Your Home: Be Aware Before You Buy

north conway nh real estate cautionIf we bought and sold property in a perfect world, all real estate agents would be perfectly honest, upfront, and transparent. There would be no surprises, no glitches, and no strangely worded contracts that we don’t understand.

Since most of us live in the real world, when it comes to buying and selling real estate we have to be our own advocates. Do not be afraid to ask questions. After all, this decision will affect everything – your finances, your family, your credit. You have the right to be choosy about who you hire to guide you through a process that will result in one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime.

You may want to interview a few agents before making a decision. You want to work with someone you can trust, knowing they have your best interests as their priority. If you have any doubts, keep looking until you are satisfied.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you have references? Skip the list of friends, relatives, and those who would know your potential agent best. Instead, ask for a few names of past clients. Ask about their experience and how satisfied they were.
  • How are the schools? What are the crime statistics? Are there any known sex offenders that live nearby? Get to the root of what is most important to you in a surrounding community. Does your family have specific needs in regards to location? This is another area where it would be helpful to ask around; if you are able to make contact with potential neighbors, they can also give you information.
  • Are there any upcoming construction projects planned for the area? The last thing you want is to find the perfect place to live, only to find out a few months later that the park across the street is being torn down to make way for a strip mall.
  • What realtor board are you a part of? You should only do business with a licensed agent.
  • What are your fees? Are they negotiable? Fees can vary, and your agent should be upfront about this issue. You may be able to find lower rates if you shop around.
  • What are some of prices of similar nearby homes recently sold? This will give you an idea of what to offer on a home when you are ready to take that step. A comp list can help you find the average for your area.
  • Is paperwork available for appliances? Mechanical systems? What are the drawbacks to this home? Transparency with any potential home issues is vital. Homes can appear to be in tiptop shape, but some flaws are easily covered up and not noticeable until further down the road.

Whether you are in the market to find your first home, looking into an investment property, or searching for the perfect getaway vacation spot, you should not go into the process unaware. Talk to others who have experience in purchasing real estate, ask around for recommendations, and do your own research. Take your time and be thorough. Happy house hunting!

Make Multi-Money

north conway nh homesOne of my favorite things about the time I lived in Portsmouth, NH was not having to pay to live in Portsmouth, NH! When I first moved to the seacoast, I lived with 2 roommates in order to make it affordable. Two years later, I had purchased my first duplex and the rental income made living in downtown Portsmouth nearly free. Had I been smarter, I would have taken that rental income and used it for another investment but hey, we’ve all been young and foolish.

Multi-family properties can be risky. There are lots of considerations including lousy tenants, lack of tenants, insurance risks and more. Plus, like with any house, you now have multiplied the number of “systems” that can fail and cost money to fix. But all of the negatives, at least in my mind, simply don’t outweigh the benefits. Never mind the fact that, if you owner-occupy as I did, you have someone else paying money towards your mortgage. Every time I cashed those rent checks it put a smile on my face.

Multifamily real estate works well in just about every market. Unless you’re in a market that is completely saturated with rental properties (not likely), the multi-family concept will work. You can also be creative with your strategy in the type of property you target. If the current rental market has a glut of properties in a certain rental price range, shift your focus to a different one. For those of us with limited resources, this can be a limiting factor but it should not deter you from the market entirely. Much like shopping for a single-family home for yourself, you need to make a list of wants and needs and see which market will suit you best.

Unless you are a bit of a sadist, you likely do not enjoy the process of getting a mortgage. This is not a knock on the mortgage industry, just a reality of the love affair with paperwork the banks seem to have. The beauty of a multifamily property is you only need to go through the process once, yet reap the benefit of getting multiple properties for your troubles. For a single family home you need to gather your financials, fill out the loan application and cross your fingers until you get that “yes” from the bank. With a multifamily, your efforts are rewarded with owning more than one home at the end of the process.

conway nh homesIf you are in (or thinking of getting in) the real estate investment business, you will appreciate the fact that with multifamily properties you only need to manage a single insurance policy. Consider owning 10 properties. That is 10 insurance policies and 10 times the number of things that can cause headaches such as canceled policies, policy increases and changes, wrong addresses, etc. With the multi-unit apartment, you only need to manage a single policy.

