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New Construction Sales Surge in 2015

It’s official! The statistics are in, and 2015 was the best year for new construction since 2007 according to the Commerce Department. New home sales rose an impressive 9.9% year-over-year, and brand new homes now represent approximately 10% of all home sales nationwide. Plus, the construction sector added a significant number of jobs, and is expected to continue adding jobs this year.

construction
Hanover Woods – Gilbertsville, PA

A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that the most important features in new homes include walk-in closets, large laundry rooms, and energy efficiency.  Interestingly, luxury features such as wine cellars and whirlpool tubs are becoming less popular, as more buyers opt for pragmatic and flexible options.

construction
Beechwood Estates – Bensalem, PA

While new construction sales continued to rise at the end of 2015, existing home sales remained flat.  Industry experts believe that this slowed growth is largely due to a lack of homes for sale.  In other words, buyers want to buy, and can afford to buy, but there simply aren’t enough homes for sale that they like. The Northeast, however, saw bigger gains in upcoming home sales than the rest of the country.  This is probably due to the unseasonably warm weather that the region experienced in November and December.


 

3 Reasons to Have Your Home Pre Inspected

More and more sellers are getting their homes “pre inspected,” or hiring a home inspector to check out their home prior to putting it on the market. While the traditional method was to have a home inspected when (and only when) it went under contract, modern sellers are realizing the many benefits of having their homes pre inspected:

pre inspected

1. No surprises! Home inspection reports can sometimes result in big (and expensive!) surprises for both buyer and seller, and sometimes this can even lead to buyers walking away from the sale if a fair negotiation can’t be reached. If your home is pre inspected, however, you’ll know exactly which items may need to be addressed and have the time and space to make any needed repairs before listing your home.

2. The peace of mind that buyers will feel is priceless. Prospective buyers love pre inspected homes because the fear of unknown issues is eliminated, and they’ll see how much the seller cares about the home.   Having your home pre inspected may result in quicker offers and fewer negotiations — and you can’t put a price tag on that!

sellersmarket

3. It’s easy! It’s both simple and affordable to obtain a home inspection, and it typically pays off during the sale of your home.  Most home inspections can be scheduled within a week of calling an inspection company, and the price varies between $250-500 depending on the size and style of your home (larger and older homes may cost a bit more).


 

Quick and Easy Guide to Choosing A Listing Agent

If you’re thinking of selling your home, you’ll likely use a real estate professional (a listing agent) to help you sell.  We always recommend that you do your research and maybe even meet a few different agents before you choose who you’d like to represent you during the sale.

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We recommend having a couple of real estate agents visit your home in person, so that they may take a brief tour and provide you with the most accurate comparative market analysis (this will help to determine your home’s value).  Consider reaching out to the agent who helped you to buy your current home if your past experience with them was positive, or consider referrals from family and friends.

The commission, or percentage that will be paid to the real estate agency when your home sells, is one of the most important things to consider.  This amount is reduced from the proceeds of the sale, so you’re not required to pay anything unless your home sells. Plus, this percentage will include the listing agent’s fee AND the amount that will be paid to the agent who represents the buyer. EveryHome charges 4.5%, and this includes the 2.5% that we give to the buyer’s agent. The standard commission for many local agencies is 6%. You’ll also want to note any additional fees. Most agencies, including EveryHome, charge a conveyancing fee which is paid to a third-party paralegal.  EveryHome’s conveyancing fee, for example, is $250.

edit-large-sale
While the commission and fees should be major components of choosing an agent, there’s also a lot else to consider! First and foremost, you’ll want to ensure that your agent is someone with whom you will enjoy working closely. You’ll be in frequent contact with your agent during the entire sale process, so you’ll want to be sure that they’re accessible, communicative, helpful and friendly. You may also wish to ask what their primary means of communication is, whether that’s texting, email or phone calls, as well as if they’re easily accessible on nights and weekends.  You’ll also want to ensure that they’re familiar with your area. Ideally, they’ll have sold homes recently in your community.

sell-41
Another thing to consider is how they plan on marketing your home. Don’t be afraid to ask a prospective agent to see photos or write-ups of homes that they’ve sold in the past, and ask whether or not they plan on hosting an open house or broker’s open, or creating a home tour video. And of course, we’d love to introduce you to a local, friendly agent!  Just give us a call at (215) 699-5555.


