, you've had hundreds of dollars worth of unexpected repairs to deal with.
One thing that can help with unexpected costly repairs is preventive maintenance. In fact, think of it as giving new meaning to the phrase "home health." 

Just like your annual physical, preventative maintenance can play a critical role in keeping your home's systems and appliances running smoothly and efficiently. Most homeowners are aware of the basics, like regularly changing the air filters on their heating and cooling systems, checking for leaky faucets, and so on. However, the to-do list of preventative maintenance tasks can get long, and not everyone has the time or experience to do it all themselves. 

Unfortunately, without a professional preventative maintenance program, most home systems and appliances never get a thorough check-up, leaving them vulnerable to costly—and often avoidable—problems. 

A professional preventative maintenance program can be a homeowner's most important ally when it comes to the upkeep of their heating and cooling system, plumbing, electrical system, and most major appliances. Quality service providers take a comprehensive approach to preventative maintenance, and are trained to look for early signs of wear and tear, perform recommended maintenance, and record the condition of your appliances and home systems so any repairs and/or replacements can be made before they lead to an unexpected breakdown. 

Along with the convenience and confidence of regularly scheduled check-ups, homeowners can also realize other benefits, too, such as reduced energy costs, improved system reliability and lower repair costs over the life of their covered items. 

"Preventative maintenance is an investment in the health and well-being of your home's systems and appliances," says Matt Wendl, director of American Home Shield's new preventative maintenance service, which the company recently launched in 45 markets across the nation. "Early detection of problems can help eliminate the need for more costly repairs." 

Wendl offered the following tips for homeowners considering a preventative maintenance plan:
• Get a detailed, written list of all items to be inspected, and how frequently they will be inspected.
• Be sure they are doing a visual inspection, as well as testing how key components of your systems or appliances operate.
• Confirm costs up front for any needed repairs. Some providers offer discounts off their regular rates for repairs.
• Contactors should be licensed, bonded and pass a criminal background check. 

To learn more about preventive maintenance and taking care of your home, visit www.AHSpm.com.
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Know Your Dryer Safety Rules

October 27, 2011 5:38 pm

According to a recent study from the U.S. Fire Administration, residential clothes dryer fires were associated with 12,700 fires nationally, resulting in 15 deaths and 300 injuries annually. Clothes dryers may seem harmless, but failure to provide proper maintenance can have deadly results. Avoiding a dangerous situation is actually pretty easy in most cases, just think air flow.

"A significant build-up of lint can block the flow of air, which can result in excessive heat which can result in fires," says Kurt Dettmer, vice president of marketing for Fremont Insurance. "Failure to complete simple maintenance such as minor cleaning is the leading contributing factor for clothes dryer fires in homes."

Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid creating a dangerous situation.

Every Use
• Clean the lint screen and compartment and brush off any remaining lint every time you use your dryer
• If you use fabric softener or any product to reduce static electricity, wash the screen in warm soapy water periodically to eliminate film buildup that restricts air flow
• Inspect the screen for even lint distribution and tears, and replace immediately to prevent overheating or lint passing into the duct and restricting air flow
• Do not open the lint panel while the tumbler is in operation

Quarterly
• Inspect the duct, dampers, and access covers for damage
• Clean all removable parts and make sure they operate freely
• Vacuum the duct to remove excess lint buildup
• On the unit itself, wipe down the blower, drive motor and thermostat
• Check the belt tension and condition and replace if worn or cracked

Other Precautions
• Beware vapors that could ignite when heated
• Don't dry items that have been cleaned or soaked in gasoline, dry cleaning solvents, vegetable or cooking oil, machine oil or anything containing wax or chemicals such as mop heads and cleaning clothes or any flammable or explosive substances
• Do not operate your dryer if it is smoking, grinding or has missing or broken parts
• Disconnect electrical power or close the gas shut-off valve
• Disconnect electrical power or close the gas shut-off valve as applicable before servicing
• Never bypass any safety devices

For more information, visit www.fmic.com.
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Cocktail Parties Done Right

