Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

June 29, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Home Warranties

When you buy a home in Berks County, you'll need to be able to take care of it as the years go on. One way that you can make sure that your home's systems and appliances are kept up is through a home warranty. Yet home warranties are not necessarily the right choice for every home owner. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if buying a home warranty is the right choice for you.

What is a home warranty?

A home warranty is not the same as insurance. Insurance will protect you if there's any damage to your home from something like a fire or windstorm.

A home warranty, on the other hand, is a policy that protects your home's major appliances and systems as they age. It's there to save you money when your water heater breaks unexpectedly or your dishwasher suddenly stops working.

How a home warranty works

A home warranty does have one similarity to insurance in that you pay an annual premium. Usually, homes of up to 5,000 sq feet in size are covered under the standard warranty. Above that, you have to pay for additional coverage.

If something that's covered by the warranty breaks down, you pay a deductible that will range from $50-$125 to have the item fixed or replaced.

The benefits of a home warranty

With a home warranty, you're paying for peace of mind. If something expensive breaks, it will get fixed by a professional or replaced. So for people who aren't handy with a tool, a warranty is a good idea. It can also be beneficial to new homeowners who may not be as familiar with how their new home's systems work.

Having a home warranty also helps avoid unexpected costs, making it easier to budget your finances. You'll know what your premium costs upfront and you'll know what your deductible is for any repairs that are covered under the warranty, making it much easier to handle the unexpected.

The drawbacks of a home warranty

Not everything in your home is covered by a home warranty. This is why you need to go over the details to make sure the right items are covered.

However, one major pain point of most warranties is that they won't cover items that have not been properly maintained. This is a very subjective clause, and often leads to disputes with the warranty company. This is particularly the case if the previous owner did not take care of the appliance and the new homeowner is left hanging.

Another issue, for some, is that each year money is paid upfront under the assumption that repairs will eventually need to be made. However, that may or may not be the case. Some years, everything may work fine, but you'll have paid the premium, regardless.

Making the decision

A home warranty certainly can be a help for some of your maintenance issues, but it's not the perfect solution. In the end, you're the one who needs to decide if it's right for your home.

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

Posted in Real Estate Advice
June 22, 2020

What You Need to Know About Refinancing Your Berks County Home

Home owners in Berks County and around the nation are taking advantage of incredibly low mortgage rates and refinancing their homes. If you're thinking about refinancing your mortgage, what should you expect in this current market?

It takes time

Typically, a refi can be completed in as little as 21 days, and it's possible it may happen that fast right now. But there is a huge increase in loan applications, so you should expect it to take a bit longer. Even last year, it was taking as long as 35-45 days to complete the process. Be patient and allow for time for the process to complete.

Rates may fluctuate

As low as rates are now, they could go even lower. But it's hard to tell exactly where they will go in this market. That's why you should talk to your lender about when you should lock your rate.

Locking in your rate means that your interest rate won't change between the offer and the closing, as long as you stick to the closing date on your application. Rate locks are typically available for 30, 45, or 60 days, and sometimes longer. If your rate is not locked, it can change at any time.

You might not get the lowest rate 

The rate you get depends on your credit, so that means you may not get the lowest rate. You need a credit score of at least 700 to get the lowest rates. If you have a rate lower than that, check your credit history to see if you can clear up any discrepancies to try to raise your score.

You might need an appraisal

Depending on the type of loan you're getting, you may need to get an appraisal. If you’re refinancing from one FHA loan to another, you’ll probably only need an exterior appraisal. In this case, an appraiser will come and measure and take pictures of the outside of your home only. 

If you are refinancing to a conventional loan from an FHA loan, then you should plan on having an appraiser to do a thorough examination of your home, both inside and outside. A streamline refi will not usually require an appraisal.

You may get money back

In some cases, you may get some cash back in hand. Talk to your lender to see what your options are if you want cash to make home improvements. You may also be able to skip a couple of payments instead of getting cash back directly.