 

The Best Philadelphia Museums You’ve Never Heard Of

Philadelphia is a city of museums! And sure, we’ve all been to the Franklin Institute, Please Touch Museum, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and maybe even the Mutter Museum.  But we bet you aren’t as familiar with the following three! So take the kids, pack a snack, and head to one of the Philly’s lesser-known spots on a snowy winter weekend:

Image via Pizzabrain.org
Image via Pizzabrain.org
  1. Fishtown is home to the world’s first pizza museum, and yes — we’re serious! Be sure to bring the kids along to Pizza Brain, which features the world’s largest collection of pizza memorabilia and offers an artisan pizza restaurant (because we bet that you’ll get hungry after learning all about pizza!). Bonus points: Little Baby’s Ice Cream World Headquarters is next door! Located on Frankford Avenue.

barnes

2. The Barnes Foundation and Arboretum.  Okay, maybe you’ve heard of this one, but did you know that The Barnes Foundation is considered the finest private post-impressionist collection in the nation? The beautiful art museum offers affordable pricing, as well as discounts for students and seniors.  Plus, the museum stays open until 9pm on the first Friday of each month with live music. The Barnes Foundation is located at 20th Street and the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the arboretum is located in nearby Wynnewood.

Image via Philly.com
Image via Philly.com

3.  Book lovers, unite! Stop by the Rosenbach Museum & Library on Delancey Street for a truly special collection of rare books, manuscripts, and Americana.  Featuring the treasures of the Rosenbach brothers (preeminent book dealers during the early 20th century), the museum seeks to educate and inspire the public with exciting events, reading groups, and one-of-a-kind exhibitions.  Admission is just $10 for adults and $5 for children.  Located on Delancey Street.


 

Mortgage Rates Fall….Again

The average 30-year fixed rate loan fell from 3.92% last week to 3.81% this week, according to Freddie Mac.  This is the lowest rate since October, and the third consecutive week of falling rates.

rates

Industry experts blame the decreasing rates on global financial turbulence and concern, including weak inflation, stock market crises, and falling oil prices. As a result, investors are seeking financial safety in American mortgage-backed securities.

buyers-contract

The recent rates have defied expert predictions, which suggested that mortgage rates would gradually rise after the Federal Reserve’s Dec 2015 decision to raise the short-term interest rate.


 

Cozy and Affordable Fireplace Ideas

Brrr! After two feet of snow and chilly temps here in Greater Philadelphia, we’re ready to thaw out in front of a crackling fire with a glass of red wine. Not only can a modern fireplace be energy efficient and provide you warmth during a dreaded power outage, they’re also highly coveted by homebuyers!

If you already have a wood-burning fireplace, consider giving it a cheap and easy makeover with these tips and ideas from DIY Network.  We especially love the cool, modern look achieved by simply painting a traditional brick fireplace (pictured below).

fireplace
Image via 11 Magnolia Lane

Looking for something a little more dramatic? Learn how to create a fireplace mantel out of an old door frame.  If your wood-burning fire place is no longer operational, consider adding a variety of ivory pillar candles (pictured below) for a simple, elegant effect.

fireplace
Image via DIY Network

No fire place? No problem! We love the charming, energy-efficient and affordable options on Amazon. This sleek, space-saving wall mounted fireplace is perfect for smaller spaces, and costs just $163!

fireplace
Image via Amazon.com

For something a bit more traditional, consider the electric unit pictured below for just $219 on Amazon.

fireplace
Image via Amazon.com

 

What You Don’t Know About The Rental Market

You’ve probably heard (or experienced firsthand!) the shortage of available rental homes.  In fact, rental prices have skyrocketed in the past two years as the demand for rentals increased to a historic high and supply remains limited.

If you’re currently a landlord, you’re probably marketing your properties to fresh-out-of-college professionals, young families, or late Gen Xers who seek flexibility and independence outside of homeownership.

So we bet you wouldn’t have guessed this: A recent report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the biggest increase in renters is people in their 50s and 60s.  Plus, the majority of renters are actually over the age of 40!

rental

Why? More and more older homeowners may prefer the carefree lifestyle afforded by renting a home, and may appreciate a smaller living space as they transition into empty nesthood.  Experts also point to the influx of foreclosures from the 2008 housing collapse as deterring the older, conservative generation from purchasing again. Plus, the relatively tight credit market may be keeping some folks from becoming homeowners.

rental

If you’re a landlord, be sure to consider this demographic shift as you choose your next rental property.  These are the characteristics that Baby Boomers seek out most in a new home: Single-family homes with bedrooms and laundry facilities located on the first floor, a guest bedroom, an abundance of closet and storage space, updated kitchens and bathrooms, and homes located in an home owners’  association with little to no yard work or exterior maintenance.


