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!

 

Jan. 10, 2023

What Should You Know about Buying a Starter Home in Berks County?

You may hear the term starter home pretty frequently, but wonder as a buyer, what does that really mean?

When you’re buying a home in Berks County for the first time, you have to not only understand what a starter home is for you but also whether it’s best to skip ahead and invest in your forever home.

What’s Considered a Starter Home?

A starter home can be a single-family house, a condo, or a townhome. Starter homes are something the average first-timer buyer can afford but will likely outgrow. A starter home, relative to the local real estate market, will be on the lower end of things.

These homes may be older, small, or generally modest. They might also be brand-new but still designed to meet the needs of entry-level buyers.

There aren’t going to be all the features you maybe hope to have someday, but you can envision that for the near-term future, a starter home will suit your lifestyle.

You may find that you stay in your starter home forever, for whatever reason. You might, on the other hand, move up eventually to a home that’s in a more desirable neighborhood or is more expensive.

What’s a Forever Home?

A forever home is one that can be not just larger but may be updated or have more outdoor space. A forever home can have some of those features that are highly desirable and make a property competitive when it hits the market. It may have a big, private yard and be in a great school district, for example.

Of course, a forever home is subjective. For some people, that home may be one where they can envision raising a family. For others, a forever home might be a fixer-upper that needs some TLC but is in a great neighborhood.

A forever home doesn’t have to be inherently luxurious, but one defining feature is that they tend to be bigger than a starter home.

The Benefits of a Starter Home

If you’re at a point where you weigh whether you should buy a starter home or a forever home, both have pros and cons.

A starter home will be less expensive typically so you can save for a down payment faster. Then you can begin to build equity sooner as well. If you wait to afford a forever home, that’s more time you’re going to sink into rent and less you’re investing in equity. When you’re ready for your forever home, you can then use the equity you’ve gained to buy it.

The downside of a Berks County starter home is that you’ll likely outgrow it when you enter another phase in your life. For example, maybe you’ll get married or have kids, and a starter home will no longer meet your needs.

If you decide it’s time to move from your starter home, you have to sell or rent it. You’ll have to find another home, get approved for another mortgage, and pay closing costs.

The Benefits of a Forever Home

If you think you might like to skip the starter home and go straight to your forever home, there are benefits. There’s a peace of mind that comes with knowing you plan to stay in your home for the long term without having to worry about selling it or moving.

You can take time to settle in and make the home perfect for your needs gradually.

The downside is that a forever home will probably be more expensive, meaning it takes longer to save a down payment and you’re delaying building equity.

Which is Right for You?

The most important thing when you’re buying a house in Berks County, whether a starter or forever home, is to spend what you can genuinely afford. The general rule of thumb is to spend no more than 28% of your gross monthly income on anything related to housing costs. You shouldn’t pay more than 36% on debt including not just your mortgage but other loans and credit cards.

If you shop for a forever home, it can be a good move in terms of taxes. When you sell a home too fast after buying it, you may have to pay a capital gains tax if the value goes up. There’s an exclusion of up to $250,000 if you file taxes individually or $500,000 if you’re a married couple filing jointly for capital gains on real estate. You lose that exclusion if you own the home for less than two years.

Along with budget and tax benefits, think about the long-term value of a home before you buy one. You want to look for properties, no matter the price, that have an excellent potential resale value. Sometimes you do also have to remember that what you think is forever right now might not really be forever.

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
Jan. 3, 2023

Do You Need an Asbestos Survey When Buying a Home in Berks County?

It's likely you're wondering if you need an asbestos survey if you are thinking of buying a home in Berks County. Ultimately, it depends. A house built before 1980 is likely to contain asbestos in some form or another. In order to make an informed decision about whether to purchase a property, an asbestos survey will identify any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). A professional inspection is always recommended, even if the property does not contain ACMs.

What is asbestos and why is it dangerous?

When disturbed, asbestos fibers are toxic and constitute a dangerous material. Because of its fire-resistant properties and ability to insulate, asbestos has been extensively used as a building material. Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other health issues, so the use of asbestos in construction is now tightly regulated and rarely used. It's important to be aware of the health risks associated with asbestos and understand that any disturbance or deterioration can release harmful particles into the air and cause potentially serious medical conditions.

