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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

Word of the Day

November 1, 2011 5:52 pm

Nonconforming use. Use of property that is permitted to continue after a zoning ordinance prohibiting it has been passed.
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Question of the Day

November 1, 2011 5:52 pm

Q: What do I do about the unseen maintenance problems like toxic gases?

A: Problems with your chimney, mechanical devices on your heating appliance, and pressure within the home can all cause combustion spillage, the unwanted flow of combustion gases into your home. Present in these gases are toxic elements such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

The best way to prevent spillage is to hire a professional – preferably one who specializes in building inspection, indoor air quality, ducting, chimneys and heating equipment – to do a yearly maintenance check of all your combustion appliances. These appliances include a gas-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, an oil-fired furnace, boiler, or water heater, and a fireplace.

The service professional can check for heat exchanger leakage, evidence of start up spillage, and condensation in the chimney. Maintenance normally includes a tune-up, or in the case of a chimney, clearing it of debris and fixing cracks on the inside wall.
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Fall Clean-up, Already?

October 31, 2011 5:46 pm

Fall is the season for football, changing leaf colors, and—because of yard work—back injuries, tumbles from ladders and lawn mower accidents.

Each year, thousands of Americans are injured cleaning gutters, raking leaves, washing windows and doing other chores. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) urges people to take the proper safety precautions to reduce the number of cleaning-related accidents this season.

Statistics:
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
• In 2010, more than 35,500 people injured themselves using a stepladder
• More than 127,000 were injured while operating a lawn mower

AAOS Expert Advice:
"When it comes to cleaning up around the house, be sure to move and lift heavy or oddly-shaped items properly. Start by bending at the knees and lift using your legs, not from your back," says Marc T. Galloway, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson. "A lot of injuries tend to occur on ladders too, so if you're cleaning the gutters or painting a bedroom make sure the ladder is stable, locked in place to avoid falls. And, whatever you do, do not stand on the top rung—this can result in orthopaedic injuries like fractures or breaks."

Fall Clean Up Safety Tips:

Lifting Heavy Objects
Proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending should be part of any outdoor or indoor cleaning project to avoid back injuries:
• Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart and keep your back upright and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles.
• Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; don't try to lift any object by yourself if it is too heavy or an awkward shape.

Raking
Raking can be vigorous exercise. Before you begin, warm up for at least 10 minutes with some stretching and light exercise.
• Use a rake that is comfortable for your height and strength
• Wear gloves or use rakes with padded handles to prevent blisters, and vary your movement, alternating your leg and arm positions often.
• Keep your vision free of impediment and wear shoes with slip-resistant soles.
• To avoid back injuries, do not overfill leaf bags. Never carry or throw a bag over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion places undo stress on your back.

Ladder Use
Ladders used for chores—such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees—should be placed on a firm, level surface. In addition:
• Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.
• Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture—such as a chair or the couch – when cleaning high hard to reach areas.
• When working on a ladder, over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder. Never climb a ladder without a spotter.
• Use care with extension cords: be sure they are properly grounded. To avoid tripping or falling, do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways.

Mowing the Lawn
When mowing the lawn, be sure to wear proper footwear and eyewear for protection.
• Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – carefully look for others behind you when you do.
• Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16- years-old for a ride-on mower.

Other Cleaning Tips
• Read product labels for proper use and wear protective clothing and gloves when using chemicals for cleaning. Store all chemicals at the appropriate temperature, which is usually indicated on the package, in a place that is out of reach of both children and pets. Never place chemicals into unmarked containers or containers labeled for a different substance.
• Keep a cell phone within reach in case of accident or injury.

For more information, visit Orthoinfo.org or
http://www.aaos.org
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Cleaning Tips to Get the Most out of your Carpet

October 31, 2011 5:46 pm

Chances are, your home’s carpet gets a lot of wear and tear. By following these few simple tips, you can extend your carpet’s life and save a little money in the process.

1. Vacuum. Vacuuming often removes dirty and soil buildup, preventing accumulations that are more difficult to tackle.
2. Spot Stain. With kids, pets, guests and accidents, some staining bound to happen. By addressing stains immediately, you will be more likely to remove the stain before it sets.
3. Don’t Rub! When a stain occurs, blot it to absorb any liquid, then add a cleaner and let it sit. If you need to, blot from the outside of the stain toward the center to avoid spreading, but don’t rub—this can cause the stain to set deeper into your carpet.

