Dec 02

How to avoid common breakfast mistakes

Many people start their day with diet blunders. Here’s how to correct them, with help from Dr. Wayne Andersen, an obesity specialist in Maryland and medical director for Take Shape for Life, a weight loss program:

Skipping breakfast … Dieters often use this strategy, but numerous studies have found breakfast eaters are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and make better food choices throughout the day. Even an unhealthy breakfast is almost always better than no breakfast at all.

… or eating it too late. Don’t wait longer than an hour. “Thirty minutes is ideal,” Andersen says.

Not eating enough protein. You won’t stay full long on carbohydrate-rich breakfasts such as sugary cereals or pastries. Choose cereals made from rice, oats, wheat, barley or rye; eggs and low-fat dairy such as yogurt and milk also are good protein sources.

Skimping on fiber. Fiber is filling enough to lower your overall caloric intake without leaving you feeling deprived. Choose whole-grain breads and cereals and add fruits and vegetables and a handful of nuts and seeds to staples such as cereal and eggs.

Taking in too many — or too few — calories. Most people should aim for roughly 300 to 400 calories per morning meal.

Not reading food labels. Compare total calories, protein, fiber, sugar and fat content, and pay attention to serving sizes. Remember that some “healthy” foods such as granola and cereal bars can be very high in sugar and fat. If you’re eating at a restaurant, check for nutrition facts via online menus.

Drinking too many calories. Fruit juices and energy drinks, along with many flavored coffee creamers, often are packed with sugar. Water and unsweetened green tea are always good choices.

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Dec 01

Real Estate Investing 101

An Overview of Real Estate Investing Basics for Beginners

When you invest in real estate, your goal is to put money to work today and make it grow so you have more money in the future. You have to make enough profit, or “return”, to cover the risk you take, taxes you pay, and the costs of owning the real estate investment such as utilities and insurance.

In other words, once you understand the basics of the game, real estate investing really can be as conceptually simple as playing monopoly. Your goal is to buy properties, avoid bankruptcy, and generate rent so that you can buy even more properties. But “simple” doesn’t mean “easy”. If you make a mistake, you could find yourself broke or worse.

The 4 Ways Real Estate Investors Make Money

When you invest in real estate, there are several ways you can make money:

    • Real Estate Appreciation: This is when the property becomes more valuable due to a change in the real estate market, the land around your property becoming scarcer or busier such as a major shopping center going in next door, or upgrades you put into your real estate investment to make it more attractive to potential buyers or renters. Real estate appreciation is a tricky game and is riskier than investing for cash flow income.


    • Cash Flow Income: This type of real estate investment focuses on buying a real estate property, such as an apartment building, and operating it so you collect a stream of cash from rent, which is the money a tenant pays you to use your property for a specific amount of time. Cash flow income can be generated from well-run storage units, car washes, apartment buildings, office buildings, rental houses, and more.


    • Real Estate Related Income: This is income generated by “specialists” in the real estate industry such as real estate brokers, who make money through commissions from buying and selling property, or real estate management companies who get to keep a percentage of rents in exchange for running the day-to-day operations of a property. For example, a hotel management company gets to keep 5% of a hotel’s sales for taking care of the day-to-day operations such as hiring maids, running the front desk, mowing the lawn, and washing the towels.


  • Ancillary Real Estate Investment Income: For some real estate investments, this can be a huge source of profit. Ancillary real estate investment income includes things like vending machines in office buildings or laundry facilities in low-rent apartments. In effect, they serve as mini-businesses within a bigger real estate investment, letting you make money from a semi-captive collection of customers.

How You Might Consider Purchasing Your Real Estate Investment Properties

There are several ways to buy your first real estate investment. If you are purchasing a property, you can use debt by taking a mortgage out against a property. The use of leverage is what attracts many real estate investors because it lets you acquire properties you otherwise could not afford, but it can be dangerous because in a falling market, the interest expense and regular payments can drive you into bankruptcy if you aren’t careful.

You will almost NEVER purchase a real estate investment in your own name. Instead, for risk management reasons, you will want to consider holding real estate investments through special types of legal entities known as limited liability companies or limited partnerships (you should consult with a qualified attorney for his or her opinion as to which ownership method is best for you and your circumstances). That way, if the real estate investment goes bust or someone slips and falls, resulting in a lawsuit, you can protect your personal assets because the worst that can happen in some circumstances is you lose the money you’ve invested. This lets you sleep at night because unless you’ve screwed up somewhere, your 401(k) plan assets, Roth IRA investment, and other retirement accounts should be out-of-reach.

Which Type of Real Estate Investment Should You Make?

When you are ready to start the process of real estate investing, you will want to decide which of the real estate investment types is most appropriate for you. To help you understand the options, I wrote an article called The 8 Types of Real Estate Investments that explains the difference between REITs, industrial properties, residential investments, etc.

