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Get an education about the buying and selling process right here.  We have several articles to help buyers and sellers as they traverse the complicated process of buying or selling a home.  Everything from getting prequalified by a bank to purchase a home right up to getting the keys!

Loads of information for home owners thinking of selling their home.  How to figure out what your home is worth to knowing what you should do to prepare your home for sale.  The Western New York real estate market is ever changing.  From Buffalo to Lewiston and Youngstown we have some of the best real estate values in the country.

Niagara Falls First Time Buyers Find Multiple Funding Resources

In an improving residential real estate market, first time buyers may flinch at the greater loan amounts that accompany larger price tags. Lending standards have also put some first time buyers through a tougher gauntlet than faced during many previous eras. Although some easing is now beginning to take place, some Niagara Falls first time buyers can still find it difficult to secure the level of funding they seek. For them, there are a number of alternative funding possibilities that first time home buyers in Niagara Falls may wish to explore. Here are some of the assistance programs that can serve buyers as they go about buying that first home:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty Service is the most well-known of the programs, providing government guarantees for loans to service veterans and those on active or reserve duty. It also provides assistance to widows or widowers of veterans. Some VA loans require no deposit, and although the size of loans are limited and vary by area, the limits aim to make possible purchase of a mid-sized home. The actual loans are made by private lenders; the portion that is guaranteed by the VA protects the lender from losses should the veteran prove unable to repay the loan.

The HUD Basic Home Mortgage Loan 203(b) is a program that provides mortgage insurance to purchase or refinance one-to-four unit principal residences. Applicants who meet standard FHA credit standards and who pay the insurance premiums are eligible for approximately 96.5% financing provided by FHA-approved lenders.

The USDA Rural Development Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program is a rural development grant designed to help low- and moderate-income rural applicants purchase a home. The rural development program works with local lenders to provide 100% financing for eligible home buyers. In order to qualify for the program, an applicant must live within one of the eligible rural areas and have a total household income that does not exceed the established limits for that area.

The Community Development Block Grant is one of the nation’s oldest housing assistance programs. The goal of the CDBG is to make funds available to urban communities to be disbursed to citizens in the low and moderate income range. The money allocated to the CDBG is provided to local government authorities, who have broad latitude in how they allocate the funds to create and upgrade local housing conditions. Examples are shown in the video Role of the CDBG.

Each program has its own specific application format, which may involve completing a grant application package or simply applying for a loan from an approved lender. More detailed information can be found on each relevant agency’s website.

Securing financing is just one step of the home-buying process—though a first time buyer may be excused if they find it an intimidating one. Whether you are a first time buyer in Niagara Falls or a seasoned homeowner, give us a call: We’re here to help every step of the way!

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.

Amherst Virtual Tours Can Be Shot with Your Own iPhone

A newly-updated NAR survey confirms that 51% of agents with smartphones use iPhones. This fact is hardly startling, since these phones have been such a boon to the real estate business. Today’s agent can use apps to quickly scan and electronically sign documents, instantly get property details for clients, access key boxes—it’s almost hard to remember how we got along before!
But what about the 9% of homeowners who choose to go the FSBO (For Sale by Owner) route? As many a do-it-yourself home seller has learned, just planting a sign in the front yard does not constitute much of a marketing campaign. For those who will be selling an Amherst home this fall, creating a virtual tour is an all-but-indispensable way to take advantage of all an iPhone has to offer. For anyone who would like to shoot a virtual tour as a market aid, here’s the lay of the land:
•    An Amherst virtual tour doesn’t need to be an all-out professional Hollywood production. You can keep matters as simple as possible using nothing more than your iPhone’s camera.
•    More ambitious self-producers can invest in devices like the GoPano. This attaches to your phone: its curved mirror collects light and streams it into the camera as you walk. The free app converts the image into a moving scene which allows viewers to pan in any direction.
•    If your Amherst virtual tour will be assembled without any add-on equipment, it’s still possible to meld your photos into panoramas using one of the many apps devised for that purpose. Just make sure the results meet your quality standards—not all apps are created equal.
•    Follow the conventional tips for video shooting: in motion, walk slowly, keeping the iPhone as steady as possible. For stills, an iPhone tripod is a valuable addition. Not only does it prevent hand motion blurring; it also allows you to rotate the camera for a 360-degree view.
•    Free or low-cost apps allow you to assemble your virtual tour from stills and video. Search for “real estate virtual tours” in the app store for a comprehensive list. Look for apps that have high ratings—especially those that score well on the ‘user-friendly’ scale. You can also find services through the app store that will take your uploaded images and create the tour for you.
•    After you have made your Amherst virtual tour, if at all possible, preview the result on an iPhone, iPad, PC, and an Android device. It’s an unfortunate fact that a virtual tour that plays well on one device does not necessarily display the same way on the others. If you used an app to create panoramas, you should definitely watch it on a PC before releasing it to be sure the image quality is adequate on a larger screen.
Virtual tours in Amherst listings are just one part of an effective Amherst real estate marketing effort. Of course, the easiest way to have a professional-looking production is to forget about FSBO altogether and just call us! After all, it’s our full-time job to create and assemble a comprehensive marketing plan that gets your home sold for top dollar.

