News this week…

Information obtained from Suburban Realtors  Alliance

Bucks County

Census: Bucks County added 229 people last year
According to figures recently released by the federal government, Bucks County added just 229 residents in 2014. Over a four-year period ending in July 2014, the county’s population increased just 0.6 percent. Bucks County once averaged 7,818 new residents per year, according to the U.S. Census. Posted online at Factfinder.Census.Gov, the new figures were linked to birth and death records compiled by the National Institutes of Health, Internal Revenue Service tax returns and federal immigration data. The first Census of Bucks County was conducted by the federal government in 1790 with a recorded population of 25,401 persons. Between 1950 and 2010, Bucks County’s population went from 144,620 to 625,326 persons – a population increase of more than 332 percent.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/5/2015

Single-family housing plan moves forward in Upper Southampton
Construction could begin next month on a development of 28 upscale single-family homes at the site of the former Stackpole School in Upper Southampton Township. The board of supervisors approved an amended final subdivision plan for Mill Creek Estates. The amended plan was due to the developer’s inability to secure easements for off-site drainage system improvements to address an existing off-site problem. The lack of off-site improvements will only impact the two homeowners who decided against granting the easements, according to the developer County Builders. The homes will each be about 3,000 square feet with two floors and a basement. The cost is estimated to be about $500,000 each and construction is estimated to take up to 2 ½ years.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/7/2015

Sen. Mensch, Rep. Simmons, to hold open house on April 11
State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24th), will host an open house 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at his new Upper Perkiomen Valley district office on the second floor of the Red Hill Borough municipal building, 56 W. Fourth St. Mensch, whose district includes parts of Montgomery, Bucks and Berks counties, shares the office with state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-131st), whose district includes parts of Montgomery, Lehigh and Northampton counties. “The open house is an opportunity for residents to tour the new office, chat with me and my staff and Representative Simmons and his staff about the issues important to our district, as well as learn more about the wide variety of legislative services available through the office,” Mensch said in a statement. Visit www.senatormensch.com for more information.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 4/7/2015

Bristol Borough to hear proposal for former Mill Run property in May
Dallas Properties LLC is looking to buy the former Mill Run property, which used to be an assisted living facility, at Wilson Avenue and Pond Street in Bristol Borough. Tilak Singh, project manager for Dallas Properties, said that a proposal will be presented to Bristol’s council in May. According to Singh, the project will be mixed-use, and could include a physical therapy rehabilitation center and other medical uses as well as housing an elder care facility. The sale agreement is contingent upon a phased-in tax arrangement – a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance known as LERTA. It would provide some tax relief for the developer, but also give immediate tax revenue to the borough and the Bristol Borough School District, with increases each subsequent year. The tax arrangement must be approved by the borough and the school district. After the concept presentation in May, a final land development plan will be due in July. Councilman Greg Pezza said the council had three goals from the outset of its talks with Dallas Properties: to protect neighboring property owners from blight; to restore a much needed tax ratable to the borough and the school district; and to provide scores of job opportunities to borough residents. “We are now in a position to meet all three goals,” Pezza said.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/30/2015

 

Montgomery County

Lower Providence mulls banning apartments in Ridge Pike West overlay district
A proposed revision in the Ridge Pike West overlay district would remove multifamily housing from the permitted uses, effectively banning new apartment buildings along Ridge Pike in the western section of Lower Providence Township. Meredith Curran, a community planner for the Montgomery County Planning Commission, explained the proposed zoning changes to the board of supervisors recently. “This is from Evansburg State Park to Perkiomen Creek. The changes could allow more commercial uses,” Curran said. “Multifamily uses would be eliminated as a permitted or conditional use. The proposed setback of 10 feet would be increased to a maximum of 25 feet including a mandatory 6-foot sidewalk and a 4-foot planting strip.” Curran said that Ridge Pike is a fast-moving roadway that would benefit from more landscaping in front of commercial stores. The proposed zoning changes may be scheduled for a public hearing in May.
Source: Times Herald; 4/6/2015

