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Tom's Blog

Tips to Ready Homes for a Swift Spring or Summer Sale

April 8, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 8, 2011-- Spring is traditionally the hottest season for home sales as families look to move between school terms, people have received their tax refunds, and the warmer weather makes moving easier. Sales tend to peak in April staying strong through June and July with over half of America's moves taking place in the summer. An uptrend in existing-home sales has continued as January 2011 sales increased 2.7% over last year and are forecast to keep rising throughout the summer, according to the National Association of REALTORS .

"Fierce competition exists even in a warming housing market due to an unusually large inventory of available homes," says Jeff Kaliner, co-founder and chief executive officer of a Pennsylvania-based remodeling group. "Homeowners must distinguish their homes from their competition and cater to a new crop of buyers looking for more energy efficient properties in order to make a sale."

It's a good idea to list a home early in the spring season. Here are a few tips to help you ready your home for a swift sale:

  • Curb Appeal is Key: One of the quickest ways to draw buyers to a home is to increase its curb appeal. Simple fixes like updating a home's front door or siding can drastically impact its value. Also, choose neutral, modern colors that will appeal to a wide range of buyers when changing your home's facade. Popular color palettes include yellow siding with brown shutters, slate blue with black shutters or white siding with a red door. These combinations are classic yet modern and will highlight your home without distracting potential buyers.
  • Maximize Interior Appeal: The easiest way to enhance your home's interior is to be sure that it is thoroughly cleaned and clutter free. Begin storing personal items to remove your personality from the home allowing potential buyers to envision themselves living there. Also, tackle items that have been on your 'to do' list like repainting dingy walls, removing wallpaper, repairing cracks and fixing dripping faucets and shower heads. Staging a home with new bedding, showy towels or a neutral coat of paint can make a huge difference in landing a sale.
  • Buyers Are Looking for "Green:" Increasing a home's energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective improvement options available to homeowners looking to sell. Updating insulation is a great 'whole house' approach to reducing energy waste, making the property more attractive to potential buyers. Energy efficient windows can reduce heat flow in the winter and solar radiation in the summer while protecting a home buyer's investment in carpet and furniture from fading due to sun exposure. Other simple greening tips include updating light fixtures with CFL bulbs, installing weather stripping around drafty doors and installing low-flow showerheads. Don't have the money to green your home before putting it on the market? Playing up your home's green potential can also help seal a sale. For example, if your house faces south or west it could be a great candidate for future solar panels.

For more information on identifying improvement areas and developing effective solutions, visit www.PowerHRG.com.

Tags: News

First-Time Home Buyers Prepare for Best Buyer's Market in Recent History

April 8, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 8, 2011-- While affordable housing prices, ample inventories, and historically low interest rates signal "buyer's market" for investors or move-up buyers in many U.S. markets, inexperienced first-time buyers may not know if the time is right to make a move into real estate.

"It's not about timing the market. It's about time in the market," says Steve Berkowitz, chief executive officer at Move, Inc. "Once you know how long you expect to own a home, look at the historical value performance of properties in the neighborhood. Be confident about your own job security, down payment resources and tolerance for upkeep, as well as the lifestyle you want today and in the near term. While homeownership may not be for everyone, it is the right choice for hundreds of thousands of people. Today's housing market, especially for first-time buyers, makes it almost impossible not to think about the possibilities."

To help first-time buyers know if the time is right for them, here is a "reality checklist" designed to help them decide if the time is right:

Get Your Financial House in Order

Before you decide to buy a home, it's essential to make sure your credit is in good shape and repair any damage previously done. Know your credit score: 35% of successful buyers recently reported they didn't know their credit score when they went house shopping, according to a national survey fielded for MortgageMatch.com. Having enough money set aside for a down payment is a key component to making sure you are ready to purchase a home. Also, it's important to not put all of your money in the down payment as other fees or unexpected expenses often arise after closing.

Don't Fall in Love with a House You Can't Buy

Find out how much you can afford. Establishing your purchase power upfront, including how much money will be required for a down payment and closing costs, is a must for first-time buyers. Look for special loans available from FHA and government sponsored loans for first-time home buyers that reduce the amount of money required to get into a home.

