Where Are We Heading

Real Estate like everything else in life, is not very predictable, the only real tool agents have to help determine what the market is doing  are looking at the trends & recent sales transactions. These ideas can give us an educated guess as to the direction the market may take. Here in Columbia County, the stats are improving, with more sales, and less days on the market compared to the same period last year.

There are also a number of economic factors that point to a stronger housing market in the coming years. When the market does rebound, demand should outpace supply, thus driving prices up. In the next few months consumers may hold off  to see if there will be a change in the administration. However, playing the waiting game could be costly. The best buying opportunities in years are out there right now, and if you hold off too long prices could rise and buying power will diminish. Those great opportunities could slip right through your fingertips.

Real Estate Versus The Stock Market

Lately it seems to me that Real Estate is a much safer and therefore a more attractive investment than the Stock Market. Many people may not agree. However, I have my reasons for believing otherwise. First, most experts now agree that the market has hit the bottom, and in many markets it is now rebounding. That certainly appears to be the case here in Columbia County. Secondly, the old adage of buying low and selling high is in place with historically lower home prices, coupled with some of the lowest interest rates we have seen in decades. Thirdly, when you buy Real Estate you are getting a tangible asset, something you can feel, touch, enjoy, and even improve. Buying stocks in today’s unstable world economy could be a very risky investment. Even though the company you own stock in may be doing well, economic conditions worldwide now have a greater impact on American Companies. That’s why when people ask about investing in Real Estate, for me it’s always about owning a piece of the rock.

Smart Choice

Is now a good time to invest in real estate? Truthfully it depends. There are segments of the market where investing is very promising, and others that are not as strong. In this market rentals are booming, especially seasonal rentals. So it makes sense to buy a property that you can both enjoy as well as rent seasonally. With so many good buying opportunities, you should look at each home also in terms of its rental income potential. Here in Columbia County we have two prime rental seasons, Summer & Winter.

Summer rentals generally are from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and homes with an in ground pool for this period are in high demand and usually go for around $7,000 to $10,000 per month depending on the amenities of the home. The winter season on the other hand generally runs from November to March and these rentals are commonly rented by skiers.

The major advantage to renting seasonally, is the ability to write off all your all expenses, such as taxes, insurance, utilities, as well as the interest on your mortgage. In order to be able to do this all you need to do is rent for at least 14 days during the year.

So why not have the best of both worlds, a vacation home with added tax benefits.

Can You Exploit Today’s Market…. Or not?

There’s some good, even surprising news here, along with some not-so-good news. Much depends on you, where you live, your financial situation, your wants and needs. Let’s ask some questions, and come up with some answers.

1)   How credit-worthy are you? Should your needs necessarily involve a lending institution; a strong credit score will be essential.

2)   How vital is the market? Nationally markets vary widely; ours is relatively strong, with median prices up some 6% over last year during the same period

3)   Are you looking for a vacation or ‘bargain’ home? We recently reported that sales for such properties were up significantly in 2011 and  – surprisingly- 41% of these sales were all- cash. Assuming you can afford to buy or can show a strong income profile, the investment of a lifetime both – in pleasure and financially – is likely readily available. But be advised: prices here are already up compared to last year during this period.

4)   Are you looking for a rental? Whether for a summer vacation or long term, these are in short supply- and rates are up. However, if you can remain flexible, some summer vacation rentals are still available. Stay in close touch with an agent here!

5)   I’ve heard that financing is now tougher for most buyers – is this true? Sadly, but understandably, yes. Bank demands have tightened, and buyers will have higher hurdles to get over. It is still worth moving forward in this buyer’s market.

Hope This has been helpful…

Now About That Burning Question…

Nowadays we hear this one question more and more – and still more. Are we there yet — has the housing market finally bottomed out? Answering that question fairly means more than just following a Media known for its appetite for negative  news.

It means looking past that Media to many positive developments in recent months that have often gone unreported altogether. In fact, all major indicators suggest we have more than hit bottom — we may be on the way back up. Good news indeed, and backed by reliable evidence.

One supporting example: sales of existing homes nationally over the past six months have increased 13% compared to the same period last year. Still another indicator: the rate of foreclosures and short sales has begun to slow down, thereby reducing the amount of existing inventory.

Historically low prices and interest rates have created a remarkable buyers market in many areas, and a lot of smart money is now moving in a positive direction.

While it’s perhaps a little early to start celebrating, a gentle smile would seem quite appropriate.


How Does The Laws Of Agency Work In Real Estate?