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!

Buying a Vacant Youngstown Home Can Mean No Disclosures

Suppose that in the course of buying a home in Youngstown, your eye is drawn to a bank-owned home, or a home held in a trust. There are many reasons why you could find yourself buying a Youngstown home that’s currently vacant—which can also mean that the usual owner disclosures are not to be had. There are perfectly innocent reasons why this situation develops. Suppose the sellers of the property have just inherited it. How would they know that water tends to pool under the house during a strong rainstorm? Or that unpermitted repairs were made to the electric wiring in the kitchen?

If thoughts like these cause beads of sweat to pop out all over your forehead, don’t fret. This summer we can find you plenty of alternatives in Youngstown’s traditional housing market. But before you automatically pass on a vacant home because of unknowns in its history, you should know that, with due diligence, you can still end up with a home that is worth your money and a safe place to live!

When you consider a vacant home, the most reliable information will come after you’ve arranged an inspection. The inspector’s report will let you learn what you’re getting into before you buy—and whether it’s in safe and livable condition. Most homes that fall vacant due to circumstances like divorce or a move are well cared-for and in decent shape; others, long abandoned, are more likely to have fallen into disrepair. Without any owner disclosures, you’ll be on your own to discover potentially major issues like leaking pool equipment or pest problems.

Even after you’ve had a thorough inspection, there is still a good chance you will encounter at least some surprises. There are some elements of a home that can’t really be properly inspected—like what lies under the floorboards or behind attic walls. Since there is no former owner to sound a warning, there is always a chance that you could run into unplanned-for expenses. Truth to tell, though, this can also hold true for a traditional home if the sellers have no prior knowledge, either.

Although buying a home with no disclosures can be a great way to get a wonderful deal, it’s still a good idea to leave some extra budget for the most likely potential costs. In addition to things like insurance, unexpected repairs, and maintenance, there are other costs you might also need to cover—such as a vacancy endorsement on your insurance policy if the house will continue to stand vacant for more than 30 days after the sale.

The bottom line? If you’re considering buying a home in Youngstown with question marks in its history, be sure you apply some energetic diligence before signing on the dotted line. You’ll be a lot more relaxed after the fact.

Thinking of buying a Youngstown home this summer? Then it’s time to give us a call!

Niagara Falls Rental Property Investments—They’re Out There!

When any investor first begins to mull over the idea of acquiring a rental property in Niagara Falls, it’s usually in competition with an array of other investment types—each with its inherent pluses and minuses. Some of them are new ideas (new technology company stocks; new forms of commercial exchange)—but real estate is definitely not one of those. It may not be innovative, but being a landlord has always been one of the leading sources of passive income.

What is exciting about rental property is why it has always been recognized as a sound investment. When the income from a Niagara Falls rental property is able to pay for its own underlying mortgage, it self-propels its growing equity. The rental property’s investment value grows as the loan is paid down month by month, year after year. Added to that is any appreciation in its market value.

