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
May 26, 2011 8:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 27, 2011—Twenty years ago, Senator Alan Cranston, Congressman Henry Gonzalez and housing advocates from across the country designed a new block grant program exclusively dedicated to producing affordable housing. Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) has produced one million units of affordable housing.
Located in Owensboro, Kentucky, the one-millionth “HOME unit” is home to Michelle Nash, a mother of three who helped to construct the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house along with Habitat for Humanity.
“We’ve come a long way since the HOME Program got its start 20 years ago,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Today, State and local governments rely on the HOME program to produce affordable homes for very-low and extremely low-income families struggling to find a place to call home. Reaching one million homes proves this landmark production program works!”
Nash purchased her 1,200 square-foot home for $65,500 after contributing 600 hours of labor and four months of her time toward constructing it. The total cost of construction was $109,260 with a total HOME investment of $35,000. The monthly mortgage is only $400 allowing Michelle to work as a full-time student as she cares for her children.
Nash says, “It’s always been my dream to own a home but the tough part was how I was going to achieve this goal. I feel truly blessed that this program has given me the ability to afford a home and provide for my kids.”
“We’re ecstatic that Owensboro is home to the one-millionth HOME unit built in America,” says Mayor Ron Payne. “Redevelopment is our number one priority in our city. Owensboro remains committed to improving the quality of life for low- to moderate-income families and individuals in our community, by expanding housing choice with quality affordable homes produced with HOME funding.”
HUD’s HOME Program
The Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act created the HOME Program in 1992. HOME provides formula grants to States and localities that communities use - often in partnership with local nonprofit groups - to fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, and/or rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership or provide direct rental assistance to low-income people.
Each year, HUD allocates approximately $2 billion to more than 600 state and local participating jurisdictions to increase the stock of affordable housing and provide tenant-based rental assistance for low- and very low-income households. Since the program’s inception, the program has completed more than one million units of affordable housing. In addition, the HOME Program provided more than 240,000 families with critically needed rental assistance. Each dollar of HOME funds leverages nearly $4 million in other public and private investments with a combined $78 billion over the life of the program.
For more information, visit www.HUD.gov.
May 26, 2011 8:27 pm
RISMEDIA, May 27, 2011--If you're continuing to focus on outside enhancements for your home during this month's National Home Improvement Month, Mark Clement, professional contractor and host of MyFixItUpLife home improvement radio show, has a few additional suggestions:
Evaluate the functionality and decorative appeal of your current windows. If you have condensation between glass panes, the windows are hard to open or close, your energy bills are soaring or if there are drafts coming in around the window units, then it’s time to seriously consider replacement windows.
Vinyl framed windows are the category of windows with the highest growth rate in the country. Why? These frames are extremely energy-efficient and some of the best have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction. Plus, maintenance hassles are so low you’ll forget the horrors of rotting frames, scraping and repainting that come with wood windows.
Investigate your window options and stick with a national manufacturer that can stand behind a long-term warranty. Always keep return-on-investment in mind, which may lead you to consider buying ENERGY STAR® qualified windows.
If you have the opportunity to replace your entry door or windows, make sure to finish off the job with stylish window and door trim. Lightweight and easy to install, weather-resistant synthetic moldings, shutters and entryway surrounds are a definite do-it-yourself project for any homeowner.
Take an eagle’s eye look at your home. Most houses have louvers placed high above the attic or garage space to allow ventilation in those areas. And, most houses have wooden louvers that can rot with time. Replacing louvers with insect-resistant and rot-resistant synthetic louvers can improve the home’s appearance and functionality.
Wrap it up. Clement recommends that if you have unsightly porch posts you can easily transform them into showpiece parts of your home by using Column Wrap Kits. The decorative synthetic pieces can be installed in less than 15 minutes around existing structural posts and columns to give an upgraded look to any home.
For more home improvement tips, visit www.myfixituplife.com or www.nari.org.
May 25, 2011 2:27 am
With a continued emphasis on going green, homeowners are stepping up their recycling efforts in order to keep harmful products out of landfills. If you are still unsure about the benefits that come with recycling, the experts at the National Recycling Coalition have compiled a list of the top 10 reasons that we should put a greater emphasis on recycling.
1. Good for our economy
American companies rely on recycling programs to provide the raw materials they need to make new products.
2. Creates jobs
Recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. More than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises employ 1.1 million workers nationwide.
3. Reduces waste
The average American discards 7.5 pounds of garbage every day. Most of this garbage goes into landfills, where it's compacted and buried.
4. Good for the environment
Recycling requires far less energy, uses fewer natural resources, and keeps waste from piling up in landfills.
5. Saves energy
Recycling offers significant energy savings over manufacturing with virgin materials. (Manufacturing with recycled aluminum cans uses 95% less energy).
