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!

July 17, 2019

The relationship between green space & public safety.

Some interesting information is out on the topic of green space in neighborhoods and the impact they have on community safety. The report, “How Cities Use Parks to Create Safer Neighborhoods,” offers the following:

 

“For those concerned that green spaces may foster crime and illegal activity, evidence now exists that the opposite may be true. These are the findings of scientists at the Human-Environment Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studied green space alongside public housing in Chicago. Other researchers who are conducting similar studies across the country are finding similar results.” (Source: https://www.planning.org/cityparks/briefingpapers/saferneighborhoods.htm)

 

Key Point #1:

Time spent in nature immediately adjacent to home helps people to relieve mental fatigue, reducing aggression.

 

Key Point #2:

Green residential spaces are gathering places where neighbors form social ties that produce stronger, safer neighborhoods.

 

Key Point #3:

Barren spaces are more frightening to people and are more crime prone than parks landscaped with greenery and open vistas.

 

Key Point #4:

In order to make the best use of greenery and open space, it must be positively incorporated into a community's design.

 

The report concludes: “The factors that explain these findings emphasize the importance of greenery in community and personal wellness.Time spent in natural surroundings relieves mental fatigue, which in turn relieves inattentiveness, irritability, and impulsivity, recognized by psychologists as precursors to violence. Green spaces also support frequent, casual contact among neighbors. This leads to the formation of neighborhood social ties, the building blocks of strong, secure neighborhoods where people tend to support, care about, and protect one another.”

 

Might this study might reframe the way you think about shopping for a home? If you’re looking for a home close to lots and lots of green space we can help find you that ideal location: 570-424-8131 ext:405. 

Posted in Buyer Information
July 15, 2019

An Easy Way to Keep Up With Home Air Quality

Maintaining indoor air quality is an extremely important but often overlooked component of a living happily in your home. By and large it’s an invisible problem, but the costs can really add up— from high energy bills to creeping health issues.

 

Many homes have become so energy efficient that they’re also good at trapping dust and other pollutants. Appropriate ventilation is an important aspect of indoor air quality. This includes venting bathrooms, kitchens, and fireplaces directly outside. It’s also vital to try and store industrial chemicals such as pesticides, paints, and harsh cleaners outside of the habitable areas of the home.

 

Alarms are also a useful way to keep an eye on what you’re breathing. Smoke alarms are a must for home safety, but carbon monoxide alarms are also key to keeping a silent killer at bay. Finally, periodic radon testing is a good idea. Radon, a radioactive gas, is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It is a known contributor to lung cancer. You can only know how much is in your home by testing.

 

Of course, one of the most neglected home maintenance chores is regular replacement of air filters. This is surprising, given that changing the filters is typically among the easiest tasks a homeowner can do. What’s more, the simple act of replacing filters increases HVAC efficiency, extends the life of your heating and cooling system, and also lowers energy bills.

 

The problem’s not the complexity of the task, it’s often remembering to do it. One company hopes to solve this problem and save homeowners time and money. FilterEasy delivers air filters when it’s time to change them. The process is pretty straightforward: First, you select the number of filters for your home. Next, you compile the sizes and choose your filter “grade,” either light allergen, micro allergen, or super allergen.

 

You can check FilterEasy out online:

https://www.filtereasy.com/

 

If you’d like to breathe a little easier in your home, follow up with these minor home maintenance tasks and inexpensive tools. High air quality is also an excellent selling quality for you home! If you’re thinking about listing soon, get in touch with me today:

Posted in Home Improvements
July 11, 2019

Buying a House with Less-than-Perfect Credit

Do you believe your negative credit history disqualifies you from buying a home? That might not be the case. And even if you’re not in the position to buy today, there are some simple, effective actions you can take to boost your future prospects.

 

If you’re like most people, buying a home means securing a mortgage. To secure that mortgage, you need to convince banks you’re a good bet. Here’s how to start on the path to making your dream home a real home:

 

1. Work towards a 10% down payment: Down payment assistance is very difficult to get without a credit score north of 640. So if you’re below the line, you’re going to help your odds of pre-approval by proving you have 10% down to put on your home. That 10% is especially helpful if your credit score is sub-550. Above 550 you might be able to land an FHA loan with only 3.5% in equity.

