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 26, 2011 6:59 pm
According to the Federal Reserve, economic growth remains slow and signs point to continuing weakness. Unemployment rates remain elevated, and household spending has been increasing at only a modest pace. While this may affect your household budgeting, it could also work in your favor. Charles Lankau, a business professor and expert in negotiation at Wake Forest University, says in this economy, consumers should be assertive when shopping for just about everything.
These days retailers and service providers are willing to negotiate to get your business, says Lankau. "As a consumer in today's economy, people need to ask themselves, 'Am I about to spend some money?' If the answer is 'yes,' negotiating is almost always appropriate. Price, terms, perks or extras--most of the time they are there if you just ask."
For those new to bargaining, Lankau offers the following tips:
• Give yourself permission to negotiate. Bargaining is one of many valuable budget-stretching tools available. Use it.
• Focus on the result, not on any misplaced embarrassment for asking. Think of how good it will feel if you get something for your efforts. Even if you are successful, it's a win-win situation. In most cases, the seller will still be making a profit.
• Touch a chord. Choose your words carefully to reach the emotional side of the person you are dealing with, for example: 'I'm just not sure I can afford this. Can you do any better?' Practice different approaches in the car to see how they sound.
• Practice. Just like in sales, keep trying, and your 'ask' will improve.
• Track your results. Keep a note card in your glove box and jot down every time you purchase an item for less than the asking price. It adds up! Seeing your savings grow is a great motivator.
Lankau says large purchases—like cars and homes—or competitive services for television or telephone, are expenses where people expect to negotiate.
However, deals can also be found in retail shops. "My mother never hesitated to point out a flaw, if there was one, in a blouse or sweater, and she almost always received at least a ten percent discount."
For more information, visit http://www.newswise.com.
September 26, 2011 6:59 pm
A recent study by the Insurance institute for Business and Home Safety found that water damage related to home appliances were one of the top 10 reasons given for residential water loss, with failures costing an average of $5300 after the deductible was paid.
After reviewing over 500 washing machine related claims, it was determined that over half of the problems reported occurred when the supply hose (which carries water into the machine) failed. Machine overflows and drainage failures accounted for the next 28%.
The life span of the washing machine has to be taken into account when looking at the failure rates, especially as it relates to internal component failure, machine leaks, or burst hoses.
These three elements combined account for two thirds of all washing machine failures. Most appliances were about 8 years old when the first failure occurred. Since most hoses are not replaced until they fail, it was determined that the age of the failed hose was approximately the same as the machine it serviced.
Most machines are only slightly older when their internal components begin to break down. The motor/pump assembly was the usual culprit, accounting for 40% of all claims that were examined.
For reasons unknown, the rate of damage claims was higher in the southern region of the country, as much as 67% higher than those found in northern states.
It was also determine that the location of the washing machine in the home can have an effect on the frequency and severity of the loss when failures do occur. For machines located in lower levels or basements, the presence of sump pump or other drainage device often prevented more serious water damage from occurring. Units located on upper floors put them in close proximity to valuable electronic or furniture items, which can substantially increase the cost involved with any water damage event.
Water Damage Local.com recommends installing washing machines either in the basement or upper floors of the home. Machine failures on the first floor of a home account for 30% greater losses due to their position relative to other valuable items.
In order to minimize the damage caused by a malfunctioning machine:
• Look for signs that the supply hose may be ready to fail. If the tube is worn or there are visible “blisters’, go ahead and replace the hose.
• When replacing the supply hose, opt for a reinforced steel braided hose.
• If the connections are loose, tighten them down. Loosening often happens as the result of a move or relocation of the unit.
• Replace hoses every five years, whether you think they need them or not. This lets you stay ahead of any wear and tear.
• Be sure and turn the water valves off completely if you are going to be gone for a period of several days.
Finally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reduce the risk of other types of washing machine related water losses. Never overload a machine, always use a detergent designed for this type of use and try to operate washing machines when someone is home.
For more information, visit www.waterdamagelocal.com.