Real Estate

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Dec 01

Pending real estate sales index rises 9.2%

Pending sales of U.S. existing homes jumped 10.4 percent in October, according to an index released today by the National Association of Realtors.

The monthly increase in NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index is the largest since an October-to-November jump last year, and continues a recent trend in the index’s gradual rise for the year.

October’s 93.3 index rating represents a jump of 9.2 percent compared to October 2010, with all U.S. regions climbing on a year-over-year basis.

The NAR index report, updated monthly, also shows that all U.S. regions but the West experienced significant bumps in contracted home sales in October, including a 24.1 percent monthly jump for the Midwest, to 88.7. In the West, the index dropped 0.3 percent to 105.5; however, the region still has the highest index rating, a position it has maintained for the last year, except for March and April 2011.

All four regions showed year-over-year growth in October, with the Midwest showing the greatest jump, up 13.2 percent.

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index is built from a national sample representing about 20 percent of signed, but not yet closed, contracts for existing-home sales. The index is built off the observation that signed contracts track closely with actual closed contracts.

The index is built on data dating back to 2001, a robust year for existing-home sales, and an index of 100 represents the average contract activity for that year.

The Northeast experienced a 17.7 percent month-over-month increase in October to 71.3, up from an annual low of 60.6 in September. The region’s index rose 3.4 percent, from 69 at the same time last year.

The South’s index grew 8.6 percent in October, to 99.5, up 9.7 percent over last year’s measure.

The West, the lone region to experience a monthly drop (down 0.3 percent), settled at 105.5, which still represents an 8.1 percent growth on a year-over-year basis.

Also today, NAR released its December 2011 U.S. economic forecast, which largely mirrors its previous forecast, released in November. NAR’s forecasted 2011 U.S. real gross domestic product annual growth rate is 1.7 percent, while 2012 projections stand at 2.5 percent. Actual GDP annual rates rose 3 percent in 2010 and dropped 3.5 percent in 2009.

Existing-home sales are also expected to increase, according to NAR’s forecast, by 1.2 percent in 2011 and 5.1 percent in 2012, thanks to a projected strong 2012 third quarter. Median existing-home prices are still expected to drop 4.4 percent to a $165,900 average, in 2011 and recover 2.6 percent to $170,200 in 2012.

NAR’s latest economic forecast anticipates 4.97 million sales of resale homes in 2011, with home prices falling from $172,900 in 2010 to $165,200 this year. Those numbers are anticipated to jump in 2012 to 5.22 million sales and a median resale home price of $168,200.

NAR projects 303,000 new single-family home sales this year (down 5.9 percent from 2010), with the new-home median price rising 1.5 percent, to $224,300. The association anticipates new-home sales will climb to 352,000 in 2012, with the median new-home price climbing to $230,100.

NAR projects that 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates will stay roughly level over the next two years: averaging 4.5 percent in both years (down slightly from 2010’s 4.7 percent).

The unemployment rate, according to NAR, will improve gently over the next two years, from 9.6 in 2010 to 9 percent this year and 8.6 percent in 2012.

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Dec 01

Research Is important for Home Buying

If you are in the market to buy a home in the next few months, make sure you do preliminary research to determine exactly what your needs and wants are.  Use the internet, tour the community and speak to neighbors within the prospective neighborhood.  Need help figuring it all out? Call me, I can help.

Anthony DiDonato
CENTURY 21 All-Elite Inc.
Home for Sale in Delaware County PA Specialist
3900 Edgmont Ave, Brookhaven, PA 19015
Office Number
: (610) 872-1600 Ext. 124
Fax: (610) 771-4480

You may look at dozens of houses before you buy or only a few. Either way, you can find the right home with thorough research. We look at the important matters to investigate.

Buyer beware!

Before you buy a new home, whether it is not yet built, newly built, or an older home, it is important to research it thoroughly. For most people, buying a house or an apartment is the biggest investment they will make, so it is wise to go into it knowing as much as possible, including any defects or potential problems.

When you purchase an older house you are likely to be buying into some problems. Homes that have been neglected can have problems with the structure, roof, plumbing, electrics and gas, which can pose a risk to the overall integrity of the building, as well as your safety and wellbeing after you move in. Even if the house has been well maintained, you can expect a few matters will need to be dealt with, even if it is simply a need for redecoration.

For newer and newly built homes, the problem of weathertightness failure, or at the extreme end, a leaky building, has been a concern for some home owners. Some homes built in the period from early to mid 1990s until around 2003 have shown failures in construction, design, supervision and material installation. You need to take particular care if you are in the market to buy a home identified as being prone to leaking.

