Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Nov. 1, 2019

How to Sell Fast and Get Top Dollar for Your Home

In every market, selling a home requires effective marketing.  Buyers won’t make you an offer if they don’t know your home exists.  So, it is important to work with an agent who knows how to reach a large number of qualified buyers.  Even so, it takes more than marketing to get to a sale.

Today’s home shoppers browse photos online to identify homes they want to see in person.  For his reason, professional staging and photography greatly increase your odds of buyers scheduling an appointment.

If you want to sell for top dollar, your home needs to elicit an emotional response from people who see it.  When they look at other homes, yours needs to stay at the top of their list.  If your home sets the standard, you have a far better chance of receiving an offer you’re happy with.

Today’s buyers want a home they can move into without doing updates.  When the right buyer walks in, you want them to picture themselves living there.  You want them to fall in love.

Here are 7 tips to get your home ready for the perfect buyer.

Clean up the exterior.  Your home’s outside appearance or “curb appeal” should make a great first impression.  Mow the lawn, trim trees, prune bushes, pull weeds and plant flowers.  Keep the gutters clean, wash windows, freshen up anything else that needs attention.  Paying attention to details on the outside can help bring more buyers inside.  Consider replacing door mats and touching up address numbers to complete the look of a well-maintained home.

Make repairs.  Most buyers will move on and continue their home search, rather than fix problems or make desired updates.  It is just easier to find another home than it is to do the work.  In order to sell quickly, your home should be free of defects like broken windows, leaky roofs, worn carpet, clogged drains, rodents, and heating/cooling systems that don’t work efficiently.  If buyers aren’t excited to buy your home, it can sit on the market for months while the pretty homes come and go.

De-clutter.  Buyers often struggle to imagine themselves living in a home when the current owner’s belongings are everywhere.  In order to get that emotional response that leads to a strong offer, it is important to remove everything that makes your home uniquely yours.  A lot of sellers resist this advice because of their own emotional attachments, but that is precisely the reason it is so important.  The most successful sellers have learned that removing photos, decorations, and other personal items will help buyers feel at home.  It would be a shame to lose a sale over refrigerator magnets or kindergarten drawings, but it happens all the time.  Pack these things away, and you’ll sell faster.  Plus, you’ll have less to pack when you move.

Eliminate odors.  If you have pets, take care to eliminate odors from areas where they eat and sleep.  If you cook with a lot of spices, pay special attention to the vent over the cooktop.  Clean or replace filters, remove grease, and wash nearby walls to remove food-related odors.  Some realtors recommend baking a batch of cookies before showings, but some buyers don’t like the smell of cookies.  It might be better to spray air neutralizer, leaving a clean smell, instead.

Organize storage spaces.  When buyers walk through your home, you want them to feel there is plenty of storage space and it will be easy for them to keep the home neat and clean.  If your closets, dresser drawers, and shelves are full, buyers may conclude that your home has insufficient storage space for their needs.

Choose neutral colors.  Painting walls a neutral color that will appeal to a wider range of buyers.  Colors don’t have to be boring, but they definitely shouldn’t be shocking, either.  If you aren’t sure which colors are most popular, walk through a builder’s model home and make a note of how they have decorated.  Builders hire designers to stage their models, so they stay on top of the latest trends.

Clean everything.  A clean home will always sell for more.  Go through every room and thoroughly clean every surface.  Don’t neglect the garage, back patio, inside cupboards, ceiling fans, and air conditioning vents.  Clean everything you can think to clean, and then invite friends (or in-laws) over to help you spot areas you might have missed.

If you have done everything on this list, congratulations!  Your home is now ready for the market...ready for photos, online advertisements, targeted marketing campaigns,...and ready for showings.  Selling quickly and for top dollar still requires the right pricing and negotiating strategy, but the hard work -- and the part your realtor can't do for you -- has been done.  Great job!

March 13, 2018

Five Tips For Buying A Home

Looking to buy a home?  Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit.  Obtain copies of your credit report.  Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find.  Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan.  This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.

Find a house you can afford.

As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary.  There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford.  Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, commuting costs, etc.

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web.  That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone.  If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large.  Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers?  Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood.  Look at prices for the last few months.  Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic.

