Winter Snow Tips

You and the Snow on Your Roof:

To Shovel or Not to Shovel?

 

Here are some winter snow tips, thanks to Hancock Inspection Services.

Snowstorm after snowstorm, you watch the snow piling up on your roof, inch by inch, and foot by foot. You have icicles upon icicles hanging from the eaves.  Should you get up on the roof and shovel it off?  A very good question.  You must first understand the potential dangers of having excessive snow and ice on your roof. There are two primary areas of concern.

 

The first is structurally related damage created by the excessive amounts of wet heavy snow.  On older roofs there is an even greater danger of structural issues.  Excessive snow weight can also cause structural damage such as cracked walls and weakened framing.  Cracking of walls and unusual noises within the structure are also signs of a structurally stressed building.  In this case, immediate snow removal is required.  Obviously, lower sloped roofs are more susceptible to this kind of damage, than steeper roofs.  Older homes are also more susceptible to this kind of damage, since they were built prior to today’s more stringent building and engineering codes.  Whenever you are in doubt, you should contact a professional engineer or home inspector to review the situation.

 

The second area of concern, is the ice on the eaves of the roof.  Ice dams are often caused by the ice build up the gutters.  Heat loss through the roof of the house melts the snow close to the roof and a dam is created.  This water now freezes and thaws through the temperature changes of night and day.  This thawing and freezing activity creates abnormal wear and tear on the shingles and can cause leaks into the home as water backs up underneath the shingles.

 

Both areas of concern, are excellent reasons for removing the snow from your roof.  The decision to remove snow from the roof area should be done so with safety as the primary concern.  This choice to venture up onto a snow and ice covered roof, should be made understanding this is a very dangerous situation and certain precautions taken.  You should always ensure that someone else will be home while you are on the roof.  This is in the event an accident does occur.   When you are on steeper roofs of over a 6/12 pitch you should ensure your safety, by tying yourself to a large roof object capable of supporting your weight, such as a chimney.  If you choose to hire an individual to do the work, be sure they are carrying the proper insurances.  You may even choose to have them sign a waiver of release of liabilities in the even of an accident and prevent a potential lawsuit.

 

Wear the proper clothing to include rubber-soled boots.  Rubber soled boots will provide the proper footing while on the roof.  Utilize plastic shovels, over metal shovels as they have less of a tendency to rip and tear asphalt and fiberglass shingles.  Always shovel using top to bottom strokes.  The reverse will cause you to catch the edges of the brittle shingles and cause permanent damage.  Never chip or forcefully lift ice from the roof, as this is yet another great way to cause permanent damage to the roof.  Remember the purpose of shoveling the roof is to remove the excessive weight and expose the ice to a natural melting condition.  Always ensure that the ladder you are using to access the roof is secured to the house to prevent a falling incident while accessing or exiting the roof. The ladder should also be free of ice and snow to prevent a slipping hazard.  Use extreme caution when exiting the roof as your muscles will most likely be stressed and tired.  These are just a few of the most common areas often overlooked when venturing up onto the roof.

 

Again, if you are unsure about when and how your roof should be cleaned, the best thing to do is hire a professional who is experienced in this line of work.

Fed: Interest Rate Hikes Likely, SOON

The National Associate of Realtors (NAR) is reporting that the Federal Reserve is indicating that interest rates are about to tick upwards.

Per NAR, the Federal Reserve is signaling that it will likely take action on increasing interest rates in two months, despite recent data that shows a weakened economy. This would be the first rate increase since 2006.

How to address buyer concerns: ‘I’m Worried About Mortgage Rates’
Two central bank officials said Wednesday that disappointing job growth, manufacturing activity, and retail sales over the winter had pushed rate hike expectations to later in the year. For more than six years, the Fed has held rates near zero. But June is being viewed as the likely month for the Fed to start its rising of rates.

“I could imagine circumstances where a June rate hike could still be in play,” says William Dudley, New York Fed president, and a voting member on the Fed’s policy committee. “If the economy’s strong, the unemployment rate is dropping, wages are rising, and the outlook is good, you could conceivably get to that point. The bar is probably a little bit higher” for a June hike given recent data.

The minutes from the Fed’s mid-March policy meeting, which were released Wednesday, also indicated that June would be a likely start time for Fed officials to start hiking rates. The Fed also indicated that once they did start raising rates, they would do so gradually.

