OK, I know. We are not supposed to talk about “national trends” since we all know that the “real” nitty gritty of real estate is hyper-local! Well, with that in mind, here are a few items that still hold some relevancy in the market, regardless of where you are!
The mortgage rates are still just plain fantastic and will continue to stay there. Although we may see a slight bump, it will only be approaching the 5% mark. Nothing to get too upset about, but worth keeping an eye on regardless. If you are re-financing or buying a new home, this is good info. for you.
If you are lucky enough to already own a home, congratulations! Home appreciation is expected to continue by 3-5% next year. Not a massive jump, but at least it is not going in the other direction! We should also see an increase in housing starts as new construction continues to get its legs. A 20% increase in new construction is anticipated.
There is also a prediction that multi-family homes will continue to rise in 2015. These purchases increased by about 60% between 2011 and 2014. I know this is a great place to invest and a great way to affordably purchase a home!
While any “prediction” is worth just about the same as the paper it is written on, these are some good numbers and some good news for real estate owners and buyers in 2015.
Size really does matter. Especially when it comes to the size of your home. For those of you reading this from the comfort of your vacation home here in the Mount Washington Valley, you are likely not as concerned with the size of this house as your primary residence. The fact is, if you can crash here for a few weekends and a few weeks a year you’re happy. Sharing the home with family and friends typically warrants a larger home, but for the single family, a smaller space is fine. We are seeing this trend in primary residences as well and I have to admit I don’t blame them at all. Here are a few reasons why smaller is actually a nice direction to be heading.
Although not always the case, smaller homes typically come with smaller mortgages. For obvious reasons, this is often the most important factor in downsizing. Since mortgage payments usually gobble up about 30% of our gross and 50% of our net income, shrinking the house payment can lighten the load a bunch and improve the health of our budgets almost immediately. Right along with the mortgage are the utilities. It makes perfect sense, especially for a ski house, that heat will be much cheaper the less space you have to deal with. This savings applies to lights and water as well.
According to the newly released 2013 American Community Survey, New Hampshire ranks #3 in the nation for the highest property taxes at a median bill of $5,107. New Jersey (#1), Connecticut (#2), New York (#4), Mass (#5), Rhode Island (#7), Vermont (#8) and Maryland (#10) make the northeast the highest taxed area in the country. (Hooray for us!) Needless to say, the smaller your home (and your plot of dirt) the smaller amount you’ll pay in taxes. Of course, you could move to Alabama, with a median tax bill of $532, but why would anyone want to do that? (You DID see the New Hampshire foliage this year, right!?)
When I moved into my newly built home, the surrounding property (often referred to as a “lawn”) was nothing but dirt and weeds. While I had grand ideas of a plush green oasis to make the neighbors jealous, I never really got around to it. Funnily enough, the new owners have continued my laziness and rely on the beauty of fresh snow to make the yard pretty for at least half of the year! Moving into a smaller home means much less maintenance. Cleaning is easier and faster and nearly everything from painting, repairing windows and doing general maintenance is made more simple the smaller your home. Let’s be honest. You’re not getting any younger. Do you really want to be mowing (or raking) 3 acres of lawn and cleaning countless windows on your weekend? You could be sipping coffee and reading the Conway Daily Sun instead!
As you can imagine, my favorite reason for downsizing is the lack of clutter. Even if you are a card-carrying pack rat, you can’t fight the fact that the storage space is just not there. With a smaller home you will be forced to be more organized and hang on to less “stuff”. I get giddy just thinking about all the trips to the thrift store to eliminate the piles of unnecessary junk in our lives. Less is more!
In case you hadn’t noticed, smaller homes are becoming quite trendy. While I don’t encourage you to join the crowd just because everyone’s doing it, there are some clear advantages. The new “smaller” homes take up a smaller footprint, but don’t really sacrifice space on the inside. Smart builders are able to utilize previously wasted space and take full advantage of the entire home. Among these adjustments, we’re seeing a disappearance of the formal dining room and a move towards more useful and logical layouts.
“Smaller homes don’t always mean cramped living quarters, they simply make better use of the space available,” notes Badger Realty agent, Edward O’Halloran. He continued, “If home owners were honest about the space they need, most of us would be able to downsize without negatively impacting our living conditions in the least.”
Looking back in history, it is obvious that we can live with less. The average single-family home built in 2013 was around 2,600 square feet. In 1950, when the average family was larger than it is today, the average home was less than 1,000 square feet. Faced with those numbers, we are clearly “living large” today.
