Friday, February 17, 2012

What home sellers can learn from the "New American Home"

by Kevin Durawa

The National Association of Home Builders' 2012 "New American Home" model was unveiled this past weekend at the International Builders Convention. For those who aren't familiar, every year, a high-end model home is designed and built for the event that attempts to encompass housing market trends across the country. For those of you interested in selling a home this year, we thought that taking a look at some of the features that the "New American Home" has to offer could provide you the perspective to help you sell your home faster, particularly with the help of one of your local real estate agents in New York:

1. Good things come in small packages. If you think that your home is having trouble selling because it's on the smaller side, think again. This year's model measures 4,181 square feet, which, while still large, is a significant decrease in size from last year's 6,800-square-foot model. In fact, a more modest home may very well be appealing to people interested in buying a home, because the unstable economy and unemployment rate means that even well-off Americans are opting for more frugal, fiscally responsible investments.

2. Green is the new black. Yet again, green amenities such as a electric car charging station and solar paneling were featured on the model. While these are pricey investments, you and your family can make several relatively inexpensive "green" additions to your home, such as low-flow faucets, weatherstripping or automatic thermostats, that will make your home even more appealing to buyers.

3. One big, happy family. This year's "New American Home" also featured something interesting: a spare bedroom and wing for an additional family member, such as a recent graduate or grandparent. Many viewers noted that this development could be a result of the new trend in multigenerational homes, perhaps as a result of high unemployment rates among young people and heavy retirement home costs. As such, converting a study or basement into an additional bedroom could help when you market your home to these families.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top 10 Deal Breakers & How To Avoid Them

(From Trulia, by Ginger Wilcox)

Your buyers have found the home of their dreams, started packing their stuff and have mentally moved in when suddenly a challenge arises that could put a serious wrench in the home buying process. In today’s market, finding the home is only the start of a transaction that can have many stumbling blocks along the way.

Here are the top 10 deal breakers buyers and sellers encounter that can impact the sale of a home:

1. Fixtures and Personal Property Pitfalls
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen deals falter because of disagreements over silly stuff like who gets the fireplace screen, the wall sconces or the appliances. For some buyers and sellers it can be difficult to distinguish between personal property and fixtures that come with the house. I once had someone try to take a beloved bathtub. Like the buyer wouldn’t notice?

How to avoid it- Disputes over fixtures and personal property are common. It is important to educate your client about the difference between attached appliances and personal property but there are times when the lines get blurred. Wall mounted flat screen TVs are frequently an issue. If something is really special to a homeowner, recommend the sellers remove the item before you put the house on the market. Have a beloved chandelier? Replace it before you start showing the home with an acceptable alternative. If this isn’t possible, exclude it in MLS along with frequently confused items like that flat screen and make sure it is excluded at the time the offer is written as well. Buyers should investigate and include any items that are important to them.

2. The dreaded ex-wife/husband
There may be many reasons to dread an ex, but when it comes to selling a property, it can impact the sale of a home. We often see situations where the owners got divorced but he/she didn’t sign off. Finding this out late in the process can be problematic, especially when one of the parties no longer has a financial interest in selling the home. This scenario along with other clouds on the title can take time to clear. Bank owned properties often come with title issues such as unpaid garbage fines that can impact your closing.

How to avoid it: Get a preliminary title report as soon as possible and be sure to ask your seller if there are any potential claims on the title.

3. Buyers Buying “Stuff”
Your first time home buyers are moving into their new home. They don’t have a washer and dryer of their own and the local appliance store is offering a smoking deal – get a store credit card, and save 15% on the purchase of your new appliances! Sound like a steal? It might just kill your deal.

Time and again we counsel buyers not to make major purchases before close of escrow such as a new car or major appliances, and time and again, some appliance store has a great “deal” that kills the deal. Any major purchase the impacts your credit can also impact your loan being funded too.

How to avoid it: Regularly remind your buyers to wait on appliance purchases, new car purchases, furniture and more until they the loan has been funded. Tell them to put those credit cards away until the paperwork is recorded.

4. Failure To Disclose
“But Ginger, I didn’t know I had to disclose that the hill behind the house next door came down last spring. It didn’t impact my part of the hill.” I have had to fight with sellers to get them to disclose certain facts about their home, but it is almost always better to over share when it comes to disclosure. Inevitably, a neighbor is going to tell the prospective buyer about the sliding hill, the formerly moldy basement or about the meth lab around the corner.

How to avoid it: When in doubt, disclose, disclose, disclose. Problems always seem much bigger when they are uncovered by a buyer after they are in contract.

5. Appraisal Nightmares
We went through a period of time when appraisals always magically came in at the offer price. For the most part, those times are gone. Appraisals are common deal breakers, and in many transactions, you don’t just have one. Review appraisals of the first appraisal are commonplace.

