Best Winter Activities in Montgomery County

Because Philadelphia is in the top six metropolitan areas in the U.S., you might think that the great outdoors are out of reach. The truth is that there are lots of fun winter activities and fun things to do outside. Whether you’re looking for outdoor activities for kids, fun activities for adults, or just a few fun things to do when you’re bored in the winter, here’s what you need to know about day trips around Philadelphia!

Skiing Near Philadelphia

Spring Mountain is a quick ride from the heart of Philadelphia and is open year-round for family fun. Outdoor winter activities include skiing and snowboarding, and the Woodside Lodge has a warm and cozy pub and restaurant to grab a bite and warm up. If it’s too cold outside, year-round activities include ziplining, canopy tours, geocaching, rock wall climbing, and downhill mountain biking.

If you’re planning your ski or snowboard trip, there’s no need to worry about snow or equipment. Spring Mountain keeps its slopes snowy and has a full range of skiing and snowboarding equipment for rent—even boots and helmets. You don’t need to know how to ski or snowboard, either! Lessons are provided and tailored to your abilities. If you’ve never tried either, Spring Mountain will get you hooked!

Sleigh Rides in PA

Northern Star Farms, located just 11 miles north of Valley Forge National Historic Park, is one of the only places to experience an authentic, 19th-century sleigh ride experience. Bring a date, your family, or group of up to 12 people and get ready to enjoy the full horse-drawn sleigh experience—driver in top hat and cape included! The sleighing season typically extends from January through March, and gift cards are available, making it a perfect gifting opportunity! Conditions need to be cold and snowy enough, especially for large groups, so be sure to check in before heading out for the day.

Authentic Valley Forge Experience

The winter encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge is a story most locals have heard, but how many have experienced the camp as the soldiers did during the winter of 1777-1778? If you’ve never visited Valley Forge Park or have limited your excursions to the warmer months, now is the time to go. Take a look at reconstructed huts that are just like the original ones the soldiers endured the winter in. And, if you visit on the weekend, you can take a tour of Washington’s encampment headquarters. For a completely unique experience, cross-country skiers are welcome to glide through the 3500 acres!

Red Buffalo Ranch

Get a unique look at the beautiful Evansburg State Park with guided trail rides from Red Buffalo Ranch. If you’ve never tried horseback riding, Red Buffalo Ranch works hard to make the experience enjoyable for visitors of all experience levels. The guides have seen it all, and the horses are well-trained to provide one- or two-hour rides, or longer as reserved. Riders must be at least seven years old and under 250 pounds, and winter hours extend from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekdays; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the weekends. Tip: Credit cards are not accepted, so be sure to bring cash or check!

Green Lane Park

Located in northwestern Montgomery County, Green Lake Park is perfect for families, couples, groups, or even a solo stroll. More than 25 miles of trails are available for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and ice skating are all available. If the weather is warm enough, two playgrounds are also available for kids. The park opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at sunset every day. Pack a picnic (no icepacks necessary!) and enjoy the great outdoors.

Elmwood Park Zoo

The Elmwood Park Zoo, conveniently located in Norristown, PA, is home to a variety of animals, from amphibians and birds to mammals and reptiles. Many of them are cozied up indoors for the winter, but some—like the giant American bison—are right at home in the snow and cold. When visiting in the winter, you’ll get a good look at their thick, shaggy coats that keep them warm all season long. The zoo hosts a number of events throughout the cold months, including their Wild Lights exhibit through January 5th, Day Camps for days that schools are closed, and more.

Blue Cross RiverRink

You don’t have to leave the city to enjoy outdoor activities in Philadelphia. The Blue Cross RiverRink is free and open to the public every day—including holidays—and a host of activities to keep you warm. Along with the world-class skating rink, visitors can enjoy an outdoor seating area with cozy fire pits, freshly decorated warming cabins, a sweet treat from the Franklin Fountain Confectionery Cabin, and a bite to eat from Garces or Chickie’s & Pete’s. The littlest visitors can enjoy the kid-friendly Children’s Lodge and arcade; grownup guests can warm up with a drink at the chalet-inspired Lodge.

Montgomery County Recreation All Year Long

Living in or near the big city doesn’t have to mean missing out on the great outdoors all winter long. Whether you enjoy sports and activities such as skiing and snowboarding, or you’re more the cuddle-up-to-the-campfire type, there are plenty of places to visit in PA and easy day trips from Philadelphia to keep you busy until the spring arrives.

Looking for a place to stay permanently in the Montgomery County area? Learn more today at Bay Management Group to get started with your search.

Tenant Screening Part 2: Credit Report

tenant screening philly Credit reports are a significant part of the tenant screening process as a person’s credit is a direct correlation to their trustworthiness to pay back their debts. In this second installment of our three-part Tenant Screening series, we’ll be focusing on this portion of application screening in PA. Understanding an applicant’s financial history is critical when determining whether you’ll lease your property to the person or not, as a thorough investigation can help you reduce the likelihood of unpaid rent. Let’s take a look.

