Stroudsburg – For generations now, families have vacationed in the Pocono Mts and the summer of 2010 is no different.  Referred to in the past as “Pocono Mountains, the Near Country” the Poconos are only an hour & a half from New York, two hours from Philadelphia, two hours from upstate New York and three hours from the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas.

And it’s not hard to get to the Poconos, in fact….it’s easy.  Whether you are coming in off Interstate 81, Interstate 80, across I-84, the highway structure to get to the near country is very accessible.

And once you get here, rain or shine, summer-time offers the best for families of all ages and sizes.  Whether you want to do a lot or do nothing at all, the Poconos has it.

CamelBeach Water Park – Touted one of the largest outdoor water parks in the East, Camelbeach has the Flow-Rider, the ultimate surfing ride, Kahauna Wave Pool, the Blue Nile Adventure River, mini golf and bumper boats.  All the pools feature heated water.  Groups of 15 or more area always welcome.  CamelBeach is conveniently located in Tannersville.

  • Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Pretzel Factory – For the past 20 plus years Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Pretzel Factory has made every variety of candy known including chocolates, brittle, hard candy, lollipops, fudge and mints.  Open year round, candy and pretzels are made fresh on the premises every day.  Taste fresh treats at both locations; a definite stop when you come to the Poconos.  Callie’s Candy Kitchen is located in Mountainhome.


  • Claws & Paws – Known as “a zoo in the woods” you can get a close look at over 120 species of wild animals.  Feed the giraffe, the parrots and Claws and Paws touts one of the best petting zoos around.  Claws & Paws is located in the Lake Wallenpaupack region.


  • Country Junction – Known as the world’s largest general store, going there is a treat whether you buy anything or not.  At the Country Junction in Lehighton, you can get hardware, house wares, lawn and garden items, patio, pets, specialty foods, toys, whimsical treasures and a whole lot more.


  • Whitewater Rafting – Some of the best rafting around is located outside Jim Thorpe in the western part of the Pocono Mountains.  Plan on spending the day, and don’t be afraid of you are a novice, because trips of different calibers are designed for each of those type rafters.  You’ll work up an appetite which is good because having a box lunch along side the Lehigh River just can’t be beat.  Pocono whitewater rafting is for every level of adventurer; and you can choose your own pace, from mild to wild rafting and kayaking trips, it’s all designed for you.


    • In addition to whitewater rafting, why not enjoy a canoe or raft ride.  There’s absolutely no better way to view the spectacular scenery than quietly moving down the Delaware River.  See eagles, hawks, egrets, deer and a whole host of other animal life as you travel the spectacular Delaware River aboard your canoe, kayak or rafting tube.  Guided or unguided tours are available.  Get trip ideas, river maps and information on special events.  Group rates are always welcome.


  • Quiet Valley Living Historic Farms – Nestled in the hills of Northeast Pennsylvania, Quite Valley is a living museum and is just like stepping back in time.  Call ahead, because sometime there are special events with period dressed “family” members reenacting the life of the original Pennsylvania German family who lived on the farm from 1760 to 1913.  Quite Valley has got something for people of all ages.  Reminisce about the “good old days” and walk among the fully dressed theme family living on the farm. 


  • Beltzville State Park – Located in Carbon County, the 2,972 Beltzville State Park features 949 acre Beltzville Lake touting a shoreline of 19.8 miles.  Activities include picnicking in either of the open or wooded picnic areas featuring modern restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, playing fields, playgrounds and pavilions for larger families.  Boating, including motorized watercraft or the boat rental concession for paddle boats, canoes, row boats, pontoons and small or large motorboats.  Swimming, a 525 foot sand beach is open from late May to mid-September.  Lifeguards are on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  A bathhouse with showers and a first aid building are near the beach.  For hunting and fishing, Beltzville Lake is stocked with warm and cold water game fish and pan fish.


  • Split Rock Lodge Resort – Split Rock Lodge Resort opened H2 0oh indoor water park which features 53,326 square foot of fun, featuring exciting water attractions for all ages.  The park includes 5 exciting body, tube and raft slides, flow-rider, wave-pool, activity pool, fun-play structure, snack and Tiki bar. 


  • Pocono Indian Museum – Pocono Indian Museum, located in Bushkill is Northeast Pennsylvania’s premier site and is an excellent way for children to learn about the history of the Delaware Indians.  It’ll show you the North American history of man in Northeast Pennsylvania from 1500 BC to the contact period with the European man prior to the American Revolution.  It also shows the Delaware Indians peaceful co-existence with other Indians.  The museum is packed full of displays of ancient artifacts, weapons and the tools that from a chronological commentary on life among the Indians for thousands of years.  It’s gift shop is filled with artifacts that children can take home with them as remembrances of their visit to the museum.


