I suppose that headline could be read in two ways. As a question and a statement. For my purposes today, it’ll serve as both. As a kid (you know… last week) I admired Michael Jordan. I always had a desire for the spotlight and always had an inner desire to be the best at something. Today, I have different aspirations. I still strive to be the best I can be, but driving the lane and “posterizing” Bill Laimbeer is no longer on the list. I have to admit passing another person on the bike or on the trail still makes me smile inside. Especially if the person I’m passing is in their 20’s! “Those darn kids and their rock n’ roll music”!!
We are currently enjoying a fairly stable real estate market and, as we’ve mentioned before, are even starting to see some competing offers for the same listing. Admittedly it is not the feeding frenzy from a decade ago, but strengthening nonetheless. In the past few weeks we have talked about how to prepare yourself for buying a home and today I’d like to touch on a few things to help your offer stand out above the crowd. Even if you are not competing with a dozen other offers, these tips can still help strengthen your offer and show the sellers that you are serious.
Standing on the seller side of the transaction, assuming the offers match the asking price, your biggest concern is the deal actually “going through”. I recall when selling my house, the tension I lived with right up until I watched their hands signing the final papers. It wasn’t until that moment that all the stress and worry finally abated. The strength of the buyer’s offer and their apparent desire to obtain the house are often overlooked factors when it comes time to make that offer.
The art of the in-person delivery is quickly fading. In this world of immediate gratification, taking the time to hand-deliver an offer is considered cumbersome and too slow. I would encourage buyers, when it is feasible, to request their agents take this extra step. It gives the agent a chance to make eye contact with the seller’s agent and even explain a little bit about the buyers. This extra effort inevitably makes an impression on the agent and the seller.
Prove it or lose it. OK, that’s corny and I just made it up, but when it comes to finances this step is critical. Again, putting yourself in the shoes of the seller, you are going to be far more inclined to accept the offer from the party that has proven their ability to pay for the home. While you’re not on the hook for their finances, like the lending institution is, you will be far more attracted to the offer that includes proof of finances (for a cash offer), or a strong pre-approval letter from their bank. I understand some people’s hesitation to offer this up prior to the offer being accepted, but looking at it from the other side of the table, it makes perfect sense.
Contingency overload is always going to cause headaches. I have to admit I’m guilty of over-doing it with contingencies. In this specific situation, the seller’s agent was being incredibly difficult to deal with so we re-paid his efforts with an offer containing 15 contingencies! Yes, it was a bit over the top but as a buyer’s agent, my job was to protect my buyer’s interests and I took that responsibility to the nth degree. Today, my buyer is thrilled with the property he purchased and has since acquired additional properties with my help. None of which contained that sort of mess.
The lesson here is to reduce (or eliminate) contingencies with your offer. While I understand these are in place for the protection of the buyer, the more simple and straightforward your offer is, the easier it is for the seller to accept. One of the “laws” of sales is to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to purchase the product. The “one-click purchase” button at Amazon.com is a great example of this. Remove these barriers and let the seller accept your offer to buy.
Cash is still king. While earnest money is typically a standard percentage for most transactions, bumping that up a bit is a great way to show your financial strength and desire for the home. If you have the means to do it, putting more “skin in the game” shows the seller you are serious and will certainly get their attention right off the bat. This is also a great way to offset any concessions you are asking for in other areas of the offer. “Especially with a cash deal, offering a higher amount in earnest money is almost always enough to make a difference,” explains Badger Realty agent, Nubian Duncan. He continued, “Even if there are only two or three offers, a larger deposit always helps elevate that offer to the top of the pile”.
Lastly is the time frame. As I mentioned earlier, the time between acceptance and closing for me was stressful and a bit exhausting. I admit I tend to be a worrier, but there truly are a ton of things that can cause a deal to fall through. While most sellers will choose the closest date possible, be open and flexible with these dates. Whether they want an extended closing date or a quick one, accommodating the seller’s needs will go a long way to making your offer the pick of the litter.