Credit Report vs. Credit Score

It is often misunderstood that a credit report and a credit score are the same things, but they each provide different information. A credit report is a complete record of a person’s credit history and can serve as a list of credit references. These reports are compiled by three reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, and each bureau maintains its own report. Because the information can differ between each bureau’s reports, it may be helpful to pull reports from more than one bureau.

In contrast, a credit score is a numerical score given by FICO, VantageScore, or individual banks with their own proprietary scoring system. The information from a person’s credit report is used to create the score; a computer algorithm is typically responsible for measuring the person’s credit risk based on that information. Credit scores are handy for a quick look at a person’s credit history. In most cases, someone with a high credit score is unlikely to have a poor credit history. On the other hand, someone with a low score may have explainable events to investigate.

What to Look for On Each Report

When checking a prospective tenant’s credit score, we recommend a score no lower than 600, no matter what the explanation for the low score may be. For units with higher rent amounts, it may be prudent only to accept those with higher credit scores as their obligations will be more challenging to meet, and trustworthiness is essential.

When reading through a credit report, the most important thing to look for is any recent accounts in collections. When a person has a statement sent to collections, it means he or she has failed to pay that bill for an extended time and after repeated attempts to collect the debt from the original creditor. Eventually, the creditor gives up and enlists the help of a collection agency to recoup lost payments. If a person cannot demonstrate the responsibility to pay their debts, they may not be a good candidate for paying their rent, either.

We also recommend that no landlord accept tenants who owe any utility companies. That’s because utility companies may not turn on new service for anyone with a past balance until that balance has been paid in full. Plus, a tenant who cannot pay for their most essential needs may not be trustworthy to pay their rent. If a tenant claims to have paid old utility debts, be sure to require proof of such payments. It’s also advisable to deny any applicants with unpaid rent or fees due to a previous landlord as you wouldn’t want to end up in the same position as their old landlord.

Weighing Credit Against Other Factors

A rental screening application form collects a lot of information from possible tenants, including income, rental history, and other financial information. Finding the perfect applicant is fairly rare, so landlords should be diligent when looking through an applicant’s current financial situation and credit history. For example, a person can be overly qualified in terms of income, but a poor credit history or low credit score might reveal that he or she is not using that income to pay their bills.

There may be occasions when exceptions may be acceptable. For example, if a person has an old collection that has been paid in full and no other credit issues since that date—and all other credit and income verification looks good—it may be an acceptable risk to accept that tenant. If minor problems or questions have you on the fence as to whether to accept the application or not, consider requiring an additional deposit or prepayment of rent to reduce your risk.

PA Rental Applications

Screening tenants to live in your rental home is not an easy task. If you’re inexperienced with credit reports and scores and weighing the information contained in these reports, you may not be making the best tenant decisions. Instead, protect your investment and your income by engaging with a superior property management company. BMG Philadelphia knows what it takes to be an excellent tenant and has seen all the red flags that should send a rental application directly to the “rejected” pile. It’s impossible to prevent tenants from defaulting on their rent. However, with a little due diligence and the help of a professional, you can reduce that risk by having strict standards for occupancy in your PA rental properties.

Delaware County – Hot Market

Philadelphia is a popular location for real estate investments, but it is crowded, densely populated, and congested with traffic—and the same can be said for the suburbs immediately surrounding the city. While some thrive in such a fast-paced, jam-packed environment, others are ready to stretch their legs and head into some new areas that are less populated and ready for a modern development in a Philadelphia suburb.

Delaware County: The Perfect Package

For real estate investors, Delaware County has it all: from large apartment buildings and complexes to condos, townhomes, and detached homes, there is something for every level of investor. Delaware County is located along Interstate 95 and for a long time known as a blue-collar demographic. In the past twenty years or so, this blue-collar demographic remains but has drastically seen an influx of large single-family detached home communities to support a white collar demographic throughout townships in the county.

One suburban area that is starting to see tremendous population growth is Garnet Valley. Located just ten minutes from I-95, about 40 minutes into the heart of Philadelphia, and a quick 25 minutes to Wilmington, Delaware, Garnet Valley is becoming a hot real estate market from its location alone. While it may be farther from Philadelphia in terms of mileage when compared to areas in Bucks County or Montgomery County, the lack of overpopulation means that highways are not jammed, and commute times are much shorter as a result.

Another draw that Garnet Valley has is the fact that the developments are so new. People are clamoring to get into this area, and new developments are working hard to keep up. For investors, it’s easier to get into new construction, and it’s a reasonably current and modern investment. This means that rather than having to struggle with the costs of upkeep and updating old structures and the complicated rules for historical buildings, everything will be new and up to code. A fresh start with modern fixtures, layouts, and features that today’s renters are looking for is a great way to get a new investment off to a profitable start.

For individuals and families considering Garnet Valley, the appeal is undeniable. The schools are top-notch, crime is virtually non-existent (especially when compared to the rest of the Philadelphia metro area), and the continuously-developing shopping, dining, and entertainment options are plentiful, so there’s always something to do without having to make the drive into the city. Plus, the small-town feel is appealing, especially after a long week of hectic work.

