If you have ever had the experience of returning to an old “stomping ground” after a significant time away, you can appreciate the experience I had this past week. After spending considerable time away from where I used to call “home”, I returned for a visit. While I’m content and excited about my new location, the familiar surroundings and faces that met me on this last visit were a very welcome sight. While new friends, new clients, new scenery and even new mountains are exciting and filled with new potential adventures, it is always nice to come “home”.
My earliest (coherent) childhood memories are from the earliest days of grade-school. We lived in an apartment in Amesbury, MA filled with lots of similar-aged kids. I have visited that location a few times since those early days and was immediately refreshed with loads of fond memories. Skateboarding down the hill to the lower lot, putting baseball cards in the spokes of the bike tires and running around playing tag and dodge ball until the streetlights came on or until we got the call (via voice, not phone!) from mom.
In a similar way, a visit to the beaches of Wells, Maine brings back memories of our house on Ocean Pines Circle. Dad wearing a pumpkin on his head for Halloween, Ben, our black lab, dragging his entire dog house across the street in the name of “love”, and the awful-tasting orange marmalade sandwiches the baby-sitter across the street would serve to my brother and I for lunch. Even a drive along the street that connects to Ocean Pines Circle brings back a flood of great memories and fond feelings of “home”.
After having been away from where I called home for a significant amount of time, the return was bitter-sweet. The familiar faces brought an immediate smile and a sense of belonging that I had not enjoyed in a long time. The relationships themselves, though altered now by distance, are still strong. I’m convinced that this sense of familiarity has the power to bring a smile to our face and even an easing of present stresses. Even if specific memories are not recalled or old stories not re-hashed, the collective snippets in time, from years of shared experiences, make us feel welcome and provide that sense of belonging and comfort. The “bitter” part of the visit was knowing that in a few days those familiar faces would become memories, only to be re-lived in my mind.
There is no question, that same phenomenon is what gives us that immense feeling of relief, relaxation and melted-away stress when we arrive back to our actual home after an extended absence. Even walking through the front door after a long, particularly exhausting day at the office can bring a smile to your face and cause an immediate relieving of the tension throughout the body. The feeling of being “home” is unequalled in its power to make us feel at ease.
They say our sense of smell has the strongest memory “database”. A smell from 20 or 40 years ago can immediately bring back a very specific experience or location. Whether you are aware of it or not, you and your family have a distinct “presence” in your home. This becomes apparent when, after a long absence, you first open the front door and are met with that familiar aroma.
Perhaps that is why real estate agents are taught to bake cookies or light a “cookie” candle when having an open house or a showing. What better way to encourage an offer on a home than to immediately associate with the buyer’s fond memories of fresh cookies or family holidays. “I have found that lots of people, first-time buyers in particular, really tend to relax a bit when I use scents in my showings,” commented Badger Realty agent Karla Badger. She continued, “It simply helps them feel more at ease and allows them to more easily imagine themselves making this house their home.”
I’ll leave you today with two thoughts. First of all, be sure and appreciate those around you. The next time you see a familiar face in the market or on the street, make the extra effort to walk over and say hello. I promise you they will be excited to see you (unless they owe you money!) and you both will feel better for the rest of the day. The feeling of connectedness we share with friends and family simply cannot be replaced.
Second, just take a minute to appreciate that place you call home. It does not make any difference if your “home” is a 4,000 square foot mansion at the summit of Mt. Washington (wouldn’t that be cool?!) or a camper in the parking lot of a big-box store. Your home is (ideally) your respite from the world and a place to be completely at ease. If it’s not, I encourage you to take a few steps to create this rejuvenating environment for yourself and your family. You deserve it.
I’ll see you on the sidewalk.
It appears that we are successfully (finally) rolling into Spring and even jumped into Summer there for a few days! While the temps are warming, the same is true with the real estate market. On a broad scale, according to the National Association of Realtors, pending home sales are at their highest level since April 2010 and a full 7% higher than this time last year. Applications and refinancing are both up and rates are still ridiculously low; this all points to a stronger market and a solid spring season for Conway NH real estate.
But beyond the normal increase in sales, how do you increase the amount of money you can get (ask?) for your home? In other words, what are those items that buyers are willing to pony up the extra cash for when they are reviewing homes? There are quite a few on our list and a couple that we mentioned a few weeks back when talking about getting the most bang for your buck when doing a remodel. The numbers are from the National Association of REALTORS and represent the average “extra” amount buyers are willing to pay to have that feature already present in a home they are buying.
