Category Archives: Sellers

Lewiston Luxury Home Sales Ramp Up for a Bustling Fall Market

With summer drawing to a close (say it isn’t so!), it’s time to cast an eye towards the prospects for this year’s fall home sales market. Fall can be a great time to list a home, but it can be especially opportune for luxury home sales in Lewiston. It’s a season that traditionally brings out serious buyers—those looking to find a home and complete the move before the holidays. If you are selling a property that falls into the luxury home category, before you roll up your sleeves and get to work in earnest, here are some broad-brush pointers real estate writers cite most often:

Make Sure You Work With the Right Agent

Before you even begin other preparations, you can make the most efficient use of your time by first being sure you have recruited the right agent. Aim for a professional who has earned a reputation for successful luxury home sales in Lewiston. A solid portfolio is the best demonstration that you’ve identified someone with the know-how (and the right contacts) that so often make the difference in luxury home sales.

Details Matter

Even more than with an average listing, Lewiston luxury home sales depend on every detail being well handled. Don’t just have the windows cleaned—scour the screens, too. Don’t just put out a vase of flowers in the dining room—where tasteful, think about placing them by the beds; in the bathrooms, too. Make sure the entryway is always clear at every showing. In short, sell the dream of the picture-perfect luxury home. By treating every detail with care, you validate your luxury-level asking price!

Highlight Features

You know your property best—which gives you valuable insight into the features that make your home a standout. Make a list of additions, enhancements and luxury touches you have added, and other elements that would make any new owner proud. Where is the light most magical? When do the gardens burst with color? Your agent can determine which details will have the most impact in the each of the marketing media.

Know What to Expect

With luxury home sales, it’s a good idea to always keep the nature of the market in mind. Luxury home sales in Lewiston can happen quickly, but more often than with an average property, success can take a little longer. A good agent will let you know how long similar homes have taken to sell in your price range—it’s useful background knowledge. Most often, the key to luxury home sales is the quality of showings rather than the quantity.

If you’d care to hear more about what we can expect for this fall’s luxury home sales in Lewiston, contact us today. We’ll be happy to share an up-to-the-minute market analysis—the best way to project the outlook for the upcoming market.

Does Assessed Value Matter When I Set The Listing Price for My Wheatfield, NY Home

The answer to this question depends on the market. If the market is appreciating as most are now, our answer would be, “Sure!  As long as you are comfortable with selling your home for less than what it is worth and thereby leaving money on the table.”  If it is a declining market, we would say, “Sure!  If you are okay with not selling your home.”

Forgive us for being a little bit flippant in the above paragraph but in the vast majority of cases like those above, that is exactly what will happen.  In order to fully understand this, we need to fully understand how your tax assessment works.

Your property tax assessment is a value put on your Wheatfield home by your local government.  This value is used, based on the tax rate, to compute how much you owe the local government in taxes.  Most localities divide this tax amount into 2 payments broken out over the course of the year.  These funds are used to pay for the services your government provides.

What most people do not know is that the assessed value of your Wheatfield home is typically computed every other year.  So how does this relate to where to price the home you are selling?

When a buyer buys your home, their lender is going to require an appraisal of your property to determine what its current value is.  An appraiser will only use comparable sales from the last six month or less.  This is where the condition of the local real estate market comes into play.

In an appreciating market where the values are rising, home sales will most likely sell above their assessed value.  If you remember, the assessed value could be as much as 2 years old.  If the homes have been appreciating since the last assessment, a seller who sells at the assessed value may be leaving a lot of money on the table.

Conversely, if the market is depreciating and home values are dropping, home sales will most likely sell below their assessed value.  In this scenario, a home seller who prices their home based on an old assessment takes a major risk in not selling at all.  Buyers will base their offers on current market conditions, not an old assessment that might be currently inflated.

When it comes time to pricing your Wheatfield home for sale, please take note that your tax assessment will typically run behind the current market place.  Pricing a home is truly an art.  When interviewing agents, ask how they came up with a price for your home.  Using the assessed value is one small part to determine home value.  If the agent used it exclusively, find another agent.

If you’re looking for the right agent to help direct your sale every step of the way, we hope you’ll give us a call!

Online Wheatfield Virtual Tours & Video

In today’s Wheatfield, more and more often shopping of all kinds has become a virtual affair. Instant information is at everyone’s fingertips—nowhere truer than in Wheatfield real estate. No sooner has today’s buyer made the decision to start looking than—boom!—the laptop/tablet/iPhone is out and Wheatfield virtual tours are underway.

What’s most surprising is the key finding of the joint Google-NAR study of the growth of the web in home buying. “90% of home buyers searched online during their home buying process,was the headline highlight. That’s 9 out of 10!  

What’s surprising about that?” you might be asking yourself. The answer: that data is more than two years old! And we know online searches and virtual tours have skyrocketed since then.

To capitalize on the online home search juggernaut, real estate agencies increasingly bring video to their Wheatfield virtual tours. Many video formats are being used, but the even the most basic use zooms and pans that draw prospects into the picture in a way stills cannot.

First-rate Wheatfield virtual tours, whether they include video or not, augment the buyer’s search experience. Motion makes it feel as if you’re right there, touring the house in person.

But…The negative aspects of some virtual tours using video are, unfortunately, just as clear. Slow download time and lagging video streams can lose otherwise interested prospects. In some cases the property itself forces awkward angles that make filming complicated and viewing uncomfortable. It’s simply true that virtual tours are not a good idea for every Wheatfield, NY property. They are, however, a great idea for some.

How can you tell the difference? It’s usually a question of the spaciousness of the property itself. Usually, the bigger the home, the easier it is to film a tour—and the better impression it will make on viewers. High-end Realtors® gain from producing and sharing video virtual tours on their websites, but others get strong results by just sticking with high-quality photos. Sometimes the best impression of a small dwelling will be made by a talented still photographer. When selling your Wheatfield NY home, in a well-rounded marketing plan it is the unique aspects of your property that should shape the media.

If you’re looking for an agent to represent your home in its best light, you’ve come to the right place. Call us today!

