Linda Raymond Real Estate Blog, Fairfield, Westport & More

Fairfield & Westport living- homes, fun stuff & more!


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Did You Give Up on Your Dream of Your Own Custom Home?

Have you ever dreamt of living in a home perfectly suited to your every taste and need? Did you quickly push the dream aside feeling overwhelmed by the daunting process and decisions you would have to make? You are not alone. But many people have jumped on the opportunity and now relish the sanctuary of their ultimate dream home!

Building custom homes is the current focus of many area builders. Read on to see how one Fairfield County Connecticut builder has evolved as an expert in catering to this special homebuyer. linda-raymond-at-milton-1

I met with Milton Development, a luxury builder in Fairfield County Connecticut, to discuss why they cater to this niche and what’s special about how they do it.  I sat down for a Q and A with the company owner, Ashley Shapiro, to find out why Milton is now a custom home builder, what makes this approach a win-win for everyone, and how they tackle barriers that often make people hesitate to pursue a custom-built home. Here’s what I learned-

Linda: What made you decide to become a custom-home builder? 

Ashley: After building only spec homes for about 12 years and working with buyers to customize the finishes, we discovered that we were really good at working with people to give them what they want.  We realized that we truly want to create the home that is perfectly suited our customers. We learned how to gain a clear understanding of how our clients live and what they love for their home design.  miltonhouseOur motto now is, “We build a lifestyle”.   Almost anyone can build a house, but we are now experts at creating a home that fits one’s lifestyle like a glove.  Not only do we love building the perfect home for our customers, but when we custom-build for people, we are better able to manage our business by avoiding the uncertainties of putting a speculation house on market, and we can pass the savings on to our clients.

Linda: Have you seen an increased demand for people wanting custom homes?

Ashley: It’s more a function of creating a niche.  After years of building homes that people loved, we began to get asked if we could build a home for them.  Word spread, and more people asked.  miltonsink

We currently have 10 custom home projects in the works and have been doing custom-built homes for about a year and a half now. We build in Westport, Fairfield, Norwalk and Greenwich.

Linda: Is there a typical buyer profile you see?

Ashley: It varies, but many come from big cities, often working in the financial sector, and they are coming out here for the schools.  What they all have in common is that they are looking for something different.

Linda: What are the common barriers, questions, and concerns you see from your customers?

Ashley: Number one is timing- how long will the whole thing take? How long to get the land, to do the design process, to complete the construction?  We walk through the timeframe for each phase with them. The land is found by their agent or by us, and we are always involved in that phase to help give our clients a vision. We also explain that some of the phases can overlap. For example, while waiting to close on the land purchase, we can get well into the design phase.  We are very skilled at managing the timing and utilize an online program with the timeline and deadlines for everyone involved, including decisions to be made by the buyer.  Everyone has the same real-time view of the schedule, responsibilities, and progress. So our clients know the timeline and understand that they have as much a role in the timing as we do.miltonkitchen

Many are concerned with all the decisions they have to make in a limited period of time.  We have an in-house designer who is very skilled at helping our clients make decisions based on our understanding of their tastes, desires, and budget.  We also have four renowned designers from outside our firm that we work with.

The next big question is about cost and cost per square foot.  Of course, there are many variables that can impact cost per square foot, which could range from $270 up to $500.  But the beauty of our model is that it is completely transparent.  Our customer buys the land, they pay our direct discounted cost to build, which is all determined in advance, and they pay a fixed fee for our work.  So they know up front what their cost is, and we know how much we will make on every project as well.  Most people think we are more expensive than we are because of our high-end image. We do exceptionally high-quality work and market our services and products accordingly. Our print ads look like Vogue photo shoots, but the reality is that we have a lower cost to build than most builders, so we are less expensive!

miltonlr

Linda. So how would you summarize your differentiators?