Source: www.chem-dry.net
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The Right Passage for Teen Driving

October 31, 2011 5:46 pm

Safe driving is usually not in the forefront of a teen’s mind, but for parents it can be a big worry. Many parents often overlook the need to have honest discussions with their teens about safe driving and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

“Getting behind the wheel is an important responsibility at any age and Foremost wants all drivers to be as safe as possible,” says Eric Kappler, assistant vice president of auto product management. “Leading by example is a great opportunity for parents to show their teen safe driving techniques.”

Foremost Insurance Group offers this honest and teen-friendly guide to sharing concerns with your teen for one of the most important responsibilities of their adolescent career.
• Have a good time. Explain to your teen that you want them to have fun and enjoy themselves. Just don’t drink. Years from now, they will laugh when looking back on their school days, but not if they don’t remember them.
• Relate it to your past. Explain to them what you did right or wrong and what the consequences were. Don’t be afraid to tell them the truth if you made some bad judgment calls. This can only help them to feel that you are human and that you regret those decisions and don’t want them to make the same.
• Remind them of their future. High school is a great time, but they have their whole future ahead of them. Remind them that it is important to look ahead and make good decisions.
• Immature vs. mature. Your teen may think that drinking or doing drugs and driving is what the grown up thing is to do. Explain to them that is the most immature and irresponsible decision they could make. Being mature is about making the right decision and keeping your future in your sight. As a parent, your responsibility is to lead by example. Parents should follow the same rules they set for their teen.
• Drive safe! Make sure that they understand the responsibility of getting behind the wheel. Share these six tips with your teen:
1. Wear seatbelts.
2. Don’t speed.
3. Be a defensive driver. Not everyone on the road is going to be as safe as you, watch out for other unsafe drivers.
4. Don’t drive while impaired or ride with anyone that is impaired. This clouds judgment for driving and could potentially end in a fatality. If you do make a mistake, or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, call your parents immediately. They will respect you for being mature enough to see the danger and making the right call.
5. Pay attention to the road while driving. Don’t get distracted by cell phones, radio, or passengers. Driving is a very important responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The way your teen learns to drive today is how they will drive tomorrow. Remind them that driving is a privilege—not to be taken lightly or for granted. Getting behind the wheel can be a great rite of passage…just make sure it’s the right passage they are driving down.

For more information, visit http://www.Foremost.com.
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Word of the Day

October 31, 2011 5:46 pm

Net lease. Lease requiring the tenant to pay all the costs incurred in maintaining a property, including taxes, insurance, repairs, and other expenses normally required of the owner.
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Question of the Day

October 31, 2011 5:46 pm

Q: Is it true you never really stop fixing up a home?

A: From the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or remodeled. You may want to undertake some changes simply to elevate your comfort level – like installing central air conditioning—or spruce up the home’s aesthetics, such as adding a few stained-glass windows.

But other work will need to be done to maintain the property and minimize problems later on. Some examples are replacing a hazardous roof, fixing broken windows, and repairing leaky pipes. These are all necessities. Left undone, they can lead to major problems and damages within the home.

If you decide one day to sell, other improvements will likely be made to increase the home’s value and appeal to potential buyers.
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Have A Stress-Less Holiday Season

October 28, 2011 5:40 pm

In these busy days, with many of us already juggling too many activities and assorted responsibilities, the very thought of adding holiday-related chores may be enough to put a damper on the season. The solution, say health care professionals, is in lowering expectations and simplifying the must-do chores.

“The pleasure of the holidays should be in sharing time with our families and closest friends,” says licensed clinical social worker Margaret Dougherty. “Doing things more simply, and avoiding too many social obligations may be the answer to a stress-free holiday.”

