Christopher T. Hanna
 
Christopher T. Hanna
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown, PA 18104
Phone: 610-704-8316
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Fax: 267-354-6842
channa@remaxcentralinc.com
 
RE/MAX Central  

My Blog

What's Behind the Gates? Higher-Priced Homes

July 12, 2016 1:06 am


Homeowners behind gates can expect an average $30,000 more for their home come sale—a premium, however, that can be offset by costly community amenities, according to research from the American Real Estate Society (ARES). The premium is due to actual and perceived benefits, such as privacy and safety, on the part of the buyer.

“This [research] provides clear evidence that homes in gated communities sell at a premium relative to comparable homes in non-gated communities,” said ARES Publication Director Ken Johnson in a release. Johnson is a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business.

The premium may be less in gated communities where amenities like a clubhouse, pool or tennis court drive up maintenance costs for residents, ARES researchers found. Examining a sample of gated communities, researchers discovered a $19,500 decrease in sale price in communities with these types of amenities.

“Additional maintenance costs associated with these amenities often outweigh their benefits, and it appears that while a gate has value, additional neighborhood amenities do not always provide additional value,” explained Mark A. Sunderman, one of the ARES researchers.

“From the perspective of both the buyer and the seller, this information should help each to better price property,” Sunderman continued. “A good understanding of what adds value and what does not should help create increased marketability of gated homes.”

“The long-held belief that gates add value is supported by the data, as long as the impact of the amenities is properly factored in,” Johnson added. "This should set buyers' minds to rest as to whether or not they are actually receiving a boost in value when they purchase inside a gated community.” 

Source: Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
 

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Vacationers: Protect Your Dream Trip with Travel Insurance

July 11, 2016 1:03 am


Vacation…it’s all we ever wanted!

Nearly $90 billion will be spent on vacations this summer, with the average trip—defined as a one-week leisure excursion at least 100 miles from home—costing travelers $1,798.

Time off is worth every penny—according to the Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index, many individuals not only believe a vacation is important, but also feel confident that they can afford one. Most vacationers, the Index found, are allocating their budgets for one memorable getaway, rather than spreading the spend over several trips.

The Index revealed a “Vacation Deficit,” as well—the percentage of individuals who believe a vacation is important but do not feel confident they’ll be able to take one. The Deficit is slightly up this year compared to last.

Those spending more on one dream vacation this summer should consider budgeting for travel insurance, says Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.

“With vacation spending up, travel insurance should be near the top of the trip planning checklist,” Durazo said in a statement. “The right travel insurance policy will protect a consumer's pre-paid travel expenses when they have to cancel their trip due to certain unexpected situations, such as a covered illness or injury, and will provide reimbursements for things like medical emergencies, delayed travel and lost or delayed baggage.”

Source: Allianz Global Assistance USA
 

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What Not to Buy at Home Improvement Stores

July 11, 2016 1:03 am


Many shoppers assume large home improvement stores have the best prices—and they often do, on some products. But not on everything, says Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com.

According to Shelton, stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s will net you savings on big-ticket items like kitchen appliances, lawn and garden equipment, and home repair or remodeling products. A one-stop shopping trip to these stores, however, can do the opposite, Shelton says.

Better buys are available at stores like Costco, Target, Walmart—or online—in these five categories:

Batteries – The proof is in the savings. FatWallet.com data show Costco was selling a 40-battery, 2-pack of AA Duracells for $14.99 (less than 38 cents per battery), while Home Depot’s offering was limited to a 10-pack selling at $7.98 (nearly 80 cents per battery), and Lowe’s a 24-pack for $12.47 (nearly 52 cents per battery).

Cleaning Supplies – It’s tempting to pick up cleaning supplies along with paint and nails at a home improvement store, but products like Clorox wipes or floor cleaner are almost always cheaper at the regular big-box stores. Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, for instance, was $10 at Home Depot and Lowe’s, compared to $8.50 at Walmart. Big-box stores also often carry generic alternatives that cost even less, Shelton adds.

Home Décor – If you’re looking for rugs, picture frames, wall art or other décor items, make the trip to stores like Home Goods, TJ Maxx, or Ross. Case in point: Shelton found the same framed piece of art for $31 at Home Depot, $22 at Home Goods.

Small Appliances – Unless they’re on sale at a home improvement store, small appliances like food processors or microwaves are a better buy at any of the warehouse stores or online, where the selection is often bigger. Shelton recommends Amazon.com for these purchases.

Grilling Accessories – Online retailers are your best bet for grilling accessories. A Chef Buddy 20-Piece Stainless Steel Grill Toolset, for example, came in at $35.22 at Home Depot and $24.95 on Amazon.com, according to FatWallet.com data.

For more savvy shopper secrets for homeowners, visit FatWallet.com.
 

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Buying a Home for the First Time? What You Should Know About Warranties

July 11, 2016 1:03 am


Home service contracts, or home warranties, are an important consideration in the home-buying process, especially for new homeowners.

“Homes are a major financial investment, and repairs and replacements on appliances and major systems can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $3,500,” explains Tim Meenan, CEO and executive director of the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC). “While new homeowners face numerous expenses, a home service contract can guard against these unexpected pricey repairs and replacements.”

Generally, a home service contract covers repair or replacement costs of major systems or appliances that fail within the contract period—often one year. This may include coverage of the home’s electrical system, HVAC unit and plumbing system. Typically, the contract can be renewed annually. Most contracts come with a nominal service fee, paid at the time of the incident.

Aside from monetary coverage, the home service contract provider will refer the buyer to a vetted contractor who can perform repair or replacement work—a boon to buyers new to an area.

Most homeowners with home service contracts call upon the contract provider two times or more each year.

The SCIC strongly recommends first-time homebuyers negotiate a home service contract before committing to a home. If you’re new to home-buying, discuss your options with your real estate professional—he or she can offer counsel for your circumstances.

The peace of mind, Meenan says, is worth it.

Source: Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Out There: Rent…or Live on a Cruise Ship?

July 8, 2016 12:57 am


Rents in the U.S. are on the rise, limiting housing options for many. While the industry is working to address affordability concerns, one search engine has developed an alternative solution.

According to a report by CruiseWatch, a cruise search engine, renters in some cities are better off cruising on a ship continuously for a year than paying rent for the same period.

“To go on non-stop cruises and save some money is an impressive proposition,” said Britta Bernhard, co-founder of CruiseWatch, in a statement.

We’ll let that, ahem, sink in.

Using Census Bureau data and their own cruise statistics, the search engine compared cost-of-living expenses to cruise prices.

The average rental household in New York City, for instance, spends approximately $637 a week on living expenses, compared to the $313.25 per-week average for a cruise—a savings of over $16,500 a year.

The average household in Honolulu, on the other hand, would save over $7,500 a year cruising instead of renting. Those in Los Angeles would save $2,058 a year; those in San Francisco would save $7,154 a year; those in Stamford, Conn. would save $3,878 a year.

Cruisers can expect the most savings starting their year-long cruise in winter, when prices are at their lowest, according to the report.

Cruising for an entire year is enticing. Would you pay for a cruise instead of paying for rent?

Source: CruiseWatch
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Aging-in-Place Primer: Lots of Risks Lurking

July 8, 2016 12:57 am


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2013 report, “Consumer Product-Related Injuries to Persons 65 Years of Age and Older,” shed light on the aging-in-place risks facing those who remain in their homes as they age. The report, which assessed the products most associated with injuries and fatalities, revealed most incidents involved falls.

The CPSC recently developed a companion report evaluating incidents unrelated to falls. According to the report, nearly 30 percent of product-related fatalities reported to the CPSC were not as a result of a fall. The most fatal non-fall hazards include:

• ‘Swimming Activity, Pools, Equipment’ (379 incidents)
• ‘Clothing, All’ (Fire-Related) (293 incidents)
• ‘Bathtub and Shower Structures’ (253 incidents)
• ‘Cigarettes, etc., Lighters, Fuel’ (252 incidents)
• ‘Home Fires/CO/Gas Vapors with Unknown Product’ (244 incidents)
• ‘ATVs, Mopeds, Minibikes, etc.’ (174 incidents)
• ‘Cooking Ranges, Ovens, etc.’ (165 incidents)

Non-fall fatalities were reported more by adults age 65 to 69 than those older, the report found. (In contrast, fall-related fatalities peak between the ages of 84 and 89.)

With the life expectancy of the average American rising from 70.8 years in 1970 to close to 80 today, it is important for homeowners aging-in-place to understand the risks associated with products in their homes.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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America's Best Bargain Beach Towns

July 8, 2016 12:57 am


Looking to settle seaside? Beachfront property can be a sound investment for vacation- and profit-seekers, but it comes at a premium in most coastal markets.

All is not lost! Some beach towns are within reach—if you know where to look. Housing data source RealtyTrac® recently ranked the best bargain beach towns in the country, based on factors such as median home price and average summer temperature. The top 15 are:

1. Keansburg, N.J.
2. Mastic Beach, N.Y.
3. Crisfield, Md.
4. Riverside, R.I.
5. Palm Beach, Fla.
6. Emerald Isle, N.C.
7. Dauphin Island, Ala.
8. Madison, Conn.
9. Florence, Ore.
10. Bethany Beach, Del.
11. Fort Bragg, Calif.
12. Vashon, Wash.
13. Kihei, Hawaii
14. Pawleys Island, S.C.
15. Port Aransas, Texas

“Buying a second home or investment property in a beach town can help families save on summer vacations for years to come and also potentially generate vacation rental income,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac, in a statement. “While real estate close to the ocean tends to be pricier, bargains are still available, particularly in smaller towns off the beaten path where home prices have been slower to bounce back from the housing downturn.”

