Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Oct. 10, 2019

James Ernst Gets Top Reviews

When it comes to being successful selling real estate, experience matters. With 24 years of experience helping home buyers and sellers in Berks County, it's no surprise that James has a 4.9 of 5 star rating on Realtor.com. James grew up here in Berks County and raised in Fleetwood. He has the inside knowledge of the area and the real estate market to make sure you find the home of your dreams.

What are people saying about their experience working with James? Here's a few reviews:

"Jim was very prompt in responding to my initial inquiry on the property. I sent my inquiry on a Sunday morning and had a response within about an hour. He was very thorough and timely in following up on my requests." - Vince

"Jim is an awesome realtor who truly listened to our needs and made it happen for us. His knowledge of the market was second to none. Jim always went above and beyond to help us through the home selling and buying process. We would highly recommend Jim to anyone who wants a first class realtor!" - Theodore

"James Ernst got the job done! He knew my budget and my time limit in purchasing a home for my family of five. He had a great relationship with Customer Bank which was offering a great program that fitted my family's needs. In less than 2 months, my husband and I are homeowners in the school district we wanted and with 100% financing and a 2.95 % fixed rate. Thanks the Perez family." - Juan and Deneida

"Jim was so very helpful during our home search. He made himself available to us both before and after the sale. We could not have had a more helpful agent. The whole process was so smooth and very quick. We made our offer with his assistance and settled in about 2 weeks." - Theodore and Michelle

"Jim is very knowledgable and helpful thought the entire process. I highly recommend him. He listens to you about what you want and what you need. Jim is more focused on you and he puts his clients first before his own personal gain. Jim is fluent in Spanish!!!!! I have a beautiful house and I love it and it's all thanks to Jim!" - Carolina

Will you be the next rave reviewer? James Ernst is ready to help you make the best decisions about your next home purchase or sale in Berks County.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate tips and local Berks County news and events. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool. 

Oct. 3, 2019

Prepare Your Berks County Garden For the Colder Months Ahead

When it comes to keeping your home in Berks County looking beautiful, your garden is very important, as it can help sell your home faster. There are plenty of things to remember when preparing your garden for the coming seasons. Here are a few tips to get things started.

Tossing Dead Plants

A good start would be removing plants that are infested with bugs and disease. These problems can worsen over the winter. It is not recommended to dump these plants into your compost pile. If you're able to, burn them, or bag them for trash.

Preparing Perennials

When cutting back your perennials, do not to cut them down further than 4-6 inches above ground. Also, don't cut them before before the plant is done for the season, so the energy stored up in the plant can flow down into the main part of the plant, where is stays until the spring.

Leave the Pretty Plants

If you don't want your garden to look like a plague hit your garden, leave plants that look pretty and will stay stable through the winter as they are. They could also be very important to next years critters such as butterflies eggs, early bird nests and other important spring life.

Remove Messy Leaves

Not only will your yard and garden look better without a layer of leaves, but it helps keep your plants safe from rotting and harboring bugs or disease. Make sure to remove all the weeds too, before the ground becomes unpleasant to work with.

Putting Down Compost Cover

Keep your ground healthy with a layer of compost. It is the best way to ensure your plants can be healthy and that your garden stays looking beautiful. Laying down a layer of compost from 1-6 inches thick will help replenish the ground with crucial nutrients. A good choice for compost is something with a balance of green and brown matter or composted manure.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate tips and local Berks County news and events. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool. 

Posted in Home Sellers
Sept. 26, 2019

Tips on Keeping Your Berks County Yard Bug-Free

If you plan to sell your home in Berks County, the last thing you want the buyer to see is a swarm of bugs and other pests. It can be a sign that there may be hidden damage in your home. That's not a good thing.

Here's how to keep bugs away from your patio and yard, and from getting inside your house.

Don't Mulch Too Much (or Too Little)

While mulching is generally a good thing for curb appeal, overdoing it can cause problems.

It could give cockroaches and ants the ideal environment to nest and find their way into your home. As mulch decomposes, it generates heat while providing cover for brooding pests. It can even help mice tunnel into your home.

So keep mulch at least 12 inches away from the foundation, or use inorganic mulch, such as rock or gravel.

