March 2015 Issue

MAR15CoverSTRIP

ZEROING IN ON ZILLOW
Constant advances in technology make it easier for us to do the simplest tasks, from buying groceries to finding a destination ten minutes away. The housing market isn’t any different, and websites like Zillow make it possible for people to do all of their “real estate homework” prior to speaking with a licensed real estate professional.
Read full article here

COUNTRY LIVING… PRICELESS
Do high transportation costs deter people who work in metro areas from wanting to live in the scenic Pocono Mountains? Are these costs a deciding factor with people selling their homes here and moving closer to where they work in the city? Several local real estate experts offer their insights on the challenges they find selling “country” properties when people travel to jobs within the tri-state area.
Read full article here

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT BENEFITS
Too many people end up getting less than what is due them from Social Security when they retire because they don’t know the rules and the real financial impacts, says independent retirement advisor, Gary Marriage, Jr.
Read full article here

AN ESTATE PLANNING RECIPE
Unlike cooking, baking is an exact science. To create a great cookie or pie, you must follow the recipe to the letter. There is little room for deviation. For many, fresh baked treats evoke fond memories of childhood and the eager anticipation of waiting for grandmother to take that delicious smelling morsel out of the oven.
Read full article here

AN ESTATE PLANNING RECIPE

Curtainpic

By: Charles Curtin, JD, LLM, CTFA

Trust Officer

The Honesdale National Bank

Unlike cooking, baking is an exact science. To create a great cookie or pie, you must follow the recipe to the letter. There is little room for deviation. For many, fresh baked treats evoke fond memories of childhood and the eager anticipation of waiting for grandmother to take that delicious smelling morsel out of the oven. I do not have such memories unfortunately. My grandmother was not a good baker. If she did not have a particular ingredient that the recipe called for, she would substitute another. No Vanilla extract, no problem. Let’s add caramel. She would even leave essential ingredients out of the recipe altogether. Butter, anyone? I loved my grandmother, but I really could not eat her cookies. I often use my grandmother’s baking as an analogy when I review client’s estate plans. Estate planning is more than just having a signed Last Will and Testament. A number of other items are needed for an estate plan recipe to be “complete” and not half-baked.

Powers of Attorney - Signed and executed Powers of Attorney are an essential element to an estate plan. The documents allow for the creator (the “Principal”) to appoint someone to act on his or her behalf (the “Agent”). Powers of Attorney come in two flavors – Financial and Health Care. They are effective during the life of the Principal and end upon his or her death, at which time the Last Will and Testament becomes the operative document.

For financial matters, the Agent designated in the Power of Attorney steps into the “shoes” of the Principal’s every day monetary life. The Agent, depending on how broadly the document is drafted, can sell the family home, write checks, pay bills, and even make gifts of property. In a time of crisis, a valid Financial Power of Attorney ensures that the Principal’s financial obligations are being met without interruption. However, the Agent must always protect the financial best interests of the Principal, so it does not give him or her the ability to use the Principal’s monies at the Mohegan Sun.

The other Power of Attorney is the Healthcare Power of Attorney. This Power of Attorney provides that in the event the Principal is unable to make or understand matters regarding his or her medical treatment, the designated Agent is then substituted to make limited health care decisions and communicate with the Principal’s health care providers. Under HIPAA rules, health care providers can only talk to and release information to Authorized Agents under a valid Health Care Power of Attorney. A Health Care Power of Attorney in Pennsylvania is normally executed in conjunction with a Living Will. The Living Will outlines to the Agent and medical providers the Principal’s desire regarding the initiation or withholding of life-sustaining treatments, like CPR and Chemotherapy.

Proper Beneficiary Designations - An often overlooked, but extremely important facet of a successful estate plan is the proper beneficiary designation of financial accounts, especially retirement accounts. In general, if these accounts have named a beneficiary, they are not part of the “probate” estate and as a result, not governed by the terms of a Last Will and Testament. The person selected upon the opening of the account at the financial institution will receive the property after death. If improperly designated or neglected when completing an estate plan, the account proceeds may pass to the wrong heir, as well as possibly cause negative income tax complications.

