Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A New Yorker’s Guide to Bagels in Centre County

By: Sarah Boha

As a former resident of the Big Apple, I’m ruined when it comes to food.  New York City, and yes, I’m biased, is the epicurean epicenter of America; think about it, the city that never sleeps has the entire spectrum of authentic cuisine, Chinese, Jamaican, Pizza and of course a good ole’ bagel.  When I moved to State College, Pennsylvania in 2005, I needed to acclimate my New York stomach fast.  Over the years, I have dined at many concessions in the State College and surrounding area in hopes that I would find the closest taste to my former home within the five boroughs.  It has been a daunting search in my foodie pilgrimage but as a New Yorker, I’m resourceful and up for the adventure.  One of my favorite New York delicacies is a good bagel.  There’s nothing quite like a real New York bagel and it’s one of the foods I missed most when I left the city.  If you’re a fellow New Yorker in the Central Pennsylvania area, foodie, carb enthusiast, this guide is for you.  I narrowed my search down to four establishments in the State College area, some of which are national chains that you can patronize anywhere in the United States, but choices were limited.  Here is a New Yorker’s guide to bagels in Centre County, Pennsylvania

First, the Ground Rules
From each store, I selected their plain bagel to keep the playing field fair and balanced. 

Upon taste testing each, I did not toast the bagels, (real bagels stand on their own without the help of a thorough toasting).

I tried a sample of the bagels on their own (no condiment), one sample with a smear of Kerrygold butta (that’s butter, New York City pronunciation) and one sample with a dollop of Philadelphia cream cheese.

The Results
Bagel Crust
A self-proclaimed “NY Style Bagel Shop” located on 332 East Calder Way in Downtown State College, PA.

When I first heard about ‘Bagel Crust’, a New York style bagel shop right here in State College, I got excited.  When I took a bite into their plain bagel, I almost started singing “These vagabond shoes”; these bagels are the closest to the empire state for me.  Soft texture, delicious taste and the crust is the perfect balance of crustiness.  This should be your first resort in the area before you jump in your car and drive to concrete jungle to stock up on bagels.

                *Other great bagel flavors from Bagel Crust – Everything
Along North Atherton, 345 Colonnade Boulevard, State College, PA

Wegmans, based out of Rochester New York, makes a darn good bagel.  With an amazing crust and soft texture inside, I can taste a New York influence. 

                *Other great bagel flavors from Wegmans – JalapeƱo Cheddar and Pretzel   

Panera Bread on 1613 North Atherton Street, State College, PA

Panera Bread has a reasonably good bagel if you’re in the mood for bagels and you’re sitting in a Panera Bread.  Buttery crust, all around decent bagel. 

                *Other great bagel flavors from Panera Bread – Cinnamon Crunch (Amazing!)
Weis Markets on 1471 Martin Street, State College, PA

Your basic bagel.  A good attempt by Weis, it doesn’t quite have the texture or crust that I seek in a New York bagel, but it will do in a Pennsylvania pinch. 

                *Other great bagel flavors from Weis – Asiago Cheese

If you’re planning a trip to New York City and want to try a genuine New York bagel, hop in your car, it’s a 4.5 hour trip depending on how fast you drive, and visit the following,
Dyker Park Bagels, 713 86th Street, Brooklyn, NY
Black Seed Bagels, 170 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY
Hot Bialys & Bagels, 116-63 Queens Boulevard, Queens, NY

As a disclaimer, this is my opinion and experience coming from NYC.  I would love to hear thoughts of where you indulge in your favorite bagel in Centre County, PA and if I missed a good bagel spot, let me know in the comments section. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

“Who Are All of These Realtors?” A Quick Guide to Understanding Who is Who in a Real Estate Transaction

January 21st, 2015
By: Sarah Boha

“Who are all of these people”?  Buyer Agent, Seller Agent, Dual Agent – There are many roles one Realtor can play in a real estate transaction.  As a consumer, it may not seem clear who is who when you’re buying or selling your home.  As a Realtor, it is our job to make these business relationships apparent to the public.  In the state of Pennsylvania, a consumer notice disclosed by the State Real Estate Commission must be presented by your PA Licensed Realtor upon the first meeting.  The Pennsylvania real estate consumer notice is a two page, menu of services describing the agency relationships a consumer may enter into during the sale or purchase of real estate.

