Local and National Real Estate News from your Doylestown PA Agent - Kim Bartells

Increasing results, not days on market!

Moving? Here's Your Checklist!

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, getting ready takes lots of pre-planning. From Real Simple magazine, a moving checklist:

Two Months Before

• Sort and Purge
– Go through every room in your home and decide what you will take and what you will get rid of. Plan a garage sale and/or gather up your charitable donations now.

• Get Estimates – Get a few onsite moving estimates—not over the phone—in writing. Keep all estimates, receipts and notes in a binder.

• Transfer School Records – Arrange for all school records to be transferred to the new school district.

Six Weeks Before

• Gather Supplies
– Start stockpiling moving boxes, tape and markers.

• Pare Down – Begin using up stuff you don’t want to move, like frozen foods and cleaning supplies.

One Month Before

• Choose a Mover – Get written confirmation of the date, costs and details.

• Start Packing – Begin with things you use least often, like extra dishes, out-of-season clothing and recreational items. Label boxes in terms of content, and where in the new house they should go.

• Separate What You Will Carry – Stow away any valuables, like jewelry or important papers, that you will be transporting yourself in a safe box.

• Change Your Address – Do it online or at your local post office. Alert your bank, credit card issuer, utility company and any magazine providers to the change. Ask a neighbor to check your mailbox for a few weeks after your move.

• Forward Medical Records – Arrange to have them sent to your new medical provider.

Two Weeks Before

• Withdraw Your Safety Deposit Box
– Store valuables in your safe box at home.

• Confirm Moving Arrangements – Call the moving company to confirm the date and time.

One Week Before

• Refill Prescriptions
– Be sure you have enough for several weeks.

• Get Serious about Packing – Pack suitcases for each family member with enough to wear for a few days.

Two Days Before

• Defrost the Fridge/Freezer – Give away any perishables.

Moving Day

• Sign Mover Inventory List – Keep a copy for your records.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners Insurance Costs Creeping Up? Here's Why

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Most homeowners don't consider themselves magicians, but we know you have to keep a number of plates spinning to ensure all the demands of your home are met. One of the most important is maintaining the appropriate amount of homeowners insurance coverage.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) recently released their latest Homeowners Insurance Report, providing data on market distribution and average cost by policy form and amount of insurance. John M. Huff, president of the NAIC, says the report is the largest insurance repository of data and analysis, with an abundance of resources to help homeowners and renters make informed decisions.

National- and state-specific premium and exposure information for homeowners insurance policies and non-commercial dwelling fire insurance is included in the report. It also contains data descriptions and a discussion about the way certain economic, demographic and natural phenomena impact the cost of homeowners insurance.

If you’re looking to understand exactly why you’re paying the amount you are for homeowners or other types of insurance protection, drill into the report’s tables, which show your state and countrywide exposures by policy type, individual policy form and insurance coverage amount.

According to the report—validating why we frequently report on this particular natural hazard—Superstorm Sandy represented seven of the top 10 most costly occurrences from an insurance perspective since data collection began. A 2011 Alabama tornado, the Northridge, Calif., earthquake and 9/11 rounded out the list.

Learn how the insurance industry calculates the cost of policies by visiting www.naic.org/documents/prod_serv_statistical_hmr_zu.pdf.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Energy-Efficient Home Upgrades

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Did you know that the energy used by homes in the U.S. accounts for almost one-quarter of the country’s overall energy consumption? Or that the average household spends upwards of $2,200 a month on utilities?

Improving your home’s energy efficiency can be accomplished in several ways, ranging from inexpensive upgrades to out-of-bounds costly overhauls.

“From whole-home energy audits to simply swapping out a water-guzzling toilet, there are dozens of ways homeowners can make their homes more energy-efficient,” says Mike Agugliaro, co-owner of New Jersey-based Gold Medal Service. “Even a few small changes can have a big impact on energy consumption, helping the Earth and helping to lower energy bills at the same time.”

Agugliaro recommends homeowners start with these five upgrades:

1. Ceiling Fans – Installing ceiling fans in your home is a low-cost way to reduce energy consumption. On hot days, ceiling fans can cut cooling costs by up to 40 percent, and on colder days, they help circulate air, saving you up to 10 percent on heating costs.

2. LED Lights – Swap out incandescent light bulbs for ENERGY STAR®-qualified LED lights—you'll consume a whopping 75 percent less energy! LED lights also last up to 50 times longer than incandescent ones, and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones, saving you the expense of replacement.

3. Smart Thermostat – Programmable thermostats can instantly make your heating and cooling system more efficient. The latest models allow you to set temperatures for different times of day, so you aren't paying to heat or cool your home when no one is there.