But even a slight rate hike could have ripple effects throughout the economy. The most obvious impact to the housing market would be a rise to mortgage rates. Rates have been near historical lows for years. An average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.70 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. “The Fed cut rates to historic lows in 2008 in part to reboot the housing market, which collapsed when the housing bubble popped,” CNNMoney reports. “When the Fed likely raises rates this year, it will push mortgage rates and auto loans up. That said, it’s uncertain if that will cause home or car buying to slow down.”

Source: “Fed Officials Say June Rate Hike Still in Play, Hinges on Data,” Reuters (April 9, 2015) and “What an Interest Rate Increase Means for Real People,” CNNMoney (March 19, 2015)

Coup Agency Updates their Website

The Coup Agency recently updated their website (www.MiltonPaRealEstate.com) to assist buyers and sellers with their real estate needs.  The most notable change is to their Home Search tab and page.

Rick Coup, Broker, noted that “we are really excited about our new searching capabilities on our website.  Searchers will have many choices to make it easier to find the right property.”  Some of those search features include the ability to search by: community/area, school district, address, Multiple Listing (MLS) number, Coup Agency listings, foreclosures, short sales, price ranges and rentals.

Visitors will also be able to search by the type of property, such as: single family, multi-family, land, farms, commercial, and condo/townhouse listings.  “As soon as a property goes on the market, with any Realtor, it will be available on our website. Our website is so much more timely than the national websites that many use to search for real estate,” according to Coup.

The site also has the capability to search for all the new area listings for the last 24-hour period, as well as a weekly “Hot Sheet” that features all properties that came on the market in the past week.

Those that would like additional features will be requested to register for the ability to save searches and listings, get updates on new listings and price changes, add messages, and to track your favorite listings.  A person will have the ability to bypass the request to register for those additional features if they are not wanted.

Visitors to the site will also have the ability to sign up for the Agency’s monthly newsletter and can read testimonials regarding of the services of the Coup Agency real estate agents from their clients in their own words.  The agency’s blog discusses many different insurance and real estate topics to help buyers and sellers as well as the general public have better insight to the real estate and insurance practices.

These are just a few of the new features on the website.  For all your real estate needs, visit our website.

Most Popular Days for Closings

Fridays and the last business day of the month tend to be the busiest for closings, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Researchers at NAR analyzed the top closing days of 2014 based on existing-home sales data.

The top seven closing days in 2014 were:

  1. Mon., June 30
  2. Fri., May 30
  3. Fri., Aug. 29
  4. Wed., April 30
  5. Thurs., July 31
  6. Tues., Sept. 30
  7. Fri., Feb. 28
  8. Fri., June 27
  9. Fri., Oct. 31
  10. Fri., Aug. 15

“Spring and summer days figure prominently in the top of the list, but all seasons are represented,” researchers note on NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog.

The data confirms that, based on existing-home sales data, June and July were the top months for home sales in 2014, followed by August and May. June and July alone accounted for more than 20 percent of the sales that occurred in 2014.

Source: “Part 1: EHS in 2014 by the Numbers – Popular Closing Dates,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook Blog (Jan. 12, 2015)

Sometimes Humor Brings the Point Across

Flood Insurance Cartoon - Bill Raup #2

Local Artist Bill Raup  posted these two cartoons in his building on Broadway regarding the

Flood Insurance Cartoon

plight of many property owners in Milton and surrounding river towns with regard to Flood Insurance.  Maybe humor will get the attention of our legislators!

Please take the time to communicate your concerns to your legislators.  It’s the only way things are going to change for many river town communities as well as other areas subject to flooding.

Will Flood Insurance Reform Effect Real Estate?

If you live in a special flood hazard area, the short answer is YES.  Please read our previous blog article about the drastic changes to flood insurance to get a background.

As flood insurance rates rise almost 10-fold, many river communities such as Milton, Bloomsburg, Hughesville, Muncy, Jersey Shore and even Harrisburg are going to feel the effects of these new flood insurance reform.

By law, anyone who purchases a property in a special flood hazard zone and will be taking a mortgage on that home (or business), is required to purchase flood insurance on it.  Since 70% of the homes and businesses in the country finance the purchase of real estate, most will be effected by this reform.

