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2016 Cost vs Value Report

by Scott Darling
cost vs value

The 2016 Cost vs Value Report shows that home improvement projects relating to curb appeal and energy efficiency had the highest rate of return.

The report compares the average cost of 30 popular remodeling projects against the value of those projects at resale in 100 US markets. The average cost and average return at resale for the 30 projects in this year’s report resulted in an average of 64.4% of a project’s investment dollars getting recouped if the home is sold within a year. That’s up from 62% in the 2015 report and the second-highest return in the past eight years.

Many of the biggest percentage gains were for higher-dollar upscale projects (jobs that are more expansive and complicated than midrange projects). Four of the top five gains in cost recouped were for upscale projects. Topping the list was:

  • fiberglass entry door (energy efficiency project) up 21.2%
  • two-story addition, an 8.1% higher recoupment than in the 2015 report
  • the master suite, up 6.5% and
  • major kitchen remodel, 4.2% higher 

The report is broken down into national results and then regionally. Click here for the full 2016 Cost vs. Value Report and here to view the data specifically for the Philadelphia region.

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Make Your New House Feel Like Home To Your Family Pets

by Scott Darling

Moving into a new home is exciting — for the humans in the family. It can be less comfortable for pets who need time to adjust to a new environment, learn their way around and discover the best nap spots in their new home. As a loving pet parent, you want every member of your family to be as happy and comfortable as possible. Here are some tips to make your home more welcoming to your four-legged family members: 

Convenient Dining 

Your furry friend will need his own space for meals — unless you don’t mind him begging at the table when you eat! Make sure he has a bowl that is appropriate for his size and always clean it between meals.  

Vets recommend feeding pets only once or twice a day, so you’ll want to stow away bowls when they’re not in use.

Hang-out Space 

Dogs and cats spend a lot of their day napping and relaxing, so be sure to provide a variety of spaces for your pet to just hang out — with you or on his own.

Sun rooms are also great for both pets and their humans to enjoy the feeling of al-fresco dining while remaining securely inside. Sun worshipping pets can also catch some rays while hanging out. 

Helpful Grooming Stations 

While many dogs enjoy a bath now and then, the process can be messy at home. Including a pet wash station with a hand-held hose in the mudroom ensures you’ll be able to clean up your dirty pup before he drags dirt through the house. Make sure you outfit your wash station with an ample supply of soft, absorbent towels, dog shampoo and all the grooming tools you’ll need to keep your pup looking great. 

Safe and Happy Outdoors 

Many pets enjoy a good romp outdoors, and you want your companion to be able to safely play in his outdoor environment. Start by adding a fence if you don’t already have one. Choose one with vertical slats or rails close enough together that a pet can’t slip through, and high enough that he or she can’t jump over it. Next, be sure your pet has plenty of shady spots where he can hide, nap or just chill. Consider adding an outdoor pet fountain so pets always have access to fresh water, and a pet door to allow your dog or cat to easily come and go from your backyard. 

Cosmetic Concerns 

Unless you have a rare hairless breed, you probably deal with pet hair daily. As you’re decorating your new home, remember choosing carpeting close in color to your pet’s coat will make shed hair less visible. You should also keep in mind the size of your dog as you’re choosing hard flooring. Sturdy laminates will hold up better if you have large dogs in the house, while smaller dogs and cats may have trouble getting traction on vinyl or hardwood floors. 

When you’re buying a home, it’s important that you consider every member of the family, and pets are a huge part of our families. (BPT)

This Year, Resolve to Make the Most Of Your Employee Benefits

by Scott Darling

Many Americans start the New Year by resolving to improve their lives by exercising more, losing weight or making other changes. Based on research findings, one in five should resolve to put their financial house in order.

Research by Mass Mutual shows that many Americans struggle with their personal finances, especially when it comes to making the most of their employee benefits:

  • 22 percent of Americans admit they don’t understand their personal finances
  • 22 percent don’t know which employee benefits such as healthcare coverage, life or disability insurance or retirement savings should be a priority
  • 42 percent say they don’t know if they are on track to retire comfortably
  • 64 percent don’t know the details of their life insurance

Many people muddle through personal financial decisions and simply hope for the best. Unfortunately, all too often people make the wrong choices and risk leaving themselves unprepared for life’s financial realities. Making the right choices can lead to greater peace of mind.

Financial planning is a discipline built on a hierarchy of needs. Psychologist Abraham Maslow first introduced the hierarchy in the form of a pyramid to explain human behavior, starting with basic needs such as food and shelter at the bottom or foundation. Other needs build from there, in order of priority, including safety, social connections, self-esteem and, at the top of the pyramid, growth.

According to Maslow’s theory, basic needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be addressed. Food, water and shelter take priority over other needs such as whether or not your car has heated seats or a sun roof.

The hierarchy of needs works well when establishing financial priorities and making financial decisions. The layers of the pyramid can be matched to financial planning choices and even benefits selections:

Be Safe

The foundation of the pyramid is safety. Most people and their families need financial protection from dying prematurely, suffering a long-term or even a short-term disability, or becoming seriously ill. That means most people should prioritize signing up for healthcare coverage, life and disability insurance.

