Considering a Home Purchase

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Everyone has been reading or hearing something about how hot the real estate market currently is, how homes are selling for record highs and the competition for buyers is extreme.  While that might not be the market in every location, it is the market locally for us as well as many other locations.  Most sellers are receiving multiple offers and offers over their asking price.  This is mostly due to supply and demand: there is a low supply of homes currently for sale for the number of buyers currently out looking to make a purchase.  I thought I would give some insight on what sellers are considering when making the decision on which offer to accept and which to pass on.  

A seller obviously wants top dollar for their home but there are other things that a seller does consider, like contingencies. So what is a contingency?  Well if you look up the definition it says, “something that might possibly happen in the future, usually causing problems or making further arrangements necessary.”  In a real estate contract, there are a number of contingencies:

  • Financing – does the buyer need to finance the home purchase or are they able to pay with cash and if they do need financing, what type of financing are they using.  There are government backed financing that most times are more strict with the home as well as buyer, for example FHA and VA.  These types can require repairs that a seller might have to complete prior to the completion of the purchase.  
  • Inspections – there are a number of inspections listed on an agreement of sale that a buyer can request.  For example, a whole house inspection, pest inspection, radon, etc.  When a buyer requests an inspection, it can mean that an unforeseen item may come up in this inspection that the seller will be asked to repair.  
  • Sale of another property – when a buyer is a seller themself.  This happens often when a buyer is selling their current home and is required to  do so before they can purchase a new one either due to a financing requirement where they do not have enough income to cover two mortgage payments or they are using the funds from their sale towards the purchase of their new home.  

Just like the definition states, all of the above contingencies have the potential to cause problems or make further arrangements or planning necessary.  

  • Financing vs. Cash – if the buyer needs to finance the home purchase, there are a number of things that can possibly happen that can cause problems.  If for any reason the buyer cannot get their loan, the sale can fall apart. 
  • Inspections – if anything is found on any inspection requested, it will probably cause a problem making it necessary for further arrangements.  Both parties would have to come to an agreement on what to do about anything found on the inspection.  Does this mean if a seller rejects an offer with an inspection request that they know something is wrong with their home? Absolutely not.  Most home inspections will find something wrong with a home, it is just typical. It can be a small minor thing to a major problem but even the smallest item can cause a sale of a home to fall apart if both parties can’t agree. 
  • Sale of another property – this is actually a big one because just like all of the above you now have a domino effect: if anything at all happens to the sale of the buyers’ home, it then trickles down to their purchase because if they need to sell in order to buy, obviously their purchase falls apart if their sale falls apart. 

In short, a seller may accept an offer for less money if it had less contingencies. 

Another item a seller may find appealing depending on their situation is a quick settlement, meaning that the buyer can purchase their home in 30 days or less.  If the seller already has their move in place or maybe already even moved and purchased another home, a quick sale would be very appealing for that seller.  

A large good faith deposit can be appealing for a seller.  A good faith deposit or what most real estate agents refer to as an “earnest money deposit” is paid on each sale.  The buyer pays this money upfront and the funds are held by the real estate broker until closing when the money is returned to the buyer to be used towards their purchase.  So why is this important?  These funds are a reflection of the buyer’s intent to purchase this home knowing that if they were to back out of the purchase, they would forfeit these funds to the seller.  

Hopefully these items help you in understanding a little more about the home purchase process and how to consider what you want to include in your real estate offer.  We are always available for questions you might have on your specific situation and we would love to help you with your home sale and purchase.  Working with a knowledgeable and experienced agent is key to ensure you are protected as a buyer or seller. 

In the Kitchen: Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Let’s get baking this week with a great cake recipe for those with gardens and looking for something to do with all of that zucchini.  I must admit I am a bit of a dessert enthusiast so I was excited to try this recipe.  My guests and I truly enjoyed it. 

Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 ¼ cups of sugar 
  • 2 cups of shredded zucchini 
  • 3 cups of all purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 pint of blueberries tossed in 1 tsp flour 

Lemon buttercream icing: 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar 
  • Juice of one lemon 

Instructions

  • Set oven to 350 
  • Lightly grease and flour a 9×13 baking pan 
  • Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar until well blended.Fold in the zucchini 
  • Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda to combine.  Slowly add it to the wet mixture mixing just enough to blend 
  • Fold in the blueberries and pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake for about 50 minutes, just until the top is turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it.  Cool on a rack 
  • To make the icing, put the softened butter into the bowl of a food processor and process until creamy.  Add the sifted powdered sugar one cup at a time, processing till smooth after each addition (I used my KitchenAid mixer). After second cup of sugar, add in the lemon juice.  Scrape down the side of the machine as necessary.  Adjust the texture by adding a little more lemon or a little more sugar as needed
  • Frost the cooled cake and store in the refrigerator 

I pulled out the cake from the refrigerator prior to serving to serve at room temperature 

I am hoping that some of you try this recipe and let me know what you think.  

First Time Home Buyer Tips

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Are you considering becoming a first time home buyer?  Buying a home can seem daunting and overwhelming but exciting all at the same time.  It is important to prepare for your first home purchase if you want to have a successful experience.  Here are just a few simple tips to help fulfill your homeownership goals. 

Savings: Having money saved in the bank is the best tip to start with. Home purchase expenses to consider: 

  • Down payment – the bigger your down payment, the lower your monthly cost.  Putting 20% down or more on a home purchase can save you from having to pay mortgage insurance.
  • Closing costs – when purchasing a home, you will have closing costs which can range depending on your location and what type of financing you are obtaining for your purchase 
  • Moving costs – anytime you move, you have moving costs to consider, truck rentals, utility set up fees, etc. 

Budget: Having a budget is important when considering a home purchase.  You need to know what you can afford in monthly housing cost and be able to still have money to include in an emergency fund and home maintenance fund.  I personally like buyers to also consider long term future goals in their budget so retirement funds are always on my first time home buyer budget sheets.  It is important that once you determine your budget, you stay within that budget. 

Things to consider including in your budget:

  • Monthly mortgage payment 
  • Emergency fund 
  • Home maintenance 
  • Retirement 
  • Home utility costs 
  • Food 
  • Entertainment 
  • Automobile cost 
  • Credit cards / personal loans 

Credit: Having a great credit score is a necessity for a home purchase.  Knowing your credit score is the first step.  I recommend obtaining a free copy of your credit report by reaching out to all three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Transunion.  A mortgage lender will use a tri merged credit report that will include all three of these bureaus.  Once you have your free credit report, review it to ensure that there are no errors and if you find an error dispute it to have the issue resolved. 

Increasing your credit score is as easy as: 

  • Paying your bills on time 
  • Keeping your credit usage low – do not max out your current credit accounts and do not close out accounts as you pay them off
  • Keeping credit inquiries to a minimum 

Secure a Professional Real Estate Team: Start by obtaining a real estate agent that is a professional Realtor that has experience in their field to assist with the search and negotiation of a real estate purchase.  A real estate agent should have knowledge of other professionals that they can refer you to to assist in the home purchase process and ensure a smooth, successful experience.  

Your team should consist of the following professionals: 

  • A Mortgage Originator should be knowledgeable in their field and be able to provide you with any information on first time homebuyer assistance programs in your area and the different loan products available to buyers. This should ensure that you obtain the loan that fits your personal needs and budget. 
  • A Home Inspector should be experienced and know all aspects of a home from the roof to the basement and everything in between.  I personally recommend attending your home inspection to learn about the home you are purchasing. 
  • A Home Insurance Agent should be familiar with all insurance products available to you to ensure that you have the coverages needed to protect your personal belongings and the biggest purchase you may make in your life. 

These are just a few items to consider.  If you would like to discuss your personal goals of homeownership, we would love to hear from you.  