 

2. Make moves to rebuild your credit: You don’t have to be perfect to improve your access to better mortgage terms. Here’s how to put points back on top: 1) Pay down your highest credit card balances first. 2) Get your credit report and look for errors you can correct or dispute. 3) Identify any outstanding debts or collections which you can manage to get cleared either through full payment or negotiated settlement. If you can push your rating above 620 you’ll not only get closer to better terms, but generally you’ll experience less scrutiny during the approval process.

 

3. Get a realistic picture of your debt-to-income ratio. Focus on doing what you can to bring your debt-to-income ratio below 45%. Mortgages do exist for people with higher ratios, but generally credit scores are well above 600 for this to become a reality.

 

4. Understand your “seasoning period.” If you’ve experienced a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or short sale scenario, it may not be possible for you to secure a mortgage for at least three years (and sometimes two, depending on the situation). Use this time to work on the three tips above!

 

If you’d like to begin hunting for your next home, we would be happy to help guide you. Or, if you need a referral to a reputable mortgage professional, get in touch! 

 

Call us today at 570-424-8131 Ext:405

Posted in Buyer Information
July 8, 2019

How to Avoid Common Earnest Money Errors

Earnest money is a great way to show a seller you’re serious about the offer you’re making on their home. By placing a portion of what amounts to your down payment on the table to demonstrate your commitment to follow-through on the contract, you’re saying “I love this home and I’m ready to go.” But there’s a real risk involved: If you make a mistake, you might just be out a chunk of cash.

 

Here are some ways to avoid burning your home-buying bankroll in lost earnest money:

 

1. Make sure it’s the home you really want. Seem obvious? Sure. But it’s easy to get swept up in the moment. Recognize that you’re about to enter into a legally binding contract and that the money you’re risking will hurt if you change your mind. While you may not be able to drag your feet on the decision, check your gut to see if there are any reservations lurking there before you go all in.

 

2. Don’t sacrifice contract contingencies. Don’t let your desire for a home cause you to blindly remove contingencies which are built into contracts to protect buyers. Common ones include loan contingencies, title search issues, appraisal, and insurance obstacles. Waive these at your own peril.

 

3. Avoid committing to a home “as is.” If you’re putting earnest money on an offer for a foreclosed home, don’t be too eager to accept any problem the home may have. Take the time to understand the home’s issues before you write the offer.

 

4. Read the contract timelines. Look at closing dates and other dates related to the process leading up to closing. Violating the timeline could cost you your earnest money as well.

 

5. Ensure you have recourse to get some or all of your earnest money back. If the sale doesn’t gel, you and the buyer will need to sign a document voiding the agreement. Don’t sign this until you understand how it will impact your earnest money refund. The seller’s title can be negatively impacted if you don’t sign off, so keep your leverage handy until you’re sure you’ve been fairly treated.

 

Protect yourself and your down payment by playing smart with your earnest money. If you have questions or concerns, ask your agent to help you understand everything in plain language!

 

Ready to buy? Call us today at 570-424-8131 ext:405.

Posted in Buyer Information
July 5, 2019

Can AirBnB Be Useful for Selling Your House?

If you stop to think about it, selling a home is a bit of a strange endeavor. You’re asking prospective buyers to make a huge investment in your home without the experience of actually living there. Yet this is standard procedure. Buyers make offers after showings without having spent a single night in the home where they’re planning on living!

 

Now there’s an emerging marketing trend designed to take some of the ambivalence out of buying a home. Some sellers are taking the steps to let prospective buyers “live” in their house for a few days to see if the home is right for them.

 

AirBnB is one platform making this strategy possible. Most effective for sellers who have staged their house and are not currently living in the listing, the approach is direct: Sellers list the home on AirBnB and when they have an interested buyer, they arrange a temporary “rental” of the property. This way, the buyers get to spend real time in the home. They are allowed privacy, the chance to see what it’s like to sleep in the house at night, and use the facilities just as they would if they owned the home.

 

While the approach goes a long way to calming buyer fears, the idea is not without its critics. For one, not all brokers may be comfortable with this approach. Obviously having prospective buyers temporarily rent the home can create difficulties showing the home to other buyers when the property is rented.

 

Also, there are infrequent horror stories associated with this type of short-term rental. Home damage and even squatters who refuse to leave have happened to people listing their property on AirBnB. Finally, there are potential legal complications related to short-term rentals in certain communities. Nonetheless, there are thousands upon thousands of people who have offered up their short-term rental with no problem.

 

You can see the appeal, though. There’s a real potential for buyers to build an emotional attachment to your home if they spend a little vacation time there together while evaluating the property.

 

What do you think? Would you AirBnB your home if it gave you an selling advantage?

