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Kick Off Summer With A Splash

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

On an unseasonably frigid day like today, it's hard to imagine that summer is quickly approaching. But, good news! The Farmers' Almanac is predicting an exceptionally hot upcoming season. Start unpacking your swim trunks and water floaties because we are expecting oppressive humidity hitting full force in mid July.

Here is a list of kid-friendly Philly water parks to keep your family cool this summer:

  1. Dutch Springs Aqua Park
  2. Camelback Mountain Resort
  3. Great Wolf Lodge
  4. HersheyPark Water Park
  5. Dorney Wildwater Kingdom

Remember your sun screen and make plenty of memories!

 

Check out the full Farmers' Almanac story here: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/weather/2014/04/28/will-this-summer-be-a-scorcher/ 

9 Buyer Traps & How To Avoid Them

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team
No matter which way you look at it, buying a home is a major
investment.  But for many homebuyers, it can be an even more
expensive process than it needs to be because many fall prey to
at least a few of the many common and costly mistakes which trap
them into either:
* paying too much for the home they want, or
* losing their dream home to another buyer or,
* (worse) buying the wrong home for their needs.
 
A systemized approach to the homebuying process can help you
steer clear of these common traps, allowing you to not only cut
costs, but also secure the home that’s best for you.
 
This important article discusses the 9 most common and costly of
these homebuyer traps, how to identify them, and what you can do
to avoid them.
 
 
THE 9 BUYER TRAPS
 
1. Bidding Blind.
What price should you offer when you bid on a home?  Is the
seller’s asking price too high, or does it represent a great
deal?  If you fail to research the market in order to understand
what comparable homes are selling for, making your offer would be
like bidding blind.  Without this knowledge of market value, you
could easily bid too much, or fail to make a competitive offer at
all on an excellent value.
 
2. Buying the Wrong Home.
What are you looking for in a home?  A simple enough question,
but the answer can be quite complex.  More than one buyer has
been swept up in the emotion and excitement of the buying process
only to find themselves the owner of a home that is either too
big or too small.  Maybe they’re stuck with a longer than desired
commute to work, or a dozen more fix-ups than they really want to
deal with now that the excitement has died down.  Take the time
upfront to clearly define your wants and needs.  Put it in
writing and then use it as a yard stick with which to measure
every home you look at.
 
3. Unclear Title.
Make sure very early on in the negotiation that you will own your
new home free and clear by having a title search completed.  The
last thing you want to discover when you’re in the back stretch
of a transaction is that there are encumbrances on the property
such as tax liens, undisclosed owners, easements, leases or the
like.
 
4. Inaccurate Survey.
As part of your offer to purchase, make sure you request an
updated property survey which clearly marks your boundaries.  If
the survey is not current, you may find that there are structural
changes that are not shown (e.g. additions to the house, a new
swimming pool, a neighbor’s new fence which is extending a
boundary line, etc.).  Be very clear on these issues.
 
5. Undisclosed Fix-ups.
Don’t expect every seller to own up to every physical detail that
will need to be attended to.  Both you and the seller are out to
maximize your investment.  Ensure that you conduct a thorough
inspection of the home early in the process.  Consider hiring an
independent inspector to objectively view the home inside and
out, and make the final contract contingent upon this inspector’s
report.  This inspector should be able to give you a report of
any item that needs to be fixed with associated, approximate
cost.
 
6. Not Getting Mortgage Preapproval.
Preapproval is fast, easy and free.  When you have a preapproved
mortgage, you can shop for your home with a greater sense of
freedom and security, knowing that the money will be there when
you find the home of your dreams.
 
7. Contract Misses.
If a seller fails to comply to the letter of the contract by
neglecting to attend to some repair issues, or changing the
spirit of the agreement in some way, this could delay the final
closing and settlement.  Agree ahead of time on a dollar amount
for an escrow fund to cover items that the seller fails to follow
through on. Prepare a list of agreed issues, walk through them,
and check them off one by one.
 
