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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

The Clean You Need, at a Fraction of the Cost

October 13, 2011 4:52 pm

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the average consumer spends about $630 each year on household supplies. In fact, a recent study reveals that many Americans are letting their money go down the drain—literally—by spending too much on items like laundry detergent. In these tough economic times, families are looking for smart, new ways to save money without sacrificing quality, and the laundry room is a great place to start. 

Finding the right detergent is the first step toward clean, bright laundry. Look for a brand that provides the clean you need, at a fraction of the cost. The Arm & Hammer family of detergents has something for everyone -- from liquid or powder to scented or free of perfume -- at a price point that is significantly less than other high end options. 

Here are more ways to keep clothes, floors and household surfaces in tip-top shape, without breaking the bank. 

Keep it Cool
Save on energy costs by using cold water whenever possible. Most detergents are powerful enough to get a deep-down clean regardless of the water temperature. Whether running the dish washer or loading the laundry machine, turn the dial to cold for savings. 

Use, Wash, Repeat
Laundry rooms are often dubbed mud rooms. When cleaning these floors and surfaces, use reusable products like cloth towels whenever possible. In addition to being a green option, you'll save money by not going through rolls and rolls of pricey paper towels. 

Turn to Homemade Solutions
Forego costly cleaners and reduce cupboard clutter by making your own products with common household ingredients. A simple mix of baking soda and water creates a useful all-purpose cleaner; lemon juice cuts through grease; and an old toothbrush is perfect for scrubbing hard-to-reach places. 

Stock Up on Essentials
Everyone should have one go-to product that addresses a multitude of messy situations at home. For instance, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda has countless cleaning and deodorizing uses, and costs less than one dollar a box. Baking soda freshens carpets, cleans tiles and walls, polishes silver, deodorizes diaper pails, boosts laundry, and much more. 

For more information about getting the clean you need on a budget, visit www.armandhammer.com.
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National Toilet Tank Repair Month; Make Repairs Now

October 13, 2011 4:52 pm

The dripping sound coming from the kitchen sink usually means money is going down the drain. But toilets often leak silently, leaving homeowners unaware of the water and money they're wasting. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a leaky toilet can waste about 200 gallons of water a day. To help homeowners better understand their toilets and how they work, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has an online animated toilet diagram at www.mrrooter.com/Services/Residential/Toilets.aspx. 

"Our toilet diagram is a fun way to learn more about your toilet," says Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Corporation. "National Toilet Tank Repair Month is a wonderful reminder that regular plumbing check keeps our plumbing fixtures in good working condition." 

It's also a good time to detect problems and make any necessary toilet repair. In celebration of October being National Toilet Tank Repair Month, Mr. Rooter Plumbing has these plumbing tips: 

• Replace flappers and fill valves every couple of years to prevent a running toilet.
• Adjust the chain or float ball in the tank if water continues to flow after flushing.
• Install an ultra low-flow toilet that requires only 1.3 gallons of water per flush compared to older models' 3.5 gallons. 

Follow this advice from Mr. Rooter Plumbing to locate silent toilet leaks:
• First, put an old towel around the base of the toilet in case of a leak. (The dye can stain flooring.)
• Then put several drops of dark food coloring into the toilet tank.
• If dye appears in the bowl, there's a leak. 

The problem could be one of two things: either replace the flapper at the bottom of the tank or adjust/replace the fill valve. Home repair stores carry these toilet repair parts. If you aren't a do-it-yourselfer, Mr. Rooter Plumbing is just a phone call away. 

For more information, visit www.mrrooter.com or www.mrrooter.ca.
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Word of the Day

October 13, 2011 4:52 pm

Maintenance fees. Paid by a condominium unit owner to the owners’ association for upkeep of the common areas.
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Question of the Day

October 13, 2011 4:52 pm

Q: Who are the professionals that do home improvements?

