Wednesday, February 27, 2008

For the Love of a Fixer Upper

Oh Fixer Upper House, how you make my heart go pitter pat!

The possibilities are endless, the equity abundant. You've been waiting for me your whole life, and Here I AM!

I'll give you a good scrubbing, painting, carpeting, termite treatment, roof and siding and you'll be good as new. I'll gussy you up with granite and tile. I'll get to pick all the colors! I'll never sit on a toilet seat used by anyone else!

The love of a good woman (and a stint in rehab) will turn you around, straighten you out, put you on the right track. I'll love you, and you'll love me and we'll live our lives in blissful harmony, flush with sweat equity and abundance...

Except that bigger fixer upper that won't stop winking at me, and he's SUCH a hottie....

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tax Liens - Is your Mortgage Company Bad Pay?

An avalanche of tax liens to hit Bucks this week

The Bucks County Tax Claim Bureau is expecting to notify over 10,000 homeowners of liens placed on their homes as a result of back property taxes owed. The bureau estimates that 80 percent are a result of mortgage companies rather than delinquent taxpayers. The 10,157 homeowners in 2007 is a 9.5% increase from 2006 when 9,278 homeowners received the same notification.
Source: The Intelligencer; 2/17/08

How can you avoid this?
  1. Promptly forward any tax bill you receive to your mortgage company.
  2. Follow up with the tax office to confirm that your taxes have been paid on time.
  3. Contact your mortgage company immediately if the taxes have not been paid.

Take responsibility for insuring that your mortgage company pays your taxes. If they don't, the lien will be placed against your property, even though it is your mortgage company's responsibility to pay the tax bill out of the tax escrows.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I'll take a look at non-escrow (sometimes called impound free) mortgages, and examine the benefits/risks to that option.

Want to know your local tax collector's number to confirm your taxes are paid up to date? Shoot me an email with your township, and I'll be happy to forward their information...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What's a U&O and why do I need to pay for it?

When selling your home in Bucks County, it's a good idea for you or your REALTOR to call your local township and ask if there is a U&O (Use and Occupancy) permit required for residential resales. Many townships have these permits, and the requirements differ from township to township. The permit is required when you sell a home in the township, and in the Agreement of Sale, the Seller is required to provide one, unless specifically noted that the Buyer will be responsible for the inspections and any necessary repairs.

Sometimes, a township will require a U&O inspection where the inspector looks for obvious hazards - GFCI outlets in the kitchen and baths, broken windows, anti-tip device on stove, etc. They may also require: heater certifications, chimney certifications, electrical certifications, sprinkler system certifications, etc.

Because many times the U&O permit can be a very involved process, the best idea is to contact your township when you list the home. Although many townships won't inspect until 30 days prior to settlement, knowing the requirements, and what they are going to inspect prior to selling your home gives you the opportunity to plan and prepare.

Want to know your township U&O requirements? Shoot me an email, and I'll be happy to forward them to you!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What a Difference a Cookie Makes

I was showing homes on Thursday, and I've come to the conclusion that a cookie can make a big difference. We toured several properties in the same neighborhood. The first property we walked into, the Seller had left a small plate of cookies by the brochures. But it wasn't just the cookies - it was the whole experience she created. Candles were lit, soft music was playing, towels were stacked neatly in the baths. Was the home perfectly staged? No. The closet was filled with clothes and the children's rooms weren't neutral. There was an odd family photo throughout the home. But it was staged in the sense that the Seller made the home welcoming. It felt like a happy family lived there, and loved the home, and took care of it.

The next home we went to had beautiful new cherry hardwoods. It had an expanded kitchen with miles of granite. It had an extra full bath. It was spotlessly clean.

But it didn't have a plate of cookies. And there was something missing from the experience.

It's a lesson that you don't have to do everything right. You have to do enough to make a difference in the perception of the Buyer. Is it candles? Is it soft music? Or is it taking the time to love your home, and create a sense of welcome for the Buyer? Is it something more intangible?

Or is it the cookies?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Prepare for the Weekend Open Houses in Bucks County!

OK, ready, Homebuyers?

We're doing Guerrilla shopping on Sunday at Open Houses!

Step 1 - Print out a list of open houses in your price range/area. How do you find them before Sunday? Check out and look for homes that have "Open House" on the tag. Ask your agent to run a list of opens advertised in the MLS. I'll give you a great hint and direct you to You can do a search of homes that are having an open house right online. Or, you could go old school and wait until the Sunday morning paper and check the "Open House" ads in the Bucks County Courier Times and Philadelphia Inquirer.