Central air conditioning topped the list as the most popular item with buyers. Central air is one of those items that are not necessarily a DIY project and not one that many home buyers would be willing to invest in after just buying a home. It makes sense they would be willing to pay more up front to have this great amenity included. While, in NH, we may only “need” air conditioning for those 2 or 3 weeks in August, it is still a treat to flip a switch and stop sticking to the couch.
New kitchen appliances ($1,840) and master bath suites ($2,030) also rose to the top of the heap. Similar to central air, these are not always “simple” DIY projects and buyers would love to have them taken care of prior to moving in. Even if the appliances are not exactly what they may have chosen on their own and the style of the master bath suite is not exactly what they would have picked out, the fact that these are in place and “one less thing” to worry about is apparently worth the extra money.
Speaking of suites, the presence of a walk-in closet in the master bedroom is worth an additional $1,350 to most buyers. Having lived without a closet and subsequently experiencing the bliss of a walk-in closet in my bedroom, I can see the logic here. Since we all tend to have 2 (or more) different “wardrobes”, having access to all of your clothes in one spot is a worthwhile luxury for sure. Even if you don’t have THAT many clothes, the ability to spread out what you do own is great. Coming from a guy who color-coordinates (and hangs) his t-shirts, you can imagine how much I miss that closet!
“We all know that kitchens and baths sell houses, but my experience has also taught me that people love their closets, and that goes for both men and women”, notes Badger Realty agent Maureen Garrette. She continued, “I can’t tell you how many times people have gone right to the master bedroom to inspect the amount of closet space available before walking through the rest of the home. It is certainly a top priority for lots of people.”
Swinging back to the kitchen, we have Stainless steel appliances at $1,850, granite countertops at $1,620 and a kitchen island at $1,370. I can relate to having these already present in a kitchen. The savings of time, energy and mess alone is worth almost any cost. But I’m surprised they made the list considering they are simply “styles” right now and who knows what is coming down the pike. Wouldn’t it be great if those pea-green appliances come back in fashion! All those folks lamenting their 60′s and 70′s era kitchens, all across NH, will be stylish once again!
Lastly were hardwood floors at $2,080. This one makes a lot of sense. Having laid the floor in my house, I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into this project. The strain on the back and knees alone is worth two thousand dollars! And don’t get me started on the mess. Thankfully, I did not have carpet or appliances yet in the house, so the mess was easily cleaned up. I would not want to undertake that project in a fully furnished home while trying to contain the ensuing haze of dust. That sawdust gets everywhere.
The one that tops the list for value, at $5020, is a home less than 5 years old. While this stands far above the rest of the other features in value, it certainly makes lots of sense. The amount of maintenance issues and other potential problems in a newer home are far fewer than those that have seen 10 or more years of weathering or wear and tear. About 40% of buyers noted they would be willing to pay extra for a newer home.
Obviously all of these are subjective. In fact, only the central air conditioning and new appliances ranked as important for more than 60% of respondents. As a seller, it is great information to have and gives you and your agent some data for which items to highlight in your home. As a buyer, you might be able to scoop up a better deal on a home that does not include lots of these items. A basic supply/demand formula will tell you that if you sacrifice a few of these amenities, you might save yourself some money or competition.
Everyone knows Springtime is the season of change. Those nasty brown snow banks are finally waning into the streams and rivers and the fresh flowers and plants are starting to take shape. A very dear friend of mine is also in the midst of a big change. A change that will take him 2,000 miles across the country into a new land, a new town and completely new, albeit beautiful, surroundings.
One of the hardest parts of big changes like these are the social and personal ramifications. Leaving a group of friends, neighbors and family that have known you for years can be an emotional and trying time. This also tends to play into the final decision to move and can sometimes be enough of a draw to keep you home. The comfort and confidence of familiar faces and the warm feeling of being “known” around town can even keep some from making the decision to move on at all. Others will push through and revel in the opportunity to make new friends and new connections.
Making this type of major decision is not unlike the decision to sell your home and buy a new/different one. Granted, this part of most “moves” is inevitable, but the decision making process still holds some of the very same factors. The surroundings of your home have become familiar and have given you and your family that sense of “home” for as long as you have been there. Uprooting that, even temporarily, is not a small undertaking.
My friend has also taken this opportunity to “cull the fat” in his life. This includes many (most?) of those items, that we all have stored somewhere, that clearly do not fall into the necessity column. I tend to go through this process every Summer and Fall. I love going through my closet and removing those items that I have not worn for the past 12 months. The trick is to go through the same process with the “things” in your basement, garage and other storage spots.