Here is a simple guide to understanding the business partnerships you may enter into as a consumer of real estate, inspired by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission’s Consumer Notice.

What is a Seller/Listing Agent?
A seller or listing agent works exclusively with a seller/landlord in the sale of real estate.

A business relationship should not be presumed until you have signed an agreement outlining the terms, commission structure and length of the partnership.  Note, you may interview many agents to sell your home prior to your final selection.

Once you have signed an agreement with your preferred Realtor, it is their duty to work exclusively to present a ready, willing and able buyer for your property. 

Your designated listing agent must keep all confidential information, confidential, with the exception of known material defects of the home.  Known material defects of a home must be disclosed to the consumer.

What is a Buyer Agent?
A buyer agent represents a buyer in the purchase of real estate. 

A business relationship should not be presumed until you have signed a buyer agency agreement.  In the buyer agency agreement, you may select the length of your partnership with your chosen Realtor.

As a consumer, you have a right to choose ANY licensed Realtor in your state to represent you in the purchase of real estate – (as per a signed buyer agency agreement).  Bear in mind, if the agent you wish to represent you is with “ABC Realty”, for example, and you want to see a house with “XYZ Realty”, the Realtor with ABC Realty CAN show you the house listed by XYZ Realty.  A licensed real estate agent in your state can show you any home listed in your area that you choose; it is one of many rights you have as a consumer of real estate.

Once a buyer agency agreement is signed, by you and your preferred Realtor, your Realtor is obligated to keep all information you disclose confidential.   Your Realtor is strictly bound to represent your best interest in a transaction, unless the agent you’ve selected has a listing in which they are representing the seller; as a consumer, you may opt for a Dual Agency relationship in this scenario. 

What is a Dual Agent?
A dual agent represents both the buyer and seller in a real estate transaction, with prior written consent from both parties. 

A dual agent must work equally for both the buyer and seller and may not “take any action that is adverse or detrimental to either party”. 

A dual agent must disclose known material defects about the property.

What is a Transaction Licensee?
A transaction licensee only provides real estate services and does not have an agency agreement with a consumer.  With no agency relationship, a transaction licensee is not obligated to keep consumer information confidential.

Although a transaction licensee does not provide you with representation, they are prohibited from disclosing the following:
·         The seller will accept a price less than the asking price.
·         The buyer will pay a price greater than the price submitted in the written offer.
·         The seller or buyer will agree to finance terms other than those offered.

A transaction licensee must disclose known material defects about the property.

Regardless of the business relationship entered into with a licensee, all agents must deal honestly and in good faith with all consumers of real estate.  If it isn’t clear who is representing who when other agents are introduced into your negotiation, it is your right as a consumer to stop and ensure that you are making an informed decision in the buying or selling of real estate.

Click Here to Review the PA Real Estate Consumer Notice  

Why Putting your Home on the Market During the Holidays is a Good Idea!

December 10th, 2014
By: Sarah Boha

“Isn’t this the slow season of real estate?”, Although the amount of residential real estate has remained constant, only 29 residential homes were listed in the first week of December in Central County PA; paltry compared to the 66 residential homes that hit the market in the first week of June 2014. Regardless, the Christmas season is a great time to put your house on the market. Understandably, the public has an idea of buyers staying at home instead of trudging through the icy cold temperatures and snowy streets to see your home for sale. This is a valid concern, however, the weather and holiday festivities can work in a seller’s favor.

This time of year, buyers face the challenge of extremely low inventory. To put your home on the market during the glittering holiday season gives buyers more options and with a lack of dwellings to choose from, the chance of your home standing out amongst comparable homes is greatly increased.