 

Call us today to find out more at 570-424-8131 ext:405. 

Posted in Buyer Information
June 28, 2019

These Affordable Design Details Sell Your Home Faster

What is it about a home that catches a buyer’s eye? Why is it when two homes are comparable to one another, buyers go with the one that just “feels right”? Sometimes the difference is so small, they don’t consciously notice. Little touches can give a home a major edge in the market.

 

In fact, here are five clever design upgrades which can provide your home with that indefinable feeling that it’s of higher quality than the competition:

 

1. Light switch plate upgrades. Homeowners always overlook their own dirty, chipped, or cheap-looking switch plates. If you spend a few bucks to swap out switch plates, any room in the house will seem a tiny bit fresher. Better yet: In the bathroom and kitchen, match the color of your new switch plates to the tile. Look at the accent color in the bathroom or the backsplash in the kitchen for inspiration.

 

2. Dimmers on major rooms. Bright lights are great for showing off a home, but there’s a little sense of luxury when the overhead lights in living, dining, family, and master bedrooms are on dimmer switches. For fixtures controlled by one switch, get single pole dimmers. For those controlled by two, you’ll need 3-way dimmers.

 

3. Tasteful crown molding. For rooms without crown molding, adding this touch can really make a plain room feel high-quality. Entryways and master bedrooms are good choices if you have a limited budget, but if you want to go all out, include the other bedrooms as well. The key is adding molding which doesn’t seem ostentatious or inappropriate given the size and existing decor in the room.

 

4. Custom home address plaque. For between $50 and $100, you can have an address plaque created with the home’s number and the street name spelled out. Look online for inspiration and a design which fits your home. This is a killer upgrade and many homeowners overlook it when they’re trying to add curb appeal to their house.

 

5. New cabinet and drawer hardware. It’s astonishing how much modern handles and drawer pulls go towards rejuvenating tired or outdated storage. At a minimum, concentrate on the kitchen, but if you want to go all out, look for options to upgrade the bathroom as well.

 

You might not be able to quantify the exact return these clever upgrades will net you, but you can bet they will help your home stand out from sellers who won’t take the time to make some simple changes.

 

Are you ready to sell call us today at 570-424-8131 ext:405. 

Posted in Seller Information
June 26, 2019

What you should know before you buy an historic home

There’s much to admire about owning an historic home. You probably don’t need to be sold on the beauty of a grand old house, and in all likelihood the home is in an established neighborhood or district where prices are projected to appreciate at a better clip than other areas. Plus, if it’s truly classified as an historic home, and not simply an old house, you probably can take advantage of tax breaks other owners might not enjoy.

 

But before you fall in love with the gleam of summer light cascading through a century-old stained glass window, pause and consider what you’re really in for when you buy an historic home.

 

1. Lead, asbestos, and other buried “treasure.” Pipes and paint can be lead culprits while asbestos in basements, attics, and walls may be lurking. Also, it’s not uncommon for there to be abandoned septic tanks, cesspools, wells, or even heating oil reservoirs buried somewhere on the property. Remediation and removal can run into the thousands, should you decide to go that route.

 

2. Renovation restrictions. A truly historic home may be ineligible for certain renovations depending on preservation guidelines. Ownership of an historic home does not give you carte blanche to make changes, especially to the exterior of the property.

 

3. Wiring and plumbing problems. If the electrical system in the house hasn’t been upgraded, you might find yourself facing problems if you want to add significant appliances or other major power loads to the system. Older plumbing can also prevent formidable repair jobs as well.

 

4. Authenticity is expensive. The materials you’ll need to repair or restore original fixtures, windows, or other aesthetic components of the house can ad up quickly. While you may be investing in quality materials to keep the home in line with its original construction, it may not be an investment with a guaranteed return.

 

Perhaps you’re prepared for everything an historic home has to offer, both good and bad, but if you haven’t thought it through yet, these are some handy challenges to keep in mind. If you’re exploring historic homes, be sure to ask the current owners about all of these issues (and if/when they’ve dealt with them).

 

If you’d like to look at historic homes or think perhaps it’s time to consider something a bit newer, let me help us find just the right house: 570-424-8131 ext:409

Posted in Buying Homes
June 24, 2019

Reduce waste with these composting tips

Do you compost?

 

Composting is a great way to reduce the waste which goes into our landfills. More and more communities are providing curbside compost pick-up service.