As many of you recall, I have gone from a sub-300 square foot cabin (for almost 3 years) to a nice new home and now to a rental home. My brother joked that when I moved out of the cabin into the house, I would be found in the fetal position, tucked in a closet, rocking back and forth. Simply incapable of comprehending the vast available space I could occupy. While that was not the case, I am still enjoying lots of empty space in the house and even have an entirely unused room upstairs. It contains a yoga mat and some winter clothes. Nothing else.
Truth be told, there are lots of reasons why we start to get the feeling we’re out-growing our homes. The most obvious reason really is the “stuff” we accumulate. Most of us obtain more stuff than we eliminate from our homes and thus we end up, over time, living in a smaller amount of space. Much like air fills the area of the container it is placed, we tend to do the same with our homes.
One easy method for avoiding this and re-gaining some of your home is to use the replacement strategy. For every item that you bring home from the “cheap-plastic-unnecessary-junk” store, you need to remove an item of equal size from the home: That day! This will help you strategize about what you’re going to buy and make sure there is something you can do away with before you even bring the new item into the home. Another trick is to use the incredibly simple “want vs. need” debate in your head. Do you really “need” those front-lawn, pink flamingos? (OK, those are really cute, but you get the point!) If you force yourself to wait a full 24 hours before making that purchase, I promise the “urge” will wear off and you’ll make a better decision.
As everyone in your home grows, it becomes obvious that the available space is going to shrink. You can imagine what it would be like to have a couple of growing, High School linebackers in your home! A simple, but not easy, way to combat this is to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to keep your weight under control. Healthy eating, exercise, etc. are simply good ways to maintain (or shrink) your physical “footprint” in the home and make it feel larger. Plus, once the kids head off to college, you can eliminate a ton of “stuff” around the house and gain that space back immediately. (With their permission of course!)
Stop storing stuff. I will admit that those plastic storage bins are incredibly useful and practical. I especially love the ones that slide under the bed. How convenient are those!? But don’t fall into the trap that just because you HAVE the storage space you should FILL it. We also tend to hang on to the misconception that if it is “stored” we are effectively managing our things. Just because you have an organized stack of items you haven’t touched in 2 years, does not mean you are successfully managing your stuff. If you don’t touch it in a year, sell it or donate it. The self-storage industry thrives off of our “store it” mentality and you can stop giving them money if you learn to live with less.
I have been “fortunate” to have moved a few times in the last 18 months. I say “fortunate” because it has forced me to filter through all of my stuff and weed out the items that I truly don’t need. You can do the same thing on a rainy weekend and gain lots of space (and peace of mind?) in the home. Attack a specific area of the home (garage, basement, closets, attic, etc.) and go through every single item in every box and bin. As we have said before, if you haven’t touched it in a year or certainly two, eject it from your home. Pore over hobby and sports equipment that is just collecting dust. You will be amazed at what you can get for most of your items on Craigslist.
On the flip side of the “stuff-jettisoning” fun, is the ability to reclaim that space. You could rent out the extra space in the garage to a neighbor for a boat or classic car. You could rent out a newly emptied room to an exchange student or even weekend travelers. The space you gain will make you appreciate the space you have now and will hopefully encourage you to not rush to fill it back up. Much like with advertising, white space is critical. Don’t be afraid to have empty spaces in your home. It actually makes the siding fit much better!
Everyone knows that paint can have a huge impact on the sale of your home. While it is always a good idea to personalize your home when you are living there, there are still some adjustments you should make when selling. The first impression of your home, to sellers, is very important so I would encourage you to take this project on well before your first showing.
One of the more tedious but rewarding projects you can tackle is painting the trim. While this seems like it would have minimal impact, a negative impression of chipped, peeling or cracking trim can be terrible. Trim is a constant around the home so it stands to reason that it would have a fairly big impact. Moving to the outside of the home, painting the trim out here is another fantastic idea. You can often avoid painting the whole house if you simply patch and re-paint the trim. It can offer a clean look to the home and help with that first impression.
