Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Sept. 16, 2019

How to Enjoy Your Fireplace Safely this Season

Gathering the family around a crackling fire can be one of the joys of the coldest months… or it can be a nightmare. It’s one thing to be seated cozily on the couch while the firewood glows, and quite another to be standing on the curb in the cold watching the fire department trying to save your home.

 

More than 14,000 fires begin each year in fireplaces, and fires are the cause of nearly $900 million dollars in property damage. Don’t be a victim because of shoddy maintenance or careless usage of your fireplace. This goes for both wood-burning and gas fireplaces.

 

Here are some tips to maintain your fireplace and protect your life:

 

1. Before the coldest months set in, get your fireplace inspected. Remember, most inspection companies will be very busy during the winter, so try and secure an inspection at least a month or so before you anticipate using your fireplace heavily.

 

2. Inspect your fireplace before you use it. Take a flashlight and look in the flue. Look for obstructions. Check for cracked bricks, missing mortar, or other signs of damage. Be sure to clean out any ashes and dispose of them in a metal-lid trash can.

 

3. Burn properly. This means using seasoned hardwood (which avoids creosote accumulation), and burning logs on an approved rack or elevated grate. Also, don’t burn trash, cardboard, or other debris in your home fireplace.

 

4. Keep the area around the fireplace clear. Don’t put your Christmas tree near the fireplace, or anything else which is liable to combust. If it’s flammable, keep it safely distant from those flames. 

 

5. Guard against sparks. Sparks may periodically leap from your fireplace, so use a screen to prevent them from landing on rugs or nearby furniture.

 

6. Don’t leave the house with a fire burning. Extinguishing a fire before you leave is common sense, so don’t leave those burning logs unattended!

 

Would you like a home with a fireplace? Let me help you find just the right one:

Posted in Home Living
Sept. 9, 2019

Simple tricks for recycling reminders

Recycling is now the norm in communities, but as widespread as the environmental trend is, there are still opportunities to improve the amount we recycle. While recycling is not only good for the planet and helps us reuse materials which would otherwise end up in a landfill, it’s also good for the economy.

 

According to the Tellus Institute, a research and action group for a global civilization of sustainability, equity, and well-being, improving the U.S. recycling rate from 33% to 75% would create 1.5 million new jobs. While traditional waste disposal generates 0.1 jobs per 1,000 tons of landfill, recycling generates 2 jobs for every 1,000 tons! (You can learn more about the Tellus Institute here: http://www.tellus.org)

 

Here’s a quick life hack to increase the amount you recycle in your home: Put a smaller garbage can in your bathroom and place a recycling bin next to it. While people are generally good about recycling in their kitchen and home offices, the bathroom can be a surprising source of waste. According to a study by Johnson & Johnson, manufacturers of a wide range of health and beauty products, 40% of Americans throw out plastic shampoo bottles in their garbage rather than recycle them. The same is true of toilet paper rolls and other sanitary packaging, including cardboard soap boxes.

 

If it’s not too unappealing, consider choosing a recycling bin that’s green or the same color as your neighborhood’s recycling bins. Many hardware stores will carry recycling bins in a variety of colors. This will serve as a simple visual reminder to recycle those bathroom items rather than committing them to the landfill. Combined with a smaller garbage can, you’ll find that that your total progress toward “zero waste” will improve considerably.

 

What other simple tricks do you use to recycle, reuse, and ultimately reduce waste? Share them with me!

 

If you’re green in the extreme, get in touch with me for your next “green home” search. Many new homes have integrated sustainable energy practices that can reinforce your commitment to a healthy, happy planet. Get in touch today: 570-424-8131 ext:405

Posted in Buyer Information
Sept. 4, 2019

Good Advice for New Homeowners

When you’re a renter, there are a lot of details you might overlook. Given how much is out of your control about the condition or landscaping around your apartment complex or rented home, you may not be greatly interested in certain aspects of the house.

 

All of that changes when the home is your own investment. With your money and your safety on the line 24/7, you’ll need to pay attention to some areas which renters take for granted. Keep these few tips in mind and you’ll avoid several common homeowner mistakes.

 

1. Call 811 before digging up the yard. Landscaping is a great pleasure for many homeowners, especially those who want to plant their own food or dig in a nice water feature. The only problem? There could be pipes, power, and telecom cables underneath your soil. Before you rent the backhoe, call 811, a national hotline dedicated to dig safety. By calling 811 first, all of your local utility providers will get the heads-up to come out and mark all of the areas you’ll need to avoid when digging.

 

2. Find your water main’s shut-off valve. When a pipe bursts and you don’t know where to turn off the water to your property, a simple leak can turn into a catastrophic amount of water damage. Make sure you know where your shut-off valve is located and that you have the tools you need handy to cut off the flow should an accident happen. (The same is true for those of you with natural gas connections. Special tools can be used to shut off the gas in an emergency.)