Dougherty offers the following tips to help take stress out of the season:

• Get rid of clutter – Clutter at home can be a silent but powerful stress-inducer. Just getting things off the floors and counters can help create a more peaceful environment.
• Pare holiday card list – There is no need to send a card to everyone you know. Pare the list to those you don’t see often – or don’t send cards at all. You will save money and not contribute to someone else’s clutter.
• Scale down the décor – Display only the decorative items you really love, and give away the rest. Less can be more, and a few well-placed items can create a clutter-free but festive mood.
• Clear the schedule – Learn to say no to holiday invitations you are not keen on accepting. Dinners and parties that cut into your rest and/or family time may end up being no fun at all.
• Simplify gift-giving – Float the option of drawing names instead of buying gifts for each person. Consider clutter-free gifts like theater or movie tickets that also require less shopping and wrapping time.
• Plan meals ahead – when cooking favorite family foods in the weeks before the holidays, make double batches and freeze half for a stress-free holiday warm-up. Stock up on frozen supermarket entrees for extra-busy nights, and bake and freeze holiday cookies and treats in advance on autumn evenings.
• Give from your kitchen – While you are at it, cook or bake enough extra in the weeks before the holidays to package and freeze as holiday gifts. A quart of chili in a pretty bowl, or a mug-full of homemade fudge or cookies, makes a great and much appreciated gift for neighbors, service people and friends
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5 Trends Impacting Home Exterior Colors and Materials from 2012 - 2015

October 28, 2011 5:40 pm

According to national color expert Kate Smith, people have conflicting emotions regarding their homes during these economically challenging times.

Homeowners want to embrace their need for change and feel positive about their living space by purchasing new products, while at the same time being financially and environmentally responsible. Smith believes the marketplace is seeing a shift to homeowners looking for items that have high value and a long lifespan.
Smith, president of Sensational Color, says there are some distinct trends emerging that will guide homeowners during the next several years. “People naturally seek newness of colors, products and other items for their home,” says Smith. “However, this is now being balanced by our concern with greater issues than ourselves. Many of us are willing to tame our desire for newness and change in order to make decisions that have a positive impact on the greater good of the environment and our global community.”
In order to meet these conflicting emotions, homeowners are seeking out better quality products with longer life spans. “People are educating themselves more these days on the impact a single purchase will have on themselves and on the environment,” says Smith. “For example, a homeowner may desire real wood shake shingles on a roof, but they understand the lifespan of those roofing shingles is extremely limited. They’re thinking twice about how many trees would need to be harvested to make those wood shingles.
“Instead, that same homeowner is more likely to lean toward selecting a polymer shake roofing tile. These tiles are man-made and require minimal long-term maintenance. This becomes a ‘win-win’ choice for the conscientious homeowner.” 

Smith has identified several key trends related to exterior home products and colors. These include: 

1. Living Simply in a Complex World – This trend relates to people moving away from the old question of “what more do we want?” to the question of “would life be better with less?” The desire for a more streamlined life motivates people to select modern technology, products and materials that make our complex lives easier.
2. Give Me More “Me Time” – Younger buyers, who once would not be bothered by a home that was anything but brand new, are now changing their home buying strategies. These individuals are embracing older homes that they can personalize by adding newer products that require minimal maintenance. These Internet savvy people are relying on researching the best product options online for their homes. They’re looking for products that help blend the older bones of a home with their modern sensibilities in order to provide a sense of connection to history and their community.
3. Rules are Made to be Broken – Today’s homeowners are making their own rules. In the coming years, look for unusual mixing of materials and colors in ways communities haven’t previously seen. Homeowners want their homes to reflect their personalities, but they also want to express themselves on the exterior of the home. Look for attention-getting colors on front doors, a not-so-expected color on window frames and unique blends of color on the roof in the coming years as homeowners put their personal stamp on their homes.
4. Naturally Inspired and Improved – Colors and materials that harmonize with the natural surroundings of a home are increasingly important to homeowners. This goal becomes easier for people to achieve as manufacturers continue to introduce products that mimic nature (such as polymer slate roofing tiles).

Homeowners are basing their purchasing decisions on their increased understanding that the manufactured products they select will have a longer life span, thus reducing the need for replacement. And, in many situations, these man-made products that look, feel and have natural colors incorporated, require less maintenance and reduce the negative impact on the environment.
5. Inside Out Harmony – Homeowners are finding that colors and materials that harmonize with their natural surrounding are increasingly important to them. Regional colors and materials on a home exterior help anchor people to their community, providing a unity within a neighborhood or subdivision. In many cases, homeowners are also bringing the outside indoors by adding plant walls, gardens and water features into the home. On the exterior, they’re adding fire pit areas, and outdoor living and dining room spaces that blur the boundaries of the living both inside and outside the home. 

