Making the Most of a Small Living Space

conway nh real estateHere's a little follow-up to our Facebook post yesterday!  Across the world, individuals and families are making the choice to downsize their living spaces. Sometimes this is on purpose, as people get rid of excess stuff and the excess space required for storage. Other times, a financial setback requires us to make the transition to smaller living quarters.
Tiny homes are often 400 square feet or less, and as CNN reports, they are becoming a popular option for the downsizing crowd. Just because your space becomes more limited does not mean you lose all of your storage options, living features, or outdoor amenities.

General Storage

  • If you can store under the stairs, utilize the space for that purpose.
  • Do not look past space between ceiling rafters, under the kitchen cabinets, or under the bed (invest in bed risers). If it can fit, you can probably use the spot for storage.
  • Make good use of vertical space—if you cannot go out, go up.
  • Look around at odd spaces—how can you best use that spot under or above windows, on top of cabinets, or in empty closet spots?
  • Make a staircase do double duty and also act as pull-out drawers.
    Living Space
  • Install a Murphy wall bed in sleeping areas and use loft beds, turning the space underneath into play areas or a work spot.
  • Turn a closet into an office space.
  • Use ottomans with inside storage or old trunks as coffee tables, allowing you to store items inside.
  • Stack old hard side suitcases next to a bed as a side table, and keep items tucked away inside.
  • Utilize wall space with hanging shelves, baskets, and hooks.
    Outdoor Space
  • Instead of investing in several outdoor chairs that you will have to stack or store later, use oversized pillows and cushions in your seating area.
  • Choose tables that have a lift-up top for hiding items inside.
  • Use items outside that you can also bring inside. Design with moveable furniture and multi-functional pieces.
  • Opt for an outdoor patio instead of a deck, as it will take up less vertical space and make your yard appear larger.
  • Utilize surrounding fences and trellises for growing vertical plants, and hang plants or use stackable planters in the space.

Downsizing for any reason can prove to be a challenge, but it can also help us evaluate what we really need versus what we think we cannot live without. If you are facing a transition into a smaller space, challenge yourself to be creative. Take a look at unused space and find ways to maximize those areas. If you really do not use something or it has lost its luster, donate or sell the item. Encourage your family to clean out their own spaces, and present yourself with the challenge of living with less.

And before you start thinking you are alone in your small-space living, check out www.tinyhousemap.com. Here you will find locations all across the country where people live in small houses and spots where small houses are currently being built. Add yourself to the map and join the community!

Current Real Estate Trends

conway nh real estateAlthough we tend to focus on North Conway NH real estate and Jackson NH real estate, we figured we'd take a peek beyond the valley and see what's happening across the nation.  It has been quite a journey in the real estate market since the crash of 2008, which was defined by subprime mortgage loans and poor lending practices. 2012 and 2013 saw the promise of growth in sales, with all signs pointing toward a more promising future for both homebuyers and real estate agents. Fast forward to February of this year, with the market experiencing a price increase of more than 4% from 2014, and there appears to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

A 30-year fixed rate mortgage remains at an average of about 3.65%, a pleasantly low rate when compared to a year ago when the rate stood at 4.33%. Lower rates are a good thing; buyers are catching on and responding to the urgency to complete pending sales before rates begin to climb once more. With home prices increasing and the market finding more of a balance, real estate markets across the country are beginning to see an upward movement.

US Real Estate

  • Denver and San Francisco: Of the cities designed to represent the nine US Census divisions, these two locations showed the highest in monthly gain percentage and the most price inflation over the past year.
  • Los Angeles: With not enough houses to meet demand for buyers, bidding wars are breaking out in the city.
  • New Mexico: The state did not live up to its motto, “it grows as it goes”, as the only one in the US to see year-over-year depreciation in March.

Higher Interest Rates on the Horizon
Recent reports over big adjustments in US. interest rates is causing some concern over debt repayments and market swings not only here in the states, but across the globe.

jackson real estateSpring Buying Trends
Low inventory means real estate buyers may have a more difficult time finding and purchasing what they really want. Across the country, states are seeing a limited supply in the amount of homes for sale as properties move quickly and buyers gain the advantage.