Ashley: Our image is very high-end and expensive, but our costs are less than our competitors. Our formula is to alway be completely transparent with the cost to build. We take the time to completely understand how our clients live and what they want, which enables us to create the ultimate home just for them.  We are extremely organized and skilled at guiding our clients so they know what to expect and are helped with decision-making.  We make the whole process as easy as it can be for them. Our background comes from branding and the fashion industry.  We use a select talented group of European designers, and we create homes that are truly unique. Our difference is in the details. We build a lifestyle, and this is a win-win for us and our clientele.

linda-raymond-at-milton-4

To learn more about the process and the builders that do custom-home building, start looking for land for your new home, or to get a personal introduction to Ashley at Milton Development, please send a note below, or give me a call at 203-912-4440. -Linda


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My Most Cherished Walking Trail in Fairfield CT!

tidal-marsh-with-creek

Everyone who walks this trail, especially my dogs, agrees that this is one of the most wonderful places to go to decompress and gain inspiration in Fairfield Connecticut’s beach area.   You may find yourself alone with the wildlife (and your dogs), or you may see other people dog-walking, jogging or bicycling. marsh-trail

There is convenient access from several beach area neighborhoods.  One entrance is on Old Dam Road.  You can jump on the trail from the Meadows condo complex off South Pine Creek Road, or you can enter at Mona Terrace by the soccer field and senior center. The latter is my favorite because there is a cut-through from an additional neighborhood near me at the Veres Park cul-de-sac.  A parking lot is also available at the senior center, next to the soccer field.

marsh-trail6

When entering from Mona Terrace, I like the fact that you have options. You can choose to go for a short and sweet stroll along the marsh-side path that leads out to Oldfield Road.  Or for a bigger commitment, you can jump onto the wide trail and go through the woods, across the bridge, and past the Meadows condos and Old Dam Road to the end of the trail and back. marsh-trail3

The woods are always peaceful and pretty, but in my view, the vistas along the tidal marsh are where I find my “Zen”.  When it’s high tide, the water winds through the tall grasses, and when the sun hits the water just right, it sparkles through the reeds and tree branches like diamonds! In the summer, the seaside greenery boasts flowers of vivid colors, and a vast variety of birds are busy doing what they do!

marsh-trail5

Last, but not least, if you take the full route to the end, you will get the prize.  What makes this my favorite trail is that it narrows along a little strip of raised land, where you start to wonder where you will end up.  But it leads you to the sweetest of surprises.  The tail takes you to a final destination, where (spoiler alert) you are surrounded on three sides by the water of a tranquil lagoon.  Beyond the edge of the lagoon, to the right, you can see two more waterways.  Old Dam Road flanks the lagoon with Pine Creek behind it.  And behind that, you see Fairfield Beach Road and the Long Island Sound.  Three different waterway views all at once, what a rare treat!   Your dogs can go for a swim, you can take some photos as I’ve done here, and then, you can head back to reality feeling renewed.

tidal-marsh-trail-end

 

For more information about the rich local amenities or any real estate questions, send me a note below or give me a call.

-Linda
203.912.4440

 


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Choosing the Best Moving Company

There are plenty of tough decisions to make when buying and selling a home, and choosing good movers is one of them.   DecisionsTo provide some insight on the options, I’m sharing ratings from some recent Connecticut area moves as well as a national moving company comparison.  The Connecticut input comes from a few people who completed an informal survey about four movers that handled local moves in the Fairfield County area. The national review comes from a comprehensive report by Reviews.com and provides the results of their in-depth comparison.

I asked a handful of people who recently moved for feedback about the moving companies they chose.   A 10-question survey asked respondents to rate their moving company on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being terrible and five being excellent. They were asked to score based on their opinions of the quote process, price, range of services, scheduling process, efficiency and timeliness of the move, and care in handling their belongings.  I received four responses, each rating a different mover. Keep in mind that every move is different with unique circumstances, but here is some feedback about one move with each company.

Braun
The customer moved from a condo in Stamford to another condo in Southport for the price of $3,500. The company received a low overall rating of 2.2.  Aside from satisfaction with the process of obtaining the quote (score of 4),  the available services (score of 3), the customer was not pleased with the movers, giving the company a 2 for the scheduling process and timeliness and 1s for price and handling of belongings. Their comment was, “The movers just wanted to get it done quickly and they did damage to some of my furniture. They also did not pack the items as they had indicated they would in their estimate.”