Another fairly tedious task is the preparation of the walls. I strongly encourage you to take the time to properly patch, sand and smooth the walls before slapping on a coat of paint. We have all seen those houses where this part of the project was ignored. It looks sloppy, lazy and offers a terrible impression overall. Take the time, up front, to ensure that the surface is ready for paint. While a coat of paint will help the overall look of the home, a botched job will hurt it even more.
Lastly, keep it boring. I know this is terrible advice for those living in the home, but buyers want to be able to start fresh and work their furniture into the wall colors. Just like we encourage everyone to remove personal items from the walls and shelves, during showings, making the walls a blank canvas of neutral colored paint is the intelligent next step.
Fall in love again, for the first time, all over again, just this once. O.K., so the jewelry stores have cornered the market on shaming us into believing the best way to show our love is to present someone with a shiny rock. Honestly, it feels a little bit like we’re still in the era of the cave man. And don’t even get me started on that racket of giving greeting cards for every occasion including your niece’s first tooth and your neighbor’s son’s first black eye. Enough already.
But what about your house? Do you show your house you love her? (Or is it a him?) Here are a couple ways that you can spice up your relationship with your home and fall in love with “it” all over again. Come on – let those sparks fly! If you play by the rules of your local drug store, it must be almost Valentine’s Day!
The first thing you can do, and honestly I end up doing this more often than I care to admit, is rearrange your furniture. This is a great rainy day project (Where was I last week, I know!) and one that you can involve the whole family. It can be fun to get input on chair/couch/TV/lamp/plant locations, and keep trying out new combinations. You are not saying you don’t love the home “just the way it is”; you are just ushering in a fresh perspective and trying out a new look. Don’t be afraid to look online for some feng shui tips either.
Start a “re-love” fund with the family. If everyone tosses their spare change from the day into a collection jar, you will be amazed at how fast the money piles up. You can use this to replace smaller items around the home such as throw pillows, window dressings and even small rugs. You could even get creative with how you select the item to be purchased. Voting, drawing ideas from a hat or even behavior and school grades could play a role. The new items will highlight that area of the home and freshen up the room being updated.
Another inexpensive way to get re-enamored with your house is to add some (or swap out some) art. If you’re using the fund idea from above, you’re likely not going to be able to grab any original masterpieces at an art auction. That said, everyone takes some good pictures and your kids have produced some art that is worthy of an upgrade from the fridge to the living room or den. You can grab frames at a discount store and even include a collage of images in a single frame. This personalizes the home and gives you a great way to liven up a room.
Another rainy-day project is to tackle that “to-do” list that you have been ignoring for the past few months. We all have those pesky little chores that sit over our heads every time we see them. I once lived with someone whose hair dryer had a filter tip on the end that simply did not stay attached. It took almost 4 months for me to finally attack that thing and screw the end on to stop it from falling off and bouncing on the floor every day at the crack of dawn. Make a list of all those nit-picky things that need fixing and attack them with vigor some day. You’ll have more peace of mind and, if you’re like me, you’ll likely sleep better!
Paint is always a great option for a renewed love of your home or just one of the rooms. If you pick one room a month, you can tackle most of the house in a more manageable fashion. Painting a room not only brings new life to that room, but also freshens it up and can make it a more attractive room to spend time. For families reclaiming a baby’s room or even a child’s room who has now run off to college, this can be a fresh start for that room altogether.
Another great use for paint is to re-surface your kitchen cabinets. We all know that a new set of cabinets is not a small undertaking and obviously no small expense. With a coat of paint, you can completely change the look and feel of your kitchen. Yes, this is a bit of a project and will likely swallow up the better part of a weekend. Because there is so much detail work and so many doors to contend with, this tends to be more of a project than just tackling a single room. That said, the reward will be much greater since you are in the kitchen every day you are in the home. I promise, it will be worth the effort.