A: They vary depending on the size and scope of your job. General contractors are companies or individuals who contract with you to manage all aspects of the project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining building permits, and supplying materials and labor equipment needed to do the project. Specialty contractors, on the other hand, are mainly concerned with installing products, such as cabinets and fixtures. Architects design homes, additions, and major renovations. And design/build contractors basically offer one-stop service, providing design and construction services and overseeing a project from start to finish.
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Making Energy-Efficient Changes in Historic Buildings

October 12, 2011 6:50 pm

I recently ran across some extremely valuable information from Sharon C. Park, AIA of the National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services (www.nps.gov/hps/tps)--a provider of information and guidance on the care of historic buildings.

Technical Preservation Services provides the tools and information necessary to take effective measures to protect and preserve historic buildings, ranging from historic masonry and window repairs to lead paint abatement to accessibility for people with disabilities.

She recently wrote about The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation &Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings—the first set of official guidelines on how to make changes to improve energy efficiency and preserve the character of historic buildings.

In this first of two segments, we’ll cover some of the most frequent pitfalls to avoid when renovating a heating or HVAC system in a historic home or building:

• Don't install a new HVAC system if you don't need it.

• Don't switch to a new type of system (e.g. forced air) unless there is sufficient space for the new system or an appropriate place to put it.

• Don't over-design a new system. Don't add air conditioning or climate control if they are not absolutely necessary.

• Don't cut exterior historic building walls to add through-wall heating and air conditioning units. These are visually disfiguring, they destroy historic fabric, and condensation runoff from such units can further damage historic materials.

• Don't damage historic finishes, mask historic features, or alter historic spaces when installing new systems.

• Don't drop ceilings or bulkheads across window openings.

In addition, the guide warns about making aesthetic mistakes like installing new mechanical duct work that is visible from the exterior or adversely impacts the historic character of the interior space; leaving interior duct work exposed in highly-finished spaces where it would negatively impact the historic character of the space; leaving exposed duct work unpainted in finished interior spaces, such as those with a pressed metal ceiling; or placing HVAC equipment in highly-visible locations on the roof or on the site where it will negatively impact the historic character of the building or its site.

In our next segment, we’ll go through another punch-list of things to do when renovating a historic property.
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Are You Prepared for the Unexpected?

October 12, 2011 6:50 pm

CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison website, announced a new infographic educating consumers about common disasters Americans face everyday, including which disasters are most common in each geographic region. 

“Our hope in publishing this infographic is to help educate individuals and families so they can be better prepared for the possibility of disaster,” says Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey.

As shown by the infographic, the disasters that Americans face are costly. And when individuals are unprepared, these expenses are often charged to credit cards. While credit cards are often a good solution for minor emergencies, if the costs keep adding up and the disaster results in lost wages, individuals can be left facing hefty interest charges and fees if the credit card balances aren’t handled properly. 

To help individuals avoid the fees, CreditDonkey has included some practical tips individuals can employ now to help alleviate some of the financial stress that these disasters can place on a household. 

“No matter how prepared you are, there will always be stress when a disaster strikes,” says Tran. “But when consumers take the time to disaster proof their finances, that small time investment will pay off when they find themselves in an unfortunate situation. Without the financial pressure weighing them down, they’re able to focus on what matters most—their family.” 

Here are some of the tips that are included in the infographic:
• Review insurance coverage with a trusted insurance agent. They will be able to advise families on what is and isn’t covered by their current insurance plans and recommend any additional coverage.
• When looking to cut expenses, hang on to your medical insurance. The monthly cost of insurance is well worth the investment should an individual have to go to the hospital.
• Review health insurance coverage and become familiar with the medical providers and hospitals in your area. Some plans will only cover certain medical groups, so the hospital closest to home might not be the best option financially.
• Prepare for potential job loss with an emergency savings fund. Most financial experts recommend setting aside at least 6 months worth of expenses; some even recommend saving up to an entire year’s worth of bills. If that amount is a stretch, at least get into the habit of setting aside some of each paycheck to start growing your savings. Every little bit can help.
• Set up direct deposit for all types of income checks. This will eliminate the stress of having to locate and deposit checks should your home get affected by natural disaster and you need to relocate. 

