Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
March 28, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011--For those living in colder climates and even for those who don't, spring is a much-needed reprieve full of sunshine, chirping birds and fresh flowers. It's also the perfect time to clean up and rid yourself of items that serve no other purpose than cluttering your home. Having a functional and organized home is important to any homeowner, so use the springtime to get your affairs in order and clean, clean, clean! Follow these simple tips to help you through the process:
Windows are a hotspot for dirt to accumulate. A squeegee, a bucket of water and some window cleaner will help you go the distance. Leave no window untouched. Wipe down every window until all streaks are gone and repeat the process if necessary. A dry cloth can also help get every single grain of dirt. Those perfectly clean windows will help the sun shine into your home every day of the season.
Help brighten up your home by changing any old or dingy linens. Use lighter colors and color coordinate them for a brighter appeal. Pale greens, yellows, lavenders and other pastels are good choices for duvets, pillow cases or couch slips. Simple decisions like this will help create the perfect warm atmosphere that your family to enjoy.
Attack the fridge whenever possible. If you've been putting off the task, now's the time. Throw away old containers of food, clean mildew and rid your fridge of bad smells. Take everything out of the fridge and thoroughly wipe down the inside. Remove drawers and shelves and clean those as well, removing any crust or old food that may be stuck. It's important to start a solid cleaning regimen your refrigerator to ensure fresh food and a healthy family.
Rugs, floors and carpets will be one of the easier tasks on your spring cleaning journey. Vacuum all of your floors, and time permitting, use a strong cleaner for an extra bonus. Some vacuum cleaners allow for washing carpets and can be done with the help of a special attachment. Hiring a cleaning service is also an option. Remember, if using stronger solutions, keep windows open to ventilate the house.
Cleaning out closets can be one of the most time-consuming pieces to the puzzle, but is essential for de-cluttering your home. Remove winter items and store them in storage bins under your bed, in the garage or possibly the attic. This alone saves plenty of room and allows for more space for your spring and summer wardrobe. It's also a great time to start a donation box. Clothes you haven't worn in seasons can be donated to The Salvation Army, Goodwill or any charity. It's a good deed that will also help you organize and prioritize.
Junk draws and miscellaneous items add up quickly! Take every "miscellaneous" spot in your home and try halving the items inside. This doesn't only apply to your junk drawers. Try doing this with your closet floor, coffee table, or any spot where clutter tends to creep up in your life.
Spring cleaning can sometimes be a burden, but the feeling you'll get afterwards will be a great one. Split up the work amongst family members and get cracking. Your home will be well-prepared for the seasons to come and you'll be happy you took time.
March 28, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011-Updating a living room or family room doesn't have to mean giving it a complete makeover. A few simple changes can transform a tired room into a fresh space in no time.
Give your windows better treatment
Replace heavy draperies, which can look outdated, with a more contemporary alternative. Faux wood, honeycomb blinds, roman or vertical shades-there are a lot of options to dress up your windows. Many online companies will send you samples so you can see how the different options will look in your particular space.
Lighten things up with sheers. The soft folds of billowy sheers allow more light to come into the room, but still offer some privacy. Sheers in lighter colors also make the room appear larger and serve as a color-coordinated highlight at the same time.
Use mirrors to add visual interest
Instead of hanging a large mirror in a traditional space, such as above a couch or fireplace, modernize by hanging several smaller mirrors. Create a grouping of mirrors with frames that have the same color, but different sizes, shapes and textures.
Hang a large mirror between two windows to give the illusion of having more windows in the room.
Replace an outdated furniture item
Update your coffee table or entertainment center. These larger pieces are often the focal point of the room, so changing them out can put the entire room in a whole new light.
Look for items that are both functional and easy to assemble. For example, Z-Line Designs furniture includes an instructional DVD with each item, so you can easily assemble pieces that are traditionally complicated to put together. Their ready-to-assemble mounts and stands for flat panel TVs can update any room in a flash. For more information, visit www.z-linedesigns.com.
Freshen up accessories
There's no need to re-upholster a sofa or its matching chairs. Swap the current accent pillows out for some new ones. Try a new, complementary color or add a pattern or fun texture to a solid background.
Switch out your centerpieces. Replace a silk flower arrangement for a tray with pillar candles on it. Update the framed photos with new pictures and new frames. Look around the house for a few interesting pieces that can be put to new use-what can you do with a stack of interesting books or a grouping of pretty bowls?
