3 Reasons you should retire in Pennsylvania

It is time to enjoy our ‘next phase’ in life. That is what my clients Mary and Tom said to me. They lived in Washington DC and were ready to retire from their government jobs. However, they were looking for a place to enjoy the next phase of their life.

Within a few hours drive of DC, Pennsylvania was a top choice. Here are 3 reasons why they put it at the top of their list.


1. Tax Savings

-Pennsylvania does not tax the income from pensions, Social Security, 401ks, IRA’s, etc. Having these exemptions from state income tax makes it much more attractive and affordable to live, especially for those living on a set income.

-The sales tax is 6%, which is less than many states. Also, basics like food, clothes and heating fuel are exempt from the sales tax, making taxes a smaller part of your budget.


2. Culture

-Within only a few hours drive, many major cites with arts and culture are within reach. Enjoy all the best of the city while keeping away from the traffic and stress.

-Many smaller cities in Pennsylvania, like Lancaster are bursting with culture, music and arts as well if one wants to avoid going into a major city.

3. Quality of Life

-In Pennsylvania, you can enjoy a vibrant mix of scenic beauty, history, food & drink, and entertainment.

-With everything from Amish villages to Gettysburg Battlefields to Music in the Vineyards, you will have a plethora of options to live and enjoy the best years of your life.

Small_ReEdit 003

In the end, Mary and Tom chose a sleepy town with a beautiful historic home to call their own. They love making friends with all the neighbors and have the time to relax and enjoy their next phase. When ready, they take a day and enjoy a concert in Baltimore or Philadelphia, but can escape back to their quiet home when the day is done.

If you would like to discuss the best housing options in Pennsylvania, call us any time for a consultation. We would love to hear from you! Naomi: 717-819-2825

EmailSignature_NaomiBrown 2019


Property Taxes: Can they be lowered?

Property Taxes. Part of life, right? Like the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes.


But why pay any more taxes than you need to?

Recently clients Ben and Elisa were looking for a home throughout many school districts. They found one that was perfect: the soaring great room, the finished basement, the private backyard. The price was perfect, too! What caused them to hesitate? Yep, you guessed, the property taxes.

Their dream home was built at the top of the market in 2005 and as such had an assessment value that reflected this.

The tax burden would have made the dream home unattainable for Ben and Elisa, but after discussing the tax appeal process with them, they were confident enough to move forward with an offer.

Here is how that appeal process works.

1. First, determine if you would be eligible. To appeal your taxes, you must have a valid reason, which means your fair market value is at, OR BELOW, the assessment value.

For clients Ben and Elisa, the dream home’s fair market value was $300,000, but the assessment was $375,000. This means that the owners were paying taxes for $75,000 more of value that had evaporated when the housing market adjusted downward. For years they were paying without knowing they could appeal the taxes.

When I explained to them that the taxes could be appealed, Ben and Elisa could move forward with confidence knowing the taxes would almost certainly be lowered.

Local expert appraiser Steve Brown, with Brown Appraisers, stated that they win 99% of cases that they appeal for clients.

2. Understand the process

-If you have a valid difference in market value to appraisal value, the next step is to understand timing. All appeals must be submitted by August 1st for the tax year starting in January of the coming year. If you miss that deadline, it may be best to wait until that time frame comes closer.

-The assessment office does NOT allow short sales or foreclosures to be used in the appeal process, so be aware that only regular sales will be used to look at your fair market value. This is calculated as part of the service that Brown Appraisers provides with the appraisal.

-Again, the appeal is based on fair market value. It does not matter what all your neighbors’ assessments are. They may be too low or too high, which is why they do not look at neighboring assessment, ONLY the fair market value.

-Your fair market value must ideally be 10% LESS than your assessed value to have a valid case. If the numbers are the same, you may still have a case, as the assessment is made at a rate lower than fair market value.

