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Date Archives: September 2021

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September
29

Learn the Advantages of an Accurate Real Estate Estimate and How to Get One

If you are considering the sale of your home, knowing your home's value is essential for pricing it accurately to get buyers interested. Whether you are considering a sale or just curious, it is always a good idea to keep on top of valuations, if for no other reason than to determine your ROI.

No matter what motivates you, having an accurate understanding of your home's estimated market value can come in handy. Today, there are several ways to do that, many of which are free and within reach online. However, some methods are better for getting an accurate real estate estimate than others. 

This post will compare working with a professional agent to get a real estate estimate of value versus sourcing the information online at a website like Zillow.

Finding A Real Estate Estimate On Zillow

In today's internet age, technology has given us the ability to perform many tasks ourselves. As buyers and sellers have become savvier, the first stop on the journey to buy or sell a home is the internet. 

Online tools and home value estimators are everywhere! While you have multiple platforms to choose from, one of the most popular is Zillow. But is a "Zestimate" as a Zillow estimate is known, accurate?

So, what is a Zestimate?

This is Zillow's version of an online home valuation platform and can give you an estimate on over 100 million homes all over the country. Zillow's algorithm automatically computes values. These are based on both public-submitted as well as user-submitted data points for each property.

Like many online value calculators, The accuracy of a Zillow Zestimate will vary widely based on several factors, including your location and how much data is available. 

While online sites like Zillow are helpful, you should never rely on them to make an accurate real estate estimate of valuation. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you want accurate information to make an informed decision. 

Sites like Zillow have the potential to empower buyers and sellers. They have replaced the world of comparable sales and values that were once understandable only to real estate professionals. They give both buyers and sellers the ability to learn useful information about properties in their area, including their own.

Sites like Zillow do their best to provide accurate information as to the value of your home. However, Zillow is an automated system that is based on mathematical formulas and data analysis. It does not think for itself. It cannot account for variations – changes that can substantially affect the price of a home from any sort of "average."

When you are buying or selling, you cannot afford to be off on your real estate estimate by tens of thousands of dollars in your pricing or bidding!

How a Real Estate Professional Determines Value

While Zillow is fine if you are seeking a general idea of value, the fact is, analysis and a real estate estimate provided by a real estate professional will be more accurate. Real Estate professionals specialize in answering the question, "what is my home worth?" They do this for their clients by running a comparative market analysis. This consists of finding similar properties, or comps, that sold within the past 90 days and using this factual data to prepare their valuation.

The most accurate comp is a nearby home that is similar to yours in terms of square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Ideally, the lot size is also similar. Once your REALTOR® finds a few comps in your area, they will average these figures to determine a baseline home value. 

Today, sellers need to take into consideration that home buyers begin their search for properties online. Assume your agent has provided you with a real estate estimate that values your home at $503,000. Most people will search for homes using $20,000 or $25,000 increments. 

That means listing your home at its market value of $503,000 could prevent your listing from being seen by buyers searching the $475,000 to $500,000 range. Asking $500,000 for your home in this instance might generate more traffic and maybe even a bidding war that can push your final number well above your expectations!

Why Accurate Pricing is Crucial

If your real estate estimate is too high, your home can sit on the market, even in a seller's market. Valuing your home too high can be a big problem. If your home stays on the market too long (over 30 days), it can become stigmatized. Buyers often get suspicious when they see that a home has been on the market for an extended period. They may think that there is something wrong with the property.

If that is the case, the seller may need to significantly reduce the price, sometimes below market value, to generate interest. However, pricing your home below market in an attempt to generate interest and multiple bids can also backfire. Granted, in a hot seller's market, like we're living in right now, that strategy can be effective. However, pricing too low can lead buyers to assume that your property is only worth the list price.

While sites like Zillow can be helpful in the information gathering stage, your best bet is to work with a real estate professional. They can help you to price your home accurately and list it for close to the figure. When you are in doubt, turn to your local real estate professional. They understand your market and will help you cut through the haze to pinpoint the right price for your home.