Selling Your Home in Western New York is a Collection of Decisions

Selling your home in Western New York: from the first inkling that you will be putting it on the market until you sign off on the paperwork, the process can be seen as a series of dozens and dozens of decisions. Many are not simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decisions, either; and many have answers that no one can ever prove was right or not.

From your Western New York real estate agent’s perspective, providing counsel on the choices when asked is an important part of the service we provide. We get to offer a deep reservoir of experience: what has worked (and not worked) before here in Western New York, as well as where the latest trends are pointing. Pricing, timing, marketing approaches are all areas where our input can be of immense value—can shape how quickly the selling of your home succeeds. In addition to the thunderously clear absolute imperatives like de-cluttering and removing an overabundance of personal items, there are also less vital areas where small touches can nudge prospective buyers in the right direction.

These are details that aren’t vital—details that sometimes may not even have any impact at all on some prospects—yet which sometimes come into play. Here are a few examples of touches that you can decide to consider when you are in the process selling your own Western New York home:

Kitchen: clean that refrigerator; defrost that freezer! You’d be surprised a many buyers open the refrigerator door (whether it’s included in the listing or not). For some reason, it seems to be a natural thing to do…even though when you’re prepping your house for a showing it’s one of the last things you think about. But taking the time early-on to do a deep cleaning and defrosting will make it simple to keep up, and the ‘newer home’ impression that results can be worth doing.

Fixtures: A little changing out of outdated bathroom fixtures, as well as knobs and pulls on cabinet doors and drawers, can make a huge difference in whether a room comes across as old and tired—or newly updated and presentable. The decisions about whether and what to consider changing can be less than obvious, so giving some thought and imagination into them will be necessary.

Presentation: Set the table? Arrange fresh floral cuttings in more than one room? Leave a note thanking your visitors for considering your home?

Decisions, decisions, decisions! If you will be selling your home in Western New York this summer, your Realtor will be by your side, helping you make informed choices about which are worth pursuing. Starting early is the first one that’s a definite right choice…and we hope calling us for a complimentary assessment will be your second!

Housing in Wheatfield May Be Headed for a Transformation

Of the things Americans take for granted, one of the least questioned is the future availability of familiar housing circumstances: housing that’s ‘like where I grew up.’ For urban dwellers, that might be an apartment or condominium; for others, a single-family home—a house with a yard, or perhaps a farm or ranch house. It may be time to re-examine that whole idea.

Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in multi-generational living arrangements. We read and hear a lot about the housing situation that sees many young adults now living with their parents—but that’s not the whole story. Seniors are increasingly likely to live with their children. The latest census housing data confirms that 9% of seniors now live in a household headed by their children. If you are planning to sell your home this summer, it’s worth thinking how multi-generational living is affecting housing here in Wheatfield.

In the past, multi-generational living was the rule rather than the exception. In 1900, 57% of Americans aged 65 years or older lived with other family members. Following World War II, increased education, better access to loans and the GI bill meant that more young adults could buy homes. At the same time, older adults benefited from social security and medical care which let them live longer independently. By 1990, only 17% of people aged 65 years or older lived with their families.

The recession of 2008 created a job crunch that produced the “boomerang kid” phenomenon: many young adults took longer to leave their parents’ home to seek housing on their own. Too, the growth in the aging proportion of the population has meant that many older Americans are living with their adult children. A third contributor is the increase in the number of ethnic minorities with cultural biases for more than one generation to share housing.

It’s not surprising if the result of these trends is to influence Wheatfield housing preferences. According to the American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey, there has been a traceable rise in demand for “in-law” suites over the past year. There has also been an increase in demand for homes with a master bedroom and full bath on the ground floor—the layout most popular when older parents will be accommodated. Other features such as ramps, home elevators and non-slip floors are also gaining popularity. Den, attics and basements are all also increasingly being converted into bedrooms and living areas for younger adults and older parents.

Developers are also responding to the same trend by introducing housing best described as “multi-generational-friendly”. In 2011, national builder Lennar introduced their “Next Gen” house plan: a layout that has the capacity to become two houses in one. The attached house has its own entrance, bedroom, kitchen and living space. A connecting interior door can convert the house into one big home—but when closed, the two residences are separate. Apparently, the idea has been a notable success: Lennar now offers 50 different Next Gen floor plans in 120 communities across the country.

The return to multi-generational living seems likely to have a significant impact on the types of Wheatfield housing that will be developed in coming decades. Wheatfield houses with in-law and young adult-friendly features (such as additional rooms and bathrooms) are likely to grow in demand. Especially if you’re thinking of remodeling your home, don’t hesitate to contact us before you start. We can offer relevant feedback about how your remodel is likely to affect your sales price now—and throughout coming years.

Niagara Falls Seller Financing Agreements Can Make Deals Happen!

When home prices in Niagara Falls are on the rise, one side effect is that first-time homebuyers may run into a financing obstacle. Although the stricter lending standards of the past few years have been easing somewhat, it still can be difficult for some folks (younger buyers, especially) to purchase the Niagara Falls home they have in their sights.

In that situation, an alternative to a traditional bank mortgage is seller financing. Many prospective buyers know little about the details that make up a seller financing agreement, and how it can–or cannot—help them secure a home.

What Seller Financing Is…

It’s as simple as the words themselves. When part or all of the purchase price of a property is carried by the current owner rather than a bank, it is considered to be “seller” or “owner” financed. Buyer and seller reach agreement on the loan details, including the monthly repayments, term of the loan, and interest rate. The security for the loan is the property itself—a fact which is documented on public records for the safety of both parties.

The Benefits of Seller Financing…

For the buyer, the principal benefit of seller financing is avoiding the requirements that are the hallmarks of traditional bank loans. Motivated sellers, who may be anticipating having trouble selling their home in a timely manner, be willing to advance a loan to buyers who do not traditionally qualify for a loan. Another benefit for the seller is having an investment which returns a fixed rate of return—one that is secured by the property. In the case that the buyer defaults on the loan the seller can foreclose on the property. With seller financing of a Niagara Falls property, the buyer will often compensate for a lower-than-bank-required credit score by agreeing to pay an above-market interest rate (another inducement for the seller).