Local Restaurant Insight – Fortunata’s Bakery

Let’s get to know some local favorites and hidden treasures in Delaware.  This week we are going to get to know Fortunata’s Bakery, a local Italian bakery located in Milford, Delaware.   I had the amazing opportunity to interview the owner Ruth Clifton.  I found Ruth’s story fascinating,  she began working at Bread N Butter Bakery, located at this very same location 25 years ago.  She worked part time in the store which led to helping out in the back with her eager to learn attitude.  Even as a wife of a farmer and mother of 7 children at the time but still found time to work early mornings Monday through Thursday and even longer hours Friday and Saturday learning the bakery business under the then owner, Armand.  Armand decided to retire at the young age of 80 and Ruth jumped in to help keep the love of baking alive.  

Ruth decided she wanted to change the name of the bakery to reflect the change of ownership and decided to honor the memory of Armand by naming the bakery after Armand’s cat, Fortunata.  Many faithful bakery customers took this to know that the bakery would continue to provide all the same breads and rolls they had grown to love.  Ruth shared very fond memories of Armand and how he helped her learn the business and how he gave her the confidence to make this bakery her own.  She was saddened to tell me of his passing three years ago and emphasized how much she missed him.  She has been open for six years this past March.  Her son Patrick plays a big role in the bakery.  Both Ruth and Patrick work long hours to ensure there is fresh bread available each day.  Typically she will work an average of 60 hours in a week’s time even though the bakery itself is only open Thursday through Sunday.  

Fortunata’s, for those who have not had the opportunity to experience the tasty treats, is an Italian bakery, specializing in hearth baked breads and rolls.  They have their own receipes and mix fresh dough every night for the morning baking.  Along with their breads and rolls, they also offer a variety of speciality treats like sticky buns (yes they are amazing), scones, conches, cookies, filled danishes and other sweets, and just as the breads these are all made fresh every day.  Some days they even sell out and will close down early if so.  Each day they will also offer a special bread some of them being, ciabatta, multi-grain, raisin bread, sourdough, rosemary olive, tomato pie, focaccia.  Their best selling item is their point rolls: a six inch long roll, made from their roll dough, pointed at each end.    

One thing I have noticed being in the Milford area is how this community seems to be very connected and how the local small businesses have a desire to give back to the community.  One of the ways Fortunata gives back to the community is what they do with any leftover items. Every week they will donate breads, rolls and sweets to various places like the local food bank, People’s Place and Home of the Brave.  

The best advice that Ruth remembers Armand giving her is “the hen grows fat under the watchful eye of the farmer.” Ruth says she is at the bakery every day.  She is not only making the baked goods but she is making the relationships with the customers and being available for her staff.  Patrick and herself have great confidence in each other and their staff are like additional family to them. They know that she is available at any time and she knows she can trust them.  

When I asked about the customers, Ruth told me that most that find the bakery become repeat customers.  The community of Milford is a diverse background of individuals.  She finds it very heartwarming seeing all the varieties of ages and ethnicities lined up waiting their turn to make their purchases happily chatting with one another.  She has had a few transplants from Philadelphia and New York who have made a point to tell her that when they found her bakery and tried the breads, that it brought tears to their eyes because it tasted just like what they remembered growing up with and they thought they may never find again.  What could be a better compliment than that.  

I highly recommend making a little trip to Milford, Delaware the next time your family decides to head on their Delaware beach vacation and experience this bakery yourself.  If you are local and maybe haven’t had the opportunity to find this gem, head over this week, tell Ruth I said hi.  They are open Thursday – Saturday 8am to 4pm and Sunday 8am to 1pm but they will close up early if they sell out.  You can also find them on Facebook – I find their posts enjoyable but warn you, they may make you hungry.   

Buying A Vacation Home

Buying a second home to be used as a vacation home is something many think about and some act upon.  Is buying a vacation home something you should do?  There is a lot to consider. 

Benefits:  

  • Tax deductions – you can deduct the yearly taxes and interest paid on a mortgage if the home is rented for no more than two weeks per year. 
  • Additional income potential – you have the option to rent your vacation home during times that you or your family would not be utilizing the home, which introduces additional tax deductions as well
  • Diversifying your investments – you may currently not be investing in real estate but it makes for a great opportunity to start 
  • Retirement – this home could be a jump start to your retirement as it could be the home you will one day retire too
  • Quality family time – I personally think this could be the number one benefit, having a vacation home that allows you and your family the opportunity to create years of happy memories 

Location:  what you should consider when it comes to location. 

