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Tom's Blog

Home Staging Benefits Home Selling

April 13, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 13, 2011--Now that you've taken the leap and listed your home, how are you going to compete with the other properties on the market and make your home stand out? One way to make your property exceptional is to stage your home; in other words, spruce it up in small ways to attract buyers. Although you might be reluctant to spend money on hiring a professional home stager, you will most likely discover the money you spent was well worth it.

According to Ellen Florian of Fortune magazine, "staged homes sell faster" than those that are un-staged. During Florian's research, she also discovered that staged homes receive higher offers than un-staged ones. Wanda Hickman, an accredited staging professional, president of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals Atlanta Regional chapter (AIRC), and owner of Customized Home Staging LLC, says in an article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle that "the intent behind home staging is for potential buyers to be able to see the home as theirs."

Unlike interior decorating, home staging depersonalizes the home by removing individual tastes and allowing potential buyers to visualize themselves in the home. For example, young couples seeking their first home may find it difficult to see beyond flowered wallpapers, crocheted afghans, and numerous pictures of grandchildren. Staging a home is about removing the idea that your house is your home and instead thinking of it as a marketable commodity.

Karen Westgate, a member of a Collegeville, PA brokerage, and a Certified Home Stager, says that there are many benefits to home staging, but one of the best benefits is that it can be done virtually with little or no money. "Staging is about simplifying--simplifying your home can be as easy as just boxing up items you do not use on a daily basis to taking down family pictures on the walls, moving pieces of furniture around to different areas of the home, or changing paint colors."

So how do you go about staging your home? Westgate suggests that first, clean it thoroughly, and don't forget to include cleaning up outside the house. Many buyers form an opinion of the home before they even walk through the door. Then, start boxing and bagging up unnecessary items that have accumulated in closets, on top of counters, and in the garage. Rent a storage locker if necessary, but remove the clutter!

Tags: News

REALTORS Committed to Fair Housing throughout the Year

April 13, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 13, 2011-The National Association of REALTORS will join Americans across the country as they honor Fair Housing Month this April. As one of the leading advocates for homeownership, NAR strongly supports the Fair Housing Act and believes that anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home should have the opportunity to pursue that dream.

This April marks the 43rd anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability. NAR also supports equal opportunity on the basis of sexual orientation, incorporating that support into the REALTOR Code of Ethics.

"REALTORS work tirelessly to build communities and believe people have a right to live wherever they can afford to live," says NAR President Ron Phipps. "In this vein, REALTORS believe it's imperative to recognize Fair Housing Month and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing laws and our commitment to offer equal professional service to everyone."

NAR's Equal Opportunity and Cultural Diversity program offers REALTORS education, grants, programs and events related to fair housing and diversity. Through the At Home with Diversity course, REALTORS learn how to best work with and serve diverse consumers. Since its inception in 1998, At Home with Diversity has addressed the topics of diversity, fair housing and business planning development in a full-day certification course. NAR's Employer-Assisted Housing Class gives REALTORS tools to work with local employers, helping them implement employer-assisted housing benefits to help employees become homeowners.

NAR has successfully built partnerships with housing groups and professional real estate organizations representing the multicultural community. In May, NAR will join five real estate diversity partners in sponsoring the HOPE (Home Ownership Participation for Everyone) Awards. The awards recognize outstanding individuals and programs that are increasing minority homeownership, revitalizing communities and expanding affordable housing opportunities.

"NAR is committed to increasing awareness about fair housing laws and promoting inclusion and diversity in our nation's communities," says Phipps. "For REALTORS , every month is fair housing month. With every transaction REALTORS strive to promote inclusion, diversity and fairness in the housing industry."

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

Tags: News

Fannie Mae Announces 3.5% Buyer Assistance on HomePath Properties

April 12, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011--Fannie Mae has announced that people purchasing a Fannie Mae-owned HomePath property will receive up to 3.5% in closing-cost assistance. The initial offer must be submitted on or after April 11, 2011 and the sale must close on or before June 30, 2011 to be eligible for the incentive. Additionally, buyers must reside in the home as their primary residence (sales to investors are excluded).

"Attracting qualified buyers to the market and reducing the inventory of vacant homes remains essential to stabilizing neighborhoods and helping the market recover," says Terry Edwards, executive vice president of Credit Portfolio Management. "Since interest rates remain low, the incentive will go a long way toward helping even more families buy a new home so this is a great time for Fannie Mae to offer some assistance."

All Fannie Mae-owned HomePath properties are listed on HomePath.com and most listings include detailed property descriptions, photographs, community and school information, and more. In addition, many Fannie Mae-owned properties are eligible for special HomePath Mortgage and HomePath Renovation Mortgage financing, which offers homebuyers an opportunity to purchase with as little as 3% down.

For more information, visit: www.fanniemae.com.