Build Savings

Once financial protection is in place, many of us should address shorter-term goals such as accumulating personal savings, building up cash for emergencies, and eliminating short-term debts such as credit card balances and car loans. Purchasing critical illness coverage can help protect savings, potentially avoid future debts, or provide a financial cushion in the event you or someone in your family suffers a serious illness or injury.

Plan for Retirement

Next, most of us need to plan for the future, which means building wealth and reducing debt over the long term. Saving for retirement through an employer’s 401(k) or other retirement savings program is a good long-term priority. Other long-term goals should be saving for college if you have children and eliminating mortgage debt.

Pursue Dreams

Those who accomplish those goals and who are fortunate enough to have additional financial resources can then consider their financial dreams that fall into the esteem and growth categories. Travel, pursuing expensive hobbies, purchasing a vacation home and other goals should be pursued only after other needs are met.

We all have important financial needs, wants and dreams. The key is to understand the difference and to take care of your most basic protection needs first. Your employer’s benefit package should be a place to start. (BPT)

Chester County Market Trends Report - December 2015

by Scott Darling

Although Sales increased from last month, they were 12.4% below December 2014. The median sold price was down 4% ($12,125) compared to December 2014.

Residential activity in Chester County (Single-family and Condo)


chester county real estate

What's happening in the Local Market?

Just how good was the 2015 housing market? Although there was a slight slowdown in Q4 of 2015, sales were still 6% higher than Q4 2014. The median sold price, however, was unchanged from Q4 2014. Looking ahead to 2016, most national forecasts are for sales increases of 5% and price increases of 4% in 2016.

chester county real estate

Curious about the value of your home? Get your home's value here!

Think You Lost Out On Your Dream Home? Think Again

by Scott Darling

dream home

Perhaps you have been searching for your dream home and you have already found the one you really want but before you get a chance to do anything about it you drive by and notice it is ‘under contract’ or ‘pending’.  If this happens to you, don’t give up on your dreams there are things that you can do to make things go in your favor.  Below are a few ideas for you to try if you find that your dream home is about to slip through your fingers.

  • First of all if you find that the home you have your eye on is ‘under contract’ you need to know that you shouldn’t give up.  Under contract doesn’t mean that the sale has taken place it only means that an offer has been made but that it hasn’t closed yet.   There is still a good chance that the home may come back on the market again especially if the buyer cannot come up with the funds needed through financing.  Another reason a sale pending may fall through is if the inspection doesn’t work out.
  • Talk to your Realtor and let she or he know that you are interested in the house that is under contract.  Many times seller’s agents will continue to show a home until the last minute.  They do so because they may be hoping for a better offer than they currently have.  They also do this so that if the funding falls through for the current bidder they will have someone else in line to make an offer quickly afterwards. 
  • If you REALLY want this house and you don’t want it to slip through your fingers you can always make a higher bid than is currently in play.   If you can afford to do this, it can be an easy way to make things go in your favor. 
  • Sending a handwritten note to the seller is a great way to let them know just how serious you are about purchasing their home.  Hand written letters are pretty much a thing of the past these days and a handwritten note may make all the difference in the seller’s decision. 

Some of these tips for snatching your dream home  out of ‘under contract’ or ‘pending’ status are pretty unconventional but if you really want the home to be your own you may be willing to do whatever it may take. In the end if you don’t end up getting the home, there is another one out there that is better for you and your family. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

Creating More Privacy In Your Backyard

by Scott Darling

privacy

So you have just made one of the biggest purchases of your life by buying a home of your own and now you need to make it a bit more private.  You have come to the right place!  Let’s look at a few tips for creating more privacy in your new home. 

  • If you happen to live in a big city where the houses are basically on top of each other you may want to line your floors with a lot of area rugs.  While this simple step to making more privacy in your new home sounds like a silly thing, it really will help to keep the noise level down to a minimum if your neighbors tend to be loud. 
  • Lined curtains are a perfect way to help your home feel like an oasis in the middle of the country even if it is not.  These types of curtains also help to filter out loud noises as well. 
  • If you have a spot on your windowsills to put planters they can aid you in making your home more private.  All you need to do is put some tall plants in the planters and voila, you will have more privacy from your neighbors. 
  • One good way to have privacy outdoors for your new home is by putting up a privacy fence.  Privacy fences can help to keep pets safe as well as make your outdoor area a nice place to “get away from it all”, which we can all use every now and again. 
  • Tall scrubs and trees are a great way to shield yourself from your neighbors and make your home feel more private.  Scrubs and trees will also help to make your new home more beautiful and help the environment as well. 
  • If you simply cannot feel enough privacy in your new home, you can hide in a reading nook under the stairs or in a small attic space so that you can escape from time to time from those around you.  If your new home doesn’t have a small space like this, you can likely make one quite easily. 

Lastly if privacy is extremely important to you, it may be worth your while to look for a home in the wide open country so that you don’t have to make any previsions for more privacy. 

Courtesy of Chester County PA Real Estate Expert Scott Darling.

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Photo of Scott Darling Real Estate
Scott Darling
RE/MAX Action Associates
403 W. Lincoln Highway #101
Exton PA 19341
(610) 594-SCOT
610-363-2001
Fax: (610) 363-5275