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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Question of the Day

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

Q: What is condo and co-op insurance?

A: This insurance protects your investment and personal belongings from most disasters. As an owner, you will need two insurance policies – your own to cover liability, living expenses, your belongings and structural improvements, and a master policy provided by the condo or co-op board. The master policy covers the common areas that you share with others in the building. It is paid for using the monthly condo fee that you and other owners pay.

7 Fun Ideas for Frugal Holiday Parties

December 6, 2011 5:34 pm

It’s the time of year when many people think of hosting a holiday party. But with budgets tight, it may not be the right time to deck the halls with expensive décor or spring for elegant foods and drinks.

“If that’s your dilemma,” suggests Los Angeles party planner Eloise Gunn, “remember that successful parties are less about your cooking skills or fancy dinnerware than about getting friends together for a warm and inviting afternoon or evening.”

Gunn offers seven ideas for planning and putting on a great gathering without breaking the budget:

• Make it a potluck – Supply the main course but ask your guests to bring a favorite side dish or dessert. Nobody minds bringing a dish to share, and it keeps expenses down for all.
• Make it a wine tasting – Provide plenty of nibbles and finger foods, but ask each guest to bring a bottle or two of wine for tasting. You might provide a prize—perhaps a bottle of good champagne or a fancy corkscrew—and have all guests vote for the winner.
Make it a game day – Set up game tables and provide – or borrow – a selection of board, dice, and/or card games. Provide self-serve sandwich fixings, a selection of soft drinks, and holiday cookies for dessert. It’s a great way to include kids for a family afternoon party.
• Keep the décor simple – Pile colorful Christmas ornaments in glass bowls or baskets. String some holly and lights along the mantel—or use your Hanukah menorah as a centerpiece.
• Make it musical – Start off with some classic holiday music to set the tone—then switch to the kind of music you and your friends most enjoy. But be sure to keep it in the background, so it doesn’t stifle conversation.
• Keep it playful – If things start to lag, try an impromptu round of charades or Pictionary—or ask each guest to bring an inexpensive novelty item for an old-fashioned, grab-bag gift swap.
• Send home simple party favors – Fill a bowl near the front door with candy canes or small, wrapped candies. Personalize some homemade cookies—or send everyone home with a store-bought or handmade ornament.

10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor

December 6, 2011 5:34 pm

There’s already so much to worry about this time of year. From family get-togethers to gift giving and more, the last thing you need is for something to go wrong with your heating system and not know where to go first.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, be prepared and use these tips to help you find a contractor, according to

Study up — Find out about license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state. And before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also make note of any uncomfortable rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your heating needs.

Ask for referrals — Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. You can also contact local trade organizations for names of members in your area.

Call references — Ask contractors for customer references and call them. Ask about the contractor's installation or service performance, and if the job was completed on time and within budget.

Find special offers — A heating and cooling system is one of the largest purchases you'll make as a homeowner. Keep your costs down by checking around for available rebates on energy-efficient ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment. Begin your search at

Look for ENERGY STAR — ENERGY STAR qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer significant long-term energy savings. Contractors should be able to show you calculations of savings for ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment.

Expect a home evaluation — The contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. A bigger system isn't always better; a contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your house, level of insulation, and windows. A good contractor will inspect your duct system (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation and measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturers’ specifications.

Get written, itemized estimates — When comparing contractors' proposals (bids), be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency and warranties. A lowest price may not be the best deal if it's not the most efficient because your energy costs will be higher.

Get it in ink — Sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started. It'll protect you by specifying project costs, model numbers, job schedule and warranty information.

Pass it on — Tell friends and family about ENERGY STAR. Almost one-quarter of households knowingly purchased at least one qualified product last year, and 71% of those consumers say they would recommend ENERGY STAR to a friend. Spread the word, and we can all make a big difference.

5 Concepts to Get Listings Sold in Today's Market

December 6, 2011 5:34 pm

Listings are the backbone of the real estate business. It’s important to build your inventory of listed properties, and service and market them well. But most agents don’t do enough with listings once they get them.

The following concepts will help you get your inventory sold, as well as help you service your sellers. What’s important is that you put a system in place that helps you achieve these important goals.

Concept 1: Sellers want communication. Most agents think the only thing homeowners want when they list with an agent is to sell their house. Of course this is important, but from the time they list with you to the time it sells, the No. 1 thing they want is communication. A frequent complaint about agents is that they list homes and are never heard from again. So keep in touch with the seller through various means, such as phone calls, e-mails, notes, and face-to-face meetings.

Concept 2: Commitment counts. Some sellers are totally committed to price, and less committed to moving. There’s nothing wrong with taking an overpriced listing as long as you communicate upfront that it’s overpriced. Make sure sellers know that by being more committed to price, they may not be able to sell.

Concept 3: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Your job is not to outpromise your competition in order to get the listing. Keep the few promises you make rather than make many promises and break them.