Tags: News

One in Two 'Do-It-Yourselfers' Will Put Their Community's Safety at Risk This Year, According to Recent Survey

April 12, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011--The Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the organization dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them, announced results from a recent survey that found 49% of Americans who plan to dig this year will put their community's safety at risk by not calling 811 to learn the approximate location of underground utilities.

There are more than 100 billion feet of underground utilities in the United States, according to data compiled by CGA from various industry groups. Digging without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities increases the likelihood of an incident, which can cause serious injuries, service disruptions and repair costs. An underground utility line is damaged by digging once every three minutes nationwide, and one-third of these incidents are caused because the digger did not call 811, according to CGA data.

Everyone who calls 811 a few days before digging is connected to a local one-call notification center that will take the caller's information and communicate it to local utility companies. A professional locator will then visit the dig site to mark the approximate location of underground utility lines with spray paint or flags. Once a site has been accurately marked, it is safe to begin digging around the marked areas.

The national public opinion survey of 689 homeowners, conducted March 17-21, also found that 69% of Americans believe they would be unlikely to damage or disturb an underground utility if they were to dig without calling 811 to determine the approximate location of the lines.

"The results of this survey are concerning because the math just doesn't add up in safety's favor," says CGA President Bob Kipp. "With millions of shovels entering the ground near billions of feet of unmarked underground utilities this year, we will continue to see damages occurring every few minutes, leading to inconvenient outages, and in worst-case scenarios bodily harm--not just for the do-it-yourselfers, but for entire communities."

CGA's 1,400 members and most governors have proclaimed April as National Safe Digging Month as a way to bring extra attention to the issue and reduce the risk of unnecessary infrastructure damage.

As part of National Safe Digging Month, CGA encourages homeowners to take the following steps when planning a digging project this spring:

  • Always call 811 a few days before digging, regardless of the depth or familiarity with the property.
  • Plan ahead. Call on Monday or Tuesday for work planned for an upcoming weekend, providing ample time for the approximate location of lines to be marked.
  • Confirm with your local one-call center that all lines have been marked.
  • Learn what the various colors of paint and flags represent at http://www.call811.com/faqs.
  • Consider moving the location of your project if it is near utility line markings.
  • If a contractor has been hired, confirm that a call to 811 has been made. Don't allow work to begin if the lines aren't marked.

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

Tags: News

Buyer's Market Spurs Confidence in Young Professionals and Affluent Homeowners

April 12, 2011 1:31 pm

By Paige Tepping

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011--As the cold temperatures become a distant memory, and the spring selling season gains momentum, consumers have come to agree on one thing-now's a good time to get off the fence and into the real estate market. This is the overall theme in the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker survey, a monthly survey that tracks the spending and saving habits of consumers in order to get an indication of what's happening in the market. "This month's Spending and Saving Tracker provided an up-to-date look at various consumer trends and gave us the opportunity to assess how consumers are feeling about the current market in addition to gauging homeowner confidence," says Leah Gerstner, vice president of public affairs at American Express.

"This month's survey points to the fact that consumers overwhelmingly feel that we are in the midst of a buyer's market," she adds. The data also points to the fact that a seller's market is at least a year away, which is certainly positive news. While homeowners aren't necessarily willing to settle for less than the asking price when selling their home, two of the biggest areas of interest in the latest survey deal with homeowners including home improvement projects on their to-do list, as well as the willingness to include concessions to get their home sold.

Home Improvements

"In looking at the results of our latest Spending and Saving Tracker survey, our thinking was that if consumers overwhelmingly view today's market as a buyer's market-which they do-they are likely to have plans to put more money into their home," adds Gerstner. In fact, the survey found that about 64% of homeowners currently have home improvement projects on their to-do list for 2011.

While the plans are in place, however, the amount that homeowners are budgeting to spend has gone down quite a bit from last year. "Homeowners are looking for better ways to stretch their dollars, and many are looking toward energy-efficient home improvements that will pay off in the long run." The survey shows that among homeowners who are looking to go green, the most common items homeowners would spend their money on include energy-efficient windows and doors, insulation, roofing, heating and cooling systems as well as alternative energy systems.

Concessions

Another finding that stood out in the latest survey had to do with whether or not sellers were willing to make concessions to get their homes sold, especially in today's market. While 44% of sellers were willing to give away appliances during a sale-the biggest concession among young professionals and affluent homeowners-another 28% said they would take care of requested repairs in order to get their home sold. "While a large majority of sellers are willing to make concessions to get their home off the market, the willingness to make concessions is down among young professionals when compared with the 2010 survey," says Gerstner. "This is an important finding as it shows that young professionals are more confident in their ability to sell their homes today."

"Homeowner confidence in today's market has increased compared to last year," says Gerstner. "In fact, the survey shows that the confidence level is pretty evenly split-42% of homeowners are confident they will get their asking price in today's market, while 47% of homeowners aren't that confident." Even though home values continue to be on the low side, young professionals and affluent homeowners are seemingly more confident in today's market.

