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Home Sweet Home! The Top Tax Deductions for Homeowners

If you’re a first time homebuyer, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of major tax deductions for homeowners.  Here are a few of the deductions that can save you thousands:

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1. The top tax deduction is, undoubtedly, your mortgage interest.  This is almost always the biggest home-related deduction for new borrowers, as the majority of the monthly payment goes toward interest.  (If your loan is more than $1 million, you may be limited in your deduction.)

2. Property taxes! This type of tax is fully deductible, and you can determine the exact amount of property taxes paid by taking a look at the annual report provided by your lender.  If you bought in the middle of the year, dig out your settlement sheet to determine exactly how much you paid in taxes, since they were split with the previous owner of your home. Don’t have your settlement sheet? Be sure to ask your real estate agent or title company for another copy.

First-Time-Home-Buyers

3. If you purchased points to lock in a better interest rate on your new home, you’ll be able to deduct this cost too.  If you purchased points to refinance, different rules may apply.

4. Home improvement loan interest is fully tax-deductible, as long as the work results in a “capital” improvement.  A capital improvement refers to a project that increases your home’s value, including installing a swimming pool, a new heating/cooling system, or a new roof.

5. If you moved over 50 miles for a new job, your moving costs may be tax-deductible.  This may include travel or transportation of household items, lodging expenses,  and storage fees.

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As with all tax and finance advice, EveryHome recommends consulting with your accountant for individualized assistance.


Understanding Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

If you’re obtaining a loan and putting less than 20% down, you’ll likely be paying private mortgage insurance (PMI).  This pesky fee can range considerably in price, but it typically ranges between 0.3 and 1.5 percent of the original loan amount per year, according to Bankrate.com.

While this insurance is paid by the consumer (that would be you, as the homebuyer), it actually serves to protect the lender.  In other words, this insurance will reimburse the lender if you default on your home loan.

Private Mortgage Insurance

PMI is most commonly paid for in a monthly premium, and simply added to your monthly mortgage payment.  However, some lenders offer alternative ways to pay, including upfront premiums.  Be sure to ask your lender about your available options.

Here’s the good news: If you obtained a conventional loan, you can request cancellation of your PMI payment once your loan-to-value ratio drops to 80 percent. (And, in case you forget to request this, your lender is required to automatically cancel your PMI once your loan-to-value ratio drops to 78 percent.)

Private Mortgage Insurance

Unfortunately, FHA-insured loans do not allow homeowners to cancel their mortgage insurance premium.  Instead, many of these homeowners choose to refinance after gaining more equity in their home.

PMI payments may be tax-deductible, too! Be sure to consult your lender and accountant for details.


A Day in the Life of an EveryHome Agent: Mark Gatta

A husband, a father of four little ones, the owner/operator of a salon in South Philadelphia and a successful EveryHome agent and the leader of EveryHome’s Gatta Group…. whew!  Mark Gatta is a busy guy with a lot on his plate (and no, we don’t just mean his wife’s delicious cooking!).  It’s no secret that Mark works hard for his clients everyday, and he attributes much of his success to the support of his amazing wife, Maria, his great family, and wonderful employees.

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Here, Mark shares a typical day in his life, and how he manages to make it all work:

5:00am: The early bird gets the worm so lets get this day started! I start my morning with about 30 minutes of Cardio to get the blood flowing. Sometimes its boxing, other times the treadmill, or maybe even a brisk walk or jog. After that I’ll take a hot shower and out the door by no later than 6:00.

6:00am-7:00am: Drive to South Philly so that I can get my tanning salon/coffee bar open. I started my Express-O-Tan back in 2003 at the age of 23 and still love each and every day that I spend there.

7:00am-8:00am: Read a few newspapers. i.e. Philadelpia Inquirer, Bucks County Courier, etc. send out any emails from the following day, catch up on any social media and drink my first and much needed double espresso.

8:00am-9:00am: Open Express-O-Tan. The first hour is usually pretty busy with tanners and coffee drinkers looking to get there fix prior to work, so not much time for real estate.

9:00am-12:00pm: Make sure that all of my current clients have been contacted if need be along with taking time to schedule appointments for that evening.