Rental Market
Trends in rental properties jumped this spring, with the average monthly rent for a single-family dwelling standing at $1,286. This is about a 5% increase over the past year and represented a three-bedroom home in the United States. Across the country, 23.4% of single-family units are rented.

House Flipping
New data on house-flipping shows Baltimore as the place with the most profit for rehabbing a home, with a 94% return on investment. The Daytona Beach area came in second at 74%. Other areas on the list include Ocala and Lakeland (Florida) and the Detroit area.

Growth in 2015
As buyers take advantage of low rates while they remain that way, and as experts look to an increase in housing prices over the next year, now could be a good time to buy. Consumers are moving forward on more solid ground after the 2008 downturn. As property values increase and the market begins to settle into a more balanced position, the outlook appears positive and healthy.

Some Simple Summer Suggestions

jackson NH real estateDon’t look now, but I think winter may have finally released her talon-laden grip on the Mount Washington Valley. With temps reaching into the upper 70’s this weekend, it may be safe to uncover the lawn mower and at least consider putting the shovels in the shed. Maybe. That said there are lots of things that can be done to get ready for the impending (already here?) warmer months. A few of these are for your health and a few of these are just to make the time in and around your Jackson NH home more pleasing. Let’s take a look.

Find and “flip-out” your filters. If you have forced-hot-air heat or even a central air unit, you will want to do some exploring and get those filters changed. Some of these can be cleaned, but most just need to be replaced. Although the manufacturers tend to recommend a monthly replacement, if you tackle this a couple times a year, you’re doing better than most. The same is true for the fridge. If you’re lucky enough to have filtered water on the door, you are already in the habit of changing these out. If not, put this on your list for this weekend and be ready for the increased usage and better tasting water.

As you know, I’m an outdoors junkie. Since spending time out of the house is important to me (and likely to you!) the furniture out there is an important piece of my summer fun. Patio furniture does not have to be terribly expensive. If yours is tired and tattered consider replacement or repair. You will be amazed at the difference (and the savings!) a quick coat of paint can have on your outdoor furniture. Combine a coat of paint and some new pillows and you may come home from work to find your neighbors sitting on your back deck. It’s happy hour!

Over the past few years, I’ve developed an affinity for plants and flowers. I’m no green thumb, but I enjoy having greens in my office and outside the windows. Although it is a bit warm this weekend, there’s still time to plant some pretty flowers and allow them time to take root before the summer heat moves in. “Flowers can bring life and light to an otherwise drab room and can do wonders to help curb-appeal for showings,” notes Badger Realty agent, Karla Badger. Talk to your local gardener to get the scoop on which plants will do the best in our rather varied climate.

Another way to “get your green on” is by planting a vegetable garden. I could drone on for days about the incredible benefits gardening has on our lives, but I’ll keep it to the simple stuff. We all should be in the habit of “creating” something. It provides a sense of purpose and just plain makes you feel good. Combine that with the joy of eating something you nurtured from a small seed and you have the recipe for a happy and healthy meal. The only possible drawback is that you’ll be “that guy” at the office always bringing in tomatoes and cucumbers to share!

If you don’t already swap out some of your blankets and throws each season, consider making this year the one. A quick switch of a couple blankets, throw pillows and even throw rugs (why are we always throwing things?) can make a big difference in the “feel” of the home. We all know it is not uncommon to want a blanket during those chilly summer evenings. Why not make it a summery one and make them both last longer. This is a nice and inexpensive way to bring a fresh feel to the home twice a year.

If swapping out your throw rugs got your juices flowing, you’re going to love this one. Take a cruise through your kitchen and consider replacing the backsplash. There’s no need to tear anything down or adding anything crazy-expensive for this project. The most you may want to do is slide out your stove to make it easier to work. (Imagine the treats you’re going to find back there!) Take this opportunity to add a bold highlight to the kitchen or even brighten it up with light colors or even some reflective tiles!

jackson nh homesSpeaking of things bright and clean, why not take this opportunity to clean (or have cleaned) your carpets. According to Men’s Health, your carpet likely contains about 200,000 bacteria per square inch. (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit!) While your vacuum cleaner may have cost you 500 bucks, it still cannot reach deep down in there and get all of those germs. Now that the windows can be opened and the muddy boots are (mostly) taking a back seat, why not clean the landing spot for all that dirt!