The last tip I have for re-igniting the flame with your home is to give it a solid “spring” cleaning regardless of the time of year. We all (hopefully) do the normal cleaning in our home on a regular basis. We clean the bathrooms, wash windows, vacuum, dust, etc. For this project, I encourage you to tackle the lesser-cleaned items that tend to get forgotten. Work on the baseboards, light fixtures, ceiling fans and even standard fans. These items still get just as dusty and dirty as the rest of the home, but tend to get left off the standard weekly cleaning list. Much like painting a room, the whole house will feel fresher and cleaner when these tertiary items are spotless.
I love my home and love living here. Like the seven-year itch, I sometimes forget how good things are “at home”. Take the time to fall in love with your home all over again and you’ll likely find a few things that you had forgotten to appreciate about “her”. Now that I think about it, maybe a vase full of flowers would be just the thing to show her you love her! And yes, you will want to get some for your wife as well!
Basements in your North Conway home are often considered a luxury. The added storage space is fantastic and if you can go as far as to “finish” the area you not only gain extra living space, but also increase the overall value of your home. That said, there are a few stumbling blocks that tend to trip-up folks working on restoring or re-claiming their basements. We’ll go over a few of these now in hopes of helping you avoid these and make your basement the best it can be.
One of the biggest challenges for basements is water. Even if your basement is not prone to water seepage and you’ve never had an issue with a wet basement in the past, this is something that you’ll want to have checked before you go gang-busters down there and certainly before you start to add carpet and sheetrock. Just have a professional check the slope around the home and the drainage system. Of course there is always a risk of water making its way into the home, but you can take steps up front to mitigate those chances.
Make the most of the light you have and bring in all that is possible to avoid the “dark cave” feeling. Basements are not typically filled with natural light. The windows are often just 1 foot by 3 feet and that does not lend itself to a well lit room. When planning the area, make sure you plan for plenty of overhead lighting and a large number of outlets around the room. This will ensure you can add additional lighting once the room is finished. You lose headroom and wall space with these additions, but the difference will be well worth the sacrifice.
Get creative in the basement. Since this area of the house is essentially separate from the rest of the house, you can be more creative down here and not worry too much about matching the rest of the house. For some reason, I’m reminded of the “Jungle room” at Graceland. This was clearly a room in which Elvis wanted to express his love of all things tropic and wild. Follow the King’s lead and go wild down there.
If you’re thinking of selling and are just doing this project in order to appeal to buyers, disregard that last paragraphs and keep it simple! Buyers will love the fact that you have taken the big steps for them, but they will want to be able to personalize that space on their own. Much like we have talked about paint choices for selling, the same applies for the finished basement.
Having bought and sold a couple properties in my day, I’m clearly the smartest man alive and everyone should listen to what I have to say. Now that we have that out of the way, the reality is, we can all learn something new every day. Did you know that the woman who sued McDonalds over the hot coffee was sitting in a parked car, not driving through the drive-through? Did you also know that she suffered 3rd degree burns on 16% of her body? The facts of that case got so buried in public opinion that the media hoodwinked us all. She actually asked for them only to cover her medical expenses ($11,000), but they refused and offered her a pittance of $800.00. (It should be noted that their gross coffee sales, at the time, were $1.3 million dollars a day!)
Did you know that the coffee is heated to 180-190 degrees and causes 3rd degree burns in 2-7 seconds? Their coffee burned more than 700 people between 1982 and 1992! They actually admitted that their coffee is “not fit for consumption” because it causes severe scalds if spilled or drunk. I’m sure it is no coincidence that their coffee is now served at 158 degrees. When we learn the facts about something, we tend to shift our thinking a bit and awaken to the reality of truth. (Do an online search for that case and you’ll find a few more eye-opening facts that will shift your thinking.)