September 26, 2011 6:59 pm
Word of the Day
Installment payment. Periodic payment, usually monthly, of interest and principal on a mortgage or other loan.
September 26, 2011 6:59 pm
Q: What causes a foreclosure?
A: A lender decides to foreclosure, or repossess, a property when the owner fails to pay the mortgage. Unfortunately, thousands of homes end up in foreclosure every year.
Many people lose their homes due to job loss, credit problems, divorce, unexpected expenses, and during periods of economic instability.
Failure to pay property taxes may also cause a homeowner to lose his home. Trouble can also arise when owners neglect to pay local water bills and home insurance premiums.
September 26, 2011 4:59 pm
If you are okay with buying groceries in quantity, there is little question you will come out ahead shopping at the big box stores, where product mark-ups from wholesale are about 14% as opposed to the 25% or more at the average retail market.
Other items worth shopping for at the warehouse club store include tires—because the cost of doing business keeps tire prices lower than average—and televisions, if you have no problem choosing from fewer available models.
But the biggest big box stores require membership fees, so unless you are a fairly frequent shopper, add the cost of membership to your purchase. More important, not all commodities offered at the big boxes are necessarily a good buy.
From the financial gurus at Kiplinger.com, here are tips on the items you may be better off buying at specialty stores or other local retail outlets:
• Diamond jewelry – Stones at the warehouse club store generally are not branded, and quality can vary greatly. Also, salespeople at the big box store are less qualified to answer your questions or concerns than salespeople at a recognized jewelry store—which will also be better prepared to stand behind the quality of its diamonds.
• Appliances – You will always find more selection—and often better prices—at specialty stores or department store appliance sections. Price comparison is difficult, because the big box store inventory won’t include as many models and may be last year’s models at that. Time your purchase strategically and you’ll probably get bigger discounts when shopping local store sales.
• Plants and produce – If you need help choosing or caring for trees and plants, you may get more information and better advice from a garden shop with trained employees. Fresh produce at the warehouse club store comes in some pretty big quantities—and produce doesn’t have too long a shelf life. Unless you are sure that half those bananas and tomatoes won’t end up in the trash, buy smaller quantities at a local farmer’s market.
September 26, 2011 4:59 pm
When selling your home, the goal is to sell it quickly for the highest price while investing as little as possible in renovations. With a limited budget and a little effort, you can greatly increase your home's appeal by focusing on what prospective buyers can see on their first visit. Take the following recommendations when preparing a house for sale and staging it for showings.
Tip No. 1: Refresh the exterior
First impressions count when it comes to selling a home. Most buyers won’t even leave their car if they don’t find the exterior appealing. The best ways to improve your home’s exterior include:
-Repairing and/or replacing trims, shutters, gutters, shingles, mailboxes, window screens, walkways and the driveway.
-Painting siding, trim and shutters and lamp and mailbox posts.
-Pressure washing vinyl siding, roofs, walkways and the driveway.
Tip No. 2: Spruce up the lawn and landscape
Home buyers associate the condition of your lawn and landscaping with the condition of your home’s interior. By improving the outside, you affect buyers’ impression of the entire property. The best ways to enhance the yard include:
-Mowing and edging the lawn.
-Seeding, fertilizing and weeding the lawn.
-Keeping up with regular lawn maintenance by frequent watering.
-Trimming and/or removing overgrown trees, shrubs and hedges.
-Weeding and mulching plant beds.
-Planting colorful seasonal flowers in existing plant beds.
-Removing trash, especially along fences and underneath hedges.
-Sweeping and weeding the street curb along your property.
Tip No. 3: Create an inviting entrance
The front door to your home should invite buyers to enter. The best ways to improve your entry include:
-Painting the front door in a glossy, cheerful color that complements the exterior.
-Cleaning, polishing and/or replacing the door knocker, locks and handles.
-Repairing and/or replacing the screen door, the doorbell, porch lights and house numbers.
-Placing a new welcome mat and a group of seasonal potted plants and flowers by the entry.