We encourage our buyers and sellers to try and remove emotion from the real estate transaction process. Being too attached to a house can cause the sellers to hold out for more money and the buyers to overpay. With multifamily properties, it is much easier to remove emotion from the process and focus on the numbers. At the end of the day, it is all about your return on investment, not the fact that you just love the view or that your grandfather built the home from wood he harvested out of the White Mountains (with his bare hands of course).

“Emotions are challenging to keep in check with real estate transactions,” notes Badger Realty agent, Theresa Bernhardt. “With investment properties we are more easily able to separate the cost-benefits from the attachment to the property. A goal not easy to achieve when the home has a level of sentimental value,” she continued.

When it comes to valuation, multifamily homes are looked at much more objectively. The appraisal of a single-family home is strongly associated with similar homes in the area with similar features. With a multifamily, each property is so different this method does not hold up very well. The value of a multifamily home is strongly based on the income it produces. (There’s a whole discussion in here about Cap Rates, but that’s for another time.) The biggest advantage is you retain much of the control of the value in how you manage the units. By lowering the expenses or raising the income, you can manage the value of your investment and subsequently the value of the property.

north conway homes competitionLastly, when investing in a multifamily property, there is far less competition than with single-family homes. Currently, there are thousands of people searching for single-family homes. The problem with this is people are willing to overpay for a home because they are unable to separate their emotions (“the view is perfect!” “The backyard is great for the dog”, etc.,) from the true value of the property. When hunting for commercial or multi-family properties, you are only competing with other investors.

It is no secret I’m a fan of multifamily properties. I love the benefits and accept the frustrations and challenges as part of the package. Consider these properties when you are looking for a home for yourself or for an investment opportunity. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the risk/reward ratio.

Devastate Your Debt

conway nh real estateDon’t get me wrong; I love my cousin, Libby. She’s a great mother, wife, cousin, friend and all around great person. The problem I have with her is over the last 2 years she’s learned how to cook. This may not sound like a problem considering her family now resides in Houston, TX, but it became a problem since I spent the week of Christmas there and never stopped eating! We began joking around and repeating the phrase: “It’s been 30 minutes since I’ve eaten something, must be time to head to the kitchen”!

There was a constant flow of cookies, snacks, sandwiches and essentially anything you could imagine to stuff your face with over the holidays. It was awesome! The one item we could not seem to master was fudge (from scratch). If anyone reading this has a hint or two they’d like to share, please share it. While I don’t “need” fudge at this point, I still want to get it right. We ended up with a few pans of chocolate “goo” that never quite hardened (and we even used a thermometer!). But I digress.

More serious than a holiday muffin-top is a holiday debt hangover. It is so tempting to splurge once that Christmas spirit hits, we often find ourselves in more debt than intended. It goes without saying that any debt is troubling unless it is for an investment that will produce returns. I figured we could go over a few tips to hack away at that holiday (and non-holiday) debt so you are prepared to start saving for a house  or for your retirement. Either way, getting your budget back in the “plus” column is critical to either of those goals.

New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on losing weight and quite often around losing debt. In a survey of 100 Consumer Credit Counseling Services clients, a nonprofit credit counseling organization, 70 had made finance related resolutions in the past year. 77% of those ended up losing sight of that goal and contacted CCCS for assistance by the middle of the year. That’s not to say it is impossible, just that many of us don’t have the will power or drive to see this one through.

conway nh homesOne of the easiest ways to tackle your debt is to keep track of your spending for a single month. Remember, this is a long-term plan so don’t get all crazy with your newly tightened purse strings. Just track where your money is going with your current “plan”. This will most likely be a very eye-opening experience, as most of us do not pay much attention to every dollar we spend. To clarify, this exercise will only work if you track every dollar. Don’t take $40 out of the ATM and mark it down as $40. You will want to itemize where that cash went. That is the challenging part (at least for me!).

