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January 2008

Free Foreclosure Prevention Advice

Hope_now_logocolor_3The Hope Now Alliance is a program which offers free counseling to homeowners in jeopardy of defaulting on their mortgages. Whether the borrower is already behind in payments, is facing problems when the adjustable mortgage rate resets, or is able to stay current once the rate resets, help and advice is available.

The first step is to call the 24/7 hotline at 888.995.HOPE (888.995.4673).

HUD-approved counselors are on hand to gather information on the homeowner's situation and to determine eligibility for various options. The call will take around 45 minutes and the caller can expect the counselor to recommend action steps if the information gathering goes well, or a follow-up call if income and debt information is not readily available.

Recommendations vary based on individual circumstances, but options include refinancing, temporary rate freezes, and loss mitigation strategies such as a short sale or deed in lieu of foreclosure. Most often, the best advice is to be pro-active and not avoid the situation because of fear or anxiety.

When homeowners call they will NOT be judged or even billed for the really is intended as a free resource for troubled borrowers to get the help they need, as it is in everyone's interest to rectify these problems quickly.

My best advice to you is MAKE THE CALL.

Further reading:

Avoiding Foreclosure in PA

FHA Refinancing

Representative Kanjorski's 2/4/08 Announcement Re: Fed Funding For Counseling

Mind in the Gutter? Here are 5 Good Reasons Why It Should Be!

From the Desk of:
Jeff Remas, President
REMAS Inspections
West Pittston, PA

Many of the homes that I inspect in the Poconos do not have gutters and I am very often asked if they are even necessary. Since there are differing opinions out there, let me tell give you my perspective.Ice_dam

The most common excuse for not installing gutters is fear of ice dams, but gutters are not to blame. Ice dams are primarily caused by faulty, inadequate or poor insulation and ventilation of attic or roof space, and often combined with poor roofing techniques. The purpose of this article, though, is to focus on why gutters are important.

A quality, professionally installed gutter system that keeps debris out of the gutter would be my first choice. They are more expensive than traditional gutters but worth their weight in gold if you do not have the time or ability to clean out your own gutters. If you don't keep them clean, it is often worse than not having them at all. Gutters can become blocked and weighted down with leaves and debris which makes them useless. The added weight of the overflowing water along with the water soaked debris pulls on the gutter hangars and damage the roof or fascia. Good gutter maintenance and cleaning is needed for them to function. The trimming of trees overhanging the roof would be a great start to decrease the amount of debris in gutters. 

Here are a few problems associated with the lack of or damaged gutters:

Basement water problems Damaged or missing gutters can dump gallons of water directly onto the ground next to the foundation of the house. This water sometimes leaks through the foundation wall and can create water problems in the basement or crawl space.

Landscape washout Many homeowners have experienced damaged landscaping caused by problems with gutters.

Undermined driveways, patios, and walkways Excess water flowing into the ground near the house can erode the dirt directly beneath driveways, patios, and walkways. As the dirt is washed away, the driveway, patio, or walkway is no longer fully supported and can settle, crack, or even collapse. If you have already experienced this type of damage, fix the gutter or downspout problem before replacing or repairing the driveway, patio, or walkway.

Damaged fascia, soffit, or outside wall Problem gutters can cause damage to a house's structural integrity by allowing water to damage the fascia, soffit, or wood framing of the house.

Wood Destroying Insects Because wood destroying insects, such as carpenter ants and termites need water to reproduce and thrive, gutters which dump excess water near the house encourage insect infestation.

The bottom line is that gutters ARE needed and deserve your attention.  Any questions?


Happy Blogiversary To Me!

Fireworks One year ago today I posted the first article on the Poconos Real Estate Blog (PREB). Who knew that one year later, it would still be one of my most visited articles?

I am quite excited about the response I've received from my readers.  The article ideas and comments and general acceptance of the information have been astounding.

My New Year's Resolution was to write more frequently and consistently and so far I have kept that promise to myself. Additionally, I am pleased to have recruited a total of six Guest Authors to help me expand the topic coverage of PREB and to take the pressure off to produce content on a regular basis. Hopefully the expanded brain-power will prove beneficial to our readers!

I am psyched to have just about 8,000 page views for the year and also about the search engine rankings I've earned, especially on Google. This has happened exactly as Richard Nacht and Paul Chaney said it would in their book Realty Blogging (buy it on!). Not that I didn't believe them but I truly didn't think it could be as easy as 'just do it.' Sure, it's been a lot of work but, boy oh boy, it's been fun!

The next goal for PREB is to remodel the site. While the current set-up is very workable, the ideas and dreams I have for it are beyond what I can realistically do on my own. So it is time to start looking for a new format and help with the technical end of the design. Fortunately I have a secret staff of professional advisers on two of my favorite sites, Pocono Commuter and Facebook.