Last Will and Testament - Finally, the icing on the cake for a complete estate plan is a Last Will and Testament. A Last and Will Testament is more than a document outlining who gets the house and car. It provides for the naming of a person to oversee the management and distribution of the estate’s assets (i.e., the Executor/Executrix). A Last Will and Testament also allows for the appointment of a guardian to care for any minor children. When a person passes away without a Last Will and Testament, the state’s particular law will determine how the estate’s assets are distributed. If the estate has minor children, a judge who does not know the family’s circumstances will determine the proper guardian.

An estate plan is too important to be baked like my grandmother’s cookies. If you are considering putting together an estate plan, it is recommended to consult one of the tremendous estate professionals in this area because as I like to say, “Local advice is often best.”

The Honesdale National Bank and its employees do not render legal, tax, or accounting advice. Accordingly, you and your attorneys and accountants are ultimately responsible for determining the legal, tax, and accounting consequences of any suggestions offered herein. Furthermore, all decisions regarding financial, tax, and estate planning will ultimately rest with you and your legal, tax, and accounting advisors. Any description pertaining to federal taxation contained herein is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. This disclosure is made in accordance with the rules of Treasury Department Circular 230 governing standards of practice before the Internal Revenue Service.

 

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT BENEFITS

SSBenefitspic

Financial Expert Offers Tips for Getting the Most Out of Social Security Retirement Benefits

Too many people end up getting less than what is due them from Social Security when they retire because they don’t know the rules and the real financial impacts, says independent retirement advisor, Gary Marriage, Jr.

“There’s a lot of talk about the future of Social Security, but we still have this benefit, and if you’re 50 or older, you should be planning to make the best use of it,” Marriage says.

Marriage, CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (www.naturecoastfinancial.com), which specializes in maximizing retirees’ finances, shares important facts to keep in mind as you plan for how Social Security will factor in your retirement:

  • “Can I convince you to wait a few more years?” Many people are understandably eager to retire as early as possible; others fear Social Security retirement benefits will suddenly vanish, so they want to get what they can as quickly as possible – at age 62. But if you’re counting on those benefits as part of your income, you should wait until you’re eligible for the full amount. That’s age 66 if you were born 1943-54, and age 67 if you were born in 1960 and later. If you’re in the older group, retiring at 62 cuts your benefits by a quarter; for the younger group it’s nearly a third. “Chances are, you’ll be better off mentally and physically if you wait anyway,” Marriage says. “Many studies show that people live longer and are more vital the longer they remain employed, more importantly.”
  • The reductions in Social Security add up to a considerable sum. The average retirement benefit in June of this year was $1,222.43, according to the Social Security Administration. People born in the 1943-54 group who are eligible for that amount at age 66 will get just $916.82 a month if they retire at 62. If they live to age 90, that’s a total of $308,052.36. By waiting just four years, they’ll net an additional $44,007.48. Waiting until age 70 can make you eligible for a bump in benefits – up to 8 percent a year – but there are no increases if you delay longer.
  • If divorced, were you married for at least 10 years? Were you married for a decade and aren’t currently remarried? You may be eligible to receive benefits based on the former spouse’s work record. Here are some of the other requisites: you must be age 62 or older, and the former spouse must be entitled to receive his or her own benefits. If the former spouse is eligible for a benefit, but has not yet applied for it, the divorced spouse can still receive a benefit. Additionally, two years must pass after the divorce.

About Gary Marriage

Gary Marriage, Jr. is the founder and CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors, which educates retirees on how to protect their assets, increase their income, and reduce their taxes. Marriage is a national speaker, delivering solutions for pre-retirees, business owners, and seniors on the areas affecting their retirement and estates. He is an approved member of the National Ethics Bureau, and is featured in “America’s Top Hometown Financial Advisors 2011.” Marriage is also the founder of Operation Veteran Aid, an advocate for war-time veterans and their families.

ZEROING IN ON ZILLOW

Zillow-logo-earnings-cbc4a7

 

 

 

 

By Allison Mowatt

Constant advances in technology make it easier for us to do the simplest tasks, from buying groceries to finding a destination ten minutes away. The housing market isn’t any different, and websites like Zillow make it possible for people to do all of their “real estate homework” prior to speaking with a licensed real estate professional.

Founded in 2005, Zillow is the leading online real estate marketplace on the Web and mobile apps, where users can easily find information on homes, townhouses, condos, and apartments. Zillow has data on millions of homes across the country, not just those currently for sale but also those not yet on the market, such as pre-foreclosures. In addition to giving value estimates of homes, the site offers value changes of each home in a given time frame, aerial views of the homes, and prices of comparable homes in the area.

