Linda Raymond Real Estate Blog, Fairfield, Westport & More

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

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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.

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Didn’t Feel Like It, But I Went to Last Night’s Meeting Anyway

Okay truth be told, I really really didn’t feel like going to last night’s Fairfield Ludlowe High School PTA meeting that had been on my calendar since the date was emailed out to all of us.  I was tired, and it was freezing out, and dark, and we just finished dinner after a long day, and the meeting would be long…  In fact, I succeeded in talking myself out of going and finally resolved to skip it- literally the minute before I threw my coat on and pushed my butt out the door!

FLHS-PTA-LogoStar parent, right?  Unfortunately, the reality was that I did not stand alone in these sentiments.  When I got there, only about 10 others were present, including the PTA President, Jim Accomando, Past President, Christine Vitale, Headmaster, Greg Hatzis, VP of Programs, Laura Lawlor, two teachers and a few others!

The meeting was in the comfortable lecture room at the back of the Library, and Greg Hatzis was going to give an overview of the school’s 2016 Improvement Plan.  He had a PowerPoint presentation and handouts prepared for everyone.
joint library picture

As I listened, I was more and more impressed by the comprehensiveness of the plan and ambitious goals as well as the energy and passion expressed by the presenter.  There were so many focus areas to cover, but the determined Headmaster nailed the key points and even gave us a short Parent Beliefs survey to complete, all inside the span of one hour!

I thought the meeting and information were so valuable that the least I could do was share what I could about it.  So I’ve included the three handouts (via the linked text in bold below) and listed what I thought were the main takeaways.  Here are five points that I thought were key from the meeting,

  1. FLHS Improvement Plan 2015-2016 is completely aligned with the District Plan.  It focuses on four core strategy areas and includes a feedback loop of action, evaluation, and continuous improvement.
    1. Instructional Program
    2. Teams/School Improvement Plans
    3. Leadership Capacity
    4. Resources
  2. There are four important Academic Expectations including,
    1. Critical Thinking
    2. Creative Thinking
    3. Communicating
    4. Collaborating
  3. The Marzano FLHS Teacher Evaluation Model is used.  A valuable element of the model is that it focuses on a progression of teaching new knowledge, in-depth use and understanding of this knowledge and then advancing kids to use the knowledge and skills to generate original thinking such as developing one’s own hypothesis.
  4. The new Block Schedule with longer class times is working out great! Although it required teachers to start lesson planning from scratch, it has been instrumental to enabling more in-depth teaching and student understanding of the subjects.
  5. Teachers conduct Curriculum Focus Groups about twice per month. No longer do teachers work in isolation. Now they also learn from and inspire one another- just like doctors and surgeons have been doing for a long time.  Teacher feedback is that they find it exceptionally valuable.

All of this funnels down from the overarching mission of the Fairfield Public Schools:

The mission of the Fairfield Public Schools, in partnership with families and the community, is to ensure that every student acquires the knowledge and skills to be a lifelong learner, responsible citizen, and successful participant in an ever-changing global society through a comprehensive educational program.

In the end, I was so glad I made it to this meeting.  I gained valuable insights about my child’s education as well as the overall the quality of Fairfield’s education system and got to meet some very nice people. Having been so impressed, I’ve since hoped that more parents will come to future PTA meetings.

In the meantime, I’ve been convinced that our kids are in excellent hands! Go Falcons!

Go FLHS Falcons!

Fellowship
Acceptance
Learning
Commitment
Opportunity
Niche
Success

Feel free to comment below.


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Home Buying: Lessons Learned from Power Couple’s First Time!

Home Buyers Race to Buy House

Wait! Remember Your Pre-Approval!

Ronald and Sara were a happy young couple ready to jump into home buying and get their first home together. When they called me, they knew what they wanted, a four-bedroom home with nice property and a pool in the million dollar range. There was a house, in particular, they had seen online that they were very excited to see right away. They thought this could be it, and they would be buying their first home.

I was excited for them too! I asked if they had spoken to a mortgage professional yet. They had not, so I gave them a few reputable contacts to reach out to and told them they should have a mortgage pre-approval before they started looking. They asked why, and I told them that the pre-approval serves three critical purposes, one, it confirms that they are eligible for a loan, two, it lets them know what their spending limit is and what the associated monthly payments will be, and three, it positions them as strong and qualified buyers when presenting an offer for the home they want to buy.

So they forged ahead, chose a lender, and sought their pre-approval. But they were soon shocked and disappointed to learn that they would not be eligible for a mortgage for at least another year.

Ronald and Sara were a power couple with great jobs and ample income. Sara had a Ph.D. and was the director of a graduate school. Ronald was an emergency room physician.

But, what they didn’t realize was that all the student loans they were paying off gave them a ratio of debt to income that was too high to get a mortgage. So we found a nice home for them to rent for a year. In the meantime, they worked hard with the credit expert company, North Shore Advisory to ensure they were on the fast track for managing their debt and raising their credit scores within the one-year timeline they had set as a goal.

Couple gets engaged

“I do!”

Fairfield University Home

This is the one!