Financing Part of the Purchase Price…

In some cases, the buyer may be able to secure a traditional loan for only part of the full purchase price. In that case, the buyer can ask the owner if they would be willing to finance the missing piece. Again, the buyer may sometimes offer an interest rate that is above current market rates as an inducement. It’s often possible for the buyer to plan on refinancing the ‘missing piece’ at a later time when the credit picture has improved, hoping to lower the combined interest rate.

But, then…

These advantages are so clear, you might expect that Niagara Falls seller financing arrangements would be very common. There are several reasons why that’s not true. First, owner financing can only be offered by sellers who own their property outright. Second, should a buyer fail to live up to his or her side of the agreement, foreclosing on the property can be a lengthy and expensive process—during which it’s likely that no money will be paid by the buyer in default.

In Niagara Falls, seller financing can be a deal-saving alternative for buyers who may not meet lending standards set by banks, but who can nonetheless afford to service a mortgage. Not all sellers will consider owner financing—but for those who are willing to support the added risk, it can meaningfully expand the pool of prospective buyers. Seller financing is just one of many possible strategies. If you are thinking of buying or selling in Niagara Falls, give us a call as soon as possible to take advantage of this summer’s market opportunities!

Real Estate: America’s New Favorite Long-Term Investment

For Lewiston real estate investors (BTW, that includes homeowners and soon-to-be homeowners of all stripes), there’s some long wished-for news: the solid reputation of real estate as an investment is back! After years of falling off, the latest Gallup poll on the economy and personal finance finds that Americans are now convinced that their best long term investment is in the housing market. Real estate won out against all other alternatives: bonds, gold, stocks, mutual funds and CDs.

For the past few years, gold had been investment #1—but see-sawing gold price movements have whiplashed public sentiment. Just as takes place everywhere in the nation, whenever Lewiston’s real estate market improves, so does its reception by potential buyers who view their home as a savings vehicle as well as a place to hang their hat. As Gallup Economy’s headline put it, Americans Sold on Real Estate as Best Long-Term Investment.

Public sentiment by itself is, of course, not reason enough to change long-term investment strategies. But when any investment class is on the rise in public’s estimation, the effect is to create competition among buyers—and further price improvement often follows. It can make a difference when it comes to Lewiston real estate.

One possibility for those selling real estate in Lewiston this summer might be to consider capitalizing on the investment trend by including a marketing approach: one that targets investors. You can have your agent or a local property manager provide a rental evaluation for the property, along with approximate leasing fees and property management fees. Having such an evaluation at the ready lets investment-minded prospects evaluate the potential cash flow and return. It’s even possible to post the information on your sales website, and to display it along with other marketing materials at showings and open houses.

In many neighborhoods, Lewiston real estate prices have a lot further to go to near their previous high water marks; if you look at neighborhoods individually, you can find some plum opportunities to make a sound investment. If you are thinking of buying or selling in Lewiston this summer, contact us to discuss your ideas—and how you will make the most of America’s new Number One investment opportunity!

Summertime Open House in Wheatfield: the Timing is Perfect!

Estimates so far indicate that summer 2014 is likely to be a better than usual season for Wheatfield home sales. The past winter threw a wet blanket over all kinds of business activity, creating a perfect scenario for a sales bounce back—and that’s exactly what is beginning to show up in the stats. As Bloomberg News reported last week, sales of homes “climbed in April for the first time in three months…the biggest in six months…”

If you will be taking advantage of the uptick by listing your property for this summer’s market, having an open house in Wheatfield NY is a prime way to attract prospective buyers. With a little focus and energy, getting your home in shape can be easier than you might imagine.

The checklist is short:

Landscaping

The place to begin is with the landscaping—it frames the picture that’s the first thing buyers see when they pull up during the warm months. If you don’t have summer flowers planted, that’s okay—improvise! Purchase a few hanging baskets and potted plants. Place them along pathways, the entrance, and other places that could use a little bit of color. Hose the exterior, but if the years have been too tough, you may need a refresher coat of paint or trim. Perk up the lawn with an easy-to-apply lawn food spray; edge where needed; then mow and admire!

Get a Fresh Outlook

Give your windows a good cleaning (outside first)—it’s surprising the amount of sparkle that simple job can add to your Wheatfield open house. Air the house thoroughly as you do a deep clean where it’s needed: usually a shampoo of carpets and rugs will accomplish the lion’s share of the work. Add some summer color to your rooms with fresh throw pillows, and as your open house draws near, see where a few well-placed floral arrangements would add bright color to draw the eye.

Last Checks

Before the day of your open house, there are a few more quick checks to be made. Walk around the house. Are the air conditioner units clean? Are the gutters and rain spouts in good shape? Outdoor spaces are great selling points to make your home more attractive to buyers, and a summertime Wheatfield open house creates the perfect opportunity to show them off. There are always a few little things you’ve been meaning to attend to…now is the time!

Looking for more open house tips? Call us today if you’re thinking of listing your Wheatfield home for sale. We can discuss a marketing plan to get your home S-O-L-D this summer!

Niagara Falls Home Sellers May Benefit from New U.S. Mortgage Rules

U.S. Backs Off Tight Mortgage Rules” screamed the top headline on the front page of The Wall Street Journal last week. For Niagara Falls mortgage shoppers, it could scarcely have been better news. Probably.

‘Probably’ because any change is not yet a done deal, but it’s hard to see what will derail the likely full reverse of the federal establishment’s years-long tight home loan policy. Why is this suddenly in the cards? The full answer is complicated, but here is a quick (admittedly over-simplified) summary of what’s been happening to Niagara Falls mortgage applicants—and what probably lies ahead.

The ongoing real estate recovery has been less of a boon to banks (including Niagara Falls’ mortgage originators) than to other participants because of tightened lending guidelines. Since the economic meltdown had been triggered by the crash of too many ‘easy money’ mortgages that had been repackaged and sold to Wall Street investors, regulators created mortgage guidelines that were much stricter.