County sells land to East Norriton for trail
Montgomery County commissioners approved the sale of five parcels of land held in the county’s repository to East Norriton Township for $5. It is hoped that the empty lots will be turned into part of a trail that will eventually connect to trails in Plymouth Township and Norristown. Repository properties are those that have gone unsold at tax sales through the county. According to County Treasurer Jason Salus, the five parcels are along Sawmill Creek, an area where East Norriton has focused on obtaining other parcels of land for a pedestrian trail. The parcels of land are all in the flood plain and not big enough to be developed, Salus said. Commissioners’ Chairman Josh Shapiro commended Salus for finding a use for the land and getting the land off the repository.
Source: Times Herald; 4/7/2015

Upper Gwynedd, Towamencin ratify UGTMA withdrawal
The 50-year charter for the Upper Gwynedd-Towamencin Municipal Authority (UGTMA) was originally set to expire in the summer of 2014, but several extensions have been approved since then as all parties worked out new bylaws and a customer service agreement detailing a new arrangement. The changes to UGTMA articles of incorporation that will turn Upper Gywnedd from a co-owner to a customer of the authority will be on the agenda as all three parties meet to formalize Upper Gwynedd’s departure. The departure has been in the works for several years, as Upper Gwynedd plans to divert wastewater from the shared treatment plant on Kriebel Road in Towamencin to its own plant on Township Line road in Upper Gwynedd. Terms of the agreements include annual payments by Upper Gwynedd to the authority for treatment of wastewater it will still send there until new sewer lines and pump stations are built, and a one-time $4 million payment from Towamencin to Upper Gwynedd in exchange. The amendments to UGTMA’s articles of incorporation will change the name to “Towamencin Municipal Authority,” change its board of directors from the current six members (three from each township) to five from Towamencin, and establish the term of existence of the authority to run through June 30, 2065.
Source: The Reporter; 4/5/2015

Lower Merion Township names new CFO
Lower Merion Township has appointed Eric M. Traub as its new chief financial officer. Traub will oversee a 15-person Finance Department and manage a $60.4 million operating budget and a $44 million capital budget for 2015. He will also handle audits, accounting, debt service, and long-term financial planning, as well as advising the commissioners on financial policies. Lower Merion’s “fiscal reputation is second to none, and I look forward to building upon its strong foundation,” Traub said in a statement. Traub will replace Dean Dortone, who left in December to take a job with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 4/9/2015

Bucks County News…

This information was obtained from the Suburban Realtors Alliance...

Warrington homeowners concerned with high-density zoning

Residents from Muirfield Estates in Warrington recently voiced objections to the board of supervisors over a preliminary proposal to amend the 3-acre minimum lot size requirement in the RA zone on a neighboring 50-acre property. The proposal would amend the 3-acre minimum lot size requirement in the RA zone to allow five single-family houses to be built on an acre. The owner of the property, John Pileggi Jr., presented his preliminary plans to township planners but there is no proposal before the board of supervisors. Supervisor Chairman Gerald Anderson said the planning commission is updating the township’s comprehensive plan, which sets guidelines for future development, and would review the RA zoning to see whether to recommend any changes to the supervisors. “We have to look at the cluster option,” Anderson said. This provision allows a developer to build houses closer together in exchange for preserving open space on the rest of the tract. Nearby residents are concerned that other landowners in the RA zone would seek the same exception and also want to maintain the semi-rural aspect of their neighborhood. A public hearing would be held before Warrington could act on any proposed changes.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/25/2015

Pennsylvania DEP hears complaints about Tullytown landfill
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently held a public hearing to help investigate complaints about odors coming from a Tullytown landfill operated by Waste Management. Most of the odor complaints come from New Jersey residents on the other side of the Delaware River from the landfill. Residents also complained about the hundreds of sea gulls that congregate on either side of the river and the long line of dump trucks that they say begin arriving at the site before dawn. Several people had positive things to say about the trash disposal company and its support of the community. Waste Management is trying to renew its operating permit for the facility off Bordentown Road; the current permit expires May 23. The DEP will accept written comments about the landfill permit renewal through April 10. Comments should be sent to Regional Solid Waste Manager, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2 E. Main St., Norristown, PA 19401.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/25/2015

Dublin reviews new option for historical preservation
As part of the Dublin Borough Revitalization and Visioning Plan, borough council members originally took steps to create a historic district under the state’s Historic District Act 167. At the March 23 borough council meeting, Cory Kegerise, of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, told council that they have another option. According to Kegerise, if Dublin adopted a municipalities planning code, it could protect the borough’s history by creating a zoning overlay. Members of the zoning board would not need to meet professional requirements, like they would on a Historical Architectural Review Board. “This may provide you with more flexibility,” Kegerise said of the municipalities planning code. He explained that no municipalities in Bucks County use the municipalities planning code, but it is common in Montgomery, Chester and Lancaster counties. Council members told Kegerise to review the proposed historic guidelines and then council will decide whether to continue with the Historic District Act or consider the adoption of the municipalities planning code.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 3/24/2015

