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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

August Housekeeping Tips

August 4, 2011 6:59 pm

Keep your house fresh and cool through the hottest month of the year, and save a little money, with the following tips:

1. Line Dry. Take advantage of the warm weather and save energy by drying your clothes on a clothesline. Hanging clothes to dry can be a fun project with kids, and nothing beats sheets that smell like a summer breeze.

2. Collect Water. Watering plants and grass in the summer takes a ton of water. Make an eco-friendly move by placing rain buckets outside to collect water from a summer storm.

3. Make Shade. Your AC unit will have less work to do if you make your home cooler naturally. Smart landscaping—more trees, shrubs and vines—can shade your home from the outside. Additionally, retractable or removable awnings—attached to the outside of your windows—can have huge cooling benefits. Blinds and shades can do the trick as well, and of course, if financially feasible, an energy efficient roof (one with an Energy Star rating) can offset heat by reflecting light.

4. Limit electronics. You don’t realize it, but even small electronics generate heat, not to mention use power even when off. Unplug things like powerstrips, lamps, cell phone chargers and small appliances (toaster, blenders, etc.) when not in use to score cool and cost-friendly results.

5. Smart Cooking. When the temperatures are soaring, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven—which makes your AC work harder than necessary. Score some outdoor family fun by using your grill, and when you need to use the stovetop, keep pots and pans covered to retain heat.
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Avoid a Kitchen Reno Disaster with These Helpful Hints

August 4, 2011 6:59 pm

Whether homeowners are trying to sell their house or simply would like to make some improvements, TouchStone Kitchen and Baths, a kitchen and bath design and installation company, provides consumers with the seven key questions to ask any contractor before they begin any renovation this summer.
“For most homeowners, a major kitchen remodel is a once in a lifetime experience,” says Carl Smith, President of TouchStone Kitchens and Baths. “A kitchen is the nerve center of a home and if a renovation is not handled properly it can be disruptive and stressful, to say the least. It is important to choose a company that has the ability to both balance form and function in the design and complete the project professionally in consonance with the homeowner’s lifestyle and desires,” Smith continues. 

To make remodeling a kitchen, bathroom or other area of a home less stressful and more streamlined, from the first little ideas to the final masterpiece, Smith suggests consumers use these questions and answers to make an informed, cost effective, and hassle-free decision about whom they hire:
1. Insurance: How is the contractor insured?

Some contractors operate with little or no insurance coverage policies?

If there is a worker injury, a homeowner injury or a construction mishap, the liability may fall on the homeowner. 

2. Manufacturer Warranty: Is it possible to prevent the warranty from being voided?

Product manufacturers offer warranties for the products they sell, but if they have been abused or improperly installed there is no coverage. Proper training and experience by professional installers insures that all warranties will be honored. 

3. Updated Showroom: Can I see how my kitchen might look and feel before we start the work?

When you are considering products and services for a kitchen remodel it is reassuring to be able to go to a showroom that has all of the products available to touch and see to verify the quality and durability. 

4. Creative Designing: Will this contractor find the perfect blend of creativity and technical considerations?

Every kitchen remodel begins with the design or blue print for the project.

Everyone wants a beautiful end result, but it is important to make sure the kitchen will also function. 

5. Financial Stability: Will the contractor be able to complete the work?

Some contractors will rely on the homeowner’s deposit, sometimes up to half the cost of the job, and still lack the financial fortitude and strength to complete the job before they get any other payments. It becomes essential to understand that the company can complete the kitchen, on schedule, even though the final payment is paid upon completion. 

6. Accountability and Trust: How do I know I can trust this contractor?

From the first telephone call, you’ll want to be confident that the contractor is easily reachable. Upfront, you need to know how the work is going to be completed and if there are any hidden costs. 

7. The Design and Build Process: How can I be sure that the contractor has my best interest in mind?

From concept to completion, homeowners are a part of the entire process. Ask for references and talk to previous clients to feel comfortable with your decision.

For more information, visit http://www.touchstonekitchens.com.
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Deceptive HVAC Companies Leave Homeowners in a Pickle and Insurance Companies Holding the Bill

August 4, 2011 6:59 pm

Consider the following real-life scenario: 

At the peak of one of the hottest summers on record—the kind that prompt weathermen to caution against outdoor activities of any kind—your AC unit suddenly, and without warning, dies. As the temperature inside your house literally rises by the minute, you jump to action, anxious to find a quick fix to this major inconvenience. 