The savings for living in a smaller home, as mentioned above, can also be migrated towards your retirement. What better way to channel the funds you were spending (wasting?) on that huge home than to pad your savings account and make your golden years that much more comfortable. Or, better yet, how about grabbing that ski home you’ve always talked about! With rates as low as they are and inventory holding steady, there has never been a better time.
See you on the slopes!
DEVELOPERS OF KEARSARGE BROOK CONDOMINUIMS AT CRANMORE
UPDATE PROJECT TIMELINE
North Conway, NH — On Monday, October 27, Cranmore announced that the timeline for completion of the first phase of Kearsarge Brook Condominiums at Cranmore has been extended for a period to be determined. Phase One’s originally scheduled completion date of December, 2015, is not tenable due to land release issues requiring additional time to resolve. While resolving these issues is a hurdle to the project and makes the schedule longer than anticipated, Cranmore and all parties involved are confident they will not hinder the ultimate goal of building.
Kearsarge Brook Condominiums at Cranmore is a six to ten year project that will double day lodge space for guests and introduce 106 whole ownership condominium residences at the base of the mountain. The investment done to date in planning, permitting and legal work will help to accelerate the re-launch of the project.
“I want to thank everyone for making this project a priority,” commented Brian Fairbank, Chairman of the Fairbank Group, the entity that operates Cranmore. “The project is still very much alive, but with further delays now a reality we felt it was fair to everyone to put things on hold until we get this issue sorted out. It is unfortunate, but we have done successful resort development for decades and are accustomed to delays. We will work through this and get this project back on track as soon as possible.”
Fairbank added “We still see this as Cranmore’s direction for the future, but it is best to finish all these final requirements so we can start the project with clear, targeted, completion dates for our purchasers.”
“Unfortunately, this is a complex project and one wrinkle in the process can shift things,” added Cranmore President and General Manager Ben Wilcox. “The Fairbank Group, with support from CNL Lifestyle Properties, has invested $10,000,000 at Cranmore since purchasing the resort in 2010 and they are investing another $800,000 this winter to further enhance snowmaking and other mountain infrastructure. The development project is a long term commitment that will transform the resort for the future.”
The sales office will remain open at Cranmore to furnish information about Kearsarge Brook Condominiums at Cranmore as well as other real estate opportunities in the Valley to prospective homeowners. For further information go to www.cranmore.com/kearsargebrook, or call Badger Realty at 603-356-5757.
Moving up – vacating your current, smallish home for a larger, roomier abode – was the American way before the Great Recession. Now that the economy is humming again, at least some of the people who stayed put during those lean years will be looking to move into larger, nicer homes this summer. High demand and low inventory, however, may leave many with nowhere to go. Some will rediscover a time-honored space-gaining technique: attic conversion.
As home improvements go, converting an attic into usable living space has a high return on investment – about 84 percent at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. That’s if you use your unfinished attic to create a 15-by-15-foot bedroom and a modest 5-by-7-foot bathroom with shower. Create a larger, more luxurious and more elaborate space and the ROI could be even greater. If your family is bursting at the seams, the value of added space will be measured in comfort, convenience and peace of mind, rather than resale dollars.
As with any renovation project, achieving an attic conversion requires you to balance numerous factors, from budget and objective to space and architectural limitations. Some of your most-desired features – such as ample natural light or a full bathroom – may seem out of reach. They don’t have to be, though, if you rely on some time-tested techniques to maximize the space.
Lighting the natural way
Typically, attics aren’t built with a lot of windows, and adding them may be difficult if the ceiling is sloped. Yet natural light is a highly prized feature in virtually any room, especially if you’re converting your attic into a bedroom, family room or other public area. Traditional solutions include adding dormers, which can be costly and time-consuming. What’s more, windows and dormers can eat up wall space, which is often at a premium in attics.
Skylights or roof windows can be a better option in an attic space. They require less time and cost to install than dormers and can easily live on slanted ceilings. Choose Energy Star-qualified no-leak, solar-powered fresh-air skylights like those from VELUX America utilized in the O’More College of Design Alumni House, add solar-powered blinds, and you can achieve a light-filled attic room that is both beautiful and energy efficient. The cost of the products, including installation, are eligible for a 30-percent federal tax credit. And from now until August 15, there’s also a $200 cash rebate from VELUX on solar powered skylights. To learn more, visit www.whyskylights.com.