Think long term.

Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years.  Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools.  Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value.  When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.

Posted in Life Happens
Feb. 1, 2018

Preparing to Sell

Selling your home doesn′t just mean hiring a realtor to stick a sign out front. There are a things you can do to prepare, in order to get the best offer possible in the shortest time.

Repair.  Just because you’ve gotten used to the cracks in the walls and the rattles in the radiators doesn’t mean a buyer will overlook these issues.  If you have hardwood floors that need refinishing, be sure to get it done—hardwood is a huge selling point.  Buyers like to snoop around, so be sure to fix any sticky doors or drawers as well.  Finally, don’t forget to address any issues with the exterior—fences, shingles, sidewalks, etc.  After all, without curb appeal, some buyers may never get to see the inside.

Neutralize.  Your goal should be for buyers to see themselves living in your home.  If you leave all your collectibles and personal photographs out, buyers will tend to see it as your house, rather than theirs, and they will be less likely to make you an offer.  Try replacing any bold colors, especially if they're showing signs of wear, with something more neutral—beige, tan, white or light gray.  Repainting and re-flooring will make everything look fresh and new, and help prospective buyers imagine all the possibilities.

Stage.  Less is more.  Once your house is clean and updated, it’s time to play dress up. A home staging consultant can add small details and decorator touches that will make buyers want to live in your home: lamps, mirrors, throw rugs, pillows, flowers, decorative soaps, towels, patio furniture, etc.  Home staging can be particularly useful if your home is especially old or if the exterior looks dated.  Think of it as a little mascara and rouge—if it’s done right, you notice the beauty, not the makeup.

NOTE:  These are my personal thoughts and should not be considered legal or investment advice.

Don Carlson, GRI

Keller Williams North Country

Posted in Life Happens
Dec. 1, 2017

Financing Your Home Purchase

As the events of the last few years in the real estate industry show, people tend to forget about the tremendous financial responsibility of purchasing a home.  Here are a few tips for dealing with the dollar signs so that you can take down that “for sale” sign on your new home.

Shop the rate and terms.  Before you talk to any lenders, try to get a general idea of what type of loan you think you might use.  There are lots of great websites that explain the pros and cons of different loan products.  Doing a little reading in the beginning will help the process go more smoothly.

Request a Good Faith Estimate.  Once you think you know which type of loan you want to use, call a few different lenders and request a Good Faith Estimate of closing costs for that type of loan.  A Good Faith Estimate or "GFE" is a great way for you compare the advantages and disadvantages of different lenders.  You'll need to pick a hypothetical loan amount and use the same information for each lender you call.  When you receive the paperwork, you will be able to do a side-by-side comparison of what the different lenders charge to do the same loan.

Get pre-approved. Sub-primes may be history, but you’ll probably still be shown homes you can’t actually afford. By getting pre-approved as a buyer, you can save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can't afford. You can also put yourself in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Unlike pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. By doing a thorough analysis of your actual spending power, you’ll be less likely to get in over your head.

Choose your mortgage carefully.  With mortgages, the emphasis used to be on paying them off as soon as possible.  Today, the average person will accumulate debt on credit cards, student loans, etc.  As a result, it is usually better to opt for a 30-year mortgage instead of a 15-year mortgage.  This way, your required monthly payment is lower, but you still have the option of paying additional principal when money is good.  Additionally, when picking a mortgage, you often have the option of paying points (prepaying a portion of the interest at closing) in exchange for a lower interest rate.  Your lender might refer to this as "buying down" or "discounting" the rate.  If you plan to stay in the house for a long time, paying points upfront may save you money, in the long run.  Every situation is different and people have varying opinions about which is better.  Arm yourself with information and you'll be in a strong position to make the right decision for yourself.  If you have any concerns about the tax consequences, gather the facts and talk to your tax advisor.

Do your homework before bidding. Before you make an offer on a home, do some research on the sales trends of similar homes in the area.  Sales should be recent (within the last 3 months), nearby (less than 3 miles away), and of similar homes (size, room count, property description, etc.).  Sales that happened more than three months ago aren't relevant.  Sales on the other side of town don't matter.  Waterfront sales aren't meaningful for non-waterfront property.  You get the idea.  Your real estate agent can help you determine a fair price.  Of course, no matter how fair you or your agent think it is, the seller may choose not to accept your offer.  Still, going through this exercise will help you decide how much you're willing to pay, and at what price you should just walk away and find something else.