Lippincott Van Lines
This move was from a house in Seymour to another house in Fairfield. The cost was $2,000.  The overall score was 3.7 with ratings of 4 on price, quote process, their range of services, and timeliness/efficiency, and 3 for the scheduling process and handling of belongings.  They said they would recommend this mover, and their comment was, “Actual movers were good, sales staff could be more responsive”.

Lippincot Van Lines

All My Sons
This company was used for a move within Connecticut from a condo to a house for $750.  The customer gave them an overall rating of 3.7 with ratings of 4 on all aspects except for price and care in handling belongings for which they gave a 3.  They did not share a comment.

Junkluggers
The highest rating of the four went to Junkluggers with an overall score of 4.5.  They handled a move from one house to another within Fairfield for $800. Although they received a 3 for their range of services and a 4 on their quote process, they received 5’s in all other categories.  The customer said, “Junkluggers only does close moves, but they also will haul your junk away and give you a receipt for things that they bring to Goodwill. We used them for our move – you pay by the amount of things you have (how much space it takes in the truck). They were super quick and handled everything great!”

And now for the comprehensive report comparing national movers- Here is the scoop on national movers from Reviews.com with a shout out to Atlas Van Lines and Bekins Moving and Storage.

I hope this article provides some insight for readers getting ready to attempt a big move!

For questions and info regarding your future moving plans, send me a note on the form below.  I’m here to help!

Get a Realtor on Board!


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Home Buying Tips In A Tight Market – What can a buyer can do to combat tight inventory?

If you are a home buyer and don’t see many options during your initial search online, make sure you get a Realtor on board to help you.  Get a Realtor on Board!

Even though inventory may be low and declining, there are at least three key actions your agent can take for you.  Make sure your agent knows what you are looking for, the location you want and your ideal timing.

  1. Armed with this insight, the first thing your agent will do is set up a search for you in the MLS. This allows other agents to conduct a ‘reverse search’ for your wish list items that could match a new listing they plan to put on the market.  They can call your agent who will then be among the first to know about the new listing that could be perfect for you!
  2. The next action your Realtor can take is to send an email to fellow agents in the offices around the town where you are looking that asks if they have a possible match coming to the market.  This can encourage sellers to expedite their plans and make their property available sooner than they had originally planned.  It also gets you first dibs on these homes!

Sample letter to homeowners

3. Last, but not least, your agent can write a letter or design a postcard describing your dream home and mail it directly to the homeowners on your favorite street or in the area you are focused on.

 

Sample Postcard

 

 

 

If you are a seller dealing with buyers that are circling and taking no action or facing a complete lack of buyers altogether, there are key action steps you can take too.

So don’t give into a slowing market, surge ahead, get the market to work for you, and make your move!

For questions or help in this market, send me a note using the form below.

Wasted time costs you money


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Choosing A Real Estate Attorney

Many people come to their Realtor with an attorney already on board.  They figure the attorney is of no concern to their agent thinking that if they know the attorney or have dealt with them before, that lawyer is the best option.  They may think a recommendation from a friend covers all the bases.  Besides price, most people haven’t considered the critical factors below about the attorney they hire to successfully close their real estate transaction.

Here’s a Top 10 List of questions you should know the answer to before bringing your attorney on board-

