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We are a strong, vibrant and global real estate family. We strive every day to deliver unsurpassed market intelligence and insights, and use our strengths to help you successfully buy and sell real estate. We embrace your goals and are committed to achieving them. The award winning company and agents of CENTURY 21 Covered Bridges Realty, Inc. offer the most complete real estate service to our clientele with a truly visionary approach to high tech marketing and skills. We have served the real estate needs of Columbia, Montour, and lower Luzerne counties and surrounding areas for 34 years and look forward to providing you with the finest quality service unmatched by our competitors. Browsing through this site will allow you to explore our region along with community information, demographics, schools, medical facilities, area attractions plus much, much more. 
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Real Estate News

Latest in Housing News and Tips for Home Ownership

5 Great Cities for Millennial Homebuyers

(TNS)—For millennials who are ready to become homeowners, finding an affordable house in a great community can be challenging. With housing inventory historically low, real estate in major metro areas is at a premium. It’s no surprise, then, that young buyers are moving to the suburbs, according to the 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Among millennials surveyed, 57 percent bought a house in the suburbs, spending an average of $205,000. Meanwhile, only 12 percent bought in an urban or central city. Affordability, convenience to work and neighborhood quality were among the top requirements for these buyers.

Using this information, we identified five cities that offer some combination of affordable housing, economic growth, job opportunities, proximity to major metro areas and recreational activities.

Great cities for millennial homebuyers:

  • Lancaster, Pa.
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Garner, N.C.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • West Des Moines, Iowa.

Lancaster, Pa.
Population: 59,218
Median value of housing: $109,300

One of the oldest inland cities in the country, Lancaster boasts unique features, such as the country’s oldest continuously running farmers market. It’s also home to an established arts community and a network of independently owned businesses.

There are a number of homes available in Lancaster, including new construction. There were 200 new housing units built in Lancaster in 2017. This year, the city is on track to add 125 more, according to Marshall Snively, president of Lancaster City Alliance.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve had more than $1.5 billion in public and private investment, including residential development, and more is on the table,” Snively says.

Nestled between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Lancaster is a good option for people who want to work in one of these larger cities but own in a more affordable location. Residents can take a train to Harrisburg in less than 35 minutes, and trains into New York City take about two-and-a-half hours.

Local businesses abound, so many residents don’t have to look beyond the city for jobs. Medical center Lancaster General Health has a network of 300 physicians and more than 3,600 employees. Fulton Bank, one of the region’s most prominent financial institutions, is headquartered in Lancaster.

The city has a strong arts culture, which supports a variety of vintage and antique stores, as well as outdoor markets and performing arts. Gallery Row downtown consists of three blocks of galleries, restaurants and retail.

Columbus, Ohio
Population: 860,090
Median value of housing: $131,800

You can own a home in Columbus without breaking the bank. Even in some of the more expensive neighborhoods, like Harrison West, you can find three-bedroom, two-bath homes for under $250,000.

Columbus supports many industries, including healthcare, education, finance, manufacturing, retail and technology. Columbus’ largest employer, the Ohio State University, has more than 30,000 full-time workers. Nationwide Insurance is also headquartered here, with about 13,000 full-time employees.

Columbus offers amenities for just about everyone. Kayakers can enjoy Columbus’ waterways, like Big Darby Creek, Griggs Reservoir and the Scioto River. There are also miles of bike trails and thousands of acres of parkland to hike.

Nightlife includes comedy clubs and live music venues, as well as hundreds of restaurants. Additionally, there are many large-scale attractions, like the Center of Science and Industry as well as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Garner, N.C.
Population: 28,776
Median value of housing: $164,800

This small town is about six miles south of Raleigh and is also near the Research Triangle, which includes Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For people who work in any of these areas, Garner offers more affordable housing than some of the other nearby communities.

Garner’s business landscape is a mixture of information, utilities, retail and public administration. Companies like Butterball and Direct Distributors are headquartered in Garner. The median household income in Garner is $59,812, above the national median of $57,617, according to Census data.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate Garner’s 1,200 acres of parkland and open space. White Deer Park offers bikers, runners and walkers two miles of paved trails, playgrounds, an arboretum and a 2,500-square-foot nature center.

Garner also has a mix of chain stores, shopping plazas and locally owned businesses. Local watering holes, like The Beerded Lady, offer a place for residents to see live music.

St. Petersburg, Fla.
Population: 260,999
Median value of housing: $154,800

St. Petersburg has rejuvenated its downtown, which is home to a mixture of business offices, residential property, restaurants and entertainment.