The type of houses most at risk of weathertightness failure are often described as ‘Mediterranean style’. Some common characteristics of these houses include:

  • Flat or low pitched roofs.
  • Textured or monolithic claddings (plaster-look).
  • Plaster finish carrying down to the ground or deck.
  • Deck areas over other rooms.
  • Enclosed handrails.
  • Decorative fixtures passing through the cladding
  • The wall extending past the roof line to form a parapet.
  • Internal gutters
  • Curved window heads.
  • Walls finishing into other walls.
  • Use of untreated framing (many houses built from 1997 to 2003 used kiln-dried untreated framing).
  • Other styles of house with complicated roof lines, complex wall and roof junctions, or also having one or more of the features above are also at risk of weathertightness failure. If the house you are buying contains even one of these features, refer to the weather tightness section which gives guidance on what specifically should be looked for.
  • When you find a home you are interested in buying, make sure your money will be well spent:

    Do your own research into the area and the state of the home.

    Before you sign a sale and purchase agreement, make it conditional on getting a satisfactory:

    • Title Search.
    • Land Information Memorandum.
    • Valuation.
    • Property inspection.
    • Finance.

    Property inspection checklist

    Before engaging a building surveyor (who is qualified in the building industry and can give you expert advice), carry out your own investigations. It might help you to rule out properties before getting too far through the purchase process.

    It is important to be confident that the home you are looking at is structurally sound. Organise a time with the real estate agent or owner and allow a couple of hours to go through this checklist:

    1. On the outside examine the general condition of the cladding, drainpipes and roof. Look for damaged paintwork, rotten wood, rust, holes, cracks and crumbling mortar, and broken roof tiles.
    2. Be careful of cladding susceptible to leaking. You will need a ladder to look at the roof.
    3. Check around the house to make sure the cladding is at least 225mm above the ground (grasses or garden) or 150mm from the floor level to paved surfaces. Check whether the garden may have been banked up against the house over the years.
    4. Under the house, check the piles. You can check wooden piles by poking a screwdriver into the wood, just below ground level, to see if there are any soft areas. Does it smell or seem damp under the house? Look to see if there have been makeshift repairs on the piles.
    5. From a ladder, look into the ceiling space. Does the header tank look secure? Does the bathroom fan vent directly into the ceiling space with no outlet for steam?
    6. Inside, test the floors by jumping up and down to see if the floorboards feel springy or squeak. Does the floor feel like it is sloping? Check for cracks in the walls and windows, or doors that don’t close properly. It may be an indication of problems with the piles or settling.
    7. Does the house smell damp or are there indications of dampness such as stained ceilings and walls, mould, bubbling or stained paint, bulges in the walls and rotting skirting boards?
    8. Check all the power points are working by using a power-point tester, which you can buy from a hardware store. Take note of problems with the electrical system like scorch marks on power points.
    9. In the kitchen and bathrooms, check for broken tiles, damp around sinks and showers, mould and missing sealant.
    10. Check that built-in appliances, for example, the dishwasher and stove, are working.
    11. Turn on every tap in the house and check the water pressure and any strange noises in the plumbing. Check the age of the hot water cylinder.
    12. Check for insulation where possible, for example, underfloor or in the ceiling.
    13. Around the section, check the condition of fences, paving and driveways. Large trees can be a problem sending roots under the house and into drains.
    14. Look over the boundary fences for any potential issues with neighbours, such as overhanging trees, car wrecking, or noisy dogs.
    15. If the house was built after 1 July 1992 find out from the council if it has a Code of Compliance Certificate.
    16. Get a Land Information Memorandum from your local council. From May 2007 councils will be obliged to identify, in LIM reports, properties which are or have been subject to WHRS claims from that date. Properties that have been subject to weathertightness claims through the courts or private actions do not have to be identified.
    17. Contact the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service to see if a claim has ever been lodged on the house.
    18. Obtain copies of the original specifications and drawings from your local authority.

    If you are reasonably satisfied with your own inspection, and decide to take it to the next stage, it is recommended that you still have a professional inspection.

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Dec 01

Things school doesn’t teach you about money

Robert Kiyosaki is perhaps still best known as the author of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series of books, which almost 15 years ago began indoctrinating the world on his then-unconventional wealth-building strategies.

The books emphasize the use of leverage (debt) to build real estate investment portfolios and businesses, and largely eschew stock market investments, savings accounts and conventional “get a good job” wisdom.

Kiyosaki raised more than a few eyebrows when he declared that your personal residence was a liability because it was cash-flow negative. Then the market meltdown proved his point.

Less well-known are Kiyosaki’s insistence that his adherents manage their spending, consumer debt and taxes wisely — sage advice Suze Orman would likely agree with, despite the public spat between Orman and Kiyosaki in the wake of the real estate market crash.

But I digress.

Over the years, Kiyosaki’s writings have evolved into a full-fledged financial education empire. He continues to contrast how the rich use their knowledge with what poor but well-intentioned folks do. Kiyosaki’s declared mission is to be a modern-day Robin Hood, empowering the poor with knowledge he’s gleaned from the wealthy.