Even though we live in turbulent times, there are ways we can restructure our lives to make things a little easier to handle. Refinancing your home in Berks County may just be what you need to ease your financial burdens.

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

Posted in Real Estate Advice
June 15, 2020

Keep Your Berks County Home Cool Without AC

Summer is almost officially here in Berks County, and already the temperatures are beginning to climb. The forecast this week for Reading shows temps in the low 90s by the end of the week!

What can you do to keep your home cool if you don't have AC? Here are a few tips to keep you from roasting this summer.

Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.

Add awnings: Install them on south and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.

Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.

Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Open Those Windows: Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything - walls, floors, furniture - that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.

To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.

Turn Up the Fans

Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.

Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.

Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.

Don’t use heat and steam-generating appliances, such as ranges, ovens, washers, dryers, during the hottest part of the day. 

With these tips in play, you'll be ready to tackle the summer heat in Berks County without the costly addition of air conditioning.

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

Posted in Real Estate Advice
June 8, 2020

Simple Ways to Get a Higher Home Appraisal

Getting a home appraisal is a necessary step when selling your home in Berks County. To get the highest appraisal, you'll want to make sure your home is looking good. If you don't have the money or time for a major renovation, what are some more basic ways to get a higher appraisal?

A Little Spackle

You no doubt have been hanging things on your walls since you moved into your home, so there's bound to be holes and other blemishes from years of living. A little spackle and paint will cover all those blemishes and give your walls a fresh look. This won't necessarily raise your home's value, but it will keep the appraiser from deducting for the damage.

As Long as You're Painting

Since you're touching up the walls, you might as well freshen up the paint in other spots. You can paint worn borders and moldings to give your home a new look. The trim outside could also probably use an update. This has the added benefit of enhancing your curb appeal. Check around the outside of your home and fix any area that has worn, peeling, or chipping paint.

Do a Deep Clean

Deep cleaning your home may require a lot of effort, but little money. Clean you home from top to bottom, and do your best to get rid of pet odors. Appraisers will notice those scuff marks on the floor and strong pet odors, so you may want to think about having professionals wax the floors, shampoo the carpets, and do a deep clean of your home, especially if you have several pets.

Other Repairs

Make sure to tour your home and look at it from the viewpoint of a home buyer. This may help you see issues that you may have overlooked. Is there a loose handrail, shorted outlet, or other things you've got used to over the years?

Get an Early Home Inspection

Even after you think you have done everything that can be done to boost your home's appraised value, consulting an expert is wise. Getting a home inspection at this time will help you uncover issues that you may not have the expertise to notice. This gives you the time to get these items fixed ahead of putting the home on the market, while also ensuring you can ask a more competitive selling price. It's better to uncover these problems now than to have them affect the sale of the home in the future.

When selling your home in Berks County, you want to be sure you get the highest value possible, including the money and time you invested in updating its features. By taking the time to spruce up the home ahead of the appraisal, you may be able to increase the value by thousands of dollars.

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

Posted in Home Sellers
June 1, 2020

Steps to Keep Your Berks County Home Pest Free

When the weather gets warmer and more humid here in Berks County, it makes for the ideal condition for pests to thrive in the summer, such as termites and cockroaches. Once your home is infested with pests, it can be difficult to get rid of them, even with professional help. This not only can cause issues now, but especially if you decide to sell your home later.

What can you do to help prevent pests from invading your property and causing damage?

1. Repair your roof

Pests can gain access to your home through damaged roof tiles. If any are damaged on your roof, fill in cracks with roofing cement, or replace broken tiles. Also check your drainpipes, as debris can cause water to build up and create a breeding ground for many types of insects. Also check the overhang of the roof and in between roof tiles for signs of nests.

2. Clean your air vents

Termites can also get into your home through the air vents. When the climate in Pennsyvania changes in spring and summer, termites will begin to swarm to establish new colonies. You can install mesh airbrick covers to prevent them from making a nest under your home.

