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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

Simple Solutions for Repairing Hurricane-Damaged Swimming Pools

September 1, 2011 4:59 pm

Hurricane-force winds and rain pose special challenges to pool owners once clean-up efforts begin. In the wake of Hurricane Irene, BioGuard, one of the nation’s premier suppliers of pool and spa products, recommends the following simple steps for getting swimming pools back into pristine shape: 

1. Remove all solid debris from the pool. 
2. For in-ground pools, examine pool edges and the ground around the pool for damage. For above-ground pools, inspect the pool structure. Seek help from a professional pool builder or repair service to correct any structural problems.
3. Ensure the pump motor is adequately dry before resuming operation. Drain down any excess water from the pool.
4. Use a floccing agent and vacuum the waste. Flocculants are chemical compounds that when added to water cause suspended agents to sink. Once settled on the bottom of the pool, the previously suspended articles can be vacuumed.
5. Circulate the pool for 24 hours, and then test the pH, Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness (or take about a pint of water to your local pool dealer for a quick, computerized chlorine demand analysis). Make adjustments as needed. For chlorinated pools, apply a double dosage of a chlorinating shock product. If using a non-chlorine, biguanide system, add both sanitizer and a double dosage of the shock product. Circulate pool again for 24 hours.
6. Monitor the chlorine level for the next 24 hours to ensure you can maintain a 1 - 3ppm level. Add chlorinating shock as needed to maintain levels. For biguanide pools, monitor sanitizer level (holding 40ppm) and shock levels (maintaining 40ppm - 60ppm) for 24 hours. Add products as needed to maintain proper levels.
7. Clean the filter.
8. After water is balanced and sanitizer levels are stable, you can resume use of the pool. 

For more information, visit http://www.bioguard.com.
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ASPCA Urges Pet Owners to Plan Ahead for Disasters

September 1, 2011 4:59 pm

September is National Preparedness Month, and the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) urges pet owners to develop an emergency plan in advance to keep their families and pets safe as hurricane season reaches its height.

The U.S. experienced a major hurricane this past weekend, and ASPCA responders from across the country deployed to New York City to prepare for animal emergencies in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. The ASPCA helped hundreds of animals throughout the City's five boroughs, assessing the needs at evacuation centers where pets were welcomed and delivering supplies and vaccinations.

A newly released poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and commissioned by the ASPCA reveals that more than one-third (35 percent) of cat and dog owners don't have a disaster preparedness plan in place. In the Northeast, nearly half of dog owners (45 percent) and cat owners (42 percent) don't know what they would do with their pets in an evacuation, compared to less than one-third of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (30 percent) in the South, where hurricanes are most common.

"It doesn't matter where you live, anyone can be hit with a natural or man-made disaster," says Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response and whose team was deployed to New York City in advance of the hurricane, which was downgraded to a tropical storm. "When you're in the moment, it can be very stressful for you and your pets. We learned from Hurricane Katrina that people must be allowed to evacuate with their pets, and New York City took heed and made sure that all the human shelters were pet-friendly. Having a plan in place ahead of time can save you precious time and energy, so you can focus on quickly getting you and your pets to safety."

For pet owners who have an emergency plan in place, the ASPCA's national study found that an overwhelming majority (85 percent of dog owners; 81 percent of cat owners) intend to bring their pets with them in the event of an evacuation. Rickey agrees: "If officials order an evacuation, you should take your pets with you. If it's not safe for you, then it's not safe for your pets."

The research study also found that only a quarter of dog owners (28 percent) and cat owners (24 percent) say their animals are micro-chipped. "Micro-chips can be extremely helpful in reuniting lost pets with their owners," adds Rickey, who led the relief and recovery efforts of more than 1,300 animals following the EF5 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., in May. "The ASPCA strongly recommends pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification and micro-chip your pet as a more permanent form of identification."

The ASPCA offers the following tips on emergency preparedness:
• Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster.
• Make sure all pets wear collars and ID tags with up-to-date identification. The ASPCA also recommends micro-chipping your pet as a more permanent form of I.D.
• Obtain a rescue alert sticker, which will let rescuers know that pets are inside your home.
• Keep a pet emergency kit and supplies handy with items such as medical records, water, pet food and medications, and pet first aid supplies.
• Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. Do not leave your pets behind!
• Choose a designated caregiver who can take care of your pet in the event you are unable.

The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team frequently responds to natural disasters, including major events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike in 2008, and is commonly called upon by state and municipal governments and other animal welfare partners to lend expertise during large-scale animal rescue operations.

This year alone, the ASPCA has assisted more than 18,500 animals in communities throughout the Midwest and South that were severely affected by tornadoes, flooding and storms, and estimates that more than 600,000 cats and dogs have been affected by natural disasters nationwide.

For more information, visit www.aspca.org.
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Word of the Day

September 1, 2011 4:59 pm

Fiduciary. Person acting in a position of trust, responsibility and confidence for another, such as a broker for his client.
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Question of the Day

September 1, 2011 4:59 pm

Q: What about state and local governments?