While you’re in the cleaning mood, especially if you just hired someone else to do it, it is time to tackle your windows. Spring fever aside, dirty windows are just plain gross. And I don’t even mean what your neighbors are saying about you (I’ve heard them!). Now that the grass is green and the flowers are blooming, take full advantage of your windows and make sure you’re not viewing the world through grime-stained glasses!

No Empty Bowls – 2015 – A Year of Giving Back…

2014 No Empty BowlsNo Empty Bowls
Badger Realty’s Chris Newton is passionate about animals—and about helping the local animal shelters.

“When we first started talking about doing a year of giving back to the community to celebrate Badger Realty’s 50th year in business, I knew we should include No Empty Bowls. It’s a drive to gather much-needed items for our two local animal shelters, Harvest Hills and Conway Area Humane Society,” she explains. “We started the drive on May 1, and we’ll be taking the donations at Badger Realty’s North Conway office through May 22.”

This is the second year that Badger Realty has organized No Empty Bowls.

“The shelters need so much,” Newton continues, “everything from canned dog and cat food to cleaning supplies, postage stamps, photocopier paper and towels. No donation is too small – and if folks don’t have time to shop and want to give cash, we’ll purchase gift cards so the shelters can fill in what they need.”

Newton is hoping to match or exceed last year’s donations: two full carloads. More than 50 people donated, including a group of women from a local shelter, other real estate offices, title companies and law offices.
“So many of us are pet lovers—and pets add so much to our lives. We feel it’s important to try to support the shelter people who work so hard to take care of the animals. Many of us have gotten our pets from Harvest Hills or Conway Area Humane Society.” Newton has two mixed breed dogs she adopted and she’s currently fostering four-week-old kittens. “We even have an office dog, Karla Badger’s Brody, who she got from CAHS—although he’s typically under her desk, so we hardly know he’s here.”Me

Those with questions about No Empty Bowls can contact Chris Newton by calling Badger Realty at 603-356-5757 or emailing chris@badgerrealty.com.

Donations can be dropped off at Badger Realty any day through May 22.

 

 

No Empty Bowls Flyer

Mythbusting with Real Estate

north conway real estate 5 Myths about Real Estate

Thanks in part to the popularity of reality TV and an abundance of information via modern technology, myths about real estate are easy to believe. Here are 5 common misconceptions and the truths behind them.

1. You do not need a professional: With all of the information available in our age of quick research, it is easy to assume that those interested in the real estate market do not need an agent in order to buy or sell successfully.

Truth: A qualified, reputable agent will know the market, understand the paperwork, and act as an advocate when it comes to all of the terms and conditions. An expert in the field will catch errors and explain contracts, deadlines, and unfamiliar wording.

2. An agent should tell you everything about the neighborhood and community: If you want to know about the cultural make-up of a neighborhood or the religious practices of tenants in an office building, you have that right.

Truth: Under the Fair Housing Act, real estate agents are prohibited from presenting information that states a “preference, limitation, or discrimination” when it comes to race, religion, color, sex, and other characteristics.

3. It is better to buy than rent: Renting means you are not making an investment and is a waste of your resources. Purchasing a home is always a better option.

Truth: Making the choice to rent or buy should depend on how long you plan to stay in the residence, the price of the home, and your future plans. As the real estate market rises and falls over different seasons, you want to make sure the fees paid at the onset of the process are spread out over several years. Try the handy Rent vs. Buy Calculator here.

4. The reality shows I see on TV portray an accurate picture of what it means to purchase and sell real estate: I only need to look at three homes, I can flip a home pretty easily, and I will sell my property right away.

Truth: Selling, purchasing, and flipping real estate takes time. There are often disappointments and glitches along the way that TV shows do not always capture.

5. I am not rich enough, qualified enough, or smart enough to invest in real estate: Real estate investors are wealthy, experienced agents who know the market and have years of experience.

Truth: Financing opportunities are abundant for those interested in the real estate market. If you have the willingness to learn and invest your time and energy, and if you are ready to make wise plans, success in the real estate world is an achievable and realistic goal.

