Monthly Archives: April 2009

Reasons To Buy New Construction

Good news about home prices coming down a little is that new construction prices in turn have gotten better. Builders are motivated to unload homes that are sitting due to increased inventory and you could end up with some great benefits. There are many new homes listed with a REALTOR. Ask your REALTOR for a list of new construction homes.

When your purchase a new home that means that everything is new. No worn carpet to replace. kitchens to remodel, or even replace a roof or windows. You just need to bring your special touches and decorating preferences.

Sometimes mortgage rates on new homes can be lower.  Builders can offer a special rate through a mortgage company that they work with if you choose to use them.

During the first five to seven years a new home will often see a greater appreciation (depending on the area you are in) than an existing home.

Energy efficiency is a key thing in a new home. Even homes being built today are more efficient than they were 10 years ago.

Many builders also offer a home warranty, often times, for a term of about a year.

Rural Housing Loans

Mortgage programs have become more strict in the last year. Something that you do not see as much is programs with no down payment. But there is still good news if you live in a rural area and do not have much cash to put down. Here is a great site where you can find more out about the housing program for the USDA’s Rural Development. If you are living in an area that qualifies, you may have a great opportunity at hand.

The USDA Income and Property Eligibility Site

See if you can qualify for no money down – talk to your local mortgage representative.

Tips for Selling a Vacant Home

When there is a vacant home for sale, often times it is obvious. For security reasons and normal sale tactics, you do not want it to appear this way. Sometimes it is actually harder to sell a vacant home. Here are some great ideas to prepare your home.

* If you are able to afford a lawn service, get someone to maintain your property. Sometimes if you have family or a neighbor willing to do that for you, it may give you a reduced cost. Your real estate agent may even know someone willing to help you out. Don’t forget if possible, get someone to clear the walks in the winter. You know, I was so impressed when I went to show a foreclosed home after a big snow and the walk to the house was already for guests. I really think a neighbor did that one out of the kindness of their heart.

* When your furniture is not occupying the house, this really points to small imperfections in the walls, carpet or other places. So take care of those things that are now more obvious, otherwise they will stick out like a sore thumb. I saw a home recently that was vacant and a seam in the wall is coming undone. It was much more noticeable due to not furniture and white walls.

* If at all possible, try to leave a few items for accent pieces at the home. I do have a seller that is borrowing her grand daughter’s bedroom set temporarily.

* Also, if at all possible try to leave the utilities on – Electric and Gas if you can swing it. I have show some homes in the winter that have been so cold that no one wanted to stay in the property very long and if you can’t see that does not help the sale either. Even make sure all the light bulbs are working. If you did have a sale on the property, in most cases the buyer is going to need all utilities on for inspections.

* Have someone keep the home clean. One house I would go into often to show ended up having several dead flies around the house over time. This and a layer of dust on the counters and make the home appear that it has been sitting a while.

* To make the home lived in, see if a neighbor would be willing to park their car in the driveway, make any mail would be taken in, and even have the blinds open or shut on occasion. Having a lamp or two on a timer is helpful. Many times I see old door handle flyers and telephone books sitting on vacant porches – make sure you don’t let that happen.

*Â Always check your home owner’s policy and make sure you understand your coverage if your home is vacant.

Sellers Be Ready for Required Municipal Inspections

In many communities it is required that if a property is sold that a dye/smoke test or occupancy permit is done. It most standard sales in the state of Pennsylvania, this seller is required to take care of these inspections if required. When the seller may not take care of these is when the property is owned by a bank. The bank may require the buyer to take care of these items.

An occupancy permit is to make sure, more so for older buildings, that several things are safe and ready to move in. For example, electric wiring, ground wires, chipping paint, stair railings, etc. . . .

A smoke/dye test is when a a certified inspector, often times a plumber, will come to the property for sale to make sure the water drains are going into the storm sewer and not the regular sewer lines. In most cases, if this is required by the local municipality, they will not release certifications needed for closing unless this is completed.

Now interestingly enough, I recently dealt the a transaction where the municipality required this (but not on new construction) on existing properties. One thing to be careful is, to make sure that if you are the seller that you are getting it done from the required company. Some municipalities require their plumbers or contractors to do this. I received a letter from this municipality telling me what contractors they use. When the seller went to have it done, they would not release the certification because we did not use their suggested contractor. Hmmm. . . make sure whether or not it is pertinent that you uses their suggested contractors. I think it will work out but hoops may need to be jumped through.

Always check or have your agent check for you that you are using the proper contractors required to get your approval. You will save yourself some trouble.

Area Schools

As mentioned previously, schools and neighborhoods are important to buyers. Here are some links to help you with your search. Our office is surrounded by four counties. You will find some helpful links on all the schools in each county.

Allegheny County Schools

Armstrong County Schools

Butler County Schools

Westmoreland County Schools

General School Info

Fun In the City

I was down in the city for an appointment yesterday. Things went great, so on the way back to the office, I made two quick stops. I really had to control myself because I could be in these places for a long time. I stopped at a couple of specialty food places in the Shadyside section of the Pittsburgh.

One of my favorites is Whole Foods on Center Ave. I always love when you enter the store and they have their daily or weekly specials quite often by the door. It could be fruits, flowers, or at Christmas time even a little Christmas tree. When you walk-in you immediately walk into an amazing selection of produce. Some regular and some organic. There are many things that are not in your regular local market and the selection changes based on season and availability. There is a wonderful meat and fish selection and the list goes on. I have some of my favorite items that I always pick up because those items are hard to find or if you can find them quite often the item is cheaper at this store. Their store bands are a great value.