The average rent for a four-bedroom home ranges between $3000 and $3750, whether the building is a townhome or detached home. The income potential is agreeable in comparison to other developing areas, yet the cost to renters is more reasonable than other suburban townships in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. In other words, a win for everyone financially.

Garnet Valley: The Time is Now

For smart real estate investors, the time to jump into Garnet Valley is now. There are still plenty of undeveloped areas and room to grow, but once those areas have been filled in, the cost to develop in Garnet Valley will increase, and the development boom is likely to move further into Delaware County—and farther from the employment hubs of Philadelphia and Wilmington. For smart investors who get a footprint in Garnet Valley now, the payoff will be significant in the long run.

For excited investors who may not be familiar with the Garnet Valley area, working with a full-service property management company that’s experienced working in Delaware County is a smart move. Bay Management Group tackles all the tedious tasks related to investment properties, including filling vacancies, accounting, compliance with state and local laws, and more. We’ll help manage a single-family residence and make it simple to stay on top of the needs of multi-family homes and apartment buildings. Contact us today to learn more.

Tenant Screening Part 1: Proof of Income

Screening new tenants for your rental property is probably one of the most important tasks you will have as a landlord. There are many aspects of a tenant application to consider and several Philadelphia tenant laws to be aware of. For that reason, we’ll be doing a three-part series to make sure you have the most up-to-date and complete information on the tenant screening process. In this installment, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about income verification.

New Tenant Application Form

Many property owners begin the process by having applicants complete a landlord-tenant application. We prefer to start with a pre-screening of the tenant to narrow down the available properties and units that will match their needs. Questions include income levels, credit ratings, and background information along with family needs and desired amenities. If the prospect is a good fit for any of our available units, the next step is a tour so the applicant can find one they can call their own.

Only after the pre-screening process is complete and the tenant has found a suitable unit will we begin the in-depth process of screening the prospect. Following this procedure helps reduce the amount of time spent screening as there’s no need to verify people who won’t end up leasing one of our properties.

Income Verification Scenarios

Completing the new tenant application form is simple for prospects and should take only about ten minutes, provided they have all their information and attachments (such as pay stubs) handy. On the other hand, the landlord can spend several hours to thoroughly screen a prospect in some cases. The best scenario for the landlord is when the potential tenant works for a well-known company, and pay stubs from a payroll service are available. In that case, verification through the company’s human resources department can be completed with a single phone call.

Of course, people find employment in a variety of scenarios, and not all income is as easily verified as that which comes with a pay stub or a W-2. Independent contractors, freelancers, and people who own their own companies can be a little more time-consuming to verify, but the process is certainly doable. For this group, the first document to ask for is the Schedule C from their most recent tax return. This document is provided to the IRS to document their income so that appropriate taxes can be collected. If the prospect is unable to submit this form, the process should result in denial as it usually means the person is trying to hide something.

Keep in mind that a company will go through ups and downs over the years, and several months can have a huge impact on the health of the business. For that reason, we ask for a deposit transaction ledger from the applicant’s bank account for the three months prior to the application. This will show how much and how regularly the person is being paid through the company. We may also ask for a year-to-date profit and loss statement from the company to see the complete picture, as well.

For any applicant who is paid in cash or via a cash app, bank statements will also be required. We also ask this group for the Schedule C form from their most recent tax return to verify that the income has been approved by the IRS. We do, however, tend to be more critical when putting together the entire tenant application for approval of prospects with difficult-to-verify cash income.

When to Require Additional Security

Collecting rent in full and on-time is critical to the success of your investment property. Every prospect whose income verification process has left behind any question marks should be required to provide additional security to the landlord that the rent will be paid. One option is to request an additional security deposit or prepaid rent to minimize the chances of losing money on a tenant who becomes delinquent. Another option is to require a co-signer or someone who agrees to pay any debts if the person becomes delinquent on their rent.

We hold co-signers to an extremely high standard as they must have enough income to cover their own residence as well as the expenses of the person they are co-signing for. In general, a good co-signer is one with excellent, established credit and a high income that can be verified. Co-signers do not have to be local, but they must be available to sign the lease themselves as it is a binding, legal agreement.

Income is the Critical Factor

Ultimately, the proof of income is the most important factor for every prospect who has applied to lease one of your units. There are many variables to consider when selecting the right tenant, but reliability is paramount as failure to pay will result in stress, hassle, and loss for all involved. Many property owners living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Chester County, PA, and the surrounding areas prefer to work with a professional management company, especially in a hot real estate market. Bay Management Group has been helping landlords screen tenants for years, and we know all the red flags to look for along with a thorough understanding of local and federal laws so you can rest easy knowing you have the right tenants for your properties.

Cash for Keys—Why to Never Give in To a Tenant

cash for keys philly
If the purpose of an investment property is to provide an income for the property owner, then it can be an entirely frustrating situation when a tenant becomes delinquent on his or her rent. What can a landlord do with an unruly tenant?

