Five Things to Consider When Buying in the Spring

There are many considerations a homebuyer should understand when purchasing a home in the spring. Here are five things you might want to consider before you dive in too deep in search for a home:

  • Save for a downpayment. This is something you should be doing well before you begin looking for a home. Having a sizable down payment can help you when shopping for a loan and lower your overall monthly payment as well. The process of saving can be challenging with bills and other monetary obligations in play, but the rewards can pay for themselves over the life of a loan. As a buyer, understand that there are different mortgage options available and with them come varying degrees of downpayments. Some buyers have a misunderstanding that they must come up with 10% to 20% of the purchase price, but that’s just not the case.
  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Doing this early on is crucial to understanding your budget and making competitive offers while home shopping. If a seller has more than one offer on the table, the pre-approved purchaser will usually be in a better position than the one whose offer wasn’t accompanied by a pre-approval. Furthermore, you won’t over-reach as a buyer. One of the most frustrating things we witness is interested parties not being able to afford homes they’re actively pursuing. With a pre-approval, a conservative range of values provide a clear roadmap for both you and your REALTOR® as you seek your dream home or investment property.
  • As homebuyers emerge from colder weather, especially a winter that’s served up some slick and treacherous conditions, they might look to areas that don’t need to endure the brunt of the season. Perhaps they choose a shorter commute to work in order to spend less time on the roads. Likewise, a garage may be an upgrade for someone who’s never had one and who’s had to deal with the challenges of leaving the house on cold or snowy winter mornings. Spring fever brings these thoughts into the minds of buyers as they set out to find their next home. Thus, it’s essential to determine the locations or neighborhoods you’re leaning toward. If you don’t have specific neighborhoods in mind, take into account factors like proximity to amenities, schools or work to help you narrow down your choices.
  • Understand the current market conditions, such as inventory levels and pricing trends. Should you buy now? Are you in a buyer’s or seller’s market? This will help you understand if a seller is willing to negotiate or if you have to be ready to immediately make an offer when you find something you love. Working with a knowledgeable real estate professional can ensure you’re up on these trends. Presently, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, we’re struggling with a deficient supply of homes. Since June 2020, we’ve fallen from a balanced market. Plummeted so much so that our present inventory of residential properties (an absorption rate of 1.95) more closely resembles the lifeless numbers we experienced in this market between February and April of 2022 (with an average absorption rate of 1.44) than anything looking like we’re emerging from this seller’s market.*
  • Some may consider this a shameless plug, but as any market begins to heat up and the temperature changes, it’s critical to have trusted professionals who will guide and support you on your quest toward homeownership. Home inspectors, appraisers, mortgage lenders or advisors, surveyors, real estate agents and the like all play significant roles in helping you attain your real estate goals. Take the time to interview real estate agents, if you don’t have one in mind. Have a series of questions ready that you might have entering this market. How can the agent you’re considering hiring address these concerns? Do they have the experience needed to help you overcome any challenges you might have standing in your way? Learn about their expertise and how long they’ve been in the industry. Also, ask them about current trends in the market. Make sure they’re a good fit for you and a good listener too!

Spring is a fantastic time to do some cleaning, a thorough one, not only of your residence, but also of the clutter which could be standing between you and purchasing a house or investment property. Tackling these five things can prepare you for success, in any market, as you journey toward homeownership.

 

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTOR® data

 

For more, check out our buyer FAQs.

Buying the Worst House on the Block

Affordability has become a concern in the real estate industry, but it isn’t a problem everywhere and it’s certainly not a headache for much of our region. And while affordability is more favorable in the Greater Scranton area, hesitation can capture many buyers who are eager to purchase. After all, mortgage rates are still elevated (even if they’ve come down since October) and inventory hasn’t sprung up to what we’d hoped it would have by now. It’s a time for some to get a little more creative in what exactly they’re looking for in a home.

Many homebuyers may overlook a house that needs work to bring it up to snuff, but purchasing the worst house in a desirable neighborhood can actually be a smart investment strategy. First, if you’re an investor who has an eye for flipping homes, purchasing this type of property could present a big opportunity. The lower price point may allow for a larger profit margin when renovating and reselling the property. Additionally, the potential for appreciation is higher in sought-after neighborhoods. In fact, there’s often excessive demand for rundown homes in desirable communities in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Furthermore, buying a fixer-upper can give buyers the freedom to customize their dream home while increasing its value. If the renovation costs are low-to-moderate and not too excessive, that’s a win-win. Finally, with this odd housing market still favoring sellers, buyers may have a better chance of finding a good deal on a property that needs TLC.

Buying the worst house on the block can be a smart approach, but as you may have guessed, it’s not for everyone. Experienced investors who have the time, resources and expertise to renovate and flip the property stand to make the most profit. However, more novice homebuyers with a limited budget and a willingness to take on a fixer-upper project can also benefit from this strategy. On the other hand, those who are risk-averse or lack the necessary skills to handle a major renovation may want to steer clear.

While buying the inferior house on the block may seem like a smart financial move, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks before making a purchase. One of the biggest concerns is the amount of work and money needed to improve the property. This can be a significant and time-consuming undertaking, and unexpected issues may arise during the restoration process. This is why it could be beneficial to be handy, but also rely on the professionals for any jobs that might be over your head.