If you have ever moved, which most of us have, you have had the chance to really see and feel all of the stuff you have accumulated over the years. What better time to eliminate those things that have not been touched in a year… or two… or five. While going through this process, my friend found old tools, random hardware, obsolete exercise equipment, “straight” skis! and even a few pieces of furniture that had never made it into the house. All of these items were either sold or given to friends or charity as part of his “cleansing” process.
Don’t get me wrong. I have enough of that “pack-rat” mentality to hear the voice in my head saying “you never know when you might need that”. But at the end of the day, the feeling of cleansing and organizing far outweigh the “what ifs”. The other advantage to this cathartic flushing is you end up with both less stuff to move and less space needed in the new home.
I remember moving from my 300 square foot cabin to my 2 story cape a couple years ago. The most amazing thing was the home did not feel “empty” with my very limited amount of furniture and “stuff”. In fact, it felt clean, open and spacious. A feeling that I thoroughly enjoy both inside and outside the home. Badger Realty agent Kevin Killourie comments “I find families that have filtered through their belongings, prior to their home going on the market, tend to be more prepared for this change. They are beginning to emotionally detach themselves from the house and it makes the transition much more smooth for everyone.”
If this Spring is a time for new beginnings for you and a move is in your future, I’m excited for you. This is a great opportunity for you and your family to re-evaluate your priorities and apply those to all the stuff in your lives. Embrace the change and the opportunity for a new, fresh beginning. You will likely be less stressed during the process and more mentally ready for the big move. Happy Spring and Happy Cleansing!
While the real estate market continues to take strong strides towards a sustainable and stable recovery, there are still those homes that, for whatever reason, just haven’t sold. As we have discussed numerous times before, one of the best ways to highlight the home and hopefully get it sold, is to undertake some sort of remodeling projects.
The NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) has indicated a sharp increase in the number of inquiries and bid requests in the past 12 months. This points to an increased level of consumer confidence in the housing industry. The logic being that an upgrade will either increase the enjoyment of the home for themselves, or increase the sale-ability of the home once it hits the market. According to the NARI, the biggest drivers behind the increased activity was a reviving of postponed projects as well as the continually improving home prices.
There are countless websites and experts available to highlight the projects with the greatest ROI (Return on Investment) as well as those that today’s buyers are most interested in. This weekend, since I’m in the spring sort of mood, we’ll highlight those “green” projects for your home. These are the upgrades and renovations that will increase the efficiency of the home and lessen your consumption of the world’s resources.
One of the easiest steps to take, which even the least mechanical of us can tackle, is to swap out your light bulbs. Going the way of CFL bulbs provides a huge increase in energy efficiency (Using 75% less than traditional incandescent) and longevity (CFLs last up to 6 times longer). Even if you don’t have the motivation to swap out all of your bulbs this weekend, at least go buy a box or two so you are able to start the exchange as the old bulbs burn out. This is a great way to take this step and be easy on the wallet at the same time.
Installing a programmable thermostat is the next great way to not only save yourself some money (about $180/year according to Energy Star), but also offer some convenience. As the days start to warm up a bit and the mornings are not as frosty, you can eliminate the heat altogether. But, waking up to and coming home to a warm house can be achieved with a little adjusting and some quality time with the instructions.
While we’re on the subject of heating (and cooling), I always encourage home builders to install a few ceiling fans around the home. Once you have them, you’ll never want to go without. The obvious benefits of pushing heat back down to the living area in colder months and circulating the hot air in the summer months are reason enough to install these throughout the home. I found, especially with a forced hot air heating system, the ceiling fans were indispensible to a more stable and consistent heat.
Moving from the air to the water, it might be time to replace your tired, old water heater. I will warn you ahead of time, there are loads of options available in order to get hot water to spray out of the faucet. These include tankless units, heat pump water heaters and of course traditional gas or electric “storage” water heaters. The former two are typically about twice as efficient as the latter choice simply because they are only heating the water as you need it. They are not trying to maintain 50 gallons of water at a certain temperature. It is well worth some research on your part and be sure to consider the energy savings each month as you are evaluating them for price.
The last thing to consider are the appliances. I understand this can be a costly endeavor, but this is a great place to increase your home’s efficiency as well as score huge points with the next potential buyers that walk through the door. “Everyone knows kitchens and baths sell the house. If the appliances are upgraded and new it becomes a selling point or, at the very least, they are not a stumbling block for the buyers,” comments Badger Realty agent Kathleen Sullivan Head. She continued, “If they are energy efficient and can save the buyers money in the long-run, that’s just an added bonus.”
As we’ve talked about before, doing any type of upgrade to your home is a great idea. Not only will you increase the likelihood of selling in a timely manner, but you also get the benefit of enjoying the remodeling work for as long as you live there.