Honeymoon in Africa

Honeymoon in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward a year later, and they sailed through the pre-approval process to obtain a Certified Pre-Approval from William Raveis Mortgage, got engaged, and found and closed on a gorgeous new home in the university area of Fairfield, Connecticut!

Ronald and Sara also managed to jet-set off to Africa for a pre-honeymoon celebration on safari before returning to their new home to plan their wedding!  Clearly they were perfectly situated to live happily ever after, but what were the lessons learned along the way?

Always get a pre-approval before you start shopping for a home so that you know where you stand, avoid unexpected setbacks, and can position yourself as a competitive buyer.   Besides, an offer to purchase a property is not complete or acceptable without a pre-approval letter from your lender or proof of cash.

Be sure your pre-approval is of the utmost quality, as they are not all created equal. Recent changes to national lending regulations add extra time sensitivity and make this more important than ever. There are a number of new technology enhancements available that can make the whole mortgage process faster, easier, and more transparent for consumers.

Mortgage Technology Enhancements

New Tech Enhancements Simplify Mortgage Process

William Raveis Mortgage is the only mortgage banker to provide a Certified Pre-Approval.  This means that when they present a Certified Pre-Approval to a buyer, they have completed a full review of credit, income, and assets, reviewed supporting documentation and double-checked it all via an automated underwriting system to ensure that when the big day comes, the buyers get their loan and the sale goes through.

Playing with Credit Cards

Play with Your Credit Cards AFTER You Close!

Last, but not least, it’s important to be aware of all the factors that can impact your credit score because, the lower your score, the more you will pay for your mortgage, (as well as insurance and other things). In fact, it’s a good idea to check your credit well in advance of applying for a loan so that you have time to work on it if need be.  Visit North Shore Advisory, Inc. for an expert resource about credit tips and strategy.  Once you have your good credit and Certified Pre-Approval in place, make sure you don’t do anything that can change your credit score before you close!  Even a tiny negative change to your credit can bump up your interest rate and suddenly put your dream home out of reach.  So check with your lender or Realtor about things you should or should not do during your home purchase process.

Then you are ready to make your dream home come true! Welcome Home!

For questions about the process of buying or selling a home, or if you’re thinking about a move this season, send me a note below!


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Annie and Andrew’s Story

A seasoned recruiter for a financial firm on Merritt 7 in Norwalk Connecticut, Annie knew a good candidate when she saw one.   The perfect asset for the current position was one she had already recruited once before, and that would be her husband!  Given their relationship, Annie’s boss had to step in and seal the deal, but Andrew was on board in no time.

The next step was to move from their home in Avon to a town closer to Norwalk that was affordable and had good schools.  Annie’s boss lived in Fairfield and was a strong advocate.  She convinced Annie and Andrew that this town would fit the bill.

Annie & Andrew

So Annie and Andrew’s agent in Avon called me to help them find a new home in Fairfield.  We spoke on the phone, and I set up their online search.   Immediately Annie saw something she liked and came to see it the next day.  Andrew couldn’t get free until the weekend, and by then the house was gone.  Three more times, the timing was too late or multiple bids got in the way, and three more homes were lost. Homes in their price range in the Fairfield university area were in extremely high demand and flying off the shelf!

Although Andrew liked the homes he had seen, he was still having a little trouble understanding the value for the prices in Fairfield compared to Avon.  Annie and I gushed about the treasured amenities in Fairfield such as the gorgeous beaches, convenient train stations, chic eateries, vicinity to Manhattan and the fantastic vibrant community. I wish I had this video tour of Fairfield at the time! Still, Andrew just shrugged his shoulders and went with the flow, primarily motivated by a quick commute.  New Home in Fairfield

Finally, a lovely pricier home had a price reduction.  We immediately went to see it and this time lucked out.  Annie and Andrew landed a beautiful expanded Cape on a pretty university area street.  They lost no time starting to make memories with their little son George, their new neighbors and all the block parties scheduled for the year.

A short time later, Annie sent me a note that said, “Hi Linda, we love the house, and we have fallen in love with Fairfield.  We have only been in the house a little over a month, but it truly feels like home, and I would say George agrees!  We cannot thank you enough for all of your help. You were terrific to work with, patient and helped us every step of the way. Relocating to a new area is overwhelming, and you really made us feel at ease throughout the whole process.  Thanks again for everything.  We hope to see you around town!”

So we welcome Annie and Andrew to Fairfield and the university area along with some of our other recent new neighbors, Ping and Danian and Rich and Chris.  Annie and Andrew’s story is all about taking that leap toward the next chapter of exciting new beginnings- A new love. A new job. A new town. A new home.  Follow your dreams, and the rest is history in the making!

For questions about your next move, contact me any time!


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How Could the “Wrong Direction” Seem So Right?

That’s what my relocation client asked me as we went to visit five drop-dead gorgeous homes in Fairfield Connecticut.

Ping and her family were moving from South Carolina to pricey Fairfield County.  Although the home sizes were not quite as grand here as what they were used to, I could sense a growing excitement about Fairfield as I shared some impressive numbers including our 11 elementary, three middle and two high schools, five beaches and three train stations.