  • Shawnee Playhouse – Located in historic Shawnee-on-Delaware the Playhouse history began when C. C. Worthington built the playhouse in 1904 as the Worthington Hall.  In 1943, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians began to broadcast their famous radio programs from the Hall.  Unfortunately, the Hall later fell into dis-use. 


    • The Kirkwood Family in 1978 began to restore Worthington Hall into what it is today, the Shawnee Playhouse.  With contributions from the Kirkwood family, and generous donations from many individuals and friends, the Shawnee Playhouse today is a must-see destination.  Matinee and evening shows are available; visit them online for a list of the summer play.

Well, that’s just a couple ideas of what you can do on your summer vacation in the Pocono Mountains.  As you can tell, whether it’s raining, the sun is shining or whatever Mother Nature may bring, there’s always something to do.

The first thing you want to do is call Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates or visit us online at to view the different privately owned vacation homes, condo or town-homes that you can rent for a weekend, a week or a seasonal stay.  Ask us about our “stimulus week”, a vacation planned with the economic downturn in mind.  It’s a 5 day, 4 night stay which will serve as a one week vacation at a very affordable price.

Hope to see you and your family in the River, at a play, at CamelBeach, Callie’s Candy Kitchen, Claws & Paws or any of the great sights here in the Poconos.  Enjoy yourself!

Thomas R. Wilkins is CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates, the one of the largest real estate broker companies in the Pocono Mountains.  Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate rents furnished vacation condos, town-homes, and individual cabins throughout the greater Pocono region.  Packages are available from 3 days, 2 nights to 8 days, 7nights. 

Patricia Blank-Toombs, Vice President Sales and Vacation Rental Manager contributed to this article and is head of the Vacation Rental Department 

Thinking about a summer family vacation in the Poconos, give us a call today or visit us online at



Central Virginia’s Largest Real Estate Broker, Real Estate III,

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Network Expands to 15 States

PARSIPPANY, N.J., and CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (April 8, 2010)

Gardens Real Estate LLC today announced the addition of Real Estate III, a Charlottesvillebased real estate firm founded in 1972. Real Estate III, a leader in the Central Virginia market, will now operate as Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III. With this affiliation, the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate network expands into Virginia, and the brand network now includes approximately 125 offices in 15 states.

“Real Estate III has a rich tradition of superior customer service spanning several generations while consistently embracing ongoing change in the Greater Charlottesville housing market,” said Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC. “We look for partners who are prepared to move ahead of the times, a ‘Next Generation Brokerage’ that remains relevant regardless of the market cycle. That is what Real Estate III has shown year after year.”

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate III will continue to operate under the direction of Jeff Gaffney, CEO and Chairman, and Art Pearson, President and Principal Broker.

“We have always embraced change, philosophically, and we are always  looking at strategic moves that can benefit our associates and our  clients,” said Gaffney. “Partnering with a world-class franchisor that is always looking to the future is a natural fit for us. It positions us for growth and further boosts our ability to deliver the best real estate transaction experience in Central Virginia.”

The firm has 227 agents in nine regional offices and offers a comprehensive range of services supporting relocation, mortgage, senior specialists, first-time buyers and home warrantees. In conjunction with this announcement, the company launched its newly redesigned Website today at “Today is a great day in the nearly 40-year history of Real Estate III,” said Pearson, who joined the firm in 1972. “Our founder Frank Kessler was renowned for his visionary marketing and progressive strategies. This announcement today is a page out of his playbook.”

— Better Homes and

Real Estate Franchise is Independently Owned and Operated.



All of us with successful businesses know that the first key to success is having a strong business plan that shows a clear direction for the company.  Even in today’s market that still holds true.  As my good friend Bruce says, “Businesses are designed to have a profit; anything short of that just isn’t a business plan.”

With that being the case, the business model that every business is using today, whether you’re Angelo, the drycleaner, Billy, the landscaper and whether your business is big or small, is the survival model.  The name of the game is to cut and cut and cut until there’s a profit.  There is nothing complex about it.

While the “cut mentality” is good for the short-term, it’s not a business plan that anyone uses to grow their business, which is what I intend to do after the initial shock of our consolidation is complete.  I’ve lived through the cut model, now it’s time to develop a model around the business we do and how we’re going to grow market share and profits again.

