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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
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

10 Ways to Make a Small Room Look Larger

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

Most people have one: that room in the house that they wish was just a little larger. What many don't realize is that with a little work and some TLC, they could have exactly what they're looking for.

Here, Lowe's offers 10 designer tricks to help you make any room look larger:

1. For the illusion of a larger room, use a color scheme that is light rather than bright or dark. Pastels, neutrals and white are all color possibilities.

2. Use a monochromatic color scheme on the furniture, rugs and walls. Select different shades and textures of your single color.

3. Lighting is a key element in opening up a space. Recessed spot lighting is visually appealing and is perfect for a small space. A torchiere light is great for bouncing light off of the ceiling and back down on the room. Skylights and solar tubes are natural alternatives for adding light to a room.

4. Limit the number of accessories to avoid the cluttered feeling.

5. The floor and the ceiling are the fifth and sixth walls of every room. A light-colored flooring such as light oak or a light-colored carpet will make the room appear brighter and more open. The same applies to the ceiling—use a light color or white to "open up" the space above.

6. Increase the appearance of the size of the room by adding wall mirrors. They not only reflect images, they reflect light and color. Be a little daring! Use mirror tiles to mirror an entire wall. Your room will appear to double in size.

7. Don't place too many pieces of furniture in a small space. A love seat may work better than a full-size sofa depending on the size and shape of the room. Add two medium-sized chairs or two small wood chairs. Place the chairs closer to the wall and then pull them into the area when additional seating is needed.

8. Add paintings or prints to the walls. One large painting works better than a group of small paintings.

9. The visual balance of a room is also important. A large, brightly colored element can overwhelm a room and decrease the appearance of space.

10. A glass table, whether it is a dining, coffee or end table, will keep the appearance of an open and free space.

For more how-to project ideas, visit Lowe's How-To Library at http://www.lowes.com/cd_How+To+Library_615580068_.
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Word of the Day

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

Encroachment. A building or other improvement that extends beyond its boundary and intrudes upon the property of another.
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Question of the Day

August 19, 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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Last-Minute Summer Home Maintenance Tips

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

The summer's not over yet. And while there's still time for some fun in the sun, this is also a good time to think about some last-minute maintenance that is sure to help you increase the longevity of your home and reduce energy costs.

Here are some tips from Andy Rathke, a former commercial and residential real estate and construction executive who now runs a HandyPro handyman franchise in Charlotte, NC.

Roof and Attic Ventilation and Insulation:
Make sure attic, soffit and roof vents are running, open and clear of debris to allow proper ventilation. Properly ventilated and insulated attics reduce heating and cooling costs.

Gutters and Downspouts:
Loose, leaking or clogged gutters can cause water damage on soffits or basement leaks. Before this happens inspect, clean and if necessary repair or replace.

Caulking and Grout:
Inspect caulking and grout around tubs, showers, sinks, windows and door. Replace if deteriorating to protect material behind the walls, avoid water damage and mold growth.

Air Conditioning System Inspection and Filter Change:
Have your air conditioning system checked by a licensed HVAC mechanic semi-annually to ensure top efficiency. Replace filters monthly to improve air quality and reduce energy costs.

Dryer Vents
If your dryer is taking more than one cycle to dry a load, there's likely lint accumulation in the dryer vent. Annual maintenance prevents dryer fires, keeps dryers running efficiently and saves money on energy bills.

"Consumers who follow these guidelines," says Rathke, "will increase the longevity of their homes and save money in the long run."

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How to Land on Your Feet after an International Move

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

We arrived on Guam (from a relocation move) with emergency cash, documents and an advanced shipment of necessary belongings. Unfortunately, an 8.2 earthquake destroyed our hotel and damaged the unloading docks, leaving us—at least temporarily—with just a rental car and the clothes on our back. Clearly, it was time to re-evaluate our settling-in strategy.

Even under normal circumstances, unfurling in a new location requires more than just a simple unpacking strategy. Here are our top tips.

Networking: Check out international organizations that offer networking opportunities to global travelers. For example, Hash House Harriers, an international running club formed in the late 1930s, has chapters all over the world, including Guam, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Meetup.com allows individuals of any interest category to connect throughout the United States. In Kuwait, there are both Canadian and American citizens groups, as well as a French language association.

Nora Dunn (www.theprofessionalhobo.com) is a member of Rotary International, a global service organization that not only provides her with immediate opportunities for service, but an instant network of local contacts that are happy to help a newbie. And don't forget university alumni associations, trade groups and other professional organizations, with chapters in the U.S. and abroad.

Infrastructure: During international moves, an ironing board, French press and chairs rank high on our must-have list. Other seasoned travelers, with special needs or diets, ease the pain of relocation by traveling with back-up supplies of medicine, medical equipment and cooking supplies.

During an extended stay in Scotland, Greenland and Iceland, one traveler filled individual Ziploc bags with coffee, spices and other nonperishable food items. The storage bags were stuffed into paper towel tubes and then stashed in her luggage. This strategy created a portable supply of kitchen ingredients.

With that stock, she prepared meals while staying in rented homes in Europe. Donna Frose, an international teacher whose career has taken her to the U.A.E., Singapore, Kuwait and Ecuador, has a different set of priorities. Arriving with one set of bed linens and a pillow, she immediately searches out a couch, membership in the local Canadian Women's League chapter and the nearest diet cola supply.