Quakertown to team with county on parking survey
As part of its economic revitalization plan, Quakertown Borough is eyeing changes to the traffic flow and parking in the heart of Quakertown. At a recent work session, Quakertown Borough Council discussed partnering with Bucks County to conduct a parking inventory aimed at maximizing customer parking spaces available for commercial and retail businesses. The Bucks County Planning Commission would conduct the parking inventory at no cost to taxpayers and would look only at the commercial downtown area and not the nearby residential streets as a source for customer parking, said Quakertown’s Economic Redevelopment Consultant Ed Scholl. The parking inventory will also identify what spaces are publicly or privately owned; analyze each business to determine the number of parking spaces needed based on the type of business; and take into consideration lighting for nighttime parking, directional signs to parking areas and pedestrian accessibility. Officials are preparing for the new Gateway building, which will be constructed on what is now the triangle parking lot. The rectangular piece of ground adjacent to Triangle Park divides busy Route 313 and serves as customer parking for many of the downtown businesses. Council will vote on April 1 to authorize the parking study.
Source: The Intelligencer; 3/24/2015

FREE Home Buyer Seminar

The Vickie Landis Team has found by talking with our clients is that there is an extraordinary need for education with regards to First Time home buyers. So what we have decided to do is create a forum where people can come and learn more about the first time home buyers experience.

When: Wednesday, April 1st 2015

Time: 6 pm – 8 pm

Where: McCoole’s Arts and Events Place

10 Main St. Quakertown PA 18951

 

Due to the fact that this is an exclusive event, we can only invite a small number of people. Please RSVP your attendance to 267-733-0777 as soon as possible or email us at TheVickieLandisTeam@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

News Briefs

Information obtained from Suburban Realtor Alliance

General News

Feds prepared to reopen all Hurricane Sandy insurance claims
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to reopen claims filed by nearly 142,000 homeowners whose properties were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. FEMA will send letters to affected homeowners to initiate a review. If the homeowners are found to have received less in compensation than required, they will get more money up to the maximum of $250,000 for their property and $100,000 for dwelling contents. The move comes after months of questions over whether insurance companies contracted by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) fraudulently altered engineering reports. No agreement has yet been signed. FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre says, “There will be a process set up so that everyone who filed a claim will have an opportunity to go back and have their case reviewed if they feel they did not get every dollar they are legitimately owed.” FEMA also says the head of the flood program, David Miller, has resigned.
Source: NPR.org; 3/11/2015

FHFA Improves Note Sale Program
On March 2, 2015, The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) enhanced requirements for sales of non-performing loans by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (the GSEs). In a letter last year to FHFA Director Mel Watt, NAR raised concerns that this disposition strategy gives investors an advantage over potential owner occupant buyers. NAR requested more information on the sale of the notes and asked FHFA to study the cost and impact of bulk note sales to institutional investors. In January, NAR met with FHFA officials who indicated that coming changes would improve the note sale process. As part of the changes, borrowers whose loans are sold as part of the program must be considered for other relief such as a short sale. Additionally, if the home should go through the foreclosure process, for the first 20 days after a REO property is marketed, the property may be sold only to buyers who intend to occupy the property as their primary residence or to non-profits.
Source: Realtor.org; 3/4/2015

Calling all REALTOR® Candidates
If you are a REALTOR® and running in the upcoming municipal or county primary, the SRA would like to know. Please contact the Suburban REALTORS Alliance atsra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.  