For more information, visit www.realtor.org.
March 28, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011-Existing-home sales fell in February following three straight monthly increases, according to the National Association of REALTORS
Existing-home sales-completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops-dropped 9.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in February from an upwardly revised 5.40 million in January, and are 2.8% below the 5.02 million pace in February 2010.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects an uneven recovery. "Housing affordability conditions have been at record levels and the economy has been improving, but home sales are being constrained by the twin problems of unnecessarily tight credit, and a measurable level of contract cancellations from some appraisals not supporting prices negotiated between buyers and sellers," he says. "This tug and pull is causing a gradual but uneven recovery. Existing-home sales remain 26.4% above the cyclical low last July."
A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 34% of homes in February, up from 29% in January; they were 42% in February 2010.
All-cash sales were a record 33% in February, up from 32% in January; they were 27% in February 2010. Investors accounted for 19% of sales activity in February, down from 23% in January; they were 19% in February 2010. The balance of sales were to repeat buyers.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $156,100 in February, which is 5.2% below February 2010. Distressed homes-sold at discount-accounted for a 39% market share in February, up from 37% in January and 35% in February 2010. "The decline in price corresponds to the record level of all-cash purchases where buyers-largely investors-are snapping up homes at bargain prices," explains Yun. "We'd be seeing greater numbers of traditional home buyers if mortgage credit conditions return to normal."
NAR President Ron Phipps, says buyers should look into loan availability as soon as they decide they want to buy. "Despite very affordable mortgage interest rates, credit remains a challenge-buyers should check their personal credit, and mortgage availability in their area," says Phipps.
are an excellent resource to learn about all of the marketplace factors, but in this tight credit environment it's important to learn up-front what a lender might be willing to offer as well as specific programs that might be available in your location," Phipps explains.
Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 3.5% to 3.49 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.6-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 7.5-month supply in January.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.95% in February from 4.76% in January; the rate was 4.99% in February 2010.
Single-family home sales fell 9.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.25 million in February from 4.70 million in January, and are 2.7% below the 4.37 million pace in February 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $157,000 in February, which is 4.2% below a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 10.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 in February from 700,000 in January, and are 3.1% lower than the 650,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo price was $150,400 in February, down 11.1% from February 2010.
March 25, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 25, 2011--Nearly two-thirds (64%) of homeowners say they will invest in renovation projects this year. While the number of people planning to make home improvements is similar to 2010 (62%), the amount they are planning to spend is significantly less - dropping from an average of $6,200 in 2010 to $3,400 in 2011. Even though homeowners' confidence in the real estate market has increased compared to last year, less than half (43%) believe they would get the asking price for their home if it was on the market today.
Spending Green to Make Green
Nearly one-third (32%) of homeowners with home improvement plans said they'll be looking to invest in green improvements this year. Many are choosing to spend on energy saving measures because of the long-term, cost-saving benefits (31%). Energy efficient windows and doors (16%) top homeowner's lists, followed by: insulation (12%), roofing (11%) and heating/ventilation/cooling systems (10%).
"This year, consumers are spending smart and looking for ways to save when it comes to home renovation," says Pamela Codispoti, executive vice president and general manager of Consumer Card Services, American Express. "Our survey revealed that consumers are investing in green improvements to increase their savings over time and choosing to handle renovation projects on their own to save now. Many also plan to use their tax refunds to pay for improvements."
I'll Do It Myself, Thank You
More than three in five homeowners (64%) with home improvement plans say they'll take on at least some of the work themselves, 20% will hire a contractor to do all of the work, and 11% will ask a family member to do the work. Among those who plan to do some or all of the work themselves, 30% will be taking a "friends and family" approach to getting the work done. Twenty-one percent plan to split the work load by hiring a contractor for specialized projects. Thirteen percent plan to go it alone.
Bathroom Makeovers Top the List for Room Redos
Indoor renovations outrank outdoor remodeling projects 55% to 29% respectively. Cosmetic work, such as painting, and redoing rooms were the most popular indoor projects, with bathrooms holding on to the top spot again this year for the most popular room remodel. Those who set their sights on outdoor projects are most interested in refreshing their landscaping (22%), followed by building or redoing a deck or patio (9%).
Source: American Express Spending & Saving Tracker
March 25, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 25, 2011-Mortgage rates posted a sharp decline, with the benchmark conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate falling to 4.91%, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.38 discount and origination points.
The average 15-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.12%, and the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate retreated to 5.46%. Adjustable rate mortgages were mostly lower also, with the average 5-year ARM sinking to 3.74% and the 7-year ARM pulling back to 4.10%.
Mortgage rates fell sharply, pulling back below the 5% mark for the first time in nearly two months. While mortgage rates had been lower in three of the past four weeks owing to concerns about Middle East tensions and the potentially negative economic consequences of higher oil prices, it was the unfolding tragedy in Japan that produced this week's movement. Concerns among investors about a potential nuclear meltdown and worries about slower global growth stemming from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, had investors piling into safe haven U.S. Treasuries, helping to drive mortgage rates lower. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.
The last time mortgage rates were above 6% was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33%, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 4.91%, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,062.67, a difference of $179 per month for anyone refinancing now.
30-year fixed: 4.91% - down from 5.04% last week (avg. points: 0.38)
15-year fixed: 4.12% - down from 4.32% last week (avg. points: 0.38)
5/1 ARM: 3.74% - down from 3.88% last week (avg. points: 0.39)
Bankrate's national weekly mortgage survey is conducted each Wednesday from data provided by the top 10 banks and thrifts in the top 10 markets.
To see mortgage rates in your area, go to http://www.bankrate.com/funnel/mortgages/.
March 25, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 25, 2011-U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that 17 communities will be the first recipients of Planning Grant funding through the Department's new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. These communities will share a total of $4 million in Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants while six other communities are selected as finalists to compete for approximately $61 million in Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grants.
HUD's new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CN) will promote a comprehensive approach to transforming distressed areas of concentrated poverty into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods. Building on the successes of HUD's HOPE VI Program, Choice Neighborhoods will link housing improvements with a wider variety of public services including schools, public transit and employment opportunities.
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is a centerpiece of the Obama Administration's interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative-a collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Justice, Treasury and Health and Human Services to support the ability of local leaders from the public and private sectors and attract the private investment needed to transform distressed neighborhoods into sustainable, mixed-income neighborhoods with the affordable housing, safe streets and good schools every family needs.
HUD received 119 submissions for CN Planning Grants and 42 submissions from communities seeking CN Implementation Grants. Successful Planning Grant applicants demonstrated their intent to transform neighborhoods by revitalizing severely distressed public and/or assisted housing while leveraging investments to create high-quality public schools, outstanding education and early learning programs, public assets, public transportation and improved access to jobs and well-functioning services. HUD focused on directing resources to address three core goals-housing, people and neighborhoods.
The 17 communities awarded CN Planning Grants will use the funding to build the capacity they need to get them ready to undertake a successful neighborhood transformation to create a choice neighborhood. These grants will enable these communities to create a comprehensive "Transformation Plan," or road map, to transforming distressed public and/or assisted housing within a distressed community. This Federal support provides a significant incentive for the local community to take critical steps to create viable neighborhood transformation.
The six finalists for CN Implementation Grants have already undertaken the comprehensive local planning process and are ready to move forward with their Transformation Plan to redevelop their target neighborhoods. HUD will publish a second Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) shortly to give these finalists the opportunity to assemble and submit a more detailed application for the approximately $61 million in available funding. HUD will award these grants by the end of September.
Congress approved the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative with the passage of HUD's FY 2010 budget, allowing HUD to use $65 million in funding to provide competitive grants to assist in the transformation, rehabilitation and preservation of public housing and privately owned HUD-assisted housing. CN builds on the successes and lessons of HUD's HOPE VI program and widened the traditional pool of eligible applicants by allowing, in addition to public housing authorities, local governments, nonprofit organizations and for-profit developers (who apply jointly with a public entity) to apply.
For more information, visit www.hud.gov.
March 24, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011--Although temperatures remain chilly in some parts of the country, many homeowners are ready to get a jump-start on the spring season. With a little bit of planning and rearranging, you can help bring the outdoors into any sun room, porch or patio without breaking your budget. After all, who isn't ready for warmer weather? Try the following in order to brighten up your home after a cold and dreary winter:
Washing the windows and changing the curtains can give you more of an effect than you'd think. With clearer windows, you can see more while allowing more sun shine through. Use airy, sheer curtains with natural fabric. These choices will help the curtains filter the light, providing a nice indoor/outdoor balance. If you'd like, purchase floor-to-ceiling curtains to elongate the perception of the wall and window.