Concept 4: Sell the agents, not the buyers. To boost your chances of selling, you need to have more agents through the door, which means more showings. Get agents excited so that out of all the homes on the market in this particular price range, they remember your listing best. Have the mindset that your job as a marketing agent is to motivate the other agents in your market – not just to sell a home.

Concept 5: Price it right. If your inventory isn’t selling, either your price or the marketing is wrong.

For over 20 years, Darryl Davis has traveled around the country coaching agents and brokers on how to achieve their Next Level of success.

Survey: Most Americans Will Be on Work Email during Holidays

December 6, 2011 5:34 pm

The majority of employed American adults (59 percent) check work emails during traditional family holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. That's according to a survey by Xobni, the creators of a Microsoft Outlook add-in that helps people more effectively manage their email and business relationships, from a November online survey conducted on its behalf by Harris Interactive.

Of these, over half (55 percent) check work email at least once a day and more than one in four (28 percent) do so multiple times throughout the day. 

American workers continue to be inundated with email at work and this survey shows that there is no sign of slowing down during the holiday season with 79 percent of those that check email while on holiday stating that they have received a work-related email from a colleague or client on holidays.

The onslaught of work is leading to growing contempt by American workers with 41 percent of those that ever received work emails from a co-worker/client while they had time off for the holidays saying they are either annoyed, frustrated or resentful after receiving these emails.

Younger adults have the strongest opinion on the matter with 56 percent ages 18-34 sharing they have the above reactions compared to just 39 percent of adults ages 35-44 and 30 percent ages 45-54. The survey also found that 12 percent of respondents actually "dread" seeing work emails populate their inbox and 10 percent even feel pity for those who do send work-related emails on holidays.

Despite their displeasure with receiving work-related emails on holidays, 42 percent of those that check work email while they have time off for the holidays still believe that staying up-to-date on email eases their workloads once they return from break. Additionally, 19 percent of those that ever received work emails from a co-worker/client while they had time off for the holidays even cited feeling "thankful" or "relieved" at having the distraction.

Working Men Email More on Holidays
Employed males are significantly more likely to check work email on holidays: 67 percent, compared to just 50 percent of women. Employed middle-aged adults feel the greatest urge, with 65 percent of those aged 35-44 stating that they have checked work emails on holidays. And while the East and West coasts are traditionally considered to be the beating hearts of capitalism in the United States, the survey found that the Southern region led the way with the most people sharing that they check work emails during the holidays—63 percent (compared to 57 percent for the west and 59 for the northeast).

Choosing Work over Family/Friends
For some, the survey found that the draw of work email is just too hard to get away from. One in 10 (10 percent) who admitted to checking email while off for a holiday stated that they did so while spending time with friends or relatives at Holiday parties/gatherings or during meals. Younger adults are more likely to do so with 15 percent of ages 18-34 compared to only 10 percent of ages 35-44 and just 6 percent of ages 45-54. Some of those (5 percent) that check work email while they have time off for the holidays even admitted to using work email as an excuse to avoid awkward family moments and other holiday commitments.

Word of the Day:

December 6, 2011 5:34 pm

Release of mortgage. Certificate from the lender stating that the loan has been repaid.

Question of the Day

December 6, 2011 5:34 pm

Q: What is title insurance?

A: Title insurance protects the lender against unclear title to the property you are buying. It is almost always a requirement for closing on a home. If you desire coverage as well, buy an owner’s policy, which will protect you against any title-search errors and losses that arise from disputes over property ownership. The cost of title insurance is usually a set value per thousand of dollars of the total loan amount.

6 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft When Traveling

December 5, 2011 5:30 pm

Identity theft is a major problem, and the risk may be highest when you are traveling. That, according to finance writer Amy Fontinelle, is because most of us travel with personal information at hand while in strange or distracting environments.

She suggests five easy and sensible ways to reduce the risk of identity theft when traveling:

1. Restrict use of public Wi-fi – Public Wi-fi networks are not secure, whether you pay for access or not. Criminals can use a technique called Wi-Fi sniffing to intercept data transmitted insecurely over a wireless network, so resist the urge to log-in at airports or hotels just to kill some time. Smartphone users can protect themselves by using their carrier's secure 3G or 4G service. Otherwise, try to handle sensitive online business on your secure home network before you leave town.
2. Use a separate computer for travel - Laptops and netbooks are so cheap these days that you might be able to afford more than one. If you travel enough to make such a purchase worthwhile, get a new computer that you will use exclusively for travel. That way, you can limit the amount of sensitive data that goes onto it.
3. Clean out your wallet – Take along your driver’s license, two credit cards, and some cash. Remove any other credit cards or health information or personal cards you will not be using on your trip—and never carry your Social Security card with you.
4. Use a money belt – Carry the bulk of your cash and valuables in a money belt or in a pouch worn around the neck. Try not to get into it in public.
5. Put deliveries on hold – Nothing advertises a vacant house more than a stack of daily newspapers or mail spilling from the mailbox. Have mail held by the post office while you are away, and stop newspaper delivery.
6. Be cautious around strangers – No need to be looking over your shoulder all the time, but be wary of strangers asking for something while a partner picks your pocket. Don’t ask a stranger to watch your bag while you run to the restroom. Make sure no one is looking over your shoulder if you are using a laptop or Smartphone—and be careful what you reveal in cell phone conversations.

