Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
October 19, 2011 5:10 pm
Marketable title. Good and clear title that is free from reasonable doubt as to who the owner is.
October 19, 2011 5:10 pm
Q: How do I qualify for a home loan?
A: Your real estate agent has information on lender loan requirements and will be able to calculate a rough monthly figure you can afford based on the maximum monthly payment for the loan, taxes, insurance, and any type of maintenance fees. This pre-purchase evaluation by the agent can save you a lot of time spent looking at properties you cannot afford.
Lenders also routinely calculate what you can afford and can pre-qualify you for a loan even before you begin your home search. This way, you know exactly how much you can afford to buy.
Lenders generally stipulate that you spend no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment or 36 percent on total debts.
Ultimately, the price you can afford to pay for a home will also depend on other factors besides your gross income and outstanding debts. They include the amount of cash you have available for the down payment, your credit history, current interest rates, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender, and the type of mortgage you select.
October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
So you are trying to market your home. I don’t have to be the one to tell you that when it comes to hooking prospective buyers through web, mobile or print, you need to start with great pictures that pop.
I recently looked up Todd Arena at arenacreative.com, who posts a few quick tips you might be able to use to improve the quality of your photos in your online listings no matter what camera you have. (Feel free to share these tips with your REALTOR®, too!)
Among Arena’s recommendations:
• Don’t shoot the exterior mid-day when the sun is highest in the sky. Early morning or later in the afternoon is much more visually pleasing. Save mid-day for shooting the interior, so that the light is more even.
• Keep the sun to your back. It’s a rule that is meant to be broken, but when it comes to shooting houses it’s a pretty good one to stick by. The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West, so figure out which direction the front of the home is facing before you plan your shoot.
• Take a look up at the sky. Is it overcast? Unless you’re a whiz at digital special effects, you might want to wait until the weather gives you a nice blue sky, even if it is partly cloudy. Although, Arena says a bright overcast day is excellent if you’re taking features of the building where the sky isn’t showing. It will give you shadows that are less harsh, and a nice diffused style of light.
• Try to remove distracting elements beforehand. Are there kids toys laying all over the front yard?
• Keep your images season appropriate. Do you have pictures with snow in the yard when it’s June?
• And step back! Capture images of the home from across the street, or even further if you think it would help a potential buyer envision its situation or property size. Arena thinks this tip helps your property stand out from the crowd in the sea of listings.
October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment)®, recently announced that a survey conducted by the trade association shows that nearly 70 percent of homeowners state that zero is the acceptable number of pests allowed inside their home before they take action to get rid of them. The fall season offers the most advantageous time of the year to protect homes, lawns and communities against unwelcomed pests and disease, such as being able to identify cool-air leaks where holes or cracks might invite critters to come inside.
Utilizing indoor and outdoor integrated pest management approaches allows homeowners to have more control in preventing infestation, structural damage, and disease from negatively affecting their homes. To help homeowners pest-proof their homes this fall, RISE is offering an easy-to-implement checklist with a memorable acronym.
INvestigate. Become a pest detective and investigate your home and yard for clues that pests may be present. You never know where they may be lurking.
Study. Take a deeper look into your home and study the situation, learn more about the pests causing problems and the damage they can bring with them.
Prepare. In this step, plan how to most effectively solve your problem. Proper planning includes understanding the safe and correct way to execute any pest control approach.
Eliminate. Put your plan into action. This step includes eliminating the pests’ entry way into your home and eliminating problems that already exist.
Clean. Once you’ve eliminated welcoming entries for pests, maintaining a clean home and lawn is essential for discouraging pests from calling your home theirs.
Treat. Proactive and preventative treatment is key when talking about pests. Treating for problems at the first sign or before they appear will keep your home pest-free.
“We’ve seen how the extreme summer heat had pests looking for water in many unexpected places, and though the weather is beginning to cool, it’s no time for homeowners to be idle in protecting their homes,” says Gail Getty, research entomologist at the University of California at Berkeley and industry liaison. “The winter cold will send pests indoors looking for food and warmth. It’s important for homeowners to consider the significant damage that can result from an untreated pest infestation, and this week lends the perfect time for them to stop and do their home-work.”