 

Whether a part of regular trash and recycling, or provided by a private company, composting is no longer an affair where you have to turn a drum of scraps in your backyard or worry about pests. If you already compost privately, you know that composting is a spectacular way to turn your table scraps and other biodegradable waste into “black gold” for gardening!

 

Below are some great composting “hacks” you can use to enhance your composting experience:

 

1. Use toilet paper in the kitchen. Have an oily pan? Don’t dump the oil in the trash or down the drain. Instead, keep toilet paper handy in the kitchen. Wipe the pan out with the toilet paper and place the soiled paper in the compost container. Not only do the microorganisms feast on the toilet paper, but they thrive on the oils, too. This trick actually does double duty, because in addition to helping your compost, it reduces the amount of dish soap and water you need to finish cleaning the pan.

 

2. Freeze the stink. If you’re worried about the short-term possibility of foul smells in your kitchen, and you don’t have an indoor compost bin designed to reduce odors, you can actually use your own freezer to store the compost until you dump it in a larger bin. Line a paper bag with a biodegradable sack and place it in the freezer. When you’re ready to dump it, you can put the entire bag and its contents right in the compost bin.

 

3. Compost coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are incredibly rich in nitrogen, which is essential to a healthy compost mix. Put your grounds in the compost bin, but be sure to add other carbon-rich materials such as paper to-go cups.

 

4. Carbon filters are your friend. Inexpensive compost keepers like the Norpro 1 Gallon Ceramic Compost Keeper can be used with charcoal filters which will help eliminate odors if you’re squeamish about using your freezer. (You can check out 10 of the best kitchen compost bins here: http://heavy.com/garden/2015/02/best-small-indoor-kitchen-countertop-compost-bin-pail-bucket-collector/)

 

Get greener with a little compost power!

Posted in Green Living
June 19, 2019

Swap Out Your Lawn for an Ecologically Friendly Alternative

Ever find yourself overwhelmed by maintaining your lawn? Have you worried about the amount of water it takes to keep things green and growing? What if there was a way to transform your lawn to both make it both ecologically-friendly and strikingly different from every house on the block?

 

Xeriscaping (or xerogardening) is the practice of landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for excess water. Taken from the Greek word, “xeros” (meaning dry), xeriscaping was initially designed to provide landscaping options for areas which are particularly sensitive to drought.

 

Given that water is the most precious resource on the planet, perhaps you might you might consider this conservationist’s approach to landscaping your home. In addition to reducing the costs of watering and chemical maintenance, well executed xeriscaping can actually improve the curb appeal and value of your home.

 

Below are a couple of links on the topic of xeriscaping, including the “7 Principles of Xeriscaping”:

 

“Xeriscapes do not have a single look - almost any landscaping style can be achieved. The principles can be applied to all or part of a yard, in any geographic region of North America.”

 

Source: http://eartheasy.com/grow_xeriscape.htm

 

Also, check out these Google Image examples of Xeriscaping:

http://tinyurl.com/23keqet

 

Xeriscaping can be the perfect way to compliment your new “green home.”

Posted in Home Improvements
June 17, 2019

Summer Project: Building a New Fence

Summer is an ideal time to tackle outdoor renovation projects. From driveway paving to sidewalk repair, the fair weather can be an ideal time to not only enjoy the outdoors, but take some time to improve the curb appeal and value of your home.

 

One common outdoor project? A new fence. Whether you’re looking to install a decorative wooden garden fence, a chain link border for your pets, or a substantial privacy fence, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind before you begin:

 

1. A permit may be required for fence construction. These may be issued by your county or your city, depending on where you live.

 

2. The size of fence may dictate need for permit. Some communities do not require permits for smaller fences.

 

3. If your fence shares a border with your neighbor, certain permits may require proof of your neighbor’s consent, plus plans and/or drawings that detail how you’ll go about building your fence.

 

4. Permit fees for fences can range anywhere from $20 to above $100. If you use a company to build your fence, often they will secure the permits for you (but you’ll still be on the hook for the permitting fee).

 

5. You’ll need to know how much concrete to buy for your fencepost footings. One easy way to figure this out is use this handy online concrete calculator:

 

http://www.calculator.net/concrete-calculator.html

 

6. Check YouTube for helpful fence tutorials, such as this handy and professional video produced by Lowe’s:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ24ykIBVOM

 

Best of luck with your summer project!

 

If you’re looking for a home with more land or new fences installed already, give us a shout. We can help you find the ideal property: 570-424-8131 ext:405 

Posted in Home Improvements