Continuing in that vein is his latest book, “Unfair Advantage: The Power of Financial Education — What Schools Will Never Teach You About Money.”

1. Serious investors do more than “buy low, sell high.”

Kiyosaki argues that only amateur investors believe that buying low and selling high are all it takes to make a smart investment decision. In fact, capital gains — the profits on an investment — are taxed. Being obsessed with straight profits is what lured many to take subprime mortgages in their belief they were making a solid bet that the real estate market would only ever go up.

Kiyosaki says serious investors do take the ability to buy low and sell high into account, but also prioritize businesses and investments that will generate positive cash flow over the long term, beyond just the value of the hours the owner puts in, and have favorable tax advantages.

2. Financial education compounds, just like interest.

Kiyosaki says that just as dogs are merely trained to do tricks on cue, some people receive only financial training, not a financial education.

Kiyosaki says financial training includes those core messages we’ve all heard like go to school, get a job, and send someone else your money to invest. Financial education, on the other hand, includes the deep understanding of things like financial history, basic definitions, tax rules and debt. Only those with such an education are able to “take information and process it into knowledge,” he said.

Just sending your money to someone else to invest is a risky and unprofitable strategy, Kiyosaki said. He argues that over time, a commitment to get and stay financially educated will result in greater and greater wealth, similar to the exponential growth of compounding interest with which we’re all familiar.

3. Investing is a game.

Kiyosaki says many of the “Rich Dad” insights draw on lessons he learned playing the board game Monopoly. If you buy and own four small green houses, for instance, you can parlay that into one much more lucrative hotel.

One of the cornerstones of Kiyosaki’s own educational empire was another board game, the Cashflow Quadrant, around which whole communities of students have grown worldwide. If the process of memorizing a bunch of definitions turns you off, check out your local craigslist to find some folks playing financial board games. Many a player swears they have changed their lives.

Throughout “Unfair Advantage,” Kiyosaki attempts to actually provide much of the financial education he thinks Americans need to move out of financial dependency and underachievement and into the ranks of the business owners and big-picture investors who pay lower tax rates and earn more while working less.

The book is chock-full of easy-to-digest educational tidbits readers of other “Rich Dad” books will recognize, like FAQs, pithy (if slightly hyperbolic) definitions and diagrams. Nothing about “Unfair Advantage” is rocket science, but it — like the rest of the “Rich Dad” series — will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration or reboot to many readers’ efforts to take control of their money matters.

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Nov 30

Home for sale in Delaware County, 3706 PIMLICO PL Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania 19061

Home for sale in Delaware County, 3706 PIMLICO PL Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania 19061

MLS #: 5969450
Price: $358,900

Lovely single Home for sale in Delaware County in Belmont which is an adult 55+ Community. Shows extremely well. Family room with stone fireplace to ceiling. Four (4) ceiling fans with lights. Large master bedroom with walk-in-closet, tray ceiling in master bedroom, upstairs is a large loft with another bedroom. Hardwood floors in living room, dining area and hall. Wall to wall carpeting in bedrooms. There is a Jacuzzi tub in the master bedroom of this Home for sale in Delaware County. There is a large laundry room with an extra closet. This home is on a premium lot, it is also a cul de sac street. This Home for sale in Delaware County can also be for rented for ,$2300 a month.

Property specifications on this Home for sale in Delaware County:

Age: 2005
Area: Bethel Township
Beds: 3
Baths: 3.00
Date List: 11/5/2011
Date Modified: 11/17/2011
Fees: $175
Garage: 2.0
Lot Size: 0.24
Property Type: Single Family
SqFt: 2400.0
State: Pennsylvania
Stories: 1.5-Story
Subdivision: Belmont
Tax Amount: $7,498
Zoning: RESID
School District: Garnet Valley


Property Features of this Home for sale in Delaware County:

Basement Description: Full, Unfinished
Hot Water: Natural Gas
Roofing: ShingleRoof
FEE INCLUDES: Trash Removal, Lawn Maintenance, ClubHouse, Snow R
STYLES: Rancher, Cape Cod
Parking Description: Street
Exterior Finish: Stucco, Stone, Vinyl Siding
Garage Description: GarDoorOpner, Attached
Appliances: Disposal, Dishwasher
Sewer: Public Sewer
Water: Public
Pool Description: NoPool
Interior Features: CableTVWired, CeilngFan(s)
Heating: Forced Air, Gas
Cooling: Central A/C
Flooring: Fully Carpeted, Wood
New Construction: N

Schools near this Home for sale in Delaware County

[schoolsearch lat=”39.8288967″ lng=”-75.44029929999999″ distance=”3″ groupby=”gradelevel” output=”table”]

[yelp lat=”39.8288967″ lng=”-75.44029929999999″ radius=”3″ sortby=”distance” term=””]

PLEASE NOTE: Some properties which appear for sale on this website may no longer be available because they are under contract, have sold or are no longer being offered for sale.  Please Contact Me for more information about this Home for sale in Delaware County, 3706 PIMLICO PL Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania 19061 and other Homes for sale in Delaware County PA and the Wilmington Delaware Areas:

Anthony DiDonato
CENTURY 21 All-Elite Inc.
Home for Sale in Delaware County PA Specialist
3900 Edgmont Ave, Brookhaven, PA 19015
Office Number
: (610) 872-1600 Ext. 124
Fax: (610) 771-4480
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Nov 30

BUYERS: The Seven Steps After The Contract Is Signed!

You’ve signed the contract and are looking forward to moving into your new home, but there are a few steps that cannot be overlooked. By following these easy steps, you will ensure yourself a smooth move into your new home.

1. First, get the home inspected.

Arrange a time to return to the property for the inspection, typically a few days after the contract has been signed. A professionally licensed inspector will accompany you through the home and point out repairs or discrepancies if they exist. The seller will then be notified of these problems and will usually agree to take on the repairs.

2. Set up an appointment with your mortgage consultant.

Be prepared with the following financial statements: W-2 forms or signed tax forms for the past two years, copies of your most recent bank statements (current and consecutive for at least two months), copies of your most current pay stubs or proof of income if self-employed. Be prepared to pay an appraisal fee at this time if you have not already done so.

3. Work with your real estate agent.

Your agent will help you choose a title or settlement company for you and provide them with the necessary paperwork. The settlement company has the responsibility of making your transaction legal. They will do the title work, examine the survey, prepare mortgage documents and all the necessary closing paperwork. After the settlement, they will prepare packages for your mortgage lenders, accounting and title insurance, life documents with the county, and release escrow.

4. Provide proof of homeowner’s insurance.

You will need to provide proof of homeowner’s insurance at this time. You have the right to choose your own insurance company. If you have not selected one, work with your real estate agent for a referral to a reputable company.

5. Obtain certified funds for the settlement.

The title company will be able to tell you a few days in advance the exact fees that will be due.

6. Conduct a final walk through of the home.

Be sure to note any discrepancies from the home inspection that has already been completed. By taking the time to go through this process in a detailed and timely manner, your transition into your new home will be easy and stress-free! Now is also the time to transfer all the utilities into your name.

7. Choose your agent wisely.

Working with a full-time real estate agent is a must. Ask questions of your agent. Find out how knowledgeable he or she is about houses currently for sale in your price range and also of houses that have recently sold. Can your agent recommend a good lender that has the reputation of excellent customer service and low rates? Does your agent ask questions of you to have a full understanding of what you are looking for to help you get the most home for the money?

Thank you for requesting a copy of this free report outlining the steps to take after signing a contract. I hope it is helpful and informative as you fulfill your dream of home ownership.

For prompt, courteous, professional service, call, e-mail, or visit my website.

Have questions, need advice you can count on or just want to discuss this further?  Don’t waste any more time; pick up the phone and call me now!  I’m here to help!

I appreciate you as a client and a friend. I appreciate your business, your loyalty, trust and your referrals. It is my goal to provide the very best counsel, advice and service possible for your real estate needs. If I may ever be of assistance to you, a relative, friend or co-worker please don’t hesitate to call me. I look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

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Nov 30

Should You Consider Listing Your Home During the Holidays?

As the holidays approach, I’m always asked the same questions:

  • Should we keep our property on the real estate market or take it off?
  • Do we list now, wait until after the first of the year, or hold off until spring?

In the past, conventional wisdom said you shouldn’t try to sell a home during the holidays. However, the old thinking doesn’t really apply any longer — thanks to the Internet and hectic lifestyles as well as traditional rules of supply and demand.

Whether to sell or not at the end of the year has to do with your particular situation and market. But in general, here’s some real estate advice about why you should consider listing your home during the holidays, or even in January.

Buyers are always looking for properties online

Historically, potential home buyers felt that the holidays were too hectic for home shopping. They were preoccupied with planning parties, cooking meals, buying presents or planning vacations. Going out with a real estate agent to look at properties conflicted with a busy holiday schedule. This made perfect sense — before the Internet, smart phones, and tablets came along.

In my opinion, traditional buying and selling seasons have evolved as a result of instant, ubiquitous access to property listings. Someone who is serious today about buying real estate is always looking. They may check out the latest listings on their Zillow iPad app before bed or while waiting for their kid’s soccer game to end.

Our hectic lifestyles also play a role. Often, serious buyers are working hard and not shifting into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re squeezing in work. They’re already staying “on the grid,” so why not continue monitoring the real estate listings in their area too?

The inventory — and the competition — is usually lighter during the holidays

Despite our always-on access to property listings today, there’s still a lingering perception that the year-end holidays aren’t a good time to list a home. Similarly, if your property has been sitting on the market for months, conventional wisdom says to give it a rest during the holidays. Given these factors, we end up seeing the inventory for good homes tighten up this time of year. But buyers are still out there looking at real estate and no doubt wishing there were more properties available.

In fact, if I have a seller who has been talking about selling, is truly motivated, is flexible on timing, and has a home that truly sparkles, I often suggest they list right after Thanksgiving. There’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year. And those buyers flipping through listings at their kid’s soccer game will be so excited to see something new and awesome hitting the market — especially if there’s a lack of good inventory in their area. Those motivated soccer moms and dads are the ones who’ll take the time to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.

Home been on the market too long? This could be a great time to lower the price or change your strategy

If your property has been sitting on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will see it as stale or overpriced and disregard it — no matter how great it is or how light the competition currently is.

In that scenario, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a golden opportunity to shift course. Making a dramatic price reduction or overcoming some major obstacle that has been preventing the sale might be just the right thing to do this time of year. If you had lower offers early on but you weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing that there are issues with the way your property shows, this could be your chance to show the market you’re listening and serious about selling. The motivated buyers will notice you and take a look.

You even stand a chance of getting a sale closed before the end of the year; I’ve seen it happen. As always, before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent.

Don’t want to be bothered during the holidays? List your property in January

Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses, and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a deal killer for some. If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day.

Traditionally, we don’t see much inventory coming on the market in January. It’s cold in most places, and many sellers prefer to wait until the spring, a more conventional time to sell. As a result, we don’t see much inventory in January. And yet, each January my phone rings with new buyers wanting to get into the market. Or I’ll hear from on-the-fence buyers who may have lost interest earlier in the year and are now suddenly motivated again.

There’s something about the beginning of a new year thatgalvanizes people. The motivation to buy could be due to year-end tax planning, with buyers seeing how much they owe and how owning a home could help. It could be because of New Year’s resolutions to finally stop spending money on rentals and invest in property. Maybe a rich relative gave them money for a down payment (wouldn’t that be nice?).

Whatever the motivation, for sellers it means one thing: There can be an increase in demand at a time when inventory is traditionally low — resulting in less competition from other sellers. If you’re motivated to sell your home, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience in January.

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Nov 22

9 ways to keep lid on energy bills

Air leaks can infiltrate surprising places

No one likes wasting money, especially in these tough economic times. So it certainly makes sense — dollars and cents — to make a small investment of time and supplies to close up those heat-wasting air leaks around your home. It’ll pay back big dividends in reduced energy bills and a warmer, more comfortable house this winter. So let’s look at some of the areas where those drafts may be lurking, and see how to take care of them.

1. Doors and windows: This should be an obvious one. If you can see gaps between your siding and your windows or exterior doors, close them up with a bead of clear or paintable acrylic latex caulk. Larger gaps can be filled with foam backer rod before applying the caulking.

2. Exterior penetrations: Some of these areas are going to be obvious, while some may take a little bit of searching. Some examples of exterior penetrations where air can leak into the house include exterior faucets, dryer vents, exterior electrical outlets, exterior light fixtures, holes that have been drilled for phone and TV cables, conduit penetrations, exit points for plumbing drains, and penetrations for air conditioning lines. Closing these penetrations may require a variety of different techniques, including caulk, expanding spray foam, or, in the case of electrical boxes and fixtures, specific gaskets that are designed to fit the boxes.

3. Exhaust-vent covers: Dryer vents, range hood vents, bath fan vents, and other interior ventilation equipment typically terminate outside the house in a plastic or metal cover that has one or more louvers on it. The louvers are designed to be in the closed position whenever the fan is not in use, so that outside air doesn’t leak in. Check all of these louvers to be sure they’re closing completely, with no air leaks. If they aren’t, you can adjust the spring tension to hold them closed more tightly; add foam weatherstripping tape for a more air-tight seal; or replace the entire vent cap with a new one.

4. Gaps around interior vents and recessed lights: Inside your home, heated air can be leaking out around that same ventilation equipment, where vent pipes pass through the walls or ceiling, or where vent covers meet wall and ceiling surfaces. Recessed light fixtures can also be real air-leakers. Around the vent pipes and recessed light cans, seal any gaps with caulking. For the vent covers and recessed light covers, remove the covers, then adjust the springs and/or add foam weatherstripping tape to create a tight seal between the cover and the ceiling.

5. Heat-duct penetrations: Gaps around heating-duct cans where they pass through the floor or wall allow cold air to enter from the crawl space, while gaps around ceiling-duct cans allow heated air to escape into the attic. To close those drafts, first remove the register, then use a combination of caulking and/or metallic duct sealant tape to close any gaps between the sheet metal cans and the floor, wall or ceiling surface.