What you will likely learn from this is how quickly the little expenses add up. If you’re one that drives through Dunkin’s on your way to work every day, this little “pit-stop” is probably costing you almost $800 a year. It gets much worse (or frankly, more encouraging!) if you eat lunch out a couple times a week as well. Two lunches at $10 each is costing you over $1,000 a year!

While nobody is suggesting you completely cut out those items, you will now at least be aware of them and perhaps think twice before stopping. I have to believe there’s coffee at work available, bringing lunch from home is a huge savings and you could do a lot more good for your personal budget with that $1,800 than eating a burger. “Once buyers realize how much they can save towards a down payment with tiny adjustments to their lifestyle, they become more motivated to cut out other unnecessary expenditures,” notes Badger Realty agent, David Cianciolo.

The next item is something I enjoy doing because I like to see my results and know what my goal is. Make note of each of your debts. If there are a couple credit cards, a car loan and some other random debt, get them written down and put in front of you. Also make note of the interest rate on each. Now you are able to target the highest rates with either increased payments or switching them to lower rate cards if even for 1 year. Having these in front of you can help keep your focus and motivate you to not keep “running on Dunkin”. (I should note that Dunkin Donuts is awesome and I don’t mean to keep picking on them!) ☺

Lastly is something I struggle with, but doesn’t mean it is any less of a great idea. I am impatient and want to see results quickly. I want to save up a cache of cash and then make a big payment to the loan so I can see a big drop in the principal. Don’t fall into this trap but instead start to make small increases in your monthly payments. Even a small increase as $10 or $20 dollars will have a big impact over the course of the year. (Remember what those amounts added up to from above!)

Once you are out of debt, then comes the fun part. You get to migrate your finances in the other direction. I would encourage you to meet with a financial planner for some real expert advice, but at the very least you can start putting those credit card payments into a savings account. You have stopped using credit cards (right!?) and now you can start to build a savings account for any of life’s little hiccups that likely caused you to use the cards in the first place. In the end, this is one resolution that is well worth the effort. Not only will you feel better about your financial situation, you’ll have the added benefit of keeping a resolution that matters.

First Offer Follies

conway nh real estate offerFrom the perspective of the homeowner, there is nothing more exciting than getting an offer on your listed home (or UNlisted, why not!?)  It shows that you are priced well and that there is interest in your property.  It's like getting asked to the prom!  But many times sellers get befuddled with that first offer and immediately think something is wrong.  Here are a few first-offer tips to keep your head screwed on straight and possibly get your house sold.

The first thing to keep in mind when you get an early offer, even if it is just in the first few days of the listing, is to not assume that it was listed too low.  Assuming you worked with a real estate professional and price the home appropriately, you can rest in the confidence that your home was priced "right".  It was priced to sell.   One of my favorite sayings, from the world of real estate, is "Do you want to LIST your home, or do you want to SELL your home?"  The answer is going to determine how the home is priced and marketed.

The days of multiple offers and even above-asking-price offers are slowly returning, but they are not going to be like the days of 8 – 10 years ago.  Don't focus on the rest of the country or even the rest of the state.  Focus on your immediate local market and the homes surrounding yours.   The CMA and comps will show you the best price range in which to have your home listed.

Just because you got an offer in the first few days does not mean you should hold out for a better offer.  The facts of marketing in real estate tell us that a home will have the greatest amount of exposure in the first week or two of the listing period.  While you need to be smart about accepting the offer and consult with your agent, it still bears repeating that this offer might just be the best deal you get on your home.  Don't focus on the "timeliness" of the offer, focus on the price, your needs and goals and your desire to sell and move-on.