But don't go in the opposite direction and forgo mulching altogether, leaving the ground essentially bare. Yellow jackets make their nests by tunneling into bare dirt.

Get Rid of Standing Water

You probably know this one already. But did you know your gutters and downspouts may harbor multiple mosquito maternity wards?

Clean out gutters and downspouts regularly to prevent clogs that can trap water and give those nasty stingers a place to breed. Also make sure to keep kiddie pools, buckets, and watering cans empty when not in use. Even your beloved birdbath can be an issue.

Add Landscaping Plants That Bugs Hate

Bugs hate strong scents of mint or citrus. Mix plants with those scents into your landscaping, especially near the porch, patio, or deck for added beauty and functionality.

Here are some pest-repelling plants and the bugs that hate them:

  • Basil: flies, mosquitoes
  • Catnip: mosquitoes, ticks, flies, cockroaches
  • Chrysanthemums: roaches, ants, ticks, fleas, bedbugs
  • Lavender: moths, fleas, flies, mosquitoes
  • Citronella: mosquitoes
  • Geranium, lemon scented: mosquitoes
  • Lemon thyme: mosquitoes
  • Marigold: mosquitoes
  • Rosemary: mosquitoes

Looking for more tips on selling your home in Berks County? Check back on our blog every week for more real estate tips and local Berks County news and events. We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool. 

Posted in Real Estate Advice
Sept. 19, 2019

Bring in the Fall Season With These Fun Events in Berks County

Summer is almost over, but that's no reason to be sad. The Fall season brings it's own charm and good times to Berks County. And to help start off the new season, there's plenty of great events happening in the county to celebrate the beginning of Autumn. Here's a few upcoming events to put on your calendar.

Boyertown Oktoberfest

Fri, Sep 20, 5 PM – Sat, Sep 21, 9 PM EDT
Boyertown, PA

Come out to Boyertown Town Center Parking Lot on Friday from 5 pm – 9 pm, and again on Saturday from 11 am – 9 pm. Events and activities will include: crafters, artists, German entertainment, German music, tapping of the keg ceremony at 11 am on Saturday, beer by C.R. Rader Beer Distributor, Sly Fox Brewing Co. The Other Farm Brewing Co., wines by Manatawny Creek and Blair Vineyards, local food vendors, local entertainment and more.

2019 Pennsylvania Dutch Brewers Festival

Sat, Sep 21, 4 – 8 PM EDT
Reading Liederkranz

Celebrate the Opening Day of Oktoberfest at the Reading Liederkranz with Great Brews, a German Dinner and an Award Winning Live Band! This dog-friendly brewfest will feature commercial breweries pouring unlimited samples of beer and hard cider, many brews exclusive to this event. 

West Reading Fall Fest

Sat, Sep 21, 11 AM – 9 PM EDT
West Reading Main Street

Good food, local beer, and live music with Jeffrey Gaines joined by martini bros. (The Martini Brothers), Benjamin Vo Blues Band, GlassBeard, Alow, Jake Joyce, Roland - band, Metal j, Mo7s, Troy Witman Rocks Acoustic, Creatures of Content, The Undercoats, and The Rudiments.

Oktoberfest 2019 — The Reading Liederkranz

Fri, Oct 4, 5:00 – 10:30 PM EDT
Reading Liederkranz

Enjoy a day of authentic German foods and imports on tap, along with Dr. Squeeze Box with the Reading Liederkranz Singers.

Come back to our blog every week for more local Berks County news and events. Searching for the perfect home for sale in Berks County? We can help you find the home that's right for you in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Sept. 12, 2019

Understanding Real Estate Representation In Berks County

When you buy a home in Berks County, there can be different types of representation to take care of the sale. The legal relationship you have with a real estate agent is called an agency relationship. 

Here are 3 possible ways you can be represented during the home buying process.

Buyer’s Agency

If you're a buyer, you can hire an agent who represents only you during the sale. This this called exclusive buyer’s representative or agent.

You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller, or the seller’s agent, to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

If you're the seller, you can hire an agent to list it exclusively. This is a called a selling representative. Typically, you pay a selling agent a commission at closing. Selling agents usually offer or agree to pay a portion of their sales commission to the buyer’s agent. If your seller’s agent brings in a buyer, your agent keeps the entire commission.