For more information, go to http://www.creditdonkey.com
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Top 3 Ways to Collect in Small Claims Court

October 12, 2011 6:50 pm

Winning a case is often just the first part of a civil court battle. The second part: judgment collection. Even if you win in small claims court, you may be left wondering how to collect a judgment. 

And it can seem like a daunting task. Defendants generally don't like losing. They also don't like paying up.
How can you collect what you're owed? Here are some simple tips to help you collect: 

How to Collect a Judgment Tip No. 1: Familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction's rules. 
Many courts have self-help centers or informative websites that lay out rules and regulations. In California the debtor has 30 days after the judgment to pay the creditor. Rules like this one may be different depending on what state you're in, so it's important to search for regulations in your jurisdiction. 

How to Collect a Judgment Tip No. 2: Contact the other party.
Send the proper court documents and a letter to the defendant in the case requesting payment. Make sure you include all the necessary information. 

How to Collect a Judgment Tip No. 3: Utilize the court system.
If the defendant does not respond to your letter, there are other routes to collect a judgment. Depending on where you live, courts may order the sheriff to seize property or assets from the debtor. It's also possible that you can ask for post-judgment discovery to determine if the debtor has any assets. You might also be able to ask the court to put a lien on the defendant's property or garnish their wages. 

If your judgment collection isn't successful, you might want to consider contacting a debt collection agency or an attorney for more assistance. Or, ask if there are any non-profit agencies or free services to help you collect a judgment. Keep in mind that in many states, judgments are valid for 10 years (but may be renewable). 

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.
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Word of the Day

October 12, 2011 6:50 pm

Loan servicing. Task of collecting monthly payments, handling insurance and tax impounds, delinquencies, early payoffs, and mortgage releases.
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Question of the Day

October 12, 2011 6:50 pm

Q: How can I protect my home from creditors?

 

A: Check with your state. It may provide special protection through the filing of a homestead exemption, which exempts some or all of the value of your equity in the homestead – the home that you live in and the land on which it sits – from claims of unsecured creditors. Whether to file a homestead exemption will depend on your situation. Contact your county recorder's office for details. 

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Top 10 Things to Check before Buying A Home

October 11, 2011 4:59 pm

If this is the year you are ready to take advantage of historically low home prices and interest rates to buy a home of your own, you have probably begun to narrow your ‘wish list’ to certain towns, neighborhoods or school districts.

But before you begin to tour some likely nesting prospects, says California REALTOR® Ellen Parker, you should prepare a checklist you can begin to tick off before you make your home buying choice.

Begin, suggested Parker, by checking off these top 10 factors:

• Location – Is the house near your work, shopping areas, and/or preferred schools? Does it have a view, a nearby park, proximity to the beach, or any other asset of particular interest to you?
• Neighborhood – Drive up and down the surrounding blocks. Are the yards and houses neat and well-maintained? Do the streets seem safe for walking or biking?
• Special needs – Are there too many stairs? Too much driveway elevation? Is the yard suitable for children or gardening? Is there a place to set up the workshop or office you want?
• Curb appeal – What’s your first impression of the home’s exterior style? Do you like the look of the brick façade? The tile roof? The long walkway?
• Size and floor plan – The larger the home, the more it costs to heat and cool. On the other hand, does the number of rooms suit your needs? Is a downstairs master bedroom practical when children’s rooms are all on the second floor?
• Room to expand – Is there room to add a second bath? An indoor laundry? Another bedroom? Needs expand as families do. Look at the home long-term.
• The kitchen – Does it have the open floor plan you want? Will you have to replace cabinets? Counters?
• Closets and storage – Is there enough storage space? Enough to grow into? If you have to add more, will you be giving up living space?
• Windows and lighting – Do you prefer bright, sunny rooms? Or more privacy? Keep that in mind in your home search. Will you have to install double paned windows? Check that electric outlets and fixtures accommodate your lighting needs.
• Extra features – Does the home have a mud room? An inside laundry area? What other features does it have that you may or may not find elsewhere?
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