Nesting In the New Year

conway nh home remodelWell, you’ve done it. You survived another year and are now embarking on another one currently filled with hope, promise and anticipation. One of my favorite things this time of year, is the abundance of “Best of” lists that seem to pop up. Top plays on Sportscenter are always a favorite and it seems that every magazine, TV Show and media outlet has their own as well. This is a great way to re-live highlights from the last 12 months and build anticipation for more great moments in the new year.

Looking ahead to 2015, there are most certainly a few things we can add to the “to-do” list. Call them resolutions or just call them good ideas, here are a few things homeowners can tackle in the new year to fall back in love with your home or re-ignite that creative spark for some home improvement ideas.

When racing cars, if something is not right and you can’t seem to locate the problem, a good strategy is what we call “taking a big swing at it”. Just like in baseball, you’ll either strike out in spectacular fashion or hit a dinger to the roars of the crowd. In 2015 make a big change in the house. Replacing countertops, knocking down a wall, converting a room or finishing the basement are all great ways to take a big swing and get some fresh mojo going in your home. What better time than in the beginning of a brand new year.

If you are more tempered in your approach to home improvement (chicken!), perhaps a bunch of smaller changes will be more palatable. Start a list of little items you can knock off one weekend at a time. Replace an outdated gallery photo with new pictures. Paint a room. Reorganize a room or reorganize the basement or garage. Even these little changes can make a cumulative big difference in your home.

Take the plunge on a much-needed purchase. If your TV is larger (and heavier) than your old Volkswagen Beetle, it is time to go flat. There’s no better time than now to score a good deal on electronics and you’ll be just in time for the big game between the Pats and the Broncos (You know I’m right.). You can justify this with savings on space, better picture quality (easier on the eyes) and more importantly, the savings on energy costs from running that old eyesore. If anyone asks why you need a new TV, tell them it is for the children and the environment! God bless us, every one.

Get your green thumb on. Even though the temps are not exactly conducive to starting a garden, there are loads of things you can do green up the home. Starting some plants and veggies in the home is a great way to get ready for spring and bring some new life into the home. Some folks have even gone so far as to start an indoor garden with no intention of moving it to the back yard. Adding plants to the home can reduce stress, improve air quality and even, according to the principles of feng shui, affect your fortune. Get planting!

north conway nh home basementYou had to know that any article about new beginnings and new years, especially one written by yours truly, was going to include an organizing and de-cluttering component. One of my favorite days of the week is trash day. I take the opportunity to clean out the fridge from leftovers and rotten veggies that did not make it to the dinner table. Take this New Year’s opportunity to do the same to your pantry. Much like your clothes closet, if you haven’t used a can of beans or other canned item in the last year (or 3), it is time to donate it. There is no question, if you haven’t touched it in 12 months, someone else could use it farm more than you.

“I love the new year and even the changing of the seasons for organizing and cleaning out the basement, garage, pantry and closets,” notes Badger Realty agent, Kerry MacDougall. She continued, “Donating outgrown kid’s clothing and toys and unused food items as well as culling out the stagnant items in the closets and garage all provide a cathartic sense of newness every time we tackle it”. As you can imagine, I couldn’t possibly agree more with Kerry.

Get creative in the home with a new skill or some new colors and decorations. In the year 2015, I plan to continue my crusade against the boring. Life is too short to have beige colored walls and solid color bedding. Add some life and boldness into your home with some bright colors and patterns. You have the privilege of coming home to your house every day, why not make it an experience to which you look forward. While a giant bearskin rug in front of the fireplace may not be everyone’s cup of tea, adding something to your home that makes you smile every time you see it should be at the top of your list of resolutions this year.

The new year can be a time of reflection, anticipation and change in a few or in a bunch of areas of your life. My only encouragement to you this year is to make changes that you can stick with and that will make you happy. If getting up at 4am to exercise is simply not going to happen, don’t waste your time making that disappointing promise to yourself. Set some goals that you know you can accomplish and that will somehow make your days better and your life simpler (eat more dark chocolate?). More than anything else get yourself outside more this year. Spending more time in nature, in the amazing place in which we live, is the best resolution anyone can hope to keep.