And with the best Niagara Falls rental property scenario, when rental income exceeds mortgage and other expenses, it will even throw off an extra income stream. Needless to say, choosing the right rental property in Niagara Falls is worth the effort! Much of that effort involves making a serious effort to map out and project values, income and expense:

  • Neighborhood: Consider how the overall desirability of the neighborhood is likely to affect its appeal to tenants. Are there attractive amenities like parks, shopping and entertainment venues? What do the local classified ads reveal — is the area’s vacancy rate high or low? How do rental prices compare with adjacent neighborhoods?
  • Project Ancillary Expenses:  Determine the historical property tax rates, and what future rate changes are being proposed. Likewise, investigate insurance costs and roll both expenses into your total monthly expense projections. You want to be sure that they are low enough that you can still make a profit from the rental.
  • Local Dish: Expert advice from Investopedia is for prospective landlords to speak with renters as well as homeowners in the neighborhood. It’s a good point: “Renters will be far more honest about the negative aspects of the area because they have no investment in it.”
  • Schools: Rental homes in Niagara Falls featuring two or more bedrooms will attract families—and that means they will likely have children in school. If a school is nearby the home, it’s likely to be that much more popular with family tenants.
  • Crime:  Crime-prone neighborhoods can have higher turnover and longer vacancy rates, so a bargain purchase price may be less of a bargain than you’d hope.
  • Commute:  Is the property a long commute from the commercial center of town, or a quick drive? Is there public transportation? Many prospective tenants begin their housing search with their workplace as the center point. Renters will consider this before signing a lease—and you should before signing your offer!

If you are thinking of looking at rental property in Niagara Falls this summer, they’re definitely out there. Call us today to discuss some of the many opportunities!

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!

Getting a Wheatfield Mortgage is a Detailed Endeavor

Buying a Wheatfield home can’t help but be about as thrilling a purchase as you can make, whether you’re a first time buyer or an experienced homeowner. ‘Buying’ a Wheatfield mortgage, on the other hand…well, the experience may be slightly less exciting, but if your team has managed to secure a good one, it’s actually a comparable accomplishment.

In the same way that it’s the features and condition of your new Wheatfield home that give it extra value, there are multiple elements of a local mortgage that make signing on the dotted line an action you look back on with satisfaction. Having a knowledgeable Realtor® on your side is one part of making sure that happens—knowing how the process works, familiarizing yourself with the terms involved, and fully comprehending the significance of the paperwork elements is the other part. Here is a brief overview of the key elements that come into play:

· Being 100% clear about the financial terms prior to signing is the primary order of business. How much you will be paying each month, how much your interest rate is, whether it is fixed or variable, what additional costs accompany your Wheatfield mortgage—this is the ‘meat-and-potatoes’ of your loan.

· An application fee is the charge that covers the lender’s costs for processing your application. This sometimes includes the credit report and property appraisal—you’ll want to know whether these fees were included as part of your application fee.

· An appraisal fee is included to make sure your home is professionally appraised (it may or may not be part of the application fee).

· A loan origination fee includes the additional expenditures associated with your application. It’s usually presented as a percentage (point) of the loan amount.

· Title insurance covers the title search that investigates whether the property is lien-free. This also covers the legal recording costs, and indemnifies against legal costs for defending the property from future claims. It can sometimes pay to comparison shop between title companies.

· Other amounts may also be included: if, for instance, you and the seller have agreed upon certain things, those details will be listed and costs added onto the total of your Wheatfield mortgage. Property taxes and insurance may also be prorated and included in the monthly payment.

Before the closing, expect to receive a HUD-1 form—the federally-mandated settlement statement that lists all fees, charges and costs. If there is a problem, this is the time to address it. And keep this and the other papers in a safe place…and remember where they are! You’ll save time later, because some of them may be required in future financial dealings. You will also receive a final Truth-in-Lending statement, a mortgage note, and a Deed of Trust. It’s important to make sure all the due dates are clearly understood—it’s not a bad idea to list them on your own personal “To Do” sheet to keep track for your own reference.

If you are thinking of buying a home in Wheatfield this summer, it’s time to get pre-qualified now.  Contact us for an introduction to an experienced mortgage broker—then we can get started with the fun part: finding your future home!