Although borrowers found it harder to qualify for mortgages, at the same time, the Federal Reserve held interest rates at such bargain-basement levels real estate sales hummed. But first-time borrowers found it hard to qualify.

But lately, observers of the national scene have been worrying. Over the past months, the gradual cooling of real estate activity may have been welcome in the sense that the torrid rate of activity had slowed from an unsustainable pace—but some economists began to fret. Even though there was still some growth, now there wasn’t enough—and that could stall the recovery for the whole economy.

Washington has decided to listen to the worrywarts: hence last week’s WSJ headline story. It reported on the first speech delivered by Mel Watt, the new boss of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants whose policies largely guide what happens when you apply for a Niagara Falls mortgage.

Among a number of other rules, there had been in place a basic guideline calling for minimum 20% down payments (and punishing repercussions for banks who didn’t agree). But one result came as a surprise to regulators: lenders were newly fearful of requirements that might penalize them for even reasonable loans that went bad, so they became even tougher than the guidelines! Real estate loans began to dry up. It had been hoped that private lenders would take the place of Fannie and Freddie, allowing the government to gradually back out of its leading role. But the lenders sat on their wallets.

Of his decision to lighten up on credit barriers, Mr. Watt explained that he hoped “that lenders will start operating more inside the credit box that Fannie and Freddie” provide. In other words, that mortgage originators will add to the easing effect by hewing to the guidelines instead of exceeding them. If so, we can expect an influx of long-frustrated first-time homebuyers.

If you have been thinking of offering your own Niagara Falls NY home for sale anytime soon, that should be a most encouraging development!

Selling A Lewiston Home In Summer Needs Special Staging

As the days grow longer and the thermometer rises, everyone wants to start spending more time outdoors—to make full use of our yards and patios. But what if your Lewiston home is going to be on the market this summer? Does it mean you have to stop enjoying yourself, stop entertaining guests, just because you want to keep the place in showable condition?

The answer is, of course, of course not. Using the outdoor spaces of your home means striking a balance between living your life and ensuring everything is in top condition when buyers come calling. It’s actually a staging opportunity, because most of your prospective buyers will be favorably impressed if your outdoor staging areas make it easy to picture themselves enjoying our beautiful Lewiston summer weather.

Staging your home’s landscaping thus takes added importance during summertime, beginning with overall curb appeal. Any time of year, potential buyers are often swayed by that first impression: as they approach the house, the impact will be one they’d like their own future visitors to have. Staging an inviting front yard appearance does wonders for your selling prospects.

Make sure your lawn is trimmed and the yard edged. During springtime and fall, a 2”-3” grass length is recommended, but as the hotter summer months approach, longer grass will help shade the soil and keep roots comfy. Minimize brown spots and thin patches by giving the blades an extra half inch.

Staging walkways and driveways means keeping cemented areas free of volunteer growing things. Having weeds, clover, or anything sprouting between stones or pavement is not only unsightly, it brings to mind the work required for upkeep (a turnoff to prospects). Although chemical herbicides are popular, an eco-conscious (and penny-conscious) alternative is plain old kitchen vinegar.

The most important staging advice for the outside of the house is that it give the impression that a fresh coat of paint won’t be needed for quite a while. Cleaning it can be enough, or if not, new paint may be needed. You can opt for professional painting, but if your home is sided, or if you’ve recently (within the past five years) had your home painted, pay attention to details like windows and other smaller touchups you can easily do yourself.

If staging the back (and possibly front) yards is likely to be a really important part of marketing your Lewiston home, give some attention to outdoor furniture. It’s expensive stuff, so if it’s going to really be a key selling point for the property, it might be worth the effort to really make the space shine. If you don’t have any outdoor furniture (and don’t plan to need any in your new house), consider hiring a stager just to handle the exterior spaces.  Less expensive than a full home staging, exterior staging can make a huge difference in the overall appeal of your Lewiston home during the outdoor months.

Once you’ve revitalized of your home’s outdoor areas, keeping it in top showing condition need consist of little more than the regular weekly yard work and cleanup, a relaxing prospect for enjoying your property throughout the good weather months. And do give us a call—We’re standing by to take care of the rest!

Could Wheatfield Property Sales Actually be Made in Bitcoins?

Would you be willing to sell your Wheatfield property to a buyer who is offering virtual currency?

In recent news, there has been an influx of people who are putting their homes up for sale in Bitcoins. It may be actually worthwhile to consider the upsides, because doing so opens up your Wheatfield property to a vast new market (not to mention potentially garnering the attention of your local media and scads more traditional buyers who are in their audience).

You may have read last December’s reports about the man who tried to sell his ranch-style home in New York for $799,000 worth of bitcoins. Another seller, a 22-year-old Canadian man, put up his advertisement in March. He had the distinction of being the first one in his town to advertise a home in exchange for the popular digital currency.

Now in case you’ve been putting off trying to figure out what Bitcoin actually is, perhaps we can save you some trouble. It’s an open source and decentralized peer-to-peer payment system that allows its users to buy and sell in virtual cash.

In case that sounds like gobbledygook, in the simplest terms, it’s a system where you don’t need to have real, government-minted cash to close a transaction—all you need is an online “bank account” with enough Bitcoin to pay for its dollar equivalent. Bitcoin’s primary attraction is to those who feel queasy about the stability of traditional currency, especially those who fear inflation. Their fears are quelled by Bitcoin’s creators, who guarantee that only a certain amount of Bitcoin will ever be allowed to circulate. Apparently, many people believe them.

Bitcoin might be new (introduced in 2009), but it is gaining more and more popularity. Even businesses like Overstock.com, Virgin Atlantic, the Sacramento Kings, TigerDirect, Atomic Mall, Clearly Canadian, and Zynga now accept bitcoins. As more credible parties accept them, the more credible the phenomenon becomes.