  1. Does he play well with others?   There are real estate attorneys that give their egos priority over their fiduciary responsibility to their clients.  These lawyers may decide they don’t like the lawyer on the other side of the transaction and deliberately try to kill your purchase or sale as an assault on that attorney. Play well with others?Your Realtor may have worked patiently and tirelessly to successfully negotiate optimal terms for you thus far only to then work triple-time behind the scenes to keep your purchase or sale together because the attorneys are fighting. You may know nothing about this unless your sale falls through because of it. You want to work with a lawyer that relates professionally with all parties in the transaction at all times, or they are counter-productive and doing you (and everyone else involved) a disservice.
  2. Does she know the new TRID lending regulations?  There are new lending regulations that require a three-day period before closing for the buyer to review all the final numbers compiled by the attorneys. This requires attorneys to be well organized and proactive in compiling the credits, debits, and allocations of taxes, insurance, oil deliveries, etc. earlier than before. There are also new forms they need to be familiar with.  If your lawyer is not up to speed with the new regulations, your closing can be significantly delayed at the last minute as a result.
  3. Is he overly chatty or verbose, adding to your bill?  I have worked with attorneys that have kept me on the phone for almost half an hour every time they called and then complained about all the extra time they are spending on the case, stating that they will have to bill for it. I’m sure this is not what you want.Wasted time costs you money
  4. Does he communicate effectively with you, your agent, the lender and the other attorney? There are attorneys that act like it’s beyond their scope of work to communicate effectively with the other parties in the transaction.  Some barely respond to calls or emails at all! Communication is a critical component in your purchase and sale because the lender, the two Realtors, and the two attorneys have a huge amount of detail to coordinate in order to keep your sale on track. entrepreneur-1001611__180 If any of the players is “missing in action” it prevents the process from progressing efficiently, and critical information can fall through the cracks.
  5. Does she specialize in real estate?  If your attorney focuses more on criminal law, divorce or other areas besides real estate, you can end up with an attorney that is in court or unavailable when you need them at a critical time. Specialized in real estate
  6. Is he familiar with the local regulations and practices? You want to be sure your attorney is knowledgeable about the local area of the home you are buying or selling. The process and attorney responsibilities can vary from county to county.  There may also be issues that arise about boundaries, zoning regulations, permits or other things specific to your town that your attorney will need to know about.
  7. Does he have a paralegal?  Many attorneys diversify their workload to include more lucrative endeavors than real estate closings.  This is fine for you as long as they have a paralegal and/or partner in his practice to keep everything on track when he is focused elsewhere.  Otherwise, you and everyone else involved in the transaction can sit ‘dead on the vine’ waiting for a critical response or document.Paralegal or partner?
  8. Is he efficient? Some attorneys are content with creating delays and taking their time to get things done. Efficient?Ask any lender or real estate agent what’s important about an attorney, and they will tell you efficiency (second to good communication)!  The entire transaction is on the clock from the moment an offer is accepted.  The attorney must send and receive the contract in the allotted timeframe and then get it to the lender. They must complete a title search and address questions and concerns in a timely fashion, and they need to prepare all the closing documents on time, or your closing could be postponed.
  9. Is she versed in your areas of specific concern? If you know your transaction will involve added elements of complexity, you want to be sure your attorney can still handle it with ease. For example, if you are moving out of state, coordinating a purchase and sale or pursuing a short sale, run this past your agent and potential attorney up-front to assess their experience and comfort level.
  10. Has your agent recommended him? Last, but not least, the most thorough insight you can get on your would-be attorney is from your Realtor.  Thumbs upMany of the questions above are not ones you can easily get answers to by interviewing the attorney directly or even from a friend who’s used her. If your agent hasn’t worked with the lawyer directly, he or she can ask other agents how well that attorney served his client and worked as a team player for a successful transaction. Your agent’s only interest in the attorney you hire is to get a solid team member on board to help ensure a smooth move for you!

Is there an attorney you are considering that you would like feedback about?  Have you had a good or bad experience you would like to share?  Is there something you would add to the list above? Your questions and comments are welcome below.

 


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Nothing Like a Great Back Yard on a Holiday Weekend!

My own back yard in the Fairfield beach area is one commonly referred to as a ‘postage stamp’, though it still manages to accommodate our trampoline and numerous modest get-togethers.  However, some good friends of mine in Westport have a much more spacious back yard with abundant space for fun, games and big-time bashes.  We’ve been to quite a few, with the latest one being Memorial Day weekend!

Awesome back yard at Hillandale House

It turns out, these friends have just moved their social agenda to another gorgeous yard (and home) nearby.

New Home, New Back Yard!

The good news for all of you readers out there is that the wonderful back yard my friends have left will soon have a brand new house on it that will be ready to support a new source of festivities!

