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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

Home Maintenance Tips for Fall

August 11, 2011 6:59 pm

Fall is the time to get your home ready for the coming winter, which can be the most grueling season for your home. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) suggests you perform a variety of tasks which will help you to avoid the most common— and costly—problems before they occur. Some of these tasks are: 

• Ensure leaves and other debris are removed from eaves and downspouts for proper drainage from the roof. Ensure that downspouts direct water away from the house foundation.
• If you have a gas, oil, or other non-electric heating system, have it serviced by a qualified company—every two years for a gas furnace and every year for an oil furnace or in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Have the chimneys or combustion vents checked for nests or other obstructions before turning on your heating system.
• If you have a furnace, check and clean or replace filters on a monthly basis during the heating season.
• Gently vacuum in and around hot water baseboard and electric baseboard heaters to remove dust. Remove the grilles on forced-air heating systems and vacuum inside the ducts. Ensure airflow dampers are open.
• If you have a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), ensure the air intake grille—located on the outside of the house—is clean, the filters and core within the unit are clean, the condensate drains properly (test by pouring water into the drain pan under the core and watching the flow through the drain tube), and the HRV is turned on and is set at the right speed.
• If you have a well, test the water quality.
• If you have a sump pump, ensure it is operating properly, with no obstructions or leaks in the drain line.
• If you have a septic tank, have it checked to determine if it needs to be emptied before the winter starts.
• Remove and store window screens, install storm windows, and ensure all windows, doors and skylights shut tightly, including the door between your house and garage; repair or replace weather stripping, as needed.
• Ensure that the ground around your home slopes away from the foundation wall to decrease the likelihood of water draining into the basement.
• Cover the outside of the air conditioner, and drain and store outdoor hoses. Close the valve to the outdoor hose connection and drain the faucet.
• Winterize landscaping by storing outdoor furniture, preparing gardens and, if necessary, protecting young trees or bushes. 

For more information visit www.cmhc.ca.
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Word of the Day

August 11, 2011 6:59 pm

Due-on-sale. Clause in a note or mortgage giving the lender the right to call the entire loan balance due if the property is sold or otherwise conveyed.
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Question of the Day

August 11, 2011 6:59 pm

Q: Is it possible to refinance following a bankruptcy?

A:
It can be difficult to do after a bankruptcy, unless you are willing to pay very high interest rates and fees. However, if you are contemplating bankruptcy, first talk with your lender and explain your situation. If your mortgage payments are current, the lender may be accommodating and refinance your loan, thereby helping to ease your financial burden.
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Back to School with Less Stress

August 10, 2011 6:59 pm

Seven Tips to Help the Family Get Ready

It’s nearly time for summer to move over and make room for back-to-school—possibly the family’s busiest and most chaotic time of the year, especially in multiple-child households.

But a little organization can calm the nervous, clothe the brood, and underline the joy and excitement that every new school year should bring, according to Cynthia Ewer, editor of Organized Home.

Ewer shares the following tips to ease the angst of preparing for back-to-school:

• Ease back into school year schedules – if the kids have been staying up later and sleeping in, start easing them back into school year schedules a week or two before school starts. Also plan meals and snacks as you expect to do during the school year.
• Create calendar central – Post a large-square calendar and bulletin board on or near the refrigerator. A central calendar noting practices, music lessons, and all after-school activities is the only way to plan and keep order.
• Have a try-on day – Designate one day for all the kids to try on last year’s clothes. Make notes about who needs what before you begin to shop. Don’t forget to check for possible hand-me-downs.
• Shop early – End of summer sales can yield great bargains on school supplies as well as clothing and shoes. Buy outright any clothing or supplies your kids will need right away. Think about using layaway for boots, heavy jackets, and other supplies that will not be needed for a while.
• Check the paperwork – Do your athletes need proof of medical exams? Immunization records? Birth certificates for registration? Make any needed medical appointments now, and gather all the paperwork you will need.
• Take aim at morning madness – How can you save time and avoid upsets? Enlist the kids to set the table for breakfast as the dinner table is cleared. Create a workable bathroom schedule that gives everyone equal time. Keep a basket in the kitchen to hold signed permissions, homework, and reports due in a place where kids can find them fast.
• Make practice runs – Be sure children know the bike or walking route they will need or where the school bus will meet them. Make car pool arrangements as early as possible, and if your teen will be driving for the first time, review routes, rules of the road, and rules of the household.
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The Hidden Cost of Convenience

