Blog :: 2015

Happy Holidays and Wonderful New Years

We want to wish everyone a big Happy Holidays and wonderful New Years from our New England Landmark Realty family to yours. May your festivities be festive, food be filling, and the houses you celebrate in feel like home. We hope 2016 brings health, good fortune, and way too many laughs to count. 

<3 New England Landmark Realty Family

6 Tips For Selling Your Home This Winter

 

In Vermont, we know winter will, eventually, come. It's not always the most attractive time of year to be showing off your home, but since everyone is in this same boat, why not use the winter glum to your advantage! We found this article by Andrea Davis with 6 tips to make your house #1 on the market:

#1 Warmth is top priority.

Your home should always be warm when a realtor conducts a walkthrough with buyers. Set a timer on your thermostat so it's warm when they arrive. Also, make sure to check there are no leaks or problems with your ducts and vents, as this could make rooms cold during a walkthrough.

#2 Keep the house bright.

It's also important to ensure that your home is adequately lit in each room. You want buyers to feel welcome and impressed with the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms of your home. If a room has dim lighting or a burned-out bulb, it could take away from the overall appeal of the room. You should also consider spending a little extra money to upgrade your lighting fixtures --installing recessed lighting in certain rooms will give your home a little extra "pop." Standing lamps are also a fantastic, affordable alternative to lighting additions

#3 Try to make your landscape appealing.

Although your yard will be mostly winterized during this time of year, there are several ways to spruce up your cold weather landscaping. Start by clearing your yard of any broken branches or large patches of fallen leaves. It's also important to ensure that any ice or snow on or near your home's walkway is removed. If needed, you can hire a weekly snow removal service to keep your home safe for buyer walkthroughs.

#4 Make the interior cozy.

In addition to keeping your house well-lit and warm, there are other ways to make your home cozy and welcoming to buyers. This includes:

  • Classical music (at a low volume)
  • Homemade treats (candy, cookies)
  • Holiday decorations (tinsel on the mantle, for example)

You want buyers to feel as though they already live in your home when they walk through the door. When you offer them a cozy setting, they will want to spend more time in your home and admire its features.

#5 Keep the fireplace lit.

While you should have the heat on during a walkthrough, another warm and cozy feature is the fireplace. If you've got a wood-burning model, this means you'll need to have coal or wood handy. You don't want to have multiple showings a day and a fireplace that roars for only half the visitors. This is especially important if the fireplace is close to the entrance (all of that cold air gets in!).

#6 Prepare for any storms.

Make sure there's an emergency kit on hand in your home in case your home suffers an outage during a winter storm. This should include items like:

  • Extra candles
  • Matches
  • Blankets
  • Car charger
  • Canned food
  • Flashlight
  • Water

While your realtor should be prepared for inclement weather, it's important that you be prepared to keep everyone safe should the worst happen during a showing. And don't forget to keep a secondary travel emergency kit to take when you're leaving for showings as well.

Feel free to ask us for any other tips and tricks (we have a few of them up our sleeves).

Click to see the original article at Realty Times.

Why Putting Up A little More May Cost You Less

Maurie Backman has excellent advice for home buyers. Sometimes paying a little more upfront could save you much more later.

You've worked. You've saved. You've scraped together enough for a down payment, and now it's your turn to get a piece of the good old American Dream in the form of your very own house. But before you bust out that bottle of celebratory champagne, be prepared to do a little extra number-crunching, because while your down payment is certainly a good start on the road to homeownership, there are other costs you'll need to account for as part of the process.

Making your down payment
Let's talk about that down payment for a second. Though you might get away with less, it's in your best interest to come up with 20% of your home's purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance, or PMI. To minimize its risk, your lender will probably slap you with a PMI requirement if you fail to put down that sought-after 20%, in which case you could be looking at an extra 0.5% to 1% of your loan amount.

Say you take out a $200,000 loan and are hit with PMI at a cost of 1%. That's an extra $2,000 a year, or $166 per month on top of your regular mortgage payment. Plus, unlike regular mortgage interest, your PMI isn't even guaranteed to be tax-deductible. In other words, if you can come up with that 20% payment, you'll avoid what's essentially a penalty for not putting enough down. But even if you do manage to plunk down 20%, there are other up-front costs to consider.