Roof windows, which are less expensive than dormers, are another cost-effective attic conversion option. VELUX offers both a top-hinged model and a double-sash balcony model that open at the top and bottom to create a roof balcony that admits much more light than a dormer while offering access to the outdoors. Roof windows offer maximum ventilation plus the added advantage of meeting building code requirements as points of emergency escape and egress.
Heating and cooling
Attics are often the hottest or coldest room in the house, depending on the time of year and the quality of your home’s insulation. Creating a comfortable atmosphere in a converted attic requires expert planning.
You may need to increase insulation. Because insulation has such a significant impact on a home’s overall comfort and energy efficiency, it makes sense to invest in the best you can afford. Spray foam is often a good option for converted attics because it can go easily between existing joists and create a tight air barrier without losing the inches of space required for thick fiberglass batt insulation.
You’ll also need to consider how you will heat and cool the space. A heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system expert can help you determine the best approach.
Skylights and roof windows can also play an important role in your heating and cooling conversion plan due to the chimney effect they utilize to exhaust rising hot air from an attic space while providing abundant daylight and fresh air.
Plumbing made easier
Adding a bathroom anywhere in a home is usually a good investment. Bathroom additions return about 60 percent of your investment at the time of resale, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. Creating an attic bathroom can be simple – if pipes are already present – or challenging if no plumbing exists in the space.
One alternative to traditional plumbing is up-flush, which allows you to install sinks, toilets, showers and even bath tubs without engaging in major construction to accommodate traditional plumbing pipes. Up-flush plumbing cost less than traditional plumbing methods and is easier to fit into tight spaces – like the odd nooks that often occur in attics.
With planning and the right materials, it’s possible to convert an attic into a living space that makes your home even more livable for your family while you’re staying in place. Plus, it will enhance your home’s value down the road when you’re ready to move up.
I get a little lost with all the Generation (insert letter here) talk. I was born in 1971, but still can’t tell you which letter I am. I think I’m “Y”, but sometimes feel like “X”. Not surprisingly, younger people are getting in the real estate market and making an impact on both sides of the table. Not only are the younger sellers more savvy with their marketing strategies, younger buyers are making a splash in the market as well. In a study done by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate we get a glimpse into the new generation’s goals for the future.
Generation Z (defined as people aged 13-17) are soon going to be digging into the real estate market. If you find yourself in the mood to buy or sell, you may want to take notice of their building trends and goals in order to align yourself for success. This generation places home ownership in the center of what they believe the American dream consists of with 89% of respondents in agreement. This was followed by a college degree at 78%, marriage at 71% and starting a family at 68%.
In fact, ninety seven percent indicated that they will be homeowners one day and are willing to sacrifice to get there. 53% said they would give up social media for a year or do double their current homework load in order to attain the dream of home ownership. I’m not sure some of my current friends, most of which are well past this age group, would be willing to give up social media for an DAY, never mind a year.
This generation seems to be financially literate as well. While we’re just talking about a single survey done, the results were pretty impressive. Of that 97% that expect to own a home, they also indicated they would pay an average of $274, 323 for their first one. This same group also said they expect to have an advanced degree (60%), be married (59%), have a pet (58%) and have started a family (21%) all before becoming home owners. These folks have some work to do!
It comes as no surprise that the vast majority of these folks will start their home search online. This is the case for nearly all people looking for property. A few of them have some higher expectations of technology though. Nearly 30% indicated they would “expect” to be able to video-chat with their agents! While I enjoy an occasional Skype chat with my mom, I think these kids have much bigger plans!
It was nice to see that about 59% said they would utilize the help of a real estate professional. As much as technology is quickly taking over our daily lives, human expertise and interactions still retain some value. “In fear of tooting our own horns, there is still so much value an agent can provide that goes beyond what you can read on a listing sheet or a website,” notes Badger Realty agent, Kevin Killourie. He continued, “Instant information is useful to an extent, but I believe nothing can replace the insight of an experienced, local agent with real-life knowledge of the area and the local market”.
With 47% of the surveyed kids expecting to settle in a suburban area, I think Kevin’s comments are spot-on. That goes for the 20% who say they’ll live in a rural or “country” area. I’m fairly confident there won’t be a “walking score” for most of the more remote, but beautiful, towns up north. The insight of an agent who has lived, worked, played and grown-up in the Mount Washington Valley can be priceless.
Lastly, the actual size of the home will likely see a shift as this generation starts to get into the market. With the growth of micro-homes seemingly taking hold, these folks are going to be content with smaller living spaces until they are ready. They don’t necessarily want what mom and dad have since they don’t need it right now. Once they build their “family” with kids and a dog, they home size will appropriately increase. Perhaps the days of the McMansion are in the rear-view mirror. (We can hope!)
If you are in the market to sell your home, it makes good sense to be aware of the upcoming generations and perhaps cater to their needs and desires a bit. If you are looking to buy a home, knowing who you are up against will help you be more selective with your desired home style and location. So, which generation are you!?
I am the absolute best at hyperbole. I’m also the single most humble person I know. Since you’re reading this article, you are likely the most educated and intelligent person in the room. Because of that, you know I’m simply full of it. There is (almost) nothing more annoying in advertising and marketing today, than the “best”, “worst”, “now or never” mentality that comes with lots of company’s message.
There was a “going out of business” sale at a grocery store over in Lincoln a couple years ago and the town was abuzz with all the amazing “deals” they were offering. With everything marked down to 50% off and below, it was a legitimate sale to be excited about. My friend Jane and I were talking about the sale and planning our trip to the store when her husband chimed in from the other room. His only (sage) advice for both of us was “It is not a “deal” if it is something you don’t need”. His point was spot-on. If you come home with a product you have no use for, but you “saved 50%”, was it really a deal?
There are lots of real estate agents out there and no shortage of folks telling you to “buy now”. How do you cut through all the noise and take some intelligent and purposeful steps towards home ownership. I have a few thoughts that might get you started in the right direction.
First of all, be sure to talk to a couple different agents before jumping in. Like most things today, we all tend to ask the advice of our friends, neighbors and family before making a large purchase. This is no different and referrals are a major source of an agent’s business. If they continue to do a good job for their clients, the referrals will keep coming in. It is also important that the area you are looking to move is a place in which they live, work and/or play. You want to work with an agent that knows the town, knows the neighborhoods and can be a real resource in your hunt.
Beyond the neighborhood, look for an agent that knows the type of property in which you are most interested. If you have your heart set on a condo, be sure the agent is well versed in all the condo communities in the area. In the Mount Washington Valley there are loads of these communities and knowledge of their differences is a big deal. A well-educated agent will understand the different locations and their different regulations. While nobody can be expected to have all this stuff memorized, your agent should have these resources at their fingertips.
Your agent should also understand your intentions after the sale. If your goal is to purchase the property and immediately rent it out, an agent with experience in this process will serve you perfectly. Some condo associations frown on this behavior and others welcome it with open arms. If the opposite is true and you intend to live in the home, a neighborhood loaded with rental properties may not be what you are after at all. Again, this is where the agent’s experience is critical.
My last encouragement about choosing your agent is to be sure they are aware of the full scope of the home buying process. There is so much more to buying a home than the exchange of money and keys. There are title companies, inspections, insurance, contractors, moving, storage, cleaning and of course banks all involved in the process. An experienced agent, with a full-service agency, can be an incredibly valuable resource in helping you every step of the way.
On the personal side, I think it is important to remain patient with this process. Buying a home can take months and the markets can shift in that time frame. Your agent can help with lots of these things, but the market itself is out of their control. If you set a realistic expectation from the start, the process is less likely to become daunting and frustrating. “One of the first things I discuss with clients is their time frame,” notes Badger Realty agent, Kathleen Sullivan Head. “It establishes their urgency and objectives but also allows me the opportunity to align myself with their goals. Secondly I use this as a teaching opportunity to adjust their mindset a bit and ensure we are all being realistic,” she continued.
The last nugget for today is to keep your eyes open about the true cost of buying (and owning) a home. With mortgage interest, HOA fees, property taxes, utilities and home maintenance there is the opportunity for the first-time home buyer to be surprised by a few of these unknowns. An experienced agent can help you navigate through the process and make you aware of the extraneous expenses beyond the mortgage. This will help you buy within your means and make the whole experience a little less stressful.
Trulia just published their rent vs. buy report and in 100 of the largest metro areas in the US, the average cost of home ownership is 38% cheaper than renting. This number was 66% in Detroit! With mortgage rates where they are now, rates would have to increase more than 10% for renting to be cheaper in most markets. This really is a good time to buy and with the right agent, the process can be the best and most awesome thing you do in your entire life! Whoa… sorry, got a little carried away there. I told you I was the best!