3. Check your tax record for accuracy. Many times as a Realtor, I see tax records that are incorrect.

With Ben and Elisa, the square footage of the home may have been overstated, causing the assessment value to be higher. Making sure your tax information is correct will ensure that you are getting a fair assessment on that regard as well.

If your tax record says you have 4 bedrooms and you only have 3, this will create a higher value and consequentially higher taxes.

To check your record and current assessment go to: https://yorkcountypa.gov/property-taxes/assessment-and-tax-claim-office/assessment-information.html

4. If you are ready to start the appeal process, a professional can make all the difference. Brown Appraisers offer local tax assessment appeal for a flat rate of $600 currently.  Visit Brown Appraisers for more information.

Questions on your value? Feel free to call us anytime. We are happy to help our neighbors.

View the video blog here —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=845dM_47daA&t=1s

Naomi Brown 717-819-2825


Notoriety: Does a famous property increase the value?

Small_ReEdit 004

Have you ever sold or bought a Landmark property? The kind that everyone recognized when they drive by?

Recently I listed the ‘Christmas Haus’ for sale. This property was a distinctive Victorian era home that has been transformed into Christmas wonderland. The home had been painted in Christmas colors, and houses a Christmas shop that sells authentic German Christmas decor in the rear of property.

Small_ReEdit 003

The home is on the main thoroughfare to Gettysburg, PA which is home to all things historic. Because of the tourist traffic that comes bast this home, hordes of people have visited the shop and recognize the landmark.

Christmas Haus

Christmas Haus Shop

A recent Facebook add campaign gathered 14,000 people viewing or commenting on the post. Many were intrigued to see the inside of the home.


All of this attention causes us to ask the question- does notoriety add to the value of a property?

The recent appraisal that was completed did not take this into consideration. Appraisal is defined by what a willing buyer and willing seller will give or take for the property. The fair market value has gathered much interest, but getting beyond the fair market value is not likely. The owners understand this, and are happy to sell for the appraisal value.

The notoriety has certainly added to the marketing benefit, and we gather much interest and showings for the property from it.

In Commercial properties like this one, the high traffic count certainly does help to gain a monetary benefit, and that is something to take into consideration. Since the business is not part of the sale in this case, the appraiser used the sales comparison approach to arrive at the value.

What do you think? I am curious what your experience has been in this realm. Please share in the comments below.

See the listing here: Christmas Haus

The Negotiator: Friend or Foe?



All that separated the buyer and seller from coming together. The buyer, a veteran, wanted to get the best deal possible and was playing all his cards. The seller, an investor, had decided the lowest number he would go and just would not budge beyond it.

“Why can’t he just concede?” the investor asked. “I have a margin I need to make.”

Our veteran buyer said, “I am a disabled Vet, why won’t he show any appreciation?”

In situations like this, both parties have a legitimate point, so it is not a matter of wrong or right, it is finding a meeting of the minds.

In real estate, the definition of market value is, “A willing buyer and seller finding a meeting of the minds, without acting under distress.” By agreeing on a purchase, the buyer and seller are literally creating a fair market value.

As a Realtor, part of my role is providing a counsel on value to my clients. What I always try to explain is that at the core, value is finding a willing buyer and seller meeting together.

Many of my clients have remarked that they find negotiation in their favor as the top service I provide as a Realtor. Here are a couple ways I provide that service.

  1. Listen.   Good negotiations start with trying to understand where the other side is coming from. When we understand their position, we can tailor it to your favor, while also trying to give them what they want.

For example: The seller wants to close quickly, since they have moved out already. The buyer wants a longer closing date, so they have time to give notice to their landlord. The compromise: we give you the quick close, if you give us a credit to cover the extra month of rent the buyer will need to pay. The reality is that the seller still be out the same amount of money, but the seller felt like they got want they wanted.

2. Feel their pain.   Many times both the seller and buyer are wrapped up in thinking about the situation from their own point of view. If I explain to my client how the other party feels, it may open their eyes to finding a compromise.