Bucks County

Newtown supervisors adopt updated FEMA floodplain map
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted to formally accept the revised floodplain map for the township that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will soon put in place. Newtown had until March 15 to formally adopt FEMA’s revised map. By approving the ordinance, Newtown will join FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System (CRS) which can lower a property owner’s base insurance premiums from five to 45 percent per year. The anticipated annual savings for each homeowner could be in the hundreds of dollars. The revised FEMA maps adjust designated flood-stage levels which must be taken into account when any permits are issued. According to Township Solicitor Jeff Garton, FEMA had already pre-approved Newtown’s proposed floodplain ordinance.
Source: The Advance of Bucks County; 3/8/2015

Sellersville approves tax abatement for future business campus
In order to attract prospective companies, Sellersville Borough Council approved a tax abatement measure for new construction at the Sellersville Business Campus. The ordinance establishes a five-year tax exemption for improvements and new construction in the area designated for the Sellersville Business Campus under Pennsylvania’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act, known as LERTA. Eligible properties would be exempt from all real estate property taxes assessed from the cost of the construction or improvements for five years starting from the completion of the work. The business campus will be located at the former site of Ametek Plant 2.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 3/10/2015

Dublin Borough discusses creation of historic district
Dublin Borough Council members discussed some specifics about designating a historic district during a recent meeting. The borough’s Revitalization and Vision Plan includes creating a historic district and a Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB). A preliminary ordinance for a HARB was presented by Lynn Bush, executive director of the Bucks County Planning Commission. She stressed that the HARB will only review projects that need a building permit. The HARB would be comprised of a Realtor, architect and community members. A public meeting will be held prior to the creation of a historic district.
Source: Perkasie News Herald; 3/10/2015

Superfund site cleanup concerns Richland residents
Richland residents recently told township supervisors that they are growing increasingly worried about U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) activity at the Watson Johnson Superfund site. Located on 56 acres off east Pumping Station Road, the Watson Johnson landfill was active from the late 1950s until the early 1970s, accepting industrial and municipal waste. In 2001, it was declared a Superfund site, a federal program that addresses abandoned hazardous waste sites. EPA officials are set to move forward with plans to cap the former landfill and begin groundwater cleanup at the site this summer. A public meeting will be held this spring, and EPA officials are in the process of notifying hundreds of nearby residents of the upcoming project. Supervisor Chairman Rick Orloff and Supervisor Tim Arnold said more needs to be done to notify Richland residents of the cleanup at Watson Johnson and directed the township manager to contact EPA officials for an update.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/10/2015

News Briefs…

General News

Information obtained from the Suburban Realtor Alliance

Governor Wolf unveils 2015-16 budget
Property tax reform is among his highest priorities, announced Governor Tom Wolf. During his first budget address on March 3, 2015, Wolf laid out his plan to increase school funding, while reducing the tax burden on homeowners in Pennsylvania. Gov. Wolf’s proposal would not eliminate the school property tax, but he believes it will reduce the average homeowner’s property tax bill by 50 percent. To do that, the governor proposes imposing a tax on natural gas extraction, as well as an increase in personal income tax and sales tax. Last session, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® (PAR) engaged in a campaign to eliminate the school property tax in Pennsylvania. That plan, Senate Bill 76, would have eliminated property taxes dedicated to school districts and replace the funding by raising the personal income tax from 3.07 to 4.34 percent and increasing and broadening the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent to include previously exempted items. Click here for more.
Source: PAR JustListed; 3/4/2015

FCC Approves New Net Neutrality Rules
On Feb. 26, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new “net neutrality” rules, which gives the Commission strong legal authority to regulate broadband providers more heavily than in the past and restrict their power to control download speeds on the web.  The new rules ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing any traffic and from striking deals with content companies, known as paid prioritization, for smoother delivery of traffic to consumers. The new rules are a victory for consumers, and for REALTORS® who embrace technology and online resources to meet the needs of their clients. NAR will continue to work with Congress as it considers net neutrality legislation to ensure that final rules work for REALTORS® and their customers. FindNAR Net Neutrality Resources here.
Source: Realtor.org; 2/27/2015

Calling all REALTOR® Candidates
If you are a REALTOR® and running in the upcoming municipal or county primary, the SRA would like to know. Please contact the Suburban REALTORS Alliance atsra@suburbanrealtorsalliance.com.    