The “new” business model won’t have all the frills that the old business model had and there are a couple of key components that it will have that just simply make sense.  I’d like to share with you today some of those “new” components that we’ve adopted into our overall “new” business plan.

First and foremost, part of our new business plan is to use more independent contractors and adjust several of our (now) employee schedules enabling them to have (1) more and expanded flexible hours; (2) a workspace which includes working from their home or other flex-space; (3) working only part time for us because they can do more in less time when working outside the office and (4) me voluntarily accepting these changes as an employer.  Jessica is a prime example in Stroudsburg.  What this has done is successfully thwart more layoffs or the need to replace key employees.  Instead, it has made our Management Team actually stronger than ever.  I don’t see the person in the office next to me, but I know they are there by the use of Skype, Instant Messaging and email.

For our valued hourly employee, the shortening of the office workweek was the second biggest item that worked for both management and our valued employees.  We were careful not to cut too much, but still maintain the workflow that was required.  We found that all of our employees were receptive to a new reduced work schedule understanding the economy that we all work in.  I compliment Rose for spearheading our cutbacks.

At Pennsylvania First Settlement Services our sister company, we release our title agents work schedules a month in advance and let them know what we anticipate will come in for business; like Billy, one of the most prominent landscapers in the Buck Hill and Skytop areas says, “When I have a job, I bring in the help.  When the job is over, we wait to hire them back for the next job.”  I think this technique is known as “growing” personnel slower than the revenue.  We adapted that same idea in our professional work place and it worked.  Craig watches the orders weekly now in the slow season and can adjust hours weekly if need be.

Another important thing that worked for us is cross training.  We found that when an employee was cross training it taught them to help in parts of the company where we didn’t realize they had a talent or that the talent was there and we never put it to use.  It was a win/win pilot program and Doreen, our Receptionist, is a great example of how it works.

On another note, the biggest commodity we have in a real estate company is listings and sales.  We are starting to promote a summer stimulus package which includes our co-broking transactions and giving the other broker a larger share of the commission; unheard of in our industry.  We hope that this will produce more sales and (while our intention is always to sell in-house as opposed to co-broking) it creates camaraderie outside of the office and enables us to capture a larger percentage of that valued species…the buyer and who knows, maybe Dennis, our Recruiter, can hire the listing Agent.

Having our listings for the summer season and re-listing or extending those that expire during beginning part of the season, was another big move that the company made as a whole.  We certainly have gotten the lion’s share of inventory going into the summer time, which is our busiest time–July, August and September.  Dominick takes credit for this idea.

No one likes to pay commission, but the reality is in the real estate business that’s how we make our money.  We successfully have moved the majority of our commissions to between 6% and 7%.  In the past, fees were working their way down to 5% and we’re pleased to say that we have a good amount of inventory and also at a good price, which excites other agents who want to work for our company.

Ahhh the internet!  No broker has incorporated the internet better than Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates through (1) our corporate office in Parsippany where Sherry Chris and her team are the leaders in internet advertising; (2) The Real Estate Book online advertising which just produces a whole lot of leads for us and (3) Lead Router, a customized routing system for buyers that helps us as brokers, organize those buyers by agent and the type of real estate they want to buy.  Everyone asks me did I do the right thing by franchising and I tell him or her Lead Router is well worth the franchise fee.  Toni handles all our Relos along with her Supervisor, Jessica.  They will let you know about Relos and how CARTUS, our exclusive Relo company with BHG works.

Moreover, let’s not forget Wells Fargo.  Our Managers now review each pre-qualified buyer that calls our office or interfaces with us interested in buying a home.  You would be surprised at the number of pre-quals that they’ve done which in some cases were simply going un-attended, but not any more!  Sonia, one of their Loan Officers, is the best!

 Well thanks for allowing me the time to tell you a few of our “trade secrets”.  Overall, I couldn’t be where I am today without the great Managers, Department Heads and Staff that I have working around me; some of whom you’ve met today.

 Much success to all

 Thomas R Wilkins is CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Wilkins and Assocs. He founded the company in 1988 and at its height had 14 offices total. While still maintaining  a 15% market share and still the largest franchise office in Northeastern PA,  he has successfully consolidated his offices to two (2) with 90+ fulltime realtors. In addition to the real estate company, he is CEO of NEPA Management Assocs. and Gen. Partner of Pennsylvania First Settlement Services and a commercial Realtor at Wilkins & Associates Commercial Brokers.