Disclosed Dual Agency

In some cases, an agency can represent both buyer and seller of a home as long as that relationship is fully disclosed. This is called a disclosed dual agency. Because dual agents represent both parties, they can’t be protective of and loyal to only you. 

When would this type of agent come into play? Let's say you want to buy a home that's listed by the same brokerage where your agent works. That;s when the brokerage would represent both you and the seller.

Because there’s a potential for conflicts of interest with dual agency, all parties must give their informed consent. 

Designated Agency

A form of disclosed dual agency, “designated agency” allows two different agents within a single firm to represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction. To avoid conflicts that can arise with dual agency, some managing brokers designate or appoint agents in their company to represent only sellers, or only buyers. But that isn't required for designated agency. A designated, or appointed, agent will give you full representation and represent your best interests.

Are you looking to buy or sell a home in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley? Start the process now with our powerful property search tool. And make sure to come back to our blog every week for more Berks County real estate advice and local articles.

Sept. 5, 2019

How to Get a Mortgage For Your Berks County Home

Are you planning to buy a home in Berks County? If you are, the first thing you should think about is the mortgage.

Buying a home is probably the most important purchase you'll ever make. For example, to show how much you'll spend over the course of the loan, consider if you put 10% down on a home costing $300,000 that has 4.3% interest over 30 years. You will pay about $213,000 over the term of the loan in interest. That means in total you will be paying over $500,000 after 30 years. 

Home prices and mortgage rates are rising due to the improving economy and decreasing inventory.  Now is the time to get on the move and be ready to take advantage of the current real estate market.

What does it take to get a mortgage?

  1. Improve Your Credit
    Your credit history makes all the difference when it comes to qualifying for a loan and keeping a low interest rate.  Look at your credit score and get credit reports to spot any errors in your credit history.  If you find any errors, make sure you dispute it with the credit agency. Also, try to pay off credit cards and keep their balance under 20% of their limit. And definitely don't apply for a new credit card before you apply for a loan.
  2. How Much Can You Afford?
    How do you determine how much you can afford? A good way to determine that is to look fora a home that costs no more than 2.5 times what your income is for the year. You can get a more detailed estimate by using a mortgage calculator.
  3. Get Pre-approved
    It makes a big difference to get pre-approved for a loan, as it shows the buyer you're serious. Plus it gives you how much you can potentially borrow.  The banks will check factors such as credit history, credit, and income. With a pre-approval in hand, you're buying power will be more solid.
  4. Think About the Options
    There are a number of mortgage options to consider. If you're a first time home buyer or don't have the best credit score, you may want to look into a Federal Housing Administration-insured, or FHA loan.  FHA loans can help buyers with a score as low as 500. There are also fixed rate and adjustable mortgages available. Fixed rate mortgages tend to be a good option for those who want to avoid spike in their budget.

We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool. And make sure to come back to our blog every week for more Berks County real estate advice and local articles.

Posted in Home Buyers
Aug. 29, 2019

Celebrate Labor Day in Berks County

Are you ready to have some fun this Labor Day weekend in Berk's County? Summer is coming to a close, so now is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the summer while it lasts. Here's a few upcoming events in Berks County that will help make this a Labor Day to remember.

Food Truck Friday
Friday, August 30, 2019 from 05:00 pm to 08:00 pm
Classic Harley-Davidson at 983 James Drive, Leesport

Come out to Classic every Friday, April through October, from 5:00 - 8:00 and grab a bite to eat from one of the areas best food trucks.

54th Annual Duryea Day
Saturday, August 31, 2019 from 09:00 am to 04:00 pm
Boyertown Community Park at 417 Madison Street, Boyertown

Held in beautiful Boyertown Community Park, Duryea Day is a well-established event that attracts hundreds of cars, trucks and motorcycles from all decades. Music, great food and children’s entertainment make this a family-friendly and affordable event. 

The Carousel at Pottstown
Saturday, August 31, 2019 from 12:00 pm to 05:00 pm
The Carousel at Pottstown at 30 West King Street, Pottstown

Come ride the second oldest operating Philadelphia Toboggan Company wooden carousel in the United States.  Open Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Doodlebug Days
Sunday, September 1, 2019 from 11:00 am to 03:00 pm
Allentown & Auburn Railroad at 232 Railroad Street, Kutztown

Take a ride in the historic Pennsy Doodlebug. Enjoy a 45 minute long ride through the scenic Kutztown countryside!