Just like they don’t want to pay an extra month of rent, the seller does not want to pay that mortgage for another month.

3. Affirm their position.   Understanding how the buyer feels an aggressive price would help make their mortgage payment smaller helps us get in the boat together. Once I am in the boat, we can row together towards the common goal.

When you know someone is on your side, isn’t it much easier to listen to what they have to say? You know your Grandma has your best interest at heart, even if she tells you that you are crazy for buying that big apartment complex!

4. Find the solution.   Making suggestions for how a situation can work out is crucial. As an impartial director of the negotiation, I can see solutions the client may not because they are so close to the obstacle.

When we suggest that the seller give the credit to cover the buyer’s rent payment for last month, they both win without feeling like they lost.


Having a professional on your side that can help steer the boat when the waves get a little rough and can make all the difference in each transaction. So when it comes time to work through your next real estate deal, ask yourself, are you ready to negotiate on your own behalf?

We have proven that the service of negotiation not only gets the deal done, but many times covers the cost of our service. As a bonus, you as the client come out with a smile on your face at closing, too.

If you are ready to test the services of a professional negotiator, call us for a no- obligation consultation.

To your win!

5 Ways to Find Rentals

The market is tight. It is hard to find good rentals investments.

Finding deals that turns into rentals with good rates of return are even harder.

Fight the temptation to give up searching and pay more. Here are 5 ways to help find the deals when the inventory is down.


1. Check the County Tax Records

-Identify what your ideal property is coded by in the tax record.

-Find properties that have sold a certain amount of years back. Likely things will have changed for owners over the years, and they may be ready to sell. People who bought in years 2006-2008 likely had negative equity for a while, but now have recovered and may want to sell to get out of the property.

-Send a letter letting them know you would be interested in buying. The tax record has the mailing address of owner.

2. Develop or Convert

In a low inventory environment like current market, creating units is a need in the marketplace.

-A easy place to look is along busy road, where the zoning likely allows a greater density and more flexibility. Find larger homes and convert to several units.

-Find vacant land and build economically. Most builders will charge a premium to supervise a build job, making the numbers to high for a good return. This can be avoided if you have the knowledge to supervise it yourself. Be prepared to deal with very busy contractors, as they are all in high demand.

3. Predictive Analytics

Realtors use a a method called ‘Predictive Analytics’ to digitally watch for cue signs that a sale might be taking place soon. If a person goes online and searches ‘Home Painter’ or a similar term, that data can be purchased. The statistics show that someone who searches for certain key words will likely sell within a short period of time.

Match up with a realtor who uses this marketing, and they can match your criteria to any coming inventory in the marketplace, to get you in a first priority.

4. Go Farther

Be willing to look in a more rural area. Because of the high demand, many renters are looking in more rural areas to find rentals. These properties can be purchased at lower prices and make better returns possible.

For the renters coming from more urban higher priced areas, these rentals look like a bargain, but still cash flow healthily.

Look at the areas within a reasonable commute to major employment draws and attractions.


Know someone who is retiring and selling portfolio? Your investor buddies can pass on deals to you that they may not have the resources to take on.

Let your sphere know that you are an investor. Before you know, people will be coming to you.

In conclusion, making an effort to explore all options will yield you a portfolio that will love you back for years to come.  Call us for a consultation on how to build your strong portfolio. Naomi 717-819-2825


Rentals in Condos Communities?

architecture building construction daylight

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If you are looking to add to your portfolio, town homes and condos are a likely target. Most non-single family homes that are newer (1980 or younger) will be in a town home community.

Many investors buy older housing stock, and avoid this issue. Older housing is not subject to HOA’s the way newer housing is. However, the the older stock takes a great deal more upkeep. They also may not attract high quality tenants.

If you go looking for newer attached housing, navigating the issue of where rentals are allowed in these communities can take a lot of time.

Home owner associations must follow guidelines from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if they desire to keep up the ability for owners to obtain traditional financing.