As with any major life decision, setting out to purchase or sell real estate should be done only after much thought and planning. Jumping in without a budget, professional advice, and research may prove to be disappointing, or worse, devastating. When you arm yourself with the right tools and the right advice, the process becomes a little bit simpler and a lot more profitable.

Land Lubbers Landscaping

conway nh real estateIn case you’ve been living under a rock, in which case you’re moist, cool and comfortable, our earth is warming up and drying out. Take a peek at some of the more recent stats from California and other areas south and west of the Rockies and you’ll get a more clear sense of the situation. We are fortunate (no, really!) to live in an area of the country that typically sees plenty of precipitation. That said, we can all still do our part to reduce the water usage but still maintain an attractive landscape. Here are a few tips for landscaping in general and for conserving the water we have around your Conway NH home.

The first idea is to stick to native species of plants. These are (typically) better established in the region and better adapted for the climate. Most of the local or “native” species are more resistant to pests and diseases because of their history in the area and they generally need less watering and less fertilizer. If you are not sure what is native to New England, besides pine trees and tourists, take a swing by your local landscaper’s store and pick their brain for a bit.

Once you have settled on a few different plant options, plan your layout so you can cluster these plants in groups. This should also be done so that you’re grouping the species that needs more water together and doing the same with those that are happier with less. This allows you to be more consistent with your watering and mitigates the risk of over (or under) watering certain species. It’s also a good idea to put your thirstier plants closest to the house. This way they will be able to take advantage of the rainfall off the roof and take some of the pressure off of your watering process.

Don’t be afraid of the mulch. Whether you lean towards organic or not is of less importance than just being sure you make the most of this water-saving (and attractive) resource. Mulch helps keep the soil cool, reduces evaporation and keeps the roots healthier. Organic mulch (compost, bark chips, etc.) will also break down over time and provide nutrients to the soil. “A fresh layer of mulch can do wonders for a listed property, especially in the spring,” comments Badger Realty agent, Linda Walker. She continued, “It really helps the flowers and plants ‘pop’ this early in the year and often provides a pleasant smell which always helps curb-appeal.”

conway nh propertiesIt is important that you are efficient with the water you DO do. (Insert giggling here!) Having worked at a golf course for a few summers, we learned early on the best time to water is before sunrise. We were both; trying to keep from having our members complain of wet feet and keeping the blades of grass from being burned by the hot sun. Early-morning watering also allows the water to get down lower into the roots instead of being evaporated before it can do any good. Watering in the evening, while seemingly an even better idea, is too much of a good thing. With evening watering, you run the risk of the soil staying TOO moist for too long and you start to encourage fungus and mildew growth.

While the slope of your house lot may be too difficult or price-prohibitive to alter, make an effort to avoid planting on steep slopes. If you don’t have this option, you can make the most of hard-scaping and install retaining walls and other “dam” type devices to help keep the water trapped around the plants. The size, layout and incline of your lot play a huge role in the options you have available. The key is to stay flexible and open to new ideas, which brings us to our last topic, your lawn.

Shrink that thing! Sure, it is great to have a back yard that resembles Fenway, but I have a feeling you could find better things to do with that hour or two of your Saturday than mowing, seeding, watering, fertilizing, raking, etc. A concept knows as “xeriscaping” is gaining popularity in the West and Southwest. Instead of large expanses of green grass, homeowners are opting for rocks, pebbles and sand. Of course you can still sprinkle in areas of lawn, trees, plants and shrubs to add variety and highlights to the yard. Overall, you still retain a clean, attractive yard but minimize your impact on the earth and the time you spend pushing a mower.

Are You Here?

north conway nh real estateWe’ve all done it and we’ve all been guilty of it; Simply not being present. For me, it is a bit of a pet peeve. I can’t stand talking to someone while they are clearly not listening. Getting the half-hearted “uh-huh” while their eyes and brain are miles away is enough to make me coo-coo. In this day of people being physically “attached” to their stupid-phones, I get the sense it is a growing problem. Regardless of how well you think you can multi-task, let me be the (there’s no way I’m the) first to tell you that you can’t.

In a relationship, particularly for guys like me who don’t do well with little details, it is imperative that I pay attention when my honey is talking. The potential ramifications include my missing a detail and losing track of that little nugget of information about her mother coming to live with us for a month. Much like a computer or many other electronic devices, we do best with one stream of data “input” at a time.