Bucks County

Lockheed Martin reaches agreement to sell Newtown property
Lockheed Martin announced that it has reached an agreement to sell its 57-acre property located in Newtown Township to KVK-Tech, a pharmaceutical company already located in the township. Lockheed Martin announced plans to shut down its Newtown Township operations over a year ago and had been marketing the property since. KVK President and CEO Anthony Tabasso said the company will settle on the property in June but will continue to operate out of its current locations on Terry Drive and Pheasant Run while also expanding into the Lockheed Martin property. KVK is a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of specialty pharmaceuticals, according to its website, that currently employs about 200 people. Newtown Township Supervisors Chairman Ryan Gallagher said, “It’s been a great partnership with Lockheed Martin, but we have another great one with KVK and we’re thrilled they’ve decided to expand their operations right here within the township.”
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/2/2015

Centennial seeks residents for planning committee
The Centennial School District is looking for residents interested in serving on a Comprehensive Planning Steering Committee. The committee will work over the next few months on future student needs, with district Superintendent Joyce Mundy and JoAnn Perotti from the Bucks County Intermediate Unit serving as committee facilitators. Interested residents will be asked to attend a committee meeting on April 15 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the board room of the Centennial District Administration Building, 433 Centennial Rd., Warminster, PA. Two additional sessions with an assigned small group committee may also be required. Residents interested in serving should send a letter of interest to Beth Katits at katiel@centennialsd.org by March 11. Click here for the Centennial School District website for more details.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/2/2015

Teva to sell West Rockhill facility
Teva Pharmaceuticals plans to sell its West Rockhill facility to a New Jersey pharmaceutical company in a deal that company officials say will preserve jobs. The sale to G&W Laboratories includes all buildings, land and equipment at the site, where Teva makes more than 50 generic drugs. As part of the deal, G&W will purchase approximately 25 products from Teva’s portfolio, which it will make at the site and sell in the U.S. under the G&W label. G&W plans to offer employment to the Teva employees at the site. Teva, an Israeli drug company, announced two years ago it would close the West Rockhill facility by 2017 in an effort to streamline its business and reduce costs worldwide. At the time of the announcement, about 475 people were employed there. The deal is expected to close within the next two months.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 3/4/2015

Mobile home park proposed in Hilltown
Hilltown Township supervisors recently viewed a sketch plan for a mobile home park on the township portion of the former Souderton Area High School property. Proposed by School Lane Development, the sketch plan calls for 74 single-wide mobile homes on the 24 acres of land between County Line Road and Route 309, said Hilltown Township Manager Richard Schnaedter. A mobile home park would be a permitted use on the property, which is in the Planned Commercial zoning district, but no formal plans have been submitted to the township. “They just basically wanted to get the board’s comments and feelings before deciding to proceed,” Schnaedter said. The board discussed issues with lot size, parking and road widths in the plan.
Source: Souderton Independent; 3/2/2015    

News Briefs for Bucks County …

Bucks County

Information obtained from the Suburban Realtor Alliance

Interfaith Housing of Bucks County teetering on collapse
The Interfaith Housing Development Corp. of Bucks County, a private affordable-housing group, is teetering on the verge of financial collapse. The 28-year-old organization has received millions in federal taxpayer dollars and owns nearly 80 rental properties, three of which are in foreclosure and set for a sheriff’s sale in April. According to experts, the housing market crash hobbled many of the nation’s affordable-housing nonprofits, but many were able to adapt to new realities. Interfaith may be the exception to that and recently said it could not operate much longer without a new business plan. The old one relied mostly on a bullish real estate market and banks that would lend to low-income home buyers. During the real estate boom, the group bought houses and rehabbed them. The homes would appreciate in value and many were eventually sold to renters, providing Interfaith with much of its revenue. However, in the past few years, not one Interfaith renter has been able to acquire a loan, and few houses gained equity. Rob Loughery, chairman of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, said the county had been working with several banks to stabilize Interfaith mortgages, not just the ones in foreclosure. The goal, he said, is to keep low-income renters in all of the homes, even if Interfaith closes. A new housing advisory board will address the county’s lack of affordable housing and Interfaith’s future.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/23/2015

Upper Makefield eyes debt restructuring
According to Upper Makefield Township Supervisor Dan Rattigan, a restructuring of township debt could save the township enough money that another property tax cut could be on the horizon for 2016. Upper Makefield supervisors recently passed a resolution that would allow the refinancing of a $10 million bond issue and $4 million on a bank loan. The bond has an average annual interest rate of 4.34 percent and the loan an annual interest rate of 2.5 percent, said interim township Manager David Nyman. Under the proposed refinancing, the bond and loan would be combined with a projected annual interest rate of 1.94 percent. The estimated savings for the refinancing could be $600,000, but exact numbers won’t be known until the interest rate is locked down. The supervisors had enacted a one-mill property tax cut for 2015, saving $65 a year for the average property owner, and promised to work toward another reduction for 2016.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/23/2015