In most cases, landlords turn to the legal system and begin the process of eviction. However, evicting a tenant in PA can take two or three months—even longer in some cases. Are there alternatives for handling a bad tenant list?

How to Evict Someone Who Doesn’t Pay Rent

The eviction process in PA can be started as soon as the tenant fails to pay their rent on time—as soon as the day after it is due. Landlords do not have to file a late rent notice before filing a Notice to Quit, which provides the tenant ten days to pay the balance in full or vacate the property. This notice can be handed personally to the tenant, taped to the property’s door, or posted in a common area where the tenant will be sure to see it. If the rent is not paid and the unit is not vacated within the ten-day limit, then a landlord may proceed with an eviction.

This process can be unappealing to many property owners, especially if it is drawn out for several months. First, there is usually no rent being collected for the property or apartment unit during this time. In addition to the lost income, attorney’s fees and court costs can add up to $1,000 in additional charges. In other words, evictions are costly.

Another reason some landlords prefer to handle a lease break in a different manner may have to do with their compliance. If the owner’s rental license is not up-to-date or was never acquired, if Philadelphia property owners do not have a current lead-based paint inspection (if applicable), or if Philadelphia tenants did not receive a suitability certificate and/or Partners in Housing pamphlet, for example, the landlord will be unable to use the legal system to pursue an eviction.

What is Cash for Keys in PA?

The phrase “cash for keys” refers to the idea of offering a delinquent tenant money to move out of their unit and terminate the lease. Often, the amount proposed may be equal to the security deposit, a month’s rent, or another enticing cash figure. For some property owners, offering cash can seem like a good idea as it’s likely to be substantially less than the total amount of eviction costs plus the rent lost from a unit that cannot be leased again until it is vacated.

As long as the landlord and tenant agree to the terms of a cash for keys agreement, the process is not illegal. The landlord will still need to ensure the tenant is completely out of the property, and the property is completely secured. Even though the cost may seem less in the long run, it is not recommended that property owners take this route. There are other ways to work with wayward tenants that can result in a more favorable outcome for the landlord while also not encouraging tenants to hold out for a cash reward for failing to pay their rent.

Better Options When Rent is Delinquent

If you have a tenant who is behind on rent, but you don’t want to go through the eviction process for any reason, there are a couple of options to try to negotiate with the leasee that does not involve cash payments. The first is to offer the tenant a lease break without an additional penalty. This will not erase their current debt but can provide a path to reaching an agreement for the tenant to leave the property. The landlord can use the security deposit and last month’s rent to cover any past-due charges, and any remaining balances would still need to be paid by the tenant. This process will benefit both parties as the landlord will still collect money that is owed and have the unit vacated, and the tenant can avoid an eviction on their record.

If the current tenants refuse this offer, the landlord can keep negotiating to reach a deal that works best. For example, you can offer to keep any deposits already collected, but agree not to pursue any previous balances that deposits do not cover if the tenant agrees to move out without further delay.

Maintaining the Advantage

In every rental agreement, the best-case scenario is for tenants to stay current on their payments and for landlords to fulfill their obligations to those renting the property. For landlords to be able to keep their side of the agreement and make use of legal paths to removing delinquent tenants, all property owners must be in compliance with all state and local laws, regulations, and ordinances. As long as they are compliant, landlords should always remember that they are not obligated to provide an easy exit for a tenant who refuses to pay.

If negotiations have been offered in good faith and the tenant still refuses to pay up or move out, it is time to start the eviction process. Once an eviction order is received, property owners can file with a collections agency that will pursue any balances owed using every legal means possible, including wage garnishments.

At Bay Management Group, we do not get into these situations with tenants, and we would never advise a landlord to reward bad behavior with a cash prize to vacate a property when back rent is owed. Instead, we ensure that all properties and their owners are always fully compliant and that we can file for eviction whenever a tenant is behind on rent, and an agreement cannot be reached.

The Risk of Investing in a Norristown, PA Investment Property

risks of investing norristownNorristown is conveniently located in Montgomery County, PA, along three major interstates: I-76, I-276, and I-476. As a whole, Montgomery County has a very stable housing market and is often quite sought after for buyers and renters alike for features such as the excellent school systems. Because of the urban feel of the township, Norristown is essentially an extension of Philadelphia, and the low purchase prices for home sales make it an attractive area for investors to choose from.

PA Inspection Laws

With any investment property, there are always risks encountered, many of them having to do with repairs and maintenance of the property. Most townships require property owners to include safety features and upgrades meant to protect both you and your tenants. For example, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors must be present on each floor, as well as in each bedroom of a unit. Proper handrails, GFCI outlets within four feet of a water source, and maintaining steps and stairs in a safe condition are all standard requirements. For any buyer, investment property management requires plenty of knowledge of PA regulations as well as local stipulations.

While the above list of codes probably seems reasonable, Norristown goes much further. Any investors considering an investment property in this township should be prepared for the additional regulations.

