Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
Newspanel's economics commentator James Park sees reasons for optimism in aspects of the U.S. economy. While not a robust rebound from global recession, Park still sees things to like in leading economic indicators. That's the premise of his latest commentary, “3 Reasons Why the U.S. Economy Is Doing Better Than You Think.” This includes increasing rates of employment growth, increasing use of consumer and corporate credit and a leveling off of energy prices.
“There have been already some signals showing that although the teeth of the global recession still bite deep into the nation, there's hope for the future—significant improvements may not be so far off,” says Park.
Employment growth is accelerating
The rate at which new jobs have been created in 2011 has doubled, compared to 2010, points out Park. What's more, job growth is concentrated in small businesses, the sector economists consider fundamental to the US Economy.
“Small businesses have been hiring more than 1 million people in the last 12 months. In other words...they are moving ahead despite the obstacles laid in their path by the global recession. And this can only be good for the U.S. Economy,” Park says.
Businesses and Consumers Are Using Credit Again
During the recent global recession, credit markets completely dried up. So the marked expansion of credit markets evident in recent months is great news for the US economy.
“Things have improved in the last couple of months and short-term borrowing among corporations has been improving ever since the end of 2010,” says Park. “Consumers...have begun borrowing money actively in the last seven months. In fact, between December and July, consumer credit has been continuously improving.”
This is not to say credit is rebounding to pre-global recession levels of availability. But any expansion can only be good news for the US Economy.
Energy Prices Have Finally Stopped Increasing
While steadily increasing energy prices in the first part of 2011 made economists fear a double dip recession was inevitable, prices have recently leveled off.
“There are signals that the much feared energy prices surge has stopped, at least for now,” says Park. “The issues that plague the Middle East could still lead to energy prices increases in the future, but more than likely these will be only short-lived.”
While recovery from global recession is still fragile, there may be finally reasons to hope.
“The U.S. economy, in the context of the global recession, shows clear signs that a recovery, perhaps even one as soon as the second half of this year, is not altogether improbable,” says Park.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
Buying a new home can be an exciting adventure, especially for first-time buyers. But the process isn’t all fun and excitement—owning a home comes with increased responsibilities and challenges that many new buyers haven’t previously faced. Before you get into the routine of day-to-day life in your new home, there are certain things that can be done to help you save a little money.
According to The Simple Dollar blog, the following tips will help homeowners save money while still living comfortably in their home.
1. Check the insulation. If your new home has an attic, make sure you take a peek around before you begin using the room for storage. It is especially important if you have an unfinished attic to check and be sure there is at least six inches of insulation around the entire room. Take the time to thoroughly inspect the insulation and replace any areas as needed.
2. Lower the temperature on your water heater. If you’re looking to save some money on your energy bill, turn your hot water heater down to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your water heater is a few years old, you may want to think about adding an extra layer of insulation to keep the heat where it’s needed.
3. Create a home maintenance checklist. Even though you have just moved into a new home, home maintenance can’t be forgotten. Create a home maintenance checklist now and be sure to go through the list at least once a month. Include any maintenance projects you can think of—including tasks that may only need to be completed every few months. This way nothing will get overlooked and you can take preventive action which will help extend the life of your appliances.
4. Hang your clothes up to dry. While drying your clothes in the dryer is a huge convenience for many homeowners, it also eats up a lot of energy. If you’re looking to save both energy and money, invest in a clothes rack where you can hang your clothes to dry.
5. Install energy-efficient appliances. Energy-efficient appliances may cost more upfront, but in the end, they will save you plenty of money. Do your homework before heading to your local Lowe’s and be sure to go for appliances that are reliable and energy efficient.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
“There are no small rooms,” says Trudy DeFalco, a Palm Springs, Calif. decorator who specializes in maximizing the space in smallish vacation condos. “But there are ways to enhance visual space in ways that make rooms appear larger.”