It is the trend that consumers are starting their real estate search online. Sitting with your iPad, flipping through pictures of your potential home, wrapped up in a blanket on a bitterly cold winter night is appealing, but think of the potential ready, willing and able buyer who sees your home and picks up the phone to schedule a showing. It’s more probable that buyers who brave the blistering chill and snow mounds are serious about making a real estate purchase. 

It’s hard to deny the whimsical charm of a decorated home and rooftops gleaming with snow as a house hunter. A warm and inviting holiday atmosphere will certainly add to a home’s presentation.

Rather than postponing the sale of your home for the springtime, why not take advantage of the Christmas lights, the warmth of a roaring fire radiating out of your fireplace and the festive feeling of the holidays to sell your home. Help your potential buyer’s imagine the holidays in their new home.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why You Should Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval Prior to House Hunting

By: Sarah Boha
August 8th, 2014

Mortgage is a scary word; literally.  The etymology is from the Latin Mortem “death” and evolved into the old French “Mort Gage”, translating to “Death Pledge”.  It’s no wonder home buyers cringe every time their trusted Realtor, in the excitement of touring homes, asks “Have you been pre-approved for a mortgage?”  The response from home buyers ranges from concerns about their credit being run to the idea of committing to a mortgage in the shopping phase.   In reality, having a mortgage pre-approval in hand early on or prior to house hunting is beneficial to the buyer in planning what they can afford and strategically approaching their home search.  The following concerns are the most common among home buyers regarding pre-approval status and why they should have one in hand when they’re shopping.

“I’m hesitant that obtaining a pre-approval will hurt my credit score”

Hard inquires made in excess on your credit can negatively impact your credit score, however, according to Mortgage Lender, David Simon, with AJM Mortgage in Pittsburgh, taking steps to obtain a pre-approval is not as detrimental to your credit score as you may think, “The reality is that an occasional credit inquiry will not have a material impact on your credit scores.”  He continues to say that, “While it may drop your score a couple of points, in only very rare cases will this result in a borrower not being able to qualify for a mortgage.”  But how exactly does it work when purchasing a home?  Running your credit for the pre-approval of a mortgage is based on your TransUnion FICO credit score, David explains, “Your TransUnion FICO score (mortgage scoring model) has a range of 309-839 and the minimum score to qualify for a conventional loan is 620 so there is a spread of 219 points between the low end to the high.  The average FICO score is somewhere in the low to mid 700s (depending upon what article your read) so as you can see it isn't very likely to cause your loan to be denied.”  Once your mortgage lender has run your credit score, he or she can use that credit report for up to four months.  If we haven’t found or closed on a home within the four month timeframe, your lender does not have to run the credit again until we do find a home, which leads me to the next concern from home shoppers… 

“I just want to be sure that this is the house we want”

What if you finally find the home you’ve pictured all along?  It has the three car garage you wanted, in the school district you most desired your children to attend and stainless steel appliances are included.  In most cases, the agent listing that beautiful home will want a copy of your pre-approval attached with your offer.  Why?  They simply want to be sure that you’re able to undertake the fiduciary obligation of a mortgage and pay for the home upon acceptance of your offer.  Bringing an offer to the table means you’re ready to purchase the property and you should be prepared.  It’s heartbreaking to watch a client tour five, six, seven homes, fall in love with one and wait to be pre-approved only to discover that they can’t afford it.

“I don’t want to have two mortgages” or “I don’t want to be committed to a mortgage when I’m still searching”

A mortgage pre-approval is non-obligatory and turns you into a serious buying candidate in the eyes of a seller.  In fact, there are some properties on the market that cannot be shown without a pre-approval.  As a buyer, take a few moments to speak with your preferred mortgage lender and determine what you want to pay on your monthly mortgage payment.  You may be pre-approved for $300k, but, in reality, would feel more comfortable making payments within the $250k range.  If you don’t determine your ideal monthly payment early in your search, you may waste valuable time looking at homes you can’t afford and worse, miss the opportunity to purchase a home in your range.  If you currently have a mortgage, speak with your Realtor about what you need to sell your current property for to cover the balance of your current debt.    

When shopping for a home, taking a few moments with your mortgage lender to plan financially will help you understand exactly what you can afford and tailor your search specific to your criteria.  You can feel confident knowing that every house you schedule to see with your Realtor, with pre-approval in hand, you can afford and potentially buy.  So, house hunters, the next time your Realtor asks, “Have you been pre-approved for a mortgage”, no need to cringe, plan with you mortgage lender and you can assuredly say, “Yes, let’s look for houses with granite countertops”.     

A special thanks to David Simon, Mortgage and Lending with AJM Mortgage.  For more information regarding mortgage pre-approval and how it affects your credit, visit and

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Five Events You MUST SEE at Arts Fest 2014

By: Sarah Boha
July 9, 2014

Brainchild of Penn State University College of Arts and Architecture and the State College Chamber of Commerce in 1967; The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts has been a summer tradition cherished by locals and art enthusiasts from around the world.  In fact, it’s estimated by the CPFA (Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts) that 100,000 people visit “Arts Fest” every year.  Here are five must see exhibits happening at the 2014 CPFA, July 10th-13th.

1.)Italian Street Painting

The Italian street painting exhibition has been taking place on the 100 block of Heister Street at CPFA since 1999.  Artists bring their chalk and unbridled talent to create baroque like artwork, celebrating the centuries old tradition from Europe.  The quality of these street paintings wows me every year; a must see!

2.)Silent Auction

Thursday July 10th at noon; the Arts Fest Silent Auction is a must if you’re shopping the featured artists.  The auction doubles as a preview of the artwork that will be carried by each guest artist.  If you don’t get a chance to purchase artwork from the auction, you may want to write down your favorite pieces and the artist that created them to visit their booth during the festival.  A map of the artist’s booths for 2014 are online,

3.)Sand Sculptures

These monumental sculptures of sand are an absolute must see for the whole family.  Sand sculptor, Greg Glenn, takes 25 tons of sand every year at Arts Fest and miraculously transforms it into life like creations, right down to the scales on a fish to the bulging veins on a football player’s hands.  Don’t miss this whimsical exhibit at Sidney Friedman Park this year at CPFA 2014.   

4.)Heidi’s Strudel

Walking in downtown State College, pondering your next art acquisition and sweating in the heat of July; you will inevitably find yourself craving nourishment.  Look no further than Heidi’s Strudel, located on Allen and Calder Way at the 2014 CPFA.  Among the food vendors to stop by and munch, this booth is a must; Apricot, apple, cherry, cheese, almond, strudels and fresh squeezed lemonade…need I say more?


Art isn’t the only work up for display at Arts Fest anymore.  BookFest is in it’s 5th annual celebration of local authors and will be held at the Schlow Centre Region Library from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, July 12, 2014.  Get autographs from local authors, learn about writing and being published and get your hands on the latest reads for summer.  A must for any book worm.

This is just a tease of five wonderful events that happen at Arts Fest.  What are your favorite exhibits that you and your family will be seeing this year?

For more information, visit

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Taj Mahal, Versailles and Park Forest in State College…Yes, They Have Something in Common.

June 30th, 2014
By: Sarah Boha

In my pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts at Penn State, I, like any student pursuing their B.A. had to master a course load of humanities.  The advisors advised matriculating students, such as myself at the time, that it would make us a “well rounded human being when we entered the real world” – “The Sea Around Us”, “Study of Paris” and “Theater 101” were among the humanities I dabbled in.   In my sophomore year at Penn State I took a landscape architecture class.  Landscape Architecture was a class that seemed interesting to me, enrollment wasn’t filled and it was considered a humanity; jackpot.  I learned about the meticulously precise garden parterres in France, the spiritual importance of the landscape at the Taj Mahal and a community that was ahead of it’s time in the ‘green movement’, Park Forest.

I remember my landscape architecture professor dedicating an entire class to the community of Park Forest (it was a big deal, especially when a local community is sandwiched between lectures about the Taj Mahal and Versailles!).  Established in 1956, this development introduced a new and innovative approach, for it’s time, in the layout of a suburban neighborhood.  The curved streets, abundance of trees and layout of the homes in Park Forest would shatter the conventional post World War II neighborhood.  The idea of keeping as many trees as possible in building process would inspire the design of neighborhoods across America.

Pictured Above: An example of the greenery and gardening that can be accomplished in Park Forest

Driving down, or walking, jogging, bicycling down, (Park Forest was designed to be extremely pedestrian friendly with an implementation of sidewalks throughout the community), the main access to Park Forest, Park Forest Ave., I can almost hear my professor when she described the first houses of Park Forest.  Predominantly initiating with ranch style homes, in the 1950s and 60s it was all about convenience.  “Easy living”, was one of the phrases the LA professor used in painting a picture of the first homes sitting slightly tilted for an aesthetically pleasing look on their plot of land.  A cross breeze billowing through the living rooms of open front and back screen doors added a tranquil “easy” feeling.  To live in this community was to live in a park, easy living and pedestrian friendly.  To enjoy the cool breezes, fresh air and overall greenery was the forest element that J. Alvin Hawbaker, real estate developer, and Carl W. Wild, assistant designer and architect, had in mind when they designed Park Forest. 

Picture Above: The “Easy living” of an open back door to a patio in Park Forest

Today, Park Forest pays reverence to the past and tells of story of it’s history to the present day as you drive, walk or jog through the winding streets and admire the ever changing residential architecture.  An original intention in the design of the neighborhood was easy accessibility to surrounding parks in the area; presently, the area is adjacent to Trader Joe’s plaza, the Colonnade and a drive through Starbucks (which I frequent as a resident of Park Forest and shows my impartiality as a writer and to my shameless love of coffee).  In their original conception of Park Forest, I don’t think Hawbaker and Wild could have ever imagined how their community would evolve over the decades and become a model for suburban layouts across the country.  The next time you drive, walk or jog through Park Forest, remember that you’re in a place that was worthy to featured alongside the great Taj Mahal. 

Pictured Above: The beauty of the souring trees in Park Forest, even in the icy winter.

Interested in homes in the Park Forest and surrounding State College area?  Click here for the newest homes available and give us a call if you’d like to schedule a showing,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Graduation and Mother’s Day in State College – Where do the Locals Go?

May 9th, 2014
By: Sarah Boha

If you’re a senior at Penn State, you’re breathing a sigh of relieve; you've finished your finals (hopefully), you've achieved the grades you wanted (hopefully) and you’re ready to graduate (again, with great hope in your heart).  Your whole family has descended on the State College area; you were smart by booking your reservations to the Allen Street Grill in advance, knowing the town would be swarmed with other students/family who have the same brilliant idea to amalgamate your academic accomplishment and the celebration of your mom who supported you along the way this Mother’s Day.  Yes, PSU commencement and Mother’s Day all in the same weekend.  But what do you do if you’re a local?  If you’re a local in the Penn State vicinity, you may be thinking, “I better plan accordingly with the influx of traffic” or “I forgot if was both graduation and a holiday; I hope I can get a reservation” or “What do I do?”  Luckily, there are still events going on in the area if you’re a local, don’t have a child/friend/family member graduating from the university and want to celebrate Mother’s Day. 

Here are a list of local events that you can enjoy in the midst of the increase in population this weekend,
Flea Markets/Yard Sales and Places to Find Treasure
Central PA Flea & Farmers Market
A great location, exceptional facilities, and thousands of patrons visiting the fairgrounds annually combine to make the Central PA Flea & Farmers Market a fantastic venue for buying and selling local goods.
Dates: Sunday May 11th
Start Time: 8:00 am
Location: Grange Fair Grounds
Address: 169 Homan Lane, Centre Hall, PA, 16828 (map)
Phone: 814-531-1022

AAUW State College Branch Used Book Sale
53rd Annual AAUW Used Book Sale
 May 10 – 13, 2014
 Saturday through Tuesday
 9:00 am to 9:00 pm daily
 (Mother’s Day Weekend)
 Over 200,000 Books, sorted into 33 categories. See web site for Special Collection titles.
 Monday: Half-Price Day
 Tuesday: Bag Day ($5 per bag)
 Free Admission
 Think green bring your own reusable grocery bags
Dates: 05/10/2014 - 05/13/2014
Start Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Snider Agricultural Arena
Address: Corner Fox Hollow Road and Park Avenue, Penn State Campus, State College, PA, 16802 (map)
Phone: 814-360-1177

Potters Guild Exhibition and Sale
Please join us in the celebration and sale of ceramic works created by members of the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania Potters Guild benefiting the Guild's kiln fundraiser. Reception and Sale starts Friday night. Exhibition and Sale Saturday and Sunday.
 Reception and Sale with live music.
 ---Friday, May 9th/ 7p.m.-9p.m.
 Exhibition and Sale
 ---Saturday, May 10th/ 10a.m.-4p.m.
 ---Sunday, May 11th/ 1p.m.-4p.m
Start Time: 1:00 pm
Location: Art Alliance of Central PA
Address: 818 Pike Street, Lemont, PA, 16851 (map)
If you enjoy running/marathons/5k’s
Bridge of Hope Mother's Day 5K Fun Walk/Run
Bridge of Hope Centre County will have its 5th Annual Mother's Day Walk/Run on Sunday, May 11. Funds raised through the 5K Fun Walk/Run will be used to help end homelessness for women and children in Centre County.
Register for the walk at or on the day of the walk at 1 p.m.
Start Time: 2:00 pm
Location: Boalsburg Memorial Museum
Address: North Atherton St., State College, PA (map)
Phone: 814-237-HOPE
Email: execdirbohcc@gmailcom   

Mother’s Day Dinners/Family Events
Served Mother's Day 10:00am-3:30pm
Buffet features a waffle and omelet station, carving station, breakfast and entree station with accompaniments, soup and salads, and a dessert buffet.
Call (814)234-8000 for Reservations

Mother' Day Dinner
Howard Troop 353 will be hosting their annual Mother's Day Dinner. There will be ham, turkey, noodles, mashed potatoes, and a whole lot more. There will also be many homemade pies and desserts. Cost is $10 for everyone 10 and older. Children ages 3-10 are $5 and those under 3 are free.
Start Time: 11:00 am
Location: JK Yearick Center
Address: Howard, PA (map)

State College Area Municipal Band - Marching Down Broadway--and a Posy for Mom
State College Area Municipal Band presents its 23rd annual Mother's Day Concert, "Marching Down Broadway--and a Posy for Mom, "Sunday, May 11 at 3:00 in the SCAHS South Auditorium.
Start Time: 3:00 pm
Location: State College Area High School South Auditorium
Address: Westerly Parkway, State College, PA (map)
Phone: 814-238-8187

Open Garden & Art Exhibit
Rhoneymeade Arboretum will be open to the public, May 10th & 11th, 12:30-4:30 pm only. Artist, Judith Bogert, will display watercolors. See images. Great place to bring Mom.
Dates: 05/10/2014 - 05/11/2014
Start Time: 12:30 pm
Location: Rhoneymeade
Address: 177 Rimmey Rd, State College, PA, 16828 (map)
Phone: 8145712401

Mother's Day Storytime
Join us for Mother's Day Storytime featuring Oh, the Things My Mom Will Do ..., stories celebrating mom and card making, too!
Start Time: 11:00 am
Location: Barnes & Noble
Address: State College, PA (map)

Spring Wildflower Walk
Try to identify the spring wildflowers found at Black Moshannon State Park. Discover interesting folklore and medicinal uses for some of these wildflowers. Meet at the Environmental Learning Center.
 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Start Time: 11:00 am
Location: Black Moshannon State Park
Address: 4216 Beaver Road, Philipsburg, PA (map)

Also, be sure to visit,, if you’re looking to squeeze in a reservation this weekend.

As you can see, there are still events and community activities that you can enjoy without being overwhelmed by the traffic that will envelope the area.  However, if you don’t find solace in shopping on the North end of State College, going to the Central PA Flea Market or the thought of finding a reservation gives you angst; it may be a good idea to relax, pick your smart phone up and Skype or call your mom – She’s anxious to hear from you!