How could it help you sell your Wheatfield property? Many people who are using the services of online advertisers are technologically savvy, and usually aware of how Bitcoin is fast becoming a popular payment system for online transactions. Compared with credit cards which generally charge 2 to 3% in transaction fees, Bitcoin fees are much lower—practically negligible. Because it currently resides in such a small market niche, that target audience is especially attentive to Bitcoin-traded products. There is also the likelihood that at least some traditional buyers who stumble across such a unique offering will find themselves intrigued enough to investigate your property further. You may even make the news. Talk about free advertising!

Whether or not you’re a Bitcoin believer—if you’re ready to sell your property in Wheatfield this summer and want state-of-the-art marketing input—you’ve come to the right place. Call us today to discuss a marketing plan that, Bitcoin or not, is designed to bring in the buyers!

Boost Your Youngstown Home’s Curb Appeal in a Single Weekend!

It’s usually the curb appeal Youngstown properties put out there that either plants a winning first impression…or a ho-hum (maybe it’s more interesting inside) reaction. This holds for casual passers-by as well as serious prospects who are pulling up for a scheduled house showing. It’s simply true: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

If you will be listing your home this summer, adding a thoughtful extra touch or two to the outside can transform your Youngstown property’s curb appeal into its first strong selling point. After all, what buyer won’t favor a home they’d be proud to have friends and co-workers visit?

Here are some simple and affordable projects—each of which can be started and finished in a single weekend!

  • Exterior lighting styles are constantly being reinvented, so if it’s been more than five years since the last time you thought about the amount of curb appeal your current fixtures add, this one’s for you! Once the sun goes down, take a look at what passers-by see—and compare it with your Youngstown neighbors’. Explore the latest fixtures available at area lighting shops and the big-box hardware stores—there are plenty of imaginative new designs. Even consider improving your home’s nighttime sparkle by adding a lighted path from driveway to door.
  • Your prospective buyers will be favorably impressed when an Youngstown home’s curb appeal invites them to see themselves as part of the picture. That’s not an abstract notion—investing in a few pieces of attractive, comfortable-looking outdoor furniture and arranging them on the front porch all but compels it! Buyers will automatically picture themselves enjoying a leisurely chat out there…and if the porch layout is right, you might make it extra-inviting with a warm indoor/outdoor rug and some weatherproof decorative pillows.
  • Extensive flower beds can turn some buyers off if they don’t want the hassle of upkeep—but a few flower pots or window planters look wonderfully inviting when people drive up to the house. Decide if some large pots along the driveway, sidewalk, or entryway would provide color and character; or put up a pair of ready-made window boxes. Filled with easy-maintenance annuals like marigolds, petunias, or impatiens, this simple touch can make a disproportionately effective difference.
  • Sometimes you don’t have to paint the whole house when you put your house on the market: just spruce up the front door, shutters, or trim. Some sandpaper, a wire brush and modest amount of paint can do the trick. This is a quick and affordable way to add curb appeal to the entire house—a facelift without spending tons on painters and paint.
  • Ancient, peeling house numbers on the mailbox or by the front door can destroy curb appeal. Youngstown prospects usually spot them first when they search for your address, so save the day with a new mailbox (or just some gleaming new replacement numerals).

Ready to list in 2014? Preparation should start weeks (even months) before the marketing goes live—making for a much less stressful opening weekend. Contact us soon for a preliminary evaluation to get your Youngstown home ready for the market!

Repair Demands: Par for the Course for Selling a Lewiston Home

If you have taken good care of your property, you rightfully expect that selling your area home will result in its fetching a good price when it hits the market. That’s the right mindset for success, but it serves sellers best when it’s only a starting point. Dealing with flesh-and-blood buyers can require some judicious flexibility—for one reason, there is usually an inconspicuous (somewhat annoying) fly in the ointment. The metaphoric fly is the fact that no property is without its flaws; and its metaphoric buzzing is likely to get louder as your sale’s closing grows nearer.

Structural elements of a house have varying life spans since wear and tear is inevitable in any space where people live. Many of a home’s features eventually require repair, and if it’s very soon, given that most informed buyers expect to take over a property with as few problems as possible, post-inspection demands can result. Especially if you’ve put a good deal of effort into getting everything shipshape, it can be maddening.

Nevertheless, plan to ignore any impulse to scrap the sale and tell the buyer to take a hike. Since some post-inspection requests are par for the course, you should know your options when you’re selling a home in Lewiston and your buyer requests repairs.

Repair Obligation for the Seller

As the seller of the property, you are not required to fix anything in the home inspection report. Any repairs cited are points of negotiation: just because an inspector cites flaws, that doesn’t mean repairs have to take place before the sale can be completed. If you don’t want to accept a purchase agreement that is conditioned on the completion of repairs, that is your option.

Purchasing a Home Warranty for the Buyer

Buyers sometimes request that you as seller pay for a home warranty. A home warranty generally covers the buyer’s outlay for major defects for a year following purchase. Such a warranty will typically cost no more than $600, and again, the decision to purchase one is up to the party selling a home.

Major Repairs

In many cases, requested repairs will be relatively minor, so it’s often preferable to have them made to proceed without further wrangling. But (you can almost hear that fly buzzing louder) should requested repairs be more extensive, you’ll have to evaluate the cost against the sale price.

Whether to Complete a Repair

Your home might be your pride and joy, but it is important not to take requests for repairs personally. Selling a Lewiston home is most successful when the seller first carefully examines the request, then makes a rational assessment based on what will produce the optimal outcome. If a next-best offer is on the table, its terms should be reexamined. You can also offer to proceed with the original purchase agreement but not agree to complete the repairs as requested. If the buyer likes your home and believes the price is reasonable, he or she may agree to proceed with the purchase as-is.

Whether or not you are concerned about potential repairs, if you are thinking of selling your home in Lewiston this summer, contact us today for a complimentary evaluation!

Showing Your Lewiston Home—Organization’s the Trick

When you’re selling your home, keeping it ready to show at a moment’s notice can sometimes make a major difference. In a perfect world, prospective buyers will always have time to schedule showings in advance—but exceptions do occur. That’s why experienced sellers know how to juggle living a normal life at the same time they are keeping their place ‘show-ready’ by calling on a few organizational tricks. They really aren’t all that difficult (but do take a commitment to stay organized). When you follow them, it makes showing your home in town a snap!