Why have an asbestos survey before buying a home in Berks County?

The cost of an asbestos survey is often overlooked by home buyers when looking for a new home, but it's a crucial step when making one of the largest investments of your life. Asbestos should be tested in any home built before 2000. If the survey finds evidence of asbestos, you will need to hire a specialist to identify and remove it so that you can sleep soundly in your new home. Don't forget this important task - otherwise, you may find yourself in a sticky situation down the track, particularly in relation to your health, or if you are looking to extend or modify the property. The presence of asbestos can also negatively affect the value of your home.

How long can an asbestos survey take?

An asbestos survey can take anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on the complexity of the building and its contents. Although it may seem like a long time, it's essential for a thorough survey to be done so any dangerous asbestos materials can be identified and removed safely. Of course, different buildings bring with them different challenges when it comes to identifying asbestos and therefore surveys require different levels of resources and time allocated in order for them to be conducted effectively. That's why if you want your building to be properly surveyed for asbestos, make sure the person conducting the survey has enough time to do a comprehensive job.It's worth setting aside plenty of extra time to ensure nothing is missed.

How can you find a qualified asbestos surveyor? 

Finding an asbestos surveyor in your area can seem overwhelming, but it's much simpler than you think. Identify reputable asbestos surveying companies or individuals by doing some research. Don't be afraid to contact the company if you have questions about its services and check out third-party review sites to see what previous clients have said about it. Ask potential surveyors specific questions about their qualifications and asbestos-specific experience when speaking with them. Ensure that they are properly insured before signing on the dotted line and ensure that they know what safety measures must be taken when handling asbestos. You can save time and money in the long run by performing due diligence and ensuring there is no exposure risk during the project.

Asbestos is a dangerous material that can be found in many homes built before the 1980s. If you're thinking about buying an older home in Berks County, it's important to have an asbestos survey done first to ensure your safety. These surveys aren't expensive or time-consuming, and they could save your life. When hiring an asbestos surveyor in Reading and the surrounding area, be sure to ask for references and check their qualifications carefully. With a little bit of research, you can easily find a qualified professional who will give you the peace of mind you need when purchasing an older 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 Home Buyers
Dec. 27, 2022

Celebrate 2023 in Reading PA!

I want to thank all of my clients for a great year in 2022 and I wish you all the best in the coming new year.

Here are some events in Reading that will help you celebrate the start of 2023

New Year's Eve Party — Reading Liederkranz

Dec 31, 2022, 5 PM – Jan 1, 2023, 1 AM
Reading Liederkranz
143 Spook Ln, Reading, PA

Open for everyone for music and entertainment after dinner to celebrate the New Year.
$20 at the door starting at 9:00 p.m.

2022 Noon Years Eve Celebration

Sat, Dec 31, 10 AM – 12 PM
Reading Public Museum
500 Museum Rd, Reading, PA

Ring in the New Year a little earlier with your family at The Museum for Noon Year's Eve!

RPM will open its doors at 10 a.m. for pre-registered guests to visit the galleries, play some special games, and gather some special goodies to take home. Head to the Neag Planetarium at 11am for a special countdown to noon and dance party with The People’s DJ - DJ Nick T. At 12 noon, The Museum has scheduled a TENTATIVE Balloon drop** to ring in the new year!

New Year's Eve at the Ashram

Dec 31, 2022, 6:00 PM – Jan 1, 2023, 12:30 AM
Kula Kamala Foundation & Yoga Ashram
17 Basket Rd, Reading, PA

Bid fond adieu to 2022 and ring in 2023 with an inspiring combination of experiences.
Attendees can begin to arrive from 5:30 - 6:00 PM. Festivities begin at 6:00 PM with a thoughtfully crafted vegan gluten-free dinner.

New Year's Eve Party

Dec 31, 2022, 8:30 PM – Jan 1, 2023, 1:00 AM
Stokesay Castle & The Knight's Pub
141 Stokesay Castle Ln, Reading, PA

Party your way into 2023, Time Square Style! Dance to DJ Koolie Kirk, Enjoy an OPEN BAR, LIVE Feed of the Ball Drop in Time Square, & more...all within Stokesay Castle's Royal Knight Club!

Happy New Year 2023!

