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Date Archives: August 2021

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Tips for Sellers | 10 Posts
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Vermont Masiello

It's no surprise that national sources frequently rank Vermont among the top places to live in the United States. Our real estate agents take a deep dive into the features that make Vermont "A Place All Its Own" and the regions that make up this wonderful state.

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Paperless Back to School

One of the advantages of living in New England is the many colleges and universities that serve the region. Going paperless will bring some benefits to the education process. While a child may not require the sophisticated technology of the adult student, more and more elementary and high schools are also adopting paperless systems for the benefit of the teachers, students, and of course, the planet. Here are a few reasons why you may find this to be a great option for your home.

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New England Books

With its incomparable natural beauty and impressive historical legacy, New England is a great backdrop for a wide range of literary genres, from young adult series to mysteries and thrillers. Here's a look at some top books set in New England that our real estate agents will be reading for Book Lovers Day on Monday, August 9th.

Add These New England Books to Your Reading List

Lights Burning

  • Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter and Connie Roop
    Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie became a favorite of many when it was featured on the iconic PBS show Reading Rainbow. Set in the mid-19th century, 16-year-old Abbie faces the challenge of "keeping the lights burning" when her father, the lighthouse keeper, finds himself caught in a storm. This is a great choice to read aloud for kids during evening storytime. 

Cider House

  • The Cider House Rules by John Irving
    John Irving is considered one of the top contemporary writers in America, and The Cider House Rules is one of his best-known novels. The story of Homer Wells, who learns the truths of life while growing up in a Maine orphanage, has been compared to the works of Dickens in its themes and scope. In 2000, Irving won an Academy Award for his screenplay adaptation.

stephen king

  • It by Stephen King
    Even non-horror fans know the work of Stephen King, a literary legend whose books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. One of the signature elements of his works is their New England setting, such as the fictional town of Derry, Maine, where the terrifying events of It take place. Seven people, now scattered across the country, are drawn back to their hometown for a final showdown with the evil being they first faced together as teenagers. Woven throughout the story is a commentary on the bittersweet yet enduring bonds of childhood friendship.

Clammed Up

  • Clammed Up by Barbara Ross
    New England is renowned for its variety of fresh seafood, so it's only natural that it would be incorporated into locally-set literature. Clammed Up is a delightful hybrid of mystery and romance that revolves around Julia Snowden and her family's clambake business. In this introductory volume of the Maine Clambake series, Julia fights to clear the name of her childhood crush, who is the prime suspect in a murder. Other titles in the nine-volume series include Musseled Out, Fogged In, and Steamed Open.

A Separate Peace

  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
    As a longtime staple of high school reading lists, A Separate Peace has truly earned the designation of "classic." Author John Knowles based the story on his experiences as a student at Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious prep school in New Hampshire. During the years of World War II, odd-couple best friends Gene and Phineas experience a tragic event that tests their relationship and shatters their innocence. Gore Vidal, a famous author in his own right, was one of Knowles' classmates at Phillips Exeter and the model for one of the secondary characters.

Walk in the Woods

  • A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
    Spanning Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is the Holy Grail for hikers. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail is essential reading for anyone planning a hike on this route, even if it's just in their imagination. Author Bill Bryson, who has made a name for himself writing about an eclectic assortment of non-fiction topics, mixes fascinating facts about the trail with engaging stories of fellow hikers he meets along the way.

Carpenter Lady

  • The Carpenter's Lady by Barbara Delinsky
    When you're craving the escapism of some light reading, pick up The Carpenter's Lady. You'll quickly be caught up in the story of Debra Barry, a TV writer who flees the fast pace of New York for the quiet charms of New Hampshire, seeking some post-divorce healing. After hiring carpenter Graham Reid to help renovate her house, Debra is surprised to find that her own damaged psyche is slowly becoming repaired as well. A Boston native who spent many childhood summers at a camp in Maine, Barbara Delinsky uses her lifelong love of the region to add realistic color to the settings of her books.

Secret History

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    Home to elite educational institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth, New England, is academic nirvana. This background is used to incredible effect in The Secret History, one of the most highly anticipated and successful debut novels of all time. Told as an inverted detective story, the novel begins years after a murder has been committed and relates the events leading up to the crime. The story takes place at fictional Hampden College, a small liberal college in Vermont. Donna Tartt patterned Hampden after Bennington College, also in Vermont, where she studied classics from 1982 to 1986. Tartt's classmates at Bennington included noted writers Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Lethem, and Jill Eisenstadt.

Is your New England story waiting to be written? Contact us at The Masiello Group for help with all your real estate needs.


The Value and ROI of Selling a Home With A Finished Basement

If you're considering selling your home now or in the near future, you may be wondering if finishing your basement provides a good ROI as a value-added improvement. As a general rule, the answer is yes, but that does not mean that a finished basement is the best way to invest your limited home improvement dollars. 

In terms of home value, a finished basement is not as valuable as improvements made to the main floor living space, like adding an above-grade bedroom or upgrading your kitchen. Of course, a project like a main floor addition is more valuable than a finished basement, but it is also much more costly. 

The terminology we often use to describe the basement, either finished or unfinished, leaves a bit to be desired. Just because a basement is unfinished does not mean that the space is a problem. For example, you may want to consider a home with an unfinished basement to customize your living space.

If you are considering purchasing a home with a finished basement, or you are a seller wanting to maximize ROI, make sure the value of the space is included and noted in the appraisal process.