The Gulf Coast city boasts more than a dozen companies that employ over 1,000 people, including HSN, Raymond James Financial and Jabil Circuit, in addition to many other mid- and small-sized companies.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was just recently awarded the 2018 Small Business Advocate award by the U.S. Conference of Mayors for his commitment to small businesses, said that creating opportunities for young people is a top priority for St. Petersburg. The city’s Grow Smarter initiative developed by the city and the Chamber of Commerce to assess, develop and create programs to grow the local economy is an example of that focus.

“We are working hard to ensure we are an inclusive and welcoming city where people of all ages can grow and thrive,” Kriseman says. “We are specifically aiming to bolster and support our population of young professionals, as their skills and interest align well with our Grow Smarter economic development strategy.”

St. Petersburg is home to world-class museums, such as the Salvador Dali Museum and the Fine Arts Museum, as well as chefs honored with James Beard awards, including Lauren Macellaro of The Reading Room.

The city hosts events like the Firestone Grand Prix and is home to the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

West Des Moines, Iowa
Population: 64,560
Median value of housing: $195,500

West Des Moines borders Des Moines to the west, about eight miles from Des Moines International Airport. This small city reaps the benefits of the booming financial and publishing industries in Des Moines while retaining a grass-roots community.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of young people are buying in our older neighborhoods,” says Clyde Evans, director of Economic Development for West Des Moines. “They’re fixing up houses from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. It’s affordable for them to do that here.”

Finance and insurance companies, including Wells Fargo, Farm Bureau and Athene, are located in West Des Moines. Small businesses also make up a large part of West Des Moines’ economy, adding to the 2,800 businesses in the city, according to the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. West Des Moines is only 11 miles east of Waukee, the future home of Apple’s $1.375 billion data center announced last year.

West Des Moines has a variety of restaurants and shopping destinations, including Jordan Creek Town Center and Valley West Mall. There are also microbreweries for beer connoisseurs, like locally owned Twisted Vine.

The 632-acre Raccoon River State Park offers an array of activities like fishing, boating and even swimming along the 500-foot beach, which is part of Blue Heron Lake. There’s also an extensive network of almost 50 miles of greenway trails, park trails and side paths.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 5 Great Cities for Millennial Homebuyers appeared first on RISMedia.

Consumer Confidence Leaps

Consumer confidence leapt in February, posting a 130.8 reading in the latest Consumer Confidence Index® from The Conference Board. The Expectations reading of the Index rose to 109.7, while the Present Situation reading rose to 162.4. January’s reading was 124.3.

“Consumer confidence improved to its highest level since 2000 (Nov. 2000, 132.6) after a modest increase in January,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, in a statement. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more favorable this month, with the labor force the main driver. Despite the recent stock market volatility, consumers expressed greater optimism about short-term prospects for business and labor market conditions, as well as their financial prospects. Overall, consumers remain quite confident that the economy will continue expanding at a strong pace in the months ahead.”

The percentage of consumers who believe business conditions are “good,” as defined by the Index, increased from 35.0 percent in January to 35.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who believe business conditions are “bad” decreased from 13.0 percent in January to 10.8 percent in February. The percentage of those who expect business conditions to improve increased from 21.5 percent in January to 25.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect business conditions to worsen decreased from 9.8 percent in January to 9.4 percent in February.

The percentage of consumers who believe jobs are “plentiful” increased from 37.2 percent in January to 39.4 percent in February, according to the Index; the percentage of those who believe jobs are “hard to get” decreased from 16.3 percent in January to 14.7 percent in February. The percentage of those who expect more jobs in the coming months increased from 18.7 percent in January to 21.6 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect less jobs in the coming months decreased from 12.5 percent in January to 11.9 percent in February.

The percentage of consumers who expect higher incomes increased from 20.6 percent in January to 23.8 percent in February; the percentage of those who expect a decrease also increased, from 7.9 percent in January to 8.6 percent in February.

Source: The Conference Board

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The post Consumer Confidence Leaps appeared first on RISMedia.

Tax Scammers Use Refund Ruse

(TNS)—Wait, what? You didn’t file your income tax return yet, but, suddenly, somehow, you spotted a bunch of money in your bank account from a refund?


Believe it or not, criminals are using real bank accounts in a fast-spreading scam that could gain more traction as we move into prime refund season, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“It’s super sophisticated,” says Luis Garcia, a spokesperson for the IRS in Detroit. “If you haven’t filed your taxes—especially if you’re not expecting a refund—and money shows up in your account, don’t touch it.”

