Top 10 Features Home Buyers Want in 2017

Washer & Dryer

Find out the top 10 features today’s home buyers are looking for in a home so you can better meet their demands and help them find the home of their dreams.

Although the generations of home buyers differ, there are many common features they all want in a home. According to a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders, home buyers are looking for features that will help them save energy and money and will help them keep their family and home organized. Here are the top 10 features on their most wanted list:

  1. Laundry room

A separate laundry room is at the top of the list as the most desired feature in a home. Having a laundry room for folding clothes, piling up dirty clothes or ironing is a huge benefit, as it helps keep the mess out of the rest of the home — like the guestroom, couch or dining room table.

  1. ENERGY STAR® appliances/windows/fixtures

Energy efficiency and saving money on utility bills are top priorities for homebuyers. Energy-efficient windows can help cut heating and cooling costs by 12%, an ENERGY STAR appliance like a washing machine can help save a homeowner $40 or more a year on utility bills and an ENERGY STAR Certified Home uses 15-30% less energy.

  1. Exterior lighting

Exterior lighting is the most desired outdoor feature. An illuminated home that highlights landscaping, a tree or a beautifully manicured lawn can improve the aesthetics of a home and set a mood. It can also help guide visitors to the front door in the dark and is an excellent burglar deterrent.

  1. Patio

Patios are the second most coveted outdoor feature. Outdoor areas offer more living space without the cost of a home addition and they can help recover 30-60% of a home’s investment. Plus, they’re great for entertaining or just relaxing outdoors.

  1. Ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are practical and decorative. They’ve become must-haves as energy costs continue to rise because they can cool a room more efficiently than air conditioning. Plus, they come in many beautiful and stylish designs.

  1. Full bath on main level

A second full bathroom in a house can make a big difference and a good impression on buyers. In fact, an additional full bath can increase a home value by 20%. Plus, it comes in handy as a guest bathroom.

  1. Hardwood on main floor

Not only do hardwood floors give a home a nice sleek look, they’re also cleaner, easier to maintain and more durable than carpeting. Hardwood floors can be refinished and can last a lifetime.

  1. Insulation higher than required by code

Insulation helps lower the cost of heating and cooling. Higher insulation levels that exceed code requirements can usually be found in energy-efficient homes.

  1. Garage storage

Everyone loves having lots of storage space and the garage is the most convenient and accessible place for storage, as it’s usually just a few steps away from the house. A nicely organized, roomy and easily accessible garage with storage cabinets is very appealing.

  1. Eat-in kitchen

Kitchens with plenty of space for a table are important to home buyers, especially those with families. The kitchen table is where everyone congregates — in the morning over breakfast and in the evening for dinner.

https://www.newhomesource.com/resourcecenter/articles/top-10-features-home-buyers-want
http://time.com/money/4513532/what-home-buyers-want/
http://eyeonhousing.org/2016/03/housing-preferences-across-generations-part-i/
http://www.nahbclassic.org/generic.aspx?sectionID=734&genericContentID=249797&channelID=311&_ga=1.246599044.1049533126.1481038355
http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/real-estate/T010-S001-7-features-home-buyers-want-most/index.html

Thanks for listening.

CLAIRE RICHARDS REALTY GROUP

Claire Richards Broker & Realtor

Karl Zimmer Realtor

610.256.2780

Preparing to Buy or Sell Your Home

Buyers cute couple

Spring has sprung, which means the housing market is in full bloom. Each year, roughly 40 percent of real estate transactions occur between the months of May and August.

If you’re feeling inspired to buy or sell a home soon, make sure you’re prepared. Use these checklists to catch anything you may have missed.

When You’re Ready to Buy a Home

Purchasing a house is one of the biggest transactions you’ll ever make. Whether it’s your first time or the fifth, tackle the following prep work:

  • Calculate what you can afford. Use a home affordability calculator to make sure you’re ready for the mortgage payments.
  • Check your credit score, and fix any inaccuracies you discover ASAP. Errors can impact your ability to get a good interest rate.
  • Save up for a down payment. Most lenders require 5 to 20 percent, and larger down payments can lower the amount you pay each month.
  • Be ready for additional closing costs. Plan to have approximately 4 percent of the home’s purchase price on hand to cover taxes, fees and other necessary charges.
  • Re-evaluate your insurance coverage and update all of your policies, including life and car insurance.

 

When It’s Time to Sell

Putting your home on the market is a process that can take months. Before you do, complete this home seller to-do list:

  • Declutter, clean and get your home ready to show. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
  • Take inventory of what needs to be fixed and make a schedule to complete any updates, such as roof work, new paint or landscaping.
  • Decide on an appropriate selling price. Pulling comps with an experienced REALTOR in your area can give you a better idea of your home’s value.

 

Claire and Karl are here to help you through this process. We are very experienced and  master negotiators.  Give us a call at 610.256.2780.

 

CLAIRE RICHARDS REALTY GROUP

610.256.2780

Claire Richards Assoc. BROKER & REALTOR

Karl Zimmer REALTOR

3 Hot Suburban Philadelphia Towns

With a spate of new high-end housing, hip retail projects and amenities galore, these 3 suburban towns are in a race to lure the next generation of residents.

WC

West Chester: The Buzzy Borough That Only Gets Better  

15%Five-year change in home value in West Chester

While planning committees around the region rush to give their downtowns the Oprah makeover treatment, West Chester only has to ponder how to improve an already vibrant borough — one with more than 65 places to eat and drink and quality independent boutiques. Volume is what’s coming next: Three new apartment complexes (including an eye-catching Eli Kahn development) have added 360 upscale residential units that are being rented by boomers and millennials alike. “The high density, the parks, the historic buildings, all the dog owners … it provides the community with neighborliness. People can’t help but know each other,” says Malcolm Johnstone, executive director of the West Chester Business Improvement District. “This is the anti-urban-sprawl community.” Buyers want in, according to realtors from around the region, who report that interest from clients across all age groups and demographics is growing. Additional attractions in the works — like a possible second hotel and the Knauer Performing Arts Center, which is giving the 100-year-old armory a second life — will only up the cultural appeal.

 

Malvern: The Biggest Building Boom in Chesco

31  Average days a house was on the market in Malvern in 2016, a drop of 30% in one year

Malvern

Malvern is in the midst of a gold rush of sorts. Buyers looking to get into the excellent Great Valley School District and close to the Main Line at a good price (realtors like to refer to this as the Upper Main Line, much to Gladwyne’s chagrin) are making grabs for newly converted land. “We’re seeing an awful lot of new construction,” says Linda Theuer, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway in Malvern. Some of these new communities have walking trails, playgrounds, and houses with all the great rooms and chef’s kitchens one could want, but smaller lots, by design. “People today want to be doing things with their families, not taking care of big plots of land,” says Theuer. Commercial projects are sprouting at an equal clip. One such project is Uptown Worthington, a development by O’Neill Properties that will have high-end apartments, eateries and a hotel to complement the Wegmans that’s there. Plus, changes coming to downtown Paoli and Devon (if that tempestuous Urban Outfitters center ever happens) will only benefit this growing village.

 

Phoenixville: High-End Rentals Mean a Younger Crowd

16%  Five-year change in home value in Phoenixville

Phoenixville

Here’s something to consider: Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix Village — one of a few newly opened upscale apartment buildings here — is around $2,000 a month. There’s a reason for that. This borough is a case study in downtown revitalization, with a main street that gets more vibrant every year. (The historic Colonial Theatre — of The Blob fame — is currently getting a state-of-the-art redo, and revamped theaters are traditionally boons to local economies.) That downtown life brought in the apartment buildings, including a 2016 Toll Brothers project called Riverworks that has a rock wall and dog spa; proposals could see another 1,000 rental units in the next few years. The appeal extends beyond Bridge Street, though. New-construction developments are being filled by young families who love hanging downtown, the Schuylkill River Trail, the proximity to offices in King of Prussia and Malvern, and a school district that ranks in the state’s top 50.

So there you have a quick overview of Chester County’s star towns. Come and visit us and you wish more information on buying or selling real estate, please call Claire or Karl.

Thanks for listening.

CLAIRE RICHARDS REALTY GROUP

610.256.2780

Claire Richards Broker & Realtor

Karl Zimmer Realtor


Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

buyers-cute-couple

You’ve decided to go for it. You know mortgage rates are enticingly low.Buying a home can be thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time, especially for first-time homebuyers. It’s difficult to know exactly what to expect.

Take these five steps to make the process go more smoothly.

1. Check Your Credit

Your credit score is among the most important factors when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage. “In addition, the standards are higher in terms of what score you need and how it affects the cost of the loan,” says Mike Winesburg, formerly a mortgage planner with McKinley Carter Wealth Services in Wheeling, W. Va.

Scour your credit reports for mistakes, unpaid accounts or collection accounts.  Just because you pay everything on time every month doesn’t mean your credit is stellar. The amount of credit you’re using relative to your available credit limit, or your credit utilization ratio, can sink a credit score.

The lower the utilization rate, the higher your score will be. Ideally, first-time homebuyers would have a lot of credit available, with less than a third of it used.  Repairing damaged credit takes time. If you think your credit may need work, begin the repair process at least six months before shopping for a home.

2. Evaluate Assets and Liabilities

A first-time homebuyer should have a good idea of money they owe and money they have coming in. “If I were a first-time homebuyer and I wanted to do everything right, I would probably try to track my spending for a couple of months to see where my money was going,” Winesburg says.

Additionally, buyers should have an idea of how lenders will view their income, and that requires becoming familiar with the basics of mortgage lending. For instance, some professionals, such as the self-employed or straight-commission salesperson, may have a more difficult time getting a loan than others.

The self-employed or independent contractor will need a solid two years’ earnings history to show, according to Winesburg.

3. Documents

When applying for mortgages, you must document income and taxes. Typically, mortgage lenders will request two recent pay stubs, the previous two years’ W-2s, tax returns and the past two months of bank statements—every page, even the blank ones.

“Why it has to be every single last page, I don’t know. But that is what they want to see. I think they look for nonsufficient funds or odd money in or out,” says Floyd Walters, owner of BWA Mortgage in La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

4. Qualify Yourself

Ideally, you already know how much you can afford to spend before the mortgage lender tells you how much you qualify for. By calculating debt-to-income ratio and factoring in a down payment, you will have a good idea of what you can afford, both upfront and monthly.

Though there’s not a fixed debt-to-income ratio that lenders require, the standard dictates that no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income be devoted to housing costs. This percentage is called the front-end ratio.

The back-end ratio shows what portion of income covers all monthly debt obligations. Lenders prefer the back-end ratio to be 36 percent or less, but some borrowers get approved with back-end ratios of 45 percent or higher.

5. Figure Out Your Down Payment

It takes effort to scrape together the down payment.

There are programs that can assist buyers with qualifying incomes and situations.

“I’ve helped arrange assistance loans for $10,000, which are interest- and payment-free, and forgivable after five years. Although considered a loan, they’re more like grants. Other programs can provide up to $40,000 interest-free,” Winesburg says.

Finally, speak with mortgage lenders when you’re starting the process. Check with friends, co-workers and neighbors to find out which lenders they enjoyed working with and ask them questions about the process and what other steps first-time homebuyers should take.

Claire and Karl can help.  Give us a call and we will help you lead through the process.

Thanks for listening.

Claire Richards Realty Group

CLAIRE RICHARDS ASSOC. BROKER & REALTOR

KARL ZIMMER REALTOR

610.256.2780

The 5 Dirtiest Things You Touch Every Day

E.coli bacteria

It’s had to find a germ researcher who doesn’t recommend eating off a toilet seat. “Everyone’s afraid of butt-borne diseases, but toilet seats tend to be the cleanest thing in the bathroom because we clean them so often,” says Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona.

Of course, Gerba and others who study the filthiest parts of your kitchen, bathroom, workspace, car and body don’t actually think you should serve your next meal on the throne. But if you’re wondering which everyday items are the germiest, he says it helps to think about those objects or places you ignore when you break out your mop and disinfectant.

One example: The hand-towel hanging next to your bathroom sink. “Bacteria like to grow in wet, moist conditions,” Gerba explains. Towels are made to absorb water, which is great for drying your skin, but not so great when it comes to discouraging bacterial incubation. “Most people don’t wash their hands properly,” he says. So when you grab that towel, you’re rubbing bacteria into an ideal growing environment—and one few people bother to wash more than once every week or two. You should be washing all towels—including the one you grab after showering—after two days of use, he says.

Another bathroom reservoir of germs is your toothbrush holder. “People never clean them,” Gerba says. A 2011 report from the public health organization NSF International found 27% of toothbrush holders were home to Coliform bacteria—a sickness-causing family of microorganism that includes Salmonella and E. coli.

In the kitchen, your trusty sink sponge is health enemy number one. In fact, that sponge is likely the dirtiest item in your home, Gerba says. “It’s probably home to hundreds of millions of bacteria,” he says. NSF agrees. Its researchers found that 75% of home dish sponges and rags contained Coliform.

You want a kitchen cleaning tool you can throw into the dishwasher to disinfect—like a brush, Gerba says. The same goes for cutting boards. “Most people just rinse or wipe them off,” he says. But only a run through the dishwasher—or a good scrub with dish soap—will get it clean.

When it comes to the items you touch most, Gerba says your cell phone is a big bacteria haven. Studies have found that one in six phones is contaminated with fecal matter, even though a simple swab with a disinfectant wipe is enough to clear away that icky residue.

Finally, when you’re out of your home, watch out for supermarket carts. “Almost 100% of them are home to E. coli because people are constantly touching the handles after holding raw food products,” Gerba explains. He says reusable grocery bags are also pretty nasty—again, because people rarely wash them.

While dozens of other everyday items could make this list—shoelaces, purses, car keys, keyboards, etc.—don’t run out and buy a lot of chemical-ridden cleaners. For one thing, many of them don’t work. For another, many contain substances that are linked to cancer and other health concerns.

Instead, worry about disinfecting your hands when you leave a public space. Gerba says most people pick up dangerous germs when they’re away from home. By simply rubbing on a hand sanitizer or washing your hands the moment you walk into the house, you’d probably cut your odds of catching something in half, he says.

Claire Richards Realty Group

CLAIRE RICHARDS ASSOC. BROKER & REALTOR

KARL ZIMMER REALTOR

610.256.278

West Chester Nominated as ‘Greatest Main Street in America’

Does West Chester have the greatest downtown in the United States?

WEST CHESTER, PA — As natives have been saying forever, West Chester’s downtown area is pretty unbeatable. It combines the history and quaintness of a small country town with the restaurants and nightlife of a major city. It’s walkable, diverse, and it’s only getting bigger. Now, it looks like the rest of the country is starting to take notice.

The borough has recently been nominated as one of ten semifinalists in the 2017 Great American Main Street Award.

West Chester was nominated alongside Berlin, Maryland, Cedar Rapids, Iowa., Chillicothe, Missouri, Columbus, Georgia, Covington, Kentucky, Goldsboro, North Carolina, Los Alamos, New Mexico, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Wausau, Wisconsin.

“The Great American Main Street Award is the highest recognition given out by the National Main Street Center. Each year, we celebrate exceptional Main Street America organizations for their work in creating more economically, socially, and culturally vibrant commercial districts,” said Patrice Frey, the Center’s President and CEO, in a statement. “This year’s winners are truly at the forefront of commercial district revitalization. They are a testament to the power of the Main Street Approach, and the great potential of downtown districts in cities and towns across the country.”

In their nomination of West Chester, the Center noted the borough’s creation of 241 new businesses over the last 16 years. They also noted West Chester’s winning of the Best New Shopping District award from Philadelphia Magazine and the Distinctive Destination award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Winners will be named this May at the Main Street Now Conference in Pittsburgh.

Claire Richards Realty Group

CLAIRE RICHARDS ASSOC. BROKER & REALTOR

KARL ZIMMER REALTOR

610.256.2780

 

4 New Year’s Home Resolutions That Can Save You Big Money

checklist-1

If your New Year’s resolutions include saving money, we’ve got four great ways for you to achieve your goals

 

Refinance

If you haven’t yet refinanced your mortgage or home equity loan to take advantage of today’s low interest rates, there’s still time to lock in a great deal. If your current mortgages exceed your home’s value, you may still be able to refinance using one of the federal government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program.

Change Your Furnace Filters

New Year’s resolutions don’t get much easier than vowing to change your HVAC filter once a month to increase your furnace’s life span. To make this task easy, buy 12 filters and store them in the furnace room so they’re at hand when you need them. Put a reminder on your calendar, or tie this chore to another monthly chore, like paying your household bills, so you remember to do it each month.

Seal Those Home Air Leaks 

Sealing the air leaks in your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut your utility bills. Check to make sure your windows are caulked around the outside of the trim on the inside, and outside, of your home. Use foam to fill large gaps where the plumbing, electric or cable comes in the house.

Shop Your Insurance Policies

Yes, it’s a bother to shop for insurance, but if you haven’t checked what’s out there lately, you may be overpaying. The easiest way to get this chore done is to delegate. Copy the declarations pages from your current home, auto, life and umbrella policies, and ask an independent insurance agent to look for a better overall deal for you. Look for bundles …

You can also visit your current agent, or call your insurance company and ask for an annual review to make sure you’ve got the right coverage and are getting all the discounts for which you qualify.

If you need a referral to a good insurance agent, mortgage loan officer or home handy person, please contact me.  I have some great ones.

Thanks for listening.

Claire Richards Realty Group

Claire Richards  ~ Assoc. BROKER & REALTOR

Karl Zimmer ~ REALTOR

610.256.2780

Chester County, 4th Among Happiest Places In USA

group-happy-6

The county is the 4th happiest place in the entire nation, according to SmartAsset, the financial advising company that executed the research.

Chester County is the highest-income county in Pennsylvania, according to SmartAsset.

It boasts an income ratio of 2.3, which means the median income is more than twice the cost of living. In addition, Chester County has an average life expectancy over 80 years.

The happiest counties were shown to be on the East Coast; overall, 7 of the top 10 counties came from the Mid-Atlantic region.

happiest

Their methodology focused on metrics like life expectancy, physical activity rate, income ratio, cost of living, living wage, and divorce rates and marriage rates.

It’s not the first time Chester County landed in the study’s top 10. In 2015, the same study named Chester County the 6th happiest place in the nation.

Neighboring Montgomery County was the only other county in Pennsylvania to sneak onto the top 25 list, coming in at 23.

Now, don’t we feel better?!  Guess we will have to try more to get to number 1.

Thanks for listening.

CLAIRE RICHARDS REALTY GROUP

Claire Richards Assoc. BROKER & REALTOR  and  Karl Zimmer REALTOR

 

 

10 Tips for a Fool-Proof Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-6

Here’s how to deal with those Thanksgiving nightmares — including that still-frozen turkey, burned pie and lumpy gravy — that can jeopardize the big feast. Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-how-tos/10-expert-fixes-for-common-thanksgiving-fails.html?oc=linkback

Of course before we break bread with our loved ones. let’s all give thanks for our friends, family and country. Remember, all it takes is L O V E.

thanksgiving-dinner-4

Happy Thanksgiving

Claire Richards Real Estate Group