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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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Are You Choosing the Right 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 butting heads. 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. Otherwise, they are being counter-productive and are doing you (and everyone else involved) a disservice.
  2. Does she know the TRID lending regulations?  There are 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 in the past. 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 are “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 she 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 she 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 her practice to keep everything on track when she is focused elsewhere.  Otherwise, you and everyone else involved in the transaction can be stuck ‘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 or her? 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 him or her. If your agent hasn’t worked with the lawyer directly, he or she can ask other agents how well that attorney as served his client and worked as a team player for a successful transaction in the past. 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 backyard in the Fairfield beach area is one commonly referred to as a ‘postage stamp’, though it still manages to accommodate our trampoline and numerous get-togethers.  However, some good friends of mine in Westport have a much more spacious backyard 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 2016!

Hillandale Back Yard and Patio

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 backyard my friends have left now has 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 new home sits 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 is the Hillandale House.

6 Hillandale Lane, Westport CT

6 Hillandale Lane, Westport CT

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 and check out a snapshot of the progress!  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, reach out to me 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 barbecue!

 

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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!

 


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Winter Open House Tips: Excite, Delight & Invite!

Many people believe that winter is the hardest time of year to try and sell their house. While it’s true that sellers can’t showcase their colorful warm-weather landscaping, there are plenty of other things you can highlight.

The good news about selling in the winter is that the people out looking are typically very serious buyers with a clear timeline in mind for purchasing a home.  Add to this the benefit of less competition to deal with as other sellers wait for the crowded spring market.

One key marketing activity is to hold an open house.  What can you do to make an endearing impression of your fabulous house that offsets any winter doldrums?

Make prospective buyers feel like welcome guests and present your house as though you are hosting a special gathering for family and friends. While your agent highlights all the selling points, the special effort you make will give an enchanting edge toward a special intangible attraction you want buyers to feel that I like to call chemistry!

Start by planning ahead as you would for a big party.

Excite with Winter Curb Appeal
Let buyers see from the street what a warm, charming, romantic and inviting place this will be when they come in.

Consider ideas like a planter or two with colorful evergreen plants and branches, window boxes or hanging baskets.

Winter window box

Image credit: Lea-Ann Vernig

Elegant winter planters

Image credit: settingforfour.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charming winter porch display

Image Credit: HGTV

A bench or trellis can add a nice focal point and polished look to an otherwise bare area.  A brightly colored chair and new welcome mat can go a long way toward creating a fresh look. Here are some photos of welcoming winter homes and a historic winter home for further inspiration.

Romantic winter home

Image credit: insidearciform.com

If there’s snow on the ground, a well-shoveled driveway and path are an absolute must. The last thing you want to do is make visitors feel like it’s a treacherous hardship to get to your house, or worse, let them risk injury.  If parking is tight, clearing some space along the street is also a good idea.

Of course, an adorable snowman fully adorned with your most innovative accessories, and maybe an open house sign can help to set the tone!  Consider leaving some outdoor lights on for an added welcoming glow on an overcast day.  On a practical note, you may want to have a basket of booties inside the front door to keep your house clean.

Make it Delightful and Warm Inside
Think about what makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you visit a friend’s house for a winter get together and aim to delight all the senses.

Light a fire in the fireplace or light candles (real or artificial) on a dining room table and in the bathrooms, simmer apple cider with cinnamon on the stove. play some nostalgic music.

Festive fireplace with candles

Image credit: HGTV

Implement some whimsical touches, such as displaying a card game, a recipe book for creative holiday drinks or hanging brightly colored winter scarves or hats on hooks in a mudroom.

If it’s the holiday season, display festive touches with glass, silver, and natural materials for an elegant, romantic look that will have the broadest appeal. Avoid commercial decorations and religious symbols that may distract, turn off or offend some people.

Use photos to showcase key features of the home that may be hidden during the winter such as colorful gardens, scenic views, a furnished deck or patio or beautiful pool.  Show pictures of the house across all seasons.  This can be done with an open photo album or by framing and hanging a few beautiful photos around the house.

Invite the Guests!
Last, but not least, with your preparations under way, your agent can feel confident about promoting your wonderful open house.  They can get the word out near and far with an ad in the paper, special door-hanger invites to the neighbors to come for the first hour, posts to all the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, a published Event on Facebook to which guests can be invited, the date published on all the real estate websites and the MLS, a bulletin in your town’s local Patch.com and on your agent’s blog, and of course, plenty of  signs leading the way!

If you wonder about the benefits of having an open house, take a look at the discussion of “Open House Pros and Cons” and feel free to leave a comment on the page.

If you have more ideas for hosting a magical open house, please share them below!

CT Post Open House Tips Article


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What are the Hot Technology Trends in Real Estate?

Six Hot Trends that are Super Cool for Consumers!

Real Estate Technology Trends

Consumer-Friendly Tech Trends in Real Estate

  1. Virtual Experiences – The trend is to showcase properties while delivering consumers

Raveis 3Dan engaging experience that also saves them time. In addition to creative videos, this includes 3D touring, virtual reality, drone photography, virtual staging and even hologram projection of furniture into rooms.  3D tours enable viewers to virtually walk through a property while using their computer mouse to “go” anywhere in the home.  The tool also creates a virtual doll house that lets buyers float through the floors and get an overall feel for the layout, orientation, and flow. Inman News recently talked about virtual reality tours that use special goggles to create an experience close to being there in person as well as gear that projects holograms of furniture into a space to visualize it “for real”.  Last, but not least, busy or far-away consumers can benefit from a live virtual tour via Skype.