When the full increase goes into effect, the cost of the flood insurance will be higher than most people’s principal and interest payments, making the purchase of a property in a special flood hazard area nearly impossible.  Unfortunately, these higher rates go into effect immediately for any new policies, thus if the buyer of real estate purchases a home or business in the flood area after October 1, 2013, they will pay the 10-fold increase immediately; there will be no phase-in period.  With this significant cost burden, buyers will choose not to look  at any property in the special flood hazard area, thus 70% of the potential buyers for these properties will no longer be potential purchasers of their homes or businesses.  With that said, real estate market values for homes or businesses in the special flood hazard area will drop significantly.  This will have a very dramatic effect starting October 1st of this year.

For those homeowners who currently own their home in the flood area, they will be unable to pay the increased cost of the flood insurance in a few years (25% increase each year) plus their principal and interest payments and will begin to walk away from their homes and let the banks repossess them, thus increasing the number of properties on the market and driving the real estate market down even lower.

Because the market values will have dropped significantly, a homeowner will be applying to their county’s assessment office for a re-assessment of their property.  All the government taxing bodies shall see a significant drop in their taxable values.  It is a total snowball effect that this act has on any property owners in the special flood hazard area.

We don’t profess to have the answers, but can only predict that this act will be the total demise of river towns such as Milton and any other communities that have significant flood plains.

We do know that after a flood, real estate market values do drop somewhat for several years after and people start to “forget” about the river and flooding.  That will no longer be the case — market values are about to drop significantly and for most homeowners (and business owners) their home/building is one of their largest assets.  Not any more.

Our US Senators Casey and Toomey need to hear from you and hear your concern on this issue as well as our local House of Representative Tom Marino.  It is important that you contact all of them, not just one, so they all hear your concerns.  Here are they links to their websites:

Senator Pat Toomey:  http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=contact   Phone: 717-782-3951

Senator Bob Casey:   http://www.casey.senate.gov/contact/         Phone: 202-224-6324

House Representative Tom Marino: https://marino.house.gov/contact-me/email-me                Phone: 570-374-9469

Drastic Change to Flood Insurance

The Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, unless changed, will bring an end to all our lovely riverside communities that are subject to flooding.  In the past several years the climate has changed, flooding has become more wide spread and hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have combined to leave the National Flood Insurance Program Billions in debt.   Last year Congress, knowing that the red ink had to stop, passed the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act.  What they told us sounded reasonable, flood insurance rates would have to go up and the government would no longer help pay the rates for second homes.  Now FEMA has released the regulations and insurance rates that will go into effect on October 1, 2013.

For existing flood insurance clients in special hazard zones (Zones that start with an “A”) the rates for owner-occupied homes will increase about 10% per year and all other policies will increase 25% per year until they hit the new actual rates.  To determine the new actual rates policyholders will have to pay to have an Elevation Certificate done by a licensed surveyor or engineer.  It will be this Elevation Certificate that will show where the first floor (the basement) sits in relation to the Base Flood Elevation.  In our town of Milton, the Base Flood Elevation is the same as the 1972 flood level.

For every new policy after 10/1/13 (or a late payment and lapsed policy rewrite) policyholders will have to have to pay for an elevation certificate (normally in the $300-$700 range depending on how close a benchmark is) and the new actual rates.  Also, anyone who started a new policy after 7/6/12 will have to get an elevation certificate and pay the new rates when their policy renews the first time.

For policyholders that are in flood zones B, C or X (low hazard areas) they will see small and reasonable increases in their premiums and in most cases will still qualify for a “Preferred Risk Policy”.

But policyholders in the A Zones, the high risk areas where the homes and building often have basements that are 15 or more feet below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) will see large rate increases until they get a flood elevation certificate and lock in the following new rates:

Each of these quotes are for $100,000 coverage on the building/house and $20,000 on the contents with a $2,000 deductible which applies separately to the building and contents:

1 Family Dwelling:

With current subsidized rates:  $1,063.

New rates with an elevation certificate showing the basement at 15 feet below the 100 year flood level BFE:  $12,936!

Non-Residential Building:

With current subsidized rates: $1,123.

New rates with an elevation certificate showing the basement at 15 feet below the 100 year flood level BFE: 17,782!