 

3. Before you drill, use a stud-finder. For less than $30, you can get an idea whether or not you’re about to drill yourself a hole into power conduit, plumbing, or ductwork. Also, you’ll want to be sure the art or shelves you hang in your home has a firm grip and doesn’t come crashing down with the drywall.

 

4. Check your insulation depth. You know that funny looking door in your ceiling? It leads to the attic or crawlspace. Inside, you’ll want to make sure you have insulation deep enough to trap your heat and keep your cool. Most insulation needs to be 12 to 16 inches deep, depending on the quality of the insulation. You can even hire companies to “blow in” the additional insulation you need. Conserve energy with this simple move.

 

5. Checking your foundation. You want your soil to slope away from the house at least 6 or so inches over 10 - 12 feet. This prevents water from pooling at the foundation, which can lead to costly cracks and repairs

 

Looking for a home worthy of your careful attention? Let us help you find the the right one today. Call today at 570-424-8131 ext:405 

Posted in Buyer Information
Aug. 30, 2019

How You Know When You’ve Found Your Next Home

When you’re house hunting, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You’re making a big investment. You want to find a place which is “just right” for you (and your family). You can even get a little addicted to touring houses, always convinced the perfect home is just about to hit the market. Sometimes inability to pull the trigger on a house can cause serious shopper’s remorse. You could miss out on a home that, in retrospect, was ideal.

 

So how do you know a home is “the one”?

 

Here are some useful ways to check your buying temperature and know when it’s time to make an offer:

 

1. The home fundamentally meets your needs. There’s plenty of compromise in home hunting, so when you find one that has the basics covered, take note.

 

2. You’d consider renovating for those luxurious little extras. Maybe the home is missing that pool you’ve always wanted, or is missing a detached workshop/garage space. Recognize when you find yourself thinking you’d be up to tackling a project to make it perfect.

 

3. You’re in love with the kitchen. Studies show we spend most of our waking hours connected to or using the kitchen. If you’re in love with the kitchen, but think the master bedroom is a little small, don’t make mistake. This could be the one.

 

4.The bathroom feels comfortable to you. Many times, other people’s bathrooms will give you the creeps. If you feel good about the bathroom, it’s a healthy sign. After all, you have to be naked in there.

 

5. You start to see your possessions in the house. If you’re thinking “ah yes, the flatscreen could go on that wall” and “wow, my bed would fit perfectly in this suite,” then you’re starting to imagine the house as your own.

 

6. The idea of someone else buying the home gives you a pit in your stomach. If you’re “sleeping on the decision” and the idea that the home is no longer an option makes you anxious, pay attention. It could be offer time.

 

So… are you ready to buy?: Call us today at 570-424-8131 ext:405

Posted in Buyer Information
Aug. 28, 2019

7 Ways Downsizing Saves Money

Downsizing is hardly a dirty word these days, especially as Baby Boomers begin to question the size of their home, and more Millennials are finally making their way into the world. Home ownership is a good investment at any size, and if you’ve ever wanted to free up some cash for the rest of life’s joys (travel? new hobbies? investing?), downsizing can be a great way to rightsize your budget. Here are seven ways downsizing can foster a little more financial freedom:

 

1. Utility costs. If your gas and electric bills have been climbing year over year, consider the pleasant surprise of heating and cooling 1,200 sq. ft. instead of 3,500. Controlling the climate in empty spare bedrooms is pointless when you don’t need the room. What’s more, you can count on fewer houseguests with less space, and this, in turn, can decrease utility costs.

 

2. Maintenance costs. How big is that lawn? How many rooms need to be refreshed with a coat of paint? How many windows do you need to wash, and what about the size of that driveway that must be repaired and sealed?

 

3. Insurance. Your insurance bill is based in large part on your appraisal, and if your new home is smaller, your insurance bill should shrink as well. (This can vary based on location and levels of coverage, of course, but you would be hard pressed to insure less for more!)

 

4. Property taxes. Much like insurance, tax rates tend to be based on a percentage of assessed value. Here’s a few more dollars back into your wallet.

 

5. Repairs. How many toilets do you need to have fixed? Appliances? Light fixtures to keep lit? The smaller home has fewer leaking faucets and a smaller roof to replace. Your overall spend on maintenance goes down when you have less home to maintain.

 

6. Furniture. Downsizing is a perfect opportunity to sell excess furniture and find keep only those pieces well-loved or essential for your new smaller space.

 

7. Hosting and entertaining. When you’ve got that sprawling home, your place is ground zero for out-of-town guests, relatives, and holiday parties. As your space shrinks, so does your annual hosting and entertaining budget. Besides, if you really want to throw a shin-dig, you can take some of that downsizing cash and pick a perfect venue. 