While this move can be a smart way to get into a desirable area at a lower cost, be aware of potential pitfalls. You may end up with a money pit that requires more repairs than you anticipated. It’s also important to weigh whether the surrounding homes are much nicer than your property. If this is the case, it will always be the odd one out. Don’t let the allure of a bargain blind you to the risks. Consult with a trusted real estate agent to help you navigate the potential issues and find the right home for you.

Additionally, the value of the property may not increase as much as expected even after improvements are completed. This is because the value of a home is often influenced by the value of surrounding properties, and it could be that other homes on the block are not well-maintained. Regardless, it’s imperative that you consult a real estate professional and preferably one who knows that neighborhood well. They’ll be able to assess the property and provide you with a competitive market analysis (CMA) to help you understand the value of the home after those proposed updates to it take effect.

If you’re not planning on living in the home, but instead would like to turn the property around as an investor, keeping your eye on its resale value is vital to making any profit on a future transaction. The number and cost of upgrades will certainly impact its resale value. This is why it’s important to understand and live by the five Ps, which you might already be familiar with: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (and that’s resale performance!). Storyboarding your plans for renovation clearly helps with this preparation too.

While it can be a good tactic to buy the worst house on the block, in some cases, it’s not always the best option. Here are some other factors to consider:

Pros: 

  1. Lower purchase price: Buying an inferior home in a specific community often means you can get it at a lower price than other homes in the area. This can make it a more affordable option for those on a budget.
  2. Potential for equity: If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to renew the home, you may be able to increase its value and build equity over time.
  3. Opportunity to customize: When you purchase a fixer-upper, you have the opportunity to customize it to your liking and make it your own.

Cons: 

  1. Cost of renovation: Facelifting a home can be costly, and it’s important to factor in these expenses when considering purchasing a fixer-upper.
  2. Limited resale value: If you over-improve a home, you may not be able to recoup the costs when it comes time to sell.
  3. Locality concerns: If the neighborhood is in decline or has a high crime rate, purchasing the worst home in the area may not be a good game plan.
  4. Other pitfalls you might want to consider: Not relying on information that’s available at your fingertips, over-spending, etc.

In conclusion, buying the worst house in a neighborhood has the potential to be a profitable and rewarding investment if you’re willing to put in the time, effort (with proper planning and execution), and money to renovate it. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and ponder any drawbacks before making the purchase. Decision makers should consider the surroundings, market conditions as well as other factors that could impact their bottom line.

First-Time Homebuyer Advice

Buying a home today is more complex than it was five years ago, as the market was gaining intensity – favoring sellers and their interests. Despite the pendulum shifting in the direction of homebuyers, there are those who are overwhelmed by the intricate process of a home purchase. Yet, some of the most intimidated are first-timers, who have never pursued homeownership before. Luckily, there are several programs available that can provide assistance to make this journey a little easier for first-time homebuyers. Below, we’ll attempt to present some of the challenges, resources available and the steps one should take as they seek homeownership for the first time.

The current market presents a myriad of challenges for first-time homebuyers. With rising home prices and limited inventory, finding an affordable home can be daunting. Buyers are still over-bidding now and again, and coming up short in multi-offer situations. In Pennsylvania, home prices have continued climbing, with a median sales price of $216,249 (up 4.2% year-over-year). A housing supply issue exists in the state as well, listings are down 23.4% year-over-year.* Additionally, competition from cash buyers and investors can make it difficult for first-time buyers to secure a home. Furthermore, strict lending requirements and high down payments can also pose challenges for those looking to purchase. The latter might not apply unless loan options such as FHA, VA, USDA and the like are not a possibility. To account for these challenges, first-time homebuyers should do thorough research, work with a trusted REALTOR®, and if they’re serious about shopping for a home in the current climate, be ready to make competitive offers at a moment’s notice. It may also be helpful to consider alternative financing options and be open to exploring different types of homes or different areas (i.e. alternate school districts, check out rural living over suburban or city living).

There’s good news for those who may have been classified as first-timers in the past, but haven’t purchased a home in over thirty-six months. They would likely be labeled as first-time homebuyers once again. In the industry, lenders do have various indicators, differentiating themselves from others in the business. These requirements for buyers can vary from institution to institution. Some of the typical criteria for first-time buyers includes a steady income, where a job history of two or more years must be validated, a clean credit history, a credit score of 620 or more, a debt-to-income ratio below 43% and a loan down payment of at least 3%. Furthermore, if you presently own a mobile home or have owned one within that three-year window, lenders will often grant you first-time buyer status since the rules for mobile-home ownership are unique.

Education in life goes a long way, and prospective buyers would do well to study up. The best way for first-time homebuyers to get educated on available programs is to do their research. First, talk to your real estate professional. An experienced REALTOR® has dealt with your situation before or one that was similar. Your agent will provide you with a roadmap of several avenues to follow, including homebuyer education classes/seminars as well as utilizing various online resources. These services can help buyers figure out their loan options by providing information on different mortgage programs, down payment assistance programs and other financial assistance options. It’s important for first-time homebuyers to take advantage of these resources to ensure they make informed decisions and find the best program for their individual needs. In Pennsylvania, there are programs geared toward assisting first-time homebuyers such as the Keystone Home loan program, the Keystone Advantage Assistance loan program and the HOMEstead program, just to name a few. Each state has programs in place to assist those who can qualify as first-time buyers. Moreover, there are local programs, such as NeighborWorks, who support buyers as they journey toward homeownership.