6. Preserves landfill space
No one wants to live next to a landfill. Recycling preserves existing landfill space.
7. Prevents global warming
In 2000, recycling of solid waste prevented the release of 32.9 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MMTCE, the unit of measure for greenhouse gases) into the air.
8. Reduces water pollution
Making goods from recycled materials generates far less water pollution than manufacturing from virgin materials.
9. Protects wildlife
Using recycled materials reduces the need to damage forests, wetlands, rivers and other places essential to wildlife.
10. Creates new demand
Recycling and buying recycled products creates demand for more recycled products, decreasing waste and helping our economy.
For more information, visit www.nrc-recycle.org.
May 25, 2011 2:27 am
In this market, using the first real estate agent you speak to can be a recipe for disaster for home buyers according to the home buying specialists at the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA). For years, real estate sellers have been told to interview a number of agents before they pick one to list their home because of the difference in the service and skill levels provided. However, most home buyers end up using the first real estate person they meet.
"In an appreciating market, buyers may not need a skilled negotiator and property evaluator. But today's real estate environment is different. Home buyers need to work with the most skilled agent they can find to provide market insights and to advocate on their behalf," says Barry Nystedt, Region 8 Director of NAEBA. "Home buyers need to compare the qualifications, loyalty, experience and negotiation effectiveness of real estate agents to find the best one to work with. Top buyer's agents will be very happy to discuss their capabilities and the types of savings they have been able to achieve for buyers."
If home buyers are not careful in choosing an agent they are often caught in a difficult situation if they see homes with an agent from the listing office and later decide they want to use their own agent to represent them, because the listing office may make a claim for the buyer agent fee built into the transaction.
With home values still falling in many areas, home buyers need their own loyal advocate. "Ask the real estate people you are considering working with some serious questions," recommends Nystedt. "Choose one who has a proven track record of helping homebuyers save money and who will be loyal to you no matter what home you are interested in. Don't just settle for the first real estate agent you talk to."
For more information, visit http://www.naeba.org.
May 25, 2011 2:27 am
If you are considering a move in the coming months, heed these suggestions to give you the best chance of making your move a positive experience.
1. Don't contract with a moving company until you've done your homework. There are a number of reputable moving companies operating in the United States, but there also are some that are not. You can find a list of certified movers at www.promover.org or check the Better Business Bureau's website (www.bbb.org) for recent reports about any of the moving companies you have under consideration.
2. Understand the coverage options offered by your moving company. Hiring a professional moving company is an investment in convenience-but it is not a guarantee against damaged or lost possessions. So, before moving, make certain you understand the types of protection each moving company offers.
3. Finish packing before moving day. J.D. Power's research has shown that customers who are still packing on moving day are more than 40% more likely to have items go missing than are their counterparts who finish packing before moving day.
4. Don't put off unpacking. Unpacking promptly following your move will give you sufficient time to file a claim if you need to do so. Nearly one-half (45%) of customers who discover items lost or damaged during their move do not file a claim with their moving company. Many of these customers cite timing or missed deadlines as the reason they could not or did not file a claim.
5. If at all possible, avoid moving during the summer months. Demand for moving company services-and often, their prices as well-tend to spike during the summer months. J.D. Power found that customers reported the lowest levels of satisfaction in June, August, and September. In addition, the percentage of customers indicating they had possessions damaged or lost during their move reaches the highest levels during these peak months.
For more information, visit www.jdpower.com.
May 24, 2011 8:27 pm
(MCT)—Thomas Christopher is a lawn and garden expert calling for a radical revamp of how we approach yard care. "Lawns. I keep struggling with them," says Christopher, editor of the just-published The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening
(Timber Press, $34.95). "I try to persuade people to do it in an easier, more environmental way, but people are stuck back in the Eisenhower years.
"It's got to stop," he adds. "People have to get a grip and break the habit."
Here are some ways to break turf's hold on your life, resulting in a greener and "greener" lawn that takes far less time to maintain.
Make sure the mower blade is very sharp. "A dull blade leaves grass looking ragged and encourages disease or lawn problems," Christopher says.
Set the mower level higher. "Most people set their lawn mowers way too short," he says, noting too close a cut damages the grass, encourages weed growth and calls for too-frequent mowing. It's never about how short the grass is but how neat and trim the lawn looks when finished. Grass varieties grown in cooler climes should be 3 inches long or longer; warm-climate grasses, such as Bermuda and centipede grasses, can be cut a bit shorter, to around 1 1/2 inches.
Let your mower "design" the yard. Once you start the mower rolling, do not back up or make, in Christopher's words, "turns so tight they require slowing down." When you finish, look around for any areas of uncut grass. "The trick is to eliminate the little corners, peninsulas and island of grass," says Christopher. "Those patches are time-waster areas." What to do then? Don't mow those patches; replace with ground covers or mulch.