With much of the U.S. population spending more time indoors during the fall and winter seasons, the chances increase for diseases to be spread if pests are left mismanaged. Uncontrolled pest populations, especially rats, cockroaches, bed bugs, spiders, and dust mites, can negatively affect the health of a family.
Cockroaches, the most frustrating pest among homeowners who participated in the recent RISE study, transmit Salmonella while also contributing to the development of allergies and asthma, particularly in children.
Outdoor spaces are not exempt to proactive pest management and routine maintenance to keep harmful plants and pests away. Before winter weather hits, help your lawn store up for the winter by fertilizing and adding grass seed before heavy rainfall saturates the ground or frost creates a barrier.
“Find a convenient time to attend to the outside of your home when you get home from work or while you’re letting the dog outside. It’s important to conduct routine grooming to deter harmful plants like poison ivy, oak, or sumac away from where your family lives and plays,” says Getty. “Keeping your lawn healthy during the winter can also help reduce cost when summer comes back around.”
For more information, visit http://www.pestfacts.org and http://www.debugthemyths.com.
October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
There are two reasons why nutritionists say chicken soup is effective for fighting winter colds. The first is that an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, often prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems—and the broth itself contains many common nutrients. The second reason is that the steam rising as you sip from a mug or bowl of hot soup can help clear nasal and bronchial passages and help you to relax and feel better.
But there are many foods, herbs and spices deemed helpful for warding off or relieving the symptoms of cold or flu.
“Think of foods as an insurance policy against winter’s cold viruses,” says Karen Gibson, RD, a dietitian at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
“Cold viruses are contagious, and some foods offer assistance in preventing colds by helping you develop and maintain a healthy immune system.”
Gibson and other nutritionists suggest these top 10 foods and spices for helping you and your family prevent and fight colds and flu:
• Dark colored fruits and veggies – Benefit from the vitamins and antioxidants in such colorful choices as tomatoes, spinach, squash, eggplants and blueberries.
• Fresh-cooked or canned chicken soup – Fresh-cooked may taste better, but both contain cold-fighting benefits.
• Oatmeal (and other whole grain cereals) – delivers selenium, zinc and beta glucan, known to support your immune system.
• Yogurt – active cultures, known as probiotics or healthy bacteria, may actually help fend off colds.
• Cinnamon or ginger – sprinkled on cereal, toast or yogurt, these tasty and popular spices can help reduce fever, relieve upset tummies, and kill germs.
• Garlic – Thought to guard against infection, garlic also contains an agent that acts like a decongestant.
• Cayenne pepper or hot chilis – They contain capsaicin, which acts as a decongestant, expectorant and pain reliever.
• Green or black hot tea – Like chicken soup, the steam alone may help reduce congestion and other cold symptoms. They also contain beneficial antioxidants.
• Pure orange or grapefruit juice – Drinking lots of it adds an increase of the protective vitamin C. Add lemon to your tea.
• Margarine – contains lysine, an amino acid that helps to prevent and combat cold sores.
October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
Traffic fatalities are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America – with an average of eight teens a day killed in car crashes.
“Young drivers need to be reminded of the dangers that come with driving,” says Lisa Melton, an assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. Consider these statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
• Most crashes happen during the first year a teenager has his or her license.
• The risk of being involved in a crash increases when teens drive with other teens in the car.
• Most fatal car crashes, for all ages, occur at night.
• Drivers aged 15 to 20 are three times as likely to get into fatal crashes as all other drivers.
“Driving can be especially dangerous for inexperienced drivers,” Melton says. “That’s why parents and guardians need to discuss safe driving habits with their teens, long before they get behind the wheel.”
If your child will be driving soon, be a responsible role model, Melton says. Teenagers will model adult driving habits. It’s also important to choose a reliable driving school that provides the classroom and on-the-road training a young driver needs. Parents should also practice driving with their teens. Give them plenty of practice driving at different times of days, on different roads and with different weather conditions. The more time they drive, the better drivers they will be, Melton says.
“Remember, too, that not all teenagers are ready to drive at the same age,” Melton says. Consider whether your teen is responsible enough to drive before allowing him or her to obtain a driver’s permit or driver’s license. If not, wait a few months before reconsidering.