4. Tankless Water Heater – Tankless water heaters—sometimes called “on-demand”—heat water as needed. ENERGY STAR® tankless water heaters can reduce your annual water costs by up to 30 percent. They last nearly 20 years—double the lifespan of a traditional hot water heater.

5. Whole-Home Energy System – The average home is hit with over 20 energy spikes each day. These can wreak havoc on your energy bills. Prevent them from occurring with a home energy management system with surge protection.

For those who want a hand improving the energy efficiency of their homes, an HVAC, plumbing and electrical professional can assess current energy usage and recommend ways to make the home more efficient.

Source: Gold Medal Service

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Earth Day: 10 Housing Facts

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Earth Day began 46 years ago as a means to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. Housing plays an important role in this mission, because many of our boots-on-the-ground green efforts happen in the home.

In honor of Earth Day, we’ve compiled these housing facts, relating to the environment and energy, from the Census Bureau. Enjoy!

1. 620,000 single-family homes were built in 2014.

2. The median size of the single-family homes built was 2,453 square feet.

3. 282,000 single-family homes built in 2014 had 4 or more bedrooms.

4. 64,000 single-family homes built in 2014 had 2 or fewer bedrooms.

5. Ninety-one percent of single-family homes built in 2014 had air conditioning.

6. The average sale price of a new single-family home sold in 2014 was $345,800.

7. 11,000 multifamily buildings were constructed in 2014.

8. 56,800,000—or 48.8 percent of—occupied housing units were primarily heated by utility gas in 2014.

9. 2,500,000—or 2.1 percent of—occupied housing units were primarily heated by wood in 2014.

10. 59,558—or less than 1 percent of—occupied housing units were primarily heated by solar energy in 2014.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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Report: Saving Money…and It Feels So Good

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

More of us are padding our coffers—and boy, do we feel good about it!

A recent report by Bankrate.com shows that Americans’ feelings of financial security have reached a high, thanks to rising net worth, job security and “comfortable” debt levels. Nearly 30 percent of Americans included in the report have a higher net worth now than they did a year ago.

Millennials are saving more money than any other age group: over 5 percent of their incomes, according to the report. Some are even saving more than 10 percent.

Still, all age groups are setting aside more than they did last year, with 1 in 6 working Americans saving 15 percent of their incomes, and just 21 percent saving 5 percent or less of their incomes.

“The good news is that many working Americans, millennials in particular, are saving, and saving more than last year,” says Greg McBridge, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “The bad news is that 21 percent of employed Americans claim not to be saving any of their paycheck—nothing for retirement, nothing for emergencies, and nothing for other financial goals.”

In the report, higher savings rates predictably skewed toward higher incomes—but nearly 30 percent of lower-income savers (earning between $30,000 and $50,000 each year) are socking away more than 10 percent of their incomes, besting the 24 percent of $50,000-$75,000 households doing the same.

Source: Bankrate.com

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Headed to an Open House? Mind These Tips!

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

In a previous segment, “Sellers: Remember These Tips for a Safe Showing,” we provided sellers guidance for the real estate listing process. In this segment, we're offering critical advice from a few sources to buyers touring potential new homes.

Frugalwoods.com, a blog by a Boston couple who’ve visited over 270 open houses (and counting!) recommends this tip:

• Take a listing sheet containing photos of the house, specs and the asking price—and read through it. Ask the listing agent any clarifying questions and take notes.

StyleAtHome.com suggests these tips:

• Overlook elaborate staging. During open houses, interiors (and exteriors) could be dressed to the nines. Try to inspect the home as it really is.

• Examine the parking situation, and be on the look-out for broken appliances.

The experts for the Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate (CAARE) organization advise the following:

• Work with a buyer’s agent, if possible. He or she will have your best interests in mind when visiting an open house.

Most importantly, avoid visiting an open house without your real estate agent—doing so could be detrimental to your home search. Keep in mind the listing agent will likely focus on visitors who show up with an agent in tow!

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Renovating? The Type of Project Matters

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Homeowners undertaking a renovation may either reap rewards come resale, or regrettably find themselves in the red. The latter, says Scott Robinson, president of the Appraisal Institute, is more likely—somewhat.

“Home improvement projects are not necessarily investments in which a homeowner should expect a dollar-for-dollar return,” explains Robinson, who oversees the nation’s largest association of real estate appraisers. “Rather, these projects can increase the likelihood of a sale, or that a property will be comparable to other properties in a neighborhood.”

Robinson advises renovators to consider if the improvement is in keeping within what’s standard in the community.

“Projects that take a home significantly beyond community norms are often not worth the cost when the owner sells the home,” Robinson says. “If the improvements don’t match what’s standard in a community, they’ll be considered excessive.”

Robinson notes renovators may find it best to hold off on large-scale projects if they’re unsure of how long they’ll be in their home. Generally, the longer a homeowner stays in a home, the greater the opportunity for a return on investment.

A real estate appraiser can conduct a feasibility study, which offers an unbiased analysis of what the home would be worth before and after a project. During the study, the appraiser will analyze the property, weigh the cost of rehabilitation, and provide an estimate of the property’s value before and after the improvement.

Currently, the projects with the highest expected return on investment (ROI) are attic insulation, manufactured stone veneer and a garage door replacement, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. Other projects with potential payoffs are an entry door replacement and a minor kitchen remodel.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Help Your Child Be a Better Student

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Children who do well in school are better equipped to succeed as adults, no matter what life path they choose. What can you, as a parent, do to help your child become a better student?

The education editors at WAHM.com, a parenting website for work-at-home mothers, suggest five easy—but effective—ways to help you help your child improve:

1. Be a Role Model for Learning – Do you read in your spare time? Watch documentaries on TV? Like to visit museums? Children are observant and tend to follow your lead. Behaving as the life-long learner you are sets a good example for your child.

2. Be Serious About Homework – Establish a homework routine that works for your family, setting aside regular hours after school or after dinner—and stick to them. Homework should be done in a quiet spot, away from distractions, if possible. Encourage independence, but be available whenever possible to answer questions, check work when it’s done, or discuss a special project or assignment.

3. Practice Healthy Habits – As basic as it sounds, practicing healthy lifestyle habits does prepare kids to do their best work. Be sure your child gets enough sleep every night, chooses a variety of healthy foods, and eats a good breakfast every morning.

4. Show Your Support – Don’t necessarily insist on A’s, but do insist on the child’s best efforts. Notice and applaud improvements and express your admiration for good work. Sending caring notes in your child’s lunch box or backpack, or otherwise rewarding achievements in a small way, can help provide positive reinforcement.

5. Volunteer at School – You can show your child you value education by volunteering at school. If work hours keep you from volunteering during classroom hours, be sure to attend evening or weekend school events and volunteer to help as needed. 

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Converting the Attic? 3 Pointers

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Attics are a long-standing feature in American homes, their use evolving as homeowner demands shift. Serving initially as storage space, many attics have become “bonus” rooms, housing everything from home offices to master suites.

Considering converting your attic into a new, useable space? Keep these pointers in mind:

• Many attics have no source of natural lighting. If you want to take full advantage of the space, consider installing roof windows or skylights. New makes with energy-efficient features may be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

• More families are housing multiple generations under the same roof. As such, an additional bedroom or bathroom in the attic may be a wise investment come resale. A master suite addition recoups approximately 65 percent of its cost, and a bathroom addition returns about 55 percent, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. 

• Consider converting the attic into a space you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the average home, such as a craft corner, a home gym, a game room or a movie theater. Relegating these spaces to the attic frees up square footage on the main levels of the home. 

Have you converted the attic in your home? What do you use the space for now?

Source: Brandpoint

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Booming Markets: 10 Towns Striking It Rich

April 26, 2016 12:28 am

Many markets are emerging as gold mines for growth, thanks to new homes, new residents and promising employment opportunities.

“The strength of the residential real estate market is closely correlated to growth in jobs and households," explains Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®, which recently ranked the “boom towns” striking it rich. “The good news for these markets is that these growth factors have already started to translate into new construction. At the same time, it may be a year or so before some markets on our list start to see an increase in inventory. If anything, this is a road map for where builders should be thinking about where to break ground next.”

The top 10 markets, according to realtor.com®, are:

1. Gilbert, Ariz. (ZIP Code 85297)

• Largest Neighborhood: Power Ranch

2. Los Angeles, Calif. (ZIP Code 90012)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Cultural, Elysian Park, Historic, Mission Junction

3. Dallas, Texas (ZIP Code 75201)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Arts District, Downtown, Farmers Market, Uptown

4. Miami, Fla. (ZIP Code 33132)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Downtown, Midtown, Seaport

5. Las Vegas, Nev. (ZIP Code 89179)

• Largest Neighborhood: Mountain’s Edge

6. Seattle, Wash. (ZIP Code 98121)

• Largest Neighborhood: Belltown

7. Rolesville, N.C. (ZIP Code 27571)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Carlton Point, Cedar Lakes, Rolesville

8. Brooklyn, N.Y. (ZIP Code 11249)

• Largest Neighborhood: Williamsburg

9. Chicago, Ill. (ZIP Code 60603)

• Largest Neighborhoods: Downtown Chicago, The Loop

10. Atlanta, Ga. (ZIP Code 30363)

• Largest Neighborhood: Atlantic Station

Source: realtor.com®

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