  • What are your long term goals for this home – will it be only used for family vacations, will it be used for a rental, will this be your future retirement home?
  • Congestion – do you want to be in a high tourist area that gets congested during the peak vacation months?  This may not be a concern if you are utilizing it solely as a rental but if it is your future retirement home will this be an issue for you long term 
  • Easily accessed for your schedule – will this home be a reasonable drive from your current home or will you need to plan on scheduling flights?
  • Weather – do you want to vacation in a warm weather location or do you prefer a colder vacation spot and will this change based off of your future needs/wants? 

Size and Style: 

  • Style – are you looking for a ranch, two story, multiple unit, condo?  Keep in mind what your use for this home is and it will help determine the best style home that meets your needs 
  • Size – determining the size of vacation home that will meet your needs, you will need to determine your personal situation: do you have a large family/friend circle that you will need a lot of space or do you want to keep the size small so that at your retirement age you have the downsized home space you are looking to have?  

We recently purchased our 2nd home that we currently use as our vacation home but intend to use as  our retirement home in the future.  We took all of the above items into perspective when we began our search and some items we thought we wanted we ended up changing after our discussions over future goals.  We opted to purchase in Delaware and are very pleased with our purchase.  Delaware was a location that we were very familiar with after over a decade of family vacations already in the books for us.  We continue to grow our knowledge of the many areas of Delaware and the many amenities that Delaware offers.  We look forward to continued family vacations and an enjoyable retirement.   

Thinking of Selling?

This week we thought we would just reach out to all of you to see if anyone is thinking of selling. It is a great time to sell a home. If you are considering a home sale or if you have a friend or family member considering putting their home on the market, please reach out to us we would love to provide a free analysis of any home’s selling value.

We have over 50 years of combined real estate experience. We are know for our negotiating skills, being detailed oriented and honest.

Regional Housing Roundup from the Realtor’s Association of York & Adams

Decluttering Before a Sale

Let’s talk about decluttering your home before a sale! Yes it does make a difference when selling your home and in your life in general..  Think about walking into your home and seeing it for the first time, is your home a stressful cluttered mess?  As a buyer enters your home, that first impression makes all the difference on whether they make an offer. 

Declutter: verb; to remove things you do not need from a place, in order to make it more pleasant and more useful  

In general having an entire home decluttered can make a huge difference but the key areas in the home to focus on include: 

  • Foyer 
  • Kitchen 
  • Living
  • Bathroom 

Where to start: 

  • Empty your space of all unnecessary items – if the item doesn’t serve a purpose or provide you with personal happiness then you should consider if it is needed or necessary. 
  • Sort your items 
    • Donate/give away 
    • Trash 
    • Sell 
    • Keep 

Benefits of decluttering:

  • Easier to move – eliminating the unneeded items in advance makes for less to move. 
  • Easier to clean – less clutter makes for cleaning up much easier, now and after the move.  Also you will be receiving showing appointments on your home so decluttering means there will be less for you to do to prepare for the appointment. 
  • Less stress – practicing a minimalist lifestyle can eliminate extra stress in your life.  An overly cluttered home can cause mental stress for some people. 
  • Less debt – spending less money on “stuff” to clutter your home can make your savings account grow.  Having the ability to save provides you with more financial freedom.  

I once heard about the “one touch” theory, where you should touch an item only once. For example, when you come home and take off your jacket, most people will typically throw their jacket on the chair, then later when they go to sit to eat dinner, they move the jacket to the sofa, then finish dinner and go to sit to relax for the evening and take the jacket to the closet.  You touched that jacket multiple times – when if you use the “one touch” theory, you come home and you place your jacket in the closet, touching it once and saving a lot of time and energy.  Hmmm what a concept.  I have tried to utilize this theory recently and it really does save time.

I would love to hear about some of your decluttering tips or your minimalist practices!

