Masonic Village Holiday Model Train Display Dates

•December 8, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Elizabethtown, PA real estateMy clients, friends and anyone who knows me knows I love skiing, Harley Davidson motorcycles and…model trains!   Living in Elizabethtown, PA is great for model train lovers and I got most of my Lionel Train collection right here in town at Barry’s Train Shop.

Every year during the Christmas season, Masonic Village of Elizabethtown’s Model Railroad Club has an amazing holiday train display…a great place to bring the family.  It will most definitely get you in the Christmas spirit if you’re not already there:)

Bill Norris of the Model Railroad Club says “We’ve got trains of every gauge…some are even suspended from the ceiling.”  That’s the truth.  It really is like another world with all of the trains chugging…it’s your dream model railroad come to life and it’s bigger than you ever imagined!   See some pictures for yourself, here (it’s not the Christmas exhibit, but you’ll get the idea):  Masonic Village Model Railroad Club

I could go on and on, but just set aside time for yourself and your family to visit the exhibit this year.  This Saturday, December 10th the display will be open from 2pm – 4pm, while next Saturday the 17th will be all day from 9am – 4pm.

After Christmas, here are the display dates for the first part of 2012 (all times are 2pm – 4pm):

January 7th and 8th

February 4th and 5th

March 3rd and 4th

April 7th

For more information, just call Masonic Village at 717-367-1121 and ask for the Model Railroad Club.

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County PA real estate , give me a call at (717) 413-2749


Before, During and After…I’m Here For You

•November 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Lancaster county PA real estateIn my 20+ years in real estate here in Lancaster county, PA I’ve seen more than just changes and fluctuations in the real estate market. There have been changes in all phases of the real estate process and changes in my ability to communicate with you.

The Internet has made it possible for me to communicate more often to more people, whether you’re a client of mine already or you’re just in need of dependable general information. This blog is here to give you that information you need 24-7:

1) Tips and advice on home maintenance and/or upgrades that can enhance your home’s value.

2) Information on the community including local special events, parks, schools and hiking trails.

3) Up-to-date information on our local market. This can be very different from what you hear on the news, as that information is often based on averages (which are unreliable in specific markets) or sensationalized for news drama.

4) Connections: if you or a family member or friend need a real estate professional in another part of the country, I can help.

I’m also here if you have any questions about our community and any issues which may affect your home’s value. Ask me for a current home value estimate if you’re considering refinancing or if you need it for property tax or other purposes.

There’s a lot I can do for you besides helping on an active real estate transaction, so consider me your Lancaster county PA real estate resource and call or email me anytime!

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County PA real estate , give me a call at (717) 413-2749

Get an Early Start on Tax Season

•November 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Home-owners tax seasonThe holidays are fast approaching, and soon after that we’ll be heading into tax season. Now most people look at March and April as tax season, but the sooner you get started on this daunting task (i.e. organizing receipts, etc.) the sooner you can finish and the more likely you are to not miss out on any potential tax benefits you’re entitled to.

Here are some of those benefits commonly overlooked:

1) If you’re looking for a job in your current field, you may qualify for a deduction of the money you spend on your job search if the deductions total more than 2% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Moving expenses can also be deducted if the new job is more than 50 miles away.

2) Medical bills that exceed 7.5% of your AGI can be deducted, but not insurance premiums. However, if you are self-employed and don’t qualify for a workplace health plan you can claim your insurance premiums.

3) Housing or financial support that you give to a relative may make you eligible for a more favorable head-of-household status or to simply claim them as a dependent on your return.

4) If you have a home office, you may be able to deduct a part of your housing expenses. You must use that part of your home exclusively for business and be able to prove it’s your principal office space.

Yes, it’s very time consuming, but getting a head start on your tax returns will give you time to be more thorough and take advantage of deductions you didn’t know you qualified for!

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County PA real estate , give me a call at (717) 413-2749

Thanksgiving Treat: Lower Mortgage Rates

•November 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Mortgage rates fallingIt’s pretty amazing that mortgage rates are near record lows while home prices are down.   It’s true, though, and it’s a little something extra to be thankful for this time of year.

Lancaster County PA real estate has not seen the ridiculous fluctuations that have hurt so many areas of the United States.  Yes, we’ve felt the impact of the “real estate bubble” of last decade but we have also been fortunate that the result in our area hasn’t been quite so tragic.  Helping matters is the fact that mortgage rates remain very, very low.

For example, it’s possible to get a 30-year fixed-rate home loan in most areas with an interest rate between 3.875% and just over 4%.   Mortgage payments including both principal and interest are around $477 for each $100,000 on the loan.

If you want to see what the mortgage would be for a property or properties you’re interested in, Google has a nice free mortgage calculator page that also compares rates from numerous financers as well:  Google Mortgage Calculator/Mortgage Comparison.   It’s very easy to use, too!