We have all done it. It hits you on the way home or shortly thereafter. We have bought that item, regardless of how big or small, and been overwhelmed with a feeling of regret. Buyer’s remorse. Of course it is a bit more common with larger purchases such as a new car or expensive jewelry, and real estate is certainly no exception. So rather than placating your remorse with a bowl of ice cream or a big glass of wine, let’s look at some ways you can avoid those feelings in the first place.
You have heard me say this on multiple occasions, but knowledge is key. The more “homework” you do before signing on the proverbial dotted line, the more confidence you will have in your decision. My brother is a car fanatic. Before he purchased his last car, he researched all the vehicles in that class to ensure that this particular model was “the one”. While this is certainly time consuming and, in the end, there really is no “perfect” car, at least he can sleep at night knowing he made the best decision for his particular goals.
That right there, I believe, is one of the most important factors in having confidence in your decision. Knowing what you want. When looking for a new home, it is imperative that you make your list of “must-haves” before you begin your search. This not only relieves some of the post-purchase jitters, but also gives you the confidence to eliminate properties that don’t meet those demands. I also encourage buyers to make this list as concise and specific as possible. If you need or “must-have” a 2-car garage, then don’t settle for a home without one. If you have dogs and they need a back yard to play, don’t assume you will just take them for walks every day and bring them to the park. Set your minimum standard and stick to your guns.
While Ross and Rachel’s infamous “checklist” for dating didn’t work out too well for them, when it comes to your next home purchase, keep emotions out of it as much as possible. Someone’s feelings are not at stake here. This is a big wooden box with a roof within which to store all of your stuff and your family. That’s it. As you are going through this process, make use of the expertise of the agents at Badger Realty and let them help you with your list. Having a third party involved in the process helps you keep a bit of distance between you and the property. If a given house doesn’t make the cut, move on.
It is equally important to take some time to review the finances as well. This may seem like an obvious step, but unfortunately first-time home buyers are frequently surprised at the “true” cost of ownership. With all the computer programs and experts available today, you will have no trouble getting some very accurate numbers regarding the mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc.
Beyond these “fixed” figures, it is also very helpful to get estimates on how you can directly impact your monthly payments. What if you pay an extra $50 per month? What if you come into some money and are able to pay $1,000 directly on the principal. If you utilize an adjustable rate mortgage, how will the fluctuations of the interest rates impact your payments. Getting a handle on all of these variables will help you rest easier in the years following your purchase.
Get a handle on what type of local, not national, real estate market you working within. I have talked at length about the importance of knowing your local real estate market. While nationally, the foreclosure rate might be dwindling and home sales are starting to pick up, what is happening in North Conway, NH? What about Madison or Albany? Every region and every town have their own “micro” real estate market and it is important to understand what is happening on that level. There are even differences between condo complexes in the same town. Get to know your local market and the direction it is heading. This will increase your confidence that you are making the right decision and will also help you in the negotiation process.
Slow down a bit during the buying process and take a closer look at your home inspector. Granted, they are now going to be required to be licensed but not all inspectors are the same. Get some recommendations from trusted friends, relatives or co-workers and make sure you are comfortable with your choice. Also, much like the advice we get when going to the doctor for a check-up, make a list for your inspector before they get there. As you are walking through the home for the first time, you are going to have specific areas of concern. Make note of these and highlight them during the inspection. (You ARE going to be there for the inspection, right?) Also, if you plan to make any renovations, try to coordinate your contractor’s availability during the inspection. What a great opportunity to have two professionals offering insight on the current and future condition of your home.
Lastly, I would simply encourage you to get back in and view the home more than once and bring a second set of eyes with you. A trusted friend or even your contractor can offer a more objective perspective than yours, especially if you have already “fallen” for the home. Typically a second viewing of the home will expose areas of concern that you overlooked the first time through. While this may not be convenient, particularly for vacation home buyers, it is an important step to boost the confidence in your decision.
You have the choice. Hastily make a huge decision and gamble with remorse after the papers are signed, or do your homework up front and move forward with confidence in your choice. Compared to the years of enjoyment in your beautiful new home, the up front work will be quick and painless.
Much of our rambling, as real estate professionals, comes in the form of educating our sellers. We try to help you with accurate (and effective) pricing, showing tips for that first impression, staging techniques and even how to cater to your buyer’s sense of smell. The assumption is made that buyers know what they are after and simply need to pony up the cash to get what they want. The truth is, there are a few missteps made by buyers that could be avoided, to help ensure you are going to land in the home of your dreams.
The first mistake we see lots of buyers make (in our humble opinion) is the assumption they don’t need an agent. It is no secret all the pertinent information about a listing can be found online by a 4 year old with a smart phone. Long gone are the days of the MLS “book” and agents hording the listing information like Gollum and his “precious” ring. The value of an agent is clearly not in this data.
Experienced, local agents, like those roaming the halls of Badger Realty, offer so much more than pictures and room dimensions. As your agent better understands your needs and desires they are able to evaluate the homes in your target area and help you focus on the best overall choices. Having walked through many of these homes, the agent can highlight items that don’t necessarily stand out on paper. Because they live, work and play in the Mount Washington Valley, they understand the neighborhoods, traffic patterns and seasonal changes that all have a direct impact on the enjoyment of your new home.
One of the biggest misconceptions we hear from new buyers is they don’t need to pay someone to search the internet for them. This is so true. But if searching the web for homes in your price-range is the only service your agent is providing you, it’s time to find yourself a new agent. The way real estate works in New Hampshire and Maine means that, unless you arrange a “Buyer’s Agency” agreement, the services of an agent, in helping you find your dream home, will not cost you a dime. Having this conversation as soon as you sit down with your agent will put you both at ease (not to mention, it’s the law).
Speaking of dimes, get your “dimes” stacked and counted before you start the buying process. One of the scariest phrases we hear from new buyers is: “Trust me, I have the money”. Typically, those are the folks who really don’t. From the shoes of the seller, when faced with two offers for their home and only one of those has been pre-qualified, which one do you think they will choose? Take the time to get your finances in order and get yourself pre-qualified. It makes the process flow so much more smoothly and shows the seller that you mean business and are not just “kicking tires”.
Another hiccup we see in many new buyers is simply waiting for that “perfect home”. Experienced buyers have learned, long ago, that the perfect home only exists in movies (and real estate commercials!). An experienced agent will counsel their buyers to establish lists of “wants” and “needs”. If they can find a home with the majority of their “needs” satisfied, it might just be time to act. Short of designing and building your own home, there will always be things you will change once you get the keys in your hand. And coming from someone who took that route, there are things you’ll want to change even if you designed the thing yourself. (Hindsight is….well, you know.)
The last item, as always, deals with money. Buyers often assume they can always start low and come up later in the negotiation. This goes hand-in-hand with those new buyers who wrongly assume they should never offer full price. The seller’s emotional attachment to their home is often overlooked by new buyers. They forget that a low offer could be interpreted as insulting and often triggers defensive behavior on the part of the seller. This inevitably leads to a tougher negotiation process and, more often than not, another deal down the drain.
Badger Realty agent, Kevin Killourie, notes “Inexperienced buyers often disregard the perspective of the seller. This is a home in which they have likely raised their children and have lots of great memories. Offering a seemingly insulting price for the home typically brings these deals to a screeching halt.”
While we are on the subject, it is important to note the same error is made by new sellers and inexperienced agents. Asking too high of a price, right out of the gate, will not necessarily offend anyone, but it will certainly eliminate those buyers that know the home is over-priced and likely lead to a home sitting on the market for far too long. Offer a fair price and list your home appropriately. Those are the two best ways to get started on a successful transaction.
Buying a home is a fantastic and rewarding experience. I’m certainly excited to start my home search this Spring and get back into the game. I encourage you to get yourself an experienced agent and make the most of their knowledge. It won’t cost you a thing and you’ll be far more prepared to make a good, solid offer when the time is right. See you out there!
I often try to target my musings towards the Saturday crowd. If we are expecting a snowstorm, I won’t bother talking about how nice and sunny it is as I’m writing. In this particular case, you should be enjoying a “warm-enough” spring day after having just enjoyed that amazing weather on Friday! Suffice it to say, spring is on the way. Yes, we all know there is the imminent threat of that April snow, but at this point we can take it.
Every year the Spring season brings with it a new “crop” of homes for sale. The agents and brokers love to see the new inventory so they can better service their buyers and the buyers benefit from the new bounty of choices they have. The trick, from the seller’s side, is to make your home stand out above the rest and make that solid first impression. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
One of the more commonly overlooked areas of the home are the light fixtures both inside and out. There are usually a bevy of little critters that have made your overhead light or porch lamp their home for the season. While you are up there and have them apart, take the extra minute to use some glass cleaner and make them shine. Let’s be honest, you’re not going to do this again next year and if you sell the home, you’ll never have to do this again!
Staying on the outside of the house, make sure your mailbox and front door (and garage door for that matter) are clean and well painted. This is a great time to touch-up those trouble spots or just re-paint the whole surface. This is one of those great “ROI” projects that offer a great return for very little effort. (Insert your favorite “first impressions” comment here!) Also, take a peek at your house numbers. The brain-surgeons that painted my house last summer re-nailed my numbers on upside down. I became “19″ instead of “16″. Make sure your numbers are easily seen from the street and in good condition.
“I’m always reminding my seller clients of the importance of that first impression,” says Badger Realty agent, Bill Barbin. “The garage door, front door and other street-facing walls literally are the first thing a buyer sees. Why wouldn’t you want that area to be perfect?”
Get the porch, driveway and patio free from “debris” as well. Sweep up the leaves from last fall and any big piles of dirt left over from the sand truck. Although not the most environmentally friendly thing to do, hosing down the driveway will create a neat, clean look as well. (My dad loves this project!) Our driveway, growing up, was always spotless. Be careful with attacking your lawn too early with a rake though. Although this is a great way to “clean-up” the yard and improve the looks of the house, you can damage your lawn by raking too early in the season. Check with your favorite garden center in the valley to see if it is safe.
If you are feeling adventurous, grab the ladder and make sure there are no damaged shingles up on the roof. This is also a great time to clean out those gutters and make any repairs or re-connections to ensure everything is flowing correctly. Who knows, you might even find that lost frisbee from up there.
Since we’re focusing on projects outside of the house, this is a great time to spend some time in the garage. If you are like me, you simply park the truck and head into the house all winter long. The sand, salt and slush just falls on the floor and creates a heck of a mess throughout the winter. Take this opportunity to sweep, clean, hose-out, whatever necessary to get the garage looking sharp. If the weather is nice enough, you can even spend an hour or so organizing and sorting.
Shovels, sleds, snow blowers and other winter items can be put up over-head or stored back in the shed. If your grill is in storage, this is a great time to get this out and make it more accessible. Patio furniture and even items for your pool are good candidates to be taken out of storage now as well. This not only gives the outside of the home a more friendly and welcoming appearance, but it makes the shed and garage much more roomy and clean looking.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of spring cleaning. I use this time to cull out any clothes I haven’t worn and any appliances or other items around the house that simply do not get used. It is a great time of cleansing and a great opportunity to make your house shine when it first hits the market. We’re excited about the ongoing strengthening of the north conway nh real estate market in the Mount Washington Valley and are looking forward to a busy season. Enjoy your weekend, and get to work!
Merriam-Webster defines etiquette as “The conduct required…in social life”. Basically the proper way to conduct yourself in a social setting. While I’m no “Miss Manners” (or Mr. as the case may be), there are a few big no-no’s, in the world of online communication, that I believe warrant review. Whether you are conversing with your buddies about the location of your next dining extravaganza or communicating with a business associate, good conversational etiquette is quite important.
Without naming names, a good friend of mine and I would communicate almost exclusively through email. It is important to note that he and I attended the same undergraduate college and achieved relatively the same GPA. He then continued on to get his Masters degree and now owns his own business. The surprising part for me was reading his emails. They were constantly littered with spelling errors, grammatical errors and in general were just terribly written. I agree that this was a conversation between two college buddies, but my concern was that this same quality of writing was sneaking into his professional affairs. What a terrible message to send.
One of the top offenders on our list today is the unnecessarily alerting subject line. Including a subject line of “URGENT” or “READ ME” tells the recipient that your email is more important than everything else in their inbox. While I agree that this is likely effective and gets your point across, there are better ways to accomplish this. Using these “crying wolf” subject lines implies that you are a bit over-confident in your message and you don’t have much respect for the other person’s time.
The heading of today’s article is the basis for this next error in judgment. Avoid using ALL-CAPS at all costs. I used to get emails from my dad that were in all-caps. (Though, I assure you this was merely a “fat-finger” error and not an implication of yelling.) The all-caps email is just that though. It implies a very forceful, mean and demeaning tone when you get an email, or even a whole sentence, written in all capital letters. The same can be said for excessive punctuation!!!! (One exclamation point is always enough.) If I receive an email in all caps today, I assume the person sending it does not know how to work their keyboard. It is unprofessional and disrespectful.
Another small annoyance that has more to do with behavior than the actual email content, is the instant follow-up. This happens when you get an email from someone and it is immediately followed by another email asking about the first one. Or worse yet, a phone call. I appreciate the fact that email is a quick an efficient method of communicating. But, if you really are in that much of a hurry to get this issue resolved, wouldn’t it make more sense to pick up the phone or come to my desk? That instant follow-up harkens back to the subject lines from earlier. It portrays you as self-righteous and impatient.
Oddly enough, in this day of instant messaging and tweets, I find myself calling (or getting in the car and visiting) people more often than not. I find the message is translated more clearly and the personal touch has become something of a novelty. I have to say the same holds true when it comes to buying real estate. Sure, you can get all of the “nitty-gritty” details about a property right online, but I promise you a conversation with your Badger Realty agent will prove to be far more educational. “I always like to purchase real estate after only looking at the online pictures and description” said no intelligent person, ever. The experience of having walked through the home and knowing the sellers just can’t be translated onto a listing sheet. (But, I digress.)
Lastly is the preemptive auto-response. Thankfully, I only have one colleague that still uses this technique, but it still grates on my nerves every time. By setting an auto-response for all your email, you might be thinking it is a great way to let people know that their email is important to you and you will respond to it at a more convenient time. In reality, you are being perceived as condescending and it is assumed that you will respond to these emails when you are darn good and ready.
I have to wonder, is it really necessary to TELL me that you will respond when it is convenient? Isn’t that how everyone else in the online world responds to their emails? I have no issue at all with an “out of office” response or some other temporary measure when you are away from your desk, but the constant auto-reply is a little silly. Not to mention, it gums up my inbox with your meaningless emails.
When it comes to real estate, communication (in whatever form it takes) is clearly of critical importance. We all love the new marketing tools with video and photos, but a well written description and a fully filled out disclosure form can be equally educational. The better informed your buyers are, the more likely they are to make an informed decision and be happy with their eventual decision. A picture says a thousand words, but even 100 words carry lots of weight.
Online communication is not going anywhere. It has already had more revisions in the last decade than we have seen in the last 500 years. When it comes to business communication, keep it professional and make every effort to keep it well written. Whether you are tweeting, posting, messaging, emailing or (god forbid) writing a letter on paper, how you communicate says a bunch about you as a person. Take the time to make it accurate.
Nobody will argue the job of a professional real estate agent, like those at Badger Realty, is to sell your home. There are post cards, flyers, online marketing campaigns, signs, word of mouth and countless other techniques used to get the job done. But the one thing a real estate professional, no matter how amazing they may be, cannot control is the seller. All the marketing in the world can be undone by a few simple mis-steps on the seller’s part and the house will remain on the market indefinitely. So how can you avoid these traps? You can start by avoiding the following “no-no’s” when trying to sell your home.
I promise not to belabor this point, but over-pricing your home is the number one culprit for lack of interest in the home. Today’s buyers tend to be savvier and likely have a qualified agent helping them out. With a little research, one can learn the average price for a house of the same quality and figure out what they “should” be paying. I fully understand wanting to get top dollar for your home, but you also need to be realistic. At the end of the day, do you want to “list” your house or “sell” your house. The sticker price you settle on will make a huge difference.
The overall condition of the home and its decor has to be the next most important item. If you’ve still got that olive-green fridge and that hideous flowered wallpaper in the bathroom, it’s time to do a few upgrades. While today’s younger buyers are actually interested in buying “fixer-uppers”, that is not always the case and those are not all of the buyers. The goal of selling a home, or selling anything for that matter, is to remove any potential “stumbling blocks” that might hinder the buyer from making an offer. Knowing that they will need to re-paper (or de-paper) the walls and replace the appliances is likely to send these buyers right to the next house on their list.
When it comes to decor, keep it neutral. If you need to invest in a few cans of paint (and some beer and pizza for some friends), have yourself a painting party and “wash” the house of those tired patterns. Nobody expects you to go out and buy new furniture just to sell the house, but a fresh coat of color-neutral paint will go a long way. This not only takes the focus off the walls, but encourages the buyers to more easily imagine this house becoming their home. “I love walking into a new listing and seeing neutral of soft colored walls” notes Badger Realty agent, Bernadette Friberg. She continued, “It gives potential buyers a chance to mentally color the walls on their own and imagine how their furniture will work in the room. It is one less thing to have to think about while making this huge decision.”
Right along with the “look” of the interior is the actual layout. Granted, you don’t want to invest thousands of dollars adjusting the design of a house you are about to sell, but there are a few adjustments you can make that won’t break the bank. Adding or removing (non load-bearing) walls can improve the flow of a home and even improve heating and cooling. A quick conversation with a contractor can be all the encouragement you need to tackle a project like this. It will impress the potential buyers and likely make the home more pleasant for you while it is being listed.
One of the first rules in real estate, right after “location, location, location” is ensuring a home fits within its surroundings. You don’t want to be a “new england frame” among condos and you don’t want to be the “small starter home” house surrounded by sprawling homes. This is important to keep in mind when you are building a home as well as when you are buying. If you are selling, you might be stuck in this position and need to get creative with your pitch. It would certainly be easier to bring a “modest” home up to the standards of a nicer neighborhood than it will be to bring the higher end home “down”.