So, Should You Finish Your Basement?

Like any significant home improvement, you need to consider a few factors and define your goals. Whether you should finish your basement depends on your lifestyle, local real estate market, and goals for the space. 

For example, if your family loves movie nights, and you are staying put for a few years, building a home theatre in the basement might be a smart investment. Not only will you see a 70% return when you do sell, but you will also have years of memories with family and friends and an improved lifestyle until you do sell!

The Value Difference Between an Unfinished and Finished Basement

Different states may have various regulations in terms of defining space and appraisal values. In many cases, basements - even when finished – are not included in square footage calculations. That is why you will sometimes see a listing for a 3000 square foot property with an additional 1000 square feet of basement space.

For our purposes, a finished basement means that the space is insulated, up to code, painted, and has flooring and trim like any other room in the house. There is also electricity and temperature control, meaning that a finished basement is usable and habitable.

For this reason, a finished basement tends to add value to your home. A finished basement increases the total amount of usable space, even if your local authorities prevent you from officially accounting for the square footage on the MLS.

However, that does not mean that an unfinished basement does not have its own set of merits. There is a ton of potential in even the most cobweb-infested, darkest basement, which means there is appraisal value there.

After all, the future homeowner can choose to finish the space to meet their unique needs, like an in-law apartment, media room, office, or playroom for the kids. Maybe they just want the storage space. As far as actual value, that really depends on who you ask. In any improvement like a finished basement, there is the appraised value and the consumer value. 

The Types of Finished Basements

There are basically three types of finished basements. Each offers benefits and drawbacks. The type you choose depends on your home's existing structure, your needs, and how much you are willing to invest.

• Walk-Out Basement

Generally, this offers the most value to buyers. They typically feature a ton of natural light. A true walk-out features a full-size door (often a slider) that exits to an outdoor space like a backyard or patio. This type of basement allows for full-size windows and more natural light. With a walk-out basement, the main floor is at street level in the front of the home, but elevated from the back, often with a porch or deck. In some markets, the MLS will count a walk-out as above-grade when calculating square footage, and the price per square foot.

• Standard Lot Basement

This is the traditional basement. A Standard lot basement is underground with little natural light, typically from small window wells near the ceiling. A standard lot usually pushed the main level a few feet above the ground, so there may be a couple of steps to get from the main level to the backyard. Because of the lack of natural light, a standard lot basement is less attractive to buyers at resale.

• Garden-Level Lot Basement

This is the middle ground between a walk-out and a standard basement. A garden-level lot basement is partially above and partially below grade due to a sloping lot. A garden-level lot basement may have a combination of full-size, and window well windows but typically does not have a walk-out door to the backyard.

Finished Basement ROI

Much like any major remodeling, it is crucial to understand that you will only recoup a portion of your investment with a finished basement. The best course of action is to finish the basement for your family to enjoy, then when you sell down the road, recoup a portion of your investment.

Of course, there are plenty of buyers who are actively seeking homes with a finished basement. And in a competitive market, a nicely finished basement can help your home to really stand out. 

According to Remodeling Magazine's Cost VS. Value Report, a mid-range basement remodel (meaning builders grade finishes) costs an average of $70,000 nationally and recoups about 70% on resale. However, it is important to understand that this can vary widely based on the region of the country. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, the average cost for a remodel is $84,000, but brings a return of 86.4%, compared to New England where the return is the lowest in the US at 52.8%, with a $76,500 cost.

How Your Finished Basement is Valued By an Appraiser

If you're considering selling your home, you may be considering a basement remodel for resale or marketing purposes. In that case, understanding how a finished basement is appraised will give you a better idea of a finished basement's impact on your bottom line. 

There are three key terms appraisers use to explain how they calculate value. They are:

  • Above-Grade – Above grade refers to a room that is located above ground level.
  • Below-Grade – Refers to rooms or living space in the basement or below ground level.
  • Gross Living Area – According to the Appraisal Institute, the gross living area of your home is the total area of finished, above-grade residential space. It's measured using the perimeter of the house and only includes complete, habitable, above-grade space. So your finished basement is typically not included in this number.

An appraiser will start with a rough gauge based on the price per square foot in your home, and how much of your house is above-grade, versus below-grade. Below-grade space is approximately half of the above-grade price. So if the price per square foot is $150 in your location, your basement would add an additional $75 per square foot. 

An appraiser will also run comps of similar homes in your area with finished basements to determine a final appraisal price for your home.

The Bottom Line on Finished Basement Values

If you've already have a finished basement and it's time to sell, the good news is you'll enjoy a 50 – 70% return on your investment. If you're planning on staying put for a while, finishing your basement can give you several years of enjoyment for you and your family, and you'll still get the same 50-70% return on your investment.

If you have an unfinished basement, working with an experienced real estate professional can help you to navigate the waters in terms of the value and potential, along with what the market expects. It's also important to understand that a proper home inspection (very different than an appraisal) is extra important if you're a buyer considering a home with an unfinished or finished basement. 

Structural issues and water damage can be hidden or easily go unnoticed in an unfinished basement, so even if the market is tight, and you're eager to snap up that great home before someone else does, don't neglect your due diligence!


New England Vacation Home

If you love to travel, you've probably vacationed in some spectacular places that hold special memories. Perhaps the ocean views, exotic cuisine, relaxing atmosphere, or abundance of nature make you want to return again and again to this special place.

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