Learn the Lingo

Since first-time buyers are new to the market and will finance a significant portion of their purchase, it's important to get familiar with the processes and terminology associated with home buying. Here are a few key terms to add to your vocabulary:

  • Bait Rate: Misleading mortgages with low rate promises and no contingencies generally for those with extraordinary credit. Rates are based on: credit, debt-to-income and loan-to-value ratios, the size and type of loan, property location, and the day you lock your rate, etc. The loan isn't locked until the application is accepted. By then, it may be too late to find a better rate from another lender.
  • Basis Point: A term used in the mortgage industry which simply means 1/100th of 1 percent.
  • Closing Costs: The fees required to process and close your loan. They're a cash obligation running from three to five percent of the purchase price. Motivated sellers might pay a portion of these costs.
  • FHA: Federal Housing Administration, the Federal Government Agency that oversees the US Housing market. FHA Loans are loans insured by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
  • FRM and ARM: A Fixed Rate Mortgage Loan (FRM) is a loan where your interest rate stays the same for the life of the loan. ARMs are Adjustable Rate Mortgages with variable interest rates that fluctuate based on an agreed-upon index.
  • GFE: The Good Faith Estimate (GFE) is a document explaining all costs involved in getting a loan.
  • TIL: The Federal Truth-in-Lending Form is a document that spells out the costs and fees of the loan.
  • Lis Pendens: An official notice that there is a pending lawsuit over real estate.
  • Per Diem Interest: Interest you pay per day, from the day you close to the last day of the month.
  • Underwriting and Underwriting Fees: Underwriting is a process the lender performs to qualify a borrower for a loan and the fee is what you pay the lender at closing to cover evaluating the risk involved with loaning you money.
  • Warranty Deed: A legal document guaranteeing the seller has a right to sell a property, which is very important if you are considering a distressed or discounted property.

Mortgage Mumbo Jumbo Translated Into Knowledge and Power

While national rates on 30-year-fixed-rates mortgages have risen slightly this year, they are still at historic lows not seen since 1980, according to Freddie Mac.

"Buyers who prepare themselves financially before they start looking for a home will have a better chance of succeeding," says Sue Stewart, senior vice president for Move, Inc. "If you want to land the best mortgage that fits your needs, start early, educate yourself on your financial situation, get your documentation together and find a lender you trust."

If Now Isn't the Right Time, Prepare for Your Future Purchase

If now isn't the right time to buy a home, make a plan with a target date for when you expect to be ready. Improving your credit, paying down debt, stabilizing your work history, and calculating exactly how much you can afford, are the best ways to prepare for your future home purchase. It's also important to refrain from making any new large purchases or applying for new credit.

Tags: News

Americans Still Believe Deeply in Homeownership as an Integral Part of the American Dream, According to New Poll

April 8, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 8, 2011--Americans still have a deep attachment to homeownership, according to new poll results announced by The Allstate Corporation and National Journal. Furthermore, they consider homeownership an integral part of an American Dream in which they still believe.

The eighth quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll revealed that nearly nine out of 10 homeowners say they would buy their homes again. That percentage held true even among homeowners who said their home values had declined. Seven of 10 Americans say they would advise a friend or family member to buy a home as a long-term asset. However, while homeownership is perceived as a good personal decision, there is much greater uncertainty about whether expanding homeownership should be a government priority.

Although only 35% of respondents expect their personal financial situations to improve over the next year, three-fourths of those surveyed said it is still possible for people like them to achieve the American Dream, which the poll defined as the ability to advance as far as their talents will take them and live better than their parents did. A total of 59% said they currently are living the American Dream. Respondents identified owning your own home as one of the most critical parts of the American Dream, second only to raising a family.

"Owning a home continues to be the bedrock of the American Dream even as incomes are down, jobs are scarce and families struggle to make ends meet," said Thomas J. Wilson, Allstate chairman, president and chief executive officer. "Homeownership is viewed positively by the vast majority of Americans as both a place to raise a family and a sound investment. As a result, financial institutions and the government must work together to ensure that those who can afford their homes stay in them and this opportunity remains a viable alternative for all Americans."