Routine: New digs mean new routines for everything from banking, grocery shopping and medical care. While living in Paris, we used an informal alumni association to help us find the best deals in entertainment, groceries and clothing. For example, an old college friend provided information about great parties and events, including a poetry reading at an elegant bookstore in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank of Paris.



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Filing a Damage Claim in the Wake of Severe Storms

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

The end of summer and onset of fall brings the tall end of hurricane season, and also tornadoes throughout the country. For this, Allstate is providing these simple steps for customers and families to help during the recovery.

Make sure your home is structurally safe. Be extremely careful inside your home. Debris may be hazardous and the potential for collapse may exist. You may want to retrieve personal items, but if you're told by authorities to stay out, stay out. It's for your own safety.

Have necessary temporary repairs made to prevent further damage, keeping receipts for work performed.

If your home is uninhabitable, find out what living expenses your homeowners or renters insurance policy may cover.

Be patient and assist claims adjusters assigned to your case. Small losses may be settled quickly; extensive claims will take longer.

Notify creditors if bills have been lost or you're unable to pay.

Consider calling your utility company and ask them to stop billing if your home has been destroyed.

Report your claim to insurance company promptly.

Prepare to file an insurance claim by gathering all relevant policy numbers.

Inventory your home for damaged or lost items before your adjuster arrives. This will help speed up your claim process.

Work with a qualified tax expert to find out about tax breaks for which you may be eligible because of your losses.
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Pests and Mosquitoes Are All the ‘Buzz

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

As Americans gear up for the final days of summer with last-minute vacations and Labor Day barbeques, one tradition remains as constant as back-to-school sales—pest activity. In a recent Omnibus survey conducted by Atlanta-based pest control leader Orkin, flies (45 percent), flying and stinging insects (40 percent) and mosquitoes (39 percent) were most frequently seen in and around homes within the past month. In addition, 30 of 31 Orkin region offices across the U.S. confirmed that ants are among the top summer pests affecting homeowners. 

"It's no surprise that flies, flying and stinging pests, mosquitoes and ants are most active this summer, given current weather conditions," says Greg Baumann, technical director for Rollins Inc., parent company of Orkin. "The sweltering temperatures coupled with seasonal rain showers in much of the country create ideal conditions for these insects in search of food, water and shelter, making them more prevalent."
Almost half (43 percent) of the respondents dislike pests because they could "bite, sting or attack [them]," while 41 percent dislike pests because they are a nuisance. 

Baumann notes these responses can be attributed to flying and stinging insects like bees and wasps, which can be difficult for consumers to control on their own and can pose serious health risks to people who are allergic to their stings. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than 500,000 people are sent to the emergency room every year from insect stings. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mosquitoes are most likely to bite between dusk and dawn – primetime for backyard activities. Mosquito bites can cause itchy, red welts, but the pest is infamous for transmitting West Nile virus, among other diseases. 

Although most ants can't bite or sting, the exception being fire ants, these filthy pests can contaminate food and surfaces with germs that could cause pneumonia, food poisoning and meningitis. Additionally, flies can carry more than 100 pathogens and transmit bacteria like E. coli and salmonella every time they land. 

Orkin suggests the following tips to keep these summer pests away:
• Store food and drinks in tightly sealed containers.
• Monitor regularly for nests around the home.
• Remove standing water from gutters, plant pots and other sources where pests can breed.
• Hire a licensed pest control professional.

For more information visit http://orkin.com.
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Word of the Day

August 19, 2011 4:59 pm

Encumbrance. Any impediment to a clear title. It can be a claim, lien, zoning restriction, or other legal right or interest in land that diminishes its value. The report of the title search usually shows all encumbrances.
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Question of the Day

August 19, 2011 4:59 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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Improving the Value of Your Home

August 18, 2011 6:59 pm

Every home is, first and foremost, a place to live and enjoy—a respite from the outside world and a place to build cherished family memories. But a home is also an investment —perhaps the most important investment you will ever make, and there are many small steps you can take over the years to increase its value, comfort, and marketability should the time come to sell it and move.

California REALTOR® Ellen Parker suggests seven cost-effective ways to treat your home like the investment it is meant to be:

• Curb appeal – First impressions are important, and regular maintenance shows. A well-kept lawn, tidy landscaping, a neatly painted exterior and a nice front door show pride of ownership and pride in the neighborhood.
• Fresh paint – One of the most cost-effective boosts to any home is a coat of fresh interior paint. Choose colors that appeal to you, but if selling your home is on your agenda, stick to neutral shades.
• Update kitchen – Dated counters, cabinets and floors can be a real turn-off to buyers. Investing in granite, tile and/or remodeled cabinetry will not only increase your own enjoyment, but can make a major difference in resale value.
Update windows – Double paned windows that shut out noise and help regulate indoor temperature are an attractive and worthwhile investment that will add value to your home.
• Update baths – Attractive bathrooms are always noticed. Tubs and showers are easily replaced or resurfaced, and newer, low-flush toilets can cost as little as $100.
Update floors and ceilings – Popcorn ceilings are a thing of the past. Scrape them away before painting. Carpeting, if used, should never look dingy or worn. Is there a real wood floor under the carpet? Think about ripping out that old carpeting and refurbishing the wood for a clean and updated look.
• Energy savings – Although not always noticeable, energy efficient additions like solar panels, insulated windows and water filtration systems will trim your own utility bills and add value when you sell.
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