Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Buying New vs. Existing

Last year housing permits hit their highest level since 2008, according to the Census Bureau and published in a recent article published on  New home-sales grew 20% from the prior year.  New construction offers advantages such as a more modern layout and the ground floor opportunity to customize, buying an existing home also comes with perks such as the opportunity to close the deal faster and a better short-term price appreciation.  Here are a few match-ups between new and existing homes.

Sales Price-  (I call this a tie.) New construction comes with, on average, a  10%-15%   higher price tag, but you may save when you consider location.  In most parts of the country the prime locations are already gone.  A spacious existing home may look cramped with the current owner's things, whereas a builder can use lots of tricks to make a space seem larger, such as putting smaller beds when staging and removing interior doors.  Your best bet is to crunch the numbers and find out how much space you are working with in either home.

Speed of Transaction- (Winner- Existing) Since most builders are selling lots based off of model homes, once you agree to buy, then the construction begins.  The upside is that there is an opportunity to customize, but it will probably keep you waiting around six to nine months. If you are listing your current home, waiting can cause the issue of getting stuck covering two mortgages, so an existing home purchase may be right for you. In this case you should ask an agent how fast homes in your area are selling and discuss marketing strategies to help your home sell quickly.

Cost of Ownership- (Winner- New) New homes come with lower utility bills thanks to the call for more insulation and tighter sealing. New construction is generally 30%-40% more efficient than existing homes.

Near-Term Appreciation- (Winner-Existing) Homeowners that don't mind making improvements can see a higher short term appreciation in value whereas new homes leave little room for improvement and normally sell for the same price as similar homes around them.

In the end, there are pros and cons to both existing and new homes, but only you can decide what will meet your needs.
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Protecting your Home in the Winter

Everyone knows we can't change the weather, but it is important to try and minimize the threats winter can pose to your home.  Heavy snow can pose a threat to your home as it piles on and as it melts. According to The Weather Channel® , here are some precautions you can  take:

  • Watch for snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof, where blowing snow will collect. For safe removal that won't endanger you or damage your roof, consult a roofing contractor for a referral.
  • Remove snow from basement stairwells, window wells and all walls. Melting snow can lead to water damage and moisture intrusion.
  • Keep your attic well-ventilated to maintain a temperature close to that of the outdoors to minimize the risk of ice dams forming. A warm attic melts snow on the roof, causing water to run down and refreeze at the roof's edge, where it's much cooler. If ice builds up and blocks water from draining, water is forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.
Another threat to look out for is Ice dams which are an accumulation of ice at the lower edge of a sloped roof that can reek havoc and cause water to be forced under the roof covering and into your attic or down the inside walls of your house.

To help reduce the risk of ice dams:
    • Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris.
    • Keep the attic well-ventilated so snow doesn't melt and refreeze on the roof's edge.
    • Make sure the attic floor is well insulated to minimize the amount of heat rising through the attic from within the house.
        Weather you love the snow or not, there is no avoiding it in New England. If at the very least you can protect your home through bad weather then you will avoid the headaches. When the warmer weather arrives you will be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy!

        Wednesday, February 20, 2013

        When is it a Good time to Sell your Home?

        You have lived in your home for a few years, but you have just received an increase in pay.  You begin thinking of moving into a bigger home in a nicer neighborhood. In such unpredictable economic times, you may be hesitant and wonder if it is the right time to sell your home. Will you be making a huge financial mistake if you sell. No one can predict the future, so ask yourself this- Why do you want to sell? This is a lifestyle decision that really doesn't depend on the time of year. You want to be absolutely sure in your own mind that the move makes sense. Talk to friends, family, and real estate professionals.  This should help you make an informed decision, but remember it is only you making the leap and can determine if it is the right move.
        Is there really a "best" time to sell? Conventional wisdom says that the best time to sell is in the spring because of the large number of Buyers, but you must take into consideration that it is also the time with the highest inventory. So what about the winter? A good idea, perhaps, since it is a time with less competition and fewer houses on the market. The summer may bring Buyers that feel a sense of urgency because of the approaching school year, and in the fall empty nesters not concerned with school opening dates may be more eager to buy . The bottom line: Don't tie your moving decision to anytime of year.  You will sell your home when you know are  truly ready!

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        Friday, February 15, 2013

        What do you Really Need to Buy a Home?

        Home ownership is the American Dream. It is also the largest investment any of us will ever make in our lifetime.  There are common myths out there about what you need to buy a home, but here is a list of  what you really need:

        1. Enough money to make monthly mortgage payments....of course!! If a mortgage payment will blow your budget then don't say goodbye to your landlord yet!  Have a mortgage broker work the numbers and figure out if you can afford it.

        2. Enough income to pay property taxes and home owner's insurance. The mortgage isn't the only cost you will encounter every month. Be sure to take approximate property taxes and homeowners insurance into consideration when running the numbers.

        3. The ability to maintain the property.  It is important to keep a home in good condition and repair or it will lose it's value which means you will lose money.  You can do the work or have someone do it for you.  Either way, you can't ignore peeling paint or a leaking roof.

        4. A decent credit record. If you have a record of many late payments, bankruptcy, or delinquency you may have a hard time obtaining a mortgage.  If you are still able to do so, you may end up paying a higher interest rate which means a higher mortgage payment. Furthermore, never assume your credit is not good enough to obtain a mortgage without talking to a lender.