Despite their positive statements about owning a home, only 42% of those polled said that government's push to expand homeownership created more stable communities, while 51% said these policies made communities less stable because it "encouraged people to take on too much debt" and led to foreclosures. Those surveyed split exactly in half-46% on each side-on the broad question of whether Washington should continue or scale back its efforts to promote homeownership through policies such as tax incentives for first-time buyers and the mortgage interest deduction.

"Homeownership retains a powerful, almost tidal, grip on the American imagination," said Ronald Brownstein, editorial director of National Journal Group. "Even the economic experiences of the last several years don't seem to have dimmed the yearning for ownership. But we do see that the public is much more ambivalent about whether the nation's focus on expanding homeownership is a good thing for the country overall, with even the traditionally sacred cow of the mortgage tax deduction raising questions."

A surprising 43% of survey respondents explicitly favored eliminating or limiting the tax break for mortgage interest. However, one reason may be that few Americans understand how they benefit from Washington's role in homeownership. Three-fourths of homeowners said they have not benefited from any federal program to promote ownership, even though 71% of those owners acknowledged they take the mortgage interest deduction.

For detailed results, visit http://syndication.nationaljournal.com/communications/Allstate%20National%20Journal%20Heartland%20Monitor%20TOPLINE%20FINAL.pdf.

Tags: News

'Cool' Versus 'Warm' Home Exteriors

April 7, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 7, 2011--The popular question in the 1970's was "What's your sign?" In today's culture, that question has turned into "What's your color?" According to national color expert Kate Smith, people tend to identify their personalities with specific colors, all of which fall into either the "warm" or "cool" classifications.

"Just as a person may see themselves as having a 'cool blue' personality that is calm, confident and in control, a home exterior also has a color personality," says Smith, chief color maven and owner of Sensational Color. "A 'cool' home may feature blues, greens and purples as the primary colors in the siding, entryway and roofing. On the flip side, a 'warm' home exterior would have more focus on neutral colors plus hues in yellow, orange and red."

Smith recommends trying to match up your own personality with the colors used on the home in order to create a cohesive living environment. "Start at the top of the house with a blend of colors in the roofing tiles to set the overall tone for the home," says Smith.

"For example, a Canyon blend of brown toned slate roofing tiles that reflect a warm personality, while an Aberdeen blend includes dark gray, light brown, dark purple, green stone and dark stone tile colors to mimic a cooler personality. You can then move down the house by picking up complimentary colors for the second most visible aspect of the home--its siding.

"There are wonderful accent variations within cool and warm color families that can contrast with the overall color scheme to provide visual balance on a home's exterior. For instance, you could have a warm blend on the roof of a home that includes light brown, medium brown, dark stone and dark tan tiles matched up with neutral colored siding. Then, add a pop of a cooler color such as deep teal or hunter green for the shutters, trim and front entryway."

What's My Color?

For some homeowners, the challenge starts from within. First, they need to determine whether they have a cool or warm color personality before deciding on their home's personality.

"If you are an outgoing individual who gets all you can out of life, holds a position that requires some form of leadership and don't tremble at the idea of public speaking, then you're most likely a warm personality," says Smith. "These people gravitate to the colors of tomato red, terra cotta, burgundy or olive.

"However, if you are a trusted friend, volunteer in your community, lead by example and are a natural peacemaker, then you're likely to be a cooler color like navy, aqua or forest green. Certainly there are different 'ranges' on the color spectrum, so it's possible you and your home could be on the high end of the cool tone with a personality reflected more in shades of electric blue. Or, you may be on the low end of the warm tones with a quieter, shy personality that is attracted to these hues for the warmth, strength and energy they give you.

"There's definitely a color for every person. The challenge is identifying that color and then reflecting it on the exterior of your home."

For more information, visit www.davinciroofscapes.com.

Tags: News

Freddie Mac Turns to YouTube to Dispel Common Foreclosure Myths

April 7, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 7, 2011-- Freddie Mac is helping consumers separate foreclosure fact from fiction in a new video series launched on its YouTube Channel, found at www.youtube.com/FreddieMac. Each 90- to 120-second video dispels one of five common myths that could prevent people from keeping their homes if they face foreclosure. It is based on content from the Freddie Mac "Get the Facts on Homeownership" education and outreach materials.

News Facts

  • Myth 1: If my house is foreclosed, I can never buy a house again--the foreclosure will stay on my record forever.
  • Truth 1: Foreclosure can have a devastating effect on your finances and you personally, but you can recover. Use the time after foreclosure to prepare yourself for successful homeownership the second time around by creating a spending and savings plan and rebuilding your credit.

  • Myth 2: I should stop paying my mortgage so I can get assistance with my mortgage payments.
  • Truth 2: Stopping payment on your mortgage only hurts your situation and can expose you to foreclosure and credit difficulties that could require years to rebuild.

  • Myth 3: If I'm late on my monthly payments, I'll lose my house.
  • Truth 3: If you have a financial hardship and fall behind, it's possible to keep your house and get back on track if you contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your options. You can also contact a HUD-approved housing counselor by calling the Homeowner's HOPE Hotline at 888-995-HOPE (4673).

  • Myth 4: I am getting many offers for help from a variety of people. They are probably all scams.
  • Truth 4: Scam artists often target homeowners who are struggling to meet their mortgage commitment or anxious to sell their home. It's important to always open and respond to communications from your lender, particularly if you've already missed a mortgage payment. In addition, if you are in a financial crisis or facing foreclosure, make sure you work with your lender or a HUD-approved counseling agency to avoid common scams.

  • Myth 5: My lender is not responding to my inquiries, so I should just give up and face foreclosure.
  • Truth 5: Whatever you do, don't walk away, and don't give up. It may take several attempts to reach your lender because their call volume can be very high.

"Housing counselors and lenders have traditionally delivered the Get the Facts messages to consumers. Today we are utilizing a popular and powerful tool,YouTube, to deliver this pertinent information to consumers," says Dwight Robinson, Freddie Mac senior vice president of Corporate Relations and Housing Outreach. "The videos provide information and resources that just might keep individuals from losing their home."

Tags: News

Most Americans Opposed to Homeowners Walking Away From Mortgages, Says New FindLaw.com Survey

April 7, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 7, 2011--While many homeowners continue to wrestle with the fallout of the housing crisis, a majority of Americans say that simply walking away from a mortgage shouldn't be an option for homeowners, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com.

Many homeowners still facing potential foreclosures or being "underwater" on their mortgages (meaning they owe more on the loan than the house is currently worth) have simply been walking away from their mortgages and refusing to make the required monthly payments. There are no reliable figures on how many homeowners have chosen to take this path, sometimes referred to as a "strategic default."

According to the FindLaw.com survey, the majority of Americans, 60%, believe that it is "never OK" for homeowners to simply stop making payments on their mortgages. One-third of the population (34%) says it's OK for homeowners to walk away from mortgages, but only if they aren't able to make the monthly payments. Only 3% believe that homeowners should be able to walk away from mortgages anytime they want.

"Many homeowners are currently facing very difficult and complicated situations involving their home mortgage, in some cases even including the threat of foreclosure," said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor for FindLaw.com. "But before making any major decisions, homeowners should consult with financial and legal professionals, including accountants, real estate attorneys and financial advisers. Any major change to a mortgage situation could lead to serious and unanticipated consequences involving taxes, contract law, credit scores, ability to borrow in the future, potential for lawsuits, and much more.

"Various government programs and tax changes involving mortgages have been enacted since the beginning of the housing crisis," continued Rahlfs. "Combined with private programs and variations in state laws, it creates a complicated web of potential actions available to homeowners, who should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of their decisions."

The FindLaw survey was conducted using a telephone survey of a demographically balanced sample of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3%.

Tags: News

Tips for Remodeling Your Children's Rooms

April 6, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011--The room is empty, the bed is made, and even stranger--it's dead silent. When your children move away to college or their own apartment, the question remains: What should you do with the room they leave behind? Remodeling unused bedrooms is a great way to deal with the changes in your household, plus, you can utilize the space for something practical as opposed to leaving it as-is.