Extremely Strict Inspection Lists

If investors think the Philadelphia property maintenance code is challenging to comply with, Norristown may prove to be even more demanding. Here is a quick list of some of the township’s requirements that must be met during a PA home inspection:

  • Street Numbers. The street address must be visible from the front and back of the house.
  • Paint. No chipping or peeling paint may be visible regardless of the age of the home.
  • Electrical. All rooms must have three double outlets, and any outlets near any water source must be GFCI. Plus, the electric panel must be properly labeled.
  • Bedrooms. No bedroom may have a keyed lock.
  • Safety Features. All steps must be completely even; all windows must open and stay open.
  • Fire Prevention. Smoke detectors must be located in every bedroom, and outside of each bedroom. A minimum of one smoke detector and one carbon monoxide detector must be present on each level of the home. Every home must be equipped with a fire extinguisher that meets local regulations. A smoke detector that is beeping to warn of a failing battery will cause an inspection failure.
  • Water. Basements cannot have any signs of water entry. Downspouts must be secured and pitched away from the building and not towards any neighboring properties.

Property Repair Certifications & Inspections

In addition to the detailed requirements for each rental unit of a building, there are several certifications and conditions to be aware of before purchasing an investment property in Norristown, PA. Here are several to keep in mind.

  • Furnace Certification. Every furnace must be inspected and certified every year. The inspection must be completed by a third-party inspector who has been approved by Norristown, and any recommendations provided by the inspector must be heeded.
  • Chimney Certification. All chimneys in a building must be in working order, as verified by an inspection and certification every year. No chimney may have any missing mortar, crumbling bricks, or any cable wires going through them. Inspectors must be approved by Norristown, and any upgrades or recommendations must be completed.
  • Fire Escape Certification. Every fire escape attached to a multi-family home must be inspected and certified every five years by an inspector who has been approved by Norristown and typically costs about $1000. If the inspector recommends upgrades or repairs, these must be completed.
  • Roof Inspection. If an inspector feels that the roof needs to be examined, an inspection can be ordered. The property owner must complete any repairs or replacements deemed necessary by the inspector.
  • Water Entry. If an inspector finds any signs of moisture or water entry in the basement, they can require the property owner to waterproof the entire basement. This can be a costly proposition for any landlord.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Because of the attractive amenities and prices, investors can find great success in Norristown—provided they manage to stay in compliance with the long list of requirements, codes, and inspections. In most cases, these regulations are meant to protect tenants from injury and property damage, but they can also help property owners stay on top of the property repair and avoid any surprise expenses, especially after bringing all items up to compliance.

For many property investors, all the factors are unfavorable for a profitable investmentand the inspection and repair checklists are too cumbersome to manage. Some investors may also have undue stress and worry even if they are working hard to stay in compliance, just because there is so much to keep track of. For these reasons, many investors choose to work with property management companies that are experienced with the specific requirements of operating a rental property in Norristown, PA.

At Bay Management Group, we are locally owned and operated. Our team was born and bred in the area, and our experience in Philadelphia and the surrounding townships and counties is unmatched. If Norristown sounds like the right formula for a profitable investment, but you’re intimidated by the regulations, we’ll make it easy for you to stay in compliance and enjoy a solid return on your investment.

Non-Traditional Attractions in Bucks County

places to visit near Pennsylvania, fun stuff t o do in Pennsylvania
Bucks County, Pennsylvania is spread across 622 square miles and has a population of just over 625,000. What that means for visitors is vast farmlands and beautiful state parks that are the perfect distance from one of the largest cities in the US. With so many traditional family fun activities to enjoy in the city nearby, let’s take a look at some less conventional, but still fun, things to do in PA when you visit Bucks County.

Peddler’s Village

Visit the colonial-style buildings, breathtaking gardens, and unique shopping and dining opportunities that make up the storybook Peddler’s Village. People looking for places to visit near Pennsylvania have been wandering the brick pathways and 12 annual festivals and events for more than 55 years. Shopping includes clothing and gift shops, art galleries, bookstores, local foodie finds, wineries, and so much more.

With plenty of pubs, coffee shops, and snack stops, there’s tons of dining options to keep everyone fueled up all day long. Families will love making time for the Giggleberry Fair, a Bucks County playhouse with something for everyone. Activities include the three-story Giggleberry Mountain, the Grand Carousel, the Game Room, and Giggles Discoveries, a safe area designed exclusively for kids six and under.

Covered Bridge Tour

When it comes to PA attractions, the 12 covered bridges of Bucks County are a must-see. Once called “kissing bridges,” each bridge has a rich history, an architectural story, and a bit of romantic charm to add to the ambiance. Formal tours are available, but there is also a self-guided driving tour that families can take at any time. Make the most of one of the most popular day trips in PA by packing a picnic and dropping in at any time to tour of the covered bridges.

A few of the bridges have been restricted to foot traffic only, but some bridges on the tour can still support vehicle traffic. Along the way, visitors will stop at the Cabin Run Covered Bridge located in Plumstead Township, the Erwinna Covered Bridge on the 528-acre Erwin Farmstead, Knecht’s Covered Bridge that’s build from Hemlock, and many others.