Top Remodeling Ideas for 2015

conway nh home remodelThe new year brings new motivation for remodeling ideas in our homes.  With some new resolutions, hoping to keep them past the first week, we'd like to offer a few tips on those remodeling projects.  The goal is to get the most bang for your buck and add (or replace) something that will serve your family as well as any interested buyers should you decide to sell.

Bathrooms are still big.  Not necessarily in size, although that is nice as well, but focus on the bathroom in 2015 appears to be strong.  Adding better functionality (storage) plus lots of color and modern touches are both tasks that can be done with confidence in their ongoing value.  Plenty of light is also important with bathrooms so even this option will give the room a whole new feel and it won't break the bank.  Plus, with a little guidance from a pro, adding fixtures is likely something you can tackle yourself.

People seem to be falling back in love with tubs as well.  The stand-up showers, although efficient with space, are not the top design trend as we move into the new year.  Don't be afraid to add or update your existing tub and maybe even splurge a bit with extra jets, etc.  Perhaps this is speaking to a general "slowing down"?  Taking a hot bath is never going to be replaced with a hot shower.  The two are beyond compare!

If you're still a shower-taker, don't be afraid to go big.  Walk-in showers with glass walls are still quite popular and make for a fantastic shower experience.  Wave goodbye to the days of banging your elbows off the walls every time you turn around.  Apparently bigger is going to be better in the bathrooms in 2015.

The last trend for today, and my personal favorite, is the accent wall.  These started gaining popularity over the last year or three and are still going strong.  Given the ability to just paint over it when you color/style themes change, the accent wall is a quick and easy way to make a big statement in the home without tearing down walls and re-plumbing.

Take a gander around the home this week and pick out a project you can tackle in the next few weekends.  You won't regret it.

Inspection Reflection

north conway home inspectionWhat is more festive for the holiday season than talking about inspections? I can't think of a single thing! OK, while it may not be the thing that puts the "rosy" in your cheeks, a few points to ponder could keep a few bucks in your wallet. This time of year, that can be more important than mistletoe!

When you are deep in the throes of buying a home the last thing you want to deal with is yet another expense. Closing costs, cleaning fees, the down payment and of course a cool gift for your real estate agent can all put a bit of a tax on your pocketbook. All those things considered it is still supremely important for you to get a home inspection. We covered the many reasons "why" in an earlier article so today I want to talk about a few tips to ensure that you are getting your money's worth. The inspection will typically cost a few hundred dollars so let's be sure that you make the most of it.

Assuming your inspector is able to highlight a few trouble spots, it is important to lean on them a bit to get some cost estimates for the work that needs to be done. I'm not suggesting that your inspector needs to be an experienced contractor (although many of them are) but they do need to be able to provide you with some ballpark cost numbers associated with the issues they find.

You can even take this a bit further with an inspector who IS, in fact, a contractor and request an estimate for those items. Nothing says you need to use them (more on that below) but at least you will have a better idea of the "full" cost of the home you are buying. We have also, in the past, talked about knowing when to hire a professional and when to tackle a project on your own. This is a good time for that decision making process as well. It is true that many of the "nit-picky" things an inspector may find are projects you can tackle over a couple weekends. Just know when to call in the pros.

If you are fortunate enough to have an inspector who is also a professional contractor, take this one step further and get a second bid on the work. Of course we all know this is good business for any sort of project, but here it is likely going to be a significant project and one that likely impacts the "sound-ness" of your home. A second bid can simply keep everyone honest and will give you the peace of mind you deserve.

We always want you to be present during the inspection. "We understand that people are busy and the home buying process can be a burden on the buyer's time," notes Badger Realty agent, Bill Barbin. He continued, "but being present for the inspection is one of those things that you should never miss." This is your home and a huge financial investment. It just makes good sense to be "in the back pocket" of the inspector for the entire process.

Sewer, plumbing and electrical systems can be expensive trouble spots for homeowners. The foundation and other structural items are obvious and easy to identify. Hidden systems such as wiring and plumbing can be a nightmare to repair and can often cause more damage if the issues are not identified early. Make sure your inspector includes these items in their inspection. While this takes more time and could increase the cost of the inspection, the investment will be worthwhile (especially in older homes).

Adding a soil test (typically reserved for new construction) to your home inspection is also a decent idea. If the home has been around long enough, those initial tests are long gone. It makes good sense to ensure that your property is not contaminated with pollutants or other harmful chemicals that could impact the property, the resale value or the health of you and your family.

Home inspectors will not like this next tip, but I encourage folks to always ask for a better price. Long ago I learned a simple technique when paying for anything. Just ask: Can you do any better? This simple question gives the vendor the opportunity to drop their price a bit or even throw in an additional service for no charge. In no way are we devaluing the service being provided, we are just asking if that is the best price they have to offer. If they say no, no harm done. At least you asked.

Lastly, (speaking of asking) is to ask a lot of questions. We established that you will be there during the inspection so make the most of it and learn all you can while you are there. I had an inspection on the house I built (it was required by the bank) and I learned a ton of information about the foundation, the construction and the home itself just by asking some simple questions as we both walked around the home. The objective is not to be "questioning" what the inspector is doing. You are not trying to be a "know-it-all". You are trying to be a "know-nothing" and glean information from this educated professional.

Inspectors can get a bad "rap" because many folks think the service is unnecessary and they are often (like me) forced to get an inspection because of a mortgage. At the end of the day, we have lots of fantastic inspectors in the Mount Washington Valley and their services can be an invaluable education about your property and your investment. You know what? It's the holidays. Go out and hug your inspector! There's a good chance they saved you money in the end.

Time Trumps Trinkets

conway-nh-homesHere's hoping you survived the Turkey day treats and didn't pack on too many extra pounds. I enjoyed a smoked turkey this year which was just plain yummy. One of these years I need to try it fried. Everyone keeps lauding the flavor and let's be honest, how can anything fried not be tasty! For me, the only real bummer about Thanksgiving is it marks the end of "procrastination" season and I really need to get busy with my shopping list. Like it or not, the vast majority of us will be joining the herds of people scouring the stores (or the web!) for that perfect gift.

Making matters worse, I have a girlfriend that gives really great gifts. (I know, annoying, right!?) She inevitably puts lots of thought into what she gives and it is always a useful and meaningful treat. So this year I've decided to try and come up with some better ways to express my love for friends and family and move beyond the piles of crap they are serving up at the local box store. This year I'm going to follow my mother's advice from "forever" ago and give gifts that mean something. Here are a few of those ideas.

The gift of "time" is really the best gift we can give. I know it sounds corny but the reality is, we never get any more of it. When my dad has his "medical incident" (an arterial bleeding in the brain) 2 years ago, the thought occurred that we would not get to see him again. Now, the time we spend together is more precious than ever. Never have I felt more justified in taking a day off of work to climb a mountain with him. That time is worth more than any paycheck.

A simple way to give this gift is with tickets. Ideally this would be for something you both enjoy, but keep the focus on the receiver in this case. I know that my girlfriend is not a huge fan of the UFC so cage-side seats would not be a great idea. She does, however, love college football so why not grab a couple tickets for next season? The gift is not only thoughtful because you are doing something THEY enjoy, but you are also accomplishing the goal of scheduling time together.

Another great way to do this is with movie tickets. I am actually going to be doing this one this year (don't tell her!) and am really looking forward to it. We both love going to the movies so I'm going to grab a pack of 12 tickets for her. That way we can plan to see a movie every month and have a built-in "date night". It is so easy to get caught up in everyday life that we often miss chances to just escape and go on a date. Grabbing movie tickets in advance can strongly encourage you to get off the couch and go get some much-needed theater popcorn!

Give the gift of you! One of my "issues" with technology is the absence of pictures. Yes, we all take 25 times MORE pictures than we used to, but where are they? Unless you are looking over someone's shoulder at their desk or on their phone, pictures are essentially invisible. Something a simple as a single framed photo (of the two of you) or as complex as a whole scrapbook is a great way to give "yourself". A few years ago my mother created a framed collage for both my brother and I. It included pictures from our lives growing up and, of course, included pictures of our whole family. That frame is one of my favorites and will always bring back fantastic memories.

"One of the first things I encourage new homeowners to do, when they move in to their house, is put up some family photos," notes Badger Realty agent, Karla Badger. She continued, "It starts the transformation of the house into a home."

Voucher books are an old stand-by that can accomplish two objectives at once. You get to offer your own personal services as well as spend more time with the receiver. These can be chores that neither of you like doing like cleaning the bathrooms or dusting (ok, those are MY two!). They can also be for more enjoyable tasks like cooking a special dinner, backrubs or any other fun activity that you both may enjoy. Depending on who will be with you while you are opening presents on Christmas morning, you may want to keep them "PG".

Much like the movie ticket idea, giving some sort of subscription is another great way to let them know you are thinking about them all year long. There are plenty of "clubs" that mail out treats like steaks or jellies (even wine!) and a simple magazine also accomplishes the same thing. It is something that they will enjoy and will remind them of you all year long.

I would never encourage any guy to buy any girl a membership to a gym. That is a sure-fire way to bring a nice, romantic Christmas morning to a screeching halt. You might as well just buy her a vacuum cleaner and a washing machine! On the flip side, there are body-related gifts that are safe. Yoga and massage are two great ways to get the job done. A couple's massage is a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours some afternoon where the both of you can slip into a relaxed and blissful state together. Signing up for yoga classes together (yes, dummy, you are going WITH her!) will educate both of you on the power and benefits of yoga and make you feel better at the same time. Who knows, you might actually like it!

The holiday season is about friends and family and not about getting gifts (just don't tell your kids). Try and come up with simple, inexpensive and creative ways to show your loved ones you are thinking about them all year long. Lastly, focus on "time" this year. We only get so much of it and no cheap piece of plastic made in China can make up for it when it is gone.

10 Steps To Your New Home

jackson nh real estate loanThe process of moving towards home ownership can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you decide to go-it alone.  Thankfully, there are steps you can follow along that will help guide you through this.  Below are 10 basic, although not exhaustive, steps you should be keeping  in mind as you tackle this exciting time in your life.

1.  Credit Scores –  Make sure yours are up to snuff and any discrepancies have been remedied BEFORE you head to the bank.

2. Pre qualification – Once your credit scores are in order, get to a lending institution and have them check your credit history (and all the other things they do!) so you will know how much house you can comfortably afford.

3. Make a list, check it twice – Make a list of your "wants" and "needs" and stick to it.  Too often we become enamored with an indoor swimming pool or a 4-car garage, when in reality it was not on EITHER of our lists!  Sticking to your "need" list can save you money and keep your emotions in check.

4. Work with an agent – In most cases (in NH), working with an agent to buy a home will cost you nothing.  Utilize their experience and knowledge of the area, neighborhoods and the buying process to help you along the way.

5. Choose a home – This one seems obvious, but it harkens back to #3.  Stay focused on the wants and needs and find a home that meets most or all of them.  Remember, even if you BUILD the  home yourself, there will still be items that don't meet your wish list.  Know when to make compromises and when to stick to your guns.

6. Make an offer – This is a vital step in the process.  Your agent should be able to help you determine fair market value and guide you with where your offer should be to make the best impression on the sellers.  Low-balling is almost never the best strategy.

7. Get an inspection – This is an "absolute", especially if the home you are buying is not a condo or part of an HOA.  It will be well worth the few hundred dollars for the peace of mind and who knows….

north conway sold home8. Re-negotiate – Often times the inspection will bring to light items that were unknown before (that's what you paid them for!).  Take this opportunity to sure up your negotiating position and request the necessary adjustments.

9. Get an appraisal – This is a requirement if the bank is providing you with the funds to purchase the home.  This will also tell you (and the bank) whether or not the home is appropriately priced for the amount of the loan being given.

10. Head to closing – After the final walk-through has been done and the adjustments (repairs) have been made by the seller, head to the closing to start signing piles and piles of paperwork.  This part is by far the most daunting, but the most exciting.

The only step left is to head over to your new home and celebrate!!

Holiday House Hawking

conway nh real estate holidaysWho knew? While many of us are standing in line with an armful of last-minute gifts, the smart people are at home tidying up and getting ready for a listing appointment. It turns out the holidays are actually a great time to sell your home. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the inclination to burrow under a blanket and binge-watch The Walking Dead until spring. But hear me out and you might just change your mind about calling your favorite real estate professional and listing your home this season!

In general, this time of year is going to mean fewer homes on the market. If a homeowner was or is considering selling, chances are they are going to wait until spring. This is good news for you since your home will be a more rare commodity. The other advantage to this is when you DO sell your home, you will be ready to do some shopping of your own when the spring finally rolls around. As opposed to the “buy low-sell high” advice, we want to sell (when inventory is) low and buy (when inventory is) high.

On the other side of the table are the buyers. During the winter months and certainly during the holidays, if someone is looking for homes, chances are they are going to be a more serious buyer. Whether they are relocating for a career, trying to take advantage of tax benefits before the end of the year or are in some other conundrum that has them looking during the holidays, buyers during the winter months are going to be motivated. This does not mean they will be reckless, but they will be potentially more serious than the standard tire-kickers of the summer.

The folks at Redfin did a 2-year study that was completed last year. Their findings related to winter season sales were eye opening. The “winter season” is defined as December 21 through March 20. They found that February is the best month to sell with 66 percent of homes listed in that month selling within 90 days. They also found that in 2012 December listings were producing the highest percentage of above-asking-price sales at 17 percent.

Although it is a little outdated, Realtor.com did a similar study in 2011. They found 80% of real estate professionals agreeing that more serious buyers emerge during the holidays. 61% also said that there is less competition during this time, making it a great time to sell. While any home that is priced right and shows well can sell during any time of the year, people in the winter months tend to not be window shoppers. It makes sense to take advantage of this time and make your house shine. Which brings me to my next point, staging.

jackson nh real estate christmasAny professional real estate agent will tell you that staging a home is a great idea and an important piece of the puzzle in getting your home sold. What better time than the holidays to make your house stand out. You don’t see many Currier & Ives or Norman Rockwell paintings with un-staged homes. There are typically candles in the windows, a dining room table fully “set” for dinner and holiday decorations throughout the home. In general, from the time you pull in the driveway to your tour throughout the house, everything just feels like home.

“There is a fine line with staging a home during the holidays,” notes Badger Realty agent, Brendan Battenfelder. “While making the home feel like a cozy, welcoming, holiday oasis, you don’t want to over-do it. With a normal staged listing, we encourage sellers to remove personal effects so the buyers can picture themselves (and their pictures/decorations) in the home. During the holidays the sellers must balance that strategy with the benefits of holiday décor,” he said.

Brendan brings up a great point and, frankly, a tough balancing act. You want to decorate your home so you (and your family) can enjoy the festive holiday spirit. But the challenge arises with trying to keep the home “vanilla” enough so you don’t offend or turn off the buyers. I think you are safe in erring on the side of good taste. If you typically lean towards Clark W. Griswold, I would temper that a bit this year and keep your decorations to a minimum. You will still have the spirit of the holidays, but you won’t horrify the more moderate buyers with your full Santa display riding across the front lawn. Happy Selling!