Research indicates Zillow’s website activity continues to grow each year with increased numbers of visitors. Over the past several years, Zillow launched new features such as mobile apps, an online advice service, real estate market reports, and a mortgage marketplace.

How do local realtors feel about sites like Zillow ?

Bridget Gelderman, a Realtor at Davis R. Chant Realtors Hawley office, offers her insights and opinions:

“Websites like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia can be helpful in the initial search to locate homes and narrow down areas of interest; however, the information is often not always accurate on these websites. These websites do not play by the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics, and for consumers, this is a big deal. Zillow falls short with its valuations on homes. These “Zestimates” can be way off. For example, in Wayne County, the Zestimate Accuracy Star Rating is a “1” star out of 5 stars, 5 being the best. Basically, they are unable to compute Zestimate accuracy yet they still put a Zestimate out there. Pike County is a “2” star rating. Trulia.com was recently acquired by Zillow. This highlights a wide range of features like school information, crime, and tips on their homepage. This site’s photo feed pulls very poor quality photos.

“The bottom line is while all of these websites are helpful, go directly to a broker’s website to get additional information on the home or market and then use a Realtor to navigate through the home buying or selling process. For most people, buying a home is the largest financial investment they will ever make. There are big decisions that have to be made, and emotions come into each and every decision, both on the buyer side and the seller side. Having an expert help lead through the process is critical in securing the best deal with the least amount of headaches.”

Bridget Points Out Other Key Factors:

-When you work with a Realtor, their fiduciary responsibility is to look out for the customer’s best interests since they subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics.

-There are ever changing rules and regulations from changes on how to obtain a mortgage to zoning issues. The Realtor assists with all of these issues.

-There are pros and cons to each property, and a Realtor can help direct the customer through the ins and outs of a community, township and a,ny issues that could be possible within the construction of a home. They have a resource of experts that provides invaluable information before spending a life’s savings.

-When it comes to pricing and selling your home, a Realtor has access to tax records and data that is current and can provide a customer with a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) of a recommended list price for a home based on what has happened in the market.

-Realtors can help lead through negotiations and contracts. Once the excitement has settled from finding the right home, the real work begins. Navigating the negotiations and making sure the customers understand what they’re signing is a large part of a Realtor’s job. They help throughout the entire process and keep all people involved on track for a smooth closing.

To contact Bridget Gelderman at Davis R. Chant Realtors, call (570) 226-4518, email bgelderman@chantre.com, or visit www.chantre.com.

A Local Couple Finds Their Dream House on Zillow

Colleen and Steve Berlen are recent new homeowners and used Zillow to find the home they’ve always wanted. The couple lives in Bangor, PA, with their son, Logan. The house they purchased last November sits on about four acres and is an expansive home with five bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.

“We love our new home,” said Colleen. “It has beautiful landscaping out front and a fenced vegetable garden. We wanted more land and interior space and this is perfect. It sits back from the road, and we like the privacy aspect, too.

We used Zillow to look at houses years before we bought the one we recently moved into. So when we were looking for a house that would fit all of our needs, we used Zillow again. It’s one of my favorite sites because it’s user friendly, and there are pictures of the interior and exterior of the houses. The website also provides information about the area you’re interested in, and this is helpful when researching places to relocate.

Once we found our picture perfect house, we contacted our Realtor to set up a time to see the house. We decided to put in an offer since the house was everything we envisioned. The homeowners accepted. The entire process took a little over a month, and it wasn’t long before we moved in.”

While Colleen and Steve initially found their home on Zillow, they followed up by contacting their Realtor and finalizing the process with a trusted professional.

COUNTRY LIVING… PRICELESS

CountryLivingMar15

 

By Allison Mowatt

Do high transportation costs deter people who work in metro areas from wanting to live in the scenic Pocono Mountains? Are these costs a deciding factor with people selling their homes here and moving closer to where they work in the city? Several local real estate experts offer their insights on the challenges they find selling “country” properties when people travel to jobs within the tri-state area.