Buyers should expect help from their REALTOR® as it pertains to available first-time homebuyer assistance programs. After all, that’s the support real estate professionals provide – to counsel their clients in making the best decisions at each stage of their progress. If their agent doesn’t have the answers, they’ll direct them to the experts who do. These assistance programs can be complicated to navigate, but REALTORS® have the knowledge and expertise to guide buyers toward success. They can provide information about the eligibility requirements, the application procedures in addition to the potential benefits of these programs. They can also assist with finding the right program for a buyer’s specific needs and helping them gather all the necessary documents and information. With their lead, buyers can feel more confident and informed about taking advantage of these valuable resources to make their dream of homeownership a reality.

First-time homebuyers, listen up! As thrilling as it is to finally have a place to call your own (and it is), it’s important to manage your budget wisely and ensure you can qualify for a loan. Trust us, you don’t want to end up house-rich, cash-poor, where you’ve pumped all this equity into your home, but you’re struggling to pay your bills month after month, and regretting the decision you made to purchase. Before you buy, do a test run and start by setting a realistic budget and stick to it. Consider all expenses, including homeowners insurance, taxes, mortgage insurance (if applicable), utilities, maintenance and other debts you may have. When the time comes to acquire a loan, do your homework and shop around for the best interest rates and programs to suit your needs. Don’t immediately settle on the first lender you encounter. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and be aware of any hidden fees (such as points). Remember, a little bit of budgeting and savvy negotiating can go a long way in making your dream home a reality.

The good news is more help is on the way for homebuyers. The day when buyers can pay market value for a home without constant interference from other buyers or pay below market value in efforts to get a deal will become a reality once again. A time when buyers won’t feel rushed into making hasty decisions about homeownership is on the horizon. In the meantime, do your search and thoroughly understand all aspects of homeownership before making any decisions. With the right guidance and resources, purchasing your first home can be a rewarding and exciting experience. Happy house hunting! Take a look at our houses for sale in Clarks Summit PA.

* Latest Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® Housing Report – Sept 2023

Other first-time homebuyer resources:
8 Steps You Should Take When Purchasing Your First Home
First-Time Homebuyer Tips

When it comes to moving, you have two options: Do-it-yourself (DIY) or hire professionals. Both have their pros and cons, and it’s important to weigh them before making that final decision. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of DIY moving.

Pros of DIY Moving

One of the main benefits of DIY moving is cost savings. Hiring professional movers can be expensive, especially if you have many possessions or are moving long-distance. By rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself, you can save a significant amount of money. Maybe this is the third or fourth time you’re moving, and you’re practically a pro at this point.

Another perk of DIY moving is the control you have over the process. You can pack your belongings the way you want, especially over time (in most instances) and handle them with care. Depending on the nature of the transaction and timeline of the parties involved, you can also choose the most convenient time for the move and have flexibility in the schedule.

Cons of DIY Moving

One of the biggest drawbacks of DIY moving is the physical labor involved. Moving heavy furniture and boxes can be exhausting and time-consuming. It requires strength and stamina, while the risk of injury is a possibility as well. Furthermore, if you’re not physically capable or have health issues, DIY moving may not be an option at all.

Another disadvantage is the lack of professional expertise and equipment. Moving professionals have the experience and knowledge to handle fragile items and navigate through difficult spaces (or at least reputable ones should!). This is what movers do, year-round. They also have the right tools and equipment to make the process more efficient. Without these, you may risk damaging your belongings or injuring yourself.

DIY moving can be a cost-effective and flexible option for those who are physically capable and have the time and energy to handle the procedure. However, it’s important to consider the physical labor involved and the lack of professional expertise and equipment. For a smoother and less stressful experience, hiring professionals may be worth the investment.

Hiring Professionals

One popular option that many people consider is hiring professionals to handle their move. While this may come with a cost, there are several advantages that make it a popular choice. 

Pros of Hiring Professionals

One of the main advantages of hiring professionals for your move is the access to their professional expertise and experience. Professional movers have the knowledge and skills to handle fragile items, navigate through difficult spaces, and ensure that your belongings are transported safely. They are trained in proper packing and loading techniques, and can efficiently handle the logistics of the entire operation. The keyword there is trained. By opting for professionals, you can have peace of mind knowing that your move is in capable hands.

Another benefit of hiring professionals is the time and energy savings it affords. Moving can be an exhausting and time-consuming process, especially if you have a lot of possessions or are moving over a great distance. Though, moving over short distances can be tiresome too. By hiring professionals, you can focus on other important tasks related to your move, such as setting up utilities or transferring your address, while leaving the “heavy lifting” to the movers. This is sure to reduce stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

Keep in mind however, that not all moving companies are created equal. While some may pack up your items, others may not. Realistically, it’s best to have everything boxed up and ready to be carried out the door by the time the moving company arrives. Additionally, it’s vitally important to ask key questions before hiring a moving company to ensure you’re on the same page.