First-time homebuyers are often guilty of a few stumbles that could be avoided if they just did a little research and gathered the facts before jumping in. If you’ve followed along with these articles and have been paying attention to the Badger Realty facebook page, you are likely aware of the fact that real estate is a great investment. If this is your first time jumping into the fray of real estate, I wanted to share a few of the more common pitfalls that “catch” the first timers.
Believe it or not, there are still buyers capable of playing this game with cash. First timers tend to get trumped by these offers because they are simply not prepared to move. Since first time homebuyers tend to steer more towards the lower end of the market, these homes are often the first to go and are in that more competitive market. This is not to say that you can’t be involved in this market. If you have already saved for a solid down payment and have a clean credit report, you can get approved for a loan and be ready to pounce when the time is right. The key here is to be very well prepared to make your move.
Don’t put the cart before the horse. Or, more appropriately, don’t put the car before the home. Consumer debt has jumped from $40,000 to $51,000 just since 2010! If you can hold off on that new car or any other unnecessary debt, before heading towards home ownership, banks will be much more willing to work with you on a home loan. Lending companies love to see a history of savings and a lack of (or very minimal) debt.
If you’ve been following along with our articles, you heard me lament the inconsistency (and blatant lack of truth) with online information. (If you are reading this on the blog, disregard that!) First time buyers are often surprised and frustrated by misunderstandings about fees, loan terms, etc. A simple and nearly always effective solution for this is to have a conversation with a real, live human being! I know, terrifying right!? Take the time to meet with a local lending professional in person. Then, take the time to go meet with anther one. In this impersonal digital age, the concept of a conversation with an educated professional seems to get lost in the shuffle. I promise you an interaction with a human will trump anything you can glean from an online article. (Except this one, of course!)
Falling right in line with that previous notion is actually believing the home values that you see posted online. I’m not talking about the actual listing price of the property but the “home values” assigned by national real estate sites (I’m looking at you, Zillow). How a national website can assign a value to a home in a market they have never stepped foot in, is so far beyond me I can’t begin to understand. Just because some website says a home is valued at “x” means literally nothing in the reality of the local real estate market. Once again, the lesson here is to work with a local professional that understands the market and the specific neighborhood the home is located. It turns out that views to Mount Washington and the complete lack of traffic noise has value here in the White Mountains!
I’m sure there are more stumbling blocks for first timers, but the last one we’ll mention today is the importance of staying objective. “Most new buyers don’t realize their comments and behaviors during a showing play a strong role in the sellers’ perception of them,” notes Badger Realty agent, Ralph Cronin. He continued, “In a competitive situation, sellers will lean heavily towards the buyers that seemed most attracted to the home. It is a perception that the sales process will be less of a headache with someone that “loves” the home vs. someone that nit picked the whole time”.
Nobody is suggesting that you should just accept the home and the price as they are. The lesson here is to look at those items you don’t like with a more objective eye. If you don’t like the color of the kitchen, keep that to yourself and know that a 40-dollar can of paint can fix it. Other items such as cracks in the foundation, water damage, rodent traces, etc. should be discussed with the agent once the showing is over.
Knowledge is, and has always been, power. Get yourself educated and approach your first home purchase with open eyes and an open mind. Chances are you will get a better deal, get the home you want and the whole process will go more smoothly. Now, be careful with that coffee!
I’m not going to bore you with the details of my interpersonal life over the past 3 weeks, but suffice it to say there has been a bit of a communication breakdown. Communication, or the ability to express our thoughts into a manner in which another person (or being) can understand, is a vital skill to possess and practice. One that I don’t believe many of us has or use today. I say that not to sound cynical or negative, but merely as an observation. You don’t get to a >50% divorce rate (not sure of the exact number) with lots of open, effective and honest communication.
My problem (O.K. one of my problems) is that I don’t tend to say what is on my mind. Instead, I stew a bit and eventually let it roll off my back (mostly). I tend to cater to the other person in the conversation and allow them to have their way. Mostly this is an effort to keep the peace and to make the other person happy. More often than not, the topic or issue being discussed is not important enough for me to make a fuss. If we’re talking about which restaurant to visit or which mountain to climb, I’m fairly happy with whatever decision is made. In the end, I get to eat and/or hike. It’s a win-win. (Again, mostly.)
