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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
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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Tips to Help You Save Big When Planning Your Move

March 4, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 4, 2011-Moving can be stressful when trying to complete many different tasks in a small period of time. Take the edge off with these moving tips to help save you money, and maybe even your sanity, too!

Saving on moving supplies:

- Obtain boxes in the cheapest way possible. Ask a friend or colleague who has recently moved to give or sell you their boxes. Check the classified ads; people sometimes sell all their moving boxes for a flat rate. Ask your local grocery or department store for their empty boxes.

- Borrow a tape dispenser instead of buying one.

- Instead of buying bubble wrap, crumple newspaper, plain unused newsprint, or tissue paper to pad breakables.

- Shop around for the cheapest deal on packing tape and other supplies.

- Instead of renting padding blankets from the truck rental company, use your own blankets, linens, and area rugs for padding. Bear in mind that you may have to launder them when you arrive, which is an expense itself.

Saving on labor:

- If you use professional movers, consider a "you pack, we drive" arrangement, in which you pack boxes, and the moving company loads, moves, and unloads your belongings.

- Call around and compare moving cost estimates.

- If you can live without all your stuff for a while at your new or old location, moving companies sometimes give significant cost reductions if they can short-term store and consolidate your moving items with other customers' items.

- If you move yourself, round up "volunteers" to help you load and clean on moving day. It's still customary to reward them with moving-day food and beverages (and maybe a small cash gift). You may also have to "volunteer" to help them move some day. But you may still save some money compared to hiring professionals.

- Save on child and pet care. Ask family or friends to watch your young children and pets on moving day.

With enough planning and preparation, you can cut your moving stress in half while efficiently getting the job done.

Source: MoversDirectory.com

Tags: News

Home Upgrades for the Elderly

March 4, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 4, 2011--For those with elderly parents still living at home or for those planning on living their retirement years in their current house, planning ahead could add much comfort and safety to your life. There are many home upgrades you can add to your own or your parents' home that will ensure plenty of years of safe living. Consider the following when updating a home for the elderly:

Make getting around easier. Consider adding ramps to important entrances of the home. Even if wheelchairs aren't currently used at the place of residence, ramps still facilitate getting around for older homeowners. Even smaller aspects like door knobs can make all the difference. Swapping out knobs for levers can make life a lot easier for some. Speaking of doors, creating larger passageways is also a smart idea. With three-foot or wider walkways, anyone can be sure to fit a wheelchair, walker or any other help-aiding accessory through from room-to-room. You never know what you may need in the future.

Pay special attention to safety issues. Swapping out older appliances for safety ones is a great place to start. Sinks with a single lever run less risk of burnings than ones that have separate hot and cold handles. Additionally, stoves with controls in the front are safer than ones that require reaching over hot burners. Furthermore, any feature that can be added to lessen the need for reaching up or bending over is a definite plus, such as: cabinets with pull-down shelves, elevated washers and dryers, and refrigerators with higher drawers.

Bathroom Upgrades. Grab bars are very important for older homeowners and should be installed when needed. In fact, an overall easy-to-use shower is irreplaceable, adding a folding seat and handheld shower nozzle to the list. You can also look into purchasing a higher raised toilet that can rise up 17 or more extra inches off the ground. All of these bathroom additives will ensure a safer experience and hopefully prevent accidents from happening.

Even if the house ends up on the market later down the road, these features are still positive selling points to many buyers. The best time to think about these upgrades is before you or someone else needs them.

Source: Bankrate

Tags: News

HUD Awards over $40 Million in Grants to Fight Housing and Lending Discrimination

March 4, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 4, 2011-The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $40.8 million to 108 fair housing organizations and non-profit agencies in 36 states and the District of Columbia to educate the public and combat housing and lending discrimination. This year's award represents a $13.2 million increase over last year's award and includes $10 million to fund activities that address lending discrimination, including mortgage rescue scams.

"The record increase in support to local fair housing and community organizations demonstrates the Obama Administration's firm commitment to ending housing discrimination and providing help to families victimized by mortgage scams," stated HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

"Ending housing discrimination takes more than the efforts of Washington," said John Travsin, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity. "These grants enable community groups all over the nation to help HUD enforce the Fair Housing Act, make the public more aware of their fair housing rights and ensure that housing providers understand their responsibilities under the law."

The grants are funded through HUD's Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) and will be used to investigate allegations of housing discrimination, educate the public and the housing industry about their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act and work to promote equal housing opportunities.

The categories grants were awarded in include:

-Private Enforcement Initiative grants (PEI) HUD awarded $28 million to support organizations that investigate alleged housing discrimination and enforce the Fair Housing Act and state and local laws that are substantially equivalent to the Act. Groups will also use the funding to conduct testing to protect individuals living in minority neighborhoods from mortgage rescue scams.

-Education and Outreach Initiative grants (EOI) HUD awarded $6.8 million to organizations that educate the public and housing providers about their rights and obligations under federal, state and local fair housing laws. Groups will also conduct fair lending workshops, community meetings and individual counseling activities focused on homeowners at risk for discrimination.

-Fair Housing Organizations Initiative grants (FHOI) HUD awarded $6 million to organizations serving rural and immigrant populations in areas lacking existing fair housing organizations, or otherwise underserved. Included will be activities that provide direct assistance to victims of fraudulent or predatory mortgage rescue schemes.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.

Tags: News

Home Buying Experts Recommend Talking to At Least Three Agents

March 3, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 3, 2011In 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.
Tags: News

Apartments.com National Survey Reveals Renter Moving Plans for 2011

March 3, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 3, 2011For the first time in years, the apartment rental market is beginning to experience signs of recovery as the U.S. economy slowly begins to strengthen. Reuters reported the rental vacancy rate fell to 9.4% in the fourth quarter of 2010 from 10.3% in the July-September periodthe lowest since the second quarter of 2007. Witten Advisors predicts rents will increase 4.5% in 2011 as operators become aggressive in raising rents with little fear of losing customers to other housing options. In response to this news, Apartments.com conducted a national survey of more than 1,800 of its January website visitors to find out about their 2011 moving plans, including reasons they are moving, when they plan to move and which tools they value most during their apartment search. Socioeconomic factors are often the leading indicator of growth in the housing industry. Apartments.com survey results revealed that as of January 2011, nearly three times the number of respondentsor 28.8%are looking to move in order to relocate for employment opportunities, compared to 10.4% from the previous year, further corroborating news of an improving rental market in 2011. Other key findings from the survey demonstrated many renters are starting their apartment search earlier in the year, a large volume of current homeowners and first-time renters are entering the market and having access to accurate apartment information is paramount when looking for a new place to live. The primary factor fueling moves for survey respondents are new job opportunities. However, the desire to have more space, affordability and living in a safe neighborhood also topped the list. The five most popular reasons survey respondents are moving in 2011 include: - Relocating for employment opportunities: 28.8% - Looking for a bigger apartment: 13.3% - Shopping for a less expensive apartment: 9.7% - Rent increase: 6.7% - Wanting to live in a safer neighborhood: 5.7% A significant number of respondents indicated they are apartment shopping now for a move that will not take place until much later in the year. According to the survey, nearly 20% of respondents are starting their apartment search three to four months in advance and nearly a quarter are looking as early as five months to more than a year out. Its a good idea to lock into a lease right now, states Chris Brown, vice president of product management, Apartments.com. Many management companies have announced rent increases and were starting to see this reflected in the rents advertised on our site. As vacancy rates continue to drop and the rental market improves, we expect to see the upward trend grow. Deals can still be had, but theyre getting harder to find. Use the tools available online to search for apartments by rent ranges that work with your budget. Supporting a growing trend in the industry, more than 20% of respondents looking for an apartment this year said they are current homeowners. From these survey respondents who said they are current homeowners, 32% are also first-time renters, indicating a significant number of current homeowners and new renters are turning toward the rental market in 2011. Survey respondents who are former homeowners also said they are renting this year because it affords them a lifestyle they prefer, including flexibility to relocate for employment opportunities and to live where they choose. Apartments.com visitors want access to accurate apartment information and the option to tailor their searches by price and location when looking for a new place. According to the survey, 64% of respondents said being able to check real time availability of a specific apartment matters most and 72.2% said the two most popular ways they prefer to search for an apartment is by the cost of rent or location. It is also clear that renters are tapping multiple resources to find their next apartment. While 81% of Apartments.com visitors surveyed said they are using an Internet Listing Service (ILS) during their apartment search, they are also utilizing popular search engines, listening to recommendations from others and reading their local newspapers. Only 5% said they are using social media websites during their search. Renters ranked their top apartment shopping tools as follows: - Internet Listing Service (e.g. Apartments.com, Rent.com and MyNewPlace.com): 80.9% - Online apartment classified listing websites (e.g. Craigslist and Oodle): 46.2% - Search engines: 38.4% - Word of mouth: 31.1% - Local newspaper: 27.1% Renters also want instant access to information on-the-go. According to the survey, 80% of respondents indicated they use a mobile device during their apartment search. Nearly half of these respondents said they use a smartphone or device, such as an iPhone, iPad, Android or BlackBerry during their apartment hunt. Apartments.com offers a mobile version of its website and an app for iPhone and iTouch users. For more information, visit www.apartments.com.
Tags: News

Survey: More Than 70% of Homeowners Say Home Inspection Helped Them Avoid Potential Problems