NOTE:  These are my personal thoughts and should not be considered legal or investment advice.

Don Carlson, GRI

Keller Williams North Country

Posted in Life Happens
Sept. 26, 2017

Divorce: What about the house?

Dividing property in a divorce settlement requires care and compassion.

Divorce can be time-consuming and stressful, even when both parties are in full agreement.  Legal proceedings can interfere with work, the increased tension can take a toll on friendships, and fear of the unknown can wreak havoc on emotions.

For those with children, there are additional considerations that raise the stakes and make every decision even more important.  It can be a challenge to achieve an outcome that works well for everyone, but the right team of compassionate professionals can make a world of difference.

If you don’t decide, the judge will.  Virtually all divorces involve a division of property.  Whether the assets are substantial or relatively small, the memories make it difficult, if not impossible, to divide them fairly.  Who gets the dog?  Who gets to keep the crystal bowl from the wedding?  Some things simply can’t be divided.  In these situations, it is best to set emotion aside and think rationally.  Divorcing couples who can make these decisions together will save money and have a more amicable relationship.

Often, the family home is the largest and most valuable asset a married couple owns.  Just like the dog, the home cannot be divided.  Regardless of any emotional attachment the parties may have to the property, it is crucial that they think logically when deciding how to deal with it.  This single decision can have a dramatic impact on both spouses’ finances, for years to come.

Does either spouse want to keep the house?  If so, can they comfortably afford it on a single income?  Can they afford the monthly mortgage payment, insurance and taxes?  When an air conditioner goes out, can they afford to get it fixed?  Will they be able to maintain the home, take care of the yard, and make needed improvements?

Have to sell?  You’re not alone.  After taking all this into account, it is common for couples in divorce to conclude they have no choice but to sell.  Rather than spending time and resources fighting over who gets to live there or how much equity is in the home, it simply makes more sense to sell the house and divide the net proceeds.

In situations where one spouse wants the home and has the resources to keep it, there is still the issue of dividing the equity as part of the divorce settlement.  This will require a determination of fair market value (equity is the difference between fair market value and the outstanding balance on any loans secured by the home).

Thinking of fighting?  Think again.  In a contested divorce, the mediator or judge will provide instructions specifying what documentation they will accept as proof of fair market value.  Some will insist on one or more appraisals.  Others might accept a comparative market analysis (“CMA”) from a qualified realtor, but even the choice of a realtor can be a point of contention between spouses who struggle to work together.  Imagine how long it might take to determine the home’s value when one side wants a higher value and the other side wants it as low as possible. The legal expenses can run into the thousands of dollars for the time spent arguing about this one issue.  This is money that neither spouse will get, when the divorce is finalized.   It is easy to see why working together is better for both sides, in the long run.

What about your credit score?  Another important factor to consider is the impact the divorce will have on the credit scores of both spouses.  Just closing joint credit cards and opening new accounts can do enough damage.  Imagine what would happen if the spouse who keeps the house can’t qualify to refinance the mortgage on a single income.  When the divorce is finalized, both names will remain on the mortgage, even though one spouse no longer lives in the home.  The divorce decree may state that the spouse who gets the house has to pay the mortgage, but the divorce decree is powerless to change the terms on an existing lien.  Both spouses will remain liable for the loan payments until the loan is refinanced.  Any late or missed payments will affect the credit scores of both parties.

Can you afford to be out of the market?  In the above situation, the departing spouse no longer has an ownership interest in the marital home.  In addition, remaining on the old mortgage will likely make it difficult to qualify for a mortgage to purchase a different home.  One party will continue to participate in the real estate market, while the other is forced to rent.

NOTE:  These are my personal thoughts and should not be considered legal or investment advice.

Don Carlson, GRI

Keller Williams North Country

Posted in Life Happens
July 31, 2017

Curious About Local Real Estate?

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.

We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates