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!

Nov. 14, 2019

Is a Cash-Out Refinance Right For You?

Are you looking for a way to finance your upgrade for your home in Berks County? One way that homeowners can get extra cash for remodeling or other important purchases is through cash-out refinancing. This is a type of home loan that replaces your current loan with a new one for more than what you owe on your home in Berks County. That means you can use the extra cash to remodel your home or for whatever you need it for. Would a cash-out refinance be a good choice for you?

Here’s how a cash-out refinance works:

  • Pays you the difference between the mortgage balance and the home’s value.
  • Has slightly higher interest rates due to a higher loan amount.
  • Limits cash-out amounts to 80% to 90% of your home’s equity.

Keep in mind that you have to have a certain amount of equity in your home. That means that the value of your home has to be higher than what you owe on it. Plus, you can't pull out 100% of your home's equity with this type of loan.

For example, if your home is valued at $200,000 and your mortgage balance is $100,000, you have $100,000 of equity in your home. You can refinance your $100,000 loan balance for $150,000, and receive $50,000 in cash at closing.

What are the pros and cons of a cash-out refinance?

Pros

  • Lower interest rates: Typically, a mortgage refinance will have a lower interest rate than a home equity loan.
  • Debt consolidation: You can pay off those higher interest credit cards and save money.
  • Higher credit score: Paying off credit cards will help your credit score.
  • Tax deductions: If you use the money for home improvements, you may quality for the mortgage interest deduction.

Cons

  • Foreclosure risk: Since your home is collateral, you could lose your home if you can’t make the payments.
  • New terms: The terms of this new loan will be different from the original loan.
  • Closing costs: This is just like any other home refinancing, so you will have closing costs of around 2% to 5% of the mortgage. Make sure you weigh your potential savings with the costs to make sure its worth it.
  • Private mortgage insurance: If you borrow more than 80% of your home’s value, you’ll have to pay for private mortgage insurance. For example, if your home is valued at $200,000 and you refinance for more than $160,000, you’ll probably have to pay PMI. Private mortgage insurance typically costs from 0.55% to 2.25% of your loan amount each year. PMI of 1% on a $180,000 mortgage would cost $1,800 per year.

If you plan to use the funds from a cash-out loan for making improvements on your home, or in other ways that add equity to your home, then this is the right type of loan for you. But if you plan to use the funds on a new car or a vacation, it would not be a good idea, as these are purchases that offer no return on your investment. In the end, be smart about your refinancing decisions, and you’ll have a better chance of success.

Visit our blog every week for more real estate articles and ways to buy a home in Berks County. We can also 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
Nov. 7, 2019

Have Some Fun With the Kids This Weekend In Berks County

With the cooler seasons coming, you need to get the kids out and expend some of that pent up energy. Don't worry, there's plenty of fun to have for the whole family this weekend in Berks County. Here's a few upcoming events and activities to put on your calendar.

Saturday

Snapology – Discovering Dinosaurs

10:00 am | Berks Nature / The Nature Place, Reading

Snapology STEAM Sessions are a series of workshops hosted at The Nature Place. Through this unique partnership with Snapology, you will allow your child to cultivate their love of science and experience nature in a whole new way.

Skulls & Scat Program

1:00 pm | Berks Nature / The Nature Place, Reading

Inspect the shape, teeth and other attributes that make animal skulls unique, as well as explore animal adaptations and scat.

Bountiful Harvest Train

6:00 pm | Boyertown Rail Yard, Boyertown

The rich fragrances of fall in the Secret Valley delight the senses while locally-produced autumn snacks and ciders available on board warm the soul.

Sunday

Sensory Mornings at The Museum

9:00 am | Reading Public Museum, Reading

The Reading Public Museum strives to be a place of life-long learning and enjoyment for guests of all ages and abilities. Because of this, they host special sensory hours for guests and their caretakers who require a quieter atmosphere to explore The Museum.

Pennsylvania German Folk Art Day

11:00 am | Reading Public Museum, Reading

Come to The Museum to try your hand at centuries old folk art crafts of the Pennsylvania Germans. During this event, The Museum will offer special tours of the Pennsylvania German Gallery and hands on craft stations in The Museum.

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.

Posted in Reading Community
Oct. 31, 2019

Set Your Clocks Back and Enjoy an Extra Hour This Sunday

The time has come again to set our clocks back this Sunday, Nov 3 at 2 a.m. Of course, your smart devices should all set automatically.

When we set out clocks back, we are going back to Regular Time. Daylight Saving Time started in 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act. The law established daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October. 

What will you do with your extra hour? Here's a few suggestions:

  • Enjoy one hour of uninterrupted time with your spouse or significant other.
  • Sit in the park and enjoy the quiet.
  • Call your parents or family.
  • Call a friend to catch up.
  • Tackle at least one thing (if not more) on your to-do list.
  • Try a new recipe.
  • Organize your office.
  • Catch up on the dishes overflowing in the sink.
  • Go outside and take pictures of nature.