 

Looking to downsize and redirect that extra cash? Get in touch today at 570-424-8131 ext:405

Posted in Buyer Information
Aug. 19, 2019

Use Common Sense When Buying a Flipped Home

Have you recently fallen in love with a “flipped” home? Does the idea of moving into a cleanly renovated space excite you? To see an old home tuned up with brand new appliances, gleaming marble countertops, and fresh wood floors can make other homes seem shabby by comparison, but be careful before you make the leap. There are some precautions you want to take before you close.

 

“Flipped” or “rehabbed” homes are homes which real estate investors buy in order to renovate them and sell them for a profit. Sometimes these homes have been secured after short sales, foreclosures, surviving relatives, or even at auction. For real estate investors, part of the profit depends on how fast and affordably they can renovate the property. In seller’s markets, there’s even more pressure to make sure a home is ready to sell, fast.

 

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a flipped house, you will want to make sure you know a bit about the home’s history. Naturally, you’ll want to do all the due diligence you’d normally do when buying a home, but it can be useful to dig a little deeper. Here are some questions to ask:

 

1. What shape was the home in before it was renovated? Was it just outdated? Vacant? Trashed by squatters? Find out the state of the home when the flipper purchased it.

 

2. What deficiencies, damage, or other defects did the home have when the flipper bought it? Ask for a list of issues, if possible.

 

3. Who did the work on the house during the renovation? Contractors? Handymen? Did the flipper do the work personally? Are there invoices which detail the work completed and the money spent on the repairs? Were the appropriate permits secured?

 

4. Was anything left “as is”? What sort of issues were deemed too small or not vital to the renovation?

 

5. What was the legal history of the transfer of ownership? Short sales and foreclosures might have legal obligations on the flipper or other liens.

 

You shouldn’t shy away from a flipped home you love, but don’t go into the situation blind. Call us today to find out more information 570-424-8131 ext:405 

Posted in Buyer Information
Aug. 7, 2019

Meeting the Neighbors After You Move

If you’ve recently relocated to a new neighborhood, you may find yourself struggling to break the ice with your neighbors. It can be a little daunting to just knock on doors unannounced, and in today’s day of texting and “connections at a distance” could be considered outright rude.

 

Still, neighborhoods are only as good as their neighbors. In a world where so many people recognize neighborhood cars over the faces of people who live around us, there's a lot to be said for making an effort to connect with the people who live up and down the block. So how do you make those first few casual connections which lead to meaningful bonds?

 

Here are some tips for forming new connections with your neighbors:

 

1. Throw a "move in" garage sale. Yes, most people have garage sales before they move out of their old house in order to reduce the amount of clutter they have to pack, but garage sales draw lots of local foot traffic and present super opportunities to get to know who lives nearby. If you didn’t have a garage sale before you moved, or you think you might still have some stuff to unload, why not throw a garage sale in your new ‘hood? Bonus tip: Have some free refreshments on hand.

 

2. Stroll the streets. Want to get to know and be known? Get out there on foot. A routine morning or evening walk is a perfect way to say howdy and stop for a chat. Don't wear headphones. Be open to conversations. Observe who’s out and about and use compliments and open ended questions to spark a little small talk.

 

3. Be of service. If you have a skill you can share, offer it up to those nearby. This may be something small, like knife sharpening, or it may be a group project like power washing houses. Good deeds and shared labor build bonds.

 

4. Start a group activity. Posting flyers for a book group, running club, or even routine cocktail hour or monthly potluck is a perfect opportunity to bring people together through a shared activity.

 

Step back from social media and make those neighborhood connections “IRL” (In Real Life). They can make all the difference when it comes to establishing yourself in the community.

 

Looking for a great new neighborhood? We'd be happy to help you sell your old home or find a new one, contact us today at 570-424-8131 ext:405. 

Posted in Buyer Information
Aug. 2, 2019

Dealing with Inevitable Change

These days it can feel like everything is subject to dramatic and sudden change. If you’ve found yourself unsure how to live well in the face of “technological disruption” or other macro forces in the media and the markets, perhaps some perspective will help.

 

Most anger and anxiety around upheaval and uncertainty comes from fear. “Where do I fit in?” “How will I adapt?” Sometimes this fear blossoms into full-blown denial. Denial includes a refusal to accept the changes happening before our eyes, an unwillingness to learn about future possibilities, and self-soothing stories which assure us that all will remain basically the same.

 

Instead, you might do well to enhance your mindset perspective. Here are five tactics to help you prepare:

 

1. Look at patterns in other areas. Though there is no “one size fits all” for radical change, there are lessons to be learned from recent history. Understanding big shifts in other industries, markets, or countries may help you get a feel for how your world may change.

 

2. Recognize when you’re in the echo chamber. Many established players will tell you what you want to hear: “Don’t panic, everything’s fine.” It can be alluring to listen to those voices who say “change is overblown” or “we’re in a unique industry, immune to many of the changes.”

