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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

Word of the Day

September 2, 2011 10:59 am

FHA. Acronym for Federal Housing Authority, an agency created within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that insures mortgages on residential property, with down payment requirements usually lower than prevailing ones.

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Question of the Day

September 2, 2011 10:59 am

Q: Are special tax breaks available for historic rehabilitation?

A: Certified historic structures now enjoy a 20 percent investment tax credit for qualified rehabilitation expenses, if they are income producing properties. A historic structure is one listed in the National Register of Historic Places or so designated by an appropriate state or local historic district that is certified by the government. The tax code does not allow deductions for the demolition or significant alteration of a historic structure. For more information, contact the National Trust for Historic Preservation at (202) 588-6000, or visit its web site at www.nationaltrust.org.

Many states offer tax incentives, reductions and abatement programs for owners of residential historic homes. These programs are described on the National Trust’s web site.
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5 Tips to Get Your Real Estate Agent Back on the Job

September 1, 2011 4:59 pm

In the current real estate market, many sellers are pulling out all the stops to get their homes to sell. One of the most common tactics is to change REALTORS® when the one they're using isn't getting the job done. However, one expert believes there is another way. 

Pat Hiban, real estate agent and author of "6 Steps to 7 Figures" (www.pathiban.com)—a self-help guide for realty agents—has some tips for consumers, too. 

Hiban's advice includes:
Be Proactive - Successful people are productive every morning. In sales, that means you need to be making prospecting calls, doing open houses, calling contacts, writing notes to people, making new contacts, and getting in people's faces. If your agent is waiting around for the phone to ring, ask them if they are working every avenue they can, and suggest they beat the bushes.
Plan The Week - Ask them what their agenda is for the week, and make sure they are doing something every day to promote your property. Keep them focused with an agenda every week, and you'll increase the chances they'll be successful for you.
Get Busy - Activity breeds activity. It's a universal truth that the more you push your flow out to potential buyers, the more inward flow of contacts you'll generate. You never know when they'll catch a break, but if they aren't in the game and getting out in the community, they'll never have a chance to find one.
Accept All Invitations - Networking can many times win the day, and real estate agents typically receive every invitation available to local networking and community events. Ask them if they attend local events, and when you know some are coming up, email them the information.
Don't Panic - Panic and negativity on your part makes your agent feel the same way. Don't vex them. Help them stay focused and positive. If you keep going, they'll keep going.
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5 Tips That Will Save Your Shrubs

September 1, 2011 4:59 pm

There is nothing worse than a bad haircut, and the one thing you can't do with a bad haircut is uncut it, so you just have to wait for it to grow out before you can fix it. That's how expert gardener Carol Chernega views the art and science of pruning a shrub. 

"Instead of giving your shrubs a bad haircut, it's actually very simple to give them a day at the spa," says Chernega, producer and star of the DVD "Pruning Shrubs with Your Personal Gardener" (www.onegardenatatime.biz). Her tips on pruning include: 

1. Know What You're Pruning -- Before you make your first cut, look carefully at your garden and identify what you're going to be pruning. Use the Internet to identify them if you don't already know. You want to learn how the shrub should look so you can prune it to maintain that natural shape.
2. Cut Back to the Branch -- Always cut back to a bud or branching point. Never leave a long stub. A stub will not only look ugly, but it will also invite insects and disease that could cause long term problems.
3. Cut the Dead Weight First -- Before you cut anything else, cut out the dead or broken branches. Sometimes removing a dead branch will leave a big gap, so by doing them first, you'll be able to tailor the rest of your pruning to compensate for that gap.
4. Crossing Over -- After you eliminate the dead branches, next you want to target crossing branches or branches that are likely to cross in the future. Once they start rubbing against each other, they'll leave a wound that will invite insects and disease, so you want to eliminate that threat.
5. Cut With the Flow -- Finally, cut out all branches that are not going in the natural direction of the plant. This is good for the health of the plant, as well as the look of your garden.
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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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