        Contrary to popular belief, here is what you don't need to buy a home:

        1. A big down payment.  Of course it is a good idea to put a big chunk of your money down to avoid paying personal mortgage insurance and to keep your payments smaller, but you can still buy a house with very little down.

        2. Experience. In most major cities, real estate companies hold first time home buyer seminars.  Go even if you have no immediate plans to buy.  The information you take from it can lead you to other sources of help and start you on that path to home ownership.

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        Wednesday, February 13, 2013

        Pricing your Home

        When it comes to pricing your home there are many factors you should consider. You may be tempted to price your home high and call it a day, but that will not likely result in a true reflection of your home's market value. Here are a few tips when pricing your home:

        1. Put Aside your Personal Point of View- This is probably the toughest one to swallow, but looking at the scenario as a detached participant will allow you to be honest and realistic.  Ask yourself  "How much would a qualified, ready Buyer be willing to pay for my home?"  Remember that Buyers do not care how much you paid for the home, how many memories you have shared there, or how much cash you need for the down payment on your next home.

        2. Get Multiple Opinions- Try inviting 3 agents to visit your home and give their opinion on what would be it's likely selling price.  Ask for a "CMA" (Comparative Market Analysis) which will compare your home to similar homes that have sold, are under agreement, and are actively listed in the same market.  BEWARE: Some agents may tease you with a high number just to snag the listing, only to suggest a price reduction a few weeks later.  In the end you want your home priced right from the beginning to attract Buyers and, of course, to SELL your home!

        3. Consider Market Conditions- Are home prices in your area on the rise or moving downwards?  Are homes selling quickly or sitting on the market?  What are the current interest rates?  Will you be selling in a Buyer's market or Seller's market?  These are all questions worth asking and are important in how you price your home.

        In the end, if the goal truly is to SELL your home, pricing is everything. Competition and price will either drive Buyers away from your home or push them toward it. With a little research and the help of a Realtor you should be on your way to "SOLD!"

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        Friday, February 8, 2013

        Staging vs. Decorating

        There is a fine line between between staging your home and decorating it.  When selling your home it can be hard to understand at first, but if you don't know the difference, you may not sell your house as quickly as you would hope.  Selling your home means selling a lifestyle, but not your own. Everyone has different tastes in decor and furnishings, but the key to making your home appealing to a broad audience is to make it functional and inviting. Try tailoring your home in a way that a Buyer will describe it in those terms. Getting rid of clutter and having minimal accessories is a great place to start.

        Just because you are trying to keep it simple, it doesn't mean that you have to stay away from using color.  Instead, stick to neutral color schemes that are warm and inviting.  If you have a specific decorating style that stands out, you may want to consider scaling it back a bit.  If not, your home may only appeal to a small percentage of those who have similar taste.

        Staging is about strategic placement, editing, and depersonalizing, rather than decorating. The bottom line is try try and get out of your own head to get into the mind of that potential home buyer.

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        Wednesday, February 6, 2013

        Selling your Home in the Winter

        There are many benefits to listing your home during the Winter, one of them being that there are a group of "serious" Buyers out looking in the bitter cold.  Another is that the competition is not as fierce because most homeowners think waiting until the warmer months is the way to go.  If you are selling your home during the winter, here are a few tips when listing your home:

        1. Let the lights shine- Since there is a shortage of daylight during the winter months, it is very important to keep your house well lit.  For showings, turn on every light in the house. Also, during the day,  keep all drapes and blinds open to let visitors enjoy the view.

        2. Convenient parking- Buyers will not want to walk very far in the cold or over a snow bank to get to your home.  Try and keep the driveway cleared and if you live in a condominium, be sure your agent forewarns the Buyers of the parking situation.

        3. Protect your Investment- You may feel funny or think that asking your Buyers to take their shoes off during a showing may make them feel uncomfortable, but the truth is that Buyers get a sense that you take pride in your home and are properly maintaining it.

        4. Keep Seasonal Clothing under Control- A major challenge of selling a home during the winter months is the overabundance of winter gear and clothing.  A Buyer doesn't want to find a mudroom filled with winter boots or a closet filled with heavy coats.  Try to have one storage spot where you can easily tuck away these items in time for a showing.

        Despite some small challenges of marketing a home during the winter, there are also benefits. You will not only beat the competition to the market, but you will also track in some serious Buyers that are anxiously awaiting that perfect home!

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        Friday, February 1, 2013

        Choosing a Realtor to Sell your Home

        If you plan to sell your home, a great Realtor will price your home accordingly, market your home professionally, bring in qualified Buyers, and have strong negotiating skills that will help finalize a deal. Here are a few things you can do when searching for the right agent:

        1. Round up good prospects: To do this you can ask for referrals from your friends and neighbors or use online search tools. Try and limit your search to agents that have credentials that match your needs.  For example, you can search for agents that specialize in selling single-family homes, condos, or short-sales. Always choose a full time Realtor!

        2. Make sure your agent has backup: It is important for an agent to have some kind of assistance. With someone else taking care of the paperwork and running around town, an agent will be more likely to give you and your home that "TLC" you deserve in the home sale process.

        3. Find out what their strategy or marketing plan will be: The good old days of just listing your home in the Sunday newspaper are long gone.  There are so many media outlets and listing services where your home can be advertised.  Promoting your home in the appropriate outlets is essential to getting the most views of your home, therefore strengthening the chance of more prospective Buyers seeing your home.

        In the end, the most valuable thing you can do when searching for a Realtor is to find someone you can trust.  After all, the selling of a home will be one of the biggest moves you make and should not be taken lightly.

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