At the end of the isles on occasion, you can sample some snack products – delicious. You have to see the amazing selection of cheese – mouse heaven. Ok, so the next favorite thing I love about the store is the deli where you can get pre-made sandwiches, salad or MTO’s and . . . the hot food bar and salad bar is so unique, fresh, and delicious. When you are done your trip, relax and enjoy some lunch right on the way out. Good food. You are not going to find that anywhere else. Every time I have been there the place is bustling.

There are a couple of other places right near this store to compete with it. One is Giant Eagle’s Market District. I have never had the time to go here, because with so little time when in the area. I always pick Whole Foods. But I did get to spend about 15 minutes at a store called Trader Joe’s. They had some great specialty foods. The store is not nearly as big but I found some unique things. I had never seen mini seedless cucumbers – so cute for a salad.

Outside the city there is also a bulk health/specialty food company called Frankferd Farms in Sarver, PA – North East of the City. You can get a wide variety of various types of specialty foods. Most people order for pick up or have shipped as this is not your traditional food store – it is more like a warehouse. They have an amazing selection.

I have also been to another specialty food store that I did not realize was just that until recently. This place is called McGinnis Sisters. Their store NE of the city in Monroeville, PA is bigger than the Trader Joe’s. Their hot sausage is fabulous and so lean. They have a great new store in Mars, PA – Love it.

So stop in and check out the Pittsburgh Area’s specialty food stores. You will have so much fun.




I love passing this church on Center Ave on the way to Whole foods. It deserves a better shot but I had to shoot from the car because the traffic is crazy in the city.

Closing Costs – Transfer Tax

In my last post, I mentioned title insurance as a big part of closing. Another larger fee in closing is transfer tax. This fee is also based on the sale price of a home. The amount of the fee can depend on your county and municipality. In Pennsylvania, the buyer and the seller typically split this fee at closing and it can range from 2-4 percent of the sale price.

A few years back I was involved in a sale and was delighted to know that at that time State of Pennsylvania had waived the property transfer tax because the buyer was the brother of the seller. At that time the state was waiving transfer tax for next of kin. It saved them both $750 each at the closing table.

Here is some info from Wikipedia

“Real estate transfer tax is a tax that may be imposed by states, counties, or municipalities on the privilege of transferring real property within the jurisdiction. Total transfer taxes range from very small (for example, .01% in Colorado) to relatively large (2.2% in the District of Columbia).[1]

Some states have a variety of transfer tax laws which may include specific exemptions for certain types of buyers based on buying status or income level (e.g. Maryland exempts certain “first time buyers” from a percentage of the total [2] or excludes a portion of the property’s sales price from taxation altogether).

Another variation which exists is either the legal requirement to split the taxes between the parties or the local custom to do so. Thus, in Washington, DC, the 2.2% is generally split between the seller and the buyer. Prior to buying or selling, it is advisable to check with the Recorder of Deeds, a Realtor, or title company to confirm a specific jurisdiction’s practices.”

Here what has to say.

Costs of Buying a Home – Title Insurance

There are some additional costs in buying a home that you will pay once agreeing on a purchase price. These are called closing costs. Your agent will give you an estimate when writing up your offer. One larger fee will be title insurance. This is based on the purchase price of your home and is required when getting a mortgage. I had recently written up an offer and the buyer and asked me why he had to get title insurance. I explained to him that he needs this to protect himself.

For example, the company that prepares the closing will prepare the title after checking for property liens. They will check with the county courthouse and the local municipality and other sources to find out if there are any unpaid bills that are tied to the property – such as water bills, sewer bills, unpaid or personal judgments. If the company doing the title search would miss a lien, then your policy should cover anything that would come up down the road. Coverage would be based on the policy you purchase.

One of my buyers, recently did not think he needed or wanted to pay for it because he was going to pay cash for his property. Really if you are paying cash you still want it. You should check with your agent or lawyer.

Title Insurance: A policy insuring the owner or mortgagee against loss by reason of defects in the title to a parcel of real estate, other than encumbrances, defects, and matters specifically excluded by the policy.

Title Search: The examination of public records related to restate to determine the current state of ownership.

Definition source: Modern Real Estate Practice in Pennsylvania

Real Estate Growth Being Seen

It is a wonderful spring market for real estate. I know I have mentioned it a few times and it really, really is. I know because I am experiencing a lot of activity personally. Matching people with homes is something I enjoy and I am having so much fun doing it. One of my clients, who lives in Florida ( a recently challenging market ), has noticed activity picking up. According to some real estate statistics home sales in some areas are up as much as 80% for the same time a year ago.

Take advantage of all the great opportunities with home prices, inventory, interest rates, and tax credits. Really, it is a great time to buy.

Here are some links to support this recent news.
Business Week

Fresh on the Market – West Deer


* Immaculate and well kept
* Newer Carpet
* Large Full Walk-out Basement
* Three bedroom, 2 1/2 bath
* 12 Years Old
* Low Taxes $1390/year
* Includes Central Air, Gas Range, Refrigerator
* Lots of Parking
* Approximately 1/2 acre private country setting
* Well insulated – Low Utility Bills
* Public water and sewer
* Gas Heat with Humidifier
* Deer Lakes School District
* $119,900
* 2464 Saxonburg Blvd, West Deer Twp, Cheswick, PA 15024

Contact me for more info or to view!
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MLS #769691