Moving to Lewiston NY Means Vetting Reliable Carriers

Moving to Lewiston NY (or moving to anywhere) is adventure enough without including one of the moving company scams that are all too common. It seems hard to believe that unscrupulous carriers can continue to operate, but the fact is, there are a lot of them out there. If you will be moving to Lewiston anytime soon, you don’t have to worry about any of the rip-off artists if you follow some straightforward guidelines:

  1. 1.      Check the FMCSA  

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration runs a household goods program designed to aid consumers. Their website includes a search feature that records past complaints for known companies…but be aware that only interstate movers are listed. Along with complaint information, it lists company contact details so you will know you’re dealing with the people they say they are.

  1. Check Online Reviews

A search engine search of the company can be helpful: just enter the company name plus ‘reviews’ or ‘ratings.’ You’ll often find Yelp entries, and with luck, recent experiences by customers moving to Lewiston.

  1. Get A Written Estimate

You should be skeptical of any moving company that is willing to provide a quote over the phone or internet. This may not be evidence of a scam, but often means that you are dealing with a broker rather than the company itself. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation red flags any over who doesn’t offer or agree to an on-site inspection of our household goods “or gives an estimate over the phone or internet”…the too-good-to-be-true estimates, demands for large upfront deposits, or failure to hand you the “Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” pamphlet (Federal regulations require Interstate movers do so during the planning stages) are all signs of trouble ahead!

  1. Insurance Issues

Before you hand over your belongings, it is a good idea to check that you’ll be moving to Lewiston with the proper insurance. Ask the movers about their insurance policy and note the policy number. If you have any concerns, you can check with the insurance provider to confirm that they are properly covered.

  1. Use A Mover With A Physical Address

Another sign to watch out for are moving companies that don’t list a physical business address. With a brick-and-mortar base of operations, you know where to head should anything go wrong.

Moving scams can cost a lot of money—not to mention the stress that results when unscrupulous operators have all your stuff!  If you’re planning on moving to Lewiston NY this summer, please consider one of us as your local guide to our area. We’re here to offer professional real estate representation—as well as a ton of information about all things Lewiston!

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!

Wheatfield Interest Rates Dodge Anticipated Escalation

Wheatfield homeowners who had been bracing themselves for sharp rises in mortgage interest rates must now be scratching their heads. As the online Mortgage News Daily put it last week, “…rates have been extraordinarily sideways, and right in line with the lowest levels in 11 months.”

Since historical averages are still significantly higher, it’s no wonder that most observers still believe the greater likelihood is for rate increases. But recent Fed happenings show a crack in their avowed determination to let that happen by tapering off purchases of mortgage-backed securities. The hemming and hawing is notable. It’s all pretty much up in the air.

In any case, one thing I can guarantee is that Wheatfield mortgage holders will benefit if they take advantage of savings opportunities when they present themselves. Among current possibilities—

1. Refinance Your Mortgage

Wheatfield mortgage holders who haven’t already refinanced should at least consider doing so. Refinancing means taking advantage of the still historically low Wheatfield interest rates—often the most meaningful step in reducing your monthly mortgage payments. Before deciding to refinance, make sure that the mortgage costs involved will be less than the resulting savings. If you agree with the prevailing wisdom that it’s unlikely we will see a significant drop in interest rates in the near future, today’s levels still look inviting.

2. Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

According to the National Association of Realtors®, mortgage down payments have fallen over the past decade. Their figures show that the average mortgage down payment in 2013 was 10% – compared with 16% just ten years earlier. Homeowners who put down less than a 20% deposit are typically required to take out Private Mortgage Insurance. But once the Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio falls below 80%, homeowners can ask for the PMI insurance to be removed—and they should, because the lender isn’t responsible for keeping track of that for them. If you are close to the 20% threshold, it may be worthwhile to make a one-time payment that will reduce the principal below 80%.

3. Extend the Length of the Mortgage

Many homeowners have made significant reductions in their principal by opting for shorter-term mortgages. But should rising Wheatfield interest rates make a property you are trying to buy unaffordable, extending the length of the mortgage can reduce monthly payments to a more comfortable level. Although over the long term this will end up costing significantly more in interest, moving from a 15-year mortgage to a 30-year can sometimes be the right move—especially when the property at stake represents one of the terrific values currently out there.