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 Reading Community
Dec. 20, 2022

Happy Holidays from Jeffrey Martin

I value each and every one of my clients and cannot express my gratitude enough for your ongoing support.

I hope you have a beautiful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Reading Community
Dec. 13, 2022

Getting the Most from Your HVAC

Are you getting the most from your HVAC system in your Berks County home? The key to extending the lifespan of your HVAC system is regular maintenance and servicing. An energy-efficient HVAC system uses the latest technology to consume less electricity. In turn, this reduces monthly bills in your Berks County home.

Maintenance of HVAC equipment on a quarterly or annual basis is crucial to extending its lifespan. It is important to keep in mind, however, that every piece of equipment has a limited lifespan. In the case of an HVAC system that is around 10 years old, it might be better to replace it rather than spend money on maintenance.

Increasing the Efficiency of the HVAC System 

An HVAC system is a one-in-all system that takes care of heating, cooling, and proper ventilation. Here are a few things that will help in keeping the HVAC in good condition and ensure better performance.

Annual maintenance and servicing

Over time, HVAC filters tend to collect dust, dirt, and pathogens. This not only affects air quality in the home, but also chokes the system. A maintenance check of the equipment is necessary to ensure that any faulty parts or repairs are addressed. During servicing, air filters are cleaned and replaced, and pipes, drainage, etc., are checked. The easiest way to improve its efficiency and performance is to schedule an annual maintenance, regardless of the season.

Change the air filters

Periodically changing or replacing air filters is one of the best ways to maintain good performance by air filters. Changing the air filters every one or two months is recommended for HVAC systems that are frequently used. By doing this, the chances of a breakdown are minimized, and the air is purified. Allergens, pollutants, and dust particulates are trapped by a clean and replaced filter.

Inspection of the duct system

Dust, dirt, or even insects may clog the HVAC system's air ducts. Trapping air pollutants in the air duct is harmful to health and might cause respiratory problems. Professional maintenance service conducts a complete checkup of the duct and cleans it off any debris. This is an effective way to ensure that indoors get only clean air for a healthy environment.

Programmable thermostat installation

HVAC system operation can be better controlled with the installation of a programmable thermostat. The thermostat regulates the system automatically. Energy is saved by adjusting the heating or cooling according to the indoor environment and temperature. As a result, excess energy is not consumed.

Upgrade and change for a better system

Even if you make all the changes to an older HVAC system, it may not perform efficiently. It won't function effectively no matter how much you spend on its maintenance. Therefore, it is crucial to know when to call for maintenance and when to replace the existing equipment completely. In terms of performance and energy efficiency, new-age advanced energy-efficient HVAC systems are better.

Here are some signs that indicate you need to upgrade the HVAC system:

  • The system is almost 10 to 15 years old and does not heat or cool efficiently.
  • There are frequent breakdowns and the device demands repeated repairs.
  • Interiors do not reach a comfortable temperature no matter how well you program the system
  • There is an increase accumulation of dust and dirt around the home.
  • The HVAC system makes an unpleasant and loud noise.
  • There is a high level of humidity due to improper functioning of ventilation function.
  • There is a constant rise in energy bills even with less use. 

HVAC systems make indoor environments and temperatures comfortable. By performing annual maintenance and regular servicing, you can extend the lifespan of your system and reduce electricity costs.

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
Dec. 6, 2022

Celebrate the Season in Reading

If you're looking for fun ways to enjoy the holiday season in Reading PA, check out these merry events taking place this week.

Annual Centre Park Historic District Christmas House Tour

Sun, Dec 11, 4 – 10 PM
Centre Park, Centre Ave, Reading, PA

Visit a variety of historic Centre Park homes decorated for the holiday season. Participants can choose to take the self-guided tour alone or add brunch at the Inn at Centre Park to round out the day.

Holiday Movie Event

Sat, Dec 10, 10 AM
R/C Reading Movies 11 & IMAX
30 N 2nd St, Reading, PA

Join us on December 10th at 10am for our holiday movie event. See ELF for FREE. Happy Holidays from R/C Theatres!