Rents have risen nationwide over the past few years to where the tables have turned and buying a home is a better option than renting in this economy.  In fact, Trulia has reported that buying a home is cheaper than renting in a whopping 74% of major U.S. cities.  Obviously this is different from market to market, but the above mortgage calculator will help you decide for yourself and your personal situation:)

A recent article on Lancaster Online has more details about this and also offers some basics to remember so you’re not blinded by what appears to be a “good deal’:

  • Safety and quality schools help home values in general.
  • Spend no more than 25% to 30% of your pretax income on housing and no more than 36% of your pretax income on debt payments (that means your mortgage plus credit card, auto, student and other loan payments).
  • Have a significant rainy day fund to cover home repairs, household emergencies and possible unemployment.

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County PA real estate , give me a call at (717) 413-2749

Help for Unemployed Homeowners

•November 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Making Home AffordableThis past August, HUD introduced a revamped version of last year’s Home Affordable Unemployment Program.  In that original program, unemployed homeowners could get a three-month forbearance on their mortgage payments while they looked for a job.

Unfortunately, the program was not a resounding success.   In fact, the number of people who qualified for this aid was shockingly low.  Only 10,000 of the 13,000,000 (million) unemployed in the United States qualified for the aid, which was also only a three month forbearance…not much when you consider that nearly half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed for at least 6 months.

The new and improved version of the program increased the three months significantly to twelve months, a very welcome relief to homeowners dealing with unemployment. If you are an unemployed homeowner, the program is worth checking out.

If you want to find out if you’re eligible for the program, according to the website, the following criteria must be met:

  • You are unemployed and eligible for unemployment benefits
  • You occupy the house as your primary residence.
  • You make your request for help before you’ve missed three payments.
  • You have not previously received an UP forbearance or HAMP modification.
  • You obtained your mortgage on or before January 1, 2009.

Visit the website for more information or simply call your lender, as many lenders are participating in the program.  If you have an FHA loan, your lender is automatically participating.

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County homes and real estate, give me a call at (717) 413-2749

October is Fire Prevention Month

•October 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

October is National Fire Prevention Month, and with that in mind here are some resources to help you with fire prevention and safety in your Lancaster county home.

One of the best things about the Internet is that so many information resources that used to be difficult to obtain or just flat out unattainable are now at our fingertips.  The fire safety checklist below is compiled from some of these resources, and I’ve included some links to those resources as well for your convenience.

  • When you’re cooking, always stay in the kitchen.
  • Keep dishtowels, paper or plastic bags, curtains and anything that can burn at least three feet away from the range top.
  • Keep grills at least 10 feet away from all other objects, including the house.
  • Store lighters and matches in a locked cabinet to make them unattainable to children.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from things that can burn, such as curtains or stacks of newspaper.  Always turn off heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Have chimneys, fireplaces, wood and coal stoves and central furnaces inspected once a year and cleaned when necessary.
  • Make a fire escape plan for your family with two exits out of every room.  Pick a meeting place outside.  Hold a family fire drill at least twice each year.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home.  There are two kinds of smoke alarm sensors – photoelectric and ionization.  Try to buy some of each kind or get “combination” smoke alarms with both kinds of sensors.
  • Put smoke alarms inside or near every bedroom.  Test monthly to make sure they work. Replace batteries once a year.

You can find more information on fire safety for your home at

More resources:

FREE fire safety toolboxes for kids and adults

Home Fire Safety powerpoint

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County homes and real estate, give me a call at (717) 413-2749


Making The Most of The Space In Your Home

•October 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Making space in your Lancaster County home

When friends and relatives come by to visit you, you want everyone to be comfortable. With a little forethought and ingenuity even a smaller home can be more spacious than you could have imagined.

Rather than just a bunch of rooms that are only used for their originally-intended purpose, your home can be a reflection of your personality and a flexible extension of your lifestyle.

Rooms can serve a dual purpose if you have limited space in your home, and these tips will help you open up your thinking and make the most of the space you have:

Your living room can be the best multi-purpose room in your home. A simple drop-front style secretary with shelves and drawers can turn your living room into a craft or hobby area by day, while you can close everything up for dinner parties or entertaining in the evening.

If you don’t really have formal dinner parties, your dining room can be used as a home office. If you have a fireplace, a coffee table with cushions in front of it can make a very fun and cozy dining area. Of course, if you use a dining room table for your workspace, you can store your work materials in another room if you need the table for guests.

Your bedroom can be a quiet retreat with the addition of built-in or freestanding shelves. Add a recliner or other comfortable chair and a nice lamp and you can easily turn part of your bedroom into a “library.”

Click here for a nice post on even more ways to create space in your home.

For more tips and hands-on help with Lancaster County homes and real estate, give me a call at (717) 413-2749

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