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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

Question of the Day

June 14, 2011 6:25 pm

Q: What contingencies should appear in the offer?

A: When you look to purchase a home, anticipate potential problems. But protect against them so that if something does go wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. This is what contingencies allow you to do. They should be included in any offer you present to buy a home.
Most offers include two standard contingencies: a financing contingency, which makes the sale dependent on your ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender, and an inspection contingency, which allows you to have a professional inspect the property.

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Word of the Day

June 14, 2011 6:25 pm

Assessed value. A value placed on a property by an agency of the government for taxation and other purposes.
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Second Round Knock-Outs: How Public Adjusters Work for Homeowners to Gain More for Insurance Claims

June 14, 2011 6:25 pm

AAA Public Adjusting Group, Inc. would like to educate potential consumers about the roll of public adjusters. Living in a volatile environment like South Florida often makes homeowners, business owners and vacation-property owners the victims of natural disaster. In such cases the homeowners (hopefully) have insurance coverage for their valuable property. When a property owner makes a claim the insurance company usually awards them an appropriate sum for any incurred damages; however, there are many times when the insurance company offers insufficient amounts or finds loopholes as to why damages are not covered. In such cases residents of South Florida have the unique opportunity to attempt a second-round knockout of unfair settlements, by hiring a public adjuster. This freedom is not enjoyed in all 50 states and in most states a person would have to independently hire a paid-by-the-hour attorney in order to investigate unfair settlements. 

A public insurance adjuster is an authority on loss adjustments that property owners can retain to assist in preparing, filing, and adjusting their insurance claims. One's home or business is often their largest investment. What follows are six reasons to call a Public Adjuster: 
1. According to a recent Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) Report for 2005, individuals were awarded $2029 without a PA and $17,187 with PA representation for hurricane claims; for non hurricane claims individuals received $1,391 vs. $9,379—a difference of 547 percent.
2. Public Adjusters represent YOU and YOUR interests exclusively.
3. Insurance companies have the benefit of representatives protecting their interests. Why shouldn't homeowners?
4. They are knowledgeable about Insurance Contract provisions and continuously stay abreast of ever changing laws and regulations in the realm of insurance case law.
5. When the insurance company has estimated your loss or made an initial settlement offer, homeowners are not required to accept their assessment of the claim. Public Adjusters can help to properly contest or appeal Insurance Company's findings and maximize claims and settlements to adequately compensate for loss.
6. They can make sure that all required paper work and claim documentation are submitted to the insurance company in a timely manner.
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Hip to Be Square: Custom QR Codes Can Help Brand Your Product and Deliver Results

June 14, 2011 6:25 pm

Advanced Telecom Services announces its new ATS QR code service that provides custom QR codes to businesses and organizations. 

With ATS QR Codes, products and organizations can brand custom QR codes with easily recognizable logos and graphics. This gives added emphasis to the QR code and enables it to better represent the brand or product and stand out in the advertisement to secure larger amounts of scans from consumers. 

“One of the raps against QR codes has been that it is nothing more than a square box of squiggly black and white lines that don’t represent one brand over another,” says Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services. “Custom QR codes enhance the look and feel of the customer interaction.” 

According to Bentz, custom QR codes have been one of the most talked-about mobile marketing products in the last few months. Companies are using them mostly because of the unique design. And, they are enhancing the promotions with a mobile web site that shows up better on the smaller screen of the mobile phone. 

“It is important to look like your brand from the outside and the inside,” adds Frank Mazza, lead designer for Advanced Telecom Services’ QR code division. "A custom QR code does just that." 

QR codes were invented by Denso-Ware—a subsidiary of Toyota—in 1994, to track parts for vehicle manufacturing in Japan. The bar codes have been popular in Japan and Korea for many years, but are more recently becoming part of marketing efforts in the United States and Canada. 

In Canada, QR codes are used on the front page of the Canadian passport application to speed up the processing of new passports. United Airlines, among other innovative airlines, uses QR codes as boarding passes. And, when you sign up for Google Places, you’ll receive a decal QR code for your front door that links visitors to your web site.
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Hanging On to Good Manners—Six Ways to Raise Socially Gifted Children

June 14, 2011 6:25 pm

In today’s electronic social environment, where a text or a Tweet is a commonplace stand-in for personal or vocal contact, it is not surprising that even very young children seem to be born with their fingers on a keyboard. But, according to proponents of the social graces, children need to be taught the value of old fashioned courtesy.

“Demonstrating good manners makes others feel good,” says Arizona teacher Donna Holmes. “It also marks your child as caring and respectful.”

Holmes, who teaches that “courtesy is cool,” suggests six ways to keep your child on the right track to being polite:
• Be a model—Children learn manners from their parents. If you routinely say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ both at home and in the community, they likely will as well.
• Set your standards—Anything that is not appropriate at Grandma’s house is not appropriate at home. “I want some juice” should be rephrased as, “May I have some juice, please?” or “Please pass the potatoes.”
• Table manners matter—Children should be taught early to stay in their chairs, use a napkin, use utensils rather than fingers, and say, “please” when asking for something.
• Voice matters, too—Shouting is not appropriate except perhaps on the sports field—and even then, parents should refrain from yelling at the Little League umpire. Children should be taught to speak in a moderate tone of voice, and to identify themselves when answering the telephone.
• Meeting and greeting—Many young children are naturally shy. Good manners when meeting someone new should mean looking them in the eye, smiling, and shaking hands or saying, “nice to meet you.” Practice with your children to help them develop these skills.
• Mind those p’s and q’s—Children should learn from adults not to be rude or insolent. The rule for good manners should be, “never intentionally hurt someone else’s feelings.”
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Grow Your Own Apartment Garden

June 14, 2011 6:25 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant devoted some ink recently to homeowners looking for better looking lawns—so how about some springtime conversation for you apartment and condo-dwellers? 

Why not make this your year to eat off your balcony—by growing your own patio or balcony garden of course! You can really enjoy a grow-your-own bounty from as little space as a window box provides. 

The folks at veggiegardener.com recently blogged about the five best vegetable planters for patios and balconies, so let’s take a look at a few: 

The EarthBox Garden Kit (earthbox.com) claims to be a super easy-to-use container gardening kit that features wheels for easy mobility, and takes just a few minutes to set up. It comes with everything you need to quickly grow great vegetables, including fertilizer, domolite and two germination covers. Just add potting soil and your favorite vegetable plants. 

The EarthBox fits in a spot as small as 30” by 13-1/2” by 12” and has a 2-1/2-cubic-foot soil capacity, so you can certainly start by planting plenty of herbs. But some owners of the EarthBox say they’ve had success with tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, peppers, cucumbers, squash and corn—up to 16 corn stalks for one user!
For really cramped patio or balcony space, go for the Mini-Garden Stacker. It features nine pockets to hold herbs or flowers, is self-watering, and collapses for easy storage. 

These planters can also be used for dry climate vegetation with a simple modification, and these planters can be stacked up to ten tiers high. You can even grow your own strawberries. The Mini-Garden Stacker is available at many home and garden centers and sites starting around $50. 

Finally, if you love tomatoes pick up a set of Tomato Grow Bags, which are gaining popularity as one of the preferred ways to easily grow tomatoes without any weeding or digging. The grow bags are porous so the plant roots can breathe and to allow for water drainage. Each bag holds about 15 gallons of soil and can accommodate two tomato plants. 

These little beauties are also widely available on the web or at local gardening establishments. If you want more tips, go to veggiegardener.com to grab a free copy of their e-book with 101 tips for growing your own fresh vegetables.
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Home Improvement Season Officially Begins as To-Do Lists Grow

June 13, 2011 8:27 pm

The spring and summer seasons launch a busy time for home remodeling and improvement projects as homeowners spruce up for entertaining, listing their home for sale, or increasing the property's value. A slowly warming housing market has made staying a popular trend among homeowners who choose to remodel versus losing money on a sale. For those who must move, cost-effective projects that make a home more visually appealing or structurally sound is a great way to entice potential buyers.

"Prepping your home for remodeling or improvements of any type is important whether you're working with professional installers or readying your space for a 'do it yourself' project," says Ann Sawyer, Power Home Remodeling Group's vice president of operations & installations. "Preparation is key to a smooth installation and avoidance of time-consuming project pitfalls."

Keep the following tips in mind before home improvement projects begin:

• Have a plan: Communicate with your contractor well before the scheduled installation date about project requirements. Open communication about expectations and a timeline will limit the chance of unexpected surprises after the project is underway. Also be sure to have a source of electricity readily available, especially when working outdoors.

• Start with a clean slate: Store knick-knacks, art work and family photos to ensure they don't become damaged during renovation. Dismantle window treatments and move furniture into a different room of the house. Store fixture plates, screws and hardware in individually labeled plastic bags for reinstallation when the project is finished. Also be sure to cover carpet and flooring in high traffic areas with a drop cloth to protect it from paint, dust and debris.

• Mesh new with old: When installing new flooring, counter tops or appliances, pay close attention to measurements. Baseboards that were installed with carpeting may need to be adjusted to accommodate wood flooring. Similarly, a dingy door and trim could be an eyesore in a freshly painted room. Be sure to match finishes when replacing hardware like drawer pulls, doorknobs and towel bars. An old brass doorknob is certain to clash with a sleek new pewter faucet. Keep these details in mind throughout the renovation to ensure a satisfying end result.