Tenants in these buildings have to pay rates on their contents based on the basement floor too even if they only rent the 2nd floor of the building!

Homeowners will have to consider moving all their utilities, heat & water systems to their 2nd floors and literally fill in their basements so that their main floor becomes their “first” floor.  If by doing that the first floor is only 6 feet below the BFE the new rates will be $2,675 –  still a lot more than they are paying now but at least something reasonable.

Our only hope is to convince Congress to amend the Act to allow for some sort of long-term subsidized rates for homes and buildings built before the days of flood insurance.  If we can’t, things are going to get ugly fast in “River Towns USA”.

We urge everyone with a property in a Special Flood Hazard Area to call your flood insurance agent to discuss your options.

House Cleaning Tip

We were recently asked about how to clean the ceramic tile in the bathroom.  Here is a tip for any room in the house.

There are also companies that will professional clean the tile and then seal the grout so that dirt and stains don’t get trapped.

We hope this helps!  Happy Cleaning!

7 cups water, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup vinegar – throw in a spray bottle and spray your floor, let it sit for a minute or two… then scrub.

Don’t Be Scammed!

Every once in awhile, we hear of people receiving a letter or email stating that a company will help the homeowner obtain a copy of their deed for a fee.  The cost for this “service” is in the neighborhood of $80.  This “help” may be a welcome offer, but the price for the “help” is way too high for the service that is provided.

Considering that any homeowner can get a copy of their deed for a few dollars on their own, beware of such scams.  The exact cost of obtaining a copy of your deed depends on what online access is available for the county in which the property is located.  If there is no online help, a quick call to that county’s Register and Recorder’s office and they will probably mail you a copy of your deed and send you a bill for several dollars.  This is assuming that the deed was recorded at the time of settlement, as almost every deed is.

Some homeowners assume that their deed is being held by the bank/mortgage company, similar to a car title, which is incorrect.  Normally after a closing, the deed is put “on record” at the Register and Recorder’s office in the county where the property was located.  After the deed is recorded, it is normally sent out to be duplicated.  After a few weeks (it is usually duplicated in some electronic form, such as microfilm or digitized), it is then returned to the Register and Recorder’s office and they send it out to the new buyer of the property.  Typically the closing agent will ask to what address the recorded deed should be sent.

Another misconception is that you will need a copy of your deed to sell your property, again similar to a car title.  A new deed will be prepared when you sell the property into the new buyer’s name(s).  Your attorney or real estate agent is very well adept at obtaining a copy of your current deed for this process.  Your real estate professional may want a copy of the deed when the property is listed to obtain the lot size, any deed restrictions and other information that can be obtained on deed.  They can obtain a copy of the deed to obtain this information very quickly by themselves.

So, if you can’t find your deed, check with the Register and Recorder’s office.  If that doesn’t work, check with your closing agent or attorney and ask if they can help or have a copy, or check with the real estate professional that sold you the property.  Each should be able to help.

Listing Your Home FOR SALE

There are quite a few items that you should consider when you are thinking of putting your home on the market.  For most home sellers, this is a busy time, as they are normally preparing for a move to another community, preparing to move to another home, or there are personal issues that need to be dealt with as the property is on the market.

Although anyone can sell their own home, it takes time, effort and expense.  Here are some things to consider in putting your home on the market:

Understand the Market

Real Estate is local.  It can’t be moved and thus you need to know what is selling (or not selling) in our area and what the current local economic conditions are like.  In real estate markets home prices vary frequently and suddenly.  Many articles about real estate are written in magazines, newspapers and blogs, but they may be quoting national, state or regional statistics. Make sure you know the market conditions that your home will be subject, if you plan to sell.

Price it RIGHT

If you set your selling price too high, you risk limited viewing from potential buyers. In the day and age of computers — most real estate websites ask for a price range and if home is listed to high, a potential buyer won’t even see it.

Price it too low and you may sell it more quickly, but at the possibility of making less money on the sale.

No matter how beautiful your home may be, buyers will compare it to other homes for sale in the market at that time. This is a very basic example, but most buyers (for any major purchase) will compare price and features.  This is true for car shopping, major appliances and yes, real estate. 

Therefore, pricing your home correctly is one of the most important factors in getting your home sold. To properly set your price, and your expectations, you will want to examine the record of home sales in your neighborhood over the past several months. It may sound daunting but we can provide you with a free Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). 