8. Hidden Costs.
Make sure you identify and uncover all costs - large and small -
far enough ahead of time.  When a transaction closes, you will
sometimes find fees for this or that sneaking through after the
"sub"-total - fees such as loan disbursement charges,
underwriting fees etc.  Understand these in advance by having
your lender project total charges for you in writing.
 
9. Rushing the Closing.
Take your time during this critical part of the process, and
insist on seeing all paperwork the day before you sign.  Make
sure this documentation perfectly reflects your understanding of
the transaction, and that nothing has been added or subtracted.
Is the interest rate right?  Is everything covered?  If you rush
this process on the day of closing, you may run into a last
minute snag that you can’t fix without compromising the terms of
the deal, the financing, or even the sale itself.
 
 
One More Tip...
 
Find out if your agent offers a Buyer Profile System or
"House-hunting Service," which takes the guesswork out of finding
just the right home that matches your needs.  This type of
program will crossmatch your criteria with ALL available homes on
the market and supply you with printed information on an on-going
basis. A program like this can help you to affordably move into
the home of your dreams.

Hiding Places

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

YOU ARE SHOWING YOURH OUSE IN AMINUTE, THESE QUICK TIPSWILL HELP YOU FIND THE SECRET HIDING PLACES WHERE BUYERS WILL NEVER LOOK!

What do you do when your realtor calls and wants to show your home in say, ½ an hour? Jump for joy first, since someone wants to look at YOUR home, right? Then, panic. As you hang up the phone, you notice that your teenagers have been at it again… your house is CLEAN, it’s just not TIDY. Now, what do you do? Since we all know that the first impression is important, especially if you want to sell your home in the next decade, we have a few tips that will help you quickly hide away “stuff”. But first, you have to know where the buyers are going to look, and ensure that these places are constantly tidy. Places that buyers will look include the oven, any closets, kitchen drawers, laundry room, and the kitchen pantry.

Think about it, these places give them an indication, essentially, of how much storage space there is. Fighting the Money-Hungry Home Selling Shark of Staging ahead of time means preparing for a showing on short notice will be a breeze. If your closets are overflowing, the buyers will think there just isn’t enough room to store their own things, since obviously you don’t have the space. Don’t defeat your efforts by stashing clutter in them at the last minute, no matter how tempting it may be! Enough of that! What you want to know is… at the last minute, where CAN you hide things?

UNDER THE BED.

It’s spacious, easy to get to, and no one in their right mind would get down on their hands and knees to look there during their first visit. In addition, kids are probably used to stashing things there anyway, and can help you

IN THE WASHER AND DRYER.

Who hasn’t seen the commercial where a little kid has stashed a pet in there? We don’t recommend putting your pets in there, but clothes and shoes and stuff can easily fit. Although buyers like to look in the laundry, to see the size and neatness, they won’t be looking to see if you actually have things in there. Our caution is to let everyone in the family know that it’s a hiding place, and to never start the machines without checking the contents first.

IN THE REFRIGERATOR.

This is risky, you know your kids are going to be in and out of the fridge – and how embarrassing would it be to have a shoe fall out? On the other hand, if you’ve just walked in from the grocery, you can certainly stash the entire grocery bag in there, until you’re ready to unpack it and put things away neatly.

BEHIND THE COUCH.

That is, if the couch is against the wall. We all know that things get trapped there anyway, so it could be a quick opportunity to drop a toy or wayward socks for a quick fix.

 

IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR.

Your garage or carport needs to be tidy. If it isn’t garbage day, yet you have bags

lying around, drop them in. Skateboards and roller blades are a hazard anyway, so drop them in too. Nobody has a right to check in your vehicle, take advantage of that fact!

Let me leave you with this quick story. My mother-in-law, being a naturally organized person, has clothes closets organized by color and like items, linen closets with towels and sheets stacked by size and color, jars in her kitchen pantry with labels facing the front like a grocery store shelf. This may seem extreme, buy when she showed the house for sale, one buyer actually told her that he’d buy her home for the state of her closets alone! He believed that if she paid that much attention to a closet, that she must have taken that kind of care with the rest of her home. Never underestimate the added value you can give your home by fighting the Home Selling Shark of Staging early on!