How to avoid it: Make sure the lender has a qualified appraiser. When possible, accompany the appraiser on the inspection. Prepare your clients in advance that the purchase price may have to be renegotiated or a higher down payment may need to be brought in if the appraisal comes in low.

6. Who Owns What?
Your buyer thinks they are getting a 6000 square foot lot, only to find out that the fence is built on the neighboring property. Or they think they own the driveway, but it is really an easement on property owned by the cranky old neighbor. Lot lines, shared driveways, and fences are common stumbling blocks in a transaction.

How to avoid it: Review the preliminary title report carefully. Legal descriptions aren’t always easy to read, but take the time and effort to have your client do so carefully. Have a title officer walk you through the title report to explain anything unusual. You should have your client go to the city/county authorities to review the items on file. If your client is concerned about the lot boundaries, have them perform a survey. While surveys can be costly, not knowing the actual boundaries can be costlier says Diana Rugh, a Realtor with David Lyng Real Estate, in Santa Cruz County, California. If a client is only concerned about one side of the property, she has her clients perform a partial survey for just the side in question.

7. No permits
In many areas, unpermitted additions or remodels have become serious deal killers. Many cities and towns have implemented pre-sale inspections to fill their dwindling coffers.

How to avoid it: If city/town inspections are required, get them in advance, correct any required issues, and get your clearance. Some municipalities don’t operate on the swiftest timeline, so start as early as you can.

8. Unexpected inspection findings
I used to work with an inspector that other agents called the deal killer and honestly, he was. But he was also a lawsuit saver. When you have a client paying hundreds of thousands if not multiple millions of dollars for a house, they should know what they are buying. I call inspection periods the second negotiation phase of the deal. Inspections are common deal breakers when agreement cannot be reached over repairs. Sarah Stelmok, a Realtor in Fredericksburg, VA almost lost a deal when the home inspection uncovered numerous dead felines in a crawl space. Amazingly enough, she was able to hold it together, the felines were removed and she closed the deal.

How to avoid it: Get inspections before the property is actively on the market. Buyers will probably still get their own, but at least you can resolve serious problems that may send a buyer running in advance. Repairs almost always cost a seller less if the buyer knows about it before they write their offer.

9. The lender changed the rules
This may be hard to imagine, but sometimes you are ready to rock and roll, you got your buyer pre-approved, not just pre-qualified, you are in contract and everything looks great until- poof- the lender changes the rules. Suddenly your buyer can’t meet the lender documentation requirements. This would have been helpful to know in advance.

How to avoid it: Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to avoid it other than working with a reputable mortgage broker or lender with a solid record of closing transactions. If you represent the buyer, you may want to recommend the buyer leave their loan contingency in place until the loan is funded. If market conditions don’t permit this, make sure your buyer is aware of the ramifications if the loan doesn’t fund.

10. The bank doesn’t care
If the property being purchased is a short sale, the bank is pretty much in charge and they simply don’t care about your timeline. I have heard of people celebrating two and three year anniversaries of working on a short sale. When it comes to short sale timelines, anything goes, or better yet- who knows?!

How to avoid it: The best way to save a deal when a bank is involved is to make sure your buyers have appropriate expectations about the process. Educate them of the pitfalls of working with a bank. You might want to share the handout found in this article on the 5 Most Common Complaints of Short Sale and REO Buyers.

One of the best ways to avoid killing a deal- educating your clients about the entire home buying/selling process to make sure everyone is properly prepped goes a long way to holding deals together.

Ginger Wilcox is Head of Training at Trulia. Ginger has sold real estate in California and Arizona. Follow Ginger on Twitter

Friday, December 17, 2010

After all these glorious years, "Ludgates" is passing the torch!

A few weeks ago, Mike Ludgate sent out this announcement. "After 37 years as a family business and no heirs to take it into the next generation, the Ludgate family is exploring new options. It has been especially difficult to manage without "The Squire" around to keep watch over everything. I think we: (Roberta, Linda and Mike) are ready to try something new. He sent this message yesterday which he invited friends to share: Our first choice right now would be to "pass the torch" of the family business to another family, person or group who could take Ludgate Farms to the next level - some youthful enthusiasm would be terrific right now! The food business has changed a lot in 37 years and is now entering another really exciting period with all this interest local, renewable and sustainable. We have taken what we think is the logical first step; this is a business that works the best if the owners are living on the premises - so we have put the entire business and real estate on the market. This would be an excellent opportunity for an energetic person or family to jump right into an established farm market with a loyal customer base."

Well ... it worked! We found someone! Or they found us, or both!