While interest rates in Wheatfield may rise or fall or, as we’ve seen lately, hold surprisingly steady, sudden leaps or plummets are unlikely…and with a little preparation, unpleasant future surprises in interest rates are avoidable. Thinking of buying a home in Wheatfield this summer?  Call us today to start laying the groundwork!

Ways to Disprove One Common Wheatfield Home Value Myth

Especially when it comes to major decisions like buying or selling your home, human nature seems to tilt toward delaying action until it’s the end result is absolutely certain. After all, nobody wants to make a life-changing move that turns out to be anything short of fantastic!

So even when you’ve outgrown your current home…or found yourself in a daily long-distance commute because work has moved…or any number of other reasons why you know you should be looking for a new house…it can be difficult to commit to such a looming decision. Adding to that is one of the most common assumptions many Wheatfield homeowners believe: that they have to spend a boatload of money to increase their home value.

The truth is: it ain’t so! You can strategically update your Wheatfield house before you put it on the market without cratering your bank account.

Items that only seem to require costly fixes:

· Make it Spacious

Adding space to a room increases any Wheatfield home value. Tearing out walls isn’t necessary when there are so many other ways to achieve the same thing. Simple options include removing built-in shelves, enlarging windows, or (the simplest) just removing “stuff” that’s hogging perceived space.

· Go Green

More and more, you can improve your Wheatfield home value by installing modest “green” upgrades. Today’s buyers may not necessarily be eco-focused—they may simply have a good sense of the increasing cost of water and power. “Going green” as a way to add  home value to your area property can be no more costly than switching to low-flow toilets, adding a wifi thermostat with “smart” technology, or putting in a low cost drip watering system.

· Window Update

Have a room that comes across as outdated…or just plain ‘blah’? Consider how much extra home value a new window treatment might add. It could be as simple as installing a stylish valence over a window or two.

· Change the Doors

Remember your first apartment with its flimsy, hollow doors? A quality door can make a disproportionate difference to a property’s perceived home value. Changing out your front or back doors for more a more weighty or modern selection can be well worth the expense.

· Paint

Paint is the number one way to alter the look of a room inexpensively. Instead of painting the entire room one color, another option is to make a “statement wall” in its own neutral color that compliments a painting’s or picture frame’s palate.

These are just a few suggestions that can increase the value of your home in Wheatfield without a straining the family finances. Even in an older home, many times it’s the little touches that can make the greatest difference.

Looking for specific suggestions to improve the value of your Wheatfield home before listing it for sale? Call us today for an in-home market evaluation!

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!

Renting Your Lewiston Home is a Matter of Checking Off the To-Do’s

The sunny attitude that encourages entrepreneurs to look at a box of lemons and think ‘lemonade!’ is widely admired, and it does seem to be a viewpoint that successful people cultivate. For anyone who is determined to sell their Lewiston property—but only at a price the market is not yet willing to pay—well, the turn-lemons-into-lemonade situation is entirely apt. After all, smart investors are buying up and renting properties like yours quite deliberately because they realize that a Lewiston rental home is not just an asset that can appreciate over time, but one that can also produce income at the same time.

Whatever your own reason for renting, when you put a rental home in Lewiston on the market, experienced landlords tend to prepare in the same general areas:

1. Repairs and Safety

Often using a rental safety checklist, a good first focus is on heating, plumbing, and other safety issues. Especially if you have been a longtime resident of the property, remember that some operational issues that you may have grown accustomed to ignoring need to be brought up to snuff. Repairs made now will save you time and money in the long run, and will safeguard against increased damage (and worse issues down the line). Be sure fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in place, and double-check that all windows, doors, and locks are in good working order.

2. Make it Pretty!

Of course, clean the house thoroughly, including closets, fixtures, and appliances. Replace dirty carpets, polish wood floors, and remove debris and trash from the entire property (if a one-time rubbish bin rental is called for, bite the bullet!). Where needed, give each room a fresh coat of paint in neutral colors; and outside, tidy up the grass and landscaping.