Step 2- Get your route together and mapquest directions. Pay attention to times - if some are holding their opens from 1-4, you can put them towards the end because many open houses end at 3:00. **Special hint - will do this for you**

Step 3 - Get your supplies together: notebook, digital camera, and your Agent's business cards if you have an agent. Snacks may also be appropriate (I get a little cranky if I get hungry!) If you're bringing kids, Gameboys, books, travel games, or movies would be a good idea.

Step 4 - Shop till you drop, baby! Spend enough time in the home to get a feel for it. You don't have to do an inspection - ask for a second showing before making a decision and you'll almost always ask for a home inspection if you decide to make an offer. Make sure to take any information provided, even if at first the home isn't on your "Most Wanted" list. You never know when you'll start thinking about a home and reconsider it. Take pictures of things that you like (and don't). Make notes.

Some things to consider:

1. If you are just starting to think about moving, this is a fabulous way to learn the market. It's also a great way to find an agent if you don't have one. You'll find out a lot about an agent by the open house - Are they helpful? Are they knowledgable? Do you "click" with them? Get their card and give them a call when you're ready for help!

2. If you've been in the market a while, this is a good way to filter out the junk in order to concentrate on the "Most Wanted" with your agent. Many people like to shop on their own, at their own pace. Open Houses are a great way to do so.

3. Remember, open houses are such a small minority of what is available on the market. If you don't see anything you like, by all means, don't be discouraged! There's much more out there to look at.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Where my Girls At?

According to the National Association of Realtors 2007 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers for Pennsylvania, 21% of home Buyers were single females.

Girl Power! (Or is it Grrrl Power?)

Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a home:

Single or condo?

A single is a good choice if you are up to the challenge of a little maintenance and desire privacy or even your own little corner to garden. Keep it manageable. A condo or townhouse is a good choice if you want a more carefree lifestyle, and can be just as happy with a small pot of flowers as an entire yard of landscaping. Condos often offer amenities that you may not be able to find in a single: tennis courts, pools, gyms, and clubhouses.


Never buy in an area, no matter what the price point, where you don't feel safe. I'm a firm believer in checking out the area at several points during the day to get the "vibe" of the neighborhood. Your gut instinct will rarely steer you wrong. Personally, for condos or townhomes I like private entrances to the unit. Lighting is important.

Don't be intimidated by fixer uppers.

Look, I don't know how to replace plumbing, but I can understand the process if someone explains it to me. I can call several plumbers to get price quotes so that I don't get ripped off. I can lay tile (Seriously, it's not that hard!). I can paint and do rudimentary upgrades. Just because you're a single female, don't write off fixers because you're intimidated by "construction." You're a smart girl! You're buying a home all by yourself, and with recommendations and a little elbow grease, you may be up for the challenge.

Or not. But let it be because you want to buy move-in ready, not because you're intimidated by the work.

Want to talk some more about your price range, options, and the area? Shoot me an email or give me a call. I love to get "my girls" into their first home!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

January 2008 Market Statistics for Bucks County

According to TReND, our local multiple listing service, below are the market statistics for residential sales for January 2008, as compared to the 2007 figures:
  • 1149 Homes Currently Listed (Down 47 homes compared to 1/2007 figure of 1196)
  • $448,000 Average List Price (Up $35,000 compared to 1/2007 figure of $413,000)
  • 313 Homes Settled (Sold) in January (Down 92 homes compared to 1/2007 figure of 405)
  • $364,000 Average Sold Price (Up $14,000 compared to 1/2007 figure of $350,000)
  • 76 Days on Market (Up 5 days compared to 1/2007 figure of 71)

So, where is our free fall in Bucks County?

Want a historical chart of residential sales in Bucks County? I created a rolling 12 month chart to better keep abreast of the market dynamics in Bucks County. I'll be happy to share it with you, just give me a call or shoot me an email!

**Information is considered reliable, but not guaranteed**

Friday, February 1, 2008

7 Creative Ways to Appeal to Buyers

7 Creative ways to appeal to Buyers:

  1. Pay points on the mortgage to reduce the interest rate on the loan.
  2. Pay closing costs to reduce the money a Buyer needs to bring to settlement.
  3. Pay the taxes for the year to give the Buyer a year of no tax escrows in their monthly payment.
  4. Pay for Home Owner Association Dues for the year to reduce the monthly payment.
  5. Pay for a home warranty, pre-pay for oil, or pay for a heater contract for the year.
  6. Give them an American Express Gift Card to purchase a washer, dryer, and refrigerator.
  7. Pay for lawn care for one season.