Linda Raymond Real Estate Blog, Fairfield, Westport & More

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


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What Makes Your House a Home?

From the time you awake, until the time you call it a day, you carry out a pattern of activities that make up your lifestyle.

Elegant Breakfast Nook

Your house is your place of coming and going, of greetings and goodbyes, of good mornings and good nights.

Your routine may be rushed and hectic at times. At other times you may have periods of intense focus or moments of calm, harmony, and serenity.

You settle into your surroundings and set your house up to be comfortable for yourself, your family, and your friends. You decorate your house to reflect your style, tastes, interests, and passions.

Dining Room with Center Piece

You work hard and play hard. Your house is your base for productivity, security, privacy, and recharging.

Zen-like Home Office

Serene Master Bedroom

Comfy Family Room

Your house is the place you cherish, where you feel safe and sound, sometimes happy, other times sad; where you celebrate, gather together, share, work, create, cook, decorate; where you can love and be loved; where you live, grow, rest, dream, and at times sort through the chaos that life often throws at you!

 

Mudroom with Elegant Bench Cushions

Your house becomes an extension of all that you are.  And you become an extension of your house, making it complete. Without you, your house is merely a shell awaiting your energy, chemistry, creativity, excitement, and passion.

Stunning Designer Kitchen

What makes your house a home? You do!

This stunning house at 6 Hillandale Lane is awaiting completeness from you. Come home to 6 Hillandale Lane. There’s no place like home!

6 Hillandale Lane, Greens Farms, Westport CT

Please use the form below for questions, comments and showing requests!

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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 2016!

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 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.

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 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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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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Home at Okemo!

Exciting news-

For the first time in a decade, a brand new enclave of homes is being built on the sunny side of Okemo Mountain Resort!

SOUTHFACE_VILLAGE_SUGAR_MAPLE1-1030x515

In 2014, Okemo Mountain Resort was named the “Best Family Resort in North America” by onthesnow.com.  The last two seasons, it’s been tagged with three more top honors. “Top 10 Resorts” in the East (SKI Magazine), Six Best Places to Buy a Winter Home, (Investopedia), and 10  Best Places for Family Vacations, (familyvacationcritic.com). Okemo’s snowmaking expansion now includes White Lightning and Rolling Thunder at Jackson Gore. This increases Okemo’s snowmaking coverage to 98 percent of its trails. With 655 skiable acres, 120 trails, and “New England’s Best Snowmaking” to ensure fantastic ski vacations, Okemo is the place to be!

Okemo Mountain added the amazing Sunburst Six chairlift providing a quick and comfy trip to the summit with cushy heated seats and a wind-shielding bubble.  The new up-and-running Sunshine Quad is ready to bring snow lovers from the heart of SouthFace Village to the SouthFace Express Quad.

Its_Okemo_Time_Sunburst-6-1030x686
Now Okemo Resort is building the new SouthFace Village!

Here’s a Top 10 List of Impressive Features-

1. LOCATION – Located on the south face of the mountain, residents enjoy first dibs on all the trails with maximum sunshine all day!
2. GATED – The village will be an exclusive gated community.
3. NEW LODGE – It will have its own new lodge with a gourmet eatery, fitness center, indoor-outdoor heated pools and more.
4. SKI-IN & SKI-OUT – With seven new access trails, the residents will enjoy ski-in/ski-out access.
5. 4-SEASONS – SouthFace Village homeowners enjoy nature and the great outdoors year-round while playing golf, hiking, biking, and skiing.

Okemo_summer_golf_72dpi-1030x515
6. SMART – Homeowners will enjoy the perfect setting, every convenience, energy efficiency, top quality craftsmanship and construction, and the best of New England Nordic design by renowned eco-conscious architect/builder, Bensonwood.
7. VALUE – Exceptional value, location, amenities, efficiency, and quality for the price.  Follow the link at the end of this post for more information.
8. AMENITIES – The fully furnished homes make excellent use of space to accommodate the most guests and also feature excellent energy efficiency, covered parking, convenient gear storage, and much more.
9. OKEMO COMMUNITY – Planned by a proven Okemo developer, this enclave will integrate the exceptional new homes with all the bustling programs and services of Okemo Mountain Resort.
10. BRAND NEW! Need I say more?
SOUTHFACE_VILLAGE_TIMELESS_SETTING1-1030x563

Sugar Maple, their first residential offering is sold out, but don’t worry, it is the first of nine ski-in/ski-out townhome buildings to be constructed.  Happy homeowners of Sugar Maple will be moving in for the 2017 ski season.  The next offering consists of luxury ski-in/ski-out townhomes, single family homes and two exclusive penthouse residences with private elevator access that will be constructed on top of The Lodge at SouthFace Village.

Click the link below for fresh facts on the exciting upcoming offerings including Tamarack, the single family homes, and The Penthouse. To stay abreast of  SouthFace Village development with updates and photos, follow the link below. Feel free to forward this article to anyone else who may also want to be in the know, or send their contact info when you click the link.
Happy Ski Season!

Okemo_sunburst_skier_rider

Ski Okemo

Fun for everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To submit a comment or ask a question about your moving or vacation home plans, send me a note below!

Okemo Resort Realty, LLC is the Exclusive Marketing Agent for SouthFace Village at Okemo. The photographs and representations included are for informational purposes only and are subject to change, or, may be withdrawn by the developer at the developer’s discretion. This is not intended to be an offer to sell nor a solicitation of offers to buy real estate in any state.  A Consolidated Public Offering Statement for SouthFace Village At Okemo is available from the developer. The developer of this project is SouthFace Village at Okemo Development Company, LLC and is not affiliated with Okemo Mountain Resort or any other entity that is involved with the operation of the ski area.