A: Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency. Call your governor’s office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area.

At the municipal level, many cities also have programs for special improvements to certain blocks and neighborhoods they are trying to spruce up. Call City Hall, as well as a Community Development Agency in your city.
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Experiment with Solar Accent Lighting

August 31, 2011 6:59 pm

As summer begins its eventual shift toward autumn, nightfall is coming earlier giving me even more reason to entertain installing some new exterior accent lighting around the yard. That led me to the folks at solarlightssite.com, who pointed out the many new options available in solar pathway lighting.

They informed me that it is now possible to have both decorative and functional solar lighting that can create either a soft glow or clearly visible direct lighting with the flip of a switch. Many people also add tall lamp posts that match the pathway lighting to areas of the garden that will contain benches, fountains, or other dramatic features.

One of the most important considerations when installing solar powered lighting is placing the fixtures properly to get the most amount of sun, otherwise the fixtures will have a shorter lifespan and work for only part of the night.

The first thing solarlightssite.com recommends is determining where you want to put the lights in your yard. Go outside at night with a flashlight and see how different lighting effects will look on your flowers, trees, and house.

Experiment with different angles, locations, and beams of light from the flashlight to see what works best. Make a mental note of where you’d like to put the lights and when you go back inside sketch out on paper where you’d like to put the lights.

Then make sure the location you chose is fit for a solar light. Go outside during the day and see if the area is under shade.

Don’t just do this at one point during the day either—look at several different times because the sun and shadows move across your yard throughout the day. Any place that you plan to stick a solar light should have access to direct sunlight for several hours a day.

While it is possible to place a light in the shade, solarlightssite.com advises that if you do, you likely won’t be happy with it, even if it is a quality light fixture. The light will most likely work fine at first, but because it will be in the shade during the day, it won’t be able to completely recharge its battery before the sun sets.

When this happens day after day, the battery in the light gets stressed and loses its capacity sooner. This means your lights will start turning off sooner and sooner throughout the night as they age.

Hopefully this information will help shed some light on the best way to get the most from your solar powered light fixtures!
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5 Ways to Lead a Greener Lifestyle

August 31, 2011 6:59 pm

Going green is becoming trendier these days, as entire television stations dedicate themselves to content based on sustainable living, like GreenTV.

However making energy conscious choices throughout your day-to-day activity doesn't have to cost you more money and you don't have to drive a Prius.

1.) Local, local, local! By using locally grown produce you not only reduce fuel and transport costs and their environmental impact but you also support small businesses that are such an important part of the community. Take advantage of summer while you still can, West Roxbury has a great farmer's market that includes some of the best locally grown food in the area.
2.) Love your landscape. If possible, plant a tree. However, if you can't, flowers and most other green additions to your landscape or patio will help reduce your carbon footprint. Greenery reduces the carbon in the air and increases breathable oxygen for everyone. Trees also act to shade buildings and reduce the need for air condition while lowering utility bills.
3.) Understand the CFL. Replace burnt-out bulbs with compact fluorescent lights. They cost a little bit more up-front but they last a lot longer and use significantly less energy than incandescent light bulbs.
4.) Beware of toxic cleaners. Common household cleaners impact the ground water, air and land quality—and our overall health. Use natural products to avoid poisoning the environment around you; they cost about the same and work just as well.
5.) Maintain your vehicle. Pay attention to manufacturer recommendations when it comes to running your car efficiently.

There are countless ways to reduce the harmful impact each one of us makes on our environment, by keeping these easy tips in mind you can make a big difference.

Kerri Bonariggo is the Residential Sales Director Gordon's Woods.

For more information visit www.LiveAtGordonsWoods.com.
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Be Wary of Hidden Mold Damage from Hurricane Irene

August 31, 2011 6:59 pm

Homeowners in New England may not think that their basement took in water from Hurricane Irene, but hidden moisture may exist within carpeting and walls. This moisture can seep into the basement foundation, leading to very favorable conditions for mold growth, IndoorDoctor President Jeffrey Bradley warns. Unseen and unidentified dampness from Hurricane Irene makes for a toxic arrangement when coupled with basements' already higher mold spore counts that are present due to higher humidity and lack of overall cross ventilation. 

"Even a minimal increase in moisture content can create a 'fungal jungle' in carpeting and lead to black mold on the wallboard," Bradley states. "I see cases three months after a storm event where an entire family is sick due to hidden mold growth." 

To avoid the dangerous risks associated with molds Bradley strongly urges homeowners to have their home inspected and tested for mold.

For more information, visit www.indoordoctor.com.
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Why Americans Have Trouble Keeping Dollars in Their Pockets

August 31, 2011 6:59 pm

The ongoing economic crisis may cause Americans to fret over their household budgets, but that doesn't stop them from throwing money away every day. From unnecessary bank fees to wasted gift cards, we are guilty of several messy money mistakes. 