Stone House Driving Tour

For more must-see Bucks County events, pack up the family and take another driving tour. This one winds through Bucks County and stops along the way at the many historic stone houses built in the countryside. Visitors should be aware that most of the stone houses are now private homes, so be sure to be respectful of the homeowners and enjoy from a distance.

A few of the stops on the tour include the home of Revolutionary War General John Lacey, the Penn-Walton Homestead built on land deeded originally in 1743, and Liberty Hall, the original residence built in Quakertown and the hiding place for the Liberty Bell during the Revolutionary War. The driving tour starts in New Hope, a small town with big-city options for eclectic shopping, charming dining, and plenty of cultural attractions. The tour concludes in Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County, with plenty of one-of-a-kind finds from our nation’s history.

Shady Brook Farm

If you’re looking for outdoor activities for kids, Shady Brook Farm is the place to go. Stop by all year long to enjoy seasonal events or join one of the seasonal wagon-ride farm tours. General admission provides access to a wagon-ride farm tour and the choice of picking your own seasonal fruit or planting a seed if there’s no picking in season. Kids will enjoy the jumping pillows, go-carts, spider web crawl, and the playgrounds.

The entire family will appreciate the Farm Market featuring homegrown fruits and veggies, homemade nut butter and honey, fresh cheeses, plenty of fresh bakery items, and a full-service deli featuring soups, salads, and sandwiches. Then, drop into the Rose Bank Winery or gather together for a cone of Uncle Dave’s Homemade Ice Cream to round out your visit.

Peace Valley Lavender Farm

If you love the aroma of lavender and don’t mind a little farmland fun, you’ll love everything about the Peace Valley Lavender Farm. Drop-in throughout June and July to see (and smell!) the lavender field in bloom. Swing by all year round to explore the unique shop on the farm featuring all things lavender. Start with a whiff of all the bath and body products and sachets, and finish with lavender luxuries for your kitchen, including lavender-infused honey and sugar. Everything in between includes dried floral arrangements, gift baskets, products for the home, and a whole section of gifts all under thirty dollars. And if the kids are getting a little squirrely before you’ve finished shopping, let them play across the way at the Peace Valley Park.

More Farmers Markets

As long as the farmer’s markets are open, there’s always plenty of fun stuff to do in Pennsylvania. The Quakertown Farmers Market features unique antiques and collectibles along with a continually-rotating roster of vendors supplying fresh foods and crafts for the home. The indoor Ferry Market is a hub for local social events, features fresh seasonal produce and healthy prepared foods, and is located on Main Street in New Hope. Rice’s Sale and Country Market is another shopping destination that can’t be missed. With more than 30 acres of indoor and outdoor shopping, more than 400 vendors, and everything from vintage thrifting to beauty consulting and local vegetables, there’s something for everyone.

Family Fun in Bucks County PA

With so much to see and do, plus a few of the more traditional destinations such as the Bucks County Free Library and the Bucks County Children’s Museum, there’s plenty to keep the family busy and happy all year long.

Are you looking to move to the Bucks County area? Contact our team at Bay Management Group to help you find the perfect home for you and your family.

Flood Prevention in Your Rental Property

flood prevention, basement floods, basement drain systemsFlood prevention is an essential part of managing a rental property as damage from flooding can lead to expensive repairs and loss of income. The weather can often be unpredictable, but the path of flooding from natural events can be anticipated as most floods occur in subterranean areas like basements or basement apartments. Here are a few tips to help prevent flooding in your rental property.

Exterior Drain Maintenance

Keeping your exterior drainage systems in excellent working order will go a long way to prevent basement floods and water damage. Advanced drain systems work to move water away from the property and into drainage systems. Start by scheduling regular gutter cleaning for the property to ensure all gutters are clear of debris. Ideally, gutters should be thoroughly cleaned at least twice per year and inspected after any major storm event to ensure they are still angled downward and providing proper drainage.

Next up are the downspouts which should be tightly connected to the gutters and utilize elbows that are pitched away from the property. Downspouts should be secured and anchored to prevent them from separating or breaking during storms. If the ends are not routed to a drainage system, they must be long enough to carry water away from the building to prevent pooling at the foundation.

Lastly, exterior drains should be checked regularly to ensure each is clear of trash and debris. Trim away vegetation to keep a clear path for water and consider scheduling a plumber to snake outdoor drains every few years. Have them remove collected trash or vegetation that could lead to a clog or interference with your sewage system.

Sump Pump Systems

For starters, if your property was built without a sump pump and the basement floods during heavy rain, then it would be wise to have a plumber install a system. A sump pump works as part of a basement drain system whose purpose is to keep the perimeter and the area under a building dry and prevent flooding. In most cases, sump pumps are installed into a special pit that collects water via drains and then pumps that water away from the building. Many flood and drain systems that include a sump pump are tied into exterior pipes to facilitate the movement of water—another reason to make sure your basement flood prevention plan always includes keeping exterior drains clean!