  1. Social Media Exuberance – Okay you might have guessed this one, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. Social media can provide a much richer perspective and bring added value beyond what a typical website can offer when evaluating a potential Realtor.  Does the agent share useful information and resources? Do they have a strong presence on multiple platforms including a blog? Do they leverage this presence to promote client listings for maximum internet exposure? Are they creative, resourceful, knowledgeable, personable?  Do they share insights from past customers?  What do they do in their spare time? Many consumers are looking into these types of questions with a simple online search or searches within social media platforms.
  1. Mobile Optimization – Everyone’s on the go! The trend is for people to consume web content on their mobile devices.  Statista.com predicts a 57% increase in global mobile web traffic per year through 2019.  The most recent click reports I received from my e-newsletter show that readers opening the email on a mobile device versus a computer range between 50-70%. Mobile Optimization So more and more real estate websites and blogs are becoming mobile friendly and optimizing for the best mobile experience. Mobile apps are also on the rise.  William Raveis provides a comprehensive Real Estate App. The company has also released a Mortgage App that enables home buyers to start their pre-approval process right from their phone! And hot off the press is the Raveis Open House App that lets guests type in their name, phone, and email and then request a complimentary home value report, mortgage pre-approval and Local Housing e-Newsletter for the town of their choice!
  1. Mortgage Magic – Instead of misery. The complex process is now streamlined with new technology that gives consumers the efficiency and transparency they need and deserve. William Raveis Mortgage addresses the first critical step by providing buyers with a certified loan pre-approval followed by electronic milestone tracking of their loan process that also keeps all the players on track. Borrowers view a bold graphic showing a clear progression of the steps and status across their screen.  The icing on the cake? Sign documents electronically from wherever you are!Real Estate Value Forecasting
  1. Accurate Value Estimates – We’ve all heard of the Zestimate, and most of us are well aware of the frustrations with inconsistent results, incorrect data and inability to correct errors.  “What is my home worth?” is the question people are always asking. Savvy consumers want a quality tool to help them estimate the market value of their property.  William Raveis recently launched the RAVestimate. The interactive technology lets consumers  input specific home improvements and then work with comparable sales data that they select.  The company tested the tool and documented extraordinary accuracy.
  1. Predictive Marketing – Advanced intelligence and predictive modeling to help buyers before they ask are up and coming. Consumer data and predictive analytics will be used to anticipate home buying goals, preferences, and timing.  So in the not-too-distant future, Realtors, lenders, and perhaps the perfect home may be finding the buyer before they even know they are going to buy!
    Real Estate Technology, Predictive Analytics

 

Which trends to you think have the most promise?  What other trends are you seeing that are consumer driven?  From a consumer perspective, what new technology services would you like to see?

CT Post - Real Estate Tech Trends Dec 2015

For more information or questions about your moving plans, contact me using the form below.


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How’s the Summer Real Estate Market 2015 in Fairfield and Westport CT

So how’s the summer real estate market in Fairfield and Westport Connecticut? Are sellers listing their homes?  Are buyers making offers?  Here’s the summer 2015 scoop in Fairfield and Westport with a spotlight on the Fairfield beach and Greens Farms areas.

As of last week, there were a lot of single family homes on the market in Fairfield, 633 to be exact, compared to 542 at the end of July last year!  Fourteen percent (14%) of these houses had accepted offers. This is great compared to only 9% with binders last July.

The beach area market was not quite as strong as the town-wide market, with 12% of listings securing offers.  However, this ratio was more positive than last summer when the beach area’s home sellers accepting offers matched the town-wide tally of 9%. Of the 15 beach area homes with offers, seven were priced over $1 million, four were between $600,000 and $1 million and four were under $600,000. So there was a good range of prices.

Re-incarnation in the Fairfield Beach Area

Click Image for Flipogram!

845 Fairfield Beach Rd

Click Image for Full Listing!

Beach area new construction was exceeding the town’s ratio, with five accepted offers out of 30 listings, or 17%.  Click the image above for a representative view of the construction going on all over the beach area right now.  Direct waterfront in the beach area demonstrated more sluggish activity than the rest of the beach area and town with a 10% ratio of offers to active listings, that’s 4 out of 39.

Westport inventory was also high with 402 houses for sale compared to about 350 in July last year.  This season’s market was slightly more positive than in July 2014 with 7% of listings taking offers compared to 6%.

Greens Farms was a hot subset of the Westport market, with 12% of the 49 listings securing acceptable offers.  Half of the six offers were listed above $1 million and half below.

2 Hedley Farms Rd

New construction listings in Greens Farms weren’t moving as fast as the rest of the neighborhood with one binder out of 12 listings, or 8%.

So yes, sellers are listing their homes, and buyers are bidding on them.  The ratio of accepted offers to active listings is a leading indicator of what’s to come, and this summer it’s shown variablility based on town, neighborhood, and property type.
As always, pricing your home competitively and staging it for maximum appeal will attract buyers to your listing.  There’s still time before August vacations to get your price right if you’re selling and get your bid in if you’re buying.  Be sure to check out the featured homes for sale below!

Buy one this summer!

Buy one this summer!

New Construction on the Beach, Fairfield – $2,545,000 New price!
Summer Beach Cottage, Fairfield – $1,245,000 New price!
Carefree Beachfront Condo, Fairfield – $915,000 See Quick-Film!
Like-New Home at the Beach, Lordship – $879,000 New Price!
Bright Beach Area Colonial, Fairfield – $625,000 Off the market, sale pending!
Charming Cape, Convenient Location, Fairfield –  Off the market to be rented starting October 1st.

Feel free to contact me any time with questions, showing requests or for a complimentary market analysis of your home.