Forum: How to run for school board in Bucks County
“How to run for school board and what to do if you are elected” are two issues that will be explored during a forum at 7 p.m. March 2 at the Free Library of Northampton Township. The event is free and open to the public. “Anyone in Bucks County who is interested in school board elections is encouraged to attend,” said event organizer Amy McIntyre. “I decided to coordinate this event because school districts are your area’s number one source for property values, taxation and our children’s future,” continued McIntyre. “We need people to run for these positions. School board director elections with choices for candidate(s) ensure that the subject of education will be discussed between candidates, within our community and in the media.” A total of 78 seats are up for election in the 15 school districts that lie entirely within Bucks County and partially in eastern Montgomery County. There are six seats up in Bensalem, Pennridge and Pennsbury. There are five seats in: Bristol Borough; Bristol Township; Centennial; Central Bucks; Council Rock; Morrisville; Neshaminy; New Hope-Solebury; Palisades; Quakertown; Souderton and North Penn. The Souderton and North Penn districts, where school board members are elected at-large rather than by region, lie partly in Bucks and partly in Montgomery counties. All but three of the 78 seats carry four-year terms. According to the forum panelists, school board members establish property tax millage in their districts. School property taxes represent the largest percentage of real estate taxes paid by property owners. Other duties of board members include setting standards for educational quality, district boundary determinations and many other responsibilities. To run for school board, a person must be at least 18, have a “good moral character,” and have resided within the school district where he or she is running for at least one year prior to the election, according to state law. The deadline for filing nominating petitions with the election boards is March 10.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/24/2015

Water cleanup continues near former military bases
The Navy could be paying upward of $12 million to filter contaminated drinking water around former military bases in Montgomery and Bucks counties. Elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds were found last year in drinking-water wells in Horsham, Warrington and Warminster. The contamination is from compounds widely used in firefighting foams and other industrial products until a decade ago. The Warminster Municipal Authority has signed a $4 million agreement with the Navy to install a “granular activated carbon filtration system” on three contaminated wells. Horsham asked the Navy for a similar system on two wells that tested above the EPA’s threshold and three others that tested just below. Warrington is just beginning a scope of work for its contamination. All three municipalities are currently buying water from neighboring towns until deals can be reached with the Navy for treatment.
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer; 2/25/2015

 

Bucks County News this week…

All information provided by… Suburban Realtors Alliance

DEP rejects wastewater plant proposal in Falls
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has rejected a proposal to build a liquid hazardous waste treatment facility in Falls Township. Elcon Recycling Services proposed to build the treatment facility at the Keystone Industrial Port Complex, about a half-mile from the Delaware River. The facility would have primarily been used to treat liquid waste from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The DEP rejected the permit proposal because Elcon did not provide the necessary documentation to demonstrate the company’s contention that the plant’s proposed site is outside the flood-of-record area. Elcon has the right to reapply, but “they have to start from the ground up” because the original application was rejected, according to a DEP spokeswoman.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/4/2015

Bristol Township hoping to carry past success into 2015
Bristol Township Council President Bob Lewis touted many of the positives from last year in his annual township address and looks toward carrying the successes into 2015. “We have and will continue to rebuild our once-crumbling infrastructure,” he said. “There’s more to come and we are doing exactly what we said we would do.” Improvements in 2014 included the paving of 22 miles of roadways, conversion of 4,367 streetlights to LED, addition of water capacity to spur development, and the construction of several new businesses. For 2015, Bristol Township will continue the Croyden streetscape project, pave 24 miles of crumbling roads, rehabilitate the municipal building and public works facility, and upgrade aging traffic lights. For the full address, visitwww.bristoltwp.com.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 2/2/2015

Pennridge School District facing $10 million deficit
The upcoming 2015-16 budget talks in the Pennridge School District will focus on tackling a $10 million deficit. The district is facing large increases in employee retirement contributions, health care costs and debt service, which is driving costs upward. The district faced a similar deficit last year and it raised taxes 1.5 percent above an Act 1 index of 2.1 percent by using retirement exceptions granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The 3.6 percent tax increase amounted to a $137.38 increase to the average homeowner’s tax bill for a property assessed at $30,430. The board has yet to decide whether to apply for exceptions for 2015-16, or how it will go about cutting costs throughout the district, according to district Business Administrator Kathy Johnson. A special board meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Pennridge High School, 1228 N. Fifth St., East Rockhill, where the board is scheduled to approve a preliminary budget.
Source: The Reporter; 2/2/2015