3. Keep an eye on your attic

Pests love to make nests in roof spaces and attics. Termites will feast on exposed wood beams. And other items are subject to attracting cockroaches and rodents. You should store items in plastic containers to prevent pests from making your stored items a buffet. Also regularly check beams for termite damage. Press your thumb on the timber to test if it is soft and spongy.

4. Rethink your bedroom

You aren't the only one who thinks your bedroom is comfy. Pests, such as bedbugs, love to turn bedrooms into places to take refuge. To prevent and kill bed bugs, you should  wash bed linen at a high temperatures regularly. Check beds, pillows, mattresses, bed frames, and carpet for signs of bugs. Check skirting boards and ensuite bathrooms for signs of termite activity, such as damp patches on the walls. Keep furniture away from the walls and shut doors and windows at night.

5. Maintain your garden

Pests also love gardens. Remove unwanted tree stumps and keep piles of wood away from your home to prevent termites. Use mulch made from plastic, rubber, and gravel instead of wood and seal compost in a container that has a tight lid. Also, remove standing water from buckets and containers and keep shrubbery to a minimum.

6. Don’t forget your garage

Keep you garage kept up to keep pests away. This means you should take steps to make sure your garage is free of moisture. Store items in plastic boxes, and ideally off the floor and check corners for wasps and hornet nests.

7. Keep your kitchen clean

Avoid your kitchen turning into a buffet for pests. You need to keep on top of this as pests in your kitchen can contaminate your food and make you ill. Empty bins daily and keep work surfaces clean. Always store food in airtight containers and don't leave pet food out in hot weather. Finally, check pipes for leakage, and repair if them if you need to. 

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

May 25, 2020

It's Time for the Farmer's Markets of Berks County

The farmer's markets of Berks County are open or opening soon, and ready to bring you their farm fresh products. Even with COVID-19 restrictions, you'll be able to get your essential fresh food items just like you always have. Why not take a short drive to these farmer's markets and help support our local farmers?

Shillington Farmers Market

10 S Summit Ave, Shillington, PA 19607

(610) 777-7675

Shillington Farmers Market will continue to be open regular hours, Thurs & Fri. 7am-7pm and Sat. 7am-4pm.

Fairgrounds Farmers Market

2934 N 5th Street Hwy, Reading, PA 19605

(610) 929-3429

Thursday 8am-7pm, Friday 8am-8pm and Saturday 8am-4pm.

Antietam Valley Farmers Market

905 Byram St, Reading, PA 19606

June 8 & 22, July 6 & 20, August 10 & 24, September 21, October 19, November 16, and December 21.

PA Dutch Farmer's Market of Wyomissing

845 Woodland Rd, Wyomissing, PA 19610

(610) 374-1916

Curbside service available. Inside service allowed with masks required.

Leesport Farmers Market

312 Gernants Church Rd, Leesport, PA 19533

(610) 926-1307

They will only have vendors with essential items such as groceries, household items, cleaning supplies, etc. Food stands are TAKE OUT ONLY, no seating.

Skyline Drive Orchard

118 Skyline Dr, Reading, PA 19606

(610) 929-0888

Open seasonally 5 days a week June - November
Wed, Thurs, & Fri: 9:00am - 6:00pm
Sat: 9:00am - 4:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm - 4:00pm

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

 

May 18, 2020

Caring for Marble Countertops

Are you upgrading your kitchen with marble countertops? If so, it's a great way to add value to your kitchen if you plan to sell you home in Berks County soon. But the thing to keep in mind with marble is that it requires expert installation and special cleaning and care.

How can you care for your new marble countertop so that it keeps it's beauty and value?

Use Protective Devices

Marble counters can get scratched by small appliances, food canisters, and pans. You can use washable platforms, absorbent kitchen towels, or drying mats to protect your surfaces. This will keep etching marks from forming on your beautiful marble surfaces.

Use the Proper Cleaning Products

Abrasive cleaning products are a no-no with marble countertops, as they will degrade the natural stone. You can clean your surfaces with a mix of mild dish detergent and warm water. Instead of a rough towel, you should use a soft cloth or sponge and rub the surface gently.