New York State law requires all licensed Real Estate Agents & Brokers to advise in writing to all potential buyers, sellers, tenants, & landlords of residential properties, who they will be representing in any subsequent transaction. This requirement is to be done at the first substantive meeting of the parties. Despite all the written material on this subject I find it amazing that many consumers are still unaware of the options and choices they have when choosing a Real Estate professional. Quite often, a decision on purchasing a home may be one of the most important ones we will make in our lifetimes. You need to become an educated consumer, learn all you can about your choices. For example, learn how you can have your own agent, one who will work on your behalf.  You owe it to yourself.

The Astounding Importance Of Good Credit

There was a time – not all that long ago – when a personal relationship and a handshake would pretty much guarantee gaining ‘credit’. From about 1960 on, though, the need to gather, appraise and quantify information about personal credit use (and misuse) grew like topsy — and the one tool making this analysis possible…was the Computer.

Today, one’s ‘price of admission’ to many purchases is based entirely on one’s ‘credit score’. The larger the purchase – such as a home – the closer the scrutiny, the higher the standard. We’re not sure this is ‘progress’, but we are sure it is Reality…and a system you must understand and protect. An estimated 75% of all lenders use your credit score to evaluate your loan applications. A numerical calculation, it is a summary of your entire credit history. Comprised of a number between 300 & 850, the higher that number, the greater your chance of being approved.

But how is this number determined? About 35% is based on your credit history, examples being how many times you missed a payment, or were late. Another about-30% relates to how much you currently owe, as against the amount of credit you have available. Another 15% reflects how long you have had credit with existing accounts, the longer being the better, while about 10% of your score is based on how recently you’ve opened new lines of credit. Today your ‘credit standing’ is more important than ever, as it often spells the difference between success and failure for your goals. Be careful how you use it and, above all, don’t abuse it.

You will almost certainly need it more than you know.

Take the Guesswork out of determining Home Values

Today more than ever before, buyers and potential sellers are innocently going on line expecting a time-saving path to an accurate measure of a home’s worth.  I call this the ‘On Line Pitfall’… and few pitfalls are more useless or misleading than this one. On line sites generally draw data from three sources: the property characteristics, the tax assessment, and recent transactions as recorded at the County Clerks’ office. The first pitfall? Information that is often neither current nor accurate. The second, simply enormous pitfall?  Critically important, even irreplaceable information including Location and Condition are simply missed or overlooked altogether in these so-called evaluations. The bottom line? There exists no reliable substitute for the opinions of an experienced appraiser or, even better, those of your Real Estate Broker or Buyers Agent. Both come heavily armed with intimate knowledge of the local market and the property itself, having explored first-hand its every nook and cranny inside and out – and likely more than once.  So…if you do have some fun going on line, fine, go right ahead.  Just remember to bring along that proverbial ‘grain of salt’ – on second thought, a whole pound might well be in order.

And Now For A Little Optimism

In this view, a rekindled optimism about Real Estate is due and overdue. With the Press taking an overall ‘National’ view, it drones on and on about foreclosures and falling prices — simply ignoring the fact that conditions vary widely from market to market.  This ‘broad brush’ smear encourages uncertainty and a profound caution about buying, though this makes sense in many areas, it doesn’t here in Columbia County.

With interest rates still at historic lows, the stage is beautifully set for highly profitable long term investments for first time and second home buyers equally. Other positive recent signs include our Commerce Department reporting new home sales up 5.7% in September, the first such upward swing in months, and current homeowners now benefiting from the Administration-sponsored relaxation of refinancing rules.

All in all, If you set aside your fears for just a moment…you’ll realize that huge buying opportunities are right in front of you, right here – and right now.

Really Good News For Columbia County

Just when you thought good news was an endangered species, it pops up in a big and meaningful way.

After floundering for years, we New Yorkers now have something to be proud of – a Governor Cuomo who realizes that creating opportunities requires strong leadership, this combined with a clear vision of a better future.

And through his efforts so far, some five major high tech companies are coming to our State. This will mean about $4 billion dollars in new revenue (possibly leading to lower taxes), plus some 2500 new high tech jobs and 1900 new construction jobs – most high-paying.  And more may be on the way.

The majority of all this activity will happen right here in our own backyard, the Capital Region.  Beyond the thought of reduced taxes, another result will be more and more people who can afford to buy homes.  Given our location/proximity, wonderful country feeling and affordability, Columbia County will very likely see more new Real Estate activity than any other.  Indeed, really good news.

Thanks, Andrew, we needed that…