Have a Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Come back to our blog every week for more local Berks County news and events. Searching for the perfect home for sale in Berks County? We can help you find the home that's right for you in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Aug. 22, 2019

Bring Your Summer to a Fun Conclusion in Berks County

Summer may be coming to an end, but there's no reason for the fun to stop. Berks County is host to a great variety of festivals and events that will help you bring in the Fall season with fun times for the whole family. Here's a few events coming up in Berks County to put on your calendar.

Pottstown Pet Fair
Sat, Sep 7, 10 AM – 2 PM
75 W King St, Pottstown, PA

The Annual Pottstown Pet Fair has become one of the largest free pet fairs in the state of Pennsylvania. It’s a fun-filled day for the entire family, dedicated to the education, awareness and enjoyment of pets in our everyday lives. Featuring animal clinics, special presentations, adoptions, live animals, vendors and great local food.

Ukrainian Festival
Sat, Sep 7, 11 AM EDT
Nativity of BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church

This family event celebrates Ukranian culture, with Kazaka Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Ukrainian Food, and various vendors.

Boyertown Oktoberfest
Fri, Sep 20, 5 – 9 PM
Boyertown, PA

The Annual Oktoberfest in Boyertown includes local food vendors, a beer garden, live music, raffle, craft vendors, local businesses and organizations, and a lot of fun! Oktoberfest is a fundraising event for Building a Better Boyertown. 

1st Berks County Annual Latin Fest
Sat, Sep 21, 11 AM – 9 PM
Quinta Las Cabanas Grove

Get ready and bring your family and friends for an amazing experience. Enjoy a variety of live music, Dj’s, Food vendors, dance performances, raffles, margarita bars, live mariachi, bouncy houses, face painting, and much more. Free admission.

2019 Pennsylvania Dutch Brewers Festival
Sat, Sep 21, 4 – 8 PM
Reading Liederkranz

This dog-friendly brewfest will feature commercial breweries pouring unlimited samples of beer and hard cider, many brews exclusive to this event. Also, enjoy over 50 different homebrews poured by 40+ local and regional brewers from Bruclear, Berks, Lancaster and Lehigh Valley Homebrew Clubs.

Fall on the Farm
Sat, Sep 21, 10 AM – 2 PM
611 Siegfriedale Rd, Kutztown, PA

Nothing says fall like apple and pumpkin picking. Enjoy fresh, delicious apples grown in an organic orchard, plus wagon tours of the farm, games, and more.

Come back to our blog every week for more local Berks County news and events. Searching for the perfect home for sale in Berks County? We can help you find the home that's right for you in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool.

Aug. 19, 2019

Common Myths That Are Costing You Time and Money?

You can’t swing a tool belt without hitting a website or TV network offering tips on taking care of your digs. Save money by watering your lawn at night! No, water it in the morning! No, dig it up and replace it with a drought-hardy meadow!

Throw in the info you pick up from well-meaning friends and there’s a sea of home care truisms out there, some of which can sink your budget.

Stone Countertops Are Indestructible

Marble, quartz, travertine, soapstone, and limestone can all be stained. Regular household cleaners can dull their surfaces over time. And marble is maddeningly fragile — it’s the prima donna of stone.

It’s easy to scratch. It’s easy to stain. Here’s the worst part: Mildly acidic substances like soda, coffee, lemon juice, even hard water will eat into marble, creating a cloudy, dull spot in a process known as etching.

Spill a glass of wine on a marble counter and go to bed without cleaning it, the next morning you’ll have a problem. And while stone counters won’t crack under a hot pot, such direct heat can discolor quartz or marble. So be nice to your counters, no matter what they’re made of. And note that the best rock for your buck is granite. It doesn’t stain or scratch. It’s tough because it’s volcanic rock. Which means it can stand up to all the merlot and barbecue sauce you can spill on it.

Your Smoke Detector's Test Button Is Foolproof

The test button doesn’t tell you what you really need to know. Yes, check your smoke detector twice a year. But all that test button will tell you is whether the alarm sound is working, not if the sensor that detects smoke is working. Pretty key difference there.