 

Tim Meagher

Broker/Owner at RE/MAX Wayne, Honesdale RemaxLogo

“At RE/MAX, we’ve seen a small shift locally with people wanting to save on travel time and costs,” said Meagher.

 

“For instance, last year we helped a family sell their home in Hawley and purchase a home in Cherry Ridge Township on the southern side of Honesdale because it was fifteen miles closer to a job in Monroe County. We also helped another family sell their home in Waymart and purchase one in the Milford area because it would save sixty miles round trip in travel time and costs when commuting to Brooklyn on a daily basis. This small shift isn’t making it difficult to find buyers for our properties, and we don’t have a lot of people selling for this reason. There are many reasons why our area of the Northern Poconos in Wayne and Pike counties is a great place live, work, raise a family, retire, play, and explore the endless recreational activities we have to offer.”

“In the ever changing world of real estate where relationships can be lost to technology, we continue to stick to our core values,” Meagher emphasized. “As a local family-owned company with three RE/MAX offices and over forty agents and staff covering Northeastern Pennsylvania, we strive on treating all of our customers like family. Through our process, if we find the home they want is too far away from their work and the cost of commuting is going to hurt them in the long run, we will advise them that we may need to look at homes closer to their place of business.”

Meagher reveals, “We track our advertising and target buyers in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. We’re aware of where our buyers are coming from, and we can invest more money into the best strategies that produce the most buyers for our listings.”

(570) 253-9566

www.remaxwayne.com

 

Thomas R. Wilkins BetterHomesLogo

CEO/ Broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Wilkins & Associates, Stroudsburg

“There are two main reasons why families still choose to live in beautiful Northeast-ern Pennsylvania even if they have a long commute to their job in the city: affordability and technology,” stated Wilkins.

The cost of living is always more expensive in New York and New Jersey and continues to rise. People choose to live in the Pocono Mountains where the cost of living is cheaper but still commute to work even if they’re looking at high transportation costs.

Wilkins further commented, “From what I see, people don’t complain about this. Those who live in the Pocono Mountains that’s closer to the city, such as the Milford or Strouds-burg areas, see it as a balance whether they’re driving from those areas or happen to live ten miles outside of New York, as in Staten Island. For them, it ends up being the same hour and a half commute. People purchasing homes here remains popular, and it’s not going to go away.”

With regards to technology, Wilkins said, “With advanced technology, people don’t necessarily have to drive into the city every day. They can either work from home, or their jobs allow them to double up on shifts so they only have to go into the city two or three times a week.” Some examples of these jobs are law enforcement, health care providers, and firemen.

Interestingly enough, people, who lived in the city and had a shorter commute to work who now live in Northeastern Pennsylvania and have a longer drive, miss the vast offerings of food available in a metro area.

“That’s what people talk about; not how expensive it is to get to work,” Wilkins chuckled.

Wilkins closed by saying, “I don’t think high transportation costs will have a negative impact on our real estate sales as we continue moving forward.”

(570) 421-8950

www.wilkinsandassociates.bhgre.com

 

John Schmitt

Vice President at Davis R. Chant Realtors, Honesdale Chant-BCVector

 

“At Chant, we haven’t experienced any major issues with transportation costs affecting our sales, “said Schmitt.

“Approximately 70% of our sales are second home buyers who have purchased farms, country estates, and vacation homes here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. These buyers are families who primarily live in the metro areas of New York, Philadelphia, and Connecticut. They enjoy the mountains on the weekends and extended vacations, or in some cases, are looking for retirement homes for the future.”

Schmitt continues, “The other 30% are primary home buyers who, in most cases, live and work locally or carry on business activities in their homes and/or cottage industry. In some cases, they will commute back to the metro areas a few days a week. We’ve found our customer’s decision whether or not to purchase in our region is not based on the distance to town, but rather on the beauty and charm of our area.

This is the 51st year Davis R. Chant Realtors has been matching buyers with sellers of country properties in Northeastern Pennsyl-vania. Over 25,000 properties have changed hands, through our hands and we plan on continuing our extensive marketing programs in the metro areas,” Schmitt concludes.

(570) 253-4191

www.chantre.com

 

Of course, some people decide to live closer to their jobs in the city, for a variety of reasons, but the appeal of living in the breathtakingly unparalleled beauty of the Pocono Mountains isn’t lost on others who find you can’t put a price on a “country” quality of life.