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!

Aug. 3, 2023

Estate Planning



Estate Planning: Securing Your Legacy for Future Generations


I’m sharing the importance of creating an estate plan. When it comes to your assets, especially your family’s home, discussing everyone’s wishes ahead of time will help you create clear and concise directions.  Estate planning is a crucial aspect of financial management that often gets overlooked or postponed until later in life. However, planning for the inevitable can bring peace of mind and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Understanding the state-specific laws and regulations governing estate planning is essential to create a comprehensive and effective plan. In this blog post, we will explore the key elements of estate planning and provide valuable insights to help you secure your legacy for future generations.  At the end of this article is a checklist of things you will need documented to ensure your affairs are in order.


1. Wills and Trusts:

A last will and testament are fundamental components of estate planning. A will allows you to designate beneficiaries, name guardians for minor children, and distribute your assets. It's essential to work with a skilled attorney to create a legally binding will that complies with Pennsylvania's requirements. Additionally, consider setting up trusts to protect your assets, manage them during your lifetime, and ensure seamless distribution to your loved ones after your passing.


2. Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives:

In Pennsylvania, executing powers of attorney and healthcare directives grants someone the authority to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf in case you become incapacitated. By appointing a trusted individual, you can ensure your wishes are carried out and prevent potential conflicts during challenging times.


3. Inheritance Tax:

One critical aspect to think about is if your state has an inheritance tax. Unlike the federal estate tax, which applies to estates exceeding a certain threshold, states will impose an inheritance tax on beneficiaries receiving assets from a decedent. Understanding the tax rates and exemptions can help you plan ahead to minimize the tax burden on your loved ones.


4. Gifting Strategies:

Utilizing gifting strategies can be a powerful tool for reducing the size of your estate and potentially mitigating inheritance tax liabilities. By making annual gifts within the allowable tax-exempt limits, you can transfer wealth to your beneficiaries while still alive, and these gifts won't be subject to inheritance tax.


5. Beneficiary Designations and Titling of Assets:

Reviewing and updating beneficiary designations on financial accounts, retirement plans, and life insurance policies is crucial. Ensuring that your assets are titled correctly can help you avoid probate and streamline the distribution process.


6. Digital Estate Planning:

In our digital age, it's essential to account for your online presence in your estate plan. Consider creating a document that lists your online accounts, passwords, and instructions for their management or closure. This can help your loved ones navigate your digital legacy smoothly.


Estate planning demands careful consideration of state-specific laws and regulations. By crafting a well-thought-out plan, you can protect your loved ones, preserve your legacy, and ensure your assets are distributed as you intended. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is vital to navigating the complexities and legal nuances, providing you and your family with the peace of mind that comes from securing your future. Start your estate planning journey today and be empowered to make informed decisions for the benefit of generations.


Estate Planning Checklist


Posted in Real Estate Advice
Jan. 5, 2023

Avoiding the Berks County Storage Rental Trap

Are you moving to or from Berks County and considering getting a storage unit? If you are, a good question is "why?" Are you letting logic or emotions rule your decision?

The interesting fact about the self-storage industry is that they are a $39 billion dollar industry with positive projected growth over the next five years. One big reason for this growth is that they've figured out how to play off of our emotions.

This isn't to say that using a storage unit is always a bad idea. It just depends on the reason you decide to use one. There are many reasons we choose to rent a short-term storage unit, and, for some, it makes solid financial sense. There are those who don't have room in their home for things such as winter clothes and sports equipment, outdoor furniture, bikes, lawnmowers etc. So, these people have figured the monthly cost of renting a unit into their budget and justify the rental cost.

And the rest of us? We are fueling the growth of this industry. Why? We allow our emotions to affect the financial decisions we make. It’s that simple.

When many people move, they have things they just can't part with emotionally. It may be heirlooms they'll never display or give away, or things they save because they think the kids will want them someday. So they store those things, deferring making difficult emotional decisions, which ends up costing quite a bit of money over time.

