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Plan Now for Your Big Move This Summer

by Scott Darling

The big move - it should be in all-caps and announced with a deep, authoritative voice. THE BIG MOVE. And it's coming to your family soon. It might be from one house to another across town, or it might involve crossing many state lines. No matter the distance, amount of belongings or number of people, your big move is going to be a big deal.

movingThere are ways to plan for your move so the big event doesn't overwhelm you. Here are five moving tips you with your big move.

1. Less is better –

The less you have to move, the easier your move will be on your body and your wallet. It will also be easier to fit everything into your new house. While packing, create three piles. The first is your "must-go" pile. The second is your "must-sell" pile, which includes anything you haven't used in the last year, anything you have multiples of and anything you just don't want any more. The third is the "must-throw" pile, and it contains anything that can't be sold at a garage sale or donated. Start creating these piles now, and it will make moving day much easier.

2. Stock up on supplies –

Big boxes might seem like a great idea because they can hold so much stuff, but what happens when you try to lift one and carry it down a flight of steps? Stock up on boxes of multiple sizes, but keep in mind that smaller is much easier to carry. Also stock up on foam and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items, a good supply of packing tape and bold markers for labeling boxes. You'll also want to have moving blankets and hand trucks to make it easier to transport your items.

3. Rent a truck –

One trip makes the big move simple, even if you're just moving across town. Most movers find the 12- or 16-foot truck perfect for moving a few large items or the contents of a small condo or apartment.

4. Pack smart –

Load the heaviest items on the truck first. When you've got a sturdy base of the heaviest items, you can start stacking on top. This is when it's handy to list a box's contents on its side. If you have friends and family helping, they'll know not to set books on top of your china.

5. Safety and security -

Trucks are taller, wider, heavier and require more stopping distance than the vehicle you are used to driving. Take extra precaution, especially when the truck is loaded. Watch out for low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs, and use extra caution when cornering. To protect your belongings, park in well-lit areas and padlock the rear door. To make sure you've got everything you need on moving day, create a travel bag for keeping important paperwork, credit cards, identification, a change of clothes, drinks and snacks close at hand.

As you cross days off on the calendar and the big day approaches, these tips will help you sail through the event with few conflicts. Before you know it, you'll be settled in your new home. (BPT)

5 Tips to Crown Your Lawn King of Spring

by Scott Darling

Those winter chills are finally history and it's time focus on outdoor fun again. Your lawn is the perfect spot for family gatherings, sports competitions, barbecues and relaxing afternoons, so why not make it the best it can be? Before your calendar fills up, apply these five tips and your lawn will be in great shape for the entire season.

  • lawnClean up. Whether it was packed under the snow or blown in by the wind, the winter season leaves more than its fair share of debris behind. Grab a rake and get started raking up all of this garbage. Once the lawn is clean, apply a thin layer - about a quarter-inch thick - of compost to give your lawn a boost and start it in the right direction.
     
  • Reseed the bare patches. Your travels around your lawn to rake up debris will probably reveal some bare patches. If you do happen upon a patch of barren ground, loosen the top 2-4 inches. Level the soil with your garden rake and cover the area with a mixture of grass seed and fertilizer. You could also replace the fertilizer with compost. Pat the surface with the flat end of the rake when finished to ensure the seed remains in place. Water as necessary.
  • Aerate your lawn. Aerating allows oxygen, water and other nutrients to reach your grass's roots, and it's one of the best things you can do to support your lawn. Travel across your yard with a manual or gas-powered aerator, punching holes in the ground. Make sure to pass over each area only once. After you've finished aerating, spread compost, fertilizer or peat moss over your yard. The fertilizer will be absorbed quickly through the holes created by the aeration.
     
  • It's time to mow. Optimal grass length is 2.5-3.5 inches, so cut your grass as frequently as needed to achieve this length without cutting more than third of each grass blade. Mowing high and often will produce a heartier lawn that is more adept at keeping weeds away, as well as making it less susceptible to heat and drought.
     
  • Add color and contrast. Landscaping adds immediate scenic interest to your space and allows you to showcase your creativity as well. If you choose to add annuals or perennials to your space, plant them in odd numbers and in tiny pockets around the yard - this produces a more natural appearance. You can also add a centerpiece to your yard, such as a sculpture, fountain, fire pit or horseshoe pit. Any of these focal points provides a gathering place and an excuse to enjoy relaxing afternoons on your beautiful lawn all season long. (BPT)

Chester County Market Trends Report for March 2015

by Scott Darling

This is a great time to think about buying home. Home prices and interest rates are still at all-time lows and springtime historically offers the most inventory to choose from. The biggest hurdle for many home buyers is saving money for a down payment. Here are 10 things to do on a regular basis to save money:

  1. Make it automatic. Before you see your paycheck, have a percentage of it automatically deposited into your 401(k) and savings.
  2. Keep minimum funds in checking account. Transfer extra funds into your savings account where it will earn more interest than in our checking account.
  3. Don’t pay banking fees! Use your bank’s free bill pay, automatic deposits, free checks, and free reimbursements for all ATM fees.
  4. Use rewards credit cards. Use a credit card offering cash back on every purchase and pay the card off each month to eliminate interest fees.
  5. Actively search out deals. It never hurts to try and find a better deal, or request a better deal from your service providers.
  6. Drive smoothly. Accelerate smoothly and at a reasonable rate, and coast to a stop as often as possible. Also use cruise control on the highway. My car is rated to get 26 mpg around town and I regularly get 29. You can also use these tips to save money on gas, and use gas rewards credit cards to save money on fuel costs.
  7. Buy quality products. Quality items may cost more up front, but they last longer and generally provide better results than cheaper, inferior products. Examples of items you should buy higher quality - furniture, clothes and shoes, vehicles, and other items that will see a lot of use.
  8. Buy generic where applicable. You can save a lot of money on generic items for which the brand name product is essentially the same as the store brand. Food and medicines come to mind as items where generic products are good deals.
  9. Use coupons and rebates. Use coupons for oil changes, groceries, books, on-line purchases, and just about anything else we can find.
  10. Use store rewards cards. Many grocery stores have their own ‘reward cards’ saving you money each time your shop. If you are a senior, shop on designated senior citizen discount days.

Take a look at March’s real estate sales broken down by school district.

Downingtown School District

The number of homes selling in the Downingtown school district in March 2015 rose by 35.19% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price increased by 2% to $364,865. The median selling price increased by 1.92%, while the average market time increased by 28 days.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 73 $364,865 $332,000 81
Mar 2014 54 $356,104 $325,750 53

 

West Chester School District

The number of homes selling in the West Chester school district in March 2015 decreased by 10.26% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price increased by less than 1% to $371,708. The median selling price increased by 4.68% while the average market time increased by 17 days.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 70 $371,708 $341,250 92
Mar 2014 78 $371,035 $326,000 75

 

Coatesville School District

The number of homes selling in the Coatesville school district in March 2015 increased by 29.73% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price increased 6.53% to $237,735. The median selling price did not change, while the average market time dropped by 2 days.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 48 $237,735 $225,000 91
Mar 2014 37 $223,156 $225,000 93

 

Great Valley School District

The number of homes selling in the Great Valley school district in March 2015 decreased by 8.33% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price decreased 17.05% to $356,543. The median selling price dropped by 11.81% to $317,500, while the average market time decreased by 56 days.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 22 $356,543 $317,500 72
Mar 2014 24 $429,838 $360,000 128



Unionville School District

The number of homes selling in the Unionville school district in March 2015 increased by 15% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price decreased 14.35% to $418,798. The median selling decreased 9.38% while the average market time rose by 3 days.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 23 $418,798 $435,000 94
Mar 2014 20 $488,937 $480,000 91



Tredyffrin-Easttown School District

The number of homes selling in the Tredyffrin-Easttown school district in March 2015 decreased by 25% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price increased by .06% to $428,441. The median selling price dropped by 8.52% while the average market time increased by 1 day.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 27 $428,441 $349,900 63
Mar 2014 36 $428,199 $382,500 62

 

Owen J Roberts School District

The number of homes selling in the Owen J Roberts school district in March 2015 increased by 26.09% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price decreased by 4.72% to $333,536. The median selling price decreased by 23.61% while the average market time dropped by 69 days.  

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 29 $333,536 $275,000 70
Mar 2014 23 $350,055 $360,000 139

 

Phoenixville School District

The number of homes selling in the Phoenixville school district in March 2015 increased by 62.5% when compared to March 2014. The average selling price decreased 4.4% to $275,037. The median selling price decreased by 10.23%, while the average market time increased by 14 days.

Date Sold
Listings

Average
Selling Price

Median
Selling Price
Average
Days On Market
Mar 2015 39 $275,037 $250,000 101
Mar 2014 24 $287,687 $278,500 87

 

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

Yes, You Can buy Real Estate With Your IRA

by Scott Darling

You probably already know that you can invest your IRA money in stocks and bonds and even in mutual funds if you so desire, but did you know that you can also invest those IRA funds in real estate?  Doing so, however, is a bit complicated, and IRS rules concerning such purchases must be followed to the letter.  

iraUsually, when you take money out of an individual retirement account before you reach age 59 1/2, the IRS considers these premature distributions. In addition to owing any tax that might be due on the money, you'll face a 10 percent penalty charge on the amount.  This is not the case, however, when you use the money to buy your first investment real estate.  (Note: Technically, you don't have to be purchasing your very first home or building. You qualify under the tax rules as long as you, or your spouse, didn't own a principal residence at any time during the previous two years.)  You can use up to $10,000 in IRA funds toward this purchase. If you're married, and you and your spouse are both first-time buyers, you can each pull from retirement accounts, giving you $20,000 to use.