Once your teen gets his or her license, be sure to set firm rules about their driving, Melton said. Restrict the number of passengers they can have in their car, especially while they are novice drivers. Set curfews to get them off the roads by 9 or 10 p.m., to reduce the risk of late-night crashes.
“Research shows which behaviors contribute to teen-related crashes: Inexperience and immaturity combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving (such as cell phone use, loud music or other teen passengers), drowsy driving, nighttime driving and other drug use aggravate this problem,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website.
The NHTSA and the CDC also offer these safe driving tips:
• Always wear a seatbelt to prevent death or serious injury.
• Never text while driving. Avoid other distractions, including talking on cell phones, eating or playing with the radio while behind the wheel.
• Do not use alcohol or drugs if you will be driving.
• Follow all traffic laws. Stick to the speed limit. Don’t tailgate.
• Be aware of road and traffic conditions. Drive defensively.
“National Teen Driver Safety Week is a great opportunity to remind your teens about driving safety,” Melton says. “Hopefully, they’ll develop good driving habits that will last a lifetime.”
For more driving safety information, visit http://www.nhtsa.gov or http://www.cdc.gov.
October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
Market value. Generally accepted as the highest price that a ready, willing, and able buyer will pay and the lowest price a ready, willing, and able seller will accept for a property.
October 18, 2011 7:06 pm
Q: What is a mortgage and how does it work?
A: A mortgage makes homeownership possible for most people. In the simplest terms, it is a loan that is secured by real property. The lender holds title to the home until the loan is completely repaid. If you fail to pay up, the lender has a right to take the property, sell it, and recover the money that is owed.
The amount of a mortgage will vary greatly depending on the down payment you make to reduce the amount of money that is needed to finance the home. You may put as much money down as you like, or you can sometimes pay as little as 3 to 5 percent of the purchase price, or sometimes nothing at all. The more you put down, the more you reduce the amount that is financed, thereby lowering your monthly payment.
The monthly payment consists of both principal and interest but also typically includes additional amounts to cover property taxes and insurance—specifically hazard insurance and private mortgage insurance, the latter of which is required for down payments less than 20 percent of the purchase price.
Home buyers in the U.S. have access to several different types of mortgage loans.
October 13, 2011 6:52 pm
In our last segment, I began exploring a valuable resource for those looking to own or renovate a historic property straight from the National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services—the nation's leading provider of information and guidance on the care of historic buildings.
In this segment, we’ll further explore the agency’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Building by focusing on some of the best practices for keeping a historic building looking authentic from inside and out.
When undertaking a historic restoration, the guide recommends:
• Using shutters, operable windows, porches, curtains, awnings, shade trees and other historically appropriate non-mechanical features of historic buildings to reduce the heating and cooling loads. Consider adding sensitively designed storm windows to existing historic windows.
• Retaining or upgrading existing mechanical systems whenever possible: for example, reuse radiator systems with new boilers, upgrade ventilation within the building, install proper thermostats or humidistats.
• Improving energy efficiency of existing buildings by installing insulation in attics and basements. Add insulation and vapor barriers to exterior walls only when it can be done without further damage to the resource.
• In major spaces, retain decorative elements of the historic system whenever possible. This includes switch-plates, grilles and radiators. Be creative in adapting these features to work within the new or upgraded system.
• Design climate control systems that are compatible with the architecture of the building: hidden system for formal spaces, more exposed systems possible in industrial or secondary spaces. In formal areas, avoid standard commercial registers and use custom slot registers or other less intrusive grilles.
• Size the system to work within the physical constraints of the building. Use multi-zoned smaller units in conjunction with existing vertical shafts, such as stacked closets, or consider locating equipment underground, if possible.
• Maintain appropriate temperature and humidity levels to meet requirements without accelerating the deterioration of any historic building materials. Set up regular monitoring schedules.
• Have a regular maintenance program to extend equipment life and to ensure proper performance.
To view the entire guide, visit Technical Preservation Services at www.nps.gov/hps/tps.
October 13, 2011 6:52 pm
Everyone has the power to make a positive impact on the world around them, whether it's choosing locally made products, making environmentally friendly home solutions or helping those in need. These actions can be beneficial to your family, your neighborhood and your local community. It's the simple things that make a difference.