The Chelsea Restaurant, Fairfield CT

The Chelsea Restaurant, Fairfield CT

A few added highlights like our huge Fourth of July celebration at Penfield Beach, the superb beet salad at The Chelsea and the crazy dog beach at Lake Mohegan didn’t hurt either.   The visual tour was the icing on the cake!

Ping and her husband Danian both worked for the same company in South Carolina.  She took a new job nearby, and he was able to stay with his company and transfer here. Their son and daughter would be going to elementary school.

New home in Fairfield CT

New home in Fairfield CT

The location of the home they chose in the university area was perfect.  Their kids could walk to school.  And when Danian’s parents came to visit, they could walk there with them. They were situated on a wonderful cul-de-sac and already had an elaborate play set in the back yard.  The house was stunning inside and out.  It was beautifully finished on four levels and came complete with a beautiful in-law suite.  And if all that wasn’t enough, the garage was fully equipped with cabinetry and a high-end custom flooring that looked like you could eat off it!

How can something so wrong seem so right?   Welcome to Fairfield!

Congratulations

Congratulations!

Feel free to comment on this post and reach out to me with your questions and real estate needs. – Linda


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Pricing Your Home Right

Here are a few true stories that occurred in May of 2015.  Three comparable university area homes for sale in Fairfield Connecticut accepted offers.  The properties and prices were similar in scope, but the paths the sellers took to get an offer were quite different.   I’ll assign each house a color instead of using the address to protect privacy.  I am privy to the information because my buyers bid on all three of these homes.

White House

A White house with 2,293 square feet, four bedrooms and two and a half baths on .31 acres came on the market for $675,000 the previous November.  The listing canceled and put back on the market as a new listing for the same price in January 2015.  Over the next 130 days the price was reduced to $669,000 and then 649,000.  It was newly listed again in May for $625,000.  The sellers accepted an offer of $610,000 which was 97% of their final asking price but 90% of their original price from more six months prior.

green house

A Green house was listed in March for $650,000.  It had 2,352 square feet, two and a half baths on .49 acres.  The price was reduced to $619,000 and then to $610,000 and was ultimately re-listed with a new price of $600,000. Less than two weeks later, the sellers received multiple full price offers for $600,000.  The sellers got 100% of their final asking price, but 92% of their original list price.

On May 12, homeowners listed a Red house for sale with 2,164 square feet, three bedrooms and two baths on .22 acres for $619,000 and accepted an offer the next day!

Since the two homes above sold for 97-100% of their final asking price, and the average sale-list ratio in Fairfield from January to mid-May was 97%, my guess is that the sellers got very close to their asking price, and in one day, not bad!REd House

So what are the take-aways?

Price: You won’t get more by pricing your house much higher than market value.  Remember you have to sell your house three times- to the buyer’s agent, to the buyer, and to the appraiser. Buyers may be attracted to your house based on emotion, but their final decision is based on the market data that their Realtor provides to them.

Time: The higher above market value you price your house, the longer it will take to sell, and remember, time is (taxes, utilities, insurance, repairs, maintenance, personal time and energy…) money!  The stories above show that in this price range, a list price of 8-10% above the market value is too high to attract an offer.

Since the market is what determines your property’s value, not your personal finances (or Zillow!), price your house within 5% of, or right at market value.  This way you can enjoy a fast sale at a fair market price, and get to where you want to go sooner rather than later!

Feel free to contact me for a pricing recomendation and custom marketing plan or any questions you may have about the buying and selling process.   I’m here to help!

 


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Great Finds on Both Sides of Town!

Whether you know someone looking for a cute cape close to Black Rock Turnpike shopping and the new Fairfield Metro Center, or a proposed new construction on the beach near Fairfield’s bustling downtown scene and train, there’s a home for the taking!

Fairfield Metro StationHere are two featured properties for sale.  Scroll down for a link to browse all listings or request to have a search set up for you.

Beautiful Updated Cape, also for rent, in a super convenient location near ample amenities and the new train station! Some of the great features include three bedrooms, two full baths, vaulted ceiling family room with sliders, renovated kitchen, covered deck, central air, fully fenced and landscaped back yard with newly expanded shed and double driveways. Opportunity knocks!

A rare moment is here for you. Introducing Beach Life. Have your custom home built by world class craftsmen on a spectacular near-third acre stretch of beach with mature trees and high dunes! Deep sandy beach and 51 feet of beach frontage at the coast’s curve offer expansive views of the entire shoreline. Dreamy vistas of changing light, tides and the iconic Penfield Light House never lose their magic. Other multi-million dollar new homes nearby add to the great value and good company. Your home will be finished on three levels with a spacious carport underneath for two cars plus extra multi-use space and plenty of expansion potential. One of the very deepest and highest sections of beach five minutes from town, restaurants and train, and an hour from Manhattan is where you will call home. Get ready for your new beach life to begin!

Photo Oct 30, 11 37 20 AM    Photo Oct 30, 11 47 19 AM

 845 FFBR - elevation- 10 - 21 - 14  Photo Oct 30, 12 55 20 PM

 

 

 

 

Search for your home here or submit a request below.   I’m here to help. 🙂