Last summer, the IRS reported that cybercriminals had been targeting tax professionals. According to the IRS, 177 tax professionals or firms reported data thefts involving client information relating to thousands of tax filers from January through May 2017. Much of that theft started with a phishing email sent to the tax professional posing as a potential client to gain access to the professional’s computer systems and collect the personal information of existing clients.

After stealing the data from tax professionals, criminals could have your bank account number if you requested direct deposit of a refund earlier.

Now, the crooks who file fake tax returns to steal refund cash could be giving the IRS your bank account information for direct deposit of fraudulent refunds.

How do the crooks then get the cash?

One scheme includes an automated call that claims that you’re a willing participant in tax fraud and demands that you return the money. Of course, if you follow their directions, you’re handing the money over to the crooks.

Garcia says some people could be caught off guard by such calls, especially when they suddenly spot a deposit from the U.S. Treasury in their account.

“It’s jarring when somebody calls you and they know your bank account,” Garcia says.

The IRS began issuing tax refunds as of Feb. 27 for many early filers who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit, so the ID thieves who filed fake returns claiming those credits will be looking to collect soon, if they used your bank account for direct deposit.

As part of the crackdown on tax-related ID fraud, the IRS has been taking extra steps to avoid depositing refunds onto suspicious prepaid cards. That’s why the scam could involve a new twist.

After the money hits your account, a con artist might pose as a debt collection official working on behalf of the IRS. The crook might say the refund was deposited in error and they ask the taxpayer to forward the money to their collection agency.

Don’t do it.

Or a robocall claims to be from the IRS and threatens the person with an arrest warrant unless refund money is turned over. Some calls talk about “blacklisting” the Social Security number of the real taxpayer, if the taxpayer doesn’t follow the appropriate steps to return the refund cash.

Don’t do it.

“This isn’t your refund,” Garcia says. “You’re the victim of tax fraud. But don’t complicate things by not returning that money to the IRS—not the scammers.”

What should you do? Contact your bank. Don’t plan to spend the money. Follow the proper steps to return the fraudulent refund to the IRS.

Some consumers have reported that their bank accounts ended up being frozen as banks try to deal with this odd criminal twist. Your account could have to be closed to prevent fraudsters from gaining access.

The IRS said taxpayers who receive an erroneous refund should contact the Automated Clearing House department of their bank. The bank would return the erroneous refund directly to the IRS.

The taxpayer should contact the IRS at 800-829-1040 for an individual filer or 800-829-4933 for a business.

You’re going to want to file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit when you file your own tax return to state that you were a victim of a tax preparer data breach. Once a victimized taxpayer tries to file his or her own return electronically, they may fear that their tax return will be rejected because a 2017 return bearing their Social Security number has already been filed.

Tax fraud remains a threat, even though the IRS said the number of tax returns with confirmed identity theft declined by 32 percent to 597,000 returns in 2017, compared with 883,000 returns in 2016.

A spokesperson from Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, said its fraud detection program includes providing suspicious activity reports to the IRS and validating internet protocol addresses to block high-risk transactions from suspect geographies.

But experts say cybercriminals are always developing new lines of attack, like the direct deposit scam. So if you’re hit, it’s important to take action.

The IRS outlines the steps to take to return an erroneous refund in its “Tax Topic Number 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund.” See www.irs.gov.

Many times, scammers likely could try to use direct deposit. But some could have a fraudulent refund check sent to your home. They’re hoping you cash it—and don’t spend it—and then hand over the money. Or maybe they’re planning to steal that check out of your mailbox.

The steps for returning an uncashed check include writing “Void” on the back of the check where you’d sign it. The IRS wants you to submit the check immediately but no later than 21 days to the appropriate IRS location listed online. The IRS lists 10 possible locations for where you’d mail that erroneous check.

You will want to include a note saying that you’re returning an erroneous refund check and give a short reason.

And what if you’ve cashed an erroneous refund check?

You will need to send a personal check or money order to the IRS. Make sure to write on the check or money order: “Payment of Erroneous Refund” and the tax period for which the refund was issued.

If you don’t act promptly to repay an erroneous refund, the IRS could charge interest on the money.

©2018 Detroit Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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Sinkholes: Avoiding Collapsed Transactions

In 2017, multiple regions were severely impacted by natural disasters—and the real estate industry has been affected by them all. But one event which often occurs across the U.S. has largely been out of the limelight.

Sinkhole activity typically occurs in areas of Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. These events take with them land surfaces, which oftentimes include homes, when rock in the underground space dissolves and creates an unsupported cavern, ultimately giving way and collapsing.