12:00pm-3:00pm. Usually have a very light lunch. My employees always tell me that I eat like a rabbit. What can I say, I love carrots and hummus.
This is the time that I focus on prospecting. I like to call local builders, investors and people who haven’t had much luck with their current agents and let them know what EveryHome along with the Gatta Group can offer them!

3:00pm-7:30pm: Showings, Showings and more Showings! This seems to be the time when most home buyers and sellers are looking to schedule appintments and I need to be available for them to do so.

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7:30pm: Dinner! Italians seem to put most emphasis on this time of day. Maria is always making something elaborate. My favorite is penne pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage……it will actually take you down to one knee its so good!

8:00pm-9:00pm: Bath time and family games etc. Time to let my little ones unwind with a nice game of fooseball or maybe even monopoly if we are feeling adventurous.

9:00pm-9:30pm: Goodnight little Gattas!!!! We read them a few books and out they go.(not always so easy).

9:30pm-11:00pm: Maria and Mark time….(keep your mind out of the gutter, thats how we got the first 4 lol). We love to watch Law and Order or any DIY show that happens to be on. Chased with some homemade wine, it is the perfect way to end the night.

11:00pm-11:30pm: Action News and Bed…..!

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Keep in mind that this is a typical day in my life. Unfortunately it does’t always work out this way and that is why EveryHome is the perfect fit for me. There is no mandatory office time and they will truly work around your schedule. If I can be (or at least I think) a successful Realtor with four little ones and a second career, I think that anyone can! It really is a great time to start your career with EveryHome. My phone is always on so feel free to give me a call to discuss how your life can fit in with the EveryHome family!


3 Tips for Pricing Your Home Effectively

If you’re planning on selling your home soon, you may have already met with a couple of different listing agents to discuss the approximately value of your home. A real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market analysis (or CMA) that compares the features of your home to similar homes on the market and generates a starting point for the market value. That’s often the best place to start, but sometimes this market value can be a big range, or there simply haven’t been many homes for sale similar to yours on the market recently. If you’re left feeling unsure of where to price your home, consider the following tips:

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1. Our first tip is to think like a buyer, and carefully consider what is CURRENTLY on the market, since these homes are competing with yours!  If you live in a subdivision where there are comparable homes for sale, consider pricing your home a bit less than a similar home.  Keep in mind that homes that are active on the market have not yet sold– so checking out these prices is really just informing you of the price that your home WON’T sell for. Sometimes, especially if your home might be more nicely decorated or 100 sq ft bigger, it can be tempting to price it at or above a similar home on the market—but consider that many buyers will gravitate towards the less expensive home, even if the price difference is nominal. This really, is as much psychology as anything. If you’re not in a subdivision, or there aren’t any homes currently for sale like yours, try to think like a buyer and consider what other types of homes they may like – for instance, if you live in a charming Tudor home, be sure to take a look at the sale prices of historic stone homes with lots of character. These are very different homes, but may attract the same buyers who are looking for something unique and picturesque.

2. Our second tip is to consider having your home appraised by a professional. This is an especially good idea for a truly unique home, where it can be hard to determine a sense of value. A professional appraiser will take into account a variety of your home’s features, and may be able to recommend places to add value. An appraisal isn’t much different than a comparative market analysis, but the appraisal process is completely impartial – the appraiser won’t be competing for the chance to list your home – and they are professionals who complete rigorous training.

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3. And lastly, our third tip, is to carefully consider the very first price that you attach to your home. Buyers are primarily attracted to homes that have recently hit the market, so take advantage of the added exposure with a realistic, fair price.  You may have heard Realtors complain that the hardest home to sell is the one that’s been on the market for 6 months or longer (regardless of how much the seller is willing to drop the price) and it’s true!

If you’re just started out and looking to get a sense of your home’s value, we’d love to provide you with a free, no-obligation comparative market analysis. Just give us a call at (215) 699-5555.


 

Mortgage Rates Hold Steady at 3.65%

Rates are holding steady! According to the most recent report by Freddie Mac, rates are finally stabilizing after nearly a month and a half of declines.  Experts attribute the continued low rates to ongoing global financial volatility.

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The government mortgage giant is currently tracking the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage (the most popular option for homebuyers) at 3.65%.  This number is derived from a survey of lenders across the nation.

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The current 15-year fixed rate mortgage is currently 2.95%, and the 5/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) is 2.85%.