September
23

Home Security Tech

In our high-tech world, home security systems have become more sophisticated, affordable, and easier to use. And unlike the manual security gadgets of yesteryears, today's home security devices are discreet, packed with a variety of security features, and can be controlled using your phone or tablet. Smart home security tech can deter criminals and help in an emergency. From smart cameras to smart thermostats, our real estate agents explain the typical devices in a smart home security system to help take the first steps to a more convenient and secure lifestyle.

2021 Home Security Tech

Click Here to Read More...

September
22

Why Isn't My House Selling In A Sellers Real Estate Market?

Many cities across the country are experiencing the hottest real estate market in years as the pandemic, low-interest rates, and tight housing inventory have created the perfect storm! We have all heard the stories about friends who put their house on the market and sold it in less than a week for thousands of dollars over asking. 

So you decided to list your house to take advantage of this unprecedented market, and you got a ton of traffic. It is showing and showing, and showing some more, but you have not received a single offer. That means it is time to make some changes, especially if it has been on the market for 30 days or more.

The fact is, even in this market, some homes linger on the market for weeks or months, while the house next door might go under contract in days.

In a hot market, the rule is, if you have not gotten a contract after six showings, it is time to reassess. The answer almost always comes back to one of two variables: price and/or condition (although marketing can also play a role.) However, there can also be other factors to consider.

In this post, we will look at ten reasons that your house might not be selling, even in a hot real estate market.

First, Address the Basics

The factors that move real estate are price, condition, and marketing. As a general rule, if your home is not selling, it is probably how the property is priced or the way it is exposed.

Today, marketing should embrace a combination of traditional marketing like listing on the MLS and print advertising and digital efforts like email marketing, web-based marketing, and social media, among other digital tactics.

When it comes to real estate marketing, professional photography and easily accessible information can certainly help. But it also relies on your real estate agent knowing your neighborhood and the local market. 

Today, eighty-four percent of all homes are on a lockbox, and most prospective buyers never meet the listing agent. A few years ago, the selling agent would meet you at the property, making sure the drapes were open, and the house looked bright and inviting before anyone walked in. Today, not so much.

Along with marketing, price is also crucial. Many sellers in a market like this will price their property based on what they want to get rather than what comparable homes in the area are selling for. You need to price your property based on facts, not fantasy. Buyers today are savvy and have access to a ton of information. They are educated and have access to websites, apps, and online home valuation tools, so they know what a home is worth before they step through the door.

While a home that is not updated will sell, the price needs to reflect the condition. If it is priced anticipating that it will need updating, buyers will not be scared away. Even in a seller's market, the basics apply. Removing clutter, sprucing up your curb appeal, opening the blinds, having an active agent, and using professional images in your marketing will help it sell faster. 

While the basics are often the place to start, there are other reasons that your house may not be selling in a hot market.

10 Possible Reasons Your Home Is Not Selling

Price, condition, and marketing are excellent places to start if your property is not selling. However, sometimes there are other factors to consider. Here are ten reasons why your home may not be selling even in a hot real estate market.

1. You're Overconfident

Just because we are in a hot real estate market does not mean that your house will get snapped up for a premium, no matter its condition. Of course, it might, but you should not count on it. 

Be realistic from day one. Although you may love your house, it may sit on the market for quite a while, no matter the market. Start with the basics and position your property well.

2. Your Home is Uninsurable

This is especially true in some states like Florida, where you can't get homeowner's insurance without inspecting the electrical, plumbing, roof, and cooling systems. Even in other states, companies can refuse to insure a home that does not meet basic standards. This can reduce your pool of buyers to those that can afford to pay cash and renovate to meet the insurance requirements.

3. Lenders Will Not Lend on the Home

The Federal Housing Authority has tightened the standards a home must meet before they approve a mortgage. Other lenders may set guidelines for the condition of roofs, electrical systems, or other components. If parts of the home are in poor condition, a lender may not be willing to lend.

4. There is a Problem with the Title

Title problems can spook buyers. For example:

  • Conveyance without a recorded deed. (this can sometimes happen when transferred between family members)
  • A paid-off mortgage that is still showing as a valid lien.
  • A mechanics lien that a subcontractor filed for work done on the house.