Closing costs
There's a whole load of paperwork that goes into buying a house, and naturally, you'll pay for it. Your closing costs might include things like attorney fees, loan origination fees, recording fees, title fees, and survey fees. Is that enough fees for you? Closing costs typically encompass 2% to 5% of your home's purchase price. This means if you're buying a home for $220,000, you can expect to shell out anywhere from $4,400 to $11,000 in up-front fees. Now the good news is that your lender is required to provide a good faith estimate of what your closing costs will be so that you're not in total shock when those fees come in. The problem, however, is that your estimate can change by up to 10%, so you'd be wise to stash away a few extra thousand dollars to be on the safe side.

Prepaid escrow fees
Many lenders have a practice of escrowing money for real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. If your loan comes with an escrow provision, the upside is that your lender will make these scheduled payments for you so that you don't have to worry about them. The bad news is that since lenders generally aren't willing to take many chances, yours will likely require you to pad your escrow balance when you close on your loan. This could mean prepaying anywhere from two to six months or more of real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. Let's say your annual taxes and homeowners policy cost $6,000 and $1,000, respectively. If your lender requires a three-month deposit, you're looking at an additional $1,750 at closing.

On top of these costs, you'll need to think about things like home repairs and moving fees. Professional movers could cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the amount of stuff you've got and the distance it needs to be hauled. Similarly, unless you're buying brand new construction, there's a good chance you'll need to tackle a few up-front repairs before settling into your home. While your home inspection should clue you in to the types of repairs you're looking at and their associated costs, you could be in for some surprises once you take ownership of your new abode. This is why it's crucial to set some funds aside to cover the unknowns of owning a house, many of which could rear their ugly heads from the get-go. So before you get ready to empty your savings account and convert that money into a down payment, make sure you've got enough cash on hand to cover the additional costs of buying a house. Otherwise that nice bottle of champagne may be the last one you'll crack open for quite some time.

The $15,978 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook 
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. In fact, one MarketWatch reporter argues that if more Americans knew about this, the government would have to shell out an extra $10 billion annually. For example: one easy, 17-minute trick could pay you as much as $15,978 more... each year! Once you learn how to take advantage of all these loopholes, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after.

View the full article here: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/29/buying-a-house-why-your-down-payment-isnt-enough.aspx

 

 

Determining a Home's Value

We thought this article by Liston Steven had some great points that may not always be top of mind. 

Interested in buying a piece of real estate? Many real estate investors and first-time homeowners seem to focus on the style and functionality of their potential purchase, thinking that these aspects help to increase the property's value. They seem to have forgotten the popular adage, “location, location, location.”

The truth is, the physical structure depreciates as time goes on, it is the land that increase in value. This is very important to note because buying a home is a huge purchase, one of the biggest in most people's lives. If you don't look at your investment from all angles and understand everything that drives the value of your home, you can limit your opportunity to increase your wealth.

Land appreciates in value because, as the population grows, the demand for it grows and it's in limited supply. When you focus on the land underneath the structure, this can help you find more efficient investments that will give you the best return for your money.

It's not to say that the appearance of the home doesn't increase the value of the property, but it's impact is less that you may think. When you understand how location and future estimates of land value will influence property return you can then make better investment decisions.

Here are some considerations of the top things that determine a home's value to ponder before you purchase your next home:

  1. Smaller and/or less attractive home can provide you with more bang for your buck: This is because all homes in a neighborhood, no matter the size or aesthetics, appreciate by approximately the same amount every year
  2. Your location within your neighborhood will affect the value of your land: Because they get less traffic and the implied increase in safety for children, homes in cul-de-sacs are more in demand than others with more traffic.
  3. The average age of your neighbors can tell you how much your property will appreciate: For instance, neighborhoods with older homeowners are less in demand for home-buyers with children.
  4. Future prospects of development can change your property's value: You must be aware of both the present state of local amenities as well as the future prospects for governmental and commercial development in the area. Both of these factors will influence whether your land will appreciate or depreciate.

An effective real estate investor looks past the physical attributes and the style of prospective purchases and, instead, focuses on the land appreciation potential. So, in order to be successful, you must overlook the more beautiful homes for a great location that provides opportunities for improvement that will increase the value of the land.

Read the original article here.

Get a Better Mortgage Interest Rate

We came across this insightful article by Blanche Evans about shopping around for interest rates on a mortgage. We just had to share it.

