The Philadelphia suburbs are home to some of the strongest school districts in the nation, and consistently outperform the national and state average in regards to standardized test scores, college readiness, student/teacher ratio, and extracurricular opportunities.
The “ranking and review” giant Niche.com ranked the best of the best in Greater Philadelphia, based on public data as well as unbiased student and teacher reviews. Their top ten picks are largely clustered around the prestigious Main Line, and only one is located in New Jersey.
Moorestown Township Public School District (New Jersey)
Upper Dublin School District
Not surprisingly, most of these school districts are located in affluent areas with higher home prices.
For more affordable places to live in one of these top-performing schools, be sure to check out the town of Ambler (located in either Wissahickon or Upper Dublin), as well as Holland and Southampton in Council Rock School District. We also love the Coatesville section of Unionville-Chaddsford School District for a more rural and budget-friendly home.
1. Did you know that one out of six of American doctors were trained in Philadelphia? It’s true! The City of Brotherly Love is renowned for its medical sector. Plus, the University of Pennsylvania became the nation’s very first medical school in 1765. Other large med schools in the city include Temple, Drexel, and Thomas Jefferson.
2. If you can think back to learning about Betsy Ross in elementary school, you probably remember that she stitched the first American flag in Philadelphia. We hate to break it to you, but there’s actually no evidence that she was the seamstress and most historians consider it nothing more than a myth. The only thing that Betsy Ross is claimed to have contributed is the five-pointed star (because it’s easier to sew!). Nevertheless, the landmark Betsy Ross House remains a popular place to visit.
3. We bet you’ve heard of the Walnut Street Theatre and maybe even seen a show, but did you know that its the oldest continually-running theater in the English-speaking world? South Pacific and The Wizard of Oz are two exciting upcoming shows.
4. Philly is a well-known art hub on the East Coast, but did you know the city boasts the most public art in the entire country? Check out this list of the coolest public art displays here, including Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens and the iconic LOVE and AMOR statues.
5. Want to see pieces of Einstein’s brain? Head to the city’s Mutter Museum, which just may be the creepiest place we’ve ever been. The medical museum is renowned for having some of the weirdest stuff in the world, including a 9 foot long human colon, the “soap body” (Google it!), and a huge collection of skulls. Yep, seriously.
If you’ve seen an advertisement for a mortgage rate that is far lower than what your lender quoted, you’re not alone! Banks and lending agencies often advertise the “best available” rates, which may not be achievable for all buyers.
Here are the three things that can greatly deflate mortgage rates — and why you may be paying more (or less!) than your neighbor:
Points. Purchasing points for your mortgage is a way to essentially buy down your interest rate, by paying for some of the fees upfront. Because mortgage rates are hovering around 3.50%, points aren’t currently a very popular option for most buyers because rates are low enough as-is — but lenders may advertise low rates with points included.
Credit score matters! Banks typically advertise the best available interest rate for the most qualified buyers. While mortgage loans are available for buyers with credit scores as low as 580, the rate becomes significantly more affordable when the buyer has a score of 725 or above.
Fees, fees, fees. Some lenders charge higher application fees, whereas boast having zero fees (but may have a higher interest rate!). Be sure to carefully compare lenders to determine what makes the most sense for your budget.
Time…and luck! Mortgage rates change daily, meaning that you could pay quite a bit more or less. In fact, in less than a day, rates dropped to their lowest level in years following the UK’s Brexit announcement! Your lender can help you to decide on the best time to “lock in” your rate (during the mortgage application process).
Title insurance just may be the biggest real estate decision that you’ve never heard of! If you’re buying a home with someone else, there are three ways to take concurrent ownership:
Tenancy by the Entirety (this option is exclusively reserved for married couples)
Tenancy in Common.
Tenancy by the entirety may be chosen exclusively for married couples, whereby they own the property as a single legal entity and cannot sell or transfer the home without the other’s consent. Additionally, if one of the spouse’s should die during ownership, the surviving spouse is entitled to the decedent’s share (right of survivorship). While the vast majority of married couples choose this option because it offers additional protection and benefits, they may also choose to take title as joint tenants or tenants in common.
However, if you are not married, and buying a home with another person, you have two options:
Joint Tenancy refers to ownership by two or more people (each called joint tenants) who share equal ownership in a property and have an equal, undivided right to keep or dispose of the property. Most notably, if one of the joint tenants dies, the remaining share is transferred to the surviving tenant(s). Generally speaking, joint tenancy is very similar to tenancy by the entirety for married couples, although joint tenants retain the right of dispose of their share of the property without the other tenant’s permission. Additionally, joint tenants are not considered a single legal entity as they are in tenancy by the entirety.
Tenancy in Common is a less restrictive type of ownership, in which two or more people do NOT need to have equal shares of ownership in the property (although they may, and typically do!). Additionally, if one of the owners dies, their share does NOT automatically transfer to the surviving owner. And like joint tenancy, the owners each have the right to keep or dispose of their share in the property at their will.
If you wish to learn more about title insurance or how to take ownership of your new home, be sure to consult your title insurance agency or family attorney.
Niche.com recently released their Best Places to Live in America, and Chesterbrook was named in the top ten! The popular insight and analysis website considers a variety of factors including the public school system, safety, home values, weather, outdoor activities and employment.
Nestled within Tredyffrin Township on the edge of Philadelphia’s Main Line, Chesterbrook is a scenic, affluent community known for its excellent public schools and an extremely low crime rate. The friendly community has its own shopping center and post office, and it’s located on the border of Valley Forge National Park. Many residents are within walking distance to shops, running/walking trails, and eateries.
Most homes in Chesterbrook are well-maintained townhomes and carriage homes, often priced between $300,000 and $400,000. While still a bit higher than the Chester County average, Chesterbrook is one of the more affordable areas to live in prestigious Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.
Nearby Tredyffrin Township (which includes the town of Wayne) ranked #20 in the nation and Narberth ranked #30. The #1 Best Place to Live in the nation was awarded to Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Not only is it good karma to be a friendly neighbor, but you also may enjoy an increased property value! Neighborhoods with respectful, considerate, and clean residents tend to sell for more money — here’s how you can play your part:
First, try getting to know each other — beyond just the color car that they drive! We know how tempting it can be to quietly sneak out and grab your mail in an effort to avoid small talk with the family next door, but a community of residents who actually know each other tends to fare far better than an anonymous bunch.
Here’s why:If you have a sense of what your neighbors are like, you can gauge how to be helpful to them — and they may do the same for you! For example, if you live in a twin home and share a wall with someone who works an overnight shift, it may be considerate of you to hold off on blasting your music during the day. You’ll also have the benefit of knowing that he or she may not mind at all if you have a few friends over late on a weeknight and play the music louder!
Additionally, it’s helpful to know if your neighbors are elderly or have any special needs. It’s always a nice, neighborly idea to check in on the older residents in your neighborhood during extreme weather, and even offer to shovel, mow, or bring in their mail — especially if it’s icy or particularly hot out! We bet they’ll be grateful, and lend you sugar or an egg when you need it.
Unsure how to approach your neighbors? If you’ve just moved in, consider ringing the doorbell (yes, doorbells still exist!) and simply introduce yourself. If that’s too intimidating, try just saying hi when you see each other outside. It’s also not a bad idea to send along a holiday card, or pass along your contact information in case of an emergency. If another neighbor just moved in, it’d be especially nice to introduce yourself and drop off a low-maintenance potted plant or a $15 gift card to a local pizza place (because who wants to cook during a big move?).
And we bet you saw this one coming: try to keep your home tidy and your lawn maintained. This just might be the most important part to keeping property values high within a neighborhood, as one unsightly home can mess it up for the whole street. Some things are obvious, like mowing your lawn regularly, keeping weeds at bay, taking your trash in and out on the proper day, and tidying up the toys and tools on the front lawn.
However, other things are less easy to remember, like ensuring that your tree doesn’t dangerously extend onto your neighbor’s property, or making certain that your dog isn’t barking all day when you’re at work. The best way to make sure you’re being respectful of the families next door is to communicate with them openly, and let them know that they can contact you at any time with any concerns.
Foodies, rejoice! The Main Line’s most walkable neighborhood, Ardmore, will be hosting the second annual Ardmore Restaurant Week from now until July 31st.
Participating restaurants will be offering three-course dinners for just $25 or $35. A few of our favorites include Local Wine and Kitchen (a farm-to-table restaurant), Mikado Thai Pepper, and Firinji for delicious Mediterranean food.
Additionally, a number of Ardmore’s most popular bars will be offering reduced-priced (at least 25% off) happy hour specials from 5-7pm. Be sure to stop by McCloskey’s Tavern, Fuel, and Robeks.
Don’t forget to make your reservations early, as this popular event fills up quickly! For more details and a full list of participating restaurants, be sure to visit Ardmore’s official website.
If you’re planning to list your home for sale soon, you may have seen a listing contract. This contract is a binding agreement between the seller and their Realtor about how the home will be listed for sale, including the timeline and compensation.
Most Realtors in Pennsylvania use a form called the “Exclusive Right to Sell.” Here are three things to keep in mind before signing:
1. Carefully consider the Starting and Ending dates of the Contract. These dates are typically located on the first page of the document, and they detail how long the agent is provided with the exclusive right to sell your home. In other words, you may not hire another agent during this time period. Many local real estate agencies ask for at least six months or one year. At EveryHome, we understand that circumstances can change, so we happily offer all of our sellers an “easy-out” listing contract where you can take your home off the market at any time (we just ask for 7 days notice so that we can pull your listing from our marketing partners!).
2. Commission! Real estate agents almost always work on commission, meaning that they only get paid if you sell your home. The commission amount (typically a percentage of the sale price) is usually located on the bottom of the first page, and most local agencies charge 5-6% or higher. Because we’re agent-owned and have lower overhead, we’re proud to offer full-service listings for just 4.5%. Plus, we don’t have any crazy broker fees or anything of that nature. Just 4.5% commission and $250 to our third-party paralegal for conveyancing.
3. As the name of this form suggests, this form also ensures that the real estate agent will provide representation and be compensated regardless of who finds the buyer for the home. In other words, even if the seller decides to sell to a friend, the listing agent will still provide services and be paid for it.
While mortgage rates remain historically low, they’re beginning to climb slightly for the first time following the Brexit vote. Currently, the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage stands at 3.42%.
The national average rate plummeted following the UK’s announcement, and some industry experts even speculated that they may drop to their lowest rate ever. While that didn’t quite happen, they briefly dipped below 3.4%, triggering an influx of refinance applications. The 15-year fixed rate loan, which is the most popular option for refinancing, is 2.69%.
Bankrate’s panel of mortgage rate experts expect to see rates remain unchanged in the next week. If you’re shopping for a home and would like to be introduced to a local, friendly and helpful loan officer, give us a call at (215) 699-5555!
When you think of Philadelphia, what comes to mind? We bet you thought of cheesesteaks, Ben Franklin, Steven Starr restaurants and the Liberty Bell — but what about parks, hiking, and miles of trails? Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs are home to some of the most gorgeous parks in the nation, and here are a few of our favorites:
1. Valley Forge National Park. We especially love the challenging and scenic Mount Joy and Mount Misery Trails for some of the best views in the whole park, and trail runners will love the Chapel Trail. If you’re looking for an easier run or biking, be sure to take the 6+ mile paved Joseph Plumb Martin Trail that winds through the whole park.
2. Peace Valley Nature Center. Located in the heart of Bucks County, Peace Valley Nature Center offers 14 miles of trails winding through the beautiful woods and meadows alongside Lake Galena. The trail is largely flat, making it enjoyable for the whole family!
3. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to make the trek to Kempton, PA (about an hour from central Montgomery County) to catch some of the greatest views of the Appalachian Mountains. Newer hikers will love the Lookout Trail to the gorgeous North Lookout point, and there are plenty of options for experienced hikers as well. Plus, over 18,000 hawks, eagles and vultures migrate to the region each year, so be sure to keep your eye out for raptors!
4. Nockamixon State Park is one of our favorite spots to hike, bike, fish, swim, and boat. Located in Upper Bucks along Lake Nockamixon, the park offers endless opportunities and plenty of different trails — many of which are great for trail runners, too. It’s also a great spot for camping, and cabins are available.
First impressions matter! Homes with excellent curb appeal catch the attention of prospective buyers before they even get out of their cars. Check out our favorite local properties with gorgeous exteriors and landscaping:
222 W Mount Pleasant Ave, Philadelphia PA– Beautiful and affordable! This timeless Victorian home in sought-after West Mount Airy offers a pretty front porch, nicely painted shutters, and mature, well-trimmed trees. The exterior lighting fixtures match the home’s classic style, and we love that the owner’s have added potted plants for an extra welcoming touch! Asking price: $349,000
5 Bittersweet Dr, West Chester PA – It doesn’t get much prettier than this French Normandy home in Chester County! The grounds are meticulous, and we love the pops of color in the front door and window frames. And for added privacy, this home is located on a 10.3 acre bird sanctuary. Asking price: $1.75m
210 Washington Ave, Souderton PA – We admit it: We’re a sucker for ivy growing up brick walls. This budget-friendly and beautiful home is located on a quiet street in eastern Montgomery County, and appears to have been expertly maintained by the current owners.
610 Headquarters Rd, Ottsville PA – Nestled on 17 lush acres in Upper Bucks, this character-filed stone and stucco estate offers a beautifully maintained main house, guest house, and chemical-free pool. The owners have kept the grounds meticulous, and we love the custom landscaping. Asking price: $1.69m
150 Foxgayte Ln, South Coventry PA – It’s all in the architectural details! Bursting with style and elegance, this 4-bedroom custom estate is situated on a wooded 5-acre lot in northern Chester County. The home’s oversized windows truly bring the beautiful outdoors inside, and we can’t get enough of the delightful Koi pond. Asking price: $735,000
If you’re in the home buying process, you’ve likely been in touch with a lender or loan officer to determine your ability to secure a mortgage. It’s not uncommon to hear the terms “pre-approval” and “pre-qualification” used interchangeably, although they have a few distinct differences.
A pre-qualification is simply an estimate of a person’s ability to purchase a home. Typically, lenders rely on verbal information supplied to them by the borrower — no documentation needed! Additionally, lenders typically do not check a borrower’s credit score. While it’s not the most accurate estimate of a borrower’s ability, there is certainly merit to a pre-qualification! It’s a great first step for first-time buyers who are just beginning to search for homes.
A pre-approval essentially takes the pre-qualification process one step further by verifying the information and checking a credit score. Since documentation is required, getting pre-approved can take a little bit longer, but it’s worth it when it comes time to submit an offer! Sellers are more likely to seriously consider offers from buyers who are pre-approved, as it shows that you are a committed buyer with the financial ability to purchase the home.
Interested in getting pre-qualified, pre-approved, or meeting with lenders? Give us a call at (215) 699-5555. We’d love to introduce you to a few friendly, helpful and local loan officers.
July is packed with festivals, exhibits, and conventions! Here are a few that we’re looking forward to:
1. XPoNential Music Festival will be held this year from July 22-24th on the Camden River Waterfront. The lineup this year is packed with great artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, Ryan Adams, Father John Misty and more. And did we mention food trucks?!? Be sure to reserve your passes soon, as this event fills up quickly.
2. The Blue Cross River Rink Summerfest is back is back until September 5th! The fest is open daily, free, and open to the public. The popular spot features a play area for kids, food and drink (including Chickie and Pete’s waterfront crabshack!), and plenty of exciting events throughout the summer. Plus, it’s also Philly’s only outdoor skating rink – so be sure to bring your roller-skates or rent them there! It costs just $3 to skate. Kids are welcome!
3. While not technically a festival, we’re always excited for warm summertime days at Spruce Street Harbor Park! Named one of the best urban beaches in America, Spruce Street Harbor Park is back for the summer — open until September 25th — and features dozens of beloved hammocks, a floating restaurant, a huge selection of drafts from the beer garden, outdoor games, and a waterfront boardwalk along the Delaware. And at night, the entire pop-up park is illuminated by gorgeous LED lights. It’s free and open daily – need we say more? See you there!
Mortgage rates are hovering near historically low rates, so it should come as no surprise that we’re expecting another small refinance boom.
While there’s nothing that we love more than helping people find their next home (we are Realtors, after all!), we also understand that it often makes sense to stay put in your current home. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about refinancing and taking advantage of these low rates:
1. Aim to shorten your loan term, if possible. The most popular loan choice among people refinancing is the 15-year fixed rate, which currently stands well under 3%. While your monthly payment may increase a bit depending on the amount of equity you currently have in your home, you will save thousands on interest by switching to the 15-year payment plan. Unless your financial situation requires it, try to avoid refinancing for another 30-year mortgage – we know it’s tempting because it can drastically reduce your monthly payment, but it will cost you far more in the long run (don’t forget that interest is front-end loaded, meaning that you’ll revert to paying almost entirely interest each month).
2. Shop around, and keep the “big picture” price tag in mind. Some lenders will advertise ultra-low rates in bright flashing lights, but be careful of what that may entail. It could require you to purchase points (an upfront fee in exchange for a reduced interest rate) or result in far more additional fees. Instead, ask your loan officer for a detailed breakdown of all the fees, interest rate, and estimated monthly payment.
3. Not every homeowner is eligible. Unfortunately, some homeowners will find that they’re not eligible for refinancing their homes for a number of reasons. One of the biggest hurdles is having enough equity in your home (most lenders require at least 5%, although some require far more). This is especially a concern for buyers who purchased their homes around 2006 or 2007 when prices were high, as they may still owe more than what their home is worth. Another potential barrier is a lower credit score or poor debt-to-income ratio, as the banks will be scrutinizing your financial situation as if you were purchasing another home. Alternatively, if your credit score improved significantly, you may be eligible for a much lower rate due to that alone!