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 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.
October 13, 2011 6:52 pm
Older Americans, who grew up in the era of rotary-dial phones and black and white TV programming, may still be in the minority among Internet users. But they are a rapidly growing presence on the Web and are making their mark on social networking websites. As a result they are potential targets of cybercriminals—and need to learn how to best protect themselves online.
Like Internet users of all ages and levels of Web savvy, seniors can benefit from the national cyber security awareness campaign being conducted during October. The public-private initiative—Stop! Think! Connect! —spearheaded by the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Department of Homeland Security and companies like Verizon, is designed to get out the message that online safety is everyone's responsibility.
More and more, older Americans are using social networking to connect with far-flung family and friends, sharing photos, home videos and personal messages.
A Pew Research Center study report, for example, found that the number of Americans over the age of 74 using social networking sites quadrupled in less than two years—a much faster rate than reported for any other age group.
"The Internet has become a fast and easy way for people of all ages to access information and entertainment," says Verizon network security expert Marcus Sachs. "Unfortunately, it's also become an effective tool for crooks looking for easy access to personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account numbers and passwords.
"From kids to seniors, protecting yourself and your data online may be easier than most people realize. We want to make sure senior citizens are informed of some simple steps to protect themselves," Sachs says.
Some steps, which all Internet users should take, are:
o Make sure you have anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on your computer, and make sure it is updated frequently.
o Make sure your computer's firewall is turned on. It is an effective way of blocking unauthorized access to your computer and sensitive information in your computer files.
o If you are using a wireless router for your home network, make sure it has adequate security.
o Don't get hooked by phishing schemes. Beware of links in emails to sites you don't recognize; don't ever provide personal information as a result of an email or pop-up; and remember that reputable businesses never ask for personal information via email or pop-ups.
o If online offers seem too good to be true, they probably are. Downloading software, music or videos offered as "free" may come at a high price—they might include malware or spyware that can infect your computer and steal personal information. Download files only from sites you know and trust.
o Beware of people you meet for the first time on social networking sites. Don't reveal personal information about yourself or your friends and family in a way that may compromise their safety or identity. Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings on the social networking sites you use and chose the appropriate options for you.
o Passwords, passwords, passwords. As recommended by the National Cyber Security Alliance, make your passwords "long and strong" by combining capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols. Separate passwords for separate accounts will also make things more difficult for cybercriminals.
For more information, visit www.verizon.com.
October 13, 2011 6:52 pm
There's no doubt a new puppy brings joy to millions of families each year. However, while bringing home a new dog is exciting, it can also be quite an adjustment period for both the puppy and his new owners.
According to veterinarian Dr. Brent Mayabb, manager of education and development at Royal Canin USA, pet parents can help ease the transition with some simple steps to ensure healthy growth and development for our four-legged family members. Here are some tips to help make your new puppy's transition easier for both pup and the family:
Get social. Socializing your new puppy early is important to help them learn proper behavior when meeting a new person or animal. Try to introduce your dog to 10 to 20 new people and pets (of varying ages and in different locations) during your first week together. This will help them acclimate to different sizes and temperaments of dogs and cats, as well as a variety of humans. If your dog shows signs of aggression, take them out of the situation and try again with a smaller group or in a different setting.
Exercise before bedtime. As your puppy gets used to being away from its mother and pack, you may hear crying and whining at night. Try to be patient; this behavior is natural and shouldn't last longer than a few weeks. Additionally, try keeping your puppy busy with quick training sessions or playing with toys during the early evening hours. A worn out puppy is a quiet puppy.
Stick to a routine. Take your puppy out often and right before you put them in their pen or kennel before bed. Some veterinarians estimate that for every month your puppy is in your home that is one hour they can 'hold it.' Frequency in routine is very important for house training and rewarding victories during training can be key.
Visit the vet. Your pet's first visit to the vet is very important. The vet will help in scheduling vaccinations and explain the significance of preventative care for fleas, ticks, heartworm, and rabies among other diseases. Proper nutrition is also a means to preventing illness, so be sure to purchase high quality food. Remember to bring a list of questions with you to the appointment—from the beginning, your vet will be an important part of your pet's health.
For more information, visit www.royalcanin.us.
October 13, 2011 6:52 pm
Market price. Actual selling price of a property.
October 13, 2011 6:52 pm
Q: If faced with foreclosure, what are my options?
A: Talk with your lender immediately. The lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan or the temporary reduction or suspension of your payment, particularly if your income has dropped substantially or expenses have shot up beyond your control. You also may be able to refinance the debt or extend the term of your mortgage loan. In almost every case, you will likely be able to work out some kind of deal that will avert foreclosure.
If you have mortgage insurance, the insurer may also be interested in helping you. The company can temporarily pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet and are able to repay their “loan.”
If your money problems are long term, the lender may suggest that you sell the property, which will allow you to avoid foreclosure and protect your credit record.