Their guidelines include

-No more than 10% can be owned by the same entity

-More than 50% must be owner occupied

-The Homeowners Association is not involved in a lawsuit

-No more than 25% can be commercial space

Communities that meet these guidelines are called ‘Warrantable’, and ones that do not are ‘Non-warrantable’.

Because of these guidelines, the Associations will limit these factors to ensure their owners have access to financing.

It is in the best interest of a Landlord to buy in a community that is warrantable, and meets these guidelines. The property values take a significant nosedive if conventional financing cannot be secured on the homes.

While the rental rate may be the same, the future value is inhibited by the lack of financing options. This may provide a attractive price up front to an investor, but it is important to think about your exit strategy when you buy.

If the community does not have access to traditional financing, there will likely be many more foreclosures and distressed sales. Coupled with the downward pressure from lack of financing options, it keeps appreciation temped down, and may result in depreciation.

For these factors, it is generally better to look for warrantable condos or town homes where the fees are reasonable.

The exception to this is if the investor intends to purchase a large chunk of all the homes in a non-warrantable community. This allows you as the owner to monitor upkeep and help to uphold the integrity of the community for all the owners.

If you are looking to add to your portfolio with a keen eye on value, contact us for local information on communities on both sides of this spectrum.

Naomi Brown 717-819-2825

house money capitalism fortune

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com


Little or Big? Which investment is best?

When starting out as an investor, most will purchase single units at a time, until a large portfolio is built.

Once a portfolio is built, is it better to transition to a large group of rentals in one property/location? Or is holding the single units the best way to maximize the return?

The Cap Rate for the small units in York County (1-10) is 8%, which is in contrast to the Cap Rate for large rentals (10-200) at 7%.

In Lancaster County, 1-10 unit owners enjoy a 7.3% Cap Rate. The larger owners with 10-200 units have a 6.3% Cap in contrast.

Looking at this number, it seems to make sense that a large portfolio of smaller units would be the better return. As an investor, the management of multiple properties in soft costs could start to lessen that. The accountant must track the depreciation and basis in many more properties, which increase the cost.

Calls for maintenance for properties spread out in many location may also affect the viability of the cap rate for these smaller units.

If financing is placed on these properties, the total effective cost of the financing should also be factored into the ratios.

For these reasons, we encourage investors to examine their soft costs in legal, finance and accounting before arriving at a final decision.

Before assuming an overall rate is reflected in the Cap Rate, we must also look at appreciate in value. Because investment value is tied directly to income generated, the increase in rental rate is a reflection of increase in value.

For large property in Lancaster, the rental increase sits as 2.7%. For smaller Lancaster Properties, they have a 1.9% growth rate.

In York, the large property owners have a 3.7% growth rate. The smaller units have a 2% growth rate.

This seems to indicate the larger properties will see greater appreciation in value from greater rental increase. Taking into consideration the overall picture of the investment performance with Cap Rates, rent growth rates and soft costs will help to form a wise decision.

If you would like a personal analysis of the overall picture of your investments, call for a no-obligation consultation.

Is Now the Time to Buy in Central PA?

Are you asking yourself  “Is now the time to buy an investment property?”

Money Crowing

That is a great question. Is the economy going to continue to grow as well?  Indication from GDP is that we continue to maintain a fabulous growth in our economy. The GDP grown was 3.2% in first quarter of 2019. A ‘Regular’ grown rate is 1.9%, so this number is well above the average.

What does this mean for investments? Well, it means rents are growing, demand is strong and your units will be easily filled, which results in the best cash flow.

If you wait to purchase until we have another recession, it may be a long wait. In the meantime, the low vacancies and higher rents provide a return that balances out any higher sale price.

Take these examples:

Scenario 1. If you purchase a four unit building for $250,000.

The building stays fully rented, so your Net Operating Income is a strong $25,000. This is a 10% CAP Rate.