Some of the biggest culprits of wasted money are:
Late credit card fees: On an annual basis, Americans are racking up over $22 billion dollars in charges from late credit card fees and penalties.
Oversized cell plans: Most of us overestimate our cell phone usage and buy oversized plans. In fact, we waste more than $330 a year for unused text, minutes and data, according to BillShrink.com, a cost-savings Web site.
Staggering ATM Fees: ATM fees are tracking higher, with customers now paying an average $2.33 each time they withdraw cash from an ATM that doesn't belong to their bank. Banks, themselves, also charge an average $1.41 for using an ATM outside their network. In total: $3.74 each time you hit an ATM. Do this twice a week and you're looking at close to $400 a year wasted on silly ATM fees.
Gift cards and daily-deal coupons: Americans let $8 billion go to waste with unused gift cards and unused Internet offers from sites like Groupon or LivingSocial. Reports say 20 to 30 percent of discounted vouchers purchased from daily deal Web sites like Groupon, Living Social and BuyWithMe go unused.
Public transportation: In metro areas, commuters are throwing away dollars on commuter passes they don't use. New York City residents alone have wasted $52 Million on lost or unused Metrocards. 

"Most Americans are struggling to stretch the few dollars they have in hand, while at the same time they are letting billions of dollars just fly out of their wallets and pocketbooks," says Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and newly-named financial editor for Manilla.com. "While this situation is troubling, this trend can be easily capped through a combination of common sense and building a workable household budget."
 
Torabi offers five easy tips to stem the tide of leaking revenue: 

Pay your bills on time and online: Late fees are avoidable and what's worse, paying late can wreak havoc on your credit score. If you have to make a choice about which bills to pay, start with your credit card with the highest interest rate first. Pay far more than the minimum. For the other cards, pay partially or at least the minimum. Additionally, if you automate and schedule your payments online, you will be less likely to fall into late payment traps.
Watch expiration dates: Use your stored value cards and coupons as soon as possible and only buy what you need and create reminders for the coupons and value cards so you don't lose out on the value. Keep coupons and deal vouchers in your wallet or purse at all times, too, so you don't miss out on redeeming them when the opportunity arises. Store coupons on your phone when available, too. Sites like GroceryIQ and Redplum have mobile apps that let you store your coupons in your phone.
Tweak your cell plan: With your cell phone, consider joining a "Friends and Family" plan, which can often include anyone you know—a roommate, partner or neighbor—and the savings are significant. Also, remember to take advantage of in-network or mobile-to-mobile minutes. Identify the people you call the most. If you share the same carrier with these folks, your calls could be free by signing up for an "in-network" minutes plan with your provider.
Never Pay an ATM fee again: There are several ways you can avoid those pesky ATM fees. First, use your bank's ATMs. You can just download your bank's free mobile application to help you locate a free, affiliated ATM in your neighborhood when you're out on the go. Next, use apps like My Mobile Allpoint App to find surcharge-free ATMs. Your bank may still charge you for using an out-of-network ATM, but you can at least pocket a dollar or two by downloading a free mobile phone application that'll help locate a surcharge-free ATM nearest you. Finally, opt for cash back wherever possible. A number of retailers offer a free cash-back service any time you pay with your debit/ATM card, including many drug stores and supermarkets in the City like Walgreens and Whole Foods. One caveat: The withdrawal limits are usually lower than at ATM machines, capped at $40 or $60.
Cash-In or Swap Unwanted Gift Cards/Deal Vouchers: Bought a Groupon deal that you regret? Received a gift card for a store you don't really love? There are many web sites that can help you either sell or swap your gift cards or vouchers. For example, if you want to swap an unused gift card for another one that's more your taste, check out sites SwapAGift.com and PlasticJungle.com. Also, there are secondary online markets where people are selling their unused vouchers. Sites like Lifesta, DealsGoRound and CoupRecoup are connecting sellers with buyers. The faster you put the deal on the site the better. 

For more information, visit www.manilla.com.
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Word of the Day

August 31, 2011 6:59 pm

Fee simple. Ownership of real property that is to be used and/or sold at the owner’s discretion.
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Question of the Day

August 31, 2011 6:59 pm

Q: Does the federal government offer home improvement programs?

A: Yes. Among the most popular:
• Title 1 Home Improvement Loan. HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family home and lenders make loans for basic livability improvements – such as additions and new roofs – to eligible borrowers.
• Section 203(k) Program. HUD helps finance the major rehabilitation and repair of one- to four-family residential properties, excluding condos. Owner-occupants may use a combination loan to purchase a fixer-upper "as is" and rehabilitate it, or refinance a property plus include in the loan the cost of making the improvements. They also may use the loan solely to finance the rehabilitation.
• VA loans. Veterans can get loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans.
• Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loans. Funded by the Agriculture Department, these low-rate loans are available to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs. Funds are available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards.
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