The recent resurgence of sinkholes in Florida is leaving homeowners with questions. Are there signs to look for? Can they be prevented? What if a home is destroyed during the selling process? There are steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves and their assets in the case of sinkholes.

Seek Out the Signs
Does the property have noticeable sinking, sagging or cracking walls? These are all tell-tale signs of a sinkhole, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, tells RISMedia.

EarthTech.com provides even more signs to look for, which can vary depending on the severity of the situation:

  • Tilting or falling trees or fence posts
  • Slanting foundations
  • Sudden pond drainage
  • Wilted vegetation in a specific area
  • The sudden appearance of earthy odors
  • Infestation of bugs, such as slugs and centipedes

Homeowners should also look out for holes or depressions in which surface or storm water disappears. If a vortex emerges through which stream or pond water swirls down, this is another sign of a sinkhole.

Evaluate the Property
If a sinkhole is thought to be present, homeowners must act quickly to have the home inspected. The first step is to report it to the state’s department of environmental protection. If the property is on the market, the buyer can request that the home be inspected by a geotechnical engineer.

“An evaluation by a geotechnical engineering company (often done in concert with the homeowner’s property insurance company) will provide recommendations regarding safety and options for repair,” says Nimkoff.

Manage a Sinkhole-Impacted Transaction
Both buyers and sellers will be affected if the property in question is in danger of being damaged by a sinkhole. To ensure clients are protected, real estate agents should recommend they hire attorneys with sinkhole experience.

“Buyers whose under-contract property becomes involved in a sinkhole should turn to their REALTOR® for a referral to a real estate attorney,” Nimkoff says. “Options for the buyers moving forward (cancellation or renegotiation of the contract; reimbursement or withholding of escrow) are subject to legal interpretation of the contracts and the language contained therein.”

If the sinkhole is discovered before the home goes on the market, both homeowners and real estate agents must follow local real estate disclosure laws. In Florida, the sinkhole must be fully disclosed using the appropriate forms.

“Sellers and their REALTORS® are required by Florida law to disclose the presence of a sinkhole; REALTORS® are further obligated to disclose by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics,” says Nimkoff.

Buyers wishing to walk away from a sinkhole property may be protected depending on the type of contract they sign. These contracts can vary by location and by attorney.

“Buyers whose accepted purchase contract includes an option to cancel pending satisfactory inspection results (or a maximum estimated repair amount) will most likely be able to walk away without losing their escrow,” Nimkoff says. “However, those buyers who utilized other types of contracts (such as an AS-IS) or who included minimal contingencies and wish to cancel the contract should consult with a real estate attorney.”

Remediate the Sinkhole
The good news is a sinkhole can be remediated if it is discovered before its collapse. The process varies depending on the severity of the sinkhole. Shallow, isolated sinkholes are typically repaired through excavation and the installation of a plug. If the sinkhole is deep, however, geotechnical contractors need to use special drilling equipment in order to fix the sinkhole without disrupting it. Some companies install injection pipes in which grout creates a concrete cap.

Of course, remediation does not always translate into a cooperative buyer. Sinkholes can be a deal-killer; however, a property should be remediated in any case to ensure the safety of the homeowner and their property. Insurance also plays a role, as added coverage may be required by the state once a sinkhole is discovered and remediated.

“The decision of whether or not to move forward on a property involved in a sinkhole is dependent on many factors that are personal to each buyer’s intent, the type of property, and the type and age of the sinkhole,” says Nimkoff. “Buyers should rely on their REALTORS® to guide them through all the things to consider as they make a decision.”

The best thing buyers and sellers can do is to become knowledgeable of which areas are more prone to sinkholes. While unpredictable, sinkholes have an easier time forming on specific land.

“According to the Florida Department of Environmental Projection, the entire state of Florida is made up of underground terrain (carbonate rock) in which sinkhole-forming processes are continually taking place, and there is no way to predict the formation of a sinkhole; however, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher,” says Nimkoff. “In general, areas of the state where limestone is close to surface or areas with deeper limestone—but with a conducive configuration of water table elevation, stratigraphy and aquifer characteristics—have increased sinkhole activity.”

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4cLiz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Sinkholes: Avoiding Collapsed Transactions appeared first on RISMedia.

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CENTURY 21 Covered Bridges Realty, Inc.   |   570-784-2821   |   570-925-0210

©2017 CENTURY 21 Covered Bridges Realty, Inc. CENTURY 21® and the CENTURY 21 Logo are registered service marks owned by CENTURY 21 Real Estate LLC.  Equal Housing Opportunity.  Each office is independently owned and operated.