Whether your property has an existing sump pump or you’re considering having one installed, a battery backup is a must. Flood prevention systems are only useful when they are operational, and you don’t want your sump pit to fill up and overflow into the basement in the event of a power outage. A battery backup for sump pumps will kick in if the property loses power—something that’s more likely to happen during the worst of storms.

French Drain Systems

For properties that are precariously placed at the bottom of a hill or other high-risk areas, home flood prevention systems must be a little more robust to make sure water is sufficiently removed. French drains are ideal for single-family or small multi-family homes that need extra protection from flooding. To install these systems, a trench is dug around the perimeter of the property, and a perforated pipe is placed in the trenches to collect water. The trench is filled with gravel to create a porous structure for rainwater to easily flow to the pipe below.

Most basement French drain systems are constructed on the exterior of the building in this fashion, but interior French drain systems can be helpful for basements with recurring water problems. An interior system uses a perforated pipe placed in a channel around the perimeter of the basement floor, similar to an exterior trench. These systems collect water as it enters your basement, making them a reliable method to keep basements dry during heavy rain events. Water is then routed to a collection tank, and a sump pump is used to pump the water away from the home or into exterior drainage systems.

Interior French drain systems can be tricky to retrofit, especially if the basement is finished. It can be difficult to install because interior walls typically need to be removed to put the system in. However, if intruding water is perpetually causing problems for you or your tenants, it might be the best option to secure the area for the future.

Home Flood Prevention Systems

Whether you stick with basic flood prevention products such as gutters and downspouts or your property requires a more advanced flood prevention system to keep the basement dry, every property owner has to do their part to protect both their own and their tenants’ interests. Flooding can cause serious damage to building structures and wipe out personal property, furniture, and fixtures fairly quickly. Instead of dealing with the aftermath, it is much better to heed the old advice about an ounce of prevention.

Do you need help evaluating your property for potential flood threats? Enlist the help of the property management experts at Bay Management Group. Contact our team today to get started.

Upgrades That Don’t Add Much Value to a Rental Property

how much value does a patio add to your homeOne question we frequently get from landlords is what can be done to add value to their rental properties. Last time, we discussed how to upgrade your kitchen to improve the quality and achieve a higher rent. This time, we’ll go over a few items that do not add much value to a rental property and won’t bring much return on your investment. Let’s take a look:

Rooftop Decks

Rooftop decks are usually a fun and cool feature that are likely to be a positive selling point when bringing prospective tenants on a tour of the property. But the real question is: will a rooftop deck add value? Probably not. First, in most cases, these end up only being used occasionally by a handful of tenants while the weather is great but otherwise sit unused. In other words, your tenants might be wowed by the deck on the tour and then never revisit it.

The second­—and more significant—concern is the cost to build and maintain a rooftop deck. While every project is different, the expense can be anywhere between $4,000 and $16,000, and sometimes more. Plus, most roofs are not made to hold the weight of people, furniture, and other decorations and must be engineered to do so before construction can begin. The carpenter will also be required to punch holes in the existing rooftop and siding—both of which will allow water to enter the building if not properly maintained. The remodeling cost versus value is not ideal.

Lastly, having people on the roof of your building can be quite a liability. From safety features preventing anyone from falling to having people climbing stairs to the deck, your liability insurance will be through the roof. A better question may be to ask how much value a new roof adds. In that case, you still won’t be able to charge more in rent, but a well-maintained building will always cost less to operate and repair.

Engineered Hardwood or Bamboo Floors

For property owners wondering about the best flooring for resale value or how to boost the overall value of the rental unit, engineered hardwood and bamboo are not the best choices. The trouble is that engineered hardwood is subject to more warping and other distortions over time, especially when compared to traditional hardwood, vinyl planks, and laminate. Engineered flooring cannot be sanded and refinished like regular hardwood so that it will have a shorter lifespan, and it’s more expensive than laminate and vinyl.

Bamboo seems like a great option because it is affordable, friendly to the environment, and it is far less likely to see the same type of deterioration found in regular hardwood and other flooring options. What makes it a poor choice for rental units is how easily it can be scratched by furniture, dropped items, and animals. In short, your beautiful bamboo floor will not be so beautiful in a very short amount of time.

For the serious investor wondering if hardwood floors increase the value of a home, the answer here is yes! Real, traditional hardwood is always an excellent option, and budget-minded landlords can stick to vinyl planks and laminate.

Alarm Systems & Smart Thermostats

Alarm systems and smart gadgets are always at the top of the list when it comes to home upgrades worth paying for. Much like a rooftop deck, these items are likely to impress tenants that are considering leasing your property. However, they’re probably not going to increase the amount of rent the property can fetch—even if they help tenants save money on their utility bills.

That doesn’t mean that you should avoid alarms and smart devices in your rental property. There are several benefits that make it worth it for you and your tenants. For example, having a reliable security system in outdoor areas, entryways, and parking lots will improve the safety of your property. Plus, these devices can help cut the cost of insuring your building as well.

There may be some cases where an integrated system is appealing enough to a tenant that they are willing to pay more to lease the unit. This would include built-in security, thermostats, water heaters, lights, and other devices. However, it’s unlikely that these updates alone would drive up the price. Instead, they would be considered features of a high-end or luxury unit.