3. Documentation

Plan to inspect and document your Lewiston rental home before tenants move in; then once again immediately after they move out. It’s imperative; will serve as documentation of damage caused by the tenant if that warrants withholding the security deposit for repairs. Photos, a checklist—even a quick iPhone video—can do the job.

4. Landlord Insurance

AKA rental property insurance, landlord insurance is not the same as renters insurance, which covers the tenant’s property. A good landlord insurance policy protects you; it should cover everything from major damage inflicted by tenants to legal action they might bring.

5. Know Your Leasing Criteria

Before you prepare a rental application, it’s a good idea to pin down the leasing criteria to help determine who will be qualified to become your tenant. Some common ones:

No prior evictions…Good credit…No foreclosures or bankruptcies…

No criminal convictions…No pets…No smoking…References…

But whatever your choices, do remember to follow the Fair Housing Act guidelines.

 

6. Assemble the Docs

There are basic lease agreements and other documents available online, or you can have an experienced lawyer prepare (or just review) them. Other rental home forms you might need include credit check authorization forms, move-in checklists, and any other notices you wish to post to tenants. They’re all available online.

Sound like too much work? If so, a property management company can handle some or all of it for you—we’ll be happy to provide you with good references. And if you’ve set your sights on purchasing a Lewiston rental home as an investment, summer is near: that means now is a great time to start!

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!

A Wheatfield Mortgage Application Should Be Smooth Sailing

Everyone expects that finding and buying the right Wheatfield, NY home will take a good deal of attention and energy. After all, it’s as important a purchase as we ever make. But when you add in the potential that something on your mortgage application could bring everything to a screeching halt, that’s one detail that has the potential to trigger what could turn everything into a truly harrowing experience.

The average credit score in America is around 688. That might look like a respectably large number, yet it’s considered mediocre when it comes to mortgages. And the truth is that most Americans are blissfully unaware of what is going on with their credit reports most of the time…that is, until they’re presented with a Wheatfield mortgage application. Ideally, everybody should take a look at their report well before they are faced with a mortgage application—but if you’re one of the majority who hasn’t done so, there is no need to panic. You may still be able to deal with credit issues that threaten to delay your otherwise smooth transaction.

The most common issue that Wheatfield homebuyers come up against during the mortgage application process is one or more late payments that ding the final score. In most cases, these are small amounts that were likely forgotten and can be quickly cured. Schedule an immediate payment—and be sure to record the receipt. Once the bank sees that the account has been brought current, they will most often proceed.

Issues stemming from a stolen identity can be more severe and may take a bit more time and effort to straighten out. First, let the bank know that the charges on your report are not yours; then document the entire process of disputing the charges with the credit bureau and having them removed from your report. The downside is that this typically takes from 1 – 6 months to complete. In most cases, your bank will proceed—but will delay closing until you can furnish proof that the issues have been resolved.

In the event that you have late payments that you cannot afford to bring current, you may be able to make a settlement with the creditor that the bank will accept. The Catch-22 is that they will typically want you to pay off the debt completely. This is when it’s going to be necessary to have a candid discussion with your Wheatfield NY mortgage specialist: once you have made the situation clear, he or she will explain your best options.

If you haven’t taken a recent look at your credit report, now is the time to do so. You don’t have to wait until you’re filling out a mortgage application to benefit from identifying potential credit issues…in fact, keeping tabs on your score can pay off in every situation where credit comes into play!

Questions?  We’re happy to refer you to one of our great Wheatfield mortgage brokers even before you get your house hunt started. Call us!

Wheatfield New Home Market Reflects Shifting U.S. Patterns

For decades, the three-bedroom house has been a cornerstone of the American dream. Now, as with the rest of the nation, Wheatfield’s real estate profile for new single family homes seems to be changing. And last year we may well have reached a turning point in the national new home market: now four bedrooms seems to have become the new norm!

Last year, a full 48% of new homes—nearly half—were built with at least four bedrooms. That’s quite a jump when you compare it with just four years earlier: in 2009, the figure was 34%. We asked ourselves why the nation’s preferences would have undergone such a sizable shift. A little research revealed some likely answers—and some interesting history behind them.