DeFalco suggests sticking to the rule that ‘less is more.’ The more furniture and accessories you put in a room, the smaller the room will appear. Keep the furnishings sparse to create a more spacious look.”
Here are DeFalco’s top five hints for enhancing the space you are in:
1. Enhance the light – Don’t box in a room with heavy blinds or shutters. Use sheer curtains to frame existing light. Install lightweight shades for privacy that can literally disappear in the daytime.
2. Reflect the light – Transparent and reflective surfaces can disappear before our eyes, giving the illusion of more space. Using mirrors on the walls, and glass or lucite tables, will make any room seem larger than it is.
3. Use small scale furniture – It’s tempting to bring in overstuffed furniture like armchairs and squared off sectionals. Don’t give in to the urge. Choose small scale pieces—and the fewer the better—that offer comfort without bulk. Shelving or a sleek media cabinet can help manage clutter and an ottoman can provide extra storage space.
4. Choose multi-function pieces – A sleeper sofa can disguise the small size of a bedroom. Turn that spare room into a sleek and functional office with a sleeper sofa instead of choosing a traditional bed and frame. In the kitchen or dining space, choose an expandable table and keep it at its smallest size when not in use.
5. Choose lamps and lighting carefully – Large table lamps are generally obtrusive space gobblers. Make the most of recessed or track lighting and place sleek and small-scale reading lamps where needed.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
Q: What is a condominium?
A: Condominiums are buildings in which individuals separately own the air space inside the interior walls, floors and ceilings of their unit, but they jointly own an interest in the common areas that they share—such as the land, lobby, hallways, swimming pool, and parking lot.
In addition to paying a mortgage, each owner is responsible for paying a monthly fee to the condo association, which is made up of the unit owners. The fee covers maintenance, repairs, and building insurance.
Most housing condominiums are apartments, although there are mobile home condominiums as well.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
Comparables. Properties similar to a specific piece of property that are used to help estimate the value of that property.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
Sun shining, weather warming, outdoors calling: Summer sounds a lot like heaven for dogs and other family pets. According to Ocean State Veterinary Specialists (OSVS), however, the seasonal freedom to run free means a new world of risks. Ocean State Veterinary Specialists are open 24/7 and staffed around the clock in order to provide top-quality emergency veterinary services and other specialty veterinary services to animals that are sick or injured this summer. But the best way to care for your dogs, of course, is to keep them from out of harm’s way in the first place.
“While our emergency veterinarians can help your dogs if they’ve been hit by a car, accident prevention is the best option,” says Betsy Hall of OSVS.
As anyone who has owned an energetic dog knows, prevention isn’t easy. But the specialists are hoping to keep dogs in their homes rather than the Emergency Room this summer with three safety keys:
1. Proper Fencing
Room to run, play, bark, and exert as much energy as possible is important to healthy dogs—just limit that room with a well-built fence, or a wireless electric fence. If your dog loves to dig, make sure your fence extends a foot or two down into the earth, or bury chicken wire beneath the fence. You can also place partially-buried barriers like large rocks or potted plants along the foot of the fence to keep them from tunneling out an escape route, or lay down a section of mesh or chain link fencing to keep them from digging at all.
2. Loving Leashes
No matter how well-trained and obedient your dog is, it’s just not a good idea to take them for walks without a leash. Dogs that normally stick by your side throughout a walk might dash out into the street after a rodent or another dog. The thrill of the chase is in their DNA.
3. Ample Attention
Part of the reason dogs do things like dig and run after cars is that they’re just plain bored. Give them ample attention and constructive ways to expend energy, and they’ll be more likely to spend afternoons lazing in the sun rather than running off in search of a more stimulating adventure. If they know you’ll be home soon and ready to play, they’re likely to wait eagerly for you.
If you’re going to be out of town for an extended period of time, consider placing them in a professional, trustworthy kennel instead of leaving them unattended in the backyard. The best kennels work in specific periods of play, so they won’t be cooped up in a cage all day.