Lacking any real knowledge about your AC system, you scour the phone book (or Google) for someone, anyone, who can bring you relief from the oppressive and dangerous heat. At long last, you locate a local HVAC company willing to dispatch a technician and get you back on your feet. You breathe a sigh of relief, not knowing that your call has set in motion one of the oldest insurance scams in existence today. 

The rest of the story is all too familiar. The HVAC technician visits your home, briefly inspects your AC unit, and informs you that he's got good news and bad news. The bad news (predictably) is that your unit is damaged beyond repair, and you need a replacement system. The good news is that if he denotes "Lightning Damage" on his handwritten invoice, there's a very good chance that your insurance carrier will pay for it, because it's most likely covered under your homeowner's policy. 

And as you pick up the phone to call your insurance agent, you unwittingly perpetuate the continuous cycle of fraudulent HVAC claims. 

"It's been our experience that there are many honest HVAC companies out there," states Damon Stafford of HVAC Investigators of Charlotte, NC. "However, the blatant dishonesty and fraud that we encounter on a daily basis is disheartening. We see full replacement claims submitted to insurance companies where a breaker is simply tripped, or where the wiring leading to an HVAC compressor was accidentally cut by a previous repairman." 

Sadly, this is nothing new for the HVAC industry, and as insurance carriers focus more on fighting HVAC fraud, it's leaving homeowners between a rock and a hard place. What could have been a simple $75 repair has become a significant cost that your insurance company may not be responsible for ... and you could be left holding the bill. 

"Due to the significant downturn in new construction business, the temptation for HVAC companies to take advantage of these situations has exacerbated. Our research shows that insurance companies routinely overpay on HVAC claims by an average of 65%," says Stafford. "And this ultimately affects us all, and by 'all,' I mean anyone who pays property and casualty insurance premiums. It's a sad reality, and what's worse ... most homeowners don't even know they're a part of the scam. They're just looking for relief." 

For more information, visit http://www.hvacinvestigators.com.
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8 Tips toward Unplugging on Vacation

August 4, 2011 6:59 pm

You have your iPhone, your BlackBerry, your Android. You have your laptop or netbook with wifi. It's hard enough to unplug for the weekend...let alone an entire vacation. But for your own sanity and even that of your coworkers, you need to. 

There's no reason to take a vacation only to spend it working. The beach might be great, but think about how much better it would be if your phone was left in your hotel room.

Vacations are meant to help employees recharge so they can return to work re-energized and refocused. But if you're constantly checking in with the office, you won't get a real break.

To help you unplug and look forward to your vacation, here are eight tips from CareerCast.com:
1. Plan ahead. Coordinate your vacation time with your co-workers, team and other executive staff to ensure that things run smoothly while you're out.
2. Designate your main point of contact and give them a detailed account of all your projects and work commitments along with your emergency contact information.
3. Try to leave the majority of your work-related hardware at home.
4. Inform your key accounts, vendors and clients when and how long you'll be out of the office.
5. If you have a lot of projects that will need attention while you're out, consider distributing your projects among your co-workers or team.
6. If you can't resist the temptation to check in, try to set up specific times or days you will be checking messages.
7. Leave your mobile devices in your room so you can concentrate on family and friends and not be tempted to check in during the day.
8. If you receive urgent voicemails or emails while you're out, ask your main point of contact troubleshoot the issue.

Remember, your health is important, and taking a vacation may be all the help you need.
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Word of the Day

August 4, 2011 6:59 pm

Deed restrictions. Provisions placed in deeds to control how future landowners may or may not use the property. Also called deed covenants.
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Noisy Neighbors? How to Handle Neighbor Disputes

August 3, 2011 6:59 pm

There’s no good way to put this: noisy neighbors are difficult. 

They play loud music at all hours of the night; they shout and throw tantrums; they have an odd affinity for power tools and revving their car engine; they bang around in their apartment at 3 a.m.
Besides taking the passive aggressive route and making your own noise, what can you do about it? Is there legal recourse for noisy neighbors? 

Before you attempt to fight your noisy neighbors with the law, you should try to cut the noise with kindness.
Your first bet is always to ask your neighbors to keep it down. Go over, introduce yourself, and explain your problem. Be polite. 