August 10, 2011 6:59 pm

With so many different devices deemed necessary these days, people often are unaware of the amount of energy used and the costs associated with keeping these devices running. While there has been a lot of discussion on "vampire" devices, electronics that continue to consume power even when in the stand-by position, it seems that many other everyday hidden costs are overlooked.

According to the California Energy Commission (www.consumerenergycenter.org), older refrigerators could be costing you up to $280 a year in electricity. A newer, more efficient model could pay for itself in a year or two.

Similarly, if you have an older television with the classic cathode-ray tube in it, even if just as a secondary TV in the bedroom, it still may be consuming more energy than you think. A study done by Cornell University found that a similar size LCD monitor compared to a CRT monitor used nearly 69 percent less energy (25 watts (LCD) vs. 80 watts (CRT)), including 40 percent less when in stand-by mode.

A more everyday example that might not be considered as often is batteries. Standard alkaline batteries may last a long time, but we constantly need a supply of them on hand and they can be expensive. When you stop to add up how many AA or AAA batteries a standard home uses (all those remote controls, wireless keyboards, mice and game controllers, not to mention the loud toys for the little ones), the hidden cost of replacement batteries can surprise you. Luckily, there's a solution that's more efficient and costs less over time. Rechargeable battery technology has improved in the last five years that gets rid of many of the questions of using rechargeables.

Rechargeables are now more appealing and more cost-effective than ever before. If they are able to meet the demands of our remotes and alarm clocks, the only thing that holds us back is either not acknowledging the hidden costs associated with our portable power needs, or our lack of awareness of the new technology that could save us money in the long run and lower the total cost of ownership of our favorite portable devices. We know rechargeable batteries are convenient for our cell phones, music players and readers, but we don't usually stop to think about them for other everyday items.

When we become aware of hidden costs and how they affect our pocketbooks over time, we become smarter consumers and realize that a little up front investment can often mean less money paid out over time, saving us more money to buy the things we want.

For more information, visit http://us.sanyo.com.
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Americans Say 'Yes' to New Requirements for Teen Drivers

August 10, 2011 6:59 pm

A recent national survey from Allstate Insurance reveals that nearly six in 10 Americans favor a federal law that establishes minimum requirements for state graduated driver licensing (GDL). Survey results show that support for a national law corresponds with low opinions about teen driving skills, which received the lowest ranking among all ages surveyed.

Currently, the Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection (STANDUP) Act is pending in Congress as part of the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (MVHSIA) or Mariah's Law, named after an Arkansas teen killed in a crash involving texting. STANDUP calls for uniform standards that restrict nighttime driving, limits the number of passengers in a teen's car, prohibits the use of cell phones while driving, and issues permits and licenses with specific age requirements and through a gradual, multi-phased process.

When asked about the specific provisions included in the STANDUP Act, Americans are solidly in favor of the policies. Key findings include:
• Seventy-six percent back a minimum age of 16 to receive a learner's permit, and 69 percent favor requiring three stages of licensing.
• Seven in 10 Americans favor restricting unsupervised nighttime driving for those under age 18, and 65 percent support restricting the number of non-family passengers for drivers under 18.
• When asked about the prohibition of cell phones or texting while driving for younger drivers, 81 percent are in favor.
• Support for STANDUP and its individual provisions crosses all age groups, geographic regions, and political affiliation.

The survey also shows that American drivers are highly critical of teenage drivers, giving them the lowest rating of all age groups. Eighty-one percent rate teenagers as "average" or "poor" drivers.