Here are some stats about the US Self-Storage Industry that illustrate this:

 Annual industry revenue  $39 billion
 Number of storage facilities (range)  45,000-60,000
 Total rentable self-storage space.  1.7 billion square feet
 Self-storage space per person   5.4 square feet
 Percentage of households that rent a self-storage unit.   9.4 percent
 Average monthly cost for a self-storage unit.   $87.89

Think about it. Almost 10% of households in America rent a storage unit. The storage area averages about 5.4 sq feet per person and costs almost $88 per month. That's almost $1000 per year.

If you aren't careful, renting a storage unit can become a black hole. How?

Let's say you find a great deal on a storage unit, say 1 or 2 months free, and it sounds like the perfect way to keep your things safe while you move. So now you can lock your things away and move on with the move.

What most people don't realize is that when they sign the rental contract, most of them have a timed cost increase in the contract. And you agreed to it. 

So now that your things are stowed away, you, like many other people, just deal with the monthly payments and think "I'll deal with it next month." Before you know it, a year has gone by, and you've dumped $1000 to store things that you may not even remember.

How can you avoid wasting money like this and avoid being a casualty of the self-storage industry?

1. Take the time to truly think through the COST of storing each item over time.
2. Set a time frame in which you agree to rent the space - 6 months or 1 year
3. Ask to see the fine print in the contract regarding automatic monthly increases
4. Ask to be informed before a monthly increase will occur
5. Create a visual and physical inventory of stored items-include measurements

So, if you are one of the families using a short-term unit, ask yourself if you are ready to make decisions to dispose of the “treasures” you have stored in the 5.4 square feet once and for all and us that $1,000.00 yearly savings elsewhere.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. 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.

Dec. 29, 2022

Make it a Great Year in 2023!

I want to thank all of my clients, friends, and family for a great year. Health and happiness to you and yours in the new year ahead in 2023!

Here are some great goas to have for the new year:

  1. Focus on a Passion, Not the Way You Look.
  2. Give one compliment a day.
  3. Do Random Acts of Kindness.
  4. Go someplace you've never been.
  5. Write down one thing you're grateful for every night.

Here are some events in Reading that will help you celebrate the start of 2023.

New Year's Eve Party — Reading Liederkranz

Dec 31, 2022, 5 PM – Jan 1, 2023, 1 AM
Reading Liederkranz
143 Spook Ln, Reading, PA

Open for everyone for music and entertainment after dinner to celebrate the New Year.
$20 at the door starting at 9:00 p.m.

2022 Noon Years Eve Celebration

Sat, Dec 31, 10 AM – 12 PM
Reading Public Museum
500 Museum Rd, Reading, PA

Ring in the New Year a little earlier with your family at The Museum for Noon Year's Eve!

RPM will open its doors at 10 a.m. for pre-registered guests to visit the galleries, play some special games, and gather some special goodies to take home. Head to the Neag Planetarium at 11am for a special countdown to noon and dance party with The People’s DJ - DJ Nick T. At 12 noon, The Museum has scheduled a TENTATIVE Balloon drop** to ring in the new year!

New Year's Eve at the Ashram

Dec 31, 2022, 6:00 PM – Jan 1, 2023, 12:30 AM
Kula Kamala Foundation & Yoga Ashram
17 Basket Rd, Reading, PA

Bid fond adieu to 2022 and ring in 2023 with an inspiring combination of experiences.
Attendees can begin to arrive from 5:30 - 6:00 PM. Festivities begin at 6:00 PM with a thoughtfully crafted vegan gluten-free dinner.

New Year's Eve Party

Dec 31, 2022, 8:30 PM – Jan 1, 2023, 1:00 AM
Stokesay Castle & The Knight's Pub
141 Stokesay Castle Ln, Reading, PA

Party your way into 2023, Time Square Style! Dance to DJ Koolie Kirk, Enjoy an OPEN BAR, LIVE Feed of the Ball Drop in Time Square, & more...all within Stokesay Castle's Royal Knight Club!


Happy New Year 2023!

Dec. 22, 2022

Happy Holidays from James Ernst

To my valued present and future clients:

It’s been fantastic working with you in 2022 to help you with your real estate dreams. I hope we can continue doing business together in the forthcoming year. May your holiday be blessed with the love and warmth of family and friends. A client of mine is considered a friend.


Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Posted in Holiday Traditions
Dec. 15, 2022

What is a Reverse Mortgage and How Do You Get Out of It?