For more tips or information, contact OSVS at 401.886.6787.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
With summer well underway, now is a great time to enjoy the outdoors on a new concrete patio. Patios made from concrete offer a host of advantages over other commonly used materials. ConcreteNetwork.com takes an in-depth look at these many advantages, covering everything from concrete’s versatility and durability benefits to color possibilities to how to make any new patio fit with the existing surroundings, and more.
Trends show that pools are getting smaller and patios are taking a dominant role in backyards across the country. Concrete patios offer homeowners many advantages, allowing them to create a one-of-a-kind patio that is both practical and meets their every need.
Of the most important of these advantages are the benefits that include versatility, durability and cost. These patios are so versatile because they can be poured into any shape and size maximizing any space constraints. They are highly durable and can stand up to a range of weather conditions found across the country. In addition, their costs are competitive and often lower than patios made of stone, brick or tile.
Other advantages include endless color possibilities made available by many of today’s innovative stain and coloring products, along with different finishing techniques. And with an easy maintenance routine, concrete patios can last many years.
Concrete patios can be created in so many textures, patterns, and colors; they are the perfect choice for blending into any backyard environment.
For more information on concrete patios, visit http://www.ConcretePatio.org or www.ConcreteNetwork.com.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
A new online resource for automotive buyers launched recently called AutoBuying101.com. The site aims to guide consumers on how to get the best deal on new and used auto purchases. AutoBuying101™ implements a three step process, featuring information, research, tools, tips, and resource reviews developed by industry insiders so consumers can get all of the information and research they need to purchase a vehicle in one place. To mark the launch of the site, AutoBuying101.com is announcing the results of a recent survey that examines how Americans shop for cars and their overall satisfaction with the buying process.
"Generally, consumers like the physical and emotional aspects of buying a vehicle, but really don't like the researching and financial aspects of buying," says Steve Moretti, founder and executive editor of AutoBuying101.com. Moretti is an automotive industry veteran and insider who has held executive positions at Capital One Auto Finance and Kelley Blue Book. "Buyers like the idea of having a new, or new to them, automobile—that new car smell, test driving different models, and driving off the dealer's lot in their new vehicle. But they don't like the more difficult components associated with getting a good value such as setting a budget and negotiating the sales price, and this is why we created AutoBuying101.com."
To mark the launch of the new site, AutoBuying101 recently commissioned the first, annual, national Auto Buying Experience Study™. The study asked Americans who recently purchased a vehicle within the past three months about how they shopped, how they made purchase decisions, and what the experience was like.
Overall satisfaction is strong, but the process is stressful and consumers are skeptical
• 79 percent of buyers feel they received a fair deal on their auto purchase
• While 74 percent of buyers enjoyed the overall auto buying process, 62 percent said that it was stressful
• Almost half, 43 percent, felt the auto buying process was complicated
• Only 28 percent of respondents said they trust automobile dealers
The "best" and "worst" about the auto buying experience
The survey also looked at the process of buying cars and how the average shopper felt about the process and how they make their decisions:
• Most buyers spend one to three months considering their purchase before buying
• The Internet plays a major role in the car buying process with 83 percent of respondents visiting manufacturer websites, 82 percent visiting independent automotive information sites and 78 percent checked out at least one dealership website
• People usually do not shop alone—66 percent brought a friend or family member with them
• The best part—38 percent of respondents said that the best part of the auto buying process was driving away in their new vehicle while 19 percent felt that test driving and inspecting was the best part
• The worst part—37 percent said negotiating the price was the worst part of the experience while 22 percent felt that setting a budget was the worst part
Consumer preparedness in purchasing vehicles is still low
While there is a plethora of information available about new and used models, auto buyers are still focused on the physical aspects of buying a car versus the transactional aspects. Preparedness can lead to a better price and more consumer satisfaction.