Fall is a great time of year. We start to sense the snowfall and get excited to hit the slopes. The foliage in North Conway NH is second to none and the smells of wood stoves continues to be one of my favorites. Before we settle into the winter, there are a few things you should check around the house to be sure you are ready for the coming cold.
Air leaks. The main goal of winter time is to retain the heat you are creating in the home. Wether by wood stove, furnace, electricity or solar energy you’ll want to keep the warm air in and the cold temps out this winter. Take a visual look around the exterior windows and doors and target any dried or flaking caulking as this is a major culprit for air leaks. Check under the doors in the home as well. These seals become tired and cracked and will stop doing their job after a few years. Working your way back around the home with some exterior-grade caulking will do wonders for your warmth and wallet.
Check the roof as well. We’ve had some wild weather this summer and double-checking for damage to your roof is good advice for anyone (renters and owners alike). Since you’re up there anyway, this is a good time to clean the chimney and fireplace and make sure both are in good working order. Last but not least, give your smoke and CO alarms a safety check. Clean out the dryer vent from any built up lint and swap out all of your batteries. A little overview now will offer you some peace of mind when the fire is blazing.
Don’t get me wrong. I am aware that there is an online tool out there for just about everything you could need with regards to real estate in North Conway NH. If you have lived here for any amount of time, you are aware of the limitations of technology with regards to directions and navigation. If you rely on your fancy GPS device or directions from an online mapping service, chances are you are going to get lost. The reality is that the reality of the roads, streets, paths, etc. are foreign territory for online tools that have never really driven or walked these routes. We have been preaching the value of using a real estate professional for as long as we have been in business. Using a REALTOR to help you buy a home has a number of benefits. I want to highlight a couple as they relate to all of the online tools available.
As we almost always find with a GPS, the online tools for real estate are not always the most accurate either. These tools that supposedly tell you what your home is worth (or what someone else’s home is worth), admit to their evaluations being off by around 5 percent. Standard and Poor’s did an independent study and found that discrepancy to be closer to as much as 20 percent! Because the market is moving so fast and always changing, these tools are using out-dated data and therefore their calculations are off before they even start.
The other reason these tools hold little value is there are so many other factors that they cannot possibly be aware of. Using an experienced, local REALTOR can provide you with insights that go way beyond the few facts and figures from a database. Factors like: Is the neighborhood safe? How are the schools? Can I walk to town or shopping? What has been the trend for these homes over the last few months?
When an experienced agent provides a CMA (competitive market analysis) they take into account an in-person inspection, updates on the property in question, neighborhood condition and the overall condition of the property. None of these items are found with an online tool.
In an age of instant gratification and instant data, the real estate agent’s position in the buying or selling of a home could appear to be threatened. I submit that the position of REALTOR is going to continue to be more important than ever. Real estate is local and real estate is personal. Working with an experienced “real, live” human being can never be replaced by a bunch of numbers.
Since we’re cruising into the winter months now, it might be time to give your water heater a much-needed “once-over” just to be sure your morning soak does not end up as another ALS ice-bucket challenge! While nobody expects you to become a water heater expert, there are a couple items you can do yourself, in your own home to ensure it lasts a bit longer or maybe these tests will let you know it is time for a new unit altogether.
Sediment can build up in the unit, so it is a good idea to flush the system to remove any of that debris. You can hook a garden hose up to the drain valve and run this until the water is clear. You can also remove the drain valve (once it is empty) and scrub the bottom of the tank with a long narrow brush. Then just pump fresh water into the unit and then drain that. Once this process produces clear water, you are all set.
Testing the TPR or (temperature and pressure relief) valve is another great idea and should be done every 6 months or so. You can test this by simply raising and lowering the test lever enough that it lifts the brass stem. This should produce how water at the end of the drain-pipe. If you get a trickle or no water at all, it is time to replace this. this test is also a good way to discover leaks. If, after you induce a pressure relief cycle, you find leaks, now is the time to fix those.
In many older homes, you will see water heaters covered with blankets and other insulating materials. While this is fairly unsafe, there IS a safe way to do it and the resulting savings can be significant. In general, your water heater should not be warm to the touch. If it is, that essentially means the heat intended for the water is seeping out into the unit itself and into your basement. Some utilities even offer discounted water heater insulation kits, so ask your before you go pay full price!
At some point, you’ll need to replace the water heater. Basically, like most other appliances, once the cost of repairs has (or WILL) exceeds the cost of the new unit, you are well on your way to a replacement. In most cases of a leak, that is enough of an indicator to replace the unit as soon as possible.