Reverse mortgages allow Berks County homeowners to borrow against the value of their homes without selling them. This loan is beneficial to seniors. While keeping their home, they can receive a lump sum or a monthly payment. Reverse mortgages are not without their disadvantages, though. Here are some options if you don't want the one you secured.

The Simplest Ways to Get Out of a Reverse Mortgage

It is generally advantageous to take out these loans since the borrower does not have to repay them until they die, sell the property, or permanently leave their home. There are several ways to get out of a reverse mortgage. Paying it in full is the simplest approach. 

Borrowers who cannot fully repay the loan can make partial prepayments. You can do this by making regular payments towards the loan balance over time. The interest costs of the loan will be reduced if you make partial payments at any time. To figure out your repayment options, talk to your lender.

Put Your House Up for Sale

You can get out of a reverse mortgage by selling your home if you have enough equity. Proceeds from the sale must be used to pay off the loan balance before you can keep any money. It will be necessary to use other assets or funds to pay off the loan balance if the sale does not provide enough money. 

Identifying your home's value is the first step in selling it. A Berks County real estate agent such as James Ernst can give you an idea of the market value of your home by comparing it to comparable sales in your area. Although there are many things you can do to help sell your home, choosing a good real estate agent will expedite the entire process.

Adding appeal to your home is the next step. Staging techniques can help you achieve this. Any defects in your home can be pointed out by a good agent. Once your home is priced, listed, and shown to potential buyers, you'll need a plan. Adding essential home improvement projects to the home's value is a good idea.

Refinance the Reverse Mortgage

It might be worth looking into refinancing if you're thinking about a reverse mortgage. This strategy can help you get a lower interest rate, saving you money over time.

To decide if refinancing a reverse mortgage is a good idea, you need to understand the loan terms and conditions. Get all the information you need. You could also talk to financial advisors or family members who've done it before to get a better idea of what to expect.

Get a Home Equity Loan

You could also take out a home equity loan to repay the reverse mortgage. This method can give you more money to play with and a lower interest rate. Alternatively, you could refinance into a conventional loan, and this financial move will provide you with a fixed rate and lower monthly payments.

Ask yourself if you're comfortable making payments on the loan, or if there's a chance that you may not be able to keep up with payments because of changing circumstances. Also, consider how a reverse mortgage could affect your long-term financial goals.

More Options Are Available

The suggestions covered here to get out of a reverse mortgage are only a few options. Many more are available, such as walking away, but they may not always give you the most favorable outcome.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. 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
Dec. 8, 2022

Tips for Removing Snow and Ice from Your Berks County Home

In Berks County, winter brings snow and ice that homeowners must clear from their properties. Having snow or ice on the driveway can present a safety hazard. Residents as well as those who are selling their homes this season find this to be particularly problematic. As well as making it difficult to enter a building safely, heavy snow and ice can damage the home, lowering its value. As a result, you should usually take care of the snow and ice around your house in a timely manner after each snowfall.

Investing in equipment or hiring a snow removal service are both ways to accomplish this. Here are five tips for removing snow and ice this winter to keep you and your property safe. Start early and often.

When snow accumulates on walkways, steps, and your roof, it becomes heavier. Ice, which is even more hazardous than packed snow, forms when it partially melts, then refreezes. Early and frequent snow removal makes it safer and easier. You can also prevent problems such as too much weight on your roof by removing snow before it has a chance to build up. 

Wetter snow falling at higher temperatures is heavier and will need to be removed more often than drier snow.

Use the Right Ice Melt

It is possible to keep steps clear with ice melt and rock salt by eliminating any leftover snow that melted and refroze, and in some cases by preventing refreezing from occurring. The wrong ice melt can be poisonous for pets and harmful to landscaping, however. When you coat your walkways or driveway with ice melt, the runoff will end up in your landscaping, and it could result in some dead or brown plants come spring. Pets and other animals crossing your driveway may pick up some of the ice melt on their feet. If they lick their feet clean later, this could poison them. Always use a pet safe ice melt to avoid these issues, and make sure that you apply it frequently to prevent any refreezing. 

