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
September 30, 2011 4:59 pm
Q: What if I am turned down for a loan?
A: Unless your credit is absolutely abysmal – with all kinds of judgments, liens, excessive delinquencies or non-payments, foreclosures and bankruptcies that show no attempt on your part to make progress – you can generally get a loan.
More and more borrowers are finding ways to become homeowners despite past credit problems, a lack of a credit history, or debt-to-income ratios that exceed traditional limits. This is because a greater number of lenders are willing to take a chance with borrowers today that they once turned down for home loans.
If you are denied a mortgage, ask the lender for a full explanation. If you feel you are creditworthy, then appeal the decision in writing.
September 30, 2011 4:59 pm
While I suffered no major property damage in the recent northeastern tropical storms, the experience of being in Vermont’s hardest hit community where storm Irene wreaked some of the state’s worst damage left an indelible memory of what intense and unanticipated flooding can do.
In the wake of this summer’s storms, property damage could keep showing up through the fall and into winter. With that in mind, my friends at the Better Business Bureau are warning consumers to be careful when hiring contractors to repair property damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
In the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous, unregistered and uninsured contractors offer lowball estimates for repairs that affect the value of a property. If storm-related problems are not fixed properly, they can create long term problems that put homes at risk of further structural damage, mold and problems with electrical, heating and cooling systems.
The Better Business Bureau has the following tips for selecting home repair or improvement contractors:
• Avoid making quick decisions - Most property owners are inclined to get repair work done as quickly as possible, however, it is vital that they obtain bids from several contractors. Check with your insurance company to verify coverage and procedures for filing claims.
• Don’t hire on the basis of the lowest estimate – Unscrupulous contractors may offer very attractive estimates, but perform the work with substandard craftsmanship and materials, and in some cases, take a deposit and simply disappear. If one bid is substantially lower than others, ask why, and compare the details in the various estimates.
• Verify contractors’ history – Check other consumers’ experiences with contractors by looking up their BBB Business Reviews at www.bbb.org. Contractors’ registration may be verified through local, county or state registries.
• Get it all in writing – Once you have selected a company or individual to fix storm damage, make sure all of the details are in a contract, including any verbal promises. A contract should contain details about required materials, labor and financing, and a timeframe for the beginning and completion of work. A typical payment schedule would involve paying one third of the total cost before work begins to help pay for materials, one third when work begins and one third upon completion.
• And ask contractors whether their workers are employees or third parties, and request proof of insurance in case they are injured while working on your property. And in the event of a dispute, complaints can be directed to your state office of consumer affairs or protection, and you can also submit to your state BBB office.
September 30, 2011 4:59 pm
To succeed in today's workplace, it's not enough to be smart, technically savvy, and experienced. You also need to develop people skills to get along well with people and bring out their best.
Five people skills help ensure success on the job:
Connecting is the ability to establish an appropriate relationship with others, tune into their feelings and moods, understand their values, perspectives, and opinions, and to show an interest in their cares and concerns. Here are some tips for connecting with others:
• Establish rapport with people.
• Pay attention to people's facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
• See things from the other person's point of view.
• Adjust your communication style to match theirs.
• Avoid criticizing, making negative judgments, or saying that the other person is wrong.
Listening is the ability to encourage other people's open and honest communication, to understand what they mean (not just what they say), and to make them feel understood. Follow these tips for more effective listening:
• Encourage people to talk.
• Show your willingness to listen. Minimize distractions. Attend to the other person with your whole body (your body language, eyes, facial expressions). Nod your head and give verbal cues to communicate that you are paying attention.
• Ask open-ended questions. Closed questions (like, "Do you agree with my proposal?") limit people's ability to communicate. Open-ended questions (like, What's your impression of my proposal?") invite reflection and sharing.
• Listen to what people are trying to communicate, not just to what they are saying. Listen to their emotions. Listen, also, to what they want.
• Check to make sure you understand. Use your own words to reflect what you have heard and noticed.