Supplies at the Ready:

The easiest way to stay on top of messes is to nail them when they start. Stock up on wipes and ready-to-use supplies (think pre-soaked wipes and erasers instead of rags, sprays and mops)—and stash them in key locations around the house. Between showings, you can even keep them in plain sight: it reminds you to wipe down surfaces after each use without making it a major project. Regular quick wipe-downs will keep your home shiny and inviting—even when showing your Lewiston home comes as a last-minute surprise.

Simplify Storage

Place a few attractive bins and storage ottomans strategically in rooms that are prone to clutter (playrooms, bedrooms and dens). Encourage everyone to make a habit of throwing the odds and ends into them before the end of the day, and removing things only as they are needed. Showing your home on a dime becomes a no-brainer when the clutter lives out of sight.

Start Packing

If you haven’t already started packing, get going early. Pack up everything you don’t use regularly—like those shelves of books you haven’t touched in years. And deal with the off-season wardrobe: when you’re actively showing your home in Lewiston NY this spring or summer, those fall and winter items should be headed into storage.

Make Small Adjustments

This idea is optional—but it really works! Encourage everyone to remove their shoes at the front door. Place a decorative mat at the entrance (and include a coat rack if the weather calls for it). This temporary house rule works to get everyone in on the act, and subtly helps keep them conscious that showing your home is partly everyone’s responsibility. It’s also a reminder to keep packages and bags from building up near those doorways.

When showing your Lewiston, NY home is part of a well-planned and systematic project, just a few of these relatively minor adjustments can keep you and your family cool and collected—and make even last-minute showings a breeze. Our clients make the rules for what the minimum heads-up time for scheduling a showing will be, and we stick to it. But when they are able to create an environment when the odd last-minute showing is a no-stress possibility, it does seem to have a way of increasing the odds that the latest showing…becomes the last!

Wheatfield Home Sellers: Adapt to Millennial Real Estate Preferences

The generation born between the early 80s and just after the turn of the century (aka Millennials) have been slower to take the first steps toward home ownership than previous generations. That’s likely one of the byproducts of the cultural and economic shifts which have combined to make real estate less affordable (and proportionately less appealing). While there is no denying that lately it’s been a difficult environment for many Millennials to jump into the real estate market in Wheatfield, there are still plenty of young people who would like to buy a home.

But what makes Wheatfield real estate attractive to these younger prospects can be a lot different than what has traditionally drawn previous generations of buyers. And with fewer motivated prospects in this younger generation, if you will be selling your own Wheatfield NY property anytime soon, you should have your antennae up for how to include them in with your other potential buyers.

It’s no secret that Millennials devote a disproportionate amount of their time in the online world. In 2013, the number of hours Millennials spent on the Internet increased by 25% to nearly 25 hours per week. In short, homes with poor wireless and mobile connections will be a difficult sell to millennial buyers. If your current connection is slow, research other providers which will be available for a new buyer. Just the fact that such options are available can be enough to remove what could potentially block a sale.

Millennial buyers (well, most buyers, actually) don’t like cluttered homes—especially those littered with outdated furniture: it’s just too much of a leap to picture how they could make their own lifestyle fit into such a space. According to real estate website Homegain, sellers who invest just $500 in home staging can be expected to reap an average 343% on that investment.

Millennials work from home in greater numbers than ever before—so presenting one of your rooms as a home office can create an appealing environment. Even if a room is currently being used for other purposes, having a wireless device working in a corner will usually be enough of a cue to point out its home office potential. If no dedicated room is available, staging a corner in the kitchen as a mobile docking/work station can also do the trick.

Millennials aren’t just refraining from purchasing homes—they’re also avoiding car purchases in the same numbers. The percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds with driver’s licenses has been dropping since 1997 (it’s now under 70% for the first time since the early 60’s). Walkability is the term describing how easy or difficult it is to walk to work, public transportation, stores, parks and other facilities. If this factor is a real estate plus for your home, create a bullet point list of approximate times or distance to local features that are closest to your property. Five or six should be enough (even if some are just a pond or small local market!)

There is a convincing amount of evidence indicating Millennials are simply delaying real estate purchases—rather than planning to skip home ownership altogether. As the economy slowly improves, we expect greater numbers of younger buyers to enter town’s real estate market. For now, if you will be listing your property in town this spring or summer, it’s important to keep all potential client pools in mind. We’re here to help cover all the bases—call us today if you want get going with a marketing plan designed to sell!

Spring is Prime Time to List a Youngstown Vacation Home

Before April 15th came and went, perhaps you and your accountant had one of those occasional chats about your assets and liabilities. If owning your vacation home in Youngstown has resulted in more taxes or less financial gain than you’d planned for—or if you and your family just don’t use the place as often as you used to–this spring or summer is a good time to consider selling. If you have lost some love for your extra house, but don’t want to go through the rigmarole of renting it out season-to-season, the selling alternative could be at hand.

USA Today recently featured an article headlined, “How to Sell Vacation Property.” In it, author Jennifer Eblin pointed out, “Your real estate agent should understand that selling a vacation property is different from selling any other piece of property…and have intimate knowledge of the surrounding area.”

That kind of experience is doubly helpful when it comes from dealing with vacation homes similar to your own. If your home-away-from-home is in a condominium community, a Realtor® who is  familiar with the community is most likely to have intimate knowledge of price points, selling points—and deal breakers that can sometimes make all the difference for your own sale.

Just as important as teaming with the right real estate agent is making sure the property is in top condition. Few Youngstown NY vacation home buyers will be looking for a “fixer-upper”—so plan to spruce up the house before it goes on the market. Make small repairs, repaint dull or off-color walls, and depersonalize as much as possible. Picture what drew you to the property back when you bought it: present that same space and feeling to the new owners.

In almost every case, right about now is a highly favorable time to list a Youngstown, NY vacation home. This is the season when people are looking forward to the warmer months and wishing they had a great place of their own in which to enjoy them. With winter still fresh in people’s minds, a well-priced Youngstown vacation home listing stands the best chance of drawing a crowd.