As a last resort, you could consider a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. This is where you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender. While this will not save your house, it is not as damaging to your credit rating as a foreclosure. Exhaust all other viable options before making a decision.
October 13, 2011 4:52 pm
A new home may have freshly painted shutters, a picket fence around it, and rainbow-colored flower patches leading to the candy-red door. But if the air quality isn’t good inside, those exterior niceties become insignificant—and—quite simply, you could get sick. “Sick building syndrome” (a term typically reserved for office buildings, but often interchangeably used with the term “sick house syndrome” when referring to private homes) is a combination of physical ailments—symptoms often include headaches, loss of concentration, general malaise and breathing problems. The cause: poor indoor air quality.
The less-than-clean air that contributes to sick house syndrome comes courtesy of a huge list of pollutants, which can be separated into three main groups: particles (lime and silica dust, lead paint chips, pet dander, carbon from burning fuels and candles, and mold and dust mites); fibers (asbestos, fiberglass, animal hair and carpet/textile fibers); and gases (such as paint and other caustic product solvents, and carbon monoxide).
These substances build up fast. They can either be inherent in the home, or tracked in on shoes and clothes (or via the family dog)—and they can adversely affect a person’s or family’s health. But don’t panic. Instead, take measures to reduce your exposure to the chemicals that cause sick house syndrome. Remember, this isn’t an exact science. Very few homes have absolutely no pollutants. The key is to reduce the number of pollutants as much as possible.
The following 11 steps will help you nurse your home back to health:
1. Use vacuums with HEPA filters. Your sea foam-green Electrolux from 1968 might be a swoopy retro design statement, but it’s not healthy to use anymore.
2. Use high-efficiency furnaces and hot-water heaters. Your local heating company can give you information on the newest, most efficient models.
3. Seal all gaps around your windows and doors. Some pollutants are tracked in on foot, but others float in through minuscule cracks.
4. Have your basement waterproofed to prevent mold from proliferating.
5. If you’ve been sleeping on your pillows for more than six months, there are probably enough dust mites on them to do the final dance number from a big Broadway musical. Change your pillows at least twice a year. And wash all bedding at least once a week—in hot water—to reduce the instance of allergens. 6. Avoid flannel pajamas as they contain synthetic fabrics that can house volatile compounds. While we’re on the subject of clothing—give all washable clothes you buy one wash, with Borax, before wearing.
7. When you’re buying your kids a toy, look for any labeling that indicates that Latex, neoprene or vinyl (PVC) is in it. If any of these substances are used, leave the item in the store. It’s not good for you—or your child.
8. When you’re done painting a room in your home, don’t store the paint for later use. Instead, write down the color name and number—most major paint companies have readily available touch-up containers in small sizes. (Similarly, don’t keep solvents, pesticides and fertilizers hanging around either).
9. Use doormats. Not only do they make people feel welcome—they whisk the germs off their feet before they have the chance to enter your home.
10. Whenever you can replace a porous surface with a smooth one, do so. A sleek leather rug collects fewer allergens than a loopy shag rug. Or, if you’re going low-budget—consider skipping the rug altogether.
11. Taking shorter showers is good for the environment, but it still exposes you to chlorine. Use a carbon filter on your showerhead to help reduce your exposure to chlorine and other harmful chemicals.
Charles Furlough is vice president, Pillar To Post Home Inspections.
October 13, 2011 4:52 pm
Every time you step into the grocery store, you are taking your health into your own hands. By purchasing wholesome, good-for-you food, and leaving the junk on the shelves, you can improve your health, the health of your family, and even your planet.
Understanding that food affects your mood, your susceptibility to illness, your weight, energy levels and more will make you think twice about what you put into your mouth—and shopping cart. Food is the greatest medicine, and if you buy and consume healthy food proactively, you will reap benefits in the long run. So how do you make a healthier trip to the store? Consider the following guidelines.
1. Never shop when you’re hungry. When you’re hungry, your willpower will weaken. You will be rushing, which will lead to quick decision making and impulse buys, and your stomach will take power over your brain, making it more likely you will reach for a bag of chips than a bag of spinach.
2. Make a list. Going to the store without a list is a bad idea for your physical and financial health. Planning out what you will prepare for the week, and what ingredients you need, will allow you to buy only the healthful, necessary ingredients. Plus, seeing it down on paper will help steel your reserve to stick to as healthy eating plan.
3. Avoid the middle isles. The center of the store is full of processed, artificial foods full of sugar, salt and empty calories. Stick to the outer edges of the store which contain filling proteins, fruits and vegetables. If you must venture into the center, read labels. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know where it comes from, don’t eat it.
4. Choose organic when possible. In doing so, you will cut down on the chemicals your body comes in contact with and support the organic food movement.
5. Buy in bulk. When it comes to healthy staples and ingredients like nuts, whole grains and spices, buy in bulk whenever possible. Bulk items are usually less expensive and cut down on packaging, which will shrink your environmental footprint.
October 13, 2011 4:52 pm
Loan-to-value ratio. Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property. Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e.—75 percent financing.