Scenario 2. In a recession, you get a great deal on the same 4 unit at $200,000.

The building always has one unit empty, and rents are lower to keep the tenants you have. Your Net Operating Income is $13,800. This results in a 6.9% CAP Rate.

See the point? Purchase good deals in a strong economy, you will come out on top in the cash flow game.

The above scenarios are based solely on cap rates, which are an important measure of value. However, there is also the growth rate to consider as well. Buying in a downturn may mean that your potential for growth in value is much greater, which will grown in relation to the overall economy.

The Internal Rate of Return is a measure of how the property performs with both income and growth taken into consideration. In scenario #2 above, to really understand the outcome the growth rate should be added in as well.

Let’s say after five years, your income grows to $25,000. The value of the building has now increased to $250,000. You sell for a $50,000 profit. The overall rate with growth added in is 12.64%.

The growth rate now increases your return beyond just looking at income. Many factors play into what may be your best scenario. For some investors, the income stream is much more important. For others, it is the shelter from taxes. These factors may outweigh the benefits of just looking for growth in the investments.

If you would like to learn more, contact us for a consultation, and let us prove the value of professional service with results to your bottom line.

3 Reasons to Build Rentals in Central PA

What is the hardest part of being a Landlord? If you have good tenants, the hardest part is staying on top of maintenance and dealing with the calls of a broken toilet late at night.

If you could avoid that headache, buying more rental property would be an easy choice, right? The best solution is to purchase newer rentals, to minimize the cost and frequency of repairs.

Just one problem: finding good newer property to purchase! Most newer single family homes sell at a price that is not cost effective for rentals. Individual townhomes are not an easy solution, as many condos and townhomes restrict rentals. If you do find townhomes that are not restricted in rentals, then the condo/HOA fee can make it less efficient of a rental.

Solution? Find a community and build some rentals yourself. This is easier than you think. If you have a good builder partner, they can handle the work, while the investor handles the capital.

If you are interested in working on a development project, the time to build that stock is now. During the recession, building almost ceased, so now there is pent up demand for new housing stock in rentals and sales. This provides the investor the opportunity to enter a hot market and build future appreciation.

The reasons Central PA makes the ideal place for an multi-family development right now:

  1. Cap rates are higher in smaller markets. Contrast a CAP Rate of 6.36% (10 Year average) in Philadelphia with 6.91% in Lancaster and 7.34% in York County

2. The demand for rentals are strong. With many manufacturing and supply chains       housed in the area, jobs are plentiful which boosts the housing demand.

3. A low inventory of newer units means the developer will be rewarded when time comes to sell with a healthy investor demand.

For a list of options to build rentals in Central PA, and builder partners,  contact us for further details. Call Naomi at 717-819-2825 or email naomibrownhomes@gmail.com

Comparing CAP rates in Central PA

As investors, we are always looking to make a smart purchase. You have heard the saying: ‘The money is made when you buy, not when you sell’.

Weighting the CAP rates on an investment is an art. As the ‘Artist’ for your painting, the decision of what CAP rate to apply takes into account the factors of the area around it. Considering the CAP rates of the different Counties in Central PA is a useful tool to use as you paint your future.

Here is a look at the prevailing economics for Multi-Family Investments.

Dauphin County

-Currently at 8.16% average. The 10 year range is 8.99%.

Cumberland County

-Currently at 7.70% average. The 10 year range is 7.83%.

York County

-Currently at 10.04% average. The 10 year range is 11.04%.

Lancaster County

-Currently at 9.60% average. The 10 Year range is 10.48%.

Interesting to note, both York and Lancaster County are at the lowest point of their 10 year average range. This reflects the rising prices in the market and improving economy.

All counties show a lower than average CAP rate, which means that the deals are harder to find and in higher demand than ever before.

If you are looking to maximize your profit and find better than average returns, call for a consultation. Together we can create a masterpiece for your future.

Naomi Brown 717-819-2825