The bottom line is that selling a vacation home in Youngstown is about selling an idea—whether it’s a rustic escape or a luxurious retreat from the daily grind. Make sure your property speaks that language, and we’ll be standing by–ready to do the rest!

What You Should do if Your Wheatfield Home Won’t Sell

Even in today’s Wheatfield real estate market there are still a surprising number of homes that have been on the market for a few months with no obvious signs of activity. If your Wheatfield, NY home has been on the market for a while without any serious offers, it’s probably time to take another look at your strategy and your home to make it more attractive to buyers:

1. Review your asking price
The number one reason we see Wheatfield, NY homes sit on the market is because of listing price. If your home is priced above the market the likelihood of selling it are greatly reduced. Your Realtor® should have provided you with a list of comparable recent home sales in your area along with a professional analysis to figure out the proper selling price (if your Realtor didn’t provide this, contact us and we’ll send you one).

Drive by the homes on the comparable sales list your Realtor provides to get a feel for what’s been selling.
• Are those homes really comparable to your home?
• Are they in the same condition as your home?
• Are the schools of the same quality as the schools in your neighborhood?
Pay particular attention to any differences (or in any variances in HOA or Mello Roos) as they can significantly impact your home’s value versus the Wheatfield marketplace. A good comparative market analysis will help you figure out the RIGHT listing price for your home.

2. Take a video of your home
Shoot a video of your Wheatfield home both outside and inside. Then watch the video (preferably on a computer or larger screen) objectively as if you were a potential home buyer. What do you see? Look for negative elements such as weeds growing in the yard, dirty carpets, or a cluttered interior. It’s important to notice negative elements you can quickly fix to make your home more appealing to buyers. It may surprise you to see what your home looks like when viewed on camera.

3. Leave during your home’s open house or showings
It is vitally important that you leave the house when buyers are touring your home. Potential buyers will not feel comfortable looking in closets or in drawers with you standing over their shoulder. They will also be less likely to express their true opinion about your home. Therefore, do everything you can to be scarce during showings. Additionally, if you have pets, take them with you along with items like food bowls and litter boxes. The last thing you want is for potential buyers to contend with your pet pitbull or the odors coming from a litterbox.
4. Hold an open house on a weeknight
While most buyers in the market for a Wheatfield home are accustomed to attending open houses on weekends, there are those for whom weekends just don’t work. By holding an open house on a weeknight you face less competition than on a weekend and may draw in buyers who normally would not have seen your home.
5. Consider staging your home
To stage a home simply you can just remove all personal items, add neutral window coverings, paint in neutral colors, and take down most decorations (most homes are over-cluttered). Ask your Realtor for advice. For example, you may love zebra print and red accents; however, that’s not going to appeal to most buyers. Loud designs and bold colors can easily detract from the positive aspects of a home. If you feel you can handle the staging project yourself, have at it. However, if the process of staging your home seems overwhelming there are companies that can professionally stage your Wheatfield NY home for you. Contact us for a reputable referral.
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If you find yourself in a position where your house just won’t sell, DO NOT just sit and wait for things to change. Take action before market conditions change! Feel free to give us a ring if you’d like some advice.

Homeowners in Wheatfield, NY Hope to Match National Price Rises

2014 has already given an encouraging start for Wheatfield, NY homeowners who consider national price movements as the best pointers for what we can expect for local real estate. Already in February, median house prices were up 7.6% nationally year over year (that according to the US National Housing Trend Report). It followed a similar 8.3% increase in January. The question many Wheatfield, NY homeowners have is whether this upward movement can be sustained throughout 2014.

Two Years of Historically High Growth
If we look at the historical record, values normally rise somewhere in the area of 3% to 5% annually. But over the last couple of years, gains have been considerably higher. As measured by the Case-Schiller Index, property prices in the 20 largest U.S. cities have increased 21% since they bottomed out. Even considering the depth from which they started, that is still remarkable.

Factors Likely To Influence Home Prices
Among factors which could influence performance in the year ahead, one of the most prominent is the continuing historically low interest rates. According to the leading financial website Bankrate, as of this writing, the average no-point, 30-year fixed mortgage was edging downward again to 4.32%. That may be up from a year ago, but, by way of contrast, the long-term average for a 30-year mortgage is estimated to be 8.56%!
Even considering Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s stated intention to continue the Fed’s expansive monetary policy, most observers consider it all but inevitable that as the economy improves, quantitative easing will be cut back…pressuring interest rates to rise (and last month the Federal Reserve made a $10 billion cut in its economic stimulus program).
Two other factors likely to weigh heavily on future price moves are foreclosures and negative equity. As real estate prices increase, the number of Wheatfield, NY homeowners whose homes register negative equity will steadily decrease. An improving economy will also mean that foreclosure rates continue to decline.

Predictions for the Year Ahead

According to Zillow’s national Home Value Forecast, homeowners can expect residential real estate prices to rise 4.8% across the nation through December 2014. Economists also expects that inventory—the number of homes offered for sale—will increase as more sellers are encouraged by higher prices and new home construction ramps up.
All in all, it’s easy to see why overall expectations are for this to be a solid year for residential home price increases—even taking into account expectations for rises in interest rates and housing inventory. Exactly when is, of course, something that’s impossible to predict. While this year isn’t expected to duplicate the spectacular gains of the past two years, all indications are that it will wind up being another good year for homeowners in Wheatfield, NY.
In case the forecasts have you wondering what your home is now worth, why not contact us today to discuss your own home’s prospects in this spring’s active market?

Lewiston Rental Property Gains Make Selling Tempting

It’s one of the skills a successful Lewiston rental property investor needs to cultivate: if or when to sell. With property prices on the rise, some Lewiston landlords may in fact be asking themselves whether now is the time to cash in. Especially for most everyone whose rental property investment was made during the last few years, it’s already been a profitable gambit. According to the Case Schiller Index, by last year’s close, property prices across the nation had risen at the fastest rate in the previous nine years.