People will clip coupons and drive across town to save a few cents at the gas pump, but few will shop around for the best interest rate on their mortgages. Most buyers tend to go with the first lender they talk with, perhaps out of fear of losing the house if they don't act quickly enough. Paying one-eighth of a point too much can add up to thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

You're smarter than that. Know you have the right to shop lenders and negotiate mortgage interest rates and fees. Here's how to do it.

First, you need to decide on which loan program you're going to compare. You need to decide between a fixed, an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and a hybrid. A fixed rate is fixed throughout the life of the loan, so it costs a little more. An ARM has an interest rate that can vary throughout the life of the loan, which would be cheaper now, but might cost more down the road. A hybrid is an ARM that is fixed for a predetermined period, such as five years, then it morphs into an ARM.

With interest rates still near historical lows, most people select a fixed rate because it's safest and protects you better the longer you stay in your home. An ARM or a hybrid loan is best if you plan to move in five years or less, but most people stay in their homes as long as nine years or more.

Next, you need to select a loan term, which refers to its amortization period. The most common fixed-rate term is the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Lenders also offer fixed rate loans in five-year increments beginning with ten-year loans, so you can select a 15, 20, and 25-year fixed rate. The advantage to doing that is that you'll pay the loan off faster, but you should know that the loan will cost more monthly because you're paying down more interest and principal at a time, even with a lower interest rate.

How do you decide which loan is best? By what you can afford. If you want the best rates, conventional loan-to debt-ratios prevent you from having more than 41% of your gross income used toward debt payments and mortgage payments. The ceiling for mortgages is about 28% of your income, with the rest of your debt payments going toward a car payment, student loan, or revolving credit card charges. If you have low debt, or are buying a modest home compared to your means, it's a good idea to get a shorter term.

Once you select the proper loan as well as the term you can start shopping. Give the lenders you call the exact same facts -- what kind of loan you want, how long the loan term will be, how much you want to put down toward the purchase price, and your credit score. According to the new loan disclosure requirements, which went into effect in August 2015, you have to provide six pieces of information to qualify for an "application":

·       Your Name

·       Your Income

·       Your Social Security Number

·       The Property Address

·       The Contract Price of the Property

·       The Mortgage Loan Amount

The lenders have to return a good faith estimate of what your closing costs will be within three business days. Then you can compare and choose the loan with the most favorable costs to you.

Click here to read the original article.

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We've Got Spirit!

 

If you're a fan of craft beverages, you'll be a fan of our neck of the woods. This year the National Brewers Association found that:

·       Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state in the US

·       We produce 16.2 gallons of beer per year per every 21+ adult

·       We have 1 brewery per every 11,628 (21+) adults

And new breweries, distilleries, wineries, and cideries are popping up all the time.

Local brewers, vintners, distillers and cider-makers have put our area on the map. As of right now our area claims fame to:

·      The Alchemist Brewery, aka creator of the World's #1 beer: Heady Topper

·      Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits

·      Crop Bistro & Brewery

·      Prohibition Pig Brewery

·      Rock Art Brewery

·      Shed Restaurant & Brewery

·      Smuggler' Notch Distillery

·      Stone Corral Brewery

·      Stowe Cider

·      von Trapp Brewing

So yes, you could say we have spirit.

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How Do Homeowners Accumulate Wealth?

We found this very interesting! This is important for anyone considering renting or buying. Evaluation of financial investments can make or break your return on an achievement scale. Check out what Lawrence Yun had to say:

The differences between buying and renting are massive. According to the Federal Reserve, a typical homeowner's net worth was $195,400, while that of renter's was $5,400. The data reflects 2013 and the next survey of household finances, which is conducted every three years, will be out in 2016. Based on what has happened since 2013 and projecting a conservative assumption of what could happen next year to home prices if we see only 3% price growth, the wealth gap between homeowners and renters will widen even further. The Fed is likely to show a figure of $225,000 to $230,000 in median net worth for homeowners in 2016 and around $5,000 for renters. That is, a typical homeowner will be ahead of a typical renter by a multiple of 45 on a lifetime financial achievement scale.