The RealtyTrac analysis examined more than 1,000 cities in coastal counties across the nation, compiling the ranking based on the top 15 states that met “bargain” criteria.

Source: RealtyTrac®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt. 2

July 7, 2016 2:57 am


In our last segment (Is It Time to Evaluate Your Trees? Pt.1), we introduced risk assessment measures homeowners might consider taking for the trees on their property. In this segment, we’ll dig into the methods and qualifications needed to carry out an assessment.

An arborist certified by the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) (TreeCareTips.org) can be beneficial when determining the safety of the trees on your property. The arborist, guided by ANSI A300 standards, will systematically evaluate your trees for risk in three levels.

Level 1: The arborist will view the tree(s) in question, whether in person or through photographs.

Level 2: The arborist will complete a 360-degree, ground-level observation of the tree or trees in question, examining the roots, trunk and crown for structural defects.

Level 3: The arborist will perform advanced diagnostic procedures, which may include extracting samples for lab analysis.

The arborist’s risk assessment method may vary between the following:

1. International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Tree Hazard Evaluation Method
2. ISA Tree Risk Assessment Best Management Practice (BMP) Method
3. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service Community Tree Risk Evaluation Method

The first method is impractical when assessing one or a few trees on a residential property—in a recent study, it was determined the method “runs the risk of being misused by commercial or consulting arborists who inspect individual trees in a residential setting.”

The same study revealed the third method, though adequate, may sacrifice detail, especially with regard to the tree’s condition and site history.

The second method, according to the study, is most appropriate for residential properties. It develops a list of multiple targets for a single tree, generating a “flexible, yet standardized means of coping with multifaceted assessment scenarios.” The disadvantage to this method, however, is the time needed to complete the assessment, the study found.

Consult with your arborist to determine which method will be suitable to assess the trees on your property. He or she may combine facets of two or three to carry out a comprehensive evaluation.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top 20 Cities for Retirees

July 7, 2016 2:57 am


Many homeowners are planning to relocate as they transition to retirement—for some, those plans involve moving to a new city, or even a new state.

Bankrate.com recently ranked the top cities for retirees, based on factors ranging from cost of living and walkability.

“We found that smaller cities and suburbs fared the best,” said Bankrate.com Analyst Jill Cornfield in a statement. “Most seniors prefer to live in these types of communities because they offer access to big-city amenities without as much hustle, bustle and crime.”

The top 20 cities in the ranking:

1. Arlington, Va.
2. Alexandria, Va.
3. Franklin, Tenn.
4. Silver Spring, Md.
5. West Des Moines, Iowa
6. Nashville, Tenn.
7. Sarasota, Fla.
8. Rockville, Md.
9. Des Moines, Iowa
10. Murfreesboro, Tenn.
11. Scottsdale, Ariz.
12. Round Rock, Texas
13. Mesa, Ariz.
14. Bradenton, Fla.
15. Glendale, Calif.
16. Austin, Texas
17. Phoenix, Ariz.
18. Cape Coral, Fla.
19. North Port, Fla.
20. Charleston, S.C.

Bankrate.com’s ranking encompasses 196 cities in total. To see if your city made the cut, visit www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/ranking-best-worst-cities-to-retire-1.aspx.

Source: Bankrate.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Does Your HOA Have a Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan?

July 7, 2016 2:57 am


Wildfires can ignite anywhere, even beyond areas with drier climates. As a homeowner, understanding your risk is important.

Wildfire has become a topic of concern in homeowner community associations, a trend recently explored in the article “Where There’s Smoke” by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). In the article, CAI cites a record statistic: over 10 million acres were impacted by wildfire last year—more land than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined.

What’s more, the article states over 3,000 homes in the wildland-urban interface—zones adjacent to unoccupied land and therefore at risk for wildfire—have been destroyed each year since 2000. Several factors are fanning the flames, including climate change and development.

To stave off the threat, community associations are leveraging risk mitigation programs. Your association may be following guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise Communities program, which reduces undergrowth and tinder—fuel sources for wildfire—in residential developments. According to the article, mitigation steps may include:

• Clearing storm debris;
• Inhibiting landscape overgrowth; and
• Maintaining a fire break between residences and “native areas.”

Association policies, such as requiring water hoses or prohibiting charcoal grills, may also be imposed to reduce risk.

Obtaining sufficient insurance coverage—in addition to adhering to association policies—is crucial. The CAI article recommends you keep a digital inventory of your belongings in order to expedite the claims process should wildfire damage or destruction occur.

Seek out your association representative to learn more about your community’s wildfire risk mitigation plan. Discuss evacuation procedures and any other measures that may be enacted in the event of a wildfire.

For more information on wildfires, read the CAI article in full: http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/In_the_Line_of_Fire/2507995/310123/article.html.

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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