6. Fireplaces and woodstoves: Lots of gaps can occur around these appliances. With a conventional fireplace, keep the damper closed except when burning a fire to prevent heated air from escaping up the chimney. Consider investing in a set of air-tight doors, which close off the air leaks and also make your fires more efficient. Look for gaps around woodstove and gas fireplace flue pipes, and air leaks around masonry chimneys. Use a metal collar if necessary around flue pipe penetrations, and seal gaps with heat-resistant sealant specially formulated for this application.

7. Attic and crawl space hatches: These can be real air losers if they’re not weatherstripped, so take care of that with some foam tape. Make sure the hatches are insulated as well.

8. Interior doors to unheated spaces: If you have any interior doors that lead to unheated spaces, including basements, garages or attics, be sure the doors are weatherstripped to prevent air leakage. If possible, replace older, hollow-core doors with solid-core or, better yet, insulated metal doors.

9. Sill plates and penetrations: This one’s not as easy to deal with, but it’s well worth the effort to try to do whatever you can with it. Air can leak both into and out of the house through gaps where the sill plate meets the foundation or the siding, and around plumbing and wiring penetrations drilled through wall plates in various areas. If you have a gap between your siding and the bottom of your exterior wall, especially in older homes where the use of sill sealers was not a common practice, consider closing up this big air gap with a bead of caulking or expanding foam. In the basement, crawl space and attic, if you can access any of the pipes and wires that pass through the wall plates, seal the penetrations with expanding foam.

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Nov 22

Investors beating banks at REO game

Red tape, rehab standards only some of the reasons for discrepancy

After millions of dollars in investments, adding thousands of new staff positions and even contracting to third-party brokers, the large banks still can’t sell foreclosed properties fast enough to ease the vast overhang of REOs bedeviling their books.

Meanwhile, on the dusty streets of places like Glendale, Ariz.; San Bernardino, Calif.; and Henderson, Nev., independent investors have been buying up defaulted properties, rehabbing them and putting them back into the market at a pace that makes the banks look geriatric in comparison.

“Third-party investors are much faster at reselling foreclosures than banks, though the difference varies by area,” said Sean O’Toole, founder and CEO of ForeclosureRadar.

ForeclosureRadar, based in Discovery Bay, Calif., focuses only on Western states, but its research is still very relevant and predicative.

According to ForeclosureRadar data, Oregon banks took 156 days longer to sell foreclosure inventory than third parties; California, 104 days longer; Arizona and Nevada, 70 days longer; and Washington, 52 days longer.

“ForeclosureRadar statistics show real estate investors continue to far outperform banks in dealing with distressed properties,” O’Toole said. “Yet, politicians and bureaucrats are putting pressure on banks to become landlords, which will hurt local economic activity as fewer properties are made available to local investors, also impacting their Realtors, contractors and property managers, as well as homebuyers in need of affordable housing.”

The major blank spot in the pure data for me was, why, after so much investment and staffing, big banks still couldn’t get rid of their REOs at a consistent pace. That was the question I posed to O’Toole and to the founder and CEO of another foreclosure Web program, Brad Geisen of in Boca Raton, Fla.

O’Toole and Geisen agree on a number of key points, the first being that self-interest on the part of investors is a huge motivator.

“Investors are doing this on their own behalf; it is their money involved,” Geisen said. “They want to settle as quickly as possible with maximum returns.”

O’Toole added, “Investors put forth their own money, and the return correlates with how quickly they get that property cleaned up and back out on the market.”

Certainly, the banks would have the same goals, right?

That motivation isn’t as clear for banks, O’Toole said. “Certainly, the banks are saying that is their goal, but the individual managers within the banks and even the Realtors who work for the banks don’t have a couple of hundred thousand of their own money in the deal. If they did, they would have higher motivation.”

Most banks pawn off all the work onto independent brokers, who are in the deal for one thing: to get a commission, Geisen said. “They don’t have a financial interest in what a property sells for. They are going to do the least amount of work they can to sell that property. What you have in most cases is the banks relying on what the brokers tell them for their decision-making.”

But haven’t the banks hired Realtors?

“The banks have certainly hired a lot of people with great resumes on the real estate front,” O’Toole said. “And they are using experienced Realtors. As an investor, I’ve used REO brokers in the past and they have done a fabulous job. This has more to do with efficiency of a large organization versus the efficiency of the individual. Most productivity happens inside a small business, not a mega-corporation. Individuals and small businesspeople are more motivated and productive.”

The problem with big banks is red tape, Geisen said. “A lot of times the banks set up policy, and things have to go that way. In some scenarios it works well and it other cases it doesn’t. One policy across the board to plan for every asset they have doesn’t take into account differences.”

The key point being that investors are quick to adapt to changes in the market.

O’Toole uses the example of cash-for-keys (tenants who are victims of foreclosure receive cash in exchange for surrendering the keys to the house and vacating). “When I was doing foreclosures back in 2003 through 2005, we rarely paid a homeowner more than $500 after a foreclosure,” O’Toole said. “Now, it is not unusual for investors to pay $5,000 for the tenant to move out quickly. Investors are flexible and look at the individual situation rather than put in place blanket rules that are executed by junior managers and dictated to Realtors without giving the Realtors the same flexibility that investors have.”

Perhaps the biggest problem the banks are having is deciding when to rehab a foreclosed home and when not to.

“Some banks have a policy of ‘We don’t renovate any of our properties,'” Geisen said. “Other banks have policies where they renovate all their properties even in areas where it doesn’t make sense, as renovation costs are far too great. Bank policies need to be flexible, and they just are not.”

In the last housing bust, back in the early 1990s, contractors were sent in to clean up homes, install new carpet and repaint. Investors still do these things, which many will say is a key reason why these homes sell faster. Banks, O’Toole said, “rarely do more than (take the) trash out, (and) rarely do much in the way of repairs, repainting or recarpeting.”

“Our California customers buy somewhere between a half billion and a billion dollars worth of property every month and are hungry for more,” O’Toole said. “The primary issue here is, the banks are not reliable as to how they put this product out through the trustee sale mechanism. They could do a better job.”

Steve Bergsman is a freelance writer in Arizona and author of several books. His latest book, “Growing Up Levittown: In a Time of Conformity, Controversy and Cultural Crisis,” is now available for sale on

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Nov 22

Assimilation Tomorrow: How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030

Washington, D.C.—The Center for American Progress today released a first-of-its-kind study that projects today’s immigrants’ integration patterns through the year 2030. The report, “Assimilation Tomorrow: How America’s Immigrants Will Integrate by 2030,” is authored by Dowell Myers, professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development at the University of Southern California, and John Pitkin, senior research associate in the USC Population Dynamics Research Group. Myers’s report finds that at astonishingly high levels, immigrants are projected to learn English, buy homes, acquire citizenship, and attain solid economic footing in the United States.

The authors of “Assimilation Tomorrow” track the cohort of immigrants that arrived during the 1990s, a decade of robust levels of immigration. Among the most important findings, the authors illustrate that while only 25.5 percent of immigrants from the cohort owned their own homes in 2000, by 2030 70.3 percent are projected to own their own homes, on par or slightly higher than the homeownership rate among the native-born.

Groundbreaking Study Projects Immigrant Integration Patterns to 2030

As Myers commented at a recent Center for American Progress event, “This is the American Dream … and that achievement is something you don’t hear about very often, because it doesn’t support an agenda held by restrictionists.”

Rather than hinder the economy, immigrants will increasingly become the future homebuyers of America, helping to jump-start our housing market.

Hispanic immigrants as well are projected to make great strides. Contrary to the assertions of some who argue that Hispanic immigrants are not assimilating and will not assimilate to American life, the authors find that these newcomers follow the same upward trajectory as immigrants overall, albeit from a lower starting point. Homeownership, for example, jumps from 21 percent of the Hispanic immigrant population in 2000 to 67 percent in 2030.

Another indicator of interest from a political standpoint are immigrants’ naturalization rates that similarly rise from 13 percent to a substantial 70.6 percent by 2030.

These remarkable achievements are based on long-term settlement and deep roots in America. CAP Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy Angela Kelley notes, “This research is a must-read for any policymaker who is concerned that America’s newcomers aren’t becoming new Americans and for politicians who think the immigrant community can be ignored.”

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Nov 21

BUYERS: How To Find Out What Is In Your Credit Report!

Anyone who has ever had a bank account, mortgage, credit card, car loan, or account with a retail store will invariably have a credit rating. Most information in your credit rating comes from companies you have credit with, as well as from certain public records such as tax liens, bankruptcies, judgments and lawsuits. It is important to know and understand your credit rating, how the information is compiled, and how it affects your ability to acquire a loan for your new home.

Credit reports are usually divided into five sections:

  1. Your credit history.
  2. Who has reviewed your credit history.
  3. Information you have provided for the credit company.
  4. Specific identification information about you.
  5. Explanatory notes and comments.

Different states have different requirements and it is important that you check on what applies to you. There are three major credit-reporting agencies, Trans Union, Experian and Equifax.

Your REALTOR can recommend a reputable mortgage lender who has the reputation of providing excellent service and good rates. This lender will be able to immediately pull your credit report for your review and can make recommendations of how to make it better. The better your credit score, the higher your credit rating will be.

Choose your agent wisely.

Working with a full-time professional real estate agent is a must. Ask questions of your agent. Find out how knowledgeable he or she is about houses currently for sale in your price range and also of houses that have recently sold. Can your agent recommend a good lender that has the reputation of excellent customer service and low rates? Does your agent ask questions of you to have a full understanding of what you are looking for to help you get the most home for the money?

Credit Report

Credit Report

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