Use similar styles both outdoors and in. For homeowners who have a nice view of their porch from the inside, setting up a nice outdoor area will make the home feel more open. Tables, chairs and bright potted plants will provide a casual, yet uplifting appeal both inside and out. Start doing this in all of the entryways to the home. You can also create synergy by using indoor/outdoor materials in both locations. On a nice spring day, the two spaces will feel even larger with the front door open.
Putting fresh flowers everywhere gives every room an outdoorsy feel. Flowers and potted plants inside will do the trick, but if you are prone to traveling, choose something rather low maintenance. For outside porches or decks, window boxes are a great idea. Place them eye level across from the window so they are visible from the inside. Be sure to accessorize with colors and find a color scheme that works for your home.
Outdoor lighting will extend the use of your outside living spaces. Lamps, tiki torches, or even string lights that can be wrapped around trees or draped across surfaces will all create an environment that will add comfort and pleasure to your outdoor areas.
The key to a successful blend is to treat the inside of your home like the outside and vice versa. Doing so will create an open, bright and comfortable spring and summer habitat for you and your family.
March 24, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011--If your home was built before 1978 and you still have the original windows, it's time to seriously consider replacing them--especially if you have young children or a pregnant person living at home. During National Poison Prevention Week--March 20-26--homeowners are urged to evaluate their windows and make healthy living changes.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the routine opening and closing of windows in homes built prior to 1978 can disturb lead-based paint around the windows, causing paint dust and chips to be released into the air. These lead particles are so potentially dangerous that the EPA now requires contractors to be trained and certified before they can perform any renovation, repair or painting projects that may have previously applied lead-based paint.
"Research indicates that the everyday activity of opening and closing windows creates friction that then allows invisible lead dust to enter the air," says Rick Nevin, a consultant to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH). "Young children, who crawl on the floor where the lead dust has settled, can be especially at risk. Toddlers put their hands in their mouths and after playing on the floor near a window, they can easily transfer the lead dust into their mouths. The ingested lead travels through the bloodstream to a child's developing brain, causing many types of neurobehavioral damage."
According to Nevin, one of the most important long-term investments a homeowner can make for the overall safety of a family is to replace older windows, using the EPA-approved lead safe renovation guidelines. "Replacing older windows is one of the best ways to reduce lead risks," says Nevin. "Make sure to use only a contractor that is certified in lead-safe work practices and strongly consider the use of Energy Star
qualified windows, like vinyl replacement windows. These windows are a healthy choice for replacing older single-pane units. They're energy-efficient and a good value for the investment."
"We advocate that replacing older windows coated with lead-based paint with vinyl windows is a sensible step for homeowners who want to create a healthier home environment," says Gary Pember, representative of Simonton Windows. "We believe Rick's research substantiates the replacement of all windows coated with lead-based paint as a way to dramatically help reduce lead dust within that home."
Nevin explains that, according to his research funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), homeowners need to understand there are four key steps to completing a "lead-safe window replacement strategy" for the home. "First, they advise replacing all single-pane windows with Energy Star qualified windows," says Nevin. "Second, stabilize any significantly deteriorated paint. Third, perform specialized cleaning to remove any lead-contaminated dust. And finally, perform dust wipe tests to confirm the absence of lead dust hazards after the clean up."
Research results can be obtained at www.ricknevin.com/windows. For further information, visit www.simonton.com.
March 24, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 24, 2011-Generation X-young families and adults ages 31 to 45-are likely to lead the home-buying recovery as it gets underway, according to real estate experts who spoke at an educational webinar produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in partnership with Builder magazine.
These potential home buyers are most likely to think it's a good time to get off the fence-and have strong opinions about the design features their new homes will include.
At 32% of the population of home-buying age-generally defined as those who are at least 30 years old, the Gen X population cohort isn't the largest, but it's the most mobile, said presenter Mollie Carmichael, principal of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. "They are in full force with their careers and they need to accommodate growing families," she said.
In sharp contrast, even though they constitute 41% of prospective home buyers, Baby Boomers continue to wait for the market to improve, and their decisions to delay retirement also delay their decisions to downsize into a smaller home, Carmichael said.
