Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bugs, Rot, and Redemption - A Conversation with my Tree Guy

I had a few trees removed the other day, and got to talking with the very knowledgeable Paul Anthony of Advanced Tree Care in Newtown (215) 968-9161. We were talking bugs, rot, and redemption of local trees. I asked Paul about some of the more prevalent diseases he's been seeing in the area. Here are a few of the ones he called out. I've included links to more information, so that you read up on the symptoms and treatment:

Maple trees can be afflicted with verticillium wilt, which is a soil born vascular disease. There is no cure for this disease, so it may result in losing the tree if it is afflicted.

Birch trees are susceptible to the bronze birch borer which can kill the tree within 2 to 3 years if left untreated. Keep an eye out for Birch Leafminer attacks, since they can weaken the trees and leave them open to borer attacks.

Ash trees have their own borer, who traveled overseas from Asia in packing crates. These exotic bugs have been causing damage in Pennsylvania ash trees, and have even resulted in quarantines in an attempt to stop their infiltration into the US.

Oak trees can be afflicted by bacterial leaf scorch, and since there's no known cure, and stopping infestation is difficult, this could be a "hope and pray" that you don't lose a tree to this infection.

Anyway, the parting advice I got from Paul, is that if you see a tree that looks in distress, call an arborist to evaluate the tree. They can take a specimen of the tree to the lab, correctly identify the problem, and make recommendations for a course of action.

If all else fails, and you lose the tree, perhaps you'll meet Paul during the removal. He's a wealth of information. It's also a lot of fun to see him and his crew climb the trees. My kids thought it was really cool - you will too. Check out the the hair raising picture below:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Joyful Buying and Selling...It's still out there

I've begun working with new clients, and they are a complete joy to work with. Why? 'Cause they're so darn SMART!

Here's a few things that they're doing that are going to pay off for them...big time:
  • They've decided to sell their home first, then buy. They'll know exactly how much money they have to work with. More than that, they won't have that excruciating stress of selling their home under the gun because they are making two mortgage payments. They can get the right price for their home, rather than having a fire sale to stop the bleeding.

  • They're educating themselves on the market before they begin the process. When they sell their home, they'll know exactly where they want to look, and exactly what price range. They'll be serious, committed, EDUCATED buyers who know the price/condition/market and are ready to see a home and make an offer.

  • They're just so rational, realistic, and excited about the process.

On top of this, they're a blast to shop with and talk to. They also have a cute baby, and she smiles at me a lot because I'm her favorite ;)

The market is filled with these people. We're so used to hearing about desperation and foreclosures and "Seller says make an offer!" that we forget that there are people out there who are joyfully selling and buying. And when we work with them, well, it's a joyful relationship all around.

Thanks for reminding me of that Brian and Dana!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Keep Your Money in Your Pocket (Until the Tax Man Comes A'Knockin')

Geez, I promised a post on impound free mortgages and never delivered! An impound free mortgage is where you DO NOT escrow your taxes every month with your mortgage company. With the crackdown on lending practices, these may be more difficult to get, but here's how it works:

Instead of adding 1/12th of your yearly taxes to your monthly payment to your mortgage company, and having them pay the tax bills out of the money they've collected, YOU will be responsible for paying the tax bills as they come due.

What are some advantages?

  • Your money earns interest for you. It does not earn interest when you pay it to the mortgage company every month.
  • You have some flexibility with your monthly payment. This can benefit you if you have a commission based business, or get yearly bonuses. Put away a chunk of it at a time, let the money earn interest all year until the tax bill is due, and reduce your monthly payment.

You absolutely MUST be vigilant in saving your money to pay your taxes. There is no forced savings plan (a benefit of paying it with your mortgage). So, if you have even the slightest doubt about your ability to save the money in order to have it on hand at tax time, I would advise against this.

Nothing like a $6,000 tax bill, and no money to pay for it, to ruin your day.

Want more information? Shoot me an email and I'll be happy to better explain tax escrows as they relate to your mortgage payment!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

But...But...But...or "How a Deal is Made"

I put an offer in on a property in a downward trending market today. I included my comps showing that the price that we offered is fair. It wasn't a crazy offer, it does have a basis in reality. The reality is that prices are eroding in that area, and there are a ton (a TON) of short sales and bank owned properties lingering on the market. Prices are going to continue to erode until we get rid of this inventory. The Seller was only willing to come down a bit off the asking price. My Buyer wasn't willing to go up more than a smidge because our guts are telling us we can pick something up in the next couple months at his target price.