Holiday Trail of Lights

Sat, Dec 10, 5:30 – 8:30 PM
Muhlenberg Community Library
3612 Kutztown Rd, Reading, PA

Kick off the holiday season by driving around Muhlenberg Township to see the holiday lights while supporting the Muhlenberg Community Library and the Muhlenberg Arts Board. A drive-by tour has been arranged featuring five homes in the Muhlenberg area with spectacular exterior light displays. Each stop will have something special to see.

Holiday Lights at Gring's Mill

Dec 2, 5:30 PM – Dec 18, 8:30 PM
Gring's Mill Recreation Area
2083 Tulpehocken Rd, Reading, PA

Park visitors can walk around the beautiful grounds of Gring’s Mill park, to view our spectacular light display highlighting the historic buildings and landscaping around the park. “Holiday Lights at Gring’s Mill” will be open Fridays through Sundays.

Holiday Carriage Ride 2022

Fri, Dec 9, 6:00 – 6:15 PM
B2 Bistro + Bar
701 Reading Ave, West Reading, PA

The carriage holds 4 people and are 15 minute rides. One group per carriage. This event is rain or shine.

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.

Nov. 29, 2022

Be Ready to Answer These Questions When Applying for a Mortgage

Even if it’s not your very first home purchase in Berks County, you need to be prepared to provide your loan officer with what is required. Experienced homebuyers may also forget all the information that was provided and the questions asked. Before you get too far into the loan process, here are some questions you can bet your loan officer will ask.

Have you ever owned a home before?

First-time homebuyers may qualify for special loan programs in your area. In addition to down payment assistance, these programs may be offered by a local or statewide agency that assists first-time buyers in a variety of ways. It’s also important to recognize that most loan programs designate first time buyer status to those who have not owned a home in the past three years. 

Are You Self-Employed?

There is another question that might seem a bit out of left field, but it is very important. Self-employed individuals or those who receive income from sources other than their employers may need to complete some additional paperwork and processes. For example, you might be required to provide a year-to-date profit and loss statement, something an employee would not have. Business income tax returns for the last two years are required for self-employed individuals. In most such programs, a minimum two-year period of self-employment is required.

How Is Your Credit?

There are those who may think their credit has been damaged because of a recent late payment on their otherwise pristine credit report. In the event that there are any instances that need attention, explain them upfront and your loan officer will handle it. The way lenders view credit can sometimes be misunderstood, so don't make your own judgments. Lenders need to be aware of prior foreclosures and bankruptcy filings. 

How Much Do You Make Each Month?

While this is a relatively simple question, the lender may evaluate your monthly income differently than you do. Many applicants refer to their ‘take-home’ pay because that’s what shows up in the bank account each month. However, it’s the gross monthly income that appears on your paycheck stub that matters, not the net. If you’re not exactly sure how much you make each month, your paycheck stub is all you’ll need to answer that question.

How Much Money Do You Have Available For the Transaction?

Only the accounts used for the transaction are important. This account(s) will be used for not just the down payment and closing costs involved but also some money left over referred to as ‘cash reserves.’ Lenders want to make sure you have some money left over when all is said and done and not ‘zero out’ your accounts.

When Do You Want to Close?

For purchase transactions the close date is listed on the sales contract. That is if you’ve already made an accepted offer. It also lets the loan officer know how much time is available to meet the contract date. Many ‘escrow periods’ are for 30 days and there is a property picked out. This information lets the loan officer know when to begin ordering third party documentation to be done, but be ready to supply absolutely everything asked for in order to meet this deadline.

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
Nov. 22, 2022

Wishing You All a Happy Thanksgiving

Sending good wishes to all of you this Thanksgiving! Good food that fills your table, good health as you work hard, and good times with family and friends. May you have all the best delights in life. 

Here are a few things in our lives we can show thanks for this week:

  • Family
  • Clean Air
  • Children
  • Friends
  • Music
  • Your Job
  • A Good Laugh
  • Health

May the warm glow of autumn surround you as you celebrate the holiday with family & friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Reading Community
Nov. 15, 2022

Home Improvement Project You Should Avoid Doing Yourself

In general, homeowners in Berks County can save money by doing their own repairs. HomeAdvisor reports that homeowners who install their own linoleum flooring may save as much as $5,000 compared to homeowners who hire contractors. Despite this, there are some projects that are simply too complex, involve too much risk, and require too much specialized knowledge for homeowners to complete on their own.