The Rise of Bigger Homes

The footprint of the average new home built in the U.S. went Yeti in a very short time. In the late 1940s, Postwar America began producing single family homes on a massive scale—with an average size of about 750 square feet. As the economy expanded, so did house sizes until by 1973 the three-bedroom home dominated the new home market (Wheatfield included). By 2013, average new home sizes had reached 2,701 square feet according to the Census Bureau.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but at the same time the number of bedrooms was increasing, the size of the American household was heading in the opposite direction. The 3.6-person average of the 1940s had, by 2013, contracted to 2.58. That means the living space for each individual had grown by 80%!

House Sizes Shrink, Then Expand Again

In 2009, as a side-effect of the last decade’s real estate market downturn, single family home sizes had retreated by about 6%. But now the economy’s slow recovery has reversed the reversal. According to the most recent report from the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new home built in 2013 was 2607 square feet— a 300-square foot increase over just two years earlier.

Fewer New Buyers = Bigger Homes

One of the reasons for the new home market shift toward larger four-bedroom designs can be ascribed to a decrease in the number of first-time homebuyers. Largely due to previous tightening in lending criteria and rising mortgage rates (both trends have at least momentarily stalled in the Wheatfield new home market), the smaller homes favored by first-timers claimed a proportionately smaller chunk of the market.

It’s hard to avoid the general conclusion that what were once considered luxurious additions are effectively today’s norm. The en-suite bathrooms, two-car garages and even three-bedroom homes that would have been out of reach for most of the new home buyers of the past are practically standard fare in 2014. But another fact is that every Western New York area differs from every other. If this has you wondering how your home compares with what today’s buyers are looking for in your own neighborhood—why not give us a call?

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!

Lewiston Mortgage Rates May Rise—But You Can Still Save!

 Mortgage rates may rise or fall this spring (lately they seem to be falling!)—but that needn’t prevent you from saving even more money when it’s time to structure your own Lewiston mortgage. The underpublicized fact is that mortgage rates are only one of the factors that affect how much you wind up paying. No matter what happens to mortgage rates in 2014, here are some keys to making mortgage decisions that result in significant savings:

Tailor the term

 Evaluate your budget and see whether it is possible to increase the amount of your monthly payment. By increasing monthly repayments, you reduce the term of your Lewiston mortgage. Over the course of the loan, this can save tens of thousands of dollars.

Refinance for five years instead of two

 The interest you pay on a refi loan isn’t the only cost. The origination and other fees can easily end up costing four figures. It’s a numbers game: simply calculate the anticipated savings from refinancing, then subtract the amount of the fees. The difference tells you your net savings…and demonstrates why one of the easiest ways to grow those savings is to refinance less frequently.

Change to biweekly  

 Changing to biweekly payments instead of monthly payment can save you more than small change. The reason is on the calendar: there are 52 weeks in a year, but only 12 months. If you make 26 1/2 payments every year, that equates to 13 monthly payments. It’s a stealthy way to make an additional month’s payment every year without really noticing it. When choosing a loan, opt for one where the bank allows you to choose biweekly payments (as long as they don’t want to charge an additional fee). Also request that the extra payments be deducted from the principle.

Improve your credit score

 On this count, every mortgage guru sounds like a broken record. Although the average quoted mortgage rate may rise or fall, that’s not necessarily the rate that you pay. Your FICO score is the primary determinant of your Lewiston NY mortgage rate. The difference between a good FICO score and a bad one can be significant, so get a copy of your credit card record and challenge any damaging inaccuracies. Lenders want to see a long history of paying on time with a mixed use of credit.

 Mortgage rates in Lewiston will almost certainly increase in the future because they’re still well under historical averages. But there are plenty of steps you can take to cut thousands of dollars from your ultimate Lewiston mortgage costs. And if you are ready to buy a house in Lewiston this spring, contact us today—We’re ready to show you what’s coming up at your price point!