New Windows

You might think that new windows would add value to your rental property as they are often a major selling point for homebuyers. The truth, however, is that most renters are not that interested in these types of details in a home, provided the windows look well-maintained and are not leaky and drafty. You’ll be doing your tenants a favor by keeping their utility bills in check, and new windows will certainly improve the long-term outlook for the building structure by preventing air and water penetration into the home.

In some specific cases, upgraded windows can pay off. For example, if the property is located on a noisy, busy street, double-pane windows can help muffle the noise and keep the unit quiet. If the area has a high level of demand and other rental units nearby are not offering these features, you may be able to get a boost in the price for the unit—although it may take some time to see the return on your investment.

New Home Upgrades Worth Paying For

With these upgrades, you never have complete assurance that you’ll get back even a little of what you’ve spent to implement them. If you’re looking for answers on how to increase home value for appraisal or to net higher rent, it’s better to stick to the primary things that renters are looking for. This includes updated kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, and storage space.

If you need help upgrading your property, reach out to the property management experts. At Bay Management Group, we have a team that can ensure your property is updated appropriately, so it receives the attention it deserves. Contact us today for more information.

Things to Do in Media, Pennsylvania with the Kids This Summer

For people looking for things to do or moving to Pennsylvania with the kids and family, there’s no better place to head than Media, PA. Located between Route 1 and I-476 in Delaware County, Media is a quick 15-minute drive from I-95, and it makes for a great destination to live or to visit if you’re looking to have some family fun. Here are a few things to check out while you’re in town.

Dining Under the Stars

Hosted on Wednesday evenings from May until September, this event brings the community together for food, fun, music, and more. The main street through town is closed to traffic and is transformed into an al fresco dining area complete with live music and more than a dozen participating restaurants. Reservations are accepted, but not required, and children are always welcome.

State Street Blues

If you’re looking for outdoor things to do in Pennsylvania, the State Street Blues in Media offers a host of events in coordination with local restaurants throughout the summer months. From the State Street Blues Stroll, the Media Americana Roots Ramble, and the annual Jazz by Night event, there’s plenty of fun to be found. Tickets may be purchased in advance for each event, or at the door if any remain.

The Media Theatre

Whether you’re hoping for a touch of Broadway, a raucous comedy, or a summer camp for the kids, the Media Theatre is packed with fun family things to do in Pennsylvania. The children’s camps run in two-week sessions throughout the summer, and kids will learn stage singing, acting, and dancing with an eye on plenty of fun. The annual Broadway series kicks off in August with tickets available from the box office. Plus, special events, including concerts and other performers, are announced throughout the year.

Second Saturdays

More than 30 businesses participate in this ongoing event in Media on the second Saturday of every month. From 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., local musicians, artists, and artisans are hosted by shops, galleries, and restaurants where guests are invited to explore what’s on display. There are also many special events, exhibitions, and community gatherings during Second Saturdays. All of them are family-friendly, making this one of the top ten things to do in Pennsylvania in the summer, and all year long.

MAC Music Series

The Media Arts Council presents a variety of musical performances throughout the summer with something to suit every taste. Many of the events benefit local institutions and ask only for a suggested donation to enter. Past events have featured sessions with songwriters such as Will Paynter, honky-tonk band Lost Northern Tribe, and a benefit concert with a variety of performers to help support the “Instrument Petting Zoo,” where kids can test out instruments that include guitars, keyboards, percussion, and so much more.

The Tyler Arboretum

Featuring more than 650 acres of forest, picnic areas, paths, and more, the Tyler Arboretum is the perfect place for things to do in Pennsylvania in summer. From strolling the pathways to learning about local plants, there’s plenty to keep everyone busy for many visits throughout the season. The arboretum also hosts special events for kids and families, such as the Bugs & Butterflies celebration. It includes an in-depth study of magical monarchs and their fantastic migration and plenty of invertebrates for the non-squeamish to enjoy. Plus, on Fridays throughout the summer, join friends and neighbors at the “beerboretum” featuring drinks from 2SP Brewing, food trucks, and science tables with activities for both kids and adults.

Ridley Creek State Park

Spread out and stretch your legs on more than 2,600 acres of woodlands and meadows. The park is free and open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset for picnics, hiking, walks, and more. There are also several events hosted at the park throughout the summer. The Dog Days of Summer provide an in-depth look at wild canines such as fox, coyotes, and other ancestors of our beloved dogs. The tagging of monarch butterflies is another favorite event. Families are welcome to join in and learn about the history and needs of these beautiful insects and have an opportunity to tag and release monarchs for future study.

Summer Family Fun in Pennsylvania

Media, PA, may seem like a small town, but it offers a big-city range of things for families to do. Whether you’re looking for arts and crafts, food and music, or science and nature, there’s always something to get the community together for a good time.

Are you looking to move to the Media, PA area? Contact our team at Bay Management Group to help you find the perfect home for you and your family.