This “being present” concept is (almost) never more true than during a real estate showing. If you are interested enough in a property to take the time to do a walk-through, it seems to me you should be present during all of it. In general, a showing lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. The whole point of this is to give the buyers a more clear sense of the living space and to provide the opportunity for them to imagine living there. We have covered, multiple times, the importance of removing personal effects during showings; this is exactly the reason why.

In this time of cell-phone addiction, many people are missing out on experiences because they are too busy trying to capture the experience on their phone. Between checking messages, replying to messages, taking pictures, making videos and sharing all of our “trophy” experiences with the world, we have forgotten to be present in the moment. We have forgotten to actually experience what it is we are recording.

While pictures and videos play a vital role in the property listing process, they will never replace the walk-through. Regardless of how great your camera (still or video) may be it will still only produce a flat, one or two-dimensional image or movie. Pictures and videos can remind you of specific features of the home, room, yard and basement. But standing in various locations in the room, looking out windows, listening to street noise, flushing toilets, running faucets, visualizing the furniture positions and simply being in the home cannot be replaced.

conway nh homesThat goes for family and friends as well. While sharing digital images with them helps give them a “sense” of the home, it makes far more sense to bring them with you on the showing and allow that second set of eyes to provide you with invaluable feedback for those features you may have missed (while you were busy taking pictures!).

*Spoiler Alert: Real estate professionals take images of rooms that are intended to highlight the best view of that room. (Shhh, don’t tell!) The huge benefit of walking through a home is you get the privilege of walking through that same room, but doing so on your own terms. Now you have the ability to get a 360-degree view of each and every room. Chances are, the home will not be “staged” for photos (although that would be nice) and you will be able to get a real sense of how the home looks on a “normal” day.

“Photos, videos, virtual tours and even roller coasters are great ways to get a sense of a home and give the buyers a valuable first impression of the space,” notes Badger Realty agent, Michele Southwick. She continued, “That said, nothing will ever replace the process of actually being IN a home and feeling the space, the flow and the overall sense of the home. You can’t get that from a picture.” (Do an Internet search for “rollercoaster real estate listing” to see what she means.)

In a world where we are inundated with a constant barrage of data all day long, I encourage you to find your own filter and learn to focus on one thing at a time. You will likely find that you appreciate the single-stream better, get more detailed information from that stream and maybe even avoid a visit from the in-laws. Now put down the paper and pay attention!

Critical Curb Appeal

conway nh real estate doorCurb appeal is a crucial part of readying your home for sale, but is often overlooked in favor of interior renovations. If someone pulls up to your home for an open house or showing and is turned off by what they see, they're unlikely to pay much attention to the inside. Luckily, sprucing up the appearance of your home's exterior and yard is one of the easiest and least costly things you can do. An added bonus is being able to enjoy your home's renovated exterior and yard in the meantime before you sell. Here are a few options to get you started on improving your home's curb appeal and making it more appealing to potential buyers.

The Basics

Before you dive into more involved projects, look at a few basics. Has one of your house numbers fallen? Is there any rust on your mailbox? Are all of the exterior lights in working order? Consider investing in a mailbox and house numbers that coordinate, providing a cohesive look to the exterior of your home. Clean any outside light fixtures of dirt or cobwebs and replace the lightbulbs. Add a welcome mat to the front step.

Power Washing

If you don't have a power washer, it's worth the small fee of renting one in order to give the outside of your home a good, thorough cleaning. You can use a power washer to deeply clean your driveway, siding, sidewalks, and garage door. Doing so will remove embedded dirt and grime from these surfaces and refresh their appearance.

Planting Perennials

Perennial plants are a great, low maintenance solution to add color to your yard. Perennial plants spread or reseed easily, and often require little in the way of additional watering. Many perennials flower earlier than annual plants, adding color beginning in early April. Phlox, snowdrop anemone, and speedwell are a few examples of flowering perennial groundcovers that bloom much earlier than annual flowers. A few thoughtfully placed perennials will do wonders to bump up a home's  curb appeal.