March 3, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 3, 2011Nearly three in four (72%) U.S. homeowners agree the home inspection they had when they purchased their current primary residence helped them avoid potential problems with their home, according to a survey released by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Also, almost two in three (64%) noted, in the long run, they saved a lot of money as a result of their home inspection. As the housing market begins to recover, ASHI encourages homeowners and buyers to hire a certified home inspector and to get a home inspection to help further protect their investment. The survey was recently conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASHI to gauge current consumer perceptions about the purpose and value of a home inspection. Results revealed 88% of all homeowners believe home inspections are a necessity, not a luxury. ASHI's goals have always been to build customer awareness of the importance of a home inspection and to enhance the professionalism of home inspectors, said Kurt Salomon, ASHI president. It is encouraging to know consumers are listening and understand the significance of protecting their largest single investment, their home. While it is clear homeowners who had an inspection understand the value it serves, many still incorrectly believe certain components are included in a standard home inspection. For example, septic systems, electrical wiring and plumbing behind drywall and swimming pools are commonly mistaken as items that are included when, in fact, they typically are not. ASHI remains committed to educating consumers on what a standard home inspection is likely to include, said Salomon. As such, ASHI members have committed to following a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics that outlines what consumers should expect to be covered in a home inspection report. During a home inspection, a qualified inspector takes a detailed look at the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. A home inspector will examine the condition of the homes roof, attic and visible insulation, foundation, basement and structural components, as well as interior plumbing and electrical systems. Additionally, nearly three in four homeowners surveyed (70 percent) assume all home inspectors must be certified and licensed, when in fact, not all are. It is important for consumers to do their homework before hiring an inspector, said Salomon. For a complete list of whats included in a home inspection, visit www.ASHI.org.
Tags: News

Foreclosure Homes Account for 26% of All 2010 Residential Sales According to RealtyTrac Sales Report

March 2, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 2, 2011--RealtyTrac, a leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, released its Year-End and Q4 2010 U.S. Foreclosure Sales Report, which shows that foreclosure homes accounted for nearly 26% of all U.S. residential sales during the year, down from 29% of all sales in 2009 but up from 23% of all sales in 2008. The report also shows that the average sales price of these foreclosure properties was more than 28% below the average sales price of properties not in the foreclosure process--up from a 27% average discount in 2009 and a 22% average discount in 2008. A total of 831,574 U.S. residential properties, either owned by banks or in some stage of foreclosure, sold to third parties in 2010, a decrease of 31% from 2009 and a decrease of nearly 14% from 2008. Meanwhile sales volume of non-foreclosure properties in 2010 decreased nearly 19% from 2009 and nearly 27% from 2008. A total of 149,303 foreclosure sales were recorded in the fourth quarter, down 22% from the previous quarter and down 45% from the fourth quarter of 2009--despite a 21% monthly uptick in foreclosure sales volume in December. Mirroring the year-end statistics, foreclosure sales in the fourth quarter accounted for 26% of total sales, and foreclosure properties sold for an average sales price that was 28% below the average sales price of properties not in foreclosure. "Foreclosure sales in the fourth quarter faced the twin headwinds of the expired homebuyer tax credit--which began to stifle sales volume during the third quarter--and the foreclosure documentation controversy, which hit in the fourth quarter and temporarily froze sales of foreclosures from several major lenders," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "Given those factors, it's not surprising that in the fourth quarter foreclosure sales volume hit its lowest level since the first quarter of 2008. "Still, foreclosures continue to represent a substantial percentage of all U.S. residential sales and continue to sell at an average sales price that is significantly below the average sales price of properties not in foreclosure--the result of a bloated supply of foreclosures and weak demand from homebuyers," Saccacio continued. "The catch-22 for 2011 is that while accelerating foreclosure sales will help clear the oversupply of distressed properties and return balance to the market in the long run, in the short term a high percentage of foreclosure sales will continue to weigh down home prices." Foreclosure sales by type A total of 512,886 bank-owned (REO) properties sold to third parties in 2010--down nearly 32% from 2009--at an average discount of 36%, up from an average discount of 33% in 2009. REO sales accounted for 16% of all sales in 2010, down from nearly 18% of all sales in 2009 but still higher than the 13% of all sales they accounted for in 2008. In the fourth quarter, a total of 95,683 REO properties sold to third parties, down 17% from the third quarter and down 43% from the fourth quarter of 2009. Fourth quarter REO sales accounted for nearly 17% of all sales during the quarter at an average discount of nearly 37%. A total of 318,688 pre-foreclosure properties--in default or scheduled for auction--sold to third parties in 2010, down nearly 30% from 2009. Pre-foreclosure properties in 2010 sold at an average discount of 15%, down from an average discount of nearly 17% in 2009. Pre-foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 10% of all sales in 2010, down from nearly 11% of all sales in 2009 and virtually the same percentage of sales as in 2008. In the fourth quarter, a total of 53,620 pre-foreclosure properties sold to third parties, down 29% from the previous quarter and down 49% from the fourth quarter of 2009. Fourth quarter pre-foreclosure sales accounted for nearly 10% of all sales during the quarter at an average discount of nearly 13%. For more information, visit www.realtytrac.com.
Tags: News

Economy Embarking on Period of Expansion, According to Fannie Mae's Economic & Mortgage Market Analysis Group

March 2, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 2, 2011--Continued improvements in economic activity driven by strong growth in consumer spending are moving the economy beyond the recovery phase and into a period of expansion, according to the February 2011 Economic Outlook released by Fannie Mae's Economics & Mortgage Market Analysis Group. For 2011, economic growth is projected to accelerate to 3.7%, up from 2.8% economic growth in 2010. Housing has yet to see robust movement, but the excess supply of housing appears to have peaked. In addition, the rental vacancy rate fell, indicating the excess supply of housing is being worked off slowlya trend necessary for housing to return to stability. "We have confidence that the economy is on stronger legs with a sustainable growth path. Our projected annual growth rate for 2011 is nearly a full percent higher than the annual growth rate for 2010, which is a significant event," said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. "Economic cross currents such as the lack of sustained strong job growth, state and local fiscal issues and geo-political uncertainty in the Middle East present downside risks. Nevertheless, the positives outweigh the negatives." For more information, visit www.fanniemae.com.
Tags: News

NAR Bus Tour Opens National Home Ownership Dialogue

March 2, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 2, 2011--Throughout this month, consumers across the country can engage REALTORS, local officials and their neighbors on an issue that literally hits close to home--home ownership--as the National Association of REALTORS kicks off a month-long Home Ownership Matters Bus Tour in cities across the nation. "Americans today are debating what home ownership means to their families, communities and the nation as a whole," said NAR President Ron Phipps. "We want to engage in that dialogue directly with people in their own communities. This bus tour gives us a chance to interact and communicate directly with consumers about what housing issues matter most to them." The first stop on the tour is in Chicago on March 5, where the bus will visit the Chicago Flower & Garden show at the Navy Pier outside Festival Hall B from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. CST. NAR President-elect Moe Veissi will join invited local officials to speak with Chicagoans, who can also learn about how issues like tax reform and mortgage availability could affect their ability to buy, sell and own a home. Attendees can also register to win prizes worth up to $2,500. Other major stops on the tour include Denver on March 19 and Portland, Ore., on March 26, with additional stops in cities along the way. Ongoing news and information for the tour will be posted on HouseLogic at www.houselogic.com/bus. "Issues like the mortgage interest deduction, foreclosures and short sales, affordable financing and available credit don't just affect people who own a home--homeownership shapes communities and strengthens the nation's economy, as well," said Phipps. "Behind every home purchase, sale and foreclosure is a human face, and we hope this bus tour will give a voice to those personal experiences." For more information, visit www.realtor.org.
Tags: News

Energy-Saving: Separating Facts from Fiction

March 1, 2011 1:31 pm

Myth: Electric room heaters will save you money on your energy bill. A room or space heater may save you money...if you have central electric heat. However, central gas heating is far cheaper than electric heat and you can easily end up paying more by using space heaters. If space heating is the route you're taking, make sure to turn down the heat in the rest of the house--lowering even by one degree Fahrenheit cuts costs by three percent.

Myth: Foam gaskets in electrical outlets will reduce air leakage. Foam gaskets are often cited as a quick fix to stop air leakage, but the reality is that less than one percent of a home's air leakage is resulted from outlets. If your home has an abundance of outlets, sealing them may help, but spend your time on larger efforts--insulating attic floors and doors, as well as basement ceilings. This will have a far better effect in keeping the warm air in and cold air out.

Myth: Dimming lights will cut your lighting bill. The relationship between dimming and energy use isn't linear, and savings will be less than expected. When the voltage drops, the filament cools, the wavelength spectrum of the light shifts further into infrared, and efficiency suffers. For real savings, try CFL or LED light bulbs.

Myth: Buying an efficient air conditioner or furnace will automatically reduce my energy bill. Savings are not automatic. Make sure the unit is properly sized and installed. Improperly installed systems can waste one-third or more of the energy that is actually used by the unit. By completing the job right the first time, you can hopefully see future savings as a result.

Myth: Insulating the ceiling will cause more heat to leak out the window. Adding insulation to one section of your home will not increase the pressure to other parts. However, properly insulate the poorly insulated areas, because those will be areas of concern regardless. Use a flame or incense to find air leaks around doors and windows. Seal them up with caulking or expandable foam.

By avoiding these myths and following this advice, you can continue sealing up any leaks in your home before you start shelling out your money. Heat your home the proper way.

Source: Consumer Reports Blog
Tags: News




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