 

Forget Easter Eggs- Try House Hunting!

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

House-Hunting Tips
Buying a home? These eight tips can help make your house-hunting experience positive and rewarding.

1. Location counts. You've probably heard the old real estate joke about "location, location, location," but the point still bears repeating. Location is crucial. How far are you really willing to commute to your place of employment? How good are the local schools, shopping centers, public transportation, seniors services and other public amenities? Will your new home be next to a vacant lot or a commercial property? Even a picture-perfect dream home can be a mistake if it's in an undesirable location, and a poor-location home can be a particularly bad choice if you anticipate reselling the home within a few years.

2. Make a list. Do you (and your spouse, if you're married) really know what you need and want in your home? You'll save yourself many hours of shopping (and potentially arguing) if you make a list ahead of time. Zero in on the features you must have, would like to have, definitely don't want and would prefer not to have. Your goal is to find the right home for your family without falling in love with one that doesn't suit your needs. Tip: Start compiling your wish list by thinking about what you like and dislike about your current home.

3. Do your homework. Not long ago, consumers had very little access to information about recent home sales prices, market trends, homes on the market, neighborhood statistics and the home-buying process. Today, all this information and more is available on the Web. Go surfing. Get educated. Become empowered.

4. Get preapproved for a mortgage. Your top-dollar home price is a function of your household income, your creditworthiness, interest rates, the type of loan you select and how much ready cash you have for the down payment and closing costs, among other factors. Rather than guessing or estimating how much you can afford to spend, ask a lender or mortgage broker to give you a full assessment and a letter stating how much you're qualified to borrow. The true amount may be much more or much less than you think.

5. Use a checklist. Touring multiple homes is a confusing experience for most people. Rather than relying on memory, make notes about the homes you visit. Turn your priorities into a personalized home-shopping checklist and use it track the features of each home.

6. Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes. House-hunting can be tiring, especially if you're relocating to a distant community and want to see a dozen homes in one day. There's no sense in torturing your feet unnecessarily.

7. Be prepared to make an offer. House-hunting can also be frustrating, especially if you know in your heart you're not really emotionally or financially ready to buy a home. If you're not ready, don't put yourself through the exercise. If you are ready, go through a blank purchase contract ahead of time so you'll know what decisions you'll face when you make an offer.

8. Relax. Granted, buying a home is a major life-altering event. But it's not worth making yourself insanely crazy or super-duper stressed. Save time at the end of your house-hunting expedition to unwind, calm your thoughts and emotions and keep the whole experience in perspective.

Taken from http://www.realtor.com/basics/buy/looking/hunting.asp

By Marcie Geffner

The Importance of Neighborhood Reports

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

Location, Location, Location. That's what everyone says, isn't it? It's true that location is, for the most part, the only aspect of your home that cannot be changed. So why don't people pay more attention to it?

For sellers, understanding and considering their neighborhood and location is very important when it comes to pricing their home to sell. What type of school district is this school in? What are the crime rates and median house prices for this area? Any expert agent should be able to provide this information to you. The Diane Cardano Team goes a bit further and provides this public information to prospective homebuyers of your property as well. If you are in an award-winning area, why not show that off?

For home buyers, this is often an overlooked aspect of their home search. It's easy to get caught up in sizzle factors of a property- that finished basement great for a man-room, or that soaking tub every woman desires. How about what the world outside of the home is like? You need to make sure you research the school district, crime rates, housing information and other statistical information to make sure this is a place you'd feel comfortable living.

Remember, open houses and showings can paint a pretty picture- but what happens at night in the neighborhood? How about at 6am? During a week day? Perhaps it's a good idea to test run the commute, and drive through and around the community during all hours of the day to get a real feel for the area.

If you need help getting information on a particular area, let us know! We can print out a report for you!