The other agent was great. He told me what the Seller's current bottom line was without arguing the comps with a "We have vinyl siding - this comp has asbestos! yadda, yadda, yadda..." I told him my Buyer wasn't going to move up in price without the "That house is a piece of crap! Look at the foreclosures on the market...they're going to regret it...yadda, yadda, yadda..."

And so, the deal has died. Not in a clash of ego and tears. Not in a desperate back and forth of negotiating increments of $1,000. It simply died because the Seller was willing to take X, and my Buyer was willing to pay Y, and those two lines didn't intersect at any point.

So, how is a deal made? A deal is made when a Seller is willing to take what a Buyer is willing to pay. Sometimes, this puts everyone in a "Happy Place." Sometimes the deal dies only to be resurrected another day. But, at the end of the day, it comes down to this:

A deal is made when a Seller is willing to accept what a Buyer is willing to pay.

That's it. It's really pretty simple.

Friday, March 7, 2008

St. Patty's Parade in Levittown - March 15th at 10:30 a.m.

St. Patty's Day Parade
March 15th, Starting at 10:30 a.m.
New Falls Road in Levittown
Parade will start at St. Joseph the Worker School and go to Wistar Road

Don't miss this annual parade held in Levittown. Bring a chair, a bag for the candy that's thrown to the kids, and some shamrock headbands (optional, but suggested). A fabulous mix of floats, charities, Irish dancers, and my favorite - Irish marching bands, this parade is always a blast.

Some suggestions for parking/viewing:

Park in Pennsbury High School and walk to New Falls Road. You're in close proximity to 7-11 and Dunkin Donuts to bolster yourself with some coffee and have a snack while watching the parade.

Park at Conwell Egan Catholic or the Tech School. You'll be at the parade end, so you'll have great seats for the festivities, and there is a WaWa there for your coffee and snack fix.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You Love Me! You Really Love Me!

I met Buyers and their Agent at one of my listings today. They were doing their home inspection. After the typical meet and greet, I asked them, "Are you excited?"

"YES!" the woman said enthusiastically, and she and her boyfriend looked at each other and giggled a little bit. Oh, they were excited, all right. They were ecstatic. They were giddy. They were in love. Unequivocally in love....with my listing.

I had 60 people go through this listing. You read it right - 60. Everyone had very positive things to say about it, but I only got one crazy offer in writing, and a couple no-show buyers. Lots of Buyers who "had interest" and who "put it on the short list." But nobody fell in love with it until these two walked in the door. And now my pretty rehab is getting the attention and love that it deserves.

My listing found its true love, its soulmates, its Mr. and Mr.s Right, and I'm happy for all parties involved.

I love this business.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Home Shopping with Children , or "Ode to the Warriors"

Aw, yeah! Time for some fun now! Who here has attempted to house shop with kids along for the ride? (Heather raises hand) It's crazy, and chaotic, and quite frankly - kinda sucks. My husband and I shopped with a wild (like REALLY wild) 2 year old and a newborn and I still want to drink when I think about it.

So, here are some tips from a pro:
  • We found 3 to be the magic number. That's how many houses OUR patience and energy lasted and our son remained somewhat controllable. Every time we shot for the fourth house, it was a disaster.
  • Food and drinks often calm the wild beast. We saved the coveted fruit snacks for times of dire need. For older kids - videos, handheld games, paper and pen to make up games.
  • If that baby falls asleep in the car, don't you dare wake him/her up! Let 'em sleep and take turns going through the house. No, REALTORS don't think it's weird, and we don't mind.
  • Keep a hold on the kids. I still remember the look on my 2 year old's face the first time he saw an un-babyproofed home with more glass to touch than he knew what to do with. Heaven!

Some other tips, not necessarily related to house hunting;

  • Bring a change of clothes for the kids. Our older son gets carsick, which we didn't find out until he threw up all over himself and the carseat about an hour away from home. Same goes for diaper blowouts, random nosebleeds, etc.
  • Always keep snacks and water in the car. I grew up in Levittown, with a Burger King on every corner. Many areas of Bucks County aren't like that, and you don't want to get caught. (Please note the french fries floating around on your backseat floor don't count. I mean sure, the kids'll eat them in a pinch..... ;)

If you find something you're interested in, my recommendation would be to do a second showing sans kids. Find a babysitter who you'll feel comfortable leaving for a long time so that you can concentrate on the house without feeling rushed, and maybe even go out to dinner afterward to have some uninterrupted conversation about the property.

Want some more tips? I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve, so shoot me an email and I'll share them with you. Or, if you'd like to go shopping with a REALTOR who's "been there and done that" give me a call. I might even have a spare french fry in my own backseat, and I'll buy you a drink afterwards.