Painting

Your home's front door is its focal point. Consider painting it an eye-catching color to add interest. Or, you can install a custom wood door. Take this opportunity to examine the door's hardware to see if they could use replacing or a thorough polish. Add a wreath or decoration that brings a little bit of the interior style to the exterior of your home.

Those Meddling Kids (want to buy your home!)

jackson nh real estateMillennials (folks born between 1981 and 1997) made up 32 percent of the U.S. housing market in 2014. That’s up 28 percent from 2012. They just skipped (you know, because their knees still work) ahead of Generation X as the largest segment of buyers. Those younger buyers, made up of couples and singles in their late 20’s and early 30’s, are starting to take advantage of the mortgage rates in the mid 3% range, softening credit requirements and rising rents.

According to a Bloomberg Business report, in many areas of the country, rent has jumped 15 percent over the last few years but the income of that rental population has only increased 11 percent. At a certain point, which we’re apparently in the midst of right now, that discrepancy becomes unsustainable. FHA, Fannie and Freddie are starting to play a little nicer to that first time buyer market. The FHA cut their high upfront mortgage insurance premiums and Freddie and Fannie have created very enticing and friendly down payment requirements in the 3-5% range.

On a national scale, RealtyTrac’s analysis showed the monthly payment on a median priced home, in 76 percent of U.S. counties, was more affordable that the monthly fair market rent on a 3-bedroom property. Overall, the study showed that fair market rents represented 28 percent of the estimated median household income. On the flip side, monthly house payments, including 10 percent down plus property taxes, home insurance, and mortgage insurance, only represented 24 percent. Of the 461 counties analyzed, 351 had house payments, of a median-priced home in the first quarter of 2015, lower than the fair market rents.

One of the more basic concepts that always helps drive this point home for me is what you are left with after years of renting vs. buying. According to the Federal Reserve Survey of consumer finances, the net worth of renters vs. buyers ranges from 31 to 46 times greater (on the side of the buyers) since 1998. At the end of the year, as a renter you are left with 12 receipts of the payments you made towards someone else’s mortgage. (I’m sure they appreciate it!) With home ownership, you are 12 months closer to owning your own home and enjoying the associated equity.

“Buying a home (vs. renting) is certainly not for everyone,” notes Badger Realty agent, Peter Pietz. He continued, “people saddled with overextended credit and those who are planning to move in a few years are certainly not in a position to buy a home. That said, if you qualify, with as little as 3 percent down, you could be on your way to owning a home and stop paying someone else’s mortgage for them.”

So how do you connect with those meddling kids, driving around your neighborhoods sizing up your listings? Just like any other business, you need to make the effort to connect with them on their terms. You need to better understand your client in order to earn their trust and their business. I promise you, this is not going to be as hard as it sounds. You won’t need to get a tattoo, wear black eye liner and start fighting in mixed martial arts tournaments (unless you want to!).

First, you need to stretch out those thumbs of yours and communicate via text instead of calling. The need for connection and customer service has not waned; the communication method has just changed.

Secondly, it is important to be prepared for how prepared they are. We have learned that today’s consumer has already completed 60% of the “sales cycle” before the phone rings. Over half of millennials search for real estate on their phones and 26 percent of them end up buying a home they found that way. We need to get comfortable with the fact that we no longer control the information. Their needs are simply for us to make sense of that information.

jackson nh homesLastly, with their history of immediate gratification, it is important to get the information back to these clients immediately. Unfortunately “as soon as I can” is no longer going to work. The “why wonder” generation does not wait for information and having to wait a few hours for an answer is going to be the end of your conversation with that client.

I have said all along that an agent is not needed for the “information” part of this sales process. We can all get all the data about any listing in a matter of seconds. Where the agent becomes invaluable is in both interpreting that data and making sense of it in an environment that is much more than numbers and letters on a screen. Agents are critical to the process in providing neighborhood information, interpreting the data on the screen with the reality of the local market and looking beyond the listing photos to provide invaluable context for that specific listing.

Millennials are coming (for your home) and the best way to capitalize on that is to be educated and be prepared. The advantages of renting vs. buying are shrinking and the shift appears to be happening in the Mount Washington Valley as well. If you were thinking of selling your home or it is already on the market, I would encourage you to do what you can to cater to this growing segment of the population. Just leave those acid-washed jeans in the back of the closet for now.