Open House Caution For Buyers

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

Open House Caution For Buyers

Yes, it's that time of year again. The weather is getting warmer, flowers are poking through the ground and the anticipated "Spring Market" is here. Open Houses are in abundance and it is very tempting to just take a Sunday drive and "stop in" to a few houses.

What many buyers don't realize is that they need to be careful when entering an Open House. At times, first time homebuyers think that checking out open houses is the first step in the homebuying process. While graduates of our first-time homebuyer workshop would tell you that is not the case, it's still the common thought.

Open Houses are scheduled and hosted by the Listing Agent of a home for sale. The Listing Agent, the one who greets you so warmly and asks probing questions like "So how did you like it?" is working for the SELLER.

Often times buyers, with or without representation, make the mistake of giving away crucial information to this Listing Agent. They'll let the agent hear them gushing over the gorgeous hardwood floors, try to persuade and sell their spouse on why it's such a great house, "Oh but honey look at how cute it is from the street!" or they will give away other buying signals. Other times buyers will come right out with answers to all the agent's questions, like what type of settlement timeframe they are considering or how they feel the home is priced.

The best word of advice is to keep your wits about you during an Open House. If you truly like the home, have your agent schedule a re-showing so that you can see the home with YOUR representative nearby. Don't talk too much and give up information- what you may think is insignificant information and chatter could actually be a crucial part of negotiations.

If you are not currently working with an agent, you should start the process of finding one soon. Make sure you have representation and remember that 99% of the time, the Seller pays your agent, not you.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to give us a call at 215-576-8666. Thanks!

$8000 Tax Credit For Homebuyers- Did You Hear?

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

Final score: $8,000 for homebuyers

First-time purchasers get a tax credit windfall if they buy before December.

By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Last Updated: February 17, 2009: 12:13 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- There's a nice windfall for some homebuyers in the economic stimulus bill awaiting President Obama's signature on Tuesday. First-time buyers can claim a credit worth $8,000 - or 10% of the home's value, whichever is less - on their 2008 or 2009 taxes.

A big plus is that the credit is refundable, meaning tax filers see a refund of the full $8,000 even if their total tax bill - the amount of witholding they paid during the year plus anything extra they had to pony up when they filed their returns - was less than that amount. But there has been a lot of confusion over this provision. Adam Billings of Knoxville, Tenn. wrote to CNNMoney.com asking:

"I will qualify as a first-time home buyer, and I am currently set to get a small tax refund for 2008. Does that mean if I purchased now that I would get an extra $8,000 added on top of my current refund?"

The short answer? Yes, Billings would get back the $8,000 plus what he'd overpaid. The long answer? It depends. Here are three scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your final tax liability is normally $6,000. You've had taxes withheld from every paycheck and at the end of the year you've paid Uncle Sam $6,000. Since you've already paid him all you owe, you get the entire $8,000 tax credit as a refund check.

Scenario 2: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've overpaid by $1,000 through your payroll witholding. Normally you would get a $1,000 refund check. In this scenario, you get $9,000, the $8,000 credit plus the $1,000 you overpaid.

Scenario 3: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've underpaid through your payroll witholding by $1,000. Normally, you would have to write the IRS a $1,000 check. This time, the first $1,000 of the tax credit pays your bill, and you get the remaining $7,000 as a refund.

To qualify for the credit, the purchase must be made between Jan. 1, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2009. Buyers may not have owned a home for the past three years to qualify as "first time" buyer. They must also live in the house for at least three years, or they will be obligated to pay back the credit.

Additionally, there are income restrictions: To qualify, buyers must make less than $75,000 for singles or $150,000 for couples. (Higher-income buyers may receive a partial credit.)

Applying for the credit will be easy - or at least as easy as doing your income taxes. Just claim it on your return. No other forms or papers have to be filed. Taxpayers who have already completed their returns can file amended returns for 2008 to claim the credit.