Talk to your children and ask them what furniture they'd like to keep for the future and what can be thrown away. What belongings need to be saved? Can some be moved into the attic or basement for storage? If your child is only away at college (as opposed to a more permanent move), tailor the remodel after his or her personal taste. Color choices and style can be made with the child in mind, yet still be given a fresh new look.

Furthermore, here are a few examples of what you can do with the extra space:

Home offices are always great to add to your home. Whether you have a business, use it for work or simply for bill paying, an office is a great way to continue keeping your home (and its paperwork) organized and clean. A computer desk and chair, shelves, bookcases and cabinets will be a great start for any new office.

A game room will provide entertainment for years to come. With a few tables and a few games, you'll have a running start to an entertainment-based room. You may even want to add a mini-fridge or shelving for assorted snacks and food stuffs. It can be simple, but fun at the same time.

Alternatively, your game room can double as a media room as well (size depending). Do you love movies or have a guilty pleasure of television? Add a TV, surround-sound system and a couch for entertaining guests. Large DVD cases can be purchased to display all of your CDs, DVDs, books and more. During the week, your entertainment room can also be a reading room and place of rest. The options are endless.

Cancel that gym membership and create your own personal exercise room. If you love working out and love it even more so from the comforts of your own home, consider purchasing a couple of exercise machines, yoga mats and work-out DVDs. Don't forget about a CD player or iPod speakers--the motivation to any solid work out!

These options only scratch the surface to what you can do with your extra space. Turn any hobby of yours into a room of personal paradise. Painting rooms, sewing rooms, large walk-in closets, and more can be used from the space left behind by your newly adult children. Renovating will be an exciting and rewarding project for you to take on--one that will match your interests and give your home a fresh feel.

Source: Relocation.com Blog

Tags: News

Fannie Mae Launches 'Las Opciones de los Casas' to Educate and Empower Homeowners

April 6, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011--Fannie Mae today launched "Las Opciones de los Casas," a teleseries for the Spanish-speaking community designed to educate homeowners about their options to avoid foreclosure, empower them to make informed decisions and motivate them to take action and seek help. Through a partnership with Univision, the teleseries debuted as a television broadcast in Miami on March 28, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of Fannie Mae's South Florida Mortgage Help Center. Las Opciones de Los Casas, part of the Company's "Know Your Options " initiative to help struggling homeowners, is now available on www.conozcasusopciones.com.

"The Latino community has been disproportionately affected by the housing crisis, and at Fannie Mae we are committed to helping all families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure," said Jeff Hayward, senior vice president, National Servicing Organization, Fannie Mae. "'Las Opciones de los Casas' is a powerful tool to help Spanish-speakers understand their options to avoid foreclosure and to make them familiar with the different outcomes of these options, whether it's staying in their homes or finding the right housing somewhere else."

Modeled on a telenovela, "Las Opciones de los Casas" portrays a family and their closest friends as they navigate financial hardships in a number of scenarios in their neighborhood. The series gives a realistic view of a range of options for avoiding foreclosure, including repayment plans, modifications and short sales. "Las Opciones de Los Casas" also warns homeowners to protect themselves against scams, showing them that mortgage help should always be free.

Through the teleseries, viewers will:

  • Witness a story line in which a family and their friends try to find the best way to avoid foreclosure
  • Familiarize themselves with the different options to avoid foreclosure
  • Identify with the characters and their obstacles while following the story
  • Discover and learn the positive outcomes or negative consequences of the choices made by the characters (i.e., talking to your bank instead of paying a scam artist to resolve the situation)

"Many homeowners lose their homes simply because they don't understand that there is an alternative," added Hayward. "The better homeowners understand that they have options, the more likely they are to take action and make proactive decisions-and the better their chance of finding a solution that allows them to avoid foreclosure."