Bensalem schools preliminary budget includes $63 tax hike
The Bensalem School Board recently voted to approve a preliminary budget with a 1.9 percent tax increase. The preliminary budget includes a $3.1 million budget deficit. Under the proposed plan, the tax millage rate would rise to 151.7994 mills for a total tax bill of $3,400 on a home with an average assessment of $22,400, roughly $63 more than last year. The proposed tax increase would bring in about $1.66 million, leaving a deficit of $1.44 million to be covered. However, nothing is final and numbers will remain preliminary as the business department discusses different options. A budget work session is scheduled for Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. at the district office, 3000 Donallen Dr. in Bensalem. Adoption of the proposed final budget is set for May 13, and the final budget adoption is scheduled for June 17. Details of the budget can be found at www.bensalemsd.org.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 1/28/2015

Home upgrades buyers demand in 2015

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | January 23, 2015

upgraded kitchenDetermined to sell your home in 2015? You might find an easier road to success with home upgrades that appeal to potential buyers. Whether your budget is healthy or little more than a shoestring, there is an upgrade that can help you compete against all the other houses in your neighborhood. Here’s what potential buyers really want in 2015, in order from most affordable to most expensive.

Spruce things up

Home improvements can be small enough to barely make a dent in your bank account, but offer huge appeal to those who come to look at your home. A few tried-and-true tricks include a fresh coat of warm, cozy paint on the walls, fresh caulk in the bathrooms and kitchen, crown molding in the more formal rooms (or all throughout the house!), and clean, freshly-polished floors. Complete all of these upgrades over the span of a few weekends for a few hundred dollars — not a bad investment to make your home look gorgeous.

Improve the landscaping

First impressions are everything, which is why your landscaping is so important. Look for ways you can improve the look of your outdoor area without spending much money. Try cleaning up the flower beds and planting new varieties of colorful flowers, create a handsome walkway with slate pavers, give the driveway a good power-washing, and plant fresh new trees in areas where shade will be welcome. Depending upon your zeal for cleaning up the yard and how much TLC it needs, you might spend anywhere from virtually nothing to more than a thousand dollars.

Add a security system

When a potential buyer sees a new security system, two things are likely to go through their mind: Better security and lower insurance rates, both of which are a huge plus for your home. Look for a security system that is easy to use but does have some clearly posted components, such as a small video camera over the front door; you want potential buyers to feel secure the moment they begin exploring the house. Security systems are available in all price ranges, plus the cost of monitoring.

Replace the entry door

Speaking of security, replacing the entry door with a steel, insulated number is a great way to enhance curb appeal while making the home more secure. This home upgrade costs a national average of $1,162 but offers an exceptional return on investment of 96.6%, according to the 2014 Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. Choose a door in a gorgeous, eye-catching color, and install heavy, handsome new hardware.

Invest in the kitchen

Remember that the kitchen is the heart of the home; in many cases, the kitchen is what seals the deal for buyers. Give yours a great first impression by sinking money into quality upgrades, such as stainless steel appliances or a nice granite countertop. Josh Altman, host of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles, suggests that homeowners can recoup up to 150% of their investment with these kitchen upgrades.

Build a deck

Many families are looking to outdoor spaces to expand their enjoyment of time at home. Jump onto that trend with an upgrade that includes a basic wood deck, complete with built-in seating, planters, and a railing that complements your home’s other exterior features. Remodeling Magazine states a national average cost of $9,539 for a 16×20 foot deck. Have more money to spend on an upgrade? Consider adding a hot tub to the deck for even more buyer appeal.

Upgrade a room

If you are ready to sink serious money into home upgrades, look for areas of your home where you can create more space. An attic bedroom can be a huge draw for a buyer with a growing family. According to Remodeling Magazine’s report, expect to pay a national average of $49,438 for an attic bedroom.

When choosing how to spruce up your home for potential buyers, look hard at your budget and remember what might be needed in your area. For instance, a backup generator might get a great deal of attention in areas where natural disasters are common, or a garage addition might be perfect for a home that is short on storage space. Enter into thoughtful discussions with your realtor about what other home improvements might make your property look more appealing to buyers in 2015.