Push Snow, Don’t Lift It

It can be tempting to try to lift up big shovelfuls of snow and toss them aside to clear your paths. But doing so can quickly lead to fatigue, as well as to potential injuries to your shoulders and back. The recommended method of shoveling snow by the National Safety Council is to push snow, not lift it. 

If you’re shoveling often, so the snow isn’t building up and getting heavy, then it’s usually easy to push the snow along the walk or driveway and out of the way. If you struggle with this technique, there are two-handled shovels that are designed for easier pushing; they can clear a lot of snow in very short periods of time, without potentially harming your back. 

Get a Long Handled Rake

Having a little snow on your roof isn’t going to hurt it. But if you live in an area that sees snow storm after snow storm with little to no melting in between, then the built-up snow could start to cause some issues. Once snow reaches the weight of 20 pounds per foot, it can begin to be too much for the structure of your roof. If left in place, it can cause leaks and roof damage at a minimum and a potential cave in at the worst. 

While you can hire someone to come and clear the snow off for you, it’s also easy to remove at least some of it yourself. Purchase a long-handled snow rake and use it to drag or pull the snow off of the roof. Even if you can’t reach all the snow, just getting the bulk of it off your roof can help prevent future problems. 

Make Wide Paths

You might be tempted to clear a path just wide enough to pass through when you start shoveling. The problem with this, however, is that as the snow melts and refreezes, as well as continues to fall, paths often start to narrow and become more difficult to travel. This can make it dangerous to walk through your property. By making your paths extra wide, you can eliminate this problem. Even if they shrink a little as the winter continues, they should still stay wide enough to allow safe passage to and from your front door.

Practice Snow Safety this Winter

Snow and ice can be a serious hazard for homeowners and for potential buyers, as well as for the home itself. Make sure that you practice snow safety and remove snow and ice in a timely manner this winter to avoid these issues yourself. 

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. 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
Dec. 1, 2022

The Perfect Gift Awaits at These Reading Holiday Markets

If you want to find the perfect gift for the holidays, there's no better place to find it than at Reading's holiday markets. Here are some to explore this weekend in Reading.

Handcrafted Holiday Market: Watercolor Snowflake

Sat, Dec 3, 11 AM – 4 PM
GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
201 Washington St, Reading, PA

GoggleWorks’ Handcrafted Holiday Market is a one day pop-up shop centered around artists and makers selling high-quality handmade gifts for the holiday season. The event offers fun winter activities for all ages, including live music, kids crafts, and more. Shop a vibrant selection of hand made works, great for any holiday gift – or make your own in our Ceramics Studio with assistance from our professional artists.

Genesis Preschool Christmas Craft Show

Sat, Dec 3, 10 AM – 1 PM
St John's Lutheran Church
4125 Penn Ave, Sinking Spring, PA

Come to shop for the holidays at our Christmas Craft Show! We are excited about our growing list of vendors! We will have free and supervised activities for children while you shop! We hope to see you there!

Christkindlmarkt — Reading Liederkranz

Sat, Dec 3, 10 AM – 4 PM
Reading Liederkranz
143 Spook Ln, Reading, PA

The outside and inside bars will feature German and holiday beers. The dining room and Biergarten kitchen are open too! Plenty of great vendors, (vendors are under our pavilion), delicious food, goodies and holiday music. Start the holiday season at a traditional German Christmas Market.

Christmas Makers Market

Sat, Dec 3, 9 AM – 4 PM EST
Events by Kelly's Florist
1051 Cross Keys Road Use driveway between 1033 and, 1029 Cross Keys Rd, Leesport, PA

A collection of makers bringing you hand crafted, curated items. Shop in a heated tent and in the studio if Events by Kellys Florist for your holiday needs. Come shop small!

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. 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.

Nov. 24, 2022

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is more than the festivities, it gives us time to ponder upon what lessons we learnt and how we can spread happiness around, to look back at all the great memories and good people who came into our lives. We appreciate you so much. 

Here are a few things in our lives we can show thanks for this week:

  • Family
  • Clean Air
  • Beautiful Pennsylvania Scenery
  • Children
  • Friends
  • Music
  • Your Job
  • A Good Laugh
  • Health

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and your loved ones.