Eco-expert and author Sarah Copeland blogs about her everyday food and lifestyle experiences on EdibleLiving.com, a website that helps readers discover easy and innovative ways to live the good life, naturally.
"For me, good, natural living starts with the little things," notes Copeland. "No matter how big or small the action, every one of us can take steps toward making the world a better place."
Copeland offers simple tips on how you can live well naturally, starting today.
Be a Local
Copeland says, "Your neighborhood is full of inspiring people, places and things. Connect with and support those who surround you." This includes:
o Eating locally sourced food. Buying food that is grown and produced nearby cuts down on the number of miles between the food and your plate. It also means supporting local farmers and agricultural businesses. There are several ways to find locally sourced food:
o Shopping at farmers markets. You can find fresh local produce, flowers, honey, breads and more.
o Eating at restaurants that source ingredients from local farms.
o Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). These are partnerships between community members and local growers. Through a CSA, you can buy what are essentially "shares" in the harvest each week. Pick up your goods from the farm or another pickup location, such as a grocery store, and enjoy fresh, seasonal ingredients.
o Hosting a community potluck. Ask neighbors to cook their favorite dishes with ingredients they've picked up from the farmers market. Good food creates good memories.
The Natural Way
"Natural foods and products are better for you—and Mother Earth. Take time to think about what you're putting into your body and into the ground," recommends Copeland. For instance:
o Eat greener. Go green—literally—by growing your own herbs and vegetables. There's no faster way to enhance your meal than by adding freshly chopped chives, parsley or mint to your plate. Plant a windowsill herb garden so you can snip and serve up a bit of green in every meal you create.
o Choose wisely. Products made with sustainable practices give Mother Nature a bit of a break. Select brands and products that are continually improving their operations to help minimize their impact on the environment. Products like The Naked Grape wines not only taste good, but they do good, naturally. Created using 100 percent sustainable winery practices, The Naked Grape uses the highest quality fruit to craft honest expressions of the grape's natural flavor. Not to mention, it pairs perfectly with fresh-picked fruits and veggies. Learn more at www.TheNakedGrapeWine.com.
o Do the most with compost. Help your garden grow by composting, nature's way of recycling. By biodegrading organic waste, such as food, grass trimmings, leaves and wood, you can create valuable organic fertilizer. Best of all -- it's free. You can compost your waste by simply discarding kitchen scraps and yard clippings in a bin. Once it biodegrades, you'll have a dark, rich soil perfect for your own harvest.
o Clean naturally/ Choose cleaning products that are effective but have less-harmful impacts on the environment.
Do Good for Your 'Hood
"I support and create good in my community by volunteering my time and giving gently used items to others," says Copeland. Here are additional ways to live the good life.
o Donate. Food banks need non-perishable items throughout the year. Find a local food bank and see what will best fill its shelves. Other organizations take unwanted furniture, clothes and household goods -- and many will come pick them up from your home. There's always a way to repurpose.
o Give your time. Volunteering is a great way to create good in your community, and you'll feel great doing it. Look for volunteer opportunities that fit your abilities, passions and schedule. Enjoy gardening? Get involved by planting and maintaining your local community garden. They always need help weeding and seeding.
o Show them the money. Support local charities and organizations with monetary donations. Financial support, big or small, helps them provide services to others and keeps organizations running.
"You can make a difference no matter where you live, for both yourself and your community," Copeland suggests. "Simple, thoughtful actions can help you live the good life, naturally."
Rebuild, Reuse, Recycle
Make a positive impact on the environment and your lifestyle with these clever ways to keep things out of the landfill:
o Save your finished wine bottles to serve chilled tap water. Or, add a few tablespoons of elderflower syrup and a sprig of fresh thyme for an easy afternoon drink. It refreshes your kitchenware as well as your palate.
o Did you know you already have a wine cellar? Store wines in your basement or garage and cut back on the energy required to cool an overloaded fridge.
o Use reclaimed wood—it provides the perfect structure to grow vine plants like grapes or cucumbers.
o Up-cycle vintage plates from a yard sale. It uses 100 percent less energy than it takes to create a new set of plastic ware for your outdoor entertaining and adds charm to the table while conserving energy.
This and other food and lifestyle content can be found at www.editors.familyfeatures.com.