But if—and then when—to sell a Lewiston rental property can be a tough call. As a relatively illiquid investment, it takes a great deal more commitment than the decision to sell a stock or cash in a bond. But sometimes there are circumstances that can make the decision a little easier. For instance:

-Cash flow

One clear reason why you might choose to sell is if the rental property is losing money. The rental may have been vacant for too long, or the rent level may not have been sufficient to cover expenses. In many cases, other real estate investors will be willing to lose money in the short term on a property they believe will appreciate in the future. It’s also possible that a full-time rental property professional may be able to tap economies of scale that are not possible for every individual investor.

-Greener pastures

Your Lewiston rental property may be doing fine—making money and showing substantial value growth—but now an unusually promising alternative investment has appeared. With the strong spring market, it may make sense to sell now to reinvest the profits elsewhere.

-Taxes

Everyone’s tax situation is different, and the tax environment is subject to change. Even if that weren’t the case, there are some years when personal finances mean that a sale would be a much better idea than others. As with any substantial financial decision, your accountant or other financial adviser will have the relevant input.

-“Landlorditis”

Being a landlord is not for everyone. Sometimes a professional property manager can alleviate nearly all the stress for an investor who doesn’t relish the vocation, but even then, there can be other chores: bookkeeping, manager management, a leak-through of tenant personality issues…that prompt a landlord to decide he or she would rather direct energy elsewhere. Opting for more passive forms of investment is always a possibility.

Lewiston has already benefited from some of the fruits of the national real estate recovery – but that alone doesn’t answer whether this spring is an opportune time for you to consider selling your Lewiston rental property. Call us today for a comprehensive property evaluation—the key piece of information that will help you decide!

 

Keeping Youngstown Real Estate Sales on Track

The slick, entertaining formats of HGTV’s many buying and selling programs makes for great entertainment – but, as anyone who has ever actually bought or sold a house knows, they tend to leave some key information on the cutting room floor. Sure, real estate sales in Youngstown can in fact involve elements of creativity, presentation, personality, all of which make for interesting television viewing. But in real reality, successful real estate sales are largely based on contracts, disclosures, inspections, contingencies, and time. They may be less telegenic, but can be dramatic, especially when you’ve done everything in your power to make sure that a deal works out smoothly, only to be faced with last minute surprises that threaten to prevent you from closing (or cost you a bundle!).

 

Here are some of the major issues that can impede Youngstown real estate sales—and how to prevent them from happening:

 

  • Not Weighing the Comps

When you are in the process of making a major decision, it’s natural to seek the opinions of the people who are closest to you. When it comes to real estate sales, however, personal opinions from well-intentioned non-professionals can create distractions that wind up doing more harm than good. In the realm of contracts and negotiations, it’s important to give weight to the opinions of experienced real estate pros. They know how to provide unbiased guidance based on comps and statistics rather than emotion.

  • Verbal Agreements

Whether you are selling or buying, it’s essential to get any agreements about repairs or updates in writing. Parties will often discuss repairs or credits and assume that a verbal agreement will suffice. Not true. Not only can a repair come back to haunt you later, but certain repairs left uncompleted can delay the close of escrow.

  • Last Minute Changes

Whether it’s taking out a loan on a new car or holding one final goodbye party at the house, last minute actions by buyers and sellers have an uncanny ability to hold up a deal. When you are in contract for a property, keep your eye on the prize: if you’re the seller, don’t do anything that increases the risk of damage to the house. If you’re the buyer, don’t make sudden changes in your financial life until you are the legal owner of that property.

 

Buying and selling property is more intricate than a 30-minute TV show, but the end of the episode should feature the same broad smiles and satisfied handshakes—particularly if you don’t let an innocent move derail the purchase. Real estate sales in Youngstown, NY are our business; call us anytime or visit Great Lakes Real Estate!

 

Responses Quicken with Quality Listing Photos in Niagara and Erie County

In advertising, they call the photo that glamorizes a product its ‘hero shot.’ In the case of a real estate listing in Niagara or Erie County, the pictures that accompany the written description can all be hero shots, if enough care is taken.

In one Auburn University study (The Relationship between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service), it was found that adding a single photograph to a listing could lift the final sale price by as much as 3.9%. That’s not surprising, but what is noteworthy is that each additional listing photograph added several hundred dollars to the final selling price. In other words, it’s not just the curbside photo at the top of a Niagara or Erie County listing that should be given great care—it’s all of ‘em!

Aside from the usual advice to de-clutter, use light appealingly, etc., there are some less well known tips that can help maximize the eye-appeal of a listing in places like Lewiston, Amherst, Buffalo, Williamsville, etc.:

The Exterior

The exterior photograph is considered by most professional real estate photographers to be by far the most important shot. I’m not sure I agree. Of course, it sets the stage for everything else, and has to be attractive enough to rate a second look, but those second looks of the interior and garden can differentiate the listing from the crowd. A superior exterior can often be achieved by elevating point of view (IOW, shoot from a stepladder)…or sometimes by scheduling the shot in early morning or late afternoon light (to catch the most dramatic light).

Back Against the Wall!

For the majority of your listing interiors, you’ll want wide angle shots which emphasize spaciousness. Most work better when the photograph is taken from a doorway or corner with the widest lens (that’s the one with the lowest focal length number)—as long as it doesn’t overly distort the image.

Funhouse Effect

Always ensure that your camera is completely horizontal. Correct the ‘barrel effect’ on vertical lines to ensure that all of the walls appear straight. When you’re looking through a viewfinder or small digital screen, it’s all too easy to overlook the sides by concentrating on the center of the picture. That’s an amateur mistake (and slanted walls make a room look like a carnival funhouse!)

Flash Extra

Take at least one extra shot using the on-camera flash or strobe. True, often that will result in an unevenly lit alternative that you will discard…but now and then, the on-camera light will boost clarity and color that’s more pleasing than what natural light provides.

Great-looking listing shots in Niagara and Erie County make a significant difference in the degree of response a property draws. We always help our clients with the listing photographs—it’s one of many tools to ensure their listing gets the exposure and results it deserves!