Lukewarm reception

The housing industry is somewhat pleased with the result because the stimulus plan improves on the current $7,500 tax credit, which was passed in July and was more of a low-interest loan than an actual credit. But the industry was also disappointed that Congress did not go even further and adopt the Senate's proposal of a $15,000 non-refundable credit for all homebuyers.

"[The Senate version] would have done a lot more to turn around the housing market," said Bernard Markstein, an economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). "We have a lot of reports of people who would be coming off the fence because of it."

Even so, the $8,000 credit will bring an additional 300,000 new homebuyers into the market, according to estimates by Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

The credit could also create a domino effect, he said, because each first-time homebuyer sale will lead to two more trade-up transactions down the line. "I think there are many homeowners who would be trading-up but they have had no buyers for their own homes," Yun said.

Who won't benefit, according to Mark Goldman, a real estate lecturer at San Diego State University, are those first-time homebuyers struggling to come up with down payments. The credit does not help get them over that hurdle - they still have to close the sale before claiming the bonus.

One state, Missouri, is trying to get around that problem by creating a short-term loan on the tax credit of up to $6,750. The state would loan borrowers the money so they could use it at closing as part of the downpayment. Then, when the buyers receive their tax credit from the IRS, they pay back the state. Other states may follow with similar programs, according to NAHB's Dietz.

Many may look at the tax credit as a discount on the home price, according to Yun. A $100,000 purchase effectively becomes a $92,000 one. That can reassure buyers apprehensive about purchasing and then watching prices continue falling, he added.

And it provides a nice nest egg for the often-difficult early years of homeownership, when unexpected repairs and expenses often crop up. Recipients could also use the money to buy new stuff for their home - a lawnmower, a rug, a sofa - and, in that way, help stimulate the economy.

CORRECTED: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how much taxpayers who were owed a refund would receive under the credit. To top of page

First Published: February 16, 2009: 5:38 PM ET

5 Ways To Prepare Your Home For Spring

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

5 ways to prepare your home for spring


For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/03/08

Despite the lingering cold weather, the first day of spring officially arrived on March 20. Once again it is time to go out and assess the condition of our homes after the winter weather. Here is my list of five spring "hot spots" to check.

1. Gutters and downspouts: With any luck, we will have some good soaking rains this spring. Since no one likes to spend time outside in cold weather, there is a good chance that your gutters and downspouts are full of leaves and other debris. Overflowing gutters can deposit excessive amounts of water against the foundation of your house, resulting in water leaking into basements and crawl spaces. It is time to make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clean.

Kris Jensen / AJC
Clean out and prepare gutters and downspouts for hoped-for rains in the coming months.
 
 

2. Decks: Winter weather can be especially hard on exterior wood surfaces. Check the decking and railings on your deck for cracking or splitting wood. Badly damaged wood should be replaced. Since the summer sun is also hard on exterior wood, spring is a good time to apply a coat of sealer on the decking and railings. A number of good products are available at home improvement and hardware stores; however, my favorite wood sealer called Total Wood Protectant must be purchased from the manufacturer. Information about this product is available online at www.woodsealants.com.

3. Trees: Especially if you have trees close to your house, now is the time to inspect them. You probably can find simple things like dead branches on your own, but assessing the health of a suspect tree may require the assistance of a certified arborist. Our ongoing drought has affected the health of many of our trees. If you have any trees on your property that you suspect are not healthy, I recommend having them inspected.

4. Termites: Warm weather is when termites begin to swarm. A swarm of termites looks like a series of black flying ants. If you are working in the yard and see these flying insects, you should notify a licensed pest control company as soon as possible. Since the Georgia Association of Realtors contract no longer requires termite letters when you purchase a home, some recent homeowners may not even be aware of the potential damage that can result from termite infestation. I strongly recommend that you have your house bonded by a licensed pest control company.

5. Air conditioner: First of all, make sure that you have changed the filter in your furnace. The same filter serves your air conditioner. This filter has been working hard all winter and likely needs to be changed or cleaned. Spring is also the best time to have your air conditioning system checked by a licensed heating and cooling contractor. When choosing a contractor, make sure they are licensed by the state. It is a good idea to ask friends and associates who they use and are happy with.

