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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

Save Big When Dining Out

October 13, 2011 4:52 pm

Everyone loves a great deal and loves to eat, so what could be better than finding bargain meals? The November 2011 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, has uncovered the best websites to find restaurant deals so that you can enjoy a meal out without breaking your budget.

"We know how expensive eating out can get, so we scoured the Web for sites that make it easy to save," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.

"These websites even have mobile apps and offer social connectivity with Facebook and Twitter, making it even easier to keep up to date with deals and save big."

BiteHunter.com
Best for
: today's specials
This site lists restaurants' specials as well as daily deals from other sites, such as Citysearch and Groupon. It's easy to search by cuisine, deal, or restaurant in a particular city. Daily deals that must be purchased through other sites are accessible by a prominent link.

Heads up: Sometimes it has incorrect instructions, such as "Just mention Citysearch, no purchase required," when the deal actually requires you to go to Citysearch and print a coupon.

EatDrinkDeals.com
Best for:
chain restaurant deals
From A&W to Zaxby's, EatDrinkDeals has national and regional chains covered. A newsletter-type format details coupons and specials with links. Tabs lead you to specials for happy hour, kids, lunch, or dinner for two.

Handy: a list of areas that celebrate Restaurant week.

Heads up: Keeping up with so many chains is hard and can sometimes lead to bad links.

Restaurant.com
Best for:
discount certificates
Just plug your ZIP code into Restaurant.com's search engine and select the deal you want. Typical offer: a $25 certificate for $10, with a minimum purchase required. Monthly "Behind the menu" will help you focus your cuisine choice.

Heads up: Particular deals labeled "Best value" might not be. For example, a $100 certificate for $40 comes with a $200 minimum purchase. That's not as good as paying $10 for a $25 certificate with a $35 minimum purchase.

Savored.com
Best for
: finer-dining discounts
Had enough hamburgers? Savored can steer you to steak or sashimi. Pay a $10 fee to Savored, use the site to book a reservation, and get 30 percent off your bill automatically. Plus you get access to Zagat reviews and ratings to help you decide on a destination.

Heads up: Savored currently is in just 10 cities and availability can be limited, so check deals before you sign up.

For more information, visit www.ShopSmartmag.org.

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What Is Invasion of Privacy?

October 13, 2011 4:52 pm

Legally speaking, what is invasion of privacy? And what are your options if your privacy has been invaded?

Privacy is a hot topic these days, but how do things play out in the legal arena? Your computer may have been hacked and your personal information sold. But what can you do about it?

Whether or not criminal statutes cover the act, you may be entitled to file a suit alleging one of the following privacy torts.

Intrusion of Solitude
This is the most traditional of the privacy torts. It deals primarily with peeping toms, snooping neighbors, wiretapping and hacking.

You can file a civil action if someone has intentionally intruded into your private space or affairs. They can do so physically, or via electronic or other means. And you must have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that information or space.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts
It is illegal to reveal truthful, yet private, facts to third parties. The facts must not be of public concern, and would offend a reasonable person if made public. The information must also legitimately be private and known by few, if any, other people.

This privacy tort is primarily aimed at gossipers and news media. Think about situations where a friend has blabbed about a secret medical condition.

False Light
Unlike defamation, false light focuses on the public disclosure of true but misleading facts. It is illegal to publicly and recklessly make statements that place another in a false light. The statements must be highly offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person.

You now have some tools to help you decide what isn't and what is invasion of privacy. If you are in a situation that feels like it may fall into one of the above categories, consider contacting an attorney for more information.

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.
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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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