Cons of Hiring Professionals

One of the drawbacks of hiring professionals is the cost involved. Professional movers can be expensive, especially if you own a larger home or are moving over a significant distance. The cost will depend on factors such as the square footage of your home, the distance of your move and the services you require. It’s important to consider your budget and weigh the cost against the benefits provided by moving professionals.

Another potential deterrent is the lack of control over the process. When you hire professionals, you’re relying on them to handle your things and ensure their safe arrival at their new destination. While even the most esteemed moving companies take great care in their work, there’s always a risk of damage or loss. It’s important to do your research and choose a trusted and dependable moving company to minimize this risk. Do you need moving insurance? Though most moving companies are insured, this would be something to look into as well. You might need to protect various items over and above what the mover’s insurance policy would cover.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re taking the move upon yourself or hiring a moving company, decluttering is essential. “Decluttering is key when selling your home,” expresses Christina M. Keller, REALTOR® with Realty Network Group. “Before the home goes on the market, a homeowner needs to begin cleaning and eliminating waste. Buyers need a clear vision of how their possessions will fill the space. Removing excess furnishings enables them to image the home as their own, without distractions. After an agreement is made between the parties, the seller can use the moving process as another time to organize and prioritize what makes the move and what gets purged.”

Hiring professionals for your move can offer several conveniences, including professional expertise, time and energy savings in addition to peace of mind. However, it’s important to consider the associated costs and potential lack of control over this operation. Ultimately, the decision between DIY moving and hiring professional movers will depend on your specific needs, budget and preferences.

 

Here are two other articles you might find helpful:

Moving and downsizing when a pet is involved.

Launching a new business from home while moving.

If you’ve entered the world of real estate as a first-time homebuyer and your head is saturated with questions, then acknowledge that you’ve come to the right place. If the whole process of searching for and purchasing a home has you feeling batty, then be relieved to know you’re completely normal. There are many steps, which you undergo as a buyer, many of which you’ll discover below. If this is your first-time buying a home, we suggest the followings steps as you move forward. Remember, we’re always standing by to provide any assistance you might need.

Commit to the purchase

Sometimes those uncomfortable feelings creep up as you embark on the buying process. These feelings can certainly be good as you want to make sure you’re ready to buy. It is, after all, a large investment you’re undertaking. Homebuyers of all stages in life, but especially first-time ones, should review their financial situation and see how much home they can actually afford. Evaluate factors such as your monthly income and expenses. During this process you’ll also want to bear in mind your debt as well as your credit scores. What are other important benchmarks while evaluating your finances? Saving up for a down payment, having a stable salary, having an emergency fund and knowing you won’t have to move within five to seven years or less make judging if now is the right time to buy a little easier. When you’re serious about purchasing a property, have funds set aside for a down payment, closing costs and other related expenses.

Stay up to date with your credit score

As mentioned above, this a step not to be overlooked. In the months leading up to your home search, stay on top of your credit. Mortgage lenders like to see consistency and predictable behavior patterns from potential buyers. Paying your bills on time is critical, therefore make every effort to do so. Another thing you’ll want to keep tabs on is your credit utilization ratio. This is generally defined as your total credit used versus your total credit available. The lower, the better, and aim to stay below 30%. Your credit history (average age of your credit), new lines of credit and a mix of credit can also affect your score, and in turn, mortgage approval. Speaking to a lender about these things will help provide you context and give you direction as you journey toward homeownership.

Seek out a lender and preapproval

Another consideration to take into account is obtaining mortgage pre-approval. You’ll want to minimize any surprises as well as show the seller you can afford their property. By getting pre-approval for a mortgage and knowing you can purchase a home in a certain price range, you’ll have a clearer picture of your purchasing power. It’s imperative to understand how much home you can afford from the start. This will give you confidence when submitting an offer to a seller, through your real estate professional, once you’ve found the right property. Seek out the expertise of a few different lenders, including at least one local bank. You want to land the best deal, so don’t settle for only one quote. See what interest rates they’re offering and how that will affect your payment. Adjusting the down payment, amount borrowed and the loan term will also affect your monthly principal and interest payment. The lender you choose will also analyze your debt-to-income ratio to see what loan programs you’re eligible for. Popular loan options include: conventional, FHA, VA and USDA.

Wish list

As you begin to assemble your wish list — exciting, isn’t it? — it’s crucial to consider any needs you currently have and any future ones you might be able to anticipate. Create a list and prioritize your needs over your wants. What is essential for you and your family? Think about size, layout and other features. Your research will expose you to different neighborhoods and school districts. Consider your proximity to good schools and amenities that might be of value to you.

Choose a qualified buyer’s agent

This is why it can be beneficial to work with a real estate professional who has a thorough grasp on local market conditions and is very informed about the area you’re interested in. Never underestimate the benefits of teaming up with a REALTOR® or real estate agent, who will represent your best interests and guide you through the buying process. A buyer’s agent will assist you in your search, direct you through showings, offer you sound advice, help you submit an offer, negotiate with the seller, anticipate the next steps, leading you to settlement and beyond.

Home inspection and negotiation

Once you believe you’ve discovered the home, which is a good fit for your situation, it’s important to conduct a thorough inspection with a properly licensed home inspector to identify any potential issues or problems. This can help you negotiate repairs or price adjustments before finalizing the purchase. Remember, when you write up an offer, you can negotiate a number of items other than price, such as repair work or renovations to be included/completed prior to closing.