Through foreclosure prevention programs, borrower outreach, underwriting guidelines and servicer engagement, Fannie Mae is taking a comprehensive approach to helping struggling homeowners. In addition to websites and series like KnowYourOptions.com and "Las Opciones de Los Casas," Fannie Mae seeks to address the nation's housing crisis by opening Mortgage Help Centers in hard-hit communities such as Miami, Chicago and Atlanta, reaching out to homeowners directly to encourage them to pursue foreclosure alternatives, organizing foreclosure prevention events across the country and providing support and assistance to non-profit organizations at the forefront of homeowner education efforts. Since the start of 2009, Fannie Mae's efforts have helped more than a half a million families stay in their homes.

Tags: News

NAR Study Finds Americans Prefer Smart Growth Communities

April 6, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 6, 2011--Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56% of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. That's according to a recent study, the Community Preference Survey, by the National Association of REALTORS .

"REALTORS care about improving communities through smart growth initiatives," said NAR President Ron Phipps. "Our members don't just sell homes, they sell neighborhoods. REALTORS understand that different home buyers are looking for all kinds of neighborhood settings and that many home buyers want walkable, transit-accessible communities."

Walkable communities are defined as those where shops, restaurants, and local businesses are within walking distance from homes. According to the survey, when considering a home purchase, 77% of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and other pedestrian-friendly features, and 50% would like to see improvements to existing public transportation rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments.

The survey also revealed that while space is important to home buyers, many are willing to sacrifice square footage for less driving. Eighty percent of those surveyed would prefer to live in a single-family, detached home as long as it didn't require a longer commute, but nearly three out of five of those surveyed (59%) would choose a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less.

The survey also found that community characteristics are very important to most people. When considering a home purchase, 88% of respondents placed more value on the quality of the neighborhood than the size of the home, and 77% of those surveyed want communities with high-quality schools.

The survey of 2,071 adult Americans was conducted by Belden, Russonello and Stewart from February 15-24, 2011.

Tags: News

Low Prices, Attractive Mortgage Rates Helped Spur 2010 Vacation Home Purchases, According to New HomeAway Research

April 5, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 5, 2011--While the overall residential real estate market is down, sales of vacation homes fared better than sales of primary residences and investment properties in 2010. In fact, some consumers found low real estate prices, attractive mortgage rates and the potential for price appreciation compelling enough reasons to buy more than half a million vacation homes last year, according to proprietary research commissioned by HomeAway, Inc. as part of the National Association of REALTOR'S (NAR) 2011 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey.

The research found 38% of vacation home buyers decided to purchase a vacation property last year primarily because of low real estate prices. And 2010 proved a good year to buy, according to the NAR survey. Median sales prices for vacation properties dropped 11.2% from $169,000 in 2009 to $150,000 in 2010.

Other vacation home buyers cited the following factors as the most important reason to take the plunge into vacation home ownership last year, according to HomeAway research:

  • Wanted a personal family retreat (27%)
  • Potential for price appreciation (12%)
  • Low mortgage rates (11%)
  • Other (13%)

"Vacation homes are more attainable than ever for consumers of all ages, thanks to attractive prices and the fact that people can rent them to travelers to help offset the costs," says Brian Sharples, chief executive officer of HomeAway. "As the NAR report shows, about four in 10 buyers last year were under the age of 45."

Although few vacation home buyers cited rental income as the most important factor in their decision to buy last year, about seven in 10 buyers (69%) said it influenced their decision.

In fact, nearly all (94%) of vacation home buyers say they do plan to rent their property within the next 12 months to either long-term or short-term renters or a combination of the two, and 60% of buyers believe they'll make enough rental income to cover at least half of their mortgage.

Of those buyers, about 44% plan to make their vacation homes available for rent between one and eight weeks over the course of the next year; 42% plan to rent their properties between nine and 26 weeks per year; and 15% plan to rent their homes between 27 and 52 weeks per year.

Vacation home buyers are willing to rent their property to more than one type of guest. The vast majority (74%) of people who plan to rent their property to short-term renters say they'll rent the home to vacationers, while 36% plan to rent to business travelers and 23% plan to rent to other tenants, such as college students or people who are relocating to the area.

For more information, visit http://www.homeaway.com/.

Tags: News




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