• 44 percent of buyers did not know their credit score before making the purchase
• 47 percent of buyers did not try and get pre-approved for financing before the purchase
• 44 percent of buyers did not have an scheduled appointment with the dealer on the day they purchased their vehicle
Moretti continues, "If a consumer wants the best deal, it is imperative for them to do their homework and be organized before walking into a dealership. The more they know, the easier, faster, and less stressful the process will be."
What buyers need to know before heading to the dealer
AutoBuying101 offers the following critical reminders to keep in mind when preparing to buy a vehicle:
• Set a budget—use online calculator tools to help you understand how much you can afford and what you will be paying on a monthly basis. Don't forget the additional fees associated with taxes and registration.
• If you plan on financing the purchase, know your credit score and try and get preapproved—your credit score is the single most important piece of information relative to your ability to qualify for financing plans. If you can get pre-approved, even if you use financing provided by the dealer, you will have more control in the negotiation process and will ensure you are getting a competitive financing plan.
• Shop online and compare prices—begin the process from your home or office to reduce stress and save time. Have potential dealers/seller provide you pricing over the phone or through email to streamline price negotiations.
• Setup an appointment—before you head to the dealership, setup an appointment with the Internet Manager (who usually has more experience with organized consumers that are shopping around). If you develop contact with the Internet Manager before you head to the dealership, you should be able to get in and out of the dealership faster.
• Bring a friend or family member—take someone with you to help give you a second opinion and provide you on the spot advice.
For more information, visit AutoBuying101.com.
July 15, 2011 4:59 pm
I regularly review the latest trends in outdoor projects and improvements, from patios and decks to pools, fountains and outdoor kitchens—but today we’re going to talk gazebos. According to the folks at Arlington, Texas based texashomesites.com, gazebos are one of the most classic elements for a backyard.
When it is the right size and structure, a gazebo is a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy the nice summer nights. And gazebos add design to your yard along with more functional space.
A comprehensive report on gazebos is also available from our friends at summerwood.com, who say when deciding on a gazebo, one of the most important things to consider is where to install it. Aesthetics are also equally important—you may choose to highlight your gazebo by making it the center of attention or build it into the existing surroundings, a quiet place to relax and reflect.
Existing structures and lot size will also impact the final site choice. Depending on the size of your property, you may want the gazebo to be close to the house, or have it set back as a destination point on the property when taking a leisurely stroll.
Don't forget about checking on permits for your gazebo build, or you may get an expensive reminder.
Since gazebos are often used as a focal point for gardens, a great idea is to highlight your structure by making it the center of attention. Think how you may want to cultivate the landscape in your gazebo's immediate surroundings.
Shrubs, flowers, and other garden details provide a nice complement to your gazebo design and will help to define the space. Many people also choose to lay flagstone or other pavers to create a unique pathway to the gazebo opening.
A little garden decor provides nice finishing touches to a tranquil space. Strategically placed, things like trellises, pergolas, lights, wind chimes, birdhouses—and even your favorite piece of weathered furniture can go a long way to creating the perfect setting for your gazebo.
July 14, 2011 6:59 pm
Q: Are impound accounts required for all mortgage loans?
A: They can typically be waived on a conventional loan if the loan amount is 80 percent or less of the purchase price. But the lender might charge you an additional 1/4 point for this option to waive the escrow.
One way to avoid an impound account on an owner-occupied mortgage is to raise your down payment amount slightly. The exact amount necessary to avoid the escrow will vary with the lender.
In some states, lenders let buyers set up separate accounts in which they place specific funds and then pay the insurance and property taxes themselves. These are called pledge accounts, and they must be set up before you close on the home.
An impound account can usually be dropped on an owner-occupied loan once the loan-to-value ratio equals 80 percent or less. But restrictions apply: payments will have to be current and your record of making on-time payments pretty solid. Contact your lender if you meet these requirements and want to drop your impound account.