October 27, 2011 5:38 pm

When you open your doors for a cocktail party, you want to do it right. It’s natural to want to ‘wow’ and please your guests by setting the right atmosphere, and impressing them with delicious foods and proper drinks. Have you always wanted to host a wine-tasting shindig, but don’t know the first thing about vino? Don’t stress! The following tips will ensure an evening of entertaining success, even for the first-timers out there:

• Get Organized! It's the secret to a successful party. You know, the ones that go off without a hitch and leave everyone buzzing the following day. But where do you start? Grab a notepad and create lists so you are sure to cover the bases: guests, menu, décor, and cocktails. Once you’ve cleared your mind of the essentials, you are free to get creative and start thinking of personal touches you want to sprinkle in to the upcoming event.
• Spin That Track! Decide the music genre appropriate for your guests and prepare a mix of songs on your computer or entertainment system. Make sure to have this set up in advance so during the party you can turn it on, and walk away. You don’t want to spend the whole night changing songs, or you’ll miss out on good conversation.
• Have a little extra time? Make a back up genre that includes dance music, in the event your guests want to start groovin'.
• Get Your Drink On! Come up with one or two fun mixed drinks. Have them mixed and ready to pour into pitchers, so guests can help themselves. Make sure to have a nice selection of white and red wine. The importance of serving and drinking wine at the right temperature is integral to a proper wine experience.
• Let’s Eat! Now that the music is spinning, and drinks are flowing, it’s time to indulge in delectable cuisine. Hors d'oeuvres are usually easiest to make and convenient to eat while socializing over cocktails. Offer five to seven choices with a mix of cold and hot. You don't want the kitchen too hot, nor do you want to be stuck at the stove all night. Be sure to offer a few vegetarian appetizers also, so that there is something for everyone. Scatter bowls of nuts, and other grab-as-you-pass cocktail snacks throughout the entertaining area so that no one leaves hungry.

That’s it! Feeling ready to put on the cocktail party of the year? It’s simple and fun, and if you follow the tips above, your friends are sure to enjoy a night filled with flawless service, memorable atmosphere, and wine that will properly satisfy their palates. Cheers to you!

For more information visit http://ravisolution.com/.
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7 Rules for Charitable Giving

October 27, 2011 5:38 pm

While the holiday season puts many in the spirit to give, it’s also important to do some research before opening your wallet to support charitable causes.

"There are many worthy charitable causes and residents should feel free to contribute to causes with personal meaning, whether a local homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen, animal rescue, or an international organization with global outreach," says Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Basil L. Merenda. "However, I urge everyone to take the time to understand where their dollars will be going so they can have confidence that their donation will have the biggest benefit and get to the people who need it most."

Before giving to any charitable organization, research how your money will be used. Most charities are legitimate and strive to ensure the majority of dollars go directly into worthwhile projects, but some may misrepresent their cause or spend a high percentage of donations on administrative costs. Be sure that the charity's spending practices match your expectations.

Here are some tips and warnings to help ensure your donation goes to the right place:

1. Never give to a charity you know nothing about.

2. Request written information from the charity about its programs and finances.

3. Do not feel pressured into giving on the spot or allow someone to come to your home to pick up the contribution.

4. Never commit to donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.

5. Never give cash, credit card numbers or bank account numbers. Always write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of your donations.

6. All charities have expenses, so check carefully and understand how your donation will be spent.

7. Consult with a tax advisor to determine whether your contribution is tax deductible. If giving before Dec. 31, charitable donations may be tax deductible for the upcoming tax filing.
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Word of the Day

October 27, 2011 5:38 pm

Mortgagee. Party or institution that lends money; the creditor.
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Question of the Day

October 27, 2011 5:38 pm

Q: What is the best way to find a real estate agent?

A: Begin by asking someone that you know. Friends, relatives, co-workers, or neighbors who have recently purchased a home can give you a firsthand account and attest to the agent’s professional abilities. Sometimes an agent you contact will refer you to another one who works more closely with buyers and sellers in your neighborhood. Once you have a list of names, interview at least three agents and ask questions about their community knowledge, professional experience, and commitment – some agents work full time; others only work at nights and on the weekends.
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