Taking Advantage of Wheatfield Commercial Property Opportunities

This year, it looks as if the busy spring real estate season extends beyond the residential arena. Latest reports show commercial property sales on the rise throughout the nation—and in volumes that make it one of the main contributors to the overall economic upturn.

The most reliable data comes from the National Association of Realtors®, whose latest quarterly survey shows year-over-year sales increasing a full 11% (with prices rising 4%). It’s an encouraging backdrop for businesspeople and individual investors who are gauging the opportunities in today’s Wheatfieldcommercial property market. Despite the vagaries of the tax and political climate (it is an election year, after all), with rental rates increasing and leasing activity up across the nation, the market does invite a closer look by anyone considering a fresh entry into Wheatfield’s commercial property arena.

While working with a buyer’s agent to find and purchase a Wheatfield commercial property isn’t an absolute essential, it certainly can be more efficient to have professional assistance and guidance throughout the process. When you choose a Realtor who has specifically commercial experience in the Wheatfield area, you make the same kind of choice as when you seek expert help in any other area of your business or personal endeavors—an expert’s insight can be priceless!

 Whether you are buying or selling a commercial property, it’s also important to avoid fixating on short-term impacts. Today’s cash flow may be your leading financial factor, but balancing with the long-term impacts is a juggling act worth mastering. Buying or selling a commercial property has long term impacts that spread out well beyond this year’s bottom line. Don’t hesitate to discuss your current business model with your accountant or tax professional. They are sure to have concrete ideas about potential impacts that will be quite real five and ten years from now. The right commercial property in Wheatfield NY will be one that is able to accommodate your needs both now and into the future.

With the right agent and clear-cut financial goals, your search for a Wheatfield, NY commercial property can result in the best financial move you make this year—or for many years to come.  If you’re weighing the value of purchasing a commercial property or placing your own for sale, call us to open the discussion about the opportunities in today’s market.

Remodel or New Home in Wheatfield? The Pros and Cons are Significant

Last week’s Rasmussen Reports survey reported that the majority (52%) of Americans consider their home to be a family’s best investment at the same time that the number of people who are choosing to remodel their home is on the rise. According to the Houzz & Home survey, the number of people who planned improvement projects rose a dynamic 12 % last year. Of those, 40% wanted to remodel their home or build an addition.

While remodeling may be becoming more popular, there are still plenty of advantages to the alternative route: purchasing a new home in Wheatfield. Here are some of the pros and cons of each route:

    •          Before you start your remodeling project you should take a personal inventory. Do you have the experience and skills to manage the project…and is the prospect appealing? Remodeling your home will require that you deal directly either with tradesmen, contractors, architects— or the whole bunch! It may be the greatest advantage to purchasing a new Wheatfield NY home: getting the additional space and amenities without the work.

 

  •          The loss of privacy during a remodeling project is not something to be underestimated. Depending upon the scope of the project, it may be months before the dust settles and you have the house to yourself again. There is also the inconvenience of not having access to multiple areas of your home while work is proceeding

 

 

  •     For most of us, there really is no place like home. If you’re like us, even when you’ve been on a terrific vacation, eventually you begin to yearn for the comfort and familiarity of your good old home base. Although one or two irksome features of your current house make moving seem like a no-brainer…before you commit to a move, be sure that you really want to leave. History, a sense of community, and the roots you’ve established in your current neighborhood are all reasons to opt for a remodel rather than a new home.

 

 

  •          Selling your existing home and buying a new Wheatfield home is a sizable financial commitment. Moving costs, transaction fees, commissions and taxes are part of the equation to weigh against remodeling costs. A sharp pencil is definitely in order before the dollars and cents can be realistically reckoned—particularly if your finances have improved, and the remodel is meant to bring your home up to an improved standard of living.

The danger lies in overcapitalizing a property in a location where the resale won’t support the expense. Even a great home will still fetch a price that’s relative to other properties in the neighborhood, obliterating the wished-for ‘investment’ value of extensive remodeling.

While it’s important to be informed about the factual tradeoffs of your decision, it’s likely the end choice will also be influenced by what just feels right—as it should be. Whether you’re considering a remodel or a purchase, if you’d like to run some numbers, call us today for a confidential price evaluation!