Clean it and Stage it – Every Time. Don’t procrastinate this part of the process and assume you will stage it if it doesn’t sell in a couple months. The most critical time to impress buyers is in that first month or two. That is when your home will show up in searches already being done by interested buyers and that is when you will likely have the most interest in the home. Clean it like your mother-in-law is coming to visit and stage it for a dinner party. You won’t regret it.
The last item on my list is the pictures. This is clearly one of the more important pieces of the puzzle, but if you don’t get those earlier parts right, you won’t want to take pictures anyway. I gripe about clutter and dirty houses all the time. In the case of pictures, I don’t care if you hide all the clutter under the bed and sweep the dirt under the carpet. Just make sure it looks perfect in the pictures. I always encourage agents to take 3 or 4 times more pictures than they will ever use. It doesn’t cost a dime to take them and it gives you plenty of material to pick and choose from for the MLS. If your listing agent is not using a digital camera…… get yourself a new agent, but take a ride in his horse and buggy first.
All in all, just make sure you put your best foot forward right out of the gate when listing your home. It will impress the buyers, make your agent’s job easier and you might even sell your home! Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer and imagine what they would want to see when they pull up in your driveway and walk through your home. If you, or a friend, can do this objectively you’ll be way ahead of the rest.
Can you smell that? Sure smells like Spring to me. Fresh batches of White Mountain mud being grown all over the trails and the beauty of new plants (and animals for that matter) starting to emerge. I’ll admit it’s a little “wintery” this weekend, but the trend is certainly heading towards higher temps and squishy corn skiing. The other indication that Spring brings is a little uptick in the real estate market. Along those lines, I figured we were overdue for a little market update. It seems that this “recovery” everyone keeps talking about is getting a pretty solid foot-hold and for the first time since 2006, all indications point to it continuing along this trajectory.
According to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, in 2012 we saw the highest number of “unit sales” in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, since 2006 as well as the highest sales volume in dollars since 2007. And this is not just an incidental increase. The sales volume increase in New Hampshire over 2011 showed a 21% jump from 10,714 single-family residential properties sold up to 12,961. The biggest “smudge” on this otherwise rosy outlook is foreclosure sales have remained pretty steady since 2008 (around 3,400 every year). NAR also reported that the national median existing-home price for all housing types jumped up 12% over last year to $173,600. The last time it jumped that much was in 2005/2006.
So what are the driving factors behind this shift? First and foremost, and the one we keep talking about, are the fantastic mortgage interest rates. While there was some concern that the Federal Reserve Bank’s move to lower the federal funds rate would cause rates to skyrocket into double-digits, that simply has not happened. In fact, interest rates are still lower this year than last year. All the talk about the low interest rates has triggered another fresh round of refinancing and is getting many undecided buyers off the fence and into the market. The reality is, we don’t know how long these rates will last or how long these home prices, still 20% – 30% lower than the high prices set in 2006, will last. (I’m not going to say “Now is the time to buy”, but you know I want to!)
Beyond buyers, we also need sellers to jump off the fence and get their homes on the market. We are approaching a shortage of homes and that will bump up prices quicker than necessary. The number of homes on the market is the lowest it has been since 1999. The simple rules of supply and demand dictate that prices will increase if that does not change. While some sellers may salivate at the thought of multiple buyers vying for their home, that environment does not help a stable, strengthening real estate market.
“We are encouraged by the current uptick in the market and excited about a busy Spring season”, noted Dick Badger, owner of Badger Realty in North Conway, NH. “What we need now is more inventory. We need more of those sellers, that took their home off the market for the winter, to get back in the game,” he continued.
Real estate investors have certainly helped bolster the market by picking up the “low hanging fruit” of distressed sales, short sales and other “super-cheap” homes. But as soon as these deals start to dry up, those investors will turn into “sellers” or simply put “for rent” signs in the windows. As we talked about a couple weeks ago, if more folks flip over into renters, that means the competition won’t be so great for sellers and they won’t get the privilege of a bidding war and likely won’t be able to demand top-dollar for their home.
Spring is the time of rejuvenation, growth, renewed energy and a cold beer in the afternoon sun on the deck of your favorite ski resort! I’m excited about the change of the seasons (and the extra hour of daylight!) this year. I hope you get out and enjoy the weather and the changing season, and if you’re thinking about getting in the game of real estate, (whether buying or selling) don’t hesitate to give Badger Realty a call.