Pocono Family Reunions- How easy to do

Pocono Mts. – Why should you go through the headaches of planning a family reunion in the Poconos?  Well the answer to that is

  • It’s your family, someone has to do it!
  • If it’s done correctly, it can be a whole lot of fun and the Poconos is just the place to do it.
  • If you really haven’t seen your cousin in 12 years, isn’t the time now?
  • Summertime in the Poconos is the perfect time for family members of all ages to have a good time and this summer is the time to do it.

Family reunions are great events; they’re special because they give relatives, young and old, a chance to get reacquainted and in some cases with new babies or smaller children, you may be meeting them for the first time.  Who doesn’t like to share family stories and history and preserve memories; and to be truthful about the fact….family reunions are just a whole lot of fun!

The best way to plan your Pocono family reunion is to start by creating committees.  Someone should be the Reunion chairperson, someone designated to take charge while others can be members of different committees to help organize all the events.  The biggest challenge of all is when is it going to take place and of course, where.

At Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates we have town-home communities where you can rent 3 to 15 units, and most likely, next to one another.  By being close to each other, it enables the kids to simply walk from unit to unit without the worry of crossing highways, being alone in an area that is not supervised and putting any of the children or older members in an unfamiliar spot.  Or, if you do want single family homes, we have them too!

The second thing you want to do is make a list of who will come.  Assuming family members are located in at least the tri-state area, the Pocono Mountains offers highway driving distances and is easy to get to from the New England states, Upstate New York, New York City, New Jersey, Washington D.C. or Maryland and of course, with Interstate 80 going east or west, it’s easy to get any of the family members to the Poconos with little confusion.  Once they are here, everything you want to do is just a short drive away.

The best time to plan a family reunion is when the children are out of school, which is typically the third week of June; so any time after that through Labor Day is what’s called “prime time” in the Pocono Mountains.  All of the Pocono attractions are open and in full swing and our weather is very cooperative.  Some times it may be cool at night for fire in one of the log burning fireplaces but during the day, it’s warm enough to swim in one of the many pools, lakes or water parks scattered throughout the Pocono Mountains.  “And what if it rains” you say….some of the best shopping around is in the towns of Jim Thorpe or Milford, at The Crossings outlet center, located in Tannersville and at Great Wolf Resort and Split Rock Lodge, the waterparks are indoors, which allows you to still keep the kids happy if it rains.  And the time to book that vacation is now!

To get the number of units that you need, don’t wait too long.  Vacations in the Poconos are typically booked in advance and you don’t want to choose a weekend that is the same as the Pocono 500 Race weekends (which take a lot of rooms in the Poconos).  Don’t count short that it may book up before you are able to get in your reservations.

Having a family reunion “theme” is another way to have fun.  Activities and games can be held at any of the parks in the Poconos including the Delaware National Recreation Area, Beltzville Dam, Big Pocono, and Sun Mountain Recreation Area if you choose to stay at Northslope II.  All short driving distances once you are here in the Mountains.

Why not plan a barbeque or a clam bake? All of the vacation units that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates rent are fully furnished and able to accommodate you.  But, if you’re planning a meal or something that’s a little bit bigger, it may not be a bad idea to pack away and bring with you certain pots and pans that may not be available in your unit.  Always better to be safe than sorry.

Anything that can be cooked on a grill is fair game for an outdoor party and potluck works; we’re sure each of the family members has their favorite recipe that they want to share.  A lot of times, there are even traditional family favorites.

Don’t worry about things to do either as a group or if individual families may want to just get away on their own for an afternoon.  The Poconos includes such family attractions as Callie’s Candy Kitchen and Pretzel Factory, S & S Speedway, Bushkill Falls, Claws & Paws, Country Junction–the World’s Largest General Store, Quiet Valley Living Museum and many more.  You can go online to 800 Poconos and see a list of members on the Pocono Mts Visitors Bureau’s site.

But, if you prefer to plan an entire day and take the group somewhere, group rates are available and one of the committee members can take the time to get the best rate possible through group rates.  Some of those amenities in the Poconos to consider for a day trip would be CamelBeach, located in Tannersville where there’s a full day’s worth of fun and if it’s raining, Split Rock Lodge has H2 Ooh, an indoor waterpark so you don’t have to be discouraged if you get a rainy day.  A great day adventure is witewater rafting.  Whitewater rafting is not as scary as the name may suggest.  Proper ages for rafting is something you’ll have to check into, but, it may also be not a bad idea to send the Dads and the teenagers out for a day while the oms and the younger ones spend a quieter time at maybe Bushkill Falls where they can walk and see the water falls as opposed to rafting down them.