• Consider project requirements: Some of the most difficult remodeling projects involve electricity and plumbing. It's important to consider the voltage of the electrical current and outlets in your home before plugging in a new appliance. Wire and hose length are also vital considerations before remodeling. For example, it is important to remember that an appliance must be pulled away from the wall for maintenance when planning the layout of a room. Homeowners looking to complete a project themselves must also remember to obtain the appropriate licensure from their local municipality for major renovations.

For more information, please visit www.PowerHRG.com.
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Keeping Passwords Secure is Crucial for Safety on the Web

June 13, 2011 8:27 pm

A "good" password can be the difference between safety and security on the Internet and being a victim exposed to cybercrime. How can you make sure your passwords don't become easy targets for hackers and fraudsters? Follow these tips:

Make sure your passwords are at least 10 characters in length. Researchers have found that it would take a hacker over 19 years at a one-hundred-billion-guesses-a-second rate to try out every combination possible in order to hack your password. With a 10-character password, the odds are on your side!

Make sure you use different passwords. Although it may be easy to use the same one or two passwords, resist temptation. Given the off-chance that your password is hacked, having different passwords with various functions means that the hacker won't have access to everything. If you suspect that one of your passwords has been compromised, change it immediately and make sure it's considerably different from all of your other ones.

Always encrypt your passwords. If you use a password service to store all of your passwords, make sure the service doesn't store the actual passwords. Rather, make sure they are stored in encrypted forms only. Services such as these will only decrypt the information when you have retrieved it.

Toss the dictionary aside. Don't use common words that can be found in the dictionary. The best passwords are combinations of random letters, numbers and characters. The more gibberish combinations you can use, the better, and remember--10 characters or more.

The more caution you take when creating your passwords, the safer your information will be. By following these tips, you can work to prevent yourself from ever becoming a victim of crime or fraud on the Internet.

Source: New York Times
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HUD Allocates Funding for HIV/AIDS Housing

June 13, 2011 8:27 pm

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced that it is offering up to $9.1 million to address the critical housing needs of low-income persons and families living with HIV/AIDS, including homeless individuals and families. HUD’s funding notice is offered through the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program.

“These grants will allow States and local communities to forge new partnerships and develop strategies to meet the housing needs of low-income and homeless persons living with HIV/AIDs,” says Mercedes Márquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for Community Planning and Development. “By offering our local partners these funds, we are giving them the necessary tools to provide real hope for those who might otherwise end up on the streets without the care they need.”

HUD is making grants available for new community partnerships to develop an Integrated HIV/AIDS Housing Plan (IHHP). The IHHP is a collaborative process that will seek to improve the delivery of housing and services to low-income individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. Applications must be submitted by August 2, 2011.

HOPWA grants support the Obama Administration’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Together these initiatives address goals to: prevent and end homelessness; increase the supply of affordable housing; and increase the coordination of mainstream housing resources and other health and human services.
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Cost Saving Ideas for Kitchen Cabinet Upgrades on a Budget

June 10, 2011 8:27 pm

By Keith Loria

When walking into a kitchen, the eye is almost immediately drawn to the cabinets, so if your home has dated or worn-out cabinetry, it could be a big negative to home buyers.
The challenge is that installing new cabinets can be expensive. Luckily, there are other options to starting anew.

If you’re getting tired of looking at your old kitchen cabinets but don’t have the inclination or the budget to undertake replacing them, painting can offer an attractive alternative.

“Wooden cabinets can easily be freshened up with color and a new stain and it makes the kitchen seem brand new,” says Peter Jannovich, a home-interior painter in Fairfax, Va. “Whether the existing cabinets are a dark stain or are already painted and in need of some refreshing, with the proper materials, some time and some patience, you can make quite a difference in a fairly short time. I have worked with more people in the past year on simply painting them than I ever have before.”

You can also keep the wood look by having the cabinets stripped, bleached and refinished.

Another popular option is to reface the cabinets, which involves applying a new wood veneer to the cabinet bases and installing new doors and drawers. There are many companies that specialize in this and it improves the look dramatically.

“We remove all existing doors and drawer fronts from your cabinets. All visible cabinet surfaces are then refaced with our exclusive double lamination system in the color of your choice,” says Robert Harrington, a kitchen remodeler from Westchester, New York. “Beautiful, new matching doors with brand new hinges and hardware of your choice are installed. If desired, we can replace your countertops, backsplashes and sinks as well. We also build and install additional cabinets or islands.”

Since most of what you see when you look at the cabinets are the doors, re-facing does an amazing job of transforming the kitchen, experts say. Meanwhile, the interiors stay the same.

Another strong fix is adding dovetail joints, which generally last longer than butt joints, and metal draw glides instead of plastic. Next, you may consider purchasing quality, ready-to-assemble units because such units come in standard sizes that will allow you to avoid the expense of getting professional help.

By using a standard cabinet size and a good plan of your kitchen space, you will be able to provide this space with a great design all by yourself.
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