Contact the title company before listing to make sure everything is in order. If not, ask them what needs to be done to prepare for selling your home, then do it!

5. Your Agent Just Does Not Seem to Care

Sometimes there is nothing wrong at all; your home is priced right and well-maintained. Maybe your agent is turning off prospective buyers. Some agents have no personality, and some are just plain burnt out. Find an agent who you find pleasant and interesting. Chances are, so will potential buyers. But, remember to dismiss your current agent before signing on with the new one.

6. The House Smells Bad

There is a saying among agents... "If I can smell it, I can't sell it." The remedy might be a simple as burning a scented candle or baking cookies during showings. But if there is a persistent odor, like mold or mildew, pet urine, or cigarette smoke, address it immediately!

7. Your Appliances Are Outdated

Stainless is in. Old yellow refrigerators are out! Potential buyers will realize that they can replace the refrigerator, but if your appliances all look like they were new in the 70s, buyers might wonder what else is old and on its last legs, like the HVAC or water heater!

8. Your Staging is Bad

It might not seem important, the buyer is buying a house, not your furniture, but staging matters more than you think! Staging helps potential buyers recognize the possibilities and put themselves in the home. They do not want to see your choices in art, or worse, a big empty u. The fact is, a tastefully staged home will sell for 1% to 5% more than a vacant or unstaged home. And they sell faster too!

9. You Have A Specific Problem to Address

Even if showings do not result in a sale, they can provide critical data. Buyer feedback is essential. Have your agent conclude their home tour with questions like "what's wrong with this home?" or "what would need to change to make you want to buy this home?" If you get the same answer from multiple people, you know you have a problem. Once you have identified a problem, address it. For example, if multiple buyers are concerned about fitting a king-sized bed in the master, update your staging to illustrate the solution.

10. You Are Getting Bad Advice

Just about everything in this post could have been prevented by working with an experienced REALTOR®. They should help you with staging, pricing, marketing, and curb appeal, as well as collecting data from showings and adjusting their game plan to reflect new information.

Unfortunately, working with the wrong agent can cost you. You may end up taking a lot less for your home, or it may stay on the market for months. The good news is, with the right adjustments to your home's price, listing, staging, or condition, it will eventually sell. There really is a buyer for every home!

September
20

Moving Tips

It's no secret that moving can be stressful! When you're packing up your entire life and relocating across the country, it's important to make sure you're prepared. Spending some time planning your move will help ensure everything goes off without a hitch. 

Not sure where to start? You're in luck! Our real estate agents often work with clients from out of state and have created a helpful guide to help with planning cross-country moves. Here are a few of the most important tips. 