Communicating is the ability to communicate who you are, what you mean, and what you want in a way that wins people's understanding and cooperation. Here are some ideas for better communicating skills:
• Speak with sincerity and conviction.
• Be sensitive to other people's communication style.
• Know what you want to accomplish. Do you want people to understand your position? Lend their support? Approve your request?
• Listen at least as much as you talk.
• Attune what you say with how you say it. Keep your message congruent with your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language.
Speaking is the ability to present yourself and your message to an audience of any size in a way that gains people's attention, interest, and cooperation. Learn to speak more effectively with these helpful suggestions:
• Project confidence.
• Connect with your audience. Establish eye contact. Use words and concepts they'll understand. Speak to their interests and concerns.
• Know what you want to accomplish. Do you want people to understand your position? To lend their support? To approve your request?
• Keep it short and simple. Most presentations can accomplish only one objective, develop only three main points, and hold people's attention only so long.
• Keep yourself front and center. Use PowerPoint™, slides, or overheads to clarify or illustrate your points, not to hide behind.
• Encourage questions. Think of any presentation — even a technical one — as a dialogue with your audience.
Is the ability to change people's attitudes and behaviors, to gain their support for your proposals, and to get them to do what you want them to do without manipulation or coercion. Good influencers:
• Make people feel understood.
• Find common ground. Begin with the concerns, values, and goals you share.
• Listen. This is the best way to make people feel understood and to find common ground. It also expresses respect.
• Don't argue. Even if you "win" the argument, you rarely win the other person's cooperation.
• Care about the person you want to influence. Have their best interests at heart. Respect them and they'll respect you.
• Help people believe change is possible. Give people hope, reason to believe that they can change the situation for the better.
• Time your request well. People are never at their best when they're stressed, or hungry, or tired, or angry.
Chris Witt, a coach based in San Diego, works with executives and with technical experts who want to improve their presentation and communication skills.
September 30, 2011 4:59 pm
The people at San Jose kitchen and bath remodeling company, Medina Home Repair, know that home renovations can be stressful, so they would like provide some simple recommendations to those who are thinking of revamping their houses but do not know where to start. Following these recommendations will not only save on time and money, but will also restore peace of mind.
The first thing Medina recommends is to plan ahead for trouble that might occur during the renovating process.
“A meeting with the contractor about problems the renovations may cause your neighbors before any construction begins is always a good first step,” says Jose Medina of Medina Home Repair.
Next, set a reasonable timeline for the completion of construction. Contractors won’t be able to provide an exact date, but an experienced one, such as Medina Home Repair, is capable of providing customers with a fairly reasonable timeline. Third, never leave critical decisions to the last minute. This will cost more money as well as a delay in construction.
Another important factor in preparing for renovations is to protect the belongings in the home. With so many people moving in and out of the house with heavy equipment and cumbersome materials, it is almost certain that any belongings not packed safely out of the way will be damaged. To help the renovations run smoothly, stay out of the contractor’s way once the plans have been discussed.
Another tip is to keep the end goal in mind. Stress and panic is most likely to attack when the house is gutted and materials are cluttering up the room. To avoid this anxiety, the professionals at Medina Home Repair suggest that homeowners try to envision what the home will look like at the end of construction. Find ways of thinking about the future, such as focusing on shopping for furnishings for the room, if the budget allows.
Lastly, keep an open line of communication with the contractor. To fulfill the dream home renovation, the contractor needs to know what are the homeowner’s ideas and expectations.
For more information, visit www.sanjosecakitchenremodeling.com.
September 29, 2011 4:59 pm
It's an exciting time of year: Fall is here, and the rewards of a summer garden, including onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, winter squash and more, are coming fast and furious.
"Canning and preserving are two favorite ways to keep favorite fruits and vegetables tasting in-season fresh throughout the winter," says Maree Gaetani, director of gardening relations for Gardener's Supply. "But for those of us who don't have time or interest in canning and preserving, there are a number of crops that can be stored 'as is' in cool, dry and dark conditions—no root cellar required."