If you're thinking about buying a new home in Berks County, you can use our home search tool and take an hour to really help look over some of the great homes for sale here. And be sure to call us on Monday when you find a home you want to look at.

Make sure not to forget to "fall back" this Sunday!

Visit our blog every week for more Berks County real estate articles. We can also 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. 24, 2019

Home Fire Safety

No one wants to think about a home fire. Yet, it's a reality that can strike any home anywhere. That's why its worth the time to think about fire safety, and plan for the worst. Even if a small fire breaks out, it can be a dangerous scenario.

Here are a few fire safety tips and facts for you and your family to keep in mind.

Fire Safety Facts

  • On average, seven people die in home fires every day. 
  • Fire departments respond to an average of 355,400 home fires each year.
  • Cooking appliances are the leading cause of home fires.
  • 65 percent of fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors. 
  • It only takes 30 seconds for a small fire to spread. 
Fire Prevention Tips
  • Keep lighters and candles out of children’s reach.
  • Test your home’s smoke detectors at least once a month. 
  • Keep fire safety equipment in your home. Fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and escape ladders are common home fire safety items.
  • Identify any fire safety hazards, such as lint left in dryers, plugged in heating appliances, and cleaning your chimney. 
Safety Checklist
  • Make sure your smoke alarm and batteries are working each month. 
  • Get interconnected smoke alarms so when one sounds, they’ll all sound. 
  • Create a home fire escape plan that shows two ways out of each room. 
  • Practice your family’s fire escape plan at least twice a year.

Making a Fire Evacuation Plan

  1. Find all of your home’s possible exits. Start by drawing your home’s floor plan. Spot at least two exits in each room. Make sure each exit is clear from clutter and easy to open in case of an emergency. 
  2. Install smoke detectors in your home. Alarms should be installed in hallways and inside of every bedroom on every level of your home so it’s easy to hear when sleeping. 
  3. Be prepared when you hear the alarm. If you hear your smoke alarm sound, leave immediately. When exiting, stay low to the ground to inhale less of the rising smoke. 
  4. Keep loved ones in mind. If you have elders or infants in the home, have a plan to get them to safety and assign one family member to help them ahead of time. 
  5. Stop, drop and roll. If your clothes catch on fire during an evacuation, Stop, Drop and Roll. Stop where you are, drop to the floor, and roll while covering your hands and eyes until the flames are gone. 
  6. Choose a place for everyone to meet safely. Make sure everyone knows how to get there. Call 9-1-1 once you’re in a safe place. Memorize phone numbers just in case you’re not at the meeting location to let family members know you’re safe.
  7. Don’t go back inside. If you left family members or valuables behind, don’t go back towards the fire. When you call, let the dispatcher know so firefighters can handle the rescue. Wait until firefighters say it’s safe to go back to the home. 

Visit our blog every week for more real estate article and ways to keep your home safe and happy. We can also 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
Oct. 17, 2019

Fall Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Faster in Berks County

Fall is a beautiful time of year in Berks County, and you can use that to your advantage when you sell your home. Staging your home during this time of year will help create a warm, inviting place that will make buyers feel at home, and potentially sell your home faster. Here's a few tips you can use to stage your home this fall.

Curb Appeal

Of course, at any time of the year, it's important to have great curb appeal. During the fall, there's usually plenty of leaves to rake up, so make sure to stay on top of lawn maintenance. At least take care of the essentials - mowing, raking leaves, and trimming hedges.

Make sure to clean your home's exterior, especially if the weather has been rough. Make sure the siding, windows, and gutters are clean and clear.

On the porch, add a fresh doormat and a seasonal wreath on the door to make buyers feel welcome. If your porch is covered, add a small outdoor furniture set or bench. Add some potted seasonal flowers to make your porch stand out. Your home's exterior should be neat and attractive.

Inside Your Home

First things first - clean, clean, clean your interior. Go to each room and de-clutter and remove personal items. Make sure every room is staged.

You can add earth toned pillows and throws in the living room to create a warm fall atmosphere. Adding a bowl of seasonal fruits in the kitchen is also a nice touch. In the living room, you can add a decorative bowl or vase with pinecones, nuts, fall foliage, and dried decorations.

You can bring out your fireplace with a tall bunch of dark twigs or stick wrapped in twine on each side of the hearth. A vase of fall flowers on the dining room table or fireplace mantel will also be an inviting touch.

Pull your inspiration from the fall colors outside. After all, they're the best reference for color schemes.

If you apply these few tips, it will go a long way to making sure your home in Berks County is ready to sell.

Visit our blog every week for more ways to sell your home faster in Berks County. We can also 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. 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.