Most of the 10,000 buyers and potential buyers in 27 metro areas that the consulting company surveyed were optimistic about a new home purchase, with between 85% and 89% saying that it was a good time to buy a home. Only 13% said they thought home prices would continue to fall, further evidence that it's "not all about price," she said. "They want something compelling, from a design or personalization standpoint," said Carmichael.
In addition, though the average home size is shrinking, a majority of prospective buyers said they would like a bigger home than the one they have. "These are first-time buyers or younger families looking for more room to grow," she said.
Seventy percent said that they were willing to pay $5,000 more for a green home, but those responding to the survey said that they expected new homes to already have many green technology features. They also said they would pay a premium for dark wood cabinets, a separate tub and shower and a fireplace in the living room, and more preferred a great room over formal spaces.
And while community amenities are important to Gen X buyers, 46% said they prefer a home in a large-lot, suburban development, versus the 21% looking for a traditional or "walkable" neighborhood.
Webinar panelist Heather McCune, director of marketing at Bassenian/Lagoni Architects in Newport Beach, Calif., also emphasized that design will be important in generating sales in the emerging marketplace. "The notion of 'build it and they will come' no longer works. Design matters," she said.
McCune said buyers are looking for homes with a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, even in colder climates, to create the perception of greater home size, even if the space is only usable for part of the year. They also want more storage, an open floor plan and flexibility in the garage.
"While Gen X numbers are smaller than the birth cohorts before and after them, their numbers have been enlarged by steady immigration," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "Gen X may wait longer than their predecessors to establish their own household or buy a home because of the recent recession impacts, but the trends are still likely to occur as they have for past generations."
For more information, visit www.nahb.org.
March 23, 2011 1:31 pm
RISMEDIA, March 23, 2011-Passively waiting for the right time to buy can cost you thousands of dollars and the home of your dreams. Attempting to time the market is one sure-fire way to miss the boat on your perfect house and/or the right investment opportunity that comes along the way.
What are savvy real estate buyers doing now to uncover real estate opportunities?
Simply put, they are active. While they may not necessarily be buying, they are actively researching listings, viewing homes, staying up-to-date on market indicators and undertaking other proactive efforts to increase their chances of making the best purchase decision-whether that be today, tomorrow or later this year.
Robert Jensen, a real estate professional from Las Vegas, NV, suggests the following steps to ensure a successful real estate transaction in any sort of market:
1. Ensure Your Goals Are Realistic. Be sure you are clear on what you want to buy, and why.
Is it an investment property, a dream home or somewhere in between?
As your criteria for that perfect home increases, you may have to pay a little more to have your standards met.
Be prepared to weigh possible cost savings versus quality of life benefits.
If an investment property, ensure you have cash flow in mind with an acceptable return on investment planned before you buy.
Know the Properties. No matter the market conditions, continue to search for the right property and view listings in person.
Even if you are not ready to buy today, this will help you learn the market and the property available in your price range. When the right opportunity comes along and the timing works, you'll be best prepared to make an educated rather than emotional decision.
Know Your Financing Options. Many buyers want to find the "perfect" home before having their credit pulled, which can backfire when an offer is on the table and time is of the essence.
It's wise to get pre-approved for a loan even before you view your first home, and to get a pre-approval letter in hand. Once approved, check in with your lender every few weeks to see how your rate and program are doing.
Know the Market at All Times. Have a detailed talk with your agent about the current state of the market at the onset of the relationship, and at regular intervals thereafter. Also discuss what can be foreseen up ahead. Your REALTOR
will have his or her finger on the pulse of the changing landscape and, thus, is an invaluable resource. On your own, locate information sources outside of mass media.
Real estate markets follow basic fundamentals in the same way stocks do, offering infinite analysis possibilities.
Have a Purchase Game Plan. While it's certainly prudent to wait until you're comfortable executing a property purchase, it's imperative to know, in specific terms, exactly what economic indicators are impacting your decision and why. This will help it become crystal clear when it's time to make your move, and you can then do so with confidence.
Understand the Timeline. While great deals are certainly abundant in today's market, nobody said it would be easy to land one for yourself. Particularly on short sales and foreclosures, be prepared for bidding wars, bank delays and other challenges. Learn in advance the average timeline involved with each type of transaction based on prior 30 to 60-day statistics, so that you may strategically plan your efforts.