The best way to check your device is with real smoke. Light a long, wooden kitchen match, blow it out, and hold it near the unit. If the smoke sets off the alarm, it’s working. If not, replace the batteries. If it still doesn’t work, you need a new smoke detector. And replace those batteries once a year anyway, because dead batteries are the No. 1 reason smoke detectors fail.

A Lemon Is a Great Way to Clean a Disposal

 While wanting to use natural cleaners is admirable, all of them will damage your disposal and pipes over time.

The lemon’s acidic juice will corrode the metal parts of your disposal. The mixture of salt and ice contains metal-eating acid, too. The coffee grounds are abrasive enough to clean the gunk off the blades and make it smell like a cup of americano, but they’ll accumulate in pipes and clog them.

The best natural cleaner for your disposal is good old baking soda. It’s mildly abrasive so it will clean the blades, but it’s a base, not an acid, and won’t damage the metal. Best of all, a box with enough baking soda big enough to clean your disposal twice costs less than a buck.

We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool. And make sure to come back to our blog every week for more Berks County real estate advice and local articles.

Posted in Real Estate Advice
Aug. 15, 2019

How Much Mortgage You Can Afford For Your Berks County Home?

Home ownership in Berks County should offer safety and security, especially financial security. That's why it's important to carefully calculate how much you truly can afford for a mortgage to make sure it fits comfortably in your budget.

Prepare a Detailed Budget

The standard rule of thumb says that you can afford a home that costs 2 to 3 times your gross income for one year. In other words, if you earn $100,000 in a year, you should be able to afford a home between $200k to $300k.

There is one problem with this rule. It doesn't factor in your monthly expenses and debts. If we use our previous example of $100k per year income, and you have $1000 monthly debt payments, this leaves you with less money to pay the mortgage.

You should prepare a family budget that takes into account your ongoing monthly bills for everything — credit cards, car and student loans, lunch at work, day care, date night, vacations, and savings.

Now you can see what's left to cover the costs of owning a home, such as your mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and community association fees, if applicable.

Factor in Your Downpayment

Having enough for a down payment is also an important factor to consider. It's simple: the higher the down payment, the lower your monthly mortgage costs will be. If you put down at least 20% of the home’s cost, you may not have to get private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default and costs hundreds each month. That leaves more money for your mortgage payment.

The lower your down payment, the higher the loan amount you’ll need to qualify for and the higher your monthly mortgage payment.

But, if interest rates and/or home prices are rising and you wait to buy until you accumulate a bigger downpayment, you may end up paying more for your home.

Consider Your Overall Debt

Lenders generally follow the 43% rule. Your monthly mortgage payments covering your home loan principal, interest, taxes and insurance, plus all your other bills, like car loans, utilities, and credit cards, shouldn’t exceed 43% of your gross annual income.

Here’s an example of how the 43% calculation works for a home buyer making $100,000 a year before taxes:

  1. Your gross annual income is $100,000.
  2. Multiply $100,000 by 43% to get $43,000 in annual income.
  3. Divide $43,000 by 12 months to convert the annual 43% limit into a monthly upper limit of $3,583.
  4. All your monthly bills including your potential mortgage can’t go above $3,583 per month.

You might find a lender willing to give you a mortgage with a payment that goes above the 43% line, but consider carefully before you take it.

Use Your Rent as a Mortgage Guide

If you currently are renting, then you can use an online calculator to compare the costs of renting vs owning a home to see which makes the most sense for your financial situation.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, buy a home that will give you the same payment rather than going up to a higher monthly payment. You’ll have additional costs for home ownership that your landlord now covers, like property taxes and repairs. If there’s no room in your budget for those extras, you could become financially stressed.

Also consider whether or not you’ll itemize your deductions. If you take the standard deduction, you can’t also deduct mortgage interest payments. Talking to a tax adviser, or using a tax software program to do a “what if” tax return, can help you see your tax situation more clearly.

We can help you find the perfect home for sale in Reading and the surrounding communities of Blandon, Boyertown, Douglassville, Exeter Township, Fleetwood, Kutztown, and Oley with our powerful property search tool. And make sure to come back to our blog every week for more Berks County real estate advice and local articles.

Posted in Home Buyers