We are pleased to announce that Ludgate Farms is changing hands this coming January. Having run the farm stand since its inception in 1973, the Ludgate family has sold the business to another local family, the Quinn-Jacobs. The Ludgate family will remain in the area and are looking forward to a variety of "second careers".

The new owners, Katie & Dave Quinn-Jacobs, are looking forward to contributing to the productivity and future development of the farm stand in the years ahead. Katie is the founder of IthaCan, the local home food preserver’s network and both she and Dave are developers for Harvestation, the online farmer’s market that was launched this past harvest season. Betsy Appleton, who has a strong background in the local food movement, will be the new Ludgate Farms general manager-in-residence.

While bringing some fresh ideas and new initiatives to the store, the incoming management team is committed to maintaining the tradition of supplying the local community with a great selection of fresh produce, specialty groceries, bulk goods and locally produced items that Ludgate Farms has offered the Ithaca area for over three decades. Stay tuned for some innovations in the farm stand and we’ll be in touch as we move ahead.

Have a happy & healthy holiday season and see you at Ludgate's!

Roberta, Michael, Linda, Katie & Dave

Ludgate Farms

Friday, October 29, 2010

PANCAKES ALL DAY LONG / ELECTION DAY, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 7:00 am - 7:00 pm

The Ithaca Rotary Club's 37th Annual Rotary Pancake Day is November 2nd, 7am to 7pm Election Day.

Pancake Day is one of our great annual events that makes Ithaca such a fabulous place to live! Held at the Women's Community Building,located on the corner of Cayuga and Seneca Streets in Ithaca, Pancake Day has become an Ithaca tradition where we gather to eat, make new friends and see old ones, speculate on election turnouts, and generally have a good time!

Please come-- If you've never attended this event before I can assure you after the first time it will become part of your family's tradition, too! Call your spouse or a group of your friends, just decide when during the day you want to meet, and put it on your calendar. Pick up the kids-- don't let them miss out-- because they all eat free!

Blueberry pancakes and yogurt join this year's menu along with the traditional staples of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, applesauce, fruit, coffee, tea, and orange juice. Cooked and served on site by Rotarians and Youth Exchange Students, your meal will be hot and delicious!

Tickets are $7 for adults ­ kids under age 12 eat free! Proceeds from this special event are used to fund our International Student Exchange Program, so please consider helping sustain this important opportunity to promote international understanding and good will.

My husband, David, and I usually meet there around 6:00 pm, if you're there at that time, too-- then I'll look forward to a quick wave or hello!
If you're not in town for this event, just think of us enjoying the good food and company! But wherever you may be this Election Day, be sure to get out and VOTE!

Oh, and if you have friends in Ithaca whom you think might appreciate a reminder of this event, please send this to them!

Friday, October 15, 2010

NEW LILSTING: 47 Hollister Rd., Freeville, NY, $369,000

This is a definite MUST-SEE property located on the edge of Ellis Hollow on a spectaular Hilltop site.
Gorgeous and spacious 4-year-old Colonial sited on 2-1/2 acres has superb valley views, 3 bedrooms and 2-1/2 baths. Welcoming foyer has twin closets. Large eat-in kitchen open to the dining room w/ hickory cabinets, birch hardwood floors and huge pantry. French doors between dining room and living room. 3,000 sq. ft incl finished lower level w/workout area, laundry, mechanical room, and family room opening to patio w/ hot-tub for year-round outdoor entertaining. Oversize 3-car garage.

Features include hi-efficiency Buderus boiler, Superior lower level walls, 30-yr architectural shingled roof, welcoming front porch, back deck and new concrete patio.. Walk-in closet, Jacuzzi and twin sinks in Master. Twelve minutes or less to Cornell, 15 minutes to Ithaca College.

Check out the photos then call me or your Realtor to schedule an appointment!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Great Price Reduction on 5 Burheight Glen Rd., in Spencer-- NOW $162,900

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I have a price reduction to announce on the property at 5 Burheight Glen Rd., a very well maintained, move-in-ready 3-BR, 2-BTH ranch on over an acre with stunning valley views. Remodeled with formal entry, kitchen with wonderful new stainless appliances and gleaming refinished cabinets. Spacious master suite s bath has double sinks, top-of-the-line spa tub, oversize tile-walled shower, toilet and bidet, all with gold-plated fixtures, beautiful hardwood/tile floors (carpet in master BR) , two oversize workshop/craft areas opening to the outside.

Watkins Glen Walk-thru and Closing

It's such a beautiful day today-- the Leaves are at peak! The drive over to Watkins Glen for the final walk-through with my clients who have been searching for the perfect village home for over one year.
They're happy with their new property-- This grand old home offers such potential.
Next time I'll see them is at their housewarming!