 

Why First Time Buyers Love The Seller’s Assist

One of the biggest hurdles for first time buyers is saving enough money for a down payment and closing costs.  Luckily, there are a number of ways to afford closing costs a bit more easily, and utilizing a seller’s assist is one of the most popular options.  In fact, nearly half of all EveryHome buyers purchase their home using a seller’s assist!

first time buyers

A seller assist refers to the seller paying for a portion of the buyer’s closing costs at the settlement table. The seller assist is negotiated when an offer is presented.  For example, if you offer a sale price of $200,000 for a home, you may also request a $5000 seller’s assist (where the sellers will pay for $5000 of your closing costs).  In this case, the seller would net $195,000. This is important to keep in mind when presenting an offer, as the seller’s ultimate concern will be the net sale amount.

first time buyers

There is a limit to the seller assist amount.  If you’re using an FHA mortgage, the maximum seller assist amount is 6% of the sale price.  If you’re obtaining a conventional loan, the seller assist amount is capped between 3-6% of the sale price, depending on how much money you’re putting down.  These limits are always subject to change, and we recommend that you speak to your EveryHome agent and lender for individualized information.


 

Philadelphia Auto Show Returns Next Week!

The Philadelphia Auto Show is bigger and better than ever! Over 700 different cars will be presented at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from January 30th through February 7th. Whether you’re interested in a Mazda or Maserati, Buick or Bentley, you’ll be sure to find it at the auto show!

Philadelphia Auto Show

The show, which boasts over 700,000 square feet of classic, exotic, and pre-production models, is the city’s premier destination for car enthusiasts. Tickets cost just $14 and are available online or at the door.

Philadelphia Auto Show

Interested in dining and dancing among the finest automobiles in the world? Be sure to consider the Black Tie Tailgate party on January 29th to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The elegant evening will feature delicious culinary creations,
music, and a preview of all that the show has to offer. Tickets start at $225.

Philadelphia Auto Show


 

What is the Minimum Credit Score to Buy a Home?

Wondering what is the minimum credit score to buy a home? You’re not alone! Your credit score is one of the major components to qualifying for a mortgage, and can greatly affect your interest rate.  Generally speaking, the absolute minimum credit score requirement is 620.  However, there are a lot of variables to consider.

fcl

For an FHA loan, you will be required to have a credit score of at least 620 (prior to 2009, the minimum was 580), although sometimes this score may have to be a bit higher.

Conventional mortgages may be a bit stricter.  Every lender and program operates a bit differently, but it is more difficult to secure a mortgage with a credit score of 620 (although it has been done!).  In the conventional mortgage world, 640-660 tends to be the magic number, but you’ll benefit greatly from having a score in the 700+ range, as you’ll pay significantly lower interest rates and significantly less for your private mortgage insurance (“PMI”).

So, what if your score is below 620? Or, what if your score is above 620 but you’re concerned about paying a too-high interest rate? You have options! Consider reaching out to a credit repair agency for affordable, personalized assistance.


 

Mortgage Applications Rise by 21% Last Week

Mortgage applications dropped sharply over the holidays, but that decrease was only temporary.  In fact, total mortgage applications volume (including both applications to purchase a home, as well as homeowners looking to refinance) climbed by a whopping 21.3% last week!

Mortgage applications

 

The total number of mortgage purchase applications are also 19% higher than they were at this time last year. Mortgage applications index reached its second highest level on a seasonally-adjusted basis since May 2010.

Mortgage applications

According to Bankrate.com, the national average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 3.80%.  It’s important to note that this rate may include points (which allow buyers to pay an upfront fee in order to reduce their interest rate), and reflect only buyers with the strongest credit scores.


 

Center City Restaurant Week Begins January 17th!

Now is the time to make your reservations for the largest center city restaurant week!  Over 120 of Center City’s most popular and awarded restaurants will be offering special three-course prix fixe menus for just $35.  Select restaurants will also be offering a three-course lunch for $20.

Center City Restaurant Week
XIX Nineteen at the Hyatt

The Center City Restaurant Week begins January 17th and runs until January 29th, with a hiatus on January 23rd.

Center City Restaurant Week
Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

A few of our favorites participating include Amada, Butcher and Singer, Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, XIX-Nineteen,  Morton’s Steakhouse, and the Oyster House.  A number of BYOBS (to save you even more!) will also be participating, including Mercato and Pumpkin.  For more information and a full list of participating restaurants, be sure to click here.