Cross-Country Moving Tips

  • Start by Decluttering
    There's no sense paying someone to move stuff you don't really want or need. You'll save yourself money if you declutter before you move. Even better, you may be able to make some extra money by having a yard sale, working with a consignment store, or selling items online. You can also donate gently-used items to local nonprofits.
  • Ask for Help
    There's nothing worse than trying to handle a cross-country move by yourself. Don't hesitate to ask for help with certain tasks. Even school-age kids can pack up boxes of non-essentials if they're shown the proper way to do it. There's also nothing wrong with asking family and friends to come over and lend you a hand. 
  • Book Travel Arrangements Early
    You don't want to scramble to figure out your travel arrangements at the last minute. Having the right airline and hotel reservations can make or break your move, so make sure you spend some time doing your research and start booking your reservations at least a month in advance. 
  • Get Quotes from Multiple Movers
    A cross-country move can be expensive, so it pays to get estimates from at least three or four different moving companies before making your final decision. Make sure each company you're considering is licensed and insured. Be careful not to make your decision solely on price. It's also important to consider their anticipated delivery time, the services included, and whether you feel comfortable with the company's reputation. Many of the best moving companies book up quickly, so it's important to get started on this as soon as possible. 
  • Take Photos or Videos of Your Items
    When packing up valuable items, it's a great idea to take photos or videos to document their condition. This way, if they arrive damaged, you'll be able to easily show proof to the moving company. 
  • Get the Driver's Contact Number
    When you're moving cross-country, you can sometimes wait a week or longer for your items to arrive. Getting a contact number for the driver can help give you some extra peace of mind. 
  • Consider Moving Insurance
    Most moving companies offer a free moving policy, but these typically only cover the bare minimum. When booking your move, consider whether you need Full Value Protection. This will hold the mover accountable for covering the actual cash value of your items. You'll also have to weigh the pros and cons of choosing a policy from your mover versus getting one from a third-party insurance company. 
  • Bring Valuables and Important Paperwork
    Make sure to protect your valuables and important paperwork by keeping them with you instead of sending them with the movers. Some of the items you'll want to keep with you include jewelry, heirlooms, your birth certificate, and your marriage license. 
  • Pack a Bag of Essentials
    As you're packing up your belongings, make sure to keep a separate bag or a suitcase for your essentials. This should include everything you need for moving day and the first few days after you arrive. Make sure you have at least a few changes of clothing, all your necessary toiletries, medications, and items like towels, toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, pet food, child necessities. 
  • Examine Your Items Carefully
    When the movers arrive with your items, make sure you inspect them thoroughly. This is particularly important for large items, like furniture and anything valuable. If you notice any damage, take photos and contact the movers right away. 
  • Update Your Information
    Thanks to modern technology, it's now super easy to change your address. You can just visit USPS.com and select the date you want the post office to start forwarding your mail. You'll also need to change your address with your bank and credit card companies and change over your new utilities. 
  • Get a New Driver's License
    If you're living in a new state, you'll need to get a new driver's license. To do this, make an appointment at your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and bring all the necessary paperwork so they can issue you a new license. 
  • Explore Your Neighborhood
    Now that all the hard stuff is done, it's time to settle into your new home and get comfortable in your new neighborhood. This means getting outside and saying hello to your new neighbors. This is also a good time to start exploring local parks, restaurants, and retail shops. You may also want to check out your local Nextdoor.com group. 

Are you planning to relocate soon? Our agents would love to help you find your dream home! Contact us today. 

September
15

Winning a Bidding War and Buying A Home

Before the pandemic, the population growth of many cities in the U.S. with over 1 million people was stagnant or declining. As the pandemic peaked, smaller communities began to experience a growth surge as people, newly working from home, realized that they could live anywhere and chose to relocate away from cities.

As urban populations disperse, smaller metropolitan areas, suburban counties, and rural areas have experienced unprecedented demand for housing. This has caused many markets to heat up and become hyper-competitive. 

In a market where supply is low, and demand is high, it's not uncommon to find yourself in a bidding war as multiple offers push prices higher and higher. Add low mortgage rates to the mix, and you may find yourself edged out of the running several times when trying to buy a home!

While no single strategy can guarantee that you'll win a bidding war, there are several steps you can take to make your offer stronger when buying a home and put you in the best position to compete and prevail!

Prepare For War!

When you're competing in a hot housing market like we're experiencing today, most agents agree that it's best to push aside your emotions, regardless of how difficult that might be. After all, much of the home buying process relies on making an emotional connection with a home. However, to succeed in a bidding war, you need to begin your home search with a fully stocked arsenal!

That means, having your finances in order, thoroughly researching potential target neighborhoods, and building a team of trusted experienced professionals well before you need to move a deal along. This team should include everyone from your banker, to your broker, lawyer, and engineer, as well as a contractor.

Getting your finances in order means deciding the maximum comfortable number you're willing to pay for a home, which doesn't necessarily mean what the bank will approve you for.

Along with all of this, you also need to bring a willingness to compromise to the bargaining table. Right now, it's a strong seller's market. Sellers have the option of asking for the world, and more often than not, they're getting whatever they ask for!

Here are some tips for coming out ahead when buying a home in a bidding war.

• Get A Pre-approval Letter

This is one of the first and most important steps of the entire process! A mortgage pre-approval letter shows a seller that you've done your homework, and you're not only a serious buyer, you're also a qualified one. This is an especially effective tactic should you enter a bidding war.