Gardeners can consider these practical harvest tips and products when putting their favorites away for the winter:
1. Harvest before frost or cold temperatures damages plant tissues—and be picky about what you pick! Since decay will accelerate and spread once a crop is in storage, keep only perfect specimens. Provide good air circulation and a dry, dark environment: The ideal temperature depends on what you're keeping.
A root storage bin creates a portable, affordable root cellar in any dark place. The heavy, wire frame bin with convenient carrying handles is lined with natural, breathable jute to protect precious carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips and squash. Layer carrots or beets with damp sand or sawdust, or toss other vegetables right into the bin, and they'll keep all winter.
2. Freeze your favorites. Freezing is a fast and easy way to save vegetables, fruit and herbs for later use. Buy the best quality freezer bags you can find, remove as much air as possible from the bag and label all bags with date and contents. Herbs are the easiest crop to freeze: Just chop to size (for parsley and cilantro) and fill a freezer bag or puree (for basil) with olive oil. Berries can be frozen whole or in syrup. Vegetables need to be blanched before freezing to slow down the enzymes that cause decay.
3. Rescue unripe tomatoes! If cold weather arrives before your entire tomato crop has ripened, harvest firm, green, unblemished fruit and wrap each tomato individually in newspaper. Store between 55-60 degrees F and check weekly to monitor ripening.
4. Store crops right in the garden. The easiest way of all to preserve your harvest is to leave crops right in the ground and put something on top to protect them from extreme cold. A length of Gardener's exclusive Garden Quilt Cover, suspended just over your crops using hoops and wooden clothespins, allows rain and sun to reach plants while keeping them safe from wind and chilly temperatures.
5. Refrigerate root crops. Harvest carrots and beet crops before a hard frost, use scissors to cut off most of the greens (except for about ½" on top so as not to cut into the root), and leave the dirt until you're ready to cook!
For more information, visit http://www.gardeners.com/.
September 29, 2011 4:59 pm
Despite the economic woes that have plagued the U.S. over the past few years, there are still great opportunities out there for those who really want to find them, says women’s business coach and mentor Karen Terry.
"There has never been a better time to start a new business," said Karen Terry, a women's business coach and mentor based in Houston. "Many women who work in Corporate America dream of starting their own business but are afraid.”
For others, Terry says they’ve hit the glass ceiling and wonder when they can be their own bosses. “Now is the time,” she says.
To help entrepreneurs start their own businesses, Terry has written a special report titled "The 10 Biggest Mistakes New Entrepreneurs Make When They Start Their Business."
Here are some of her favorite business ideas:
1. Create a financial safety net. Start saving money by skipping the extra coffee or newspaper. All that money adds up and can come in handy when you are running your new business.
2. Get one new client before you leave your current job - if you can. "Every little bit helps. For a lot of people it is scary to quit a job and not have any clients lined up. Clients translate into income, which helps ease the transition to self-employment," she says.
3. Use your network. If you are going through a career change, don't assume you can't use your existing network. For those who are simply venturing out on their own—use your network to your advantage.
4. Professional development. You need to identify your skills. If you are weak in certain areas, take a class so you can become the best you can be. You aren't going to be successful if you have certain areas where you are weak.
5. Mentors. It's always a good idea to work with a business coach who has also had experience running a business.
September 29, 2011 4:59 pm
Buying a car for the first time is a celebratory moment in anyone's life, regardless of age, and the site's expert editors offers their 'best kept secrets' to ease the trip to the dealer with these easy-to-remember pointers.
"The car-buying process is never filled with as much uncertainty as it is for the first time," said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com. "With this advice in mind, Kelley Blue Book hopes to alleviate some of the stress inherent with such a large financial decision."
Helpful Hints for First-Time Car Buyers
For those in the market to buy a car for the first time, here are some helpful suggestions to keep in mind while doing your research and shopping.