Tip No. 4: Reduce clutter and furniture
A buyer cannot envision living in your home without seeing it. A home filled with clutter or even too much furniture distracts buyers from seeing how they can utilize the space your home offers. If you have limited storage space, you may want to consider renting a temporary storage unit to place items you wish to keep. The best ways to declutter your home include:
-Holding a garage sale to prepare for your move, getting rid of unnecessary items.
-Removing clutter such as books, magazines, toys, tools, supplies and unused items from counter tops, open shelves, storage closets, the garage and basements.
-Storing out-of-season clothing and shoes out of sight to make bedroom closets seem roomier.
-Removing any visibly damaged furniture.
-Organizing bookshelves, closets, cabinets and pantries. Buyers will inspect everything.
-Putting away your personal photographs, unless they showcase the home. Let buyers see themselves in your home.
-De-personalize rooms as much as you can.
Tip No. 5: Clean, clean, clean
The cleanliness of your home also influences a buyer's perception of its condition. The appearance of the kitchen and bathrooms will play a considerable role in a buyer's decision process, so pay particular attention to these areas. The best ways to improve these areas include:
-Cleaning windows, fixtures, hardware, ceiling fans, vent covers and appliances.
-Cleaning carpets, area rugs and draperies.
-Cleaning inside the refrigerator, the stove and all cabinets.
-Removing stains from carpets, floors, counters, sinks, baths, tile, walls and grout.
-Eliminating house odors, especially if you have pets.
-Considering air fresheners or potpourri.
September 23, 2011 4:59 pm
Someone once said, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." When it comes to earning money at home, there is no doubt about it.
Legitimate ways to work from home require preparation, expertise in a particular field, and/or a level of commitment, such as getting a license. Ads promising pay for little or no expertise, such as stuffing envelopes or telemarketing, are very often scams. In no case should you be asked to pay up-front money.
But working from home holds definite appeal, and the opportunities are out there for enterprising men and women who are willing to research and prepare. From a panel of formerly employed moms who operate home-based businesses, here are some tips on what they do and how they do it:
Child care. Caring for other children is a natural answer for those who want to stay at home with their own kids. But licensing laws are strict, as are home and backyard requirements. Check with your City Hall for information on preparing for a career in home child care.
Writing and editing. Freelance writers, editors and artists are used by any number of magazines, newspapers and publishing companies. If—and only if—you have experience and demonstrated communication skills, check with editors you have worked with in the past and ask for recommendations.
Transcription and typing. For skilled typists and transcribers, especially for those with some medical knowledge, work may be available from local hospitals, colleges and doctor's offices. Post notices in college student union halls, and ask your doctor's office or hospital about the possibility of doing medical transcription.
Accounting or bookkeeping. Experienced bookkeepers may find part-time but steady work opportunities from any number of local businesses who can't afford full-time help. It will take some footwork, but make the rounds to introduce yourself and your skills.
Sell items you create. Take stock of your handiwork. If you make birdhouses, create lovely wind chimes, or bake attractive breads, cupcakes or cookies, look for restaurants or retail outlets willing to take your stock on consignment.
September 23, 2011 4:59 pm
Trying to decide whether to do some home remodeling this year or leave your money in the bank? You can do both if you remodel with paint.
"The cost of do-it-yourself interior painting is so low, it's almost like remodeling without touching your bank account," says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.
The key, of course, is investing some sweat equity.
"While a professional painter might charge up to $500 or more to paint a room, if you're willing to provide the labor, you can complete the job for a small fraction of that amount," says Zimmer.
Looked at another way, do-it-yourself interior painting is a great way to "earn" money. Since painting a room is usually a two-day proposition, if a contractor-applied paint job costs $500 in your area, you're essentially paying yourself $250 a day to paint.
Absent the labor cost, do-it-yourself interior painting is downright thrifty. Your only outlay is for paint, application equipment like brushes and rollers, and some miscellaneous expenses for things like tape and a drop-cloth. Total cost? "Less than $100 a room," says Zimmer. That's little more than pocket-change in today's remodeling world.