The CMA will provide data regarding recent home sales (size, price and number of days on the market) as well as information about homes that have not yet sold. It allows you to view trends and other critical information that can be beneficial as you set a competitive price.

In addition to considering historical pricing information and market trends, it is recommended that sellers also think about including other incentives in the sales offering such as home warranty, assistance with closing costs, etc.  You may want to even consider having a home inspection done before you put it on the market.  This will give you and idea if there are any major problems that may need to be addressed.  Many potential home purchasers will have this same home inspection done at the time that they purchase.

Get a Professional

By using a Realtor, we can help you prepare your home for sale by facilitating pricing, physically preparing a home for sale, navigating negotiations and much more. We are adept and experienced in working with other real estate professionals including home inspectors, home appraisers, mortgage bankers, title companies, and can guide you through the entire real estate process from selling a current home to purchasing a new home.

Being the real estate professionals, we know what buyers are looking for in the market and can help you maximize your home’s advantages.  We can be much more objective about the homes ability to perform on the market, as we have not sentimental value.  We also will be able to see things that a normal seller may not see, as they look (and live) with the defect or problem on a daily basis.  Knowing these problems upfront and dealing with them is a huge advantage!

The real estate professional will be able to weed-out the unqualified buyers, thus when the phone call comes to you setting up the showing and you are staging your home and preparing it for the showing, you will have the satisfaction of knowing it will be to a qualified buyer.

If you are moving to a new home or relocating to a new town, you have many things on your mind and many things to do!  By listing your home with a proven real estate professional, they can ease the burden of selling your home by taking care of all the details.  They take all the initial calls and weed-out the unqualified buyers, answer questions about financing and schedule all the showings.

Curb Appeal  is EVERYTHING!

Once your list your home, you want it to have the best first impression possible.  Buyers will either rule out the home or “leave it on the list” depending on this impression.

Preparing your home for sale entails making your home appear “move in ready” in order to attract the greatest numbers of potential buyers. This is a critical element in your selling preparation. Creating curb appeal is no small feat but greatly worth it in the long run. To get started, follow the tips below.

  • Inside your home, begin by removing personal effects such as photos and memorabilia. While these are the items that make your home yours, your goal is to create an environment that a potential buyer can envision as their own.
  • Clean everything inside and outside of your home and develop a plan to keep your house attractive during the sales process. To help present the cleanest and brightest home, open the curtains and turn on the lights during open houses and when real estate agents are conducting showings.
  • Consider enhancing rooms with a fresh coat of paint and be sure to repair items that need attention. While major remodels may not be necessary, broken items should be repaired.
  • Outside, consistently maintain a mowed lawn and consider planting seasonal flowers. Also, trim hedges, trees and bushes.

Have an Open and Honest Dialog with Your Agent

The most important part of the real estate transaction is communication between the seller and their agent.  It is important to get all your questions answered.  There are no “silly” questions.  We as agents do this on a daily basis.  Most homeowners do this several times in a lifetime!  Let your agent know if price or time is more important to you .  If you need to maximize the price, you may need to wait longer;  if you want a faster sale, you may need to be willing to negotiate on the sales price to achieve this result.  These conversations are kept confidential, but it is important for your professional to know what is most important to you.

If there are items that you are aware that are wrong with the home, let your agent know.  It is important to know as soon as possible so that a plan can be formulated to address the issues.  Remember, most items are going to be “discovered” by the buyer, their agent, the home inspector of the appraiser during the the sales process.  YOU will also be responsible (by state law) to complete a Seller’s Disclosure Form that if there are any defects to the property and they must be disclosed by you.  Be pro-active with your agent, not reactive.

Exposure is Everything

Once the home is on the market, you need to get the word out to everyone.  There are over 27 different websites that we send our listings.  As always, there is home magazines, flyers and other advertising that is done.  There are definite rules that need to be used to write an effective ad that will excite the buyer and get them interested in the home.  Still one of the biggest advertising tools sill continues to be the sign in the front yard, along with the internet advertising.  We can help with it all.

While the home is on the market, upkeep is so important by you.  Piles of laundry, dirty dishes in the sink, dirt and lawns that need to be mowed all go back to that very important first impression and need your constant efforts.