Though there will always be discussion about whether to buy or rent, or whether the stock market offers a bigger return than real estate, the reality is that homeowners steadily build wealth. The simplest math shouldn't be overlooked. A vast majority of homebuyers take out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage to make a home purchase. After 30 years, there is no mortgage payment (nor rent payment). So the home price growth over that time period would be the equity that the homebuyer would have accumulated. For example, the median home price of a single-family dwelling in the U.S. thirty years ago in 1985 was $75,500. This year, it will be at least $220,000. That figure of $220,000 is the housing component of the person's wealth. Even had home prices not risen, the person would still have $75,500 in wealth today - on top of not paying any further monthly mortgage after 30 years.

This simple example does not play out nearly as neatly in the real world, since people do not stay in one residence over the 30 year period. Almost all homeowners trade up, change neighborhoods, or move to a better school district at some point. However, they are able to make those residential relocations due to the housing equity accumulated, even over a shorter period, and can immediately apply that equity to the next home as a downpayment. Therefore the conditions of steadily building housing wealth still hold.

We also know that not everyone can or should be homeowners. The memories of easily accessible subprime mortgages and subsequent harsh foreclosure pains are still fresh, and remind us of the devastating impact on the families involved, local communities, and to the broad economy. In addition most young adults have not developed the financial standing or have found a stable, desirable career and, therefore, choose not be homeowners until later. The homeownership rate among households under the age of 35 is 35% currently and rarely rises above 40% historically. For those under the age of 25, the current ownership rate is 23% and rarely rises above 25%. But the time will eventually come when people want to convert to ownership. By the time people are in their prime-earning years of 45-to-55, nearly three-fourths do eventually become homeowners. By retirement, nearly 80% are homeowners.

A recent survey of consumers commissioned by my organization revealed that 80% believe that purchasing a home is a good financial decision (2015 National Housing Pulse Survey). Most consumers appear to already understand the simple math and the benefits of homeownership. So don't overthink the matter of whether now is a good time to buy, or whether stock market returns will be better. The exact timing of a home purchase will have little financial impact in the big scheme of things. Just know that homeowners generally do come out ahead of renters in the long run.

View the original article here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lawrenceyun/2015/10/14/how-do-homeowners-accumulate-wealth/

 

The Entryway, Your Home's Smile

Your entryway sets the tone for the rest of your home - and when you've got potential buyers visiting, you want them to feel welcome and cozy from the moment they enter. Here are some ways to warm up your entryway according to Andrea Davis at Realty Times:

#1 De-clutter!

The first step to creating a welcoming entryway is an immaculate entrance. If your entry area is cluttered with stuff - bags, decor, shoes, coats, etc. - it makes it hard for buyers to picture themselves in your home. Get rid of everything but the essentials - and, if possible, store those in a closet or other room. If you want to add a touch of the season to the entryway without adding clutter, think about placing one tasteful vase or centerpiece on a table near the door. If you're unsure how to stage your entryway, a home stager can help you balance between clutter and just the right amount of staging pieces. Staging usually helps a house sell quicker, as evidenced by studies from places like Bankrate.

#2 Update the door.

Buyers have to walk up to your front door before they walk into the foyer. If they see a dingy front door, it can set the wrong tone for the rest of the house. If this sounds like your front door, consider some improvements:

  • Replace the hardware (door knob, pulls, lock)
  • Restain or paint the door
  • Repaint the trim around the door
  • Clean the windows in the door

If your door has lived past its prime, you might need to invest the necessary money to replace it. This way, the first thing buyers see will be shiny and new. If you feel so inspired, add a bit of seasonal flair such as pumpkins, seasonal wreaths, flowers, whatever feels right for the exterior of your home.

#3 Have plenty of storage.

Useful entryway storage is enticing to buyers, especially in the form of built-in benches, cubbies and artfully placed shelves. If you don't have that kind of storage to offer, adding something as simple as knobs or hooks for coats can help a lot. For that extra bit of seasonal fashion, you may want to add a candle or two atop the shelf -- but don't go too far. It's important to keep the clutter down at all costs.

#4 Light it up!

Buyers can't appreciate all of the work you've put into your entryway if they can't see it. Proper entryway lighting is important, whether it's a well-placed lamp or a hanging pendant or both. If you have a hanging fixture, make sure the bulb is bright enough for nighttime showings. 

Conclusion

These are some of the top improvements to address when staging your entryway for potential buyers. Whether or not you decide to add some seasonal flavor into the mix, make sure your entryway feels appealing and welcoming -- and that it sets the right tone for the rest of the walkthrough.

See the original blog here.