It's important to understand that a pre-approval letter is different than a mortgage prequalification. To get a preapproval letter, your lender evaluates every financial detail, including your credit score and report, then decides whether they will loan you the money to buy a house, and the amount they will loan. Pre-approval is based on documentation which includes W-2 tax forms and bank statements.

• Make an All Cash Offer, or A Larger Downpayment

Sometimes the highest bid does not win. Sometimes money talks when bidding on a house. Paying cash is often much more appealing to a seller because it virtually eliminates the possibility that financing will fall through before closing. Cash deals also typically close faster. Offering a substantial down payment or making a cash offer often go right to the front of the line in a bidding war. 

Can't pay cash? Your earnest money deposit can show a seller that you are a serious buyer. The typical earnest money deposit is 1 to 2% of the purchase price, but this varies by location. A higher earnest money deposit can catch a seller's attention and signal that you're serious, especially in a hot housing market.

• Include an Escalation Clause in Your Offer

Including an escalation clause can work to strengthen your offer. if other offers come in that match or beat your initial bid, an escalation clause states that you are willing to incrementally increase your offer up to a fixed limit 

For example, say the asking price is $200,000. Your REALTOR® would prepare your office to state:

My initial bid is $200,000 with an escalation of $2000 over any and all competing offers with a cap at $210,000. However, if another bidder offers more than $210,000 you'd be out of the running.

• Limit Contingencies

Contingencies allow buyers to walk away from a deal without losing their earnest money if certain conditions are not met. In a bidding war, you want to carefully choose them. 

Try to submit a clean offer without too many contingencies. To be competitive today, you need to do your homework. Know you can obtain financing so you can eliminate a credit review contingency. Understand what to look for when walking through the home before submitting an offer to forego the inspection. Agree to pay a certain amount over the list price, and know you can afford that over the appraised value.

• Be Flexible on the Closing Date

This can be an effective tactic in a couple of ways. For example, let's say you get outbid by a few thousand dollars, but you're willing to give the seller more time to move out. That flexibility can often make you the frontrunner in a bidding war. 

Extra closing time might be attractive to a seller who might otherwise have to spend more on moving or storage. Especially if they're crunched for time to find another home in a tight market. Sometimes you can win the bidding war by extending the closing date. For example, if the sellers are in a crunch, offer to rent the home back to them cheaply, for a fixed period. If the home is already vacant, you can sometimes win by offering to close quicker, reducing the seller's expenses of carrying two mortgages. 

Even If You Lose the Battle, You Still Could Win The Bidding War!

One final thing to keep in mind...

Just because another buyer was chosen over you doesn't necessarily mean you've lost the war. When buying a home, transactions can often fall through for any number of reasons. If you make a well-thought-out offer, a strong enough bid, and are ready to act quickly, you might be next on the seller's list!

If you're serious about winning a bidding war, work with a seasoned real estate professional with experience in this type of market. A real estate agent or REALTOR® will have the skills to help you prevail in a bidding war. They will also have extensive market knowledge, which is critical for determining the fair market value of any home you're interested in. 

September
13

Bar Hartbor Living
Our real estate agents
think Bar Harbor is an incredible town to live in, but you don't have to take our word for it. Let us share some facts, figures, and general information showing why Bar Harbor makes a great place to call home for all ages and lifestyles.

Click Here to Read More...

September
8

neighborhood

If You're Buying a House, The New England Market is Red Hot Right Now. Learn How to Navigate the Process

The housing market is on fire right now, and the New England region is the hottest of the hot! According to a National Association of Realtors study, because of pent-up post-pandemic demand for homes and a short supply of inventory, the median sales price of single-family homes is up 16.2% year-over-year in the first quarter. Along with high demand and low supply, other factors helping to move the market include historically low interest rates and a large market of first-time homebuyers.

New England is home to the top two real state markets in the country – Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire. Manchester is New Hampshire's largest city and no stranger to the hottest market list, while Concord leaped up 22 spots from last year to end up at number two.

According to Joelle Sturms, a realtor with the Masiello Group in Concord, New Hampshire office:

"It is pure madness! We are seeing multiple offers all over the place and homes selling for tens of thousands of dollars over the asking price. It is mostly buyers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York with plenty of cash. They almost do not care what prices are. I feel bad for our local buyers because first-time homebuyers are getting priced out of the market."