Center City Restaurant Week


 

The 3 Best Things About Moving From the City to the ‘Burbs

The bittersweet transition from a city slicker to a suburbanite is not always easy or fun, but suburban living may offer some real advantages.  Here are the three best things to make the move just a little bit sweeter:

suburban

1. School districts.  We probably don’t have to elaborate on this one too much, but in case you’re on the fence, consider that the vast majority of the top school districts in the state are located right here in the suburbs (Radnor, Tredyffrin-Easttown, and New Hope-Solebury are just a couple of the highest performing districts in the region).  Regardless of whether or not you have children (or are even thinking about kids!), a strong school district will keep your home value high and your community strong.

suburban

 

2. “You won’t need a car in the city,” they said.  “You can walk or take SEPTA,” they said.  Well, we know that’s not true — you needed a car anyway and now you’ve found yourself paying an entire paycheck to park your Prius each month. Yikes! Not a problem here in the suburbs, though — the majority of suburban homes even offer garages (gasp!).

suburban

3.  Trees! Gardens! Parks! Open space comes at a premium in the city, but not in the ‘burbs! Remember those long walks with Fido around the windy, chilly streets in the city? We don’t! We just open up the back door to our fenced-in yard for our four-legged family members to do their business. And when your nephew wants to play catch outside? How about that veggie garden you’ve always wanted? Or those rose bushes?  Check, check, check.


 

The Pros (and Cons!) Of Buying New Construction

Considering a brand new home? You’re not alone! The majority of buyers prefer new construction when given a choice, and there are a lot of fantastic new communities all over the Greater Philadelphia.

new construction

Here’s why new construction is a great idea

  1. This one is obvious, but its importance cannot be overstated: Brand. New. Every single thing in the home will be brand spankin’ new, meaning you’re a lot less likely to pay for maintenance, renovations and repairs anytime soon.
  2. The home may be somewhat customized to your liking. New homes are likely to have open floor plans, more bathrooms (yay!), and you can typically add on custom design features as well as pick your own colors.
  3. Low utility bills! New homes tend to be far more efficient than older homes, resulting in lower energy costs.

new construction

Here’s what you should watch out for:

  1. The home may be somewhat customized to your liking. While this is usually an advantage, it’s important to note that these customizations can cost you big bucks.  Generally speaking, the price listed online for a new home will increase considerably by the time it gets to the settlement table.
  2. The process can be overwhelming and even intimidating at times.  There is a lot more to consider and far more options when it comes to new homes, and (shameless advertising alert!) this is where an EveryHome agent can assist you.  It’s especially important to use your own buyer’s agent when purchasing a brand new home, as they will advocate for you throughout the process. Plus, using a buyer’s agent is completely free!
  3. Consider your own timeline.  While you can settle and move into most pre-existing homes within 45 days or so, new construction homes take quite a bit longer. If you’re renting or don’t have to sell your current home first, new construction may be a great option.  But otherwise, it can be a bit tricker (and your EveryHome agent can help you navigate this, too!).

new construction


 

Quick and Easy Guide To Finding A Great Tenant

Whether you’ve decided to rent out your current home or purchase an investment property, you’ll surely be looking for prospective renter. Most landlords will tell you that it’s not always easy to find a great tenant, so here’s how to ensure that you have the very best pool of applicants:

The first way to find a tenant, which is the easiest, is simply to use a real estate agent. Most agencies charge about one month’s rent as a fee, and it’s their job to market the home online (typically using the MLS realtor database) and show the home to prospective renters. They’ll provide the paperwork, and present you with all applications that come in.
Of course, the downside to this easy way is that it does cost money!

great tenant
As a result, some landlords prefer to find the tenants themselves. Multiple major real estate websites can be valuable tools for this, as well as even Craigslist. Some websites will ask you to create an account, most of which are free, and upload a few pictures, a little information, and a monthly rental price. Then you just sit and wait for any emails or phone calls from interested renters! The good news is that because there is a general shortage of rentals, you’ll likely get plenty of applications if the home is priced properly. You can find these standard rental applications online.

great tenant

Many landlords ask prospective tenants to check their credit scores, as well as references from past landlords. To further ensure that the tenant is in a comfortable financial position to rent the home, be sure to request recent paystubs, and possibly even bank statements. Generally speaking, the monthly rent should be about 1/3 of a tenant’s monthly income.

Be sure to also consider interviewing and speaking in depth with any tenants that you’re seriously considering to get a better sense of their lifestyle. You might want to ask about pets, and even to meet the pets. You may also wish to consider asking to see photos of prior apartments and homes, as this can be a great indicator for how well-kept you can expect a tenant to keep your home. Once you’ve narrowed down your pool of applicants to one great tenant, it’s time to sign the lease and collect the first month’s rent and security deposit. The security deposit amount is typically an additional one month’s rent which is returned to the tenant at the end if there is no significant damage caused to the home. If the tenant has pets, it’s not uncommon to collect a nonrefundable pet fee- sometimes up to $500. The tenant may also be asked to pay an additional small monthly fee for a cat or dog, often times between $15-75.

great tenant
We wish you the best of luck with your investment property, and if there is anything that we can do to help, just give us a call at 215 699 5555!


 

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EveryHome Realty is licensed by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission (license RB066839) and the New Jersey Real Estate Commission (license 0901599)