Prevent Damage during Upgrades

If you are doing a full kitchen remodel, it would be ideal for the installers to place the countertops at the end of the project to prevent any damage. But if you already have marble counters installed and are doing further remodeling, you want to make sure your marble is protected while work is being done. Make sure that contractors don't place tools on the counters, and protect the sides or edges. You can use a layer of paper, fabric or plastic to add further protection.

Cornstarch for Absorbing Spilled Debris

If you need to clean up food or beverages off the counter, you can sprinkle corn starch on the spill to absorb it. This will help prevent the stain from setting in, but you have to do it quickly. If the stain is deeper, you can clean it with a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste on the stain, then rub it away gently.

Application of Sealants on Marble Countertops

You can buy sealant products that will protect the marble countertops, but you will need to reapply this substance at least once a year. The application of liquid sealants is a difficult process, so you may want to hire an expert for this job.

Sealant is needed for whatever finish you have on your countertop. The most common marble finishes are either polished, for a high-gloss surface, or honed, which produces a softer matte surface.

To ensure that the sealant remains effective, you should wipe down your countertop daily using a non-abrasive cloth or sponge and only a mild soap and water.

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

Posted in Home Sellers
May 11, 2020

The Best Paint for Refinishing Your Stairs

If you plan to sell your home in Berks County, one way to add value and visual appeal to your home is to paint your indoor or outdoor stairs. People often overlook the stairs when it comes to home improvement projects. But it can be an easy way for you to make a big impact in the look of your home. Whether you want to give your interior stairs a makeover or just fix the peeling paint on the back deck, there's a perfect paint for the job.

Here's a quick guide to the types of paint that are best for freshening up your interior and exterior stairs. 

Outdoor Stairs

Your outdoor stairs really take a beating, both from traffic and from the elements here in Pennsylvania. So you need a highly durable paint to take all that abuse. Wood stairs do best with a 100% acrylic exterior paint. There are types of acrylic paint specifically for use on porches, floors, and exterior stairs. You should stay away from glossy finish paints, as they can be slippery when wet.

Satin or eggshell finish paints are the best choice, as they can resist stains and be cleaned easily without creating a slipping hazard. For extra safety, you can add a non-slip additive to your paint for extra texture and slip resistance. 

Indoor Stairs

Your indoors stairs may not see the same wear as your outdoor stairs, but they still get a lot of use, especially with foot traffic. Indoor stairs will also do well with 100% acrylic paint. But for indoor stairs, you can use a semi-gloss paint for easier cleaning. It won't pose as much of a slipping hazard since they won't be getting wet, like the outdoor stairs.

If you're planning on painting your indoor stairs in different colors, you might consider different paint finishes, too. For example, you could paint the risers and spindles in a semi-gloss paint and use a lower luster paint for the railings and treads for increased safety.

Paint Design Ideas

Your stairs can really be a place to unleash your creative side when it comes to painting, as there are a number of elements that can be painted differently.

One classic way to paint stairs is to paint the risers and spindles in a light color, and the treads and railing in a complementary dark color. This approach looks crisp and creates a lot of visual interest. 

If you like the look of a classic stair runner, but you don't want the risk of tripping, you can paint a runner down the center of your staircase for a great visual effect.

Refinishing Stairs for a Fresh, New Look

A fresh coat of paint is a simple way to instantly transform the look of your stairs and brighten the entire area around them. If you're considering refinishing stairs in your Berks County home, it's important to have all the right paints and tools for the job. That way, you're sure to make your vision a reality. 

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

Posted in Home Buyers
May 4, 2020

Make This May 10th a Mother's Day to Remember

Mother's Day 2020 in Berks County will definitely be different. This year, we're going to need to be a bit more creative in how we show our moms thanks. But that's OK, since it will help make this Mother's Day on May 10 a very special day. And our mom's definitely deserve to be thanked now more than ever for all their hard work.