 

3. Seek contrary opinions. Find out who holds different values. Listen to the arguments they have for revolutionizing the world or urging for reforms, even if it threatens your “normal.” You may disagree, but you can’t rationally evaluate your options if you keep your head in the sand.

 

4. Avoid catastrophizing. Catastrophizing “is an irrational thought a lot of us have in believing that something is far worse than it actually is.” (Learn more here: https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-catastrophizing/) Even sea changes take time. Many predictions are too dire and unrealistic. Don’t let your fears drive your actions. Be smarter about your feelings.

 

5. Don’t fall victim to excessive nostalgia. We have a tendency to romanticize and simplify the past, giving ourselves the luxury of rose-colored glasses. Take time to appreciate the upside of change. Wishing for a time machine is a sure-fire way to remain paralyzed.

 

Yes, adapting to these changes can be a challenge. But take heart. You are more resilient than you might realize.

 

Curious about changes in the real estate market and the value of your home? Call 570-424-8131 ext:405 

Posted in Buyer Information
July 31, 2019

Choosing your agent the right way

As you probably know, having a real estate license doesn’t make someone a great agent. In fact, in any given market, a relatively small percentage of the total number of agents are responsible for a majority of the business. This means that when you’re evaluating agents, the odds of picking someone with relatively little experience or true skill can be disconcertingly high.

 

So how do you know you’re in danger of working with a rank amateur? Here are some common “sniff tests” to help you sort through the masses:

 

1. Is the agent’s top selling point the fact they offer a lower commission? If an agent is eager to buy your business by promising to work for less than the competition, be wary. Professionals are compensated for hard work, and a true pro won’t make commission cutting their go-to reason for representing you in the sale of your home.

 

2. Is the agent’s proposed listing price for your home way higher than everyone else? It can be sweet to hear, but sometimes sweet things are poisonous. In the business this is called “buying a listing” and it usually works this way: An agent says your home is worth more than it is in order to get you to sign with them. Then, as the home languishes on the market, the agent will begin discussing price reductions. Instead of a quick sale for a fair price, you endure the heartache and expense of a home which takes longer to sell.

 

3. How is the agent marketing their current listings? Ask to see some listings for homes their representing right now. Are the photos terrible? Does the advertising copy for the home sound generic and unhelpful? Have all the homes experienced price reductions? How do the homes compare to other listings online? Can you find the home online easily? The agent is suddenly going to be working harder on your listing. How they’re treating their current listings is how they’ll treat yours.

 

4. What comes up when you Google the agent’s name? If it’s a common name, you may need to add “realtor” or “real estate” to the name. What comes up? Do they have a website? If nothing shows up, that’s a bad sign. Are they in the business or not? Can you find them on social media like Facebook? Have they updated profiles on Zillow / Trulia? If they’re a ghost online, beware. After all, that’s where buyers are starting conversations about buying!

 

Contact us today for more information at 570-424-8131 ext:405 

Posted in Buyer Information
July 29, 2019

Scoring the Scoreless: New FICO Approach

If you’re in the market for a home, you’re probably in the market for a mortgage. With the exception of all-cash buyers, most buyers will find out soon what their FICO score is and what banks think about it.

 

The FICO score has a huge impact on whether or not lenders consider you an acceptable credit risk, and yet there are more than 53 million Americans out there who don’t have a credit score at all. This doesn’t mean they’re a bad risk, necessarily… it just means they haven’t used credit cards, held a previous mortgage, or had an auto loan. They may be perfectly responsible financial citizens. So how do they apply for a mortgage?

 

In an attempt to broaden access, FICO has begin to factor new data sources. Announced in April, 2015, FICO will now include two additional sources: A national utility database, presided over by Equifax, and LexisNexis, which relies on public records.

 

The idea behind the change is this: First, the timeliness of utility payments can be used as month-to-month evidence of financial health. Second, FICO will be looking at LexisNexis address changes to determine how often people have relocated. In theory, frequent moves may be an indication of increased risk.

 

Though the impulse may be good, the changes are not without some controversy. Some argue the accuracy of the Equifax database may be a concern. It also adds one more credit reporting database which must be monitored. There’s also a worry that the “frequency of move” may unfairly punish people and provide a disincentive for relocations, downsizing, and upsizing of homes, provided FICO only uses the LexisNexis information in a punitive way.

 

More details are sure to emerge, but one thing is for sure: The era of Big Data in the cloud will be sure to cast their shadow on the way financial institutions assess risk in the years ahead. One hopes that they ultimately let in more sunshine than shade when it comes to helping buyers attain the dream of homeownership.

 

Are you ready to explore the dream? Contact us today at 570-424-8131 ext:405! 

Posted in Buyer Information