Start mowing in the most visible area of the property, like the front lawn. Christopher says the most efficient way to mow is to choose a specific area and mow in a circular motion from the edges toward the center. Mowing back and forth in rows is also acceptable.
Let no single bush or tree be an island in your yard. If there's something planted in the middle of the lawn that makes mowing hard, like a large bush with overarching branches, Christopher recommends ripping out the grass under the bush. Create a garden bed or plant some more bushes. Use mulch to create a large, even shape that's easy to mow around. "Don't drop plants into your yard," he warns.
Be aware of your terrain, especially any steep slopes. Christopher had a friend who was mowing downhill, slipped, and his feet went under the mower. "He lost a couple of toes," Christopher recalls. Where the ground goes downhill, mow back and forth across the grade.
Don't be overeager about mowing. Christopher has encountered a number of guys who can't cut back on their grass-cutting routine even when their yards really don't need it. Be honest about whether or not you can give up the mower.
For more information visit http://www.chicagotribune.com/
May 24, 2011 8:27 pm
Whenever a new trend hits any market I have to ask, “Will it simply become another fanny pack?” You know, have its heyday then fade away, only to be held onto dearly by a few mullet-wearing fans for way too long.
I have spent the last eight months completely consumed in mobile technology and real estate. During this time, I have been talking often about QR codes (Quick Response Barcodes) because you cannot discuss mobile technology in real estate without addressing QR. In the 30-plus major U.S. cities I have been in, I have found that QR is a hated and loved technology trend right now.
Some say it is too early for the public to know what to do with it.
Some say the public will never use it.
Some say they are landing more listings than ever before by how they have implemented it in their marketing.
Some still think computers are a bad idea. (Long live the type-writer.)
Let’s get down to the bottom of this. Will QR fade away or is it here to stay? In my humble opinion…drum roll please…QR is here to stay!
Any new technology or product should exist for one purpose: to serve the customer by improving on a way to meet either current or future needs. QR does exactly that.
It creates an opportunity for a consumer to more quickly and easily access information. If the QR code is directed to an excellent experience, then not only is it easy to access information but it is an improved and robust experience.
In real estate, is it important for a potential buyer to have access to accurate information about a property in a timely fashion?
How much quicker can you get than pointing your phone at a listing in the newspaper and shazam…there, instantaneously, is a slide show of the properties along with Google map directions to the house. Plus, the REALTOR® can text you right from his/her phone, which now has your contact info cued up to be engaged.
For those REALTORS® out there that are skeptical and think this is a waste of time, know that 72 percent of smartphone users recall an ad if it had QR on it. Do you realize the power of that?! Does it take a bit of strategy? Yes! Is it worth it? Yes!
Even if you think they will fade away down the road, now is the time to capitalize. Heck, even the fanny pack had a few years of incredible sales.
May 24, 2011 8:27 pm
YouTube has changed dramatically over the last five years. Everyone in video marketing feels like they’re playing Calvinball, the game invented in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. As Calvin once said, “The only permanent rule in Calvinball is that you can’t play it the same way twice!”
So, in this ever-changing world, here are four of the new rules of YouTube marketing:
1. Keep to a schedule and theme when publishing video content
. People want to know what type of videos they'll be watching week after week on a particular channel. They like a recognizable topic and show format for the videos.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t mix it up, but consistency definitely counts. The top YouTube partners highlight when they publish new episodes in the header banner of their channel so fans know when to return for fresh content.
2. Think about the next action and viewer engagement.
What do you want someone to do after watching your video? You can ask viewers to rate, comment or share your video. Ask them for their opinions. You can even ask them to click on a link and purchase your product.
3. Cross-platform promotions (the first 24 hours are huge)
. As soon as partners upload a new video, their YouTube subscribers are automatically notified when they return to the site and log in. Notify your fans via Twitter, Facebook and other sharing options as well. You can also email influential blog editors and traditional media outlets that are relevant to the topic or that have featured your videos in the past.
Leverage every distribution channel you can to promote your new videos. Don't forget about using paid media to launch new videos, too. Both promoted videos and traditional display advertising can provide lots of additional views.
4. Don’t watch comments too closely, but obsess over insights
. Comments can provide valuable feedback and additional information about your videos and your audience. But you need to have thick skin since there will always be haters and trolls; don’t take them too seriously.
Focus on YouTube Insights to determine where and how people are finding your videos and if any external sources are directing a lot of traffic. If you do discover that a particular blog is sending you a lot of referrals, for example, reach out and say thanks. Then add that blog to your notification list for the next time you publish a video. Hot spots tell you when people start to lose interest in your video.
As of May 2011, these were the new rules of YouTube marketing. But these rules can “be changed, amended or deleted by any players involved.” What should you do then? It's pretty simple—make up the rules as you go.
Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, a search engine marketing firm that provides search engine optimization, search engine advertising and search engine promotion services. Reach Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 24, 2011 8:27 pm
This business is about connections and relationships. Before you can ratify a contract and go to closing, you have to connect. You have to engage. You have to collaborate. You have to deliver an experience, not just a transaction. Finding the right technology to help you accomplish this objective is critical.
For the better part of a decade, technological advances allowed consumers and REALTORS® to increase efficiencies, but did very little to enhance an experience. People did pretty much the same things, only faster.
Enter the iPad.
An immersive device, an iPad delivers an experience on an emotional level, an experience critical to effective consumer engagement in real estate. And perhaps more importantly, you don’t have to be an IT administrator or tech “guru” to use one in your business. REALTOR.com and Top Producer are delivering on three immediate needs via the iPad. Here is a way to get started if you have yet to engage with customers and prospects using your iPad:
1. Get the free search app and cultivate your buyers. Customers are searching for homes on the iPad. They begin their search looking for property; hopefully they end it by finding you. The consumer search on the iPad is fun and intuitive. Tap the screen, open the app, and they’re on their way. After exploring neighborhoods and viewing homes, each trace of their finger on the polished glass surface brings them that much closer to realizing a dream. For you, as a real estate professional, the app allows for seamless collaboration by delivering all of the requests for information and appointment requests from your clients directly to you. Consider being the one who shows them the application for the first time. That way you can teach them how to use the “send to agent” function to route all requests to you.
2. Digitize your listing presentation. Paper is so 2005. Realtor.com’s iPad-ready listing presentation lets you prepare a customized and interactive listing presentation in just minutes. Imagine the contrast between an agent who has a flutter of papers protruding from a three-ring binder as you simply flip open your iPad and perhaps start with some stunning photos of the subject property. Hand over the iPad. Deliver a rich presentation. Impress with an interactive experience tailored to your seller. Watch as they use their fingers to glide through your presentation, pausing to view the photos of their home you took today. This is a truly immersive experience you can leverage to win the listing.
3. Start a conversation at an Open House. Forget the archaic open house guest register. They don’t work. Grab your iPad and showcase your listing. Engage your walk-through traffic with this interactive, 21st century “property flyer.” Talk about the salient features of the home. Talk about the market. Ask if they want some detailed information about the current local market conditions relevant to them. Tap the screen and open up your TopProducer Market Snapshot, input your new prospect’s contact information, and deliver them timely, relevant content. Instantly. Now that’s engaging and delivering in the 21st century.
These are just a few ways you can turn your iPad into an important part of your customer engagement and lead generation arsenal. But this just scratches the surface. To learn more about the three strategies outlined above, and to get our free guide to the top 10 iPad apps to plug into your business, visit www.Marketing.realtor.com/tablet.
May 24, 2011 8:27 pm
Trying to figure out how to properly dispose of hazardous waste can oftentimes be frustrating. From construction waste to old paint cans, there always seems to be materials sitting around the house because your local town or city won't accept them with the weekly collection.
Many cities have hazardous waste disposal days, which is usually a great place to start unloading. Another recommended resource is the website Earth911.com. Earth 911 has a searchable directory of drop-off programs for various materials so you can learn the details before loading up. Consider the following when trying to dispose your junk:
Lightbulbs. Big-box retailers, such as Home Depot and Ikea, often take used compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) runs a website called Lamp Recycle (found at www.lamprecycle.org) that contains a full list of lightbulb-accepting retailers. If you have a plethora of old lightbulbs, don't just mix them in with the trash. Recycle them properly.
Appliances. Appliances can often be tricky things to get rid of, but there are plenty of options for properly recycling them. If you're buying new, most retailers will take your old one away (if this is not offered, you should inquire about this before purchasing). Some states have state-run programs for free pickup and/or cash rewards for old appliances, called the Cash for Appliances program. The federal government also has a program called the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program, which recycles appliances containing ozone-depleting gases. Lastly, some appliances can be tax write-offs if donated to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity or the Salvation Army.
Unused building materials. ReStore, a project by Habitat for Humanity, accepts extra building materials and then resells them. ReStore sells to the general public at a fraction of the retail price, and proceeds help local Habitat affiliates fund the construction of Habitat homes within their communities. It's a win-win-win for donors, consumers and communities.
Construction waste. The U.S.-government sponsored Construction Waste Management Database website will direct you to recyclers within your zip code that will get rid of your wasted carpeting, ceiling tiles, flooring and more. If you are working on a large at-home project, keep track of your waste materials and check the website. You can properly dispose of each item with ease and know-how.
Using the Internet as a resource, homeowners can find out how to dispose of many different types of waste, much of which can surely be recycled somehow. Using the aforementioned websites as tools will help you clear out your garage, and may sometimes even put a little cash in your pocket as well.
Sources: Consumer Reports Home & Garden Blog, Earth911.com