Under contract

If you’re uneasy about signing a contract, such as an agreement of sale or buyer’s agency agreement, review the documentation with your agent and seek other legal advice, if necessary. It’s important to review all documentation, including the mortgage terms, homeowners’ association (HOA) rules, if applicable, and all other legal obligations related to the home.

Closing costs

It’s easy to forget these upfront expenses as you set sail toward homeownership. In exchange for the services provided by your lender, attorney and/or title company, you’ll need to pay costs for inspections, appraisal fees, title insurance, attorney fees, transfer tax, etc. at or before closing.

Overall, the homebuying process is exciting, but it can be challenging, notably if it’s your first-time. Taking these steps and considerations into account will encourage a smoother homebuying experience.

If you’d like to review these tips as well as download our guidebook for even more strategies in homebuying, click here.

Visit our first-time homebuyer page for more information.

Packing your whole life up into a large truck might be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in your lifetime. I mean after you’ve put all that effort into getting your home ready to market, dealt with your fair share of stress while your REALTOR® worked their magic, isn’t the “delight of moving” the next logical step towards sanity? Gearing up for the task of shipping some of your priceless belongings with a group of total strangers is completely normal.

All kidding aside, moving from one residence to another is daunting and has been known to rattle some sellers as they seek to begin a new chapter of their lives. It could be the mental energy we commit to those things, such as moving, which tends to drain us and in some cases, leave us feeling a little desperate. Quite honestly, this is why it’s critical whenever we’re faced with such a task as this, we unplug from our negative past experiences and truly take time to prepare for the move.

You can also find a helpful moving checklist on page eight of our homebuyer’s guide. In this post, we’re covering four ways moving is made easier. Having said that, we in no way want to make light of the experience. I, for one, don’t love the idea of packing up a room into boxes and then unpacking them on the other side, but I’ve always been able to deal with it in a healthy manner. We hope you can too and we feel confident these four tips as well as our checklist will help you navigate your way into your new home with minimal anxiety.

Give Yourself Time

Preparation is important whether you’re buying or selling a home. In fact, we advise many of our clients to give themselves extra time when they’re thinking about a life change. Big decisions can take time, especially getting used to them. Sellers who need to make repairs to their house, should factor in more time than they think to complete those jobs. Heck, even if a professional is making the repairs/updates, you’ll want to pack in additional time. The same can be said for those who are confronted with the challenge of moving.

Moving for some is excruciating, like on the level of public speaking bad. Yet, if you give yourself extra time in anticipation of unforeseen issues arising in the process, you’ll be much better equipped to handle them and stay calm. Our advice is you don’t procrastinate throughout the moving process. Whether you’re moving out of an apartment or a home, whether you’re the buyer or seller, once that switch is activated and your life is headed in another direction, act.

Gather Intel

For some, changing scenery is welcomed, for others there’s apprehension. Whatever flavor the move provides, it’s important you eliminate as much of the unknown as possible. Chances are you’ll erase some of that stress, if you gather information on your new town or neighborhood before setting down new roots. What is your new city/neighborhood like? What places would you like to visit after your move? What are some of the activities you’d like to do once you get settled? The more comfortable you are with your new surroundings ahead of time, the easier this transition will be. Those who put the effort in from day one, are better suited to handle the curveballs which may come their way. Learn all aspects of your particular process – mentally prep yourself.

Moving apps, like Sortly and Updater, have helped others organize their thoughts and well as their possessions. They could potentially aid you as well.

Hire A Reputable Mover

Not in all situations, but many moving endeavors do require the assistance of a moving company. Someone once said: “you never know how much you accumulate until you move” [author unknown]. Boy, isn’t that the truth! If you do need to choose a professional moving company, do your due diligence and research which options are best for you and your circumstances as well as your timetable. Prior to contacting movers on the phone, it’s important to make a list of five or more and read testimonials from other buyers and sellers who faced a similar task of having to hire one. What are the good and bad stories people are sharing? Make sure to do your homework and investigate registries like Angi, NextDoor, Yelp, Google, Facebook and others.

After you whittle your list down, make sure to compile a list of questions you’ll want to ask each of the moving companies. Need help creating your own? This is a great place to start. And there may be other factors you’ll need to consider such as special services required like packing/storage services or budgetary concerns or how you want your valuables transported. For starters, you’ll want to ask each company stuff like if they have a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) registration number and how do they estimate costs for a particular job (binding estimates are usually better) and what fees are added on (hidden fees?) and what type of insurance they offer their customers.

Based upon this research and the responses to your questions, you’ll have a better idea of who you’d hire. Let’s face it, in real estate, banking, heck even cuisine, there are many choices… narrowing it down isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If one’s required, finding a reliable moving company should be at the top of your list. We hope these pointers provided you insight into making the right decision.

Soothe Thyself

Throughout the process of packing your life away and dealing with a real estate transaction, it’s vital to take care of yourself. This might sound puffed-up and maybe also a tad holistic, but stepping away from this process when it’s happening is healthy too. The self-care aspects shouldn’t be forgotten at this time. If you love to read first thing in the morning, then continue to do that even if you need to cut back slightly. If taking a walk in the evening in a park or on a trail is your thing, then keep walking. If working out a few times a week makes you feel better, gives you energy and relaxes your nerves, then by all means, do those burpees. If enjoying a glass of wine on your porch helps pacify your mind, then don’t let moving oust you from outdoor happiness.

If you have an area of your home where you and your family really take in life and the room acts like a sanctuary for you, don’t box that up until the last possible day.

Also, it’s important to keep ties to those you might be leaving behind, such as family, friends and neighbors. Set aside time to get together with neighbors and those in the community you’ve enjoyed getting to know, who you might not see again (depending on the distance of your move). Schedule your next return trip with family and friends, which will give you and them something to look forward to.

 

Moving is a trying time, yes, but there are methods we can take, which will help us deal with the challenges ahead. Stay focused on what matters, sure, but give yourself time and try not to beat yourself up when things go sideways. We’re here to help you throughout this process. Call one of our professionals should you want any assistance along the way.

Choosing To Live On A Lake

“Lake life” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The bugs, the smells, the dew and fog in the early morning hours, the sounds encapsulating your abode, to name a few, keep many at bay. But these are the exact same reasons people gravitate towards lakes in Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA). If you own a residence or second home on one of our region’s lakes, you understand the experience as well as the peace that comes with living on or near a lake. Don’t you?

Of course, there are numerous benefits in addition to disadvantages when living near a body of water in our area of Pennsylvania.

Pros include wildlife, fishing, outdoor recreation (good luck trying to get the kids to come in for dinner), sunrises/sunsets, relaxation, neighbors, community, privacy and entertaining. Furthermore, property value is a big bonus for numerous homeowners situated waterfront or near the body of water itself. Valuation on these homes varies depending on surrounding amenities, the view of the lake itself not to mention access to it, which most everyone wants. In a way, when you sell a lake house, you’re selling a particular lifestyle. Is there the option to entertain outside on a deck with an exterior kitchenette, dock and/or pool? These are things, which help prospective homebuyers realize they’re buying more than a home, they’re purchasing a vacation-like lifestyle. And the value far exceeds the lifestyle! In fact, homes located near a lake see an increase in property value of about 25% or more versus their in-land comparables.

Besides having the sense you’ve made a good investment and you’re always on vacation, there are definitely cons to buying a lake house. While not all of these are relevant to each lake house, similar to the pros as well, they’re important to identify when considering a lake house purchase. Some of these challenges include more regular upkeep and maintenance on homes exposed to the elements surrounding lake house living. More money may need to held in reserve to not only protect your investment, but also come to the rescue if storms and natural disasters strike. While privacy can be a plus for those making a move to a lake, lack of privacy in some cases is a stumbling block. Certain times and seasons on a lake pose a threat to tranquility. The summer months will often usher in various forms of commotion and entertainment, not suited for everyone. Higher insurance costs and lake association dues could also be seen as hardships for those not used to lake house living.

This article gives you a deeper glimpse into the advantages and disadvantages of choosing life on a lake.

Whether or not you’ve ever dreamed of living near a lake, we invite you to experience what it’s like. Poet Richard Milton Grahn draws you into “lake life,” a medicine for the lucky (perhaps).

Butterflies in brilliant light
What a sight as dreams take flight
Whatever comes, whatever goes
The ripples in the lake still flow

[excerpt from “Lake of Dreams” by Richard Milton Grahn]

As spring emerges so too does the foliage and critters around the lake. Summer makes way for water play, boats, kayaks, jet skis, swimming and fishing. Autumn supplies us with brisk clean air and the sounds of the ripples on water. Winter invites us to recall a year that was and listen to the stillness left behind. We hope to see you on one of our many beautiful lakes in NEPA. If you’re interested in discovering more about our lakes or would like to purchase a lake house, take a tour here.

Always make sure you have a lake house or waterfront real estate professional on your side as you begin to pursue lake living.

Why You Need A Buyer’s Agent

Those who are looking for a home to purchase might not know what they’re searching for in a property or in an agent, but it’s not their fault, especially if they’re first-timers. This is where having a trusted real estate advisor early in the process can be a saving grace for many who are venturing into homeownership. A buyer’s agent is that trust advisor, who must make “a continuous and good faith effort to find a property for the buyer,” assuming a contract with another agent isn’t in play. And with other conditions like keeping all confidential information relayed by the buyer, confidential as well as always acting in the buyer’s best interests, these agents play a vital role in the transaction. We recently sat down with one of our own to explore the mind of a buyer agent.

“Buyers have to be able to get in touch with you, their buyer’s agent,” emphasizes Ann A. Sheroda, Associate Broker with Realty Network Group [Clarks Summit, PA]. “When they can’t there’s frustration, distrust and quite frankly, abandonment to some extent.” A successful business is predicated on fostering relationships. Connecting buyers and sellers is critical for obvious reasons in a transaction, but the connection between the seller and their agent in addition to the buyer and their agent shouldn’t be minimized.

In the relationship between agent and buyer there’s either a sense of trust or distrust. From the onset, establishing this trust is important. One way to build upon it is in how the agent protects the homebuyer. “It’s the buyer’s agent who needs to protect their client,” underscores Sheroda. “If they won’t, who will? A buyer needs a good lender, title company and attorney. It’s unfortunate when an unsuspecting party hires the services of an attorney at the eleventh hour of the transaction or teams up with a lender, who many in the field will avoid whenever possible. A good agent will make sure the terms the purchaser needs are written up correctly in the contract. They’ll make sure inspections are in place to protect them. If your buyer previews six homes and none of them are any good and don’t match their needs, you show them six more.”

These are some of the advantages to using a buyer’s agent in today’s market. Buyers desire, whether they know it or not, someone who’s going to look out for their best interests. Though they might come at a lower premium during autumn and the early winter months, home prices are elevated and buyers need someone who has their back. The same can be said for mortgage interest rates and the potential for overpaying for a property. Buyer representation is a must-have for buyers heading into 2023.

Do drawbacks to buyer representation exist? There could be disadvantages for homebuyers entering into a business relationship with a buyer’s agent. Namely, you could become a hostage to poor representation. As Sheroda points out: “It can be brutal when you can’t get in touch with your agent and they don’t make time for you. Flexibility on the agent’s part is needed, but it goes further than that. Communication is critical. If you’re not committed to your clients and their need to acquire a suitable dwelling for themselves and their families, then it begs the question: Why are you representing them in the first place?” The worst situation a prospective buyer can find themselves in prior to signing an agreement of sale, is being locked into a contract with an agent who isn’t giving their client their best effort, isn’t acting in their best interests and isn’t staying in touch with them either. “Don’t think dealing with the listing agent is the answer,” asserts Sheroda. “Though listing agents in the state of Pennsylvania, who act ethically, can also represent the interests of the buyer through dual agency, a buyer should hesitate before retreating to the agent who has the property listed. A buyer needs to make sure they’re being properly represented in the transaction.”

“There have been numerous times in my seventeen years when a client of mine has been desperate to purchase, but when previewing homes that weren’t a match for them, I’ve told them they absolutely need to walk away,” explains Sheroda. “Buyers need to understand, no matter how rushed or pressured they feel to purchase, they should not buy just to buy. I recently had a situation where a contractor I knew was previewing a home with one of my clients, who also had an association with the contractor and requested he be present at the showing. The house needed a ton of work and it wasn’t worth the aggravation, in my mind, and it certainly wasn’t a fit for my buyer. My client asked me if she should consider purchasing the home. I told her she needed to walk away. Afterwards, the contractor said he gained even more respect for me, upon hearing the counsel I was giving to my client.”

Ann Sheroda believes finding an agent can and should be a process of trial by error. The buyer needs to be comfortable with their agent. They need to trust and form a rapport with them. “If I weren’t licensed in this business, I would still use a buyer’s agent,” affirms Sheroda. “There can be pitfalls along the way and every buyer needs guidance throughout all phases of their dealings: In the search process, pricing, negotiating, networking, through the transaction to settlement and beyond. Selecting an agent should be carefully done. In fact, I recommend prospective buyers and sellers who approach me to check my references – Interviewing past clients of mine and inquiring about my services and work ethic is a great starting point.” A referral might be one of the best ways an agent acquires business, but here are a few effective questions to ask along the way:

  • How long have you been licensed as a real estate professional?
  • Do you have a flexible schedule? Can it accommodate mine?
  • How long does it take buyers you’ve worked with to find and purchase a home?
  • What areas of real estate are your specialty?

Find other noteworthy questions in our homebuyer guide.

If you’re toying with the thought of joining forces with a buyer’s agent, what’s holding you back? The home is a hub for so much in our lives, it’s a memory-making machine. A home purchase is also a large one. You want an expert who will help deliver the best outcome for you and your situation – financial and personal.

Lastly, there are many wheels spinning in a real estate transaction. Get a professional, preferably a REALTOR®, who has access to other experts in the field. You want to work with someone who has an impressive network you can approach and pull into your homebuying process. You want excellent service every step of the way. Your trusted advisor, your buyer’s agent, will have a connection with reputable lenders, inspectors, attorneys, and the like. You can hopefully rest easier knowing that an agent, you have confidence in, attracts like-minded, successful professionals.

There’s more to explore when it comes to purchasing a property — consider these things before you go all in on buying.

Four Things To Consider Before Buying A Home

The most important things for homebuyers to consider when purchasing a home are:

  1. Being able to afford a home based upon one’s situation in life
  2. Not over-paying for a home based upon its market value
  3. A home’s location – What do the neighborhoods, school districts and surrounding area look like?
  4. A house’s age and the age of its components

Notice how security is an aspect you can’t ignore with the prospect of purchasing a home. It’s only natural to have hesitation about buying a home as it’s a big investment. Furthermore, feeling a sense of security goes beyond the financial commitments, which are required from buyers as they move forward with their purchase. If you lack security, you’ll be without peace taking another step toward homeownership. It’s also important to note that three of these four considerations listed above directly relate to money.

Tops on the list is paramount, because if your circumstances in life won’t allow it, you can’t or perhaps shouldn’t purchase a home. Home affordability comes in all shapes and sizes. What might be affordable to buyer A, isn’t feasible to buyer B. Being able to afford a home relates to the ability to budget properly for each and every cost associated with the purchase. Your debt-to-income ratio might be the surest way to prove to yourself as well as a lender, you’re able to follow-through with a home purchase. Besides your debt-to-income ratio, you should also reflect upon how much of a mortgage you can afford? You may be approved for borrowing a certain sum, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take on that loan. The underwriters who dabble in rating an applicant’s ability to purchase will ultimately examine a buyer’s gross income, outstanding debt, assets and liabilities. They’re going to probe to see what demands have been placed on the buyer’s income. They’ll also forecast, as best they can, to ensure the bank’s ability to get paid back in the future isn’t at risk.

Secondly, buyers and sellers have been more cautious with the drastic increases in home appreciation since the onset of the pandemic. While the pandemic has vanished, home prices continue their upward climb. Since the beginning of COVID, when real estate sales were restricted, home prices have risen 54.8% in the Greater Scranton market.* A market recently named as the most affordable in the country. Again, while there are sales to be had right now, in fact we’re entering a time of the year where homebuyers will discover some of the best premiums around, buyers should exercise prudence. How long do they intend to live in the place they’re thinking about buying? Their offering on a property may not align with its value and might place undue hardship on the homeowner, if they need to sell a few years after their purchase. We would recommend living in a home for at least seven or more years at the risk of taking a loss. Though homes are generally a solid investment, there are no guarantees. If you need the freedom to move at a moment’s notice, within a shorter time frame from when you purchased the home, you might want to refrain from buying until your circumstances change.

For some buyers, a home’s location is the first litmus test it must pass. If the setting isn’t appealing or the property – though it has virtually everything the buyer is looking for – is in a non-ideal section of town or the purchaser has a family/children and thus schools are high on their list, then it’s hard to overlook locale. We would suggest reviewing pros and cons of various listings as it relates to their whereabouts. You can’t change their bearings, so start there and rate how important distances to work, school, daycare and shopping are, for instance. Look into traffic patterns and noise levels in particular parts of town. If school districts are important to you, target homes in the districts you would prefer to live. Scope out the home’s surroundings. Catch a glimpse of the area on the weekends, during the week, day and night. Is the neighborhood kid or pet friendly? Is the home in a walkable community?

Finally, the vast majority of homebuyers aren’t acquiring a new or newer construction home, one that’s less than ten years old. Being that many buyers are moving into a house that has been around the block, we’d certainly recommend a home inspection as a contingency to the purchase. Besides that, over time, a home’s elements begin to display patterns of behavior and likewise, deterioration. What parts of a home should you keep your eyes on? Windows, roof, HVAC (heating/cooling) system, foundation, to name a few, but again, call in the professionals, such as a reputable home inspector. They’re more than capable of assessing the age of a house’s components/appliances. A few decades after the construction of a home, repairs become more common, and thus as a prospective buyer it’s important to understand what your yearly maintenance/repair costs might resemble.

 

* Greater Scranton Board of REALTORS® stats; median homes sales for March 2020, October 2022

Buying a new house is an exciting experience, but it is also a huge life milestone. It is sometimes difficult to know whether you should purchase an affordable starter home or instead build or buy a dream house. There are benefits and disadvantages to each option, so here are three things you should understand to help you make the right decision.

Know the Benefits of Each Option

There are different benefits to buying a starter home or your dream house. It is up to you to analyze your current stage of life and determine which option is most beneficial for your unique situation.

Starter homes are more affordable than move-up homes (i.e. second home, typically a larger house), which you may want to live in for the rest of your life. They require less upkeep. You may even be able to rent them out in the future and generate additional income. However, starter homes generally need more repairs than newer ones. They are usually small in size and sometimes can be harder to sell, if/when you need the equity.

Your forever home, however, will be large enough to accommodate a growing family. Buying your dream home also gives you the opportunity to put down roots so you can avoid the hassle of moving again. The price tag is significantly higher and your dream home will likely need more upkeep than your starter house, depending upon its age.

Analyze Your Budget

The size of your budget has a direct impact on whether you purchase your forever home or a starter house. If you can only afford a small mortgage each month, you may have to buy a starter home to live within your means. If you have saved up enough money for a sizable down payment, you may be able to afford to purchase the house you’ll live in for the rest of your life. Knowing your budget and the features you desire in a home is important for finding the right house for a particular stage of life.

Understand the Costs of Each Option

Your new mortgage isn’t the only cost associated with purchasing a house. Homeowners insurance is a good investment because it covers the cost of any damage to the structure of your new house. It also covers the cost of any belongings that are stolen and any injuries that are sustained on your property. However, coverage does not extend to home systems or appliances. If you want to avoid unexpected expenses related to your plumbing, heating, electrical and cooling systems, it’s a good idea to consider buying a home warranty. While it’s an additional expense, it can save you money in the long run by dodging unnecessary repair costs.

According to one survey, less than 18% of Americans have home warranty coverage, however arming yourself with the right tools is essential for reducing unnecessary expenses for maintaining a home. When choosing a home warranty, decide which company is best by doing your research. You want to find a company with a great reputation for customer satisfaction. Furthermore, you want to ensure you’re getting excellent coverage for your home’s systems.

 

For some people, purchasing an affordable starter home is the best option. Others may prefer to go ahead and buy their dream house right out of the gate. There’s no one answer that’s right for everyone, but you must carefully weigh your options if you want to make the best decision for your family. Whether you choose to purchase a starter home or your dream house, purchasing a new place to live is a huge milestone for you! As always, we’re here to help you find the perfect place.

[This content is compliments of Well Parents]