In the Kitchen: Peanut Pineapple Thai Chicken Satay

Let’s get cooking this week with a summer recipe, since June will bring us our warm summer weather, or at least we hope it will.  I thought I would take us to the grill for this one.  Kabobs are a favorite of mine, you have so many options with them and I know I have tried many myself.  Today’s recipe is one that I have tried and it has turned out quite well with lots of compliments. 

PEANUT PINEAPPLE THAI CHICKEN SATAY

Ingredients:

Thai peanut pineapple sauce: 

⅓ cup canned pineapple juice 

¼ cup low sodium soy sauce 

¼ cup of brown sugar, packed 

1 tbsp fish sauce 

1-2 tsp sriracha 

1 tsp dry basil 

1 tsp ground garlic 

½ tsp ground ginger 

¼ tsp black pepper 

Remaining ingredients: 

2 lbs chicken chopped into bite size pieces (4-6 chicken breasts)

1 fresh pineapple chopped into 1’ chunk pieces 

3 tbsp olive oil 

⅓ cup coconut milk 

¼ tsp cornstarch

⅓ cup crunchy peanut butter (creamy can be substituted if you do not have crunchy works) 

Garnish (optional):

Freshly squeezed lime juice 

Crushed peanuts

Green onions 

Instructions

Marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk Thai peanut pineapple chicken sauce ingredients together.  Add ¼ cup of the sauce with 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large freezer bag along with the chicken – marinade in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours 

Grill: If using wooden skewers soak them for at least 30 minutes in water prior to grilling

Thread chicken and pineapple chunks onto skewers 

Grill on one side for about 5 minutes or until slightly charred.  Flip and grill the other side until chicken is cooked through and slightly charred. 

Thai Peanut sauce: Add the reserved thai peanut pineapple sauce to a small saucepan and whisk in cornstarch and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.  Sauce should be thick but spreadable consistency.  If too thick, whisk in additional coconut milk or water to reach a desirable consistency.  If too thin, return to simmer until thickened.  

Brush grilled kebabs with the sauce and use remaining sauce as a dip.  Garnish with crushed peanuts, green onions and freshly squeezed lime juice (all optional).

I served this with rice as it was suggested and it was fantastic. 

And for those of you without a grill don’t fret, you can also use an oven and broil this recipe.

To Oven Broil:  Soak wooden skewers at least 30 minutes in water before broiling; Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Add the skewers in a single layer and broil, turning every 5 minutes until cooked thorough, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken.  

Hope you have the opportunity to try this recipe and comment to let me know what you thought of the flavor. 

Understanding Mortgage Escrow Accounts

Hello and Happy Friday!  Today, let’s discuss a mortgage escrow account.  If you currently have a mortgage, you may already know what an escrow account is and if you are buying a home right now and have been talking to a mortgage professional, you may be learning about one.  

What is an escrow account?  An escrow account acts as a “savings” account.  This account is set up by your mortgage servicer (the company that handles your mortgage payments).  Not all mortgage companies service or handle the mortgage payments after you obtain a mortgage― a lot of these companies will have a mortgage servicer handle all of this.  The account is set up to pay your real estate property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance and homeowner’s association dues.  This allows many people to be able to budget easier. 

How does an escrow account work?:  When you make your monthly mortgage payment a portion of that payment goes to paying the principal and the interest on the loan.  Paying the principal pays down the loan until it is paid in full and the interest is how the bank is making their money―it’s the cost of borrowing the money.  Then the remainder of your monthly payment is your escrow account.  Each month, a deposit is going into that account to ensure that there is enough funds in the account to pay for the bills as they become due.  For example, when the yearly real estate tax bills become due, you forward the bill to the mortgage servicer and the bill is paid from the account.  Most homeowner’s insurance companies will bill the mortgage servicer directly.  

Each year, the mortgage servicer will do what they call an “escrow analysis” of your account.  This is like a check and balance of your account.  It allows them to see what was projected to be paid from the account versus what the bills actually were.  Like most things in life, these bills tend to increase each year so a mortgage servicer will typically allow a cushion for a small increase.  Escrow accounts fall under the federal law called Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act or RESPA.  The RESPA statute allows the mortgage servicer to maintain this cushion but limits the amount of the cushion to approximately two months of escrow payments.  When an escrow analysis is done, they will determine if there is too much in the account and issue you a refund or they will determine if there was any shortage and allow you to pay this in one lump payment or over a twelve month period.  

When is an escrow account required?  Typically any mortgage that has less than 20% down will be required to have an escrow account.  This is a type of protection for the mortgage lender to ensure these lienable items are paid, protecting their collateral.  

There is no cost to you as the consumer for this account and the service of paying these bills from this account.  

I hope that this was informative and helped provide a little information on these accounts, especially for first time homebuyers who may have never heard of this kind of account.  If you have some other questions that you would like to see addressed on this blog about real estate, mortgages, homes, DIY projects, etc, feel free to comment or reach out to me directly and I can see that we discuss your topic of interest.

Local Restaurant Insight – Wrightsville Inn Grill & Draft House

Being a local resident myself, I always love trying a new restaurant and today I thought I would give a little insight on a local favorite, Wrightsville Inn Grill & Draft House located at 601 S. Front Street, Wrightsville, PA.  While this restaurant may not be a “new” one, it currently is a favorite for many.  This quaint little restaurant is right along the river with fabulously tasty food.  

The family that owns this establishment has been in the food industry for generations.  Ed and Ruth Myers spent years building a life of love, food and hard work ethic with their own little family.  Their daughter Michelle Myers currently has a huge role in the restaurant and the catering business and their son John Myers has a restaurant of his own in the Florida Keys, Boondocks Grill and Draft House.  Ed and Ruth were not strangers to the food industry—Ruth’s father had a local bar,  Ruth’s sister went on to open a coffee shop in downtown York, Take 5 Coffee Shop, and Ed’s sister went into the food industry and has owned a few restaurants, bars and diners over the years including the Lincoln Bar and Grill in downtown York.  

Ed and Ruth’s own path through the food industry started with owning the Fischer’s Market in downtown York at 331 S. George Street. Customers would come into the market for all of their deli needs and started inquiring about the need for party trays.  This led to their catering venture in 1977 which became Creative Caterers and sparked their interest in opening a restaurant, the Wrightsville Inn Grill & Draft House. 

I had the opportunity to speak with Michelle Myers, Ed and Ruth’s daughter, and found out she herself has been in the food industry her entire life.  This extraordinary family has had one of the most difficult things happen, the death of Ruth Myers about 6 months ago.  This has been difficult not only on the family but on the staff and the loyal customers that frequent the restaurant.  For Michelle this has been probably the biggest hurdle in the business and personally she has ever had. Her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died a week after the diagnosis during the holiday season.  Michelle had to keep the family and business together with little time to grieve because it is not like the business stops.  Everything keeps moving and tomorrow had to be just another day at work.  

For many years people have told Michelle that “she is her mother’s daughter.” At this trying time, this puts her at ease as many still say this but include that she is filling her mother’s shoes and getting things done.  She keeps this in mind each and every day.  I asked her on average how many hours it takes to run a restaurant. She chuckled as she answered, too many.  With this restaurant being a family business they breathe and sleep the restaurant. There isn’t a time that one of them is not discussing the business and there really isn’t much time for anything else.  Michelle has been moved by the outpouring support of the many customers, staff and even prior staff over her mother’s death.  She enjoys the many stories of fond memories that the customers have come in to share with her.  

How to describe the Wrightsville Inn Grill & Draft house for those who haven’t experienced it:  The restaurant has an eclectic menu with a little bit of every American classic.  Large portions are a must for this family as they would never want anyone to leave their restaurant hungry, so be sure to come hungry.  The most popular item on the menu would be their Colossal Crab Cake, per Michelle – everyone who has had it has never been disappointed and it is ordered very often.  The restaurant is currently open Thursday 4-8pm, Friday and Saturday 11am-8pm and Sunday 11am-4pm.  I recommend taking some time to check out this restaurant and support a local family business.