Photo credit to Nam Phan

About the AuthorShannon Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she’s not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.

Existing-Home Sales Rebound in December, 2014 Total Sales Finish 3 Percent Below 2013

Information Received by: National Association of Realtors- Adam DeSanctis

 

WASHINGTON (January 23, 2015) – Despite low inventory conditions, existing-home sales bounced back in December and climbed above an annual pace of 5 million sales for the sixth time in seven months, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Median home prices for 2014 rose to their highest level since 2007, but total sales fell 3.1 percent from 2013.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in December from a downwardly-revised 4.92 million in November. From a year ago, December sales were higher by 3.5 percent and are now above year-over-year levels for the third straight month.

For all of 2014, there were 4.93 million sales, a 3.1 percent decline from 2013 (5.09 million). The national median existing-home price was $208,500, the highest since 2007 ($219,000) and a 5.8 percent increase from 2013 ($197,100).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales picked up in December to close a 2014 that got off to a sluggish start but showed encouraging signs of activity the second half of the year. “Home sales improved over the summer once inventory increased, prices moderated and economic growth accelerated,” he said. “Sales were measurably better in the second half – up 8 percent compared to the first six months of the year.”

Total housing inventory2 at the end of December dropped 11.1 percent to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace – down from 5.1 months in November. Unsold inventory is now 0.5 percent lower than a year ago (1.86 million).

“A drop in housing supply in December raises some affordability concerns in the months ahead as minimal selection and the potential for faster price appreciation could offset the demand from buyers encouraged by a stronger economy and sub-4 percent interest rates,” says Yun. “Housing costs – both rents and home prices – continue to outpace wages and are burdensome for potential buyers trying to save for a downpayment while looking for available homes in their price range.”

The median existing-home price3 for all housing types in December was $209,500, which is 6.0 percent above December 2013. This marks the 34thconsecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

The percent share of first-time buyers was 29 percent in December, down from 31 percent in November but up from a year ago (27 percent). First-time buyers in 2014 represented an average of 29 percent for the second straight year. A separate NAR survey released in late 20144 revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers fell to its lowest level in nearly three decades.

NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Arkansas says Realtors® are optimistic the Federal Housing Administration’s  plan to reduce annual mortgage insurance premiums will have a positive impact on first-time buyers once it goes into effect on January 26. “NAR is a strong supporter of the FHA and its vital role in the mortgage marketplace for homebuyers,” he said. “Realtors® support responsible lending to qualified borrowers and the move to lower premiums will enable more buyers to enter the market while continuing to protect taxpayers from the risky lending practices that led to the housing crash.”

All-cash sales were 26 percent of transactions in December, up from 25 percent in November and 32 percent in December of last year. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 17 percent of homes in December, up from last month (15 percent) but down from December 2013 (21 percent). Sixty-three percent of investors paid cash in December.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage in December fell to 3.86 percent, its lowest level since May 2013 (3.54 percent), and down from 4.00 percent in November. The average annual rate was 4.17 percent in 2014.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – were up slightly in December (11 percent) from November (9 percent) but are down from 14 percent a year ago. Eight percent of December sales were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in December (17 percent in November), while short sales were discounted 12 percent (13 percent in November).

Properties typically stayed on the market the same amount of time in December (66 days) as November (65 days) but for a slightly shorter time frame than a year ago (72 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 98 days in December, while foreclosures sold in 61 days and non-distressed homes took 66 days. Thirty-one percent of homes sold in December were on the market for less than a month.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales increased 3.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in December from 4.32 million in November, and are 4.0 percent above the 4.30 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $210,200 in December, up 6.3 percent from December 2013.

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 5.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in December from 600,000 in November, and are unchanged from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $204,000 in December, which is 3.2 percent higher than a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

December existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 660,000, but are 3.1 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $246,600, which is 3.2 percent above a year ago.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales fell 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.09 million in December, and are now 2.7 percent below December 2013. The median price in the Midwest was $159,100, up 5.3 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South climbed 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.17 million in December, and are 7.4 percent above December 2013. The median price in the South was $184,100, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 9.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.12 million in December, and are 2.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $299,600, which is 5.6 percent above December 2013.