For more information, visit http://www.sensationalcolor.com.
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6 Reasons Why It's Smart to Buy a Vacation Rental Home

October 28, 2011 5:40 pm

Lately, you've been thinking a lot about investing strategies. You have a small nest egg that needs to grow, but frankly you don't trust the stock market. (If you're like many investors, your 401(k) hasn't fared well in recent years.) And while real estate has been somewhat of a rocky road in recent years, it's still a solid long-term investment strategy—and clearly we're in a buyer's market. But you aren't really interested in being a landlord. What to do?

Christine Karpinski has a suggestion: Purchase a vacation home and rent it out to travelers.

"Vacation homes are almost always a good investment," says Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway—te the world's leading vacation rental marketplace—and author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-9748249-9-2, $26.00).

"First, if you're looking for a good long-term investment, real estate tends to be a good bet," she adds. "Second, vacation properties have the ability to pay for themselves, and owners often earn a profit in rental income. Third, the investment comes with the desirable perk of having a place at the beach or in the mountains to call your own. And finally, there has never been a better time to buy a vacation home—it's like the planets have all lined up perfectly."

Karpinski, who owns vacation homes in several parts of the country, says she herself is looking for new properties to invest in. Overall, she says, the vacation home rental market is a burgeoning segment of the economy.

Want to know more? Read on for a few reasons why there's never been a better time to go vacation rental house hunting:

There have never been so many properties on the market. For potential home buyers, there is a silver lining to the slow economy and the housing crisis: Most vacation markets are chock-full of buying opportunities. Once you've pinpointed the vacation rental market that is right for you—The coast? The mountains? A ski resort area?—you will likely have a lot of properties to choose from.

"There are many properties available right now in many different areas," says Karpinski. "Once you start hunting, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find. But I must offer one caveat: Before you let yourself fall in love with a property, make sure it is legal to rent it out as a vacation home. Some areas and homeowners' associations do not allow short-term rentals."

Prices aren't going to get much better. In fact, they're the lowest they've been in five to ten years. If you're pretty sure you want to buy a vacation home "someday," you might want to quit procrastinating and pull the trigger, says Karpinski.

"Prices should increase eventually," she points out. "Now is the perfect opportunity to make a really sound investment. In fact, speaking from my own perspective, I'm afraid that if I don't take the plunge now, I'll look back ten years from now and say, 'Why the heck didn't I buy back in 2010?'"

Interest rates are very favorable for purchasing. Today, mortgage interest rates are low. Bottom line: Take advantage of them while they last.

These days, you have access to the best real estate professionals. Anyone connected to the housing market who managed to survive the housing crash had to be at the top of his or her game. That means the agents left standing today—including the ones you'll be working with in your search for the perfect vacation home—are possibly the best of the best.

"Quite simply, the real estate professionals still working today are the top in the business," says Karpinski. "And because vacation home renting has become so popular, they are more knowledgeable than ever. Use their knowledge to your advantage. They are at your service when it comes to helping you hunt down the best property for you."

It's never been easier to rent your vacation home. As mentioned earlier, vacation home rentals have never been more popular. More and more consumers are choosing to stay in cozy condos, cabins, and chalets instead of cramped, impersonal hotel rooms when they travel. And as market demand has surged, organizations have sprung up to help connect vacation homeowners with these potential renters.

If you buy now, you can be ready for the 2011 peak season. It's true that the longer you wait to buy, the likelier it is that interest rates could rise. But there's another reason not to procrastinate: If you buy now, you'll have time to get your property ready for peak rental season. Experienced vacation homeowners often find that the rental fees generated during the twelve weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day pay their mortgages for an entire year—and most inquiries come in between January and March.

"Even turnkey properties aren't really turnkey," notes Karpinski. "To get your property up to your standards, there will very likely be things that you will want to spruce up. Rooms might need repainting. Decorating will need to be done. And the yard might need some work. By buying now, you will have a cushion of time to get the home ready for your guests, take great photos for your property listing, and start marketing it to potential renters."

"Someone is going to be smart enough to take advantage of the great buying opportunities available today," says Karpinski. "That person might as well be you."
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