Thank you all of you for reading and for your continued support! What topics would you to see covered here at the PREB? Feel free to submit your topic ideas or real estate related questions by clicking on the comment button below.

How To Create Your Dream Kitchen

Many homes in the Poconos were built during the boom years of the 1980's and many owners, like myself, have kitchens that could use a lift. For those who desire a complete makeover, Home Designer Richard Hetzel provides an excellent incentive to get started. As he shows us below, achieving your dream of a new kitchen could be easier than you think!-L

From the Desk of:
Richard Hetzel
Architect (NY) & Home Designer (PA)

So you’d like to re-do your kitchen? Let’s assume you have the usual contemporary goals: more counter space, modern features, a better layout, more cabinet space.

Start From Scratch

Sometimes, a good way to start is to ignore the existing kitchen layout, and begin with a clean sheet of paper, on which we have drawn the outline of your kitchen…all the walls, doors and windows. On this paper, next we draw some three-foot wide swaths which represent the traffic flow of people through the kitchen. Then…grin…we put the cabinets and appliances in the spaces that are left!

Well, it’s seldom exactly that easy, but the principle is sound. If there is too much traffic flow, perhaps closing off or moving a doorway will help, and create more space. Occasionally we see a small kitchen with four or five doors in it, and we architects pull our hair out, too. The key is to simplify if possible.

The Necessities

Next we consider the “work triangle”, which is a triangle of straight lines connecting refrigerator, sink and range, preferably in that order. The work triangle should be as compact as possible, and should be arranged so that other family members can pop in and out to the refrigerator without getting into the work triangle and disturbing the cook.

Incorporate The Wish List

Once we have the work triangle established, we can spot in other appliances…microwave, trash compactor, etc. It’s also nice to have a small desk area in the kitchen, with cookbook storage, telephone, note pad, and a place to collect the mail and other such papers.

Some other considerations:

  • People like pantries, if there is space for one, and if not, perhaps a full-height pantry cabinet is possible, with drawers behind doors. You’d be amazed at what can be stored that way in a three-foot space and still have easy access. If there is more space available, perhaps a broom closet can be combined with the pantry cabinet.
  • Islands and peninsulas are popular and can provide casual eating space and additional storage below. A kitchen space should be at least 14 feet wide for an island to be practical. A nice touch is to provide cabinet doors on both sides of the island, so that things like platters and roasting pans can be stored and retrieved without having to move something else to get at them.
  • Cabinet styles are a matter of taste and budget. If your budget can accommodate better cabinets that the big-box store variety, then you might consider having them custom-made to fit your wishes and your kitchen. It won’t cost that much more.
  • Counter tops range from the ever-popular (once) boomerang formica to exotic stones to concrete, with budgets to match.
  • Other touches that can make a kitchen more useful are recycling cabinets, where your standard recycling containers can be stored, and “appliance garages”, where various appliances such as coffee makers, toasters, mixers, etc. are stored out of sight behind a rolling door.

Here’s a view of a kitchen which incorporates a commercial range (not recommended), an island, a hutch, and a wine cooler, plus three doors and a stairway.


Commercial ranges are not recommended for residential use because of their very high heat output, and the requirement for a huge mushroom-type exhaust fan. Many commercial range manufacturers make residential models which are far more suitable for home use, and still have that utilitarian look. The refrigerator in the illustration is to the right of the sink, and is a counter-depth type with door panels which match the cabinets. This kitchen was designed in “craftsman” or “Stickley” style.

So Many Options!

Kitchens afford wide latitude for creativity in layout and design, and if the principles given here are kept in mind, success is almost assured. Establish your budget early, and keep it in mind also. Once you have priced your cabinets, flooring and appliances, assume that labor will be anywhere from half to two-thirds of the total budget, and that would include electrical and plumbing work. So, for example, if those items came to $10,000, you can assume that labor would range from $10,000 to $15,000, and you would be close to reality.

Okay, you’re educated! Now go for it...what will your dream kitchen look like? Please click on the 'comment' button below and share your ideas!

Robinwood Village - For the Active Over 55 Set

Robinwood Village is a small townhouse community in Chestnuthill Township, Saylorsburg, PA,Robinwood_village_views 18353, the heart of what is known as Monroe County's West End and just off of Route 715 between Reeders and the 209 intersection in Brodheadsville. It is made up of 49 units set on an idyllic country parcel, with scenic views of the mountains in the distance as is typical of beautiful Saylorsburg.
Maintenance fees in the Village are $200 per month and include a small lake, a pool and other recreation facilities, trash collection and the security of gated Robinwood_village_amenitiesaccess. Homes are priced in the low $200,000 range and range from 1200 to 1600 square feet.

For information on homes available in Robinwood Village or other communities in the Pocono Mountains, please contact me directly.