The problem arises when we hit the proverbial end of our rope and dig our heels in. The main danger of not expressing ourselves is all of that frustration, if we haven’t been honest with ourselves (or our partners), comes boiling up and someone ends up getting burned. In my particular case this month, we both got a little burned.
However, in this situation, the end result was a positive one. (Hooray, a happy ending.) The frustration led to a conversation about self-expression and being open and honest with the other person. How in the world can we expect to participate in a meaningful relationship when we don’t let the other party know what is going on inside our brains? And, like (almost) always, the same is true when it comes to a real estate transaction.
Many times, and more so with new buyers and sellers, the parties are tentative to ask for (demand?) what they want out of the transaction. Buyers are afraid to ask for concessions in fear that the sellers will simply pass on their offer. Sellers cater to every whim and demand of a buyer for fear that they will walk away from the home and buy something else. This dance is not only counter-productive, but it is also detrimental to both sides of the deal.
“I recommend my buyers ask for whatever it is they want in order for them to feel good about the deal,” notes Badger Realty agent, Theresa Bernhardt. She continues, “Obviously there is a necessary level of flexibility once the list of “demands” is out there. But, there is no way to know what the sellers are willing to do to make the deal happen, if you don’t ask.”
This approach seems to be conducive to a more amicable experience at the closing table as well. Not only do both parties feel more comfortable with the deal itself, they also tend to be more amenable to any last minute changes or hiccups in the process. Since they have expressed their wants and needs up front, the deal has a much better chance of going through.
“One of the more challenging parts of working in real estate is having a deal fall apart at the last minute,” notes Badger Realty agent, David Cianciolo. “More often than not, it is a case of an unresolved and unexpressed need by one of the two parties. If people would get their wants and needs out on the table in the early stages, these situations would happen much less frequently,” he added.
I have to believe many of the issues we deal with in our personal relationships would benefit from David’s observation above. If we don’t tell our partner about our wants, needs, goals, dreams, etc., how in the world can they support them or, more importantly, support us? Whether you’re buying a vacation home in the Mount Washington Valley or considering changing careers, hairstyles or an item on your bucket-list, let the loved ones in your life know. You will not only help the immediate situation and educate the parties involved, you might actually learn something about yourself and your loved ones.
O.K. – Good talk.
We can all do a little better. How often have you put off cleaning the house because it just feels like an overwhelming task to conquer? Who wants to ruin an entire weekend cleaning windows and dusting? Well, here’s a couple of items you can tackle that are super-quick and will keep your Jackson NH home in “mom-visit” ready condition.
Start at the front door and sweep off the steps (porch?) and shake out the welcome mat. This quick tip will keep the front of your home more inviting and get the “task” off your brain each time you walk in the door. Next, I recommend you attack the kitchen. If it is a rainy day, tackle one of your junk drawers. (You have more than one, don’t you!?) Throw out stuff you haven’t touched in the last 12 months, file the papers in there and organize it a bit. You could even grab some of those drawer dividers so you can keep it better organized moving forward. Next, find some citrus fruit, lemons or limes, and grind them up in the garbage disposal. It will freshen up that “hole” and give your kitchen a fresh, clean scent.
Next attack the mirrors and windows. Now, remember this is supposed to be quick and (somewhat) fun exercises so maybe you can split this up with different family members. Each taking a floor of the home or a single room. If you were to tackle the whole house, it would take hours. By splitting this up a bit, it can be a 10-20 minute task and you can move on to more fun things like enjoying your summer!
Take a look around the house and see what other small tasks you can tackle (or assign!) and get them taken care of. You will feel better about your home overall and you will feel better about the time you’re going to spend in the hammock….. Once you mow the lawn…