So how can you win a bidding war when buying a house in the blazing New England Market?

Read on to learn more.

If You Are A Buyer in a Hot Market, Be Prepared to Wait

If you are buying a house, you might consider waiting until supply picks up; in fact, you might not have a choice. Here are three stats to help illustrate why waiting might be your best tactic.

  • 64% of Active buyers in the first quarter of 2021 searched for their home for more than 90 days.
  • In a typical market, the average time it took to find a home was 56 days.
  • 45% of those buyers said that being outbid kept them from buying.

As a buyer, the worst thing you can do is rush into a hot seller's market needing to make a purchase. For example, if you are selling your home while looking for a new one, you might want to have a backup plan for where you will live if the process takes longer than expected. One tactic to consider is to negotiate a lease-back clause in your purchase and sales agreement. If you can eliminate the burden of time constraints and wait it out, saying "no, for now" might help you land a better deal!

Things to Do While Waiting...

In a market like New Hampshire today, even if you decide to wait before buying a house, you can prepare to move quickly when the market opens up. Here are some steps to take so you can move quickly when the time comes.

Get Pre-Approved

Obtaining a mortgage pre-approval letter shows sellers you are a serious buyer ready to make a deal. When you are pre-approved, it means that a lender has verified your financials and agreed to make a loan. Lining up financing takes time. Doing so ahead of time shows you are serious and can give you an edge over other buyers. 

The process also gives you a better idea of what your homebuying budget looks like. You can then set realistic limits before you get into a bidding war.

Find Yourself A Good REALTOR®

Your REALTOR® is one of the most important members of your team. Find one who is an experienced negotiator but is also patient, objective, and resourceful. A good realtor can explain your local housing market using comps of similar properties that have recently sold, ideally in the neighborhood of your prospective home. 

A well-placed nudge from your realtor is sometimes needed if you have unrealistic expectations. But you should never feel that they are trying to sway you or rush a decision. 

Search for Homes Below Your Limit

Just because you are approved for a certain amount of financing does not mean you should only look at homes at the top of your budget. When buying a home in a hot market, expect to get outbid on many homes, especially in a seller's market. Instead, consider expanding your search and making concessions on the type of home you would like to own. 

List your needs and wants for a home early in the process. It can help you to make better compromises later. For example, looking at homes in a different neighborhood, homes with fewer amenities, or needing some updates. In the end, any compromises will feel minor when you compare the monthly savings on your mortgage payments!

Keep the Inspection Process Simple

While it's never a good idea to waive a home inspection, as you may end up vulnerable if the home has undetected structural issues that can be expensive to repair. Instead, offer an "informational" inspection, which means you will not use the inspection as a negotiating tool for price concessions. 

This offers the seller a good-faith gesture that you are interested in buying a house and not wasting their time. However, it also means, you can still walk away from any deal based on what the inspector finds.

In a Super Hot Market, Consider Deal-Sweeteners

Sometimes when buying a house, you need to look past the sticker price and see what is a priority to the seller. Maybe they are taking advantage of a hot market to increase their ROI but really don't want to move. Include a rent-back agreement with your bid allowing the homeowner to stay in the property for a few extra months. Or maybe the seller has to move in a hurry for their new job. You can offer to buy some of their big bulky furniture as part of the deal.

When buying a house, your job is to make the sale as painless as possible for the seller. If you look at the deal from both sides, you can often come up with ways to do that. The lack of inventory across the country has caused headaches for buyers finding themselves in a bidding war. If you think outside the box and make the transaction as painless as possible, then you can have a great chance of buying your dream home in a hot market like New Hampshire!

September
7

Cleaning Tips Listing a Home

When it's time to sell your home, it's important for your house to create a positive impression with prospective buyers. Our real estate agents recommend thoroughly cleaning your home before listing it to attract homebuyers and help you command the highest asking price.

A messy, cluttered space indicates to buyers that the property hasn't been properly maintained and may be a haven for expensive repairs. Check out this list of cleaning tips to prepare your home to list. 

Click Here to Read More...

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