"Results from this survey show that Americans clearly understand that GDL laws can help save lives, and that a majority of them support a legislative solution that safely introduces teen drivers to the road," says Bill Vainisi, senior vice president and deputy general counsel, Allstate. "What's needed now is national leadership in the form of uniform standards for those GDL laws."

For more information, visit www.allstatenewsroom.com.
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How to Create a Homework Study Zone

August 10, 2011 6:59 pm

Getting your child back into study mode can be tough after a long, fun summer. So, grab a highlighter and take note of these easy ideas for finding and creating the perfect homework space for back to school success.

Designated space. Designate a set place in your home for your child to study. For younger children, make the space someplace you can easily supervise the work and be readily available to answer questions. For older children, their bedroom is an ideal location because it gives them a quiet place to focus.

Table it. Classrooms have desks and chairs instead of couches and beds to keep students alert. The same should hold true at home. Make sure your child has a designated desk or table to use for studying and doing homework. If you don't have the space for a desk, a small folding table that adjusts in height is the perfect size for a small student desk and it can easily be folded and stored on the weekends when homework is out of sight.

Table space. Making sure your child has a desk or table is important. But, it also needs to be the appropriate size. Middle school and high school students often have multiple items in use at the same time.

Light bright. Your child's homework space should be well-lit to provide good reading light, as well as to keep your child alert while studying. Placing your child's desk near a window for natural lighting also will help brighten his or her homework mood.

Shhh. Study halls require students to be quiet while studying and so should you. Keep your child's homework space free from noise distractions. Kids will complain, but that means no TV, no radio, no iPods, no video games, no cell phones, etc. Parents and other siblings should also abide by this rule and be quiet in and around the homework space.

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

August 10, 2011 6:59 pm

Discount broker. A full-service broker who charges less than the prevailing commission rates in his or her community.
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Question of the Day

August 10, 2011 6:59 pm

Q: How do I determine the value of a distressed property?
A:
One of the best ways is to get your hands on a comparable market analyses. See what price similar properties have sold for in the past and find out the listing price of others currently on the market.
It is important to examine the fixer-upper carefully and figure out how much it will cost to fix any defects or repairs. If you are unable to get in, talk with nearby neighbors about the home’s condition.
You can also do your own cost comparison by researching comparable properties recorded at the local county recorder's and assessor's offices, or at Internet sites specializing in property records. If the property is in foreclosure, you should get as much information as possible from the lender.
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Understanding the Smart Grid

August 9, 2011 4:59 pm

I didn’t feel too smart when it came to the latest information about the rapidly growing U.S. Electrical “smart grid”—so I plugged into some good intel on the subject from Tom Simchak of the Alliance to Save Energy.

According to Simchak, the smart grid is a system of interconnected technologies that enable two-way communications between different parts of the electric power system—from generation through to the appliances—that consume electricity.

This system of communication gives grid operators greater awareness of the condition of the electrical grid at any given location. But Simchak says it also allows consumers the opportunity to have a better understanding of their own energy use—potentially down to individual appliances’ consumption, which allows consumers to identify energy saving opportunities.

Smart grid systems also could open up opportunities for energy management companies, hired by consumers, to use data from “smart meters” to identify opportunities for energy savings, or to measure the success of energy saving measures after they are undertaken.

For utilities, smart grid technologies have the capacity to allow for reductions in electricity use targeted at times when demand is highest. Called demand response, these peak reductions can reduce the strain placed on the electrical grid, and the need for high-cost generation resources.

According to Simchak, consumers participating in demand response activities are compensated for the service.

Consumers do not have to take an action each time a utility calls for demand response activities. Simchak says a utility can simply send a signal to smart-capable appliances that take action based on pre-programmed consumer preferences.

The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act proposed in May of 2011 would allow customers to give third parties access to their consumption data, allowing third-party energy management services to process and reinterpret data from smart meters and to program smart appliances for consumers.

Such services could simplify smart meters’ use, create the potential for greater energy savings, and allow for an aggregation of savings for load management. Retail electric providers would be able to recover the costs of this requirement in electricity rates, subject to the regulation of their public utility commissions or other authority with jurisdiction.
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