Posted in Holiday Traditions
Nov. 17, 2022

Can You Sell Your Berks County Home if it's In Pre-Foreclosure?

Are you facing foreclosure on your Berks County home? Is it your intention to sell your home before the foreclosure process is completed? If you want to stop foreclosure on your house, you can actually sell it until the day your home is foreclosed.

Until the title of your home transfers to the new owner, you are the legal owner of the property, which means you can sell it if you want to. 


  • Make sure you get the right help. You should hire an agent who is familiar with the foreclosure process in Berks County and who understands the nuances of selling such properties.

  • Your lender(s) should provide you with a payoff statement. Once the foreclosure begins and lawyers add their fees, interest and fees tend to pile up very quickly. Knowing how much equity you have is crucial. Additionally, you will want to request payoffs for other liens (second mortgage, heloc, judgment liens).

  • Make sure you move quickly. The foreclosure process may take a while, but the fees do not. Once you start missing payments, interest and penalties add up quickly and eat away at your equity. If there is any equity left in the property, you should move quickly to salvage it. 

But what if there is no equity in the home?

A home with negative equity is very common, especially after a lengthy period of non-payment. It's no problem! Short sales allow you to sell your home for less than what you owe. Your mortgage debt will be settled and you will avoid foreclosure and possible deficiency judgments, even if you do not receive any proceeds.

Do I need my lenders' permission to sell my home in preforeclosure?

You don't. As long as a sale of the property will cover its associated debts in full at closing, you need do nothing but sell and close before the foreclosure sale date. If you cannot cover the debts on the home with a regular sale, you will need to have your short sale approved by your lender. Your Realtor will generally be the one assisting with the short sale process. Make sure your Realtor is experienced with short sales if you need to go down this road.

What if I just walk away and let it foreclose?

That is always an option, however it is a very poor one. The lengthy foreclosure timeline and fees will eat up any remaining equity that could have gone to you. Or even worse - many states allow deficiency judgments. That means if the lender has losses in excess of the home's value, they can pursue you after the foreclosure for those losses. 


The best way to handle selling your home in preforeclosure is to deal with it sooner than later. As soon as you realize selling is your best bet, pick up the phone and call James Ernst to see how we can help you sell your home fast.

Posted in Home Buyers
Nov. 10, 2022

Reasons for Selling Your Berks County Home to a Cash Buyer

Selling your home quickly can be necessary for a number of reasons. You may be facing foreclosure or have to relocate for a job. You may want to consider cash buyers if you need to sell your home quickly. Here are five scenarios where you might consider working with James Ernst to sell your Berks County home.

1. Career Change

A career change may require you to sell your home to a cash buyer. You might be moving for a job or returning to school and won't have time to maintain your property. Cash buyers can often close on a property quickly, so it's something to consider if you're looking for a hassle-free sale.

2. Relationship Status Change

You may also want to consider selling your home to a cash buyer if your relationship status changes. During a divorce, for example, you may not want to remain in the family home. You may be able to move on with your life much more quickly and easily by selling the house to a cash buyer. You may also benefit from cash buyers if you're moving in with a partner and need to sell your current house.

3. Health Issues

A cash buyer may be able to help you sell your home if you are facing health issues. The reason may be that you need to move into a care facility or that maintaining your home is too time consuming. In either case, selling your home to a cash buyer can provide you with the funds you need to cover your medical expenses.

4. You Need Cash Quickly

One of the main benefits of selling to a cash buyer is that you get paid quickly. The process of finding a buyer and closing the deal can take weeks or even months when your house is listed. Direct sales to cash buyers, however, can be completed within a few days. For example, if you need to make repairs on another property, then selling your home for cash is the best way to access equity quickly.

5. You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Last but not least, if you're overwhelmed by your current living situation, you may want to sell your home for cash. A quick move could be advantageous if you face foreclosure or need to move quickly. When you sell your home to a cash buyer, you won't have to pay any additional fees or costs.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, know you have options. If you sell your house, fast cash buyer, it can be a great solution in a hurry. However, doing your research and working with a reputable company that will treat you fairly is essential. Selling your home is always going to be an emotional process. But by knowing your options and understanding what to expect, you can make the best decision for yourself and your family.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and local Berks County articles. 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