8 Cheap Ways To A More Energy-Efficient Home

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

8 cheap ways to make your home more energy-efficient

If you're dead-set on that charming but energy-inefficient house, here are some relatively inexpensive ways to whittle your energy bills after you move in.

By Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate

One of the ways to make your home more energy-efficient is to install a programmable thermostat and timer for the water heater.  (© Steve Gorton/Getty Images )

One of the ways to make your home more energy-efficient is to install a programmable thermostat and timer for the water heater.

1. Replace your refrigerator
This is one of the biggest energy-guzzling appliances in the house, says Lisa Dornan, spokeswoman for Direct Energy, and there have been big changes in the efficiency of this appliance over the last five years. "If you look back at the top-rated refrigerator in 2001 that was Energy Star, and one you'd buy today with an Energy Star rating, there would be a 20% to 40% difference in energy efficiency," she says. Her firm, Direct Energy, performs home energy audits and is an energy retailer. Replacing older dishwashers and dryers can make a big difference too, she adds.

2. Install a programmable thermostat and a timer for the water heater
Just as you would flip off the lights before heading out to work, you should turn the heating or cooling off or down while you're away. Program the thermostat for a higher temperature when you're gone in warmer months, or lower in cooler months. These thermostats can be had for $150 at big-box hardware stores.

Likewise, don't heat your water when you're not there to use it. "You definitely want to make sure you are not heating the whole tank needlessly," Dornan says.

Tankless water heaters can be a great investment too, she adds, but they may take a few years to pay for themselves.

Read:  5 tip-offs that a new home is an energy hog

3. Put a solar film or solar shades on the outside of windows to cut the heat
If you're moving into a house with single-paned windows, or living in a climate with extreme heat, you should consider putting something on the outside to reflect the light, Arizona home inspector Scott Hubbard says.

4. Don't let the heat escape
Also, caulk window and door frames to make sure they are airtight. And if possible, use honeycomb-type shades on the inside to trap the heat before it is absorbed into the room.

5. Use compact fluorescent bulbs
This is kind of a no-brainer, experts say, because it's so cheap to do and saves so much on your electricity bill. "Just for swapping out 10 light bulbs (in my home), I was able to get $400 a year in energy savings," Dornan says.

6. Change the filter on your air conditioner regularly
This monthly maintenance helps it run more efficiently, Dornan says, and minimizes wear and tear on your unit. Arranging furniture so it doesn't block air vents also is important to maximize the flow of cooling from your system.

7. Put in shady landscaping
Planting a tree or some vegetation outside a big window can shade your house from the strongest rays of the sun and stifle freezing winds. Planting low-water native plants can also cut your water bill, lowering the total cost you pay for you home each month. (See this slide show on
16 water-wise plants and read more about planning a drought-tolerant garden.)

8. Invest in an attic fan
These inexpensive fans can make a difference in the temperature of the whole house and keep your air conditioning from working so hard.

Full House At This Month's Buyer Workshop

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

This month we had a full house of first time homebuyers at our buyer workshop. As we do each month, Diane Cardano & her team presented free information about the homebuying process to people who wanted to learn and become well-educated as they prepare to buy a home.

C.A. Sokol from Vision Mortgage Capital came and discussed information about interest rates, credit scores, and other hot topics that tend to confuse first time homebuyers.

We hold workshops every month for buyers at the Abington Library, from 6:30-8:30pm. These workshops are free, open to the public and are so incredibly informative that every person considering buying a home should attend.

If you missed this workshop, you can still attend the next one! For more information on our next workshop tentatively scheduled for April 22nd, go to www.SavvyHomeBuyerWorkshop.com

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Diane Cardano & Associates
CARDANO Realtors
1021 Old York Road, Suite 401
Abington PA 19001
Office: 215-576-8666
Fax: 215-576-8677