Tags: News

Multi-Generational Home Buying on the Rise

April 11, 2011 1:31 pm

By Keith Loria

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011--With the economic realities that people are facing in today's environment, there has been an increase in the number of homebuyers who are looking to purchase homes that accommodate multiple generations. More parents and grandparents are finding a need to move in with family, as many can no longer afford the increasing rates of the adult communities where they once lived.

Plus, with life expectancies reaching nearly 79 years of age, the older generation may require some extra looking out for, and family members are searching for homes that will allow them to do that.

Homes that have separate living areas or renovated basements with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, are becoming increasingly popular, studies show. In fact, a recent AARP survey showed that the number of multi-generational households has grown from 5 million in 2000 to almost 7 million in 2009, and the figure is expected to continue to grow.

"Nearly a quarter of baby boomers expect that their parents or in-laws will move in with them-and half of those who anticipate that living arrangement are excited about it," said Elinor Ginzler, AARP's senior vice president for livable communities. "Older family members could be providing financial assistance, but a lot of times, this is just something people want to do."

According to Cam Marston, author and founder of the research firm Generational Insight, there are a number of benefits for different generations of a family living together.

"It's less expensive, obviously, but more importantly, they can learn from one another," Marston said. "Separating generations keeps them aloof from the trends and important things impacting each generation. When they are all under one roof, they can grow up sooner and stay young longer. It works on both ends of the generations."

Buyers who are shopping for a home that they will share with an older relative will be interested in design features that promote safe, comfortable living for all. That's why sellers who have spaces that could accommodate a family interested in a multi-generational living arrangement should highlight this when listing the property.

For those interested in buying a multi-generational home, experts warn that you need to have realistic expectations. Most homes won't have separate living areas where there's very limited interaction or disturbance, and it's more likely that your family will be sleeping in a guest room, refurbished basement or garage apartment.

Wherever they are in the home, Ginzler said an important thing to look out for is to not let the parents or grandparents feel like a burden. They need to know they have their own space, too.

Tags: News

Mortgage Rates Change Little Amid Positive Employment Report

April 11, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011-- Freddie Mac has released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey , which shows the 30-year fixed-rate inching upward for the third consecutive week to 4.87% but well below its average of 5.21% a year ago, the highest it had been since August 13, 2009.

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.87% with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 7, 2011, up from last week when it averaged 4.86%. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 5.21%.

  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 4.10% with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 4.09%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.52%.

  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.72% this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.70%. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 4.25%.

  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 3.22% this week with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.26%. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 4.14%.

"Mortgage rates were little changed after an encouraging employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist of Freddie Mac. "The economy added 216,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate fell for the fifth consecutive month to 8.8% marking the lowest rate in two years. Additionally, the private sector has gained 560,000 workers in the first quarter of this year, which represents the largest quarterly increase since the first quarter of 2006."

For more information, visit http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/data.html and http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/weightings/weightings_series_010.html.

Tags: News

Homeownership Brings Tax Benefits

April 11, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, April 11, 2011--As the deadline to file taxes quickly approaches, the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS reminds homeowners of the many tax benefits they can take advantage of by owning a home.

"Many families are feeling a financial squeeze these days and the tax benefits associated with owning a home can be a welcome relief," says Mike Sibilia, president of Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS . "There are many benefits to being a homeowner, but some of the most substantial advantages are most apparent at tax time."

Tax credits and deductions for homeowners include the mortgage interest deduction, capital gains on home sales, and credits for certain energy-efficient home improvements. The MID allows homeowners to deduct the interest paid on a mortgage debt of up to $1 million on a primary residence and one additional residence.

"Some suggest that many of today's tax incentives for homeowners primarily benefit the wealthy, but that is untrue," says Sibilia. "Ninety-one percent of homeowners who claim the MID earn less than $200,000 a year."

Federal law also allows sellers to exclude certain capital gains from the sale of a principal residence. Couples who file a joint federal return can exclude from taxation up to $500,000 of any gain in their home's value. Singles can exclude gains of up to $250,000.

There are countless tax benefits available to homeowners who have recently installed energy-efficient improvements, as well. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created energy tax credits for installing insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows or doors, heat pumps, furnaces, central air conditioners, or water pumps. A 30% credit is also available to homeowners who installed alternative energy equipment such as fuel cells, solar water heaters, solar electric equipment, small wind energy projects, or geothermal heat pumps.

"For people who don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings to buy a home outright, these tax benefits can help them begin building their future through homeownership," says Sibilia. "REALTORS continue to work tirelessly to defend these tax benefits on Capitol Hill and ensure public policies that promote responsible, sustainable homeownership."

Tags: News

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




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