The restrictions are many (and perhaps time-consuming) and include the following:

  • You will need to find an IRS custodian who handles these investments (and the options are currently limited).  Generally banks and brokerage firms do not handle IRA distributions for real estate transactions.
     
  • Only the custodian may handle your IRS funds.
     
  • The type of property you buy must be for investment only and may not be used by you or by relatives. 
     
  • All proceeds from the investment will go back into your IRA fund.  Likewise, however, all expenses must be paid from that fund, so you must have enough liquidity in your IRA to cover such costs.
     
  • You must let the IRS know that you used the retirement money early for a tax-acceptable purpose by filing Form 5329.
     
  • You must use the IRA funds within 120 days of withdrawal to pay qualified acquisition costs. This includes the costs of buying, building or rebuilding a home, along with any usual settlement, financing or closing costs.

The above information applies only to traditional IRSs.  To learn about the procedure for an Roth IRA, click here.

Information courtesy of Chester County PA Real Estate Expert Scott Darling.

Spring To-Do List for Homeowners

by Scott Darling

For much of the country, winter woes are forgotten as the literal “greening of America” begins, and warmer weather, blossoming trees, chirping birds, and colorful flowers signal a time of rebirth and renewal.  Life is good…

spring cleaning…and demanding.  Spring requires much of a homeowner, and home maintenance checklists remind the often-harried proprietor  that it’s time to inspect the roof, repair the deck, check for cracks in concrete, repaint exterior trim, recondition lawn mowers, grills, and garden tools, and refurbish outdoor furniture.

Not quite ready to tackle such large, time-consuming chores?  Consider, then, easing into the requisite activities by initially taking on smaller, non-time-consuming tasks that generate a feeling of accomplishment while providing a gradual transition into the big jobs.

Granted, the majority of these items are for the interior of your home, but they’re important, too, and a far cry from the annual rug-beating, wall-scouring spring cleaning of yesteryear.

A sample of the” start-off-small” responsibilities includes the following:

  • Shut off the water to the washing machine, remove the water supply hoses and examine them and the washers. Replace worn and damaged ones.
  • Dust ceiling fan blades.
  • Change or washing bathroom shower curtain liners.
  • Test the pressure and temperature relief valve on the water heater by opening it and allowing some water to flow out. If little or no water flows out or it doesn't shut off, replace it. Bad valves can cause explosions.
  • Clean the garbage disposal. Grind two trays of ice cubes made from a mixture of one cup white vinegar to one gallon of water.
  • Check fire extinguishers to make sure they are not outdated, have lost pressure, or are damaged.
  • Move throw rugs, mats, and area carpets and clean underneath them.
  • Remove mineral deposits from faucets and shower heads.
  • Thoroughly clean the refrigerator—one section at a time.  After six or seven mini-sessions, the entire job will be complete.

Finished?  Ready to take on tasks requiring a bit more time, know-how, and energy but guaranteed to bring peace of mind and the satisfaction of knowing your home is well-maintained?  Check out Princeton Online for monthly suggestions.

Information courtesy of Chester County PA Realtor Scott Darling.

 

5 Tips To Make Your Home Sale a Little Bit Easier

by Scott Darling

Selling your home can sometimes be a daunting task; however we are going to talk about a few ideas of how to make selling your home a little bit easier.      

  • soldOne way to make your home stand out when you put in on the market is to stage it.  By this I mean make it look like a model home by taking down your family photos and adding a few decorations to match whatever season it may be at the time. 
  • While your Realtor is showing your house, be sure to have a few candles lit and some relaxing music playing in the back ground for the potential buyer to enjoy.   Little things such as this will help to make a buyer much more at ease and to feel at home. 
  • Be sure to have the yard looking nice and neat when you have a potential buyer coming to tour your home.  If you have kids and they have toys or bikes in and around the yard, be sure to put them up where they will not be seen.  Keep in mind you want the potential buyer to be able to envision themselves living in the home and if there are too many reminders of you and your family they may have a hard time doing this. 
  • If you really want to make your potential buyer feel at home, leave a plate of warm cookies out for the showing.  Leave a little note out offering for the people touring your home to take one or two cookies and to enjoy them.  Your Realtor may have other ideas of what types of snacks you can leave out. 
  • Be sure to clean from top to bottom and to put away anything that may be lying around.  Do not leave laundry lying around.  Even clean laundry laying on the floor or bed can make a home look messy and uninviting.  Remember you want your potential buyer to feel calm and at ease when touring your home and we all know that laundry usually makes us feel anything but calm and at ease. 

Hopefully these tips will get you started in the right direction for selling your home without much hassle.  A good Realtor can go a long way towards selling your home but you can do your part to help out and make sure your home stands out above all the others.  You want your buyer to remember your house and it’s my guess if you make them feel comfortable and relaxed while there, they WILL be back!

Information 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