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The next mortgage rate update will be released by Freddie Mac on February 25, 2016.


 

Is Buying a Foreclosure Right For You?

What should you expect when buying a foreclosed (bank-owned) home? Real estate investing and home flipping guru Jen Kuznits was kind enough to sit down with EveryHome and share a few helpful tips.
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First and foremost, bank-owned properties are a great opportunity to buy a house at a discount.  These homes have gone through the foreclosure process and are now being listed for sale by the bank. While these homes can be purchased below market value, there are a few things to consider.
As Jen explains, the buyer must be aware that in most cases, these homes have been vacant for many months (or even years!) before the bank finally lists them. Banks do not heat or cool the homes, which means that there is no regulated air flow. Unfortunately, this can result in mold, buckled wood floors from dampness, and even cracked foundations. If there was any water in the basement, and it froze during the winter, it will push against the walls, and can compromise the structural integrity of the house.
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Plus, homes are usually foreclosed upon because the former owners could no longer afford to keep them. That means regular maintenance was usually not done on the property. To be safe, Jen recommends always assuming you will need a full roof replacement, electrical upgrade, new kitchen, new baths, new flooring, and new heating and cooling.
It’s even more important to obtain a thorough, quality home inspection when purchasing a bank-owned home.  Be sure to carefully choose a home inspector and consider seeking out a company that uses thermal imaging, which is one of the best ways to detect any moisture.
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Lonely Planet: Philadelphia Top Travel Destination in 2016

Philly isn’t just a pretty face!  It’s no secret that Philadelphia is a great place to live, work and play — and now the City of Brotherly Love is getting the accolades it deserves as a top destination spot, too.  Lonely Planet recently named Philadelphia the No. 1 place to visit in the United States in 2016.

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In a recent press release, the popular travel guide company explained, “the city is experiencing a transformation to its urban core, yet retaining its deep American history and uniquely gritty flavor.”  Referring to Philadelphia as a “national treasure”, the travel company noted that the top 10 travel spots attempt to encompass the most exciting, intriguing and up-and-coming destinations.

Not only is Philly known for its amazing restaurants and food options (“Pat’s or Geno’s?”) but our hometown is also being recognized for its funky art scene, truly vibrant cultural attractions, and rich history.

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Other contenders in the top ten included Alaska, Yellowstone National Park, and Southern New Mexico.  Last year’s top spot was Queens, NY.


 

Quick and Easy Guide to Financing a Second Home

Purchasing a second home or vacation home can be a lot easier than one might expect! EveryHome had the opportunity to speak with Rob LaPierre, the Branch Manager of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation.

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With the tightening of lending guidelines over the past few years and since the beginning of the recession, many buyers are under the impression that it is very difficult to obtain financing for a second home but in reality it is not that much different than buying an owner-occupied primary residence.

Here are some of the qualifying guidelines that we must follow:

· Property must be occupied by the borrower for part of the year.
· Must be within a reasonable distance from their primary residence. Typically 2 hours away travel time by automobile.
· Is restricted to one unit dwellings
· Must not be a rental property or time share arrangement.
· Must not be subject to any arrangement that a management company will take control over the occupancy of the property.
· Max loan to value of 90%
· Typically 6 months mortgage payment as post-closing reserves needed.
· Seller assist allowed up to 6% with 75.01% to 90% loan to value.
· Minimum credit score requirement of 620, depending on the size of the down payment. Restrictions apply.

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Best thing to do is contact a lender and discuss your options ahead of time so you can be prepared and be an informed buyer. So what are you waiting for? Make your dreams come true!

Rob LaPierre can be reached at (267) 207-7196.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation is located at 321 Old York Rd, Suite 216 in Jenkintown, PA.   NMLS ID#192175.


 

EveryHome is Licensed in Maryland!

On behalf of the owners and agents, we are pleased to announce that EveryHome Realtors is now officially licensed in Maryland!

licensed in Maryland
Just listed! The beautiful view at 5383 Irish Creek Rd in Royal Oak, MD

Whether you’re interested in purchasing a peaceful getaway along the Chesapeake, a family vacation spot in Ocean City, or a classic Colonial in the suburbs of Baltimore or DC, it would be our pleasure to guide you through the exciting process of buying a home in Maryland.

Maureen O'Shea, licensed in Maryland
Maureen O’Shea, licensed EveryHome agent in Maryland

As EveryHome expands throughout the Northeast, we continue to add friendly, helpful and local agents to the team. Whether you’re interested in a new career in real estate, or you’re already a licensed agent and considering the switch to a more innovative and relaxed agency, be sure to give us a call at (215) 699-5555! We’d love to hear from you.


 

How Thermal Imaging is Being Used in Home Inspections

If you purchase a home this spring, you’ll likely obtain a home inspection from a certified inspector.  Arranging an inspection prior to settlement is a responsible way to ensure that there are no major structural or systems defects with your new home.  

In recent years, the use of infrared camera technology for thermal imaging has risen in popularity among home inspectors.  While the use of an infrared camera is not yet standard practice, it’s become an increasingly convenient method to ensure detection of a number of defects.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging provides a number of advantages, including the careful examination of areas that are not visible to the naked eye, as well as monitoring areas that are otherwise difficult to access (such as tall ceilings).

As Brian Mower of Trained Eye Home Inspections explains, “thermal patterns created by latent moisture become readily apparent when viewed through an IR camera, even when they are not visible to the naked eye.  This is because the infrared camera sees the apparent temperature difference between wet spots and building materials.  Water intrusion and excessive moisture within walls, under floors, and above ceilings will show up in the thermal image.  Water intrusion implies that the house has been compromised somewhere, perhaps through the roof, in the basement, or as the result of a mechanical or plumbing leak.”

Using an infrared camera provides certain advantages with locating moisture problems and electrical hot spots before they become major issues. If these issues are detected early they can prevent further damage and costly repair.

Thermal Imaging

 

Plus, using thermal imaging may help improve energy conservation by monitoring for heat loss through spotting gaps in insulation.

Interested in learning more about obtaining a home inspection with thermal imaging? Be sure to visit Trained Eye Home Inspection’s list of services.


 

The Many Benefits of VA Loans

If you’re an American active-duty military member, veteran, or surviving spouse of a veteran, you may be eligible for a VA Loan (Veterans Affairs). These types of loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and provide cost-effective and accessible financing, in an age where buying a home isn’t always cheap & easy!

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Our VA loan specialist, Joe Callahan of First Choice Mortgage, was kind enough to pass along the most important benefits of obtaining this special type of mortgage:

No down payment! VA Loans are one of the very few types of loans that offer 100% financing, meaning that you don’t have to pay any money towards your home upfront.

No PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance)! This will help you save at the settlement table and on your monthly payment.

-Plus, First Choice Loan Services is offering a generous grant for Veterans and active-duty military personnel: an additional 1% of your purchase price (up to $2500) towards closing costs.  This will help you to save even more at closing!

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If you’re considering applying for a VA loan, you’ll need to provide a copy of your DD Form 214, as well as your certificate of eligibility.  You’ll also need the usual documentation, including your pay stubs, W2 forms, and bank statements.  If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to Joe Callahan at joseph.callahan@fcbmtg.com!

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Love Notes to EveryHome

“It’s hard for me to pick just one thing that I love about Everyhome. If I had to choose just one it would absolutely be the ownership. I have never met more generous, genuine and loving people and the fact that I was able to find them as an employer is miraculous”  –Mark Gatta

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“The culture at EveryHome is unbeatable.  The owners, Katie & Paul, foster such a welcoming and flexible work environment, and that reflects in every aspect of the business. EveryHome agents are relaxed, friendly, and approachable.  I think that’s what attracts such great clients!”  –Alanna Messner

“If you are a professional Realtor who wants to work with other like-minded Realtors, who place a high value on ethics and a sense of family, without unnecessary paperwork and unproductive politics, and truly deliver real value to your clients, then you’ll love EveryHome.”  –Joe Santoro

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“I have been a Realtor with EveryHome Realtors for close to 10 years, and I love it. I wouldn’t think of doing anything else. I love the relationships I build with my clients, and helping them through such a monumental period in their lives is something that is so gratifying. We are very passionate about what we do at EveryHome Realtors, and every client is treated with the personal attention they deserve.”  –Jill Barbera

 

“I love EveryHome because I think it’s an innovative real estate brokerage.  They are willing to try new ways to do business and they make it easy to help you and your clients succeed in closing sales.” –Lisa Presnell

“I have been with the company from the very first phone ring and have stayed ever since. The great owners of EveryHome have given me the chance to expand my knowledge both in real estate and photography which in turn I can share with the rest of our great agents”  –Emma Kennedy

“I have been so lucky to work alongside a team of amazing agents for 16 years! Thank you for making every day a new adventure for Paul & I” –Katie Kennedy


 

What You Need to Know About Buying a FSBO

As you’re shopping for a new home, you might come across some that are marked FSBO,  or For Sale By Owner.  This simply means that the sellers aren’t using a real estate agent to list their home.

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If you find a FSBO that you really like, and you’re already working with a buyer’s agent to find a new home, you can likely use them to purchase the new place. As with most homes, the sellers will typically still pay your buyer’s agent out of proceeds from the settlement, and you’ll be represented by your agent as usual. He or she will still take care of all negotiations, inspections, paperwork and coordinate the settlement process.

Occasionally, there will be some negotiation between the buyer and seller regarding who is responsible for paying for your buyer’s agent. Be sure to carefully read the buyer’s agency contract, which is the agreement that you have with your agent in regards to fees and payment.

FSBO

If, on the other hand, you find a FSBO that you’ve arranged to purchase and you’re not working with a buyer’s agent, you can use a real estate professional to simply handle all of the paperwork for you and arrange a settlement. In this case, the real estate professional typically does not take care of showings or negotiations – instead, their role is primarily to handle all paperwork. This is typically arranged for a set price, and much lower than a typical commission fee.

EveryHome is happy to provide these services for you. Please contact us at (215) 699-5555 or email us at theoffice@everyhome.com.


 

3 Signs That You’re Ready To Become a Homeowner

There’s a lot to think about when you purchase your first home (mortgage insurance! floorpans! interest rates! HOA fees!), and one of the most important elements is your readiness.  And, even as real estate agents, we acknowledge that it’s not in everyone’s best interest to buy a home just yet.  Here are three signs that you’re ready to become a homeowner:

You pay your rent on time every month (and heck, maybe you even pay it a little early!). If you’re planning on purchasing a home, you’ll want to be financially secure with a consistent cushion in your bank account.  This certainly doesn’t mean you have to be Rockefeller — in fact, we bet we can find you a few great places to live for less than your current rent —  but you do have to be financially responsible.

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You don’t plan on moving for at least a few years.  Due to closing fees and transfer tax, the costs of purchasing a home can outweigh the benefits if you don’t plan on staying put for 5 years or so.  If you’re currently in a career or situation where you may need to relocate, it may be worth renting for now.

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You know your credit score, and it’s above 700. Your credit score is one of the most important factors in securing a mortgage, and those with better credit are awarded lower interest rates.  If you don’t know your credit score (and aren’t too afraid to check), Carl Scaramuzza of Credit Blueprint recommends Annualcreditreport.com for its accuracy and convenience.


Should You Buy a Home at a Sheriff Sale?

A sheriff sale is a type of foreclosure where the properties are sold at public auction (typically at the courthouse). EveryHome’s residential investment guru, Jen Kuznits, was kind enough to share the most important information about sheriff sales.

Sheriff Sale

As Jen explains, homes that are sold at a sheriff sale tend to be the most risky.  While they’re typically sold at a deeply discounted price, you can not gain access to the home prior to bidding.

Sheriff Sale

Plus, it’s not uncommon for  people to still be living there! Just because you are the highest bidder, it does not mean you can go right over the house, and kick the people out. You will have to follow the eviction process that your county has laid out. Immediately after purchasing a home at sheriff sale, you should insure it. In certain areas, this eviction process can take up to a year! As a result, be sure to factor in legal fees, carrying costs, and always assume the house will need to be gutted.

Sheriff Sale

If you’re interested in real estate investing and wish to further consider purchasing a home at auction, be sure to do your research in regards to the bidding process.  Every county may operate differently but Montgomery County, for example, requires a down payment in the form of cash or certified check to be paid immediately.  The remainder of the sale price must be paid in cash or certified check to the sheriff within 10 days.  The easiest way to find a list of homes that will be going to the sheriff’s sale is to search the Sheriff’s Department for your local county.


 

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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)