Establish a realistic budget
This figure is generally based on what you can afford per month. Calculate your cost-of-living in all the more important areas, like shelter, food, health insurance and Happy Hour. Once you have that total, the remainder could be spent on a car payment, car insurance and, of course, gas for your new ride.
Know what you can spend monthly
While this may look similar to No. 6, your level of indebtedness is different from your monthly commitment. If you choose to finance your car, figure $25/month for every thousand dollars that you borrow for 48 months, and $20/month for 60-month financing.
Establish your transportation needs
Make sure to choose a car that best fits your needs. For instance, if your lifestyle or career requires a car for hauling heaving items, then invest in a larger, heavy-duty vehicle. Given the cost of fuel, insurance and—in many cities—monthly parking, don't buy what you don't need.
Identify and prioritize your wants
The first-time purchase doesn't need to be your be-all/end-all acquisition, but you should still pay attention to your 'want' list. Better to stretch a bit for those features that will bring more satisfaction in your purchase and prevent buyer's remorse.
Do your research (it's never been easier)
There is an incredible amount of information and perspective on new cars and their late-model alternatives. There are listings devoted to cars for teenagers, cars for students and first-time buyers.
Locate a convenient dealer
Don't feel intimidated, as the dealership salesman is closer to a normal person than you think. When deciding between different car models, compare dealer locations and showroom environments. We tend to stay away from dealerships where two-thirds of the sales staff is sitting or standing at the front of the entrance.
For more information visit www.kbb.com.
September 29, 2011 4:59 pm
Joint tenancy. Property owned by two or more persons with equal and undivided interest and ownership and the right of survivorship. If one owner dies, the property automatically passes to the others.
September 29, 2011 4:59 pm
Q: Do I have to disclose a parent's gift to the lender?
A: Lenders prefer that you do. But relax, you are not penalized in any way for receiving parental help. An estimated one-third of all first-time buyers purchase homes with a loan or a money gift from parents.
Lenders also will approve gifts, with the proper documentation, from relatives, friends, an employer, church, municipality, or nonprofit organization – although stricter restrictions may apply for gifts from friends and relatives other than parents.
Expect the lender to ask you to present a gift letter stating that a repayment of the "gift" is not expected. The amount of the gift and the date it was given should be clearly stated in the letter, along with the donor's name, address, telephone number and relationship to you.
The lender also can ask to see a few bank statements to ascertain if the money was recently placed into the account.
A gift may be more acceptable than an actual parental loan, particularly if the loan must be paid back immediately, which could contribute to an increase in your monthly debt – something a lender may frown on.
September 28, 2011 6:59 pm
Children can be great complainers, and it doesn’t take them long to learn that they can sometimes win your consent or attention by whining until you give them what they want. But, according to child development experts, there are better ways to hang onto your sanity and make your child more cooperative and pleasant in the bargain.
Here, from a panel of experts at Chapman College in Orange, Calif., are five proven ways to deal with a whiny child:
1. Pretend you don’t hear your child’s request when said in a whiny fashion. Go about your activities as though he had never said a word. Ignoring the whining sends a message that it doesn’t bring results.
2. At the first pause in the child’s complaining, say brightly, “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you talking to me? I can’t seem to hear that whiny tone. If you’d like to talk to me in a friendlier way, I’d love to hear what you have to say.” This sets up a clear standard for what you expect when communicating, and will surely get the child’s attention if he or she begins to whine out of habit.
3. Give your child a sense of control by offering choices whenever possible. “Would you rather go to the library or the park?” “Would you rather have green beans or peas?” A child who has some measure of control is better equipped to handle life’s little disappointments.
4. Redirect the blame when she complains. If she whines that she always has to clean her room, remind her calmly that if she kept it picked up all week long, she wouldn’t have to clean up all at once. Doing this teaches that she needs to accept responsibility for the actions she chooses to take.
5. Every now and then, play a game in which you are the child and he is the adult. Role playing shows your child how awful he sounds when he whines, and gives him a chance to vocalize solutions that can ultimately make both of you happier.