If they rebuff your request or require a second reminder, let your noisy neighbors know that, if it’s a continued problem, you will have to speak to your landlord (if in an apartment) or with the police. 

If the noise doesn’t stop after the second warning, go ahead and complain, but first determine whether your neighbors are breaking building rules or local noise ordinances. 

Unfortunately, local noise ordinances only prohibit certain types of unreasonable noise and only during certain hours. 

They may limit construction and lawnmowers until after 7 a.m., or restrict loud music after midnight. These rules are usually promulgated by your city or county, so do a search for your local code. 

If a police citation or a landlord complaint don’t do the trick, you can also try to sue your noisy neighbors for creating a private nuisance. This is a tough one, so you’ll likely need a lawyer.

For more information, visit www.Findlaw.com.

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Word of the Day

August 3, 2011 6:59 pm

Deed of trust. Document resembling a mortgage that conveys legal title to a neutral third party as security for a debt. Also called a trust deed or deed in trust.
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Question of the Day

August 3, 2011 6:59 pm

Q: How does refinancing work?

A: With a refinancing, you pay off an old loan on your home and take out a new one, usually at a lower mortgage interest rate. To refinance, you will generally need to have equity in your home, a good credit rating, and steady income. You can borrow a percentage of the equity to cover remodeling costs, debt consolidate, and college tuition. 

When you refinance, you will incur all the closing costs that go along with getting a new mortgage. So unless you are doing extensive renovations and can get a mortgage interest rate at least two points below your current loan rate, you may want to select another financing option.
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The Value of Homes Increase with a Simple Paint Job

August 3, 2011 4:59 pm

Any homeowner who is looking to increase the value of their home should consider a simple paint job. Min Zar Ni, owner of Singapore House Painting Services, offers these tips for those who are thinking about adding a fresh coat of paint to their home: 

1. Use high quality paint. Nippon Odor-less paint is top of the line, so homeowners should look for contractors that use this brand. In some cases, residents may want to opt for antibacterial or washable paint. A quality contractor will help decide which kind of paint will work best for the type of use.
2. Apply at least two coats of paint. Some homeowners think they can save money by applying just one coat of paint, but the cost of a single coat of paint is much higher in the long run. Two coats is usually what will be needed for optimum coverage, except in the case of extremely rich colors like deep reds or blacks. Any fewer than two coats will not end up looking like a professional paint job.
3. Get the whole house painted at the same time, if possible. Professional paint contractors work in teams and can get a larger job done much faster than a single painter working in one room alone. It is much more convenient to get it all finished at the same time because there may not be enough elbow room for more than one contractor to work in a single room at once. A team can help move furniture, while a single contractor is left to do it all on his own.
4. Make sure the painting contractor will come give a free viewing to ensure a precise quote. Painting contractors can give a general idea of how much a painting job will cost, but that price should not be considered set in stone until they have seen the property with their own eyes. This will ensure a more exact quote and no awful surprises on the bill afterward. 

For more information, visit www.SingaporePaintingServices.com.
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Healthcare Consumer Confidence Dips in July

August 3, 2011 4:59 pm

Americans' confidence in their ability to access and pay for healthcare declined in July after two straight months of improvement, according to a consumer sentiment index produced by Thomson Reuters.
The Thomson Reuters Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index dropped from 99 in June to 96 in July, surrendering gains made since hitting a low of 95 in April. 

U.S. healthcare consumers polled in July predicted they will be more likely to delay, postpone or cancel office visits, elective surgeries, and therapies in the next three months. They also said they have had, and expect to continue having, difficulty paying for healthcare services and insurance. This is a significant reversal from June, when consumers generally expressed optimism for the future. 

"The index hit historic lows in April, rebounded in May and June, and recorded across-the-board declines in July," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at the Thomson Reuters Center for Healthcare Analytics. "It is clear that consumer attitudes remain extremely volatile." 

The index, which is based on the Thomson Reuters PULSE™ Healthcare Survey, has two parts:
• A retrospective component gauges respondents' experiences during the past three months. It tracks whether they postponed, delayed or cancelled healthcare services and whether they had difficulty paying for medical care or health insurance. In July, retrospective consumer sentiment dropped from 98 to 96.
• A prospective component gauges respondents' expectations for the next three months. In July, prospective consumer sentiment fell from 100 to 97.

For more information, go to www.thomsonreuters.com.
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