Here's a few ways you can creatively show your mom how much you care this Mother's Day on May 10.

 

Breakfast or Brunch in bed.

If you're a good enough cook, why not make your mom a special brunch or breakfast? And if you can't do it in person, you can order her food to be delivered from a local restaurant in Berks County. Here's a list of some restaurants in Reading that are offering takeout or delivery services.
 
Picnic in your backyard.
 
If the weather holds this Sunday (the forecast says it will be partly cloudy and 58 deg) you can treat her to a party outside for dinner. You can set up a blanket and cover it with picnic ready snacks, or takeout from a local restaurant in Berks County.

Learn a new craft or skill.
 
Is there a new craft or skill your mom has wanted to try? You can gather all the needed supplies and spend Sunday with her as you both learn how to do a new craft or skill.

Wine tasting.

Wine goes great with Mother's Day. You can make it a memorable experience by creating a custom wine tasting with different types of reds, whites, and rosés. And don't forget other goodies, like chocolates or cheese and crackers. You can turn it into a tour if you place each kind of wine in a different room.
 
Ask a musician to play a private concert.
 
You can host a virtual happy hour with your mom and ask a musician friend to join in and play a song or two just for mom (and make sure you pay and tip them for their work). This is a great way to support the arts while many venues in Berks County are closed.
 
Whatever you do for mom this weekend, make sure you make this the most memorable Mother's Day ever!

Have a Happy Mothers Day!

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams. 

April 27, 2020

4 Ways to Boost Your Credit to Buy a Home in Berks County

It cannot be overstated how important it is to have good credit when buying a home in Berks County. Sure, you can technically buy a home with less than perfect credit, or even with bad credit. For example, an FHA loan asks for a minimum down payment of 3.5%. FHA guidelines require a minimum credit score of 580. With a down payment of 10% or more, FHA score requirements fall all the way down to 500. But you will pay for it in the end with higher mortgage payments. So the goal needs to be to get your credit in as strong as shape as possible before you buy a home in Berks County.

What are some ways to get your credit in better shape? You can really make an impact on your credit in just a few months if you follow these 4 tips.

Make Your Payments on Time

Not to insult your intelligence, but this first step cannot be overstated. Does that mean you have to make your credit card and loan payments all on the exact due date or before? Not at all. As long as you make your payments within a 30 days of the due date, you'll be fine. So if an account has a due date of the 1st, and you pay it on the 15th, it won't be counted as late on your credit. You may have to pay late fees, so make sure to pay attention to those.

Keep a Balance on Credit Lines

You might think that having a zero balance on your credit lines is the way to go. But the opposite is true. If you keep your balance at about one-third of your credit line and make timely payments, this can improve your score. Without a balance, no payments are being made. Making timely payments accounts for 35% of your credit score, which has a huge impact on your credit.

Pay Attention to How Many Accounts You Have

Most lenders will want you to have at least three credit accounts on your credit report. If you are at that number already, don't apply for more credit. A few initial inquiries for credit won’t hurt your scores, but multiple requests over an extended period of time will.

Rebuild Damaged Credit

If you have damaged credit, you should get a secured credit card. You can also try to get a credit card from a credit card company that caters to those with bad credit. The idea is to start rebuilding credit by paying on time and keeping your balances in check.

With a secured card, you pay a fee as a security deposit that's equal to the credit limit. Yes, it's like spending money you already have. But these payments are reported to credit bureaus just like a normal credit card or other loans. With timely payments, your scores will begin to rise to levels that work for most mortgage programs.

Make timely payments, keep balances around one-third of credit lines, keep credit inquiries to a minimum and for those needing to rebuild scores, seek out a secured card. Sometimes people who have poor credit don’t know where or how to start rebuilding. These four tips will jump start that process.

Make sure to visit to our blog every week for more real estate advice, along with local Berks County articles. Need help finding the perfect home for sale in Berks County? Our powerful home search tool will help you find the home of your dreams.