Tucked away just off Turkey Hill South, a custom new home will soon sit on a quiet country lane cul-de-sac. Carefully designed and finished on four levels, this home will feature elegant transitional style with open flow and ethereal light. Romantic landscaping and plantings surround the level property making it super for entertaining, fun in the sun, and peaceful relaxation.  It will be named Hillandale House.

Hillandale House

The builder, Coastal Construction Group, has fine tuned the art of quality home construction by providing careful attention to site design, layout, architecture, craftsmanship and the right property location. As we all know, a home is more than just the place we live, it’s the foundation for everyday living.  Added bonus?  This home is located four minutes from Green’s Farms station and under an hour from Manhattan!

Take a look at the sneak peek video, and visit the listing online.  Perhaps you know someone who has been weighing the options of renovation versus new construction and this may be a consideration?  If you or a friend may be interested, feel free to reach out to me directly at 203-912-4440 or send a note below.

In the meantime, whether it’s Memorial Day, Father’s Day, a graduation party, or just plain summer fun, here’s to a great backyard barbeque!

 


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Save Money, Have Fun, Do a 1031!

If you own an investment property and are thinking of selling it to buy a different one (or two), you can do a 1031 Exchange and enjoy great benefits!  What’s so great about it, and how do you do it?

 

Here’s how it works-

  1. With IRS code 1031, owners can defer paying all capital gains on investment smart ladyproperty. This means that if you own property used for business or investment, you can sell it and use the proceeds from the sale to reinvest in another investment property of greater or equal value to avoid paying taxes.
  2. You have to declare that you are doing a 1031 Exchange before you close on the sale.
  3. You have to meet the 180-day rule: Investors have 180 calendar days to complete the exchange and close on all intended purchases.
  4. You have to meet the 45-day rule:  Identify up to three possible replacement properties within the first 45 days of the 180 day period. You can also sell multiple properties and buy one big property.   If you identify more than three properties, the total cost of the identified properties can’t be more than twice the value of what you are selling.  If you identify more than three properties and they end up totaling more than 200 percent of what you are selling, then you have to buy 95 percent- worth of the properties you identified in order to complete the exchange. Your replacement property must cost more than the net sale price of your existing investment property. Identify 3 Properties
  5. You Must use a Qualified Intermediary (QI) to facilitate the 1031 exchange.  The QI takes care of everything for you including preparing the exchange agreement, handling escrow, and coordinating with the closing agents.  The QI must be a third party to the transaction.  He or she can’t just an attorney or Realtor in the transaction that puts the sale proceeds and funds in an escrow account, nor can the QI be a relative. These are IRS regulations.

And here are six amazing benefits of doing 1031 Exchanges-

  1. You enjoy huge savings on taxes.
  2. You can shelter your earnings in real estate, legally!
  3. You can diversify or consolidate your investment property.
  4. You can gain buying power by reinvesting.
  5. You can create more income to build your wealth.
  6. There’s no limit to the frequency or quantity of 1031 exchanges you can do.

Consider an “equity build strategy” suggested by the Midland company (referenced below) that looks like this:

  • Defer paying up to 25 percent in taxes on your gains.
  • Sell a moderately producing property to buy a higher income-producing property and increase your monthly income.
  • Pay no federal, state, capital gain, or income taxes on the sale of the property.
  • Do 1031 exchanges over and over for a lifetime, and the tax liability will never be passed on to your heirs.
  • Base your strategy on cash flow, and you will have success in any market. The key is to get the highest percentage income on your purchase.  Even if the dollar amount is small, it will grow over time.  For example, if you can sell a property making seven percent cash-on-cash and buy a property that makes 23 percent cash-on-cash, you are well on your way to implementing an excellent equity build strategy!  Equity bulid strategy

It’s a good idea to use a QI that is local or that works in many states and is familiar with the varying regulations and taxes in different states. You want a QI that has experience and is bonded and insured. You also want to look for one that is a member of the National Federation of Exchange Accommodators and that is a Certified Exchange Specialist (CEC).

Here are some resources to get you started:

1031 Exchange Made Simple

Midland Self-Directed IRAs & 1031s

For help selling and locating properties, please reach out to yours truly!