Whether you've decided to do your own interior painting to save money or simply to have a hand in beautifying your home, Zimmer offers the following tips:
"Take the time to properly prepare the walls and other surfaces before starting to paint," she says. "That means cleaning them with a solution of detergent and water, after which they should be rinsed and allowed to dry. If there are any cracks or holes in the walls, this is the time to repair them with spackling compound or a good-quality acrylic caulk."
Zimmer also recommends using only high quality brushes and rollers. "These will help you apply the paint more evenly to get professional-looking results, even if this is your first time painting," she says.
When applying latex paints, be sure to use brushes and rollers with synthetic bristles and covers. According to Zimmer, the brushes will maintain the proper stiffness and the rollers will maintain their shape even when exposed to a lot of water.
Lastly, Zimmer recommends that do-it-yourselfers buy only top quality 100% acrylic latex interior paints, which she describes as "the do-it-yourselfer's best friend."
"If you're going to spend time and effort doing your own interior painting, you want the job to last, and that's where these paints really pay off," she says. "Top quality 100% acrylic latex paints are extremely durable, plus they resist fading, so your paint job will look great for years to come."
So if you think you're up to the job, put yourself to work doing your own interior painting. You'll be rewarded not just with the money you save, but also with the satisfaction of a job well done.
For more information, visit www.paintquality.com.
September 23, 2011 4:59 pm
The well-being of our family is a priority all year, but is especially considered during the holidays when statistics about accidents abound. Most of us, with the possible exception of Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” take extra precautions for the holiday season. If you’re buying or selling a home, here are a few tips for safety and security that ensure a safe and happy home during the holidays, and all year long.
1. Protect little ones.
Whether you are preparing for a visit from your grandkids, nieces and nephews, or you have kids of your own, a child-proofing kit makes safety easy with grip-and-twist doorknob covers, latches and plug protectors.
• Child-proofing kit (Safety 1st, #42023), oven lock (Safety 1st, #62342), cord channel kit (#69682)
2. Mark and secure entries.
The holidays can be prime time for burglaries, but updating your locks with an electronic deadbolt system can provide added peace of mind. If you install a set with a numeric keypad, you’ll never have to worry about leaving keys for your guests again. Mark your entry with path lights that clearly guide the way to the door.
3. Clear the air.
Place an air purifier in the guest room and common areas to remove allergens (especially pet dander) and prevent the spread of cold and flu germs. Choose one with a true HEPA filter for maximum effectiveness.
4. Be fire smart.
With holiday lights, candles and lots of cooking in the kitchen, it’s important to be prepared. Safeguard your family by keeping an extinguisher on hand for small fires, and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Check the batteries frequently to make sure they are in working order.
5. Equip your bath.
It’s a snap to convert your guest bath into a safer place for older guests and young children. Add a grab bar to make getting in and out of the tub easier, and a durable bath mat to help prevent slips in the shower.
For more information and ideas, please visit www.lowescreativeideas.com.
This article is adapted from Lowe’s Creative Ideas for Home and Garden®, November/December 2010 issue, Style & Solutions – Home Safety.
September 23, 2011 4:59 pm
With the weather cooling down, many are looking toward alternative heating options. One economic and environmentally friendly heating option is a wood burning stove. The following are some of the reasons why many consumers will be cozying up to these stoves this winter.
1. They are economic. While many list having to buy wood as a slash against a wood burning stove, ready cut wood costs around a third of the cost of natural gas, electricity or oil. Plus, with a bit of planning and research you may be able to score wood for free. Neighbor having that tree in their yard removed? Offer to cut it down if it means you can snag the resulting wood. Plus, with a wood burning stove helping to warm your home, your heating bill will be lower.
2. They are environmentally friendly. Burning wood is a natural heat source, and releases the same type of natural CO2 that is released into the air when a tree rots naturally.
3. They are safe. Wood burning stoves are safer than open fires as they are enclosed.
4. They are clean. As wood burning stoves are enclosed, there is less of a chance of your carpet or floor getting sooty or singed as it would with an open fire.
5. They provide an energy backup. A wood-burning stove can heat a kettle or a pan if you ever lost your main source of energy, such as your gas or oil.