Winter Pipe Maintenance, Continued

December 5, 2011 5:30 pm

I previously reported that according to State Farm, the number of frozen pipe claims nearly tripled nationally, from 9,000 claims to more than 26,000 claims, between 2008 and 2009. And we dug into some advice from the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc. on the subject.

According to the PIACT report, anytime the temperature reaches 32 degrees or below, if pipes are not properly winterized, it could spell disaster. But with a little attention and simple maintenance, you can help prevent pipes from freezing.

The PIACT says pipes that freeze most often are those exposed to the severe cold such as those located in unheated interior areas like basements or attics, crawl spaces, garages and kitchen cabinets.

Some measures the report suggests for safeguarding pipes and property include insulating the pipes in these areas. Additionally, make sure to seal leaks that allow cold air inside near the pipes.

Look for air leaks and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out and the heat in. Water supply pipes to outside valves (hose bibs) usually have a shut off valve inside the house.

The home owner should shut the inside valve and open the outside valve. If water continues to drip outside, there may be a leak at the inside valve, and a plumber may need to get involved to fix this.

For pipes in crawlspaces and garages it may be necessary to wrap the pipe with an electrical insulator. These wraps act like heating pads for the pipe to keep the fluid from freezing.

If pipes do freeze, do take immediate steps to prevent further damage. But the PIACT warns don’t take any chances. If you turn on your faucets and no water comes out, leave the faucet on, turn off the main shut-off valve for your water supply and call a plumber.

And James R. Berliner, CPCU, president of PIACT says if damage has occurred; contact your professional, independent insurance agent to guide you through the claims process.

Toasting 101: 5 Steps to Pop the Cork, Not Your Eye Out

December 5, 2011 5:30 pm

There's nothing that brings a little sparkle to your holiday get together with friends and family more than champagne. In fact, Americans will consume more than one billion glasses of champagne this year, over 40 percent during the holiday season, according to Impact Databank. While champagne will add the sparkle, what you don't want to add are injuries to your holiday festivities. 

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the careless handling of champagne is one of the most common causes for holiday-related eye injuries.

These injuries are often caused by improperly opening the bottle, as a champagne cork is just under 90 pounds of pressure—three times the pressure inside a car tire. So, before you break open a high-pressured bottle of bubbly, it's important to know the proper technique. By following these simple tips, offered by Korbel Champagne Cellars, you can open the champagne bottle like a pro—without injury or spillage.

While the popping of a cork may sound festive and exciting, it tends to waste champagne and can be dangerous. The recommended way to properly open a bottle is to ease the cork out slowly, with the sound of a gentle sigh. In order to celebrate this holiday season without injury (or wasting champagne) follow these five easy steps:

1. Make sure your champagne is chilled and unshaken. Chill the bottle for at least four hours in the refrigerator (a warm bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly).
2. Remove the foil cap covering the top of the bottle, exposing a wire hood.
3. Undo the wire hood with six half-turns of the knob.
4. Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle while holding the cork firmly with one hand and the base of the bottle with the other. Be sure to point the bottle away from your guests.
5. Do not twist the cork. Rather, turn the bottle slowly while letting the cork glide out gently, emitting a gentle sigh.

Note: Never use a corkscrew. A champagne cork is highly compressed. If a corkscrew is inserted at an angle, you may have an exploding bottle in your hand.

"Whether you're toasting a good year or serving Mimosas at brunch, the holidays always call for champagne," says Gary Heck, owner and president of Korbel Champagne Cellars. "Opening a champagne bottle can be tricky, but don't be intimidated. Follow these tips and you're sure to get your fine bubbly in the glass, rather than all over your guests."

Other Champagne tips:
• Expect six generous glasses from one standard size (750ml) bottle.
• The most popular champagne is Brut—it's medium-dry, light and crisp.
• There are more than 50 million bubbles in a standard bottle of champagne.
• It's best to serve champagne in tapered champagne flutes, as they highlight the fine stream of bubbles. While short, wide goblets can be used in a pinch, they tend to cause the bubbles to dissipate quickly.
• When transporting champagne, keep the bottles upright. The shaking bottles receive in the car can cause champagne to quickly lose its sparkle after opening. Upright bottles keep wine movement to a minimum and the bubbles in the wine.
• Celebrate responsibly. Don't drink and drive; take a taxi or have a designated driver do the honors. The best celebrations are those from which everyone gets home safely.

Source: Korbel Champagne Cellars

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