Damage from Smoke or Fire

A home can be severely damaged by smoke and fire. Almost everything in a house can be damaged by smoke damage, including clothing, upholstery, carpets, and the walls themselves.

While homeowners can use specialty cleaning products to remove soot and replace drywall relatively cheaply, odor removal requires special tools that can be costly to purchase and difficult to rent. Thermal fogging and ozone treatment are two of the most common methods that professionals use to remove the smell from a home.

The average homeowner will pay between $3,000 and $22,000 for smoke damage restoration, but DIY projects may cost even more. When a homeowner fails to complete the job on his or her own, hiring a contractor afterward could raise the cost of the job.

Damage from Wind

Everything on a home can be damaged by wind, from the siding to the roof. Many DIYers take much longer to make repairs than contractors because of the complexity of the work. During that time, the home is vulnerable to damage from rain and the other elements. When homeowners attempt to repair their roofs or siding themselves, they may save on labor, but they could cause other costly problems in the process.

An advantage of hiring a contractor for this work is that he or she will likely have all the tools necessary to do the job as well as a crew of workers. A contractor can repair a damaged roof and siding in a weekend, but a homeowner may take many days or weeks.

Wind damage can cost between $2,000 and $10,000 to repair via a contractor. Homeowners hoping to save money can do some of the work on their own. For example, the homeowner can cut fallen tree branches to a more manageable size, then may haul them away to save on clean-up costs from the contractor.

Mold Damage

Mold is a serious problem that often occurs after a flood. Water damage after a flood can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 to repair, with mold remediation being a large part of that. Angie's List reports that mold remediation can cost between $2,700 and $3,300. Mold remediation costs over $500 should be handled by a licensed contractor because mold remediation can be invasive and could potentially do damage to the home.

Mold remediation involves an assessment of the home, contamination control, source removal and moisture control. This multi-faceted project must be comprehensive, or mold will return.

Homeowners who aren't sure about a DIY project can contact their contractor for more information. Speaking to a contractor can help the homeowner get a sense of how much a project will cost and whether it can be completed as a DIY.

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
Nov. 8, 2022

These Berks County Holiday Markets Will Help You Find the Perfect Gifts

It's time to start looking for the perfect gift for the holidays this year in Berks County. If you want to support local artists and find truly unique gifts, here are a few local Christmas craft shows over the next few weeks to check out.

Saint Catharine Christmas Boutique

Fri, Nov 18 – Sat, Nov 19
St Catharine of Siena Roman Catholic Church
4975 Boyertown Pike, Reading, PA

One the best craft shows in the area to kick off the holiday season! Unique Christmas Shopping! Fabulous Friday night dinner. Great eats! Huge Basket Raffle.

GMMA Holiday Craft Show

Sat, Nov 19, 2 – 8 PM
130 Lancaster Ave, Reading, PA

Come to the Governor Mifflin Middle School and support the Governor Mifflin Music Association by starting your holiday shopping! Handmade crafters will be showcasing their best work. Breakfast and lunch items will be available for purchase. Free entry!

Christmas Craft Show

Sat, Nov 26, 9 AM – Sun, Nov 27, 3 PM
Leesport Farmers Market
312 Gernants Church Rd, Leesport, PA

Holistic Retail, Food, Handmade Jewlery, Candles, Tarot Readers, Reiki Healers, Clothes, Natural Hygiene Products, Alter Pieces, Honey, Tea, Essential Oils, & so much more!! Open Later for Feature Events! CRYSTAL BINGO at 12pm Hosted By Spiritual Findings. RAIN OR SHINE! The event is outside under a large pavilion.

Christmas Makers Market

Sat, Dec 3, 9 AM – 4 PM EST
Events by Kelly's Florist
1051 Cross Keys Road Use driveway between 1033 and, 1029 Cross Keys Rd, Leesport, PA

A collection of makers bringing you hand crafted, curated items. Shop in a heated tent and in the studio if Events by Kellys Florist for your holiday needs. Come shop small!

Winter Wonder Craft Show

Sun, Dec 4, 8 AM – 1 PM
Leesport Farmers Market
312 Gernants Church Rd, Leesport, PA

Come out and shop the final show of the year! We'll have multiple vendors to shop from and maybe you'll find a great gift for a loved one!

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.