Photos are a must, and bringing you camera is one of the most important things to pack when you come away on a vacation. 

While old fashioned vacations used to be Friday to Friday, at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate we offer stimulus weeks to accommodate your pocketbook and still get in the most fun.  They are 5 day, 4 night stays attractively priced.

Once you’ve got your budget, and your location has been chosen, the rest is easy to do.

Well, that’s about it; the next thing to do is call up your cousin Cathy and Uncle Bob; get their okay, start your committees and then, most importantly, call Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates at 800-252-4601 and let us book that Pocono Family Reunion for you today!

Thomas R. Wilkins is CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates, the one of the largest real estate broker companies in the Pocono Mountains.  Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate rents furnished vacation condos, town-homes, and individual cabins throughout the greater Pocono region.  Packages are available from 3 days, 2 nights to 8 days, 7nights. 

Patricia Blank-Toombs, Vice President Sales and Vacation Rental Manager contributed to this article and is head of the Vacation Rental Department 

Thinking about a family reunion in the Poconos, give us a call today or visit us online at


For Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates 5 Part Blog Recruit Series

Brodheadsville- Choosing a Real Estate Brokerage is the first and possibly the most important decision you can make when starting your real estate career. Unfortunately, most agents base their decision on commission splits without taking into consideration the most important contributions that a Brokerage can offer to a new agent’s career. Before making a decision on a Real Estate Brokerage you need to ask and receive an answer to the following questions.

Real Estate schools only prepare you to take and pass the real estate exam; they do not teach the skills needed to list and sell real estate. These skills are taught by the Real Estate Brokerage, which is why it is important to find out what kind of training you can expect to receive. You need to ask about structured training such as in office training classes, online training, mentoring programs and what kind of support you will receive from the sales manager on a daily basis. Without the proper training you will have difficulty getting and maintaining listings and buyers.  

As a new agent without a client database, the next question that needs to be addressed is lead generation. Ask the Broker how they obtain leads and how the leads are distributed to the agents. You also need to ask about the availability of floor time or opportunity time. A 70% commission split and no leads mean zero dollars.

Finally, when starting a real estate career there are expenses that are incurred before you close your first transaction. You need to know the cost of doing business as an agent for the Brokerage. Does the Brokerage have office fees, do you have to pay for signs, lockboxes, advertising, and supplies. As a new agent you want to minimize your out of pocket expenses.

When you interview with a Real Estate Brokerage you need to consider everything in order to make a decision that will help you launch your real estate career and make it successful.

Written by Patricia Balnk Toombs a VP with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Assocs. Visit them on line at

MILLENNIALS – The New Face of Real Estate

February 05, 2010 For Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates 5 Part Blog Recruit Series

Stroudsburg–Text messaging, email, IPods, Facebook and being mobile as ever is a part of the new generation, the Millennial.  The Millennial are the young workers ranging in age between 21 to 29 years old.  They have the potential to create a lasting change in the real estate workplace because of the way they live, communicate and more importantly, the way they view their jobs.

Managing the Millennial as a Broker or manager can be challenging.  Millennials are more productive and work more efficiently than they were initially perceived by employers.  Because they differ from other agents in the workplace, they can sometimes stand out and be a bit “different”.  They may not be like those mature or “old dogs” you have in your office.

The Millennials are very goal oriented and ever critical of their own performance.  They are very interested in making their career in sales.  This generation’s performance is equal to or greater than that of other generations.  They are immediate in looking for a return of their labors and are not afraid to make that known.

Other general characteristics of the Millennial generation include them being very mobile, likely to live within 3 miles of the central business district and have a feeling of autonomy and independence rather than being part of a team.  They always want to win, are collaborative, confident and embrace diversity.  Don’t expect to see them at the water cooler, instead, expect them at your local Starbucks®.

As a Broker, it’s important to recognize the positive attributes of the Millennial generation and make sure that we prepare for them.  Appreciate that close to 100% of buyers start their search online so it’s important to have the tools readily available to the Millennial worker so that they can efficiently do their job online.  That means social media, a popular and tracked internet site, the proper tools to produce contracts, listing agreements and other documents online and other online marketing all become important in retaining that Millennial agent.

One thing is for certain, the Millennials are here to stay and will in fact become the New Face of Real Estate.  –  I say, “Welcome aboard!”

Thomas R. Wilkins is CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associate.  He has been actively involved in the real estate industry as a Broker for the past 22 years.  WARE has 5 offices and 107 Realtors®.  Their offices operate in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania