Do Open Houses Work?

After over thirty years of doing business in the local Real Estate market, my answer is No. Why is that? There are a number of reasons. First, homebuyers buying habits have changed. The internet basically allows potential buyers to shop from the connivence of their home. After searching online they can not only visually see both the entire interior and exterior, they can also search through sites like google earth and even examine the immediate area of the homes. If they prefer, they could actually do a drive- by since the addresses are also visible. Next, smart homebuyers have already hired their own agents, so if they are interested they can see any house on their own schedule. What I have found is that most often it’s curious neighbors who want to see how the open house compares to their home. Unfortunately, I have found that frustrated sellers will pressure their agents to hold open houses to try to increase the exposure to their homes, when in reality revisiting their position in the market place is most often far more effective in getting the house sold.

AirBnB: Good or Bad For A Community?

Today more then ever before, people are concerned about the impact that AirBnB is having on the community and the housing market. As in all matters, there are two sides to this controversy. For folks who own homes that they don’t always use, or who may have additional living space, being able to rent it for them is income they may not have an opportunity to earn elsewhere. The challenge for the community at large is, as this happens with more frequency, there becomes a shortage of long term rentals for folks who are not in a position to buy their first home. At this point, the laws of supply & demand come into play, by driving up the cost of yearly rentals as they become more scarce. On the other side and on a positive note, AirBnB bringing new people to a community generally results in being an advantage to the rest of the community as these folks need to spend money while visiting and discovering the area, thus helping local business owners. They may also consider moving in permanently. Perhaps the solution resides in a compromise on both sides. By allowing homeowners the opportunity to rent with some restrictions in place, perhaps we can come together to enjoy the over all benefits.

HEY ANN-MY TAXES KEEP GOING UP AND I AM THINKING ABOUT GRIEVING THEM.  GOOD IDEA?

HEY ANN – Every year it seems I am paying more and more taxes and no new services to justify them.  I have heard about grieving your taxes with the town.  Is it worth the effort?

Taxes are the bane of our existence and like the old expression says, there is nothing guaranteed except death and taxes.  The big problem in our communities is that there is very little commercial or industrial property generating tax revenue.  The burden falls on the shoulders of home owners.  Each year, these small municipalities have increases in expenses, most mandated by the government and we are the ones who have to pay.

Grievance Day, the one day a year when we can go before the Town Boards with documents showing the value of our property is lower than the new assessment, is usually disappointing.  I have found hiring an attorney to represent the home owner is usually very effective.  The attorney appears at grievance day and, as a rule, has no better luck.  Then part two of the process kicks in where the attorney can represent you before an independent arbitrator to plead your case.  That is where the best result is obtained. If the assessment is excessive, the adjustment can be made then. There is a third step if you are not satisfied and that is for your attorney to appeal to the NYState Supreme Court.  The municipalities do not want to hire attorneys for that appearance so they are usually reasonable in accepting the arbitrated number.

There is a downside to grieving taxes.  If you continually reduce the assessment to reduce your taxes and, at some time put your house on the market for what you and your agent feel is a correct price, you may find a disconnect.  If there is a wide difference between your assessment and your listing price, buyers will feel the house is overpriced and you will limit the inquiries.  I have a listing in mind right now where the homeowner had, over a period of years, reduced the assessment and it is now almost $300,000 below the listing price for the house.  No wonder they have had only 2 showings in a year.  You can guess what advice I have given them.  So, be careful of the double edged sword.

Please feel free to ask me about your property.  There is no obligation and a free market evaluation is always a good way to start your planning whether for now,  for the future or for estate planning.  It will be my pleasure to be a resource for you.

For More Information about Ann Levitt CLICK HERE

HEY ANN-We have been looking for a house for almost two years. What are we doing wrong?

HEY ANN- We would love to find a second home in Columbia County but cannot seem to find one that fits.  Can you make any suggestions that will make our dream come true?

First, I am going to make an educated guess about your house hunting approach.  With the ability to research real estate on Zillow and Trulia and dozens of other real estate sites, you have probably decided that you will contact the listing agent for each of the properties that sound interesting.  Your analysis is that the agent knows the house well and can be more informative.  Of course, this leads to you making a number of appointments on your house hunting day with a number of different agents.  When you speak to the listing agent, you make them aware that you are looking at a number of other properties so you want to firm up your schedule.  You have now lost the best opportunity you might ever have of finding the right home. Seriously!!

A real estate agent is a resource that is not always appreciated.  A good agent, when first meeting or emailing a buyer, will try to find out what the buyer is looking for-location, size of home, amenities, price range, cultural and recreational interests, condition of home, financial prequalifications.  And then the agent will, with his or her knowledge of the market, send listings to the buyer that seem to match what they have provided.  And these listings are from a variety of real estate offices, not just the listing agent’s office.  Once they start the search, the agent will get a deeper understanding of the buyer and may decide that the selected listings don’t match and a new set of parameters will be in place.

My favorite line is “I love rejection” because as houses are rejected, we can get closer to the house that will fit.  I have stopped in the middle of a day with buyers when, after the first few houses, I realize what they said did not match what their reactions were to those homes.  I have cancelled the balance of the day and told them next time we will find your home.  And it usually works that way.

What you are missing in your approach is having a resource that gets to know you, and knows you are loyal to that person in that their work on your behalf is appreciated.  Real estate agents spend a lot of time with clients, researching, emailing, showing properties, covering inspections and pay day is not until the actual closing.  Once you understand that the relationship will get you to your goal, it is time to get going with your real estate “advisor.”  Let me know when you find that dream house.

For More Information about Ann Levitt CLICK HERE

DOES IT PAY TO INVEST MORE $ IN MY HOUSE?

HEY ANN-We love the house you found for us 10 years ago and we are now spending more and more time here.  We would like to make some major changes including making the attic into a guest suite, adding bathrooms, putting in new insulation (the 1857 insulation doesn’t cut it.)  Major investment and we just want to know if it will increase in value to cover the cost.

One of my favorite lines is “There are no crystal balls in real estate.”  Over the years, people have purchased in a high market and found themselves selling in a low market.  Taking a loss. And, of course, those buying at the bottom of the market, like in 2008, have seen significant increases in value.  Everything you do to improve your house should be to increase your enjoyment of living there.  That should be your primary consideration in considering major changes because, obviously, the improvements are going to enhance your life style.  Whether you get the money back at some future date is less important than having the extra bathrooms, an updated and convenient kitchen, more bedrooms for the growing family and friends who join you on weekends, ending high heating bills with an energy efficient house.

This couple has done all the improvements we discussed standing in the parking lot of the Price Chopper Supermarket.  And they were able to have their kid’s wedding there because it worked out so well.

And if your question about investing in improvements to your home is because you are planning to put it on the market, the investment should be done with guidance and advice from a real estate professional.  Sometimes simple enhancements make more of a difference than a major costly change.  Understand that buyers, for the most part, will want to redo the kitchen and bathrooms to their taste and it doesn’t pay for you to do more than freshening up with a little paint or wallpaper, decluttering and let them use their imagination.  There is a lot more psychology involved in helping buyers see potential in the property than you might imagine.

Please feel free to ask me about your property.  There is no obligation and a free market evaluation is always a good way to start your planning whether for now or for the future.  It will be my pleasure to be a resource for you.

For More Information about Ann Levitt CLICK HERE

HEY ANN- How’s the Real Estate Market?

HEY ANN- How’s the real estate market?  HEY Ann-When is the best time to list my house?  HEY ANN-I’m thinking of selling my house next year.  Can you come over and tell me what I have to do to perk it up?  It seems like wherever I go, out to dinner, shopping in the supermarket, at intermission at the local theaters, people recognize me as a local real estate agent and have questions. With all the articles and news reports about real estate lately, the value of perhaps the largest investment in your life, has you concerned.

How is the market?  Well, right now there are not enough good homes for sale here and we are finding that homes that have been on the market a while are being snapped up.  So it is a good time to list your house.  Believe it or not, there is no “best time” to list a property.  Homes sell year round if they are priced well and marketed well.  Winter attracts people interested in winter sports and shoppers who think prices will be lower in Winter (not so.)  Summer has so many attractions in this area that people fall in love with the lakes, the River, Hudson, Tanglewood, beautiful scenery, the arts world.  And they want to be part of it.  Spring is the time families house hunt in order to move before the beginning of the school year.  When a home owner is ready, that’s the time to list. 

It is always a good idea to get a professional opinion on what a house needs to bring out its best features. And, it is not spending a fortune on staging like you see on the real estate programs on tv.  Often it is just a matter of “decluttering” or “pre-packing” and allowing buyers to see the home and not being distracted by furnishings.  Again, it helps both the home owner and the real estate agent to get the best price for the home.

Please feel free to ask me about your property.  There is no obligation and a free market evaluation is always a good way to start your planning whether for now, or for the future and for estate planning.  It will be my pleasure to be a resource for you.

For More Information about Ann Levitt CLICK HERE

Choosing The Wrong Realtor Can Be Costly

For most of us, deciding to buy or sell Real Estate is generally one of the most important financial decisions we will make in our lives. Even knowing the stakes, often times people will pick a friend or an acquaintance to take on this huge responsibility. To begin, you should interview at least three local agents who have been successful in your local market. I would recommend someone who is in the business full time and has a track record of representing buyers and sellers in the community where you live or where you want to live. They should also provide a list of recent clients that you can call for a reference. If your selling, you should get to see a written Comparable Market Analyses (CMA), as well last their marketing plan for your home. If your a buyer, you should ask to speak to the last three clients they represented as a buyers agent. You need a Real Estate Expert, not just a Real Estate agent.

Home Ownership

One of the many dreams and aspirations for most Americans is to one day own their own home. Unfortunately, this dream may never become a reality for some. The basic reason is what we call the affordability factor. Most college grads today are immediately saddled with the huge financial burden of tuition loans. Next, the automobile industry has made it easy for young people to lease a car rather than buying one which adds just another financial obligation. Even after securing a good job, the ability to take on more debt with a mortgage leaves them very frustrated. To compound this, the local rental market for housing is very scarce and expensive. Like anything else in life, the better prepared you are the more likely you will achieve your goals. Start with a forced savings plan. No matter how much you earn, a small portion of it should automatically be going for savings. Next, talk to an experienced financial advisor or mortgage broker who will be able to predetermine what you will need to do to get prequalified. You now have the foundation for creating a plan on how and when you can take that next step. If you know an experienced local Real Estate agent, tell them your plans and share your dreams. That’s what they do everyday. Not only will a home likely be the largest purchase of your life, it will be where you will spend most of your time. It will be your place of refuge from a world of work and stress. It may be a place where you will start and raise a family.

After Your Search

Today, more then ever before, smart home buyers start their search on the internet. Most search engines provide complete listing data, including the address, taxes, assessments, lots of photos and in some cases even videos and aerial drone images. Once you have identified some potential properties you would like to see, the next step is very important. Often even savvy consumers don’t realize that some agents are paying for leads on sites like Trulia and Zillow and may not actually be the listing agent of the property you are interested in.  At this point in your search you need to find your own Real Estate Buyer’s agent. This agent should be experienced in the area you are interested in. It’s a good idea to, at a minimum, have a telephone interview making certain you are comfortable with that agent. Questions like, how many years in the business? How knowledgable are they of the neighborhoods and local market conditions? Are they familiar with the type properties you have interest in? What comparable properties have sold in the area? Once you have selected an agent to work on your behalf, they will be able to preview new properties as they come on the market, saving you lots of wasted time. There is no better way to buy a home than having an experienced buyers agent working for you.

Real Estate Or Second Home?

Is this the best time to invest in a second home? Many people think so, why is that? Many stock market investors have enjoyed a surge in the value of their portfolios over the last few years. Should these trends continue? No one knows for sure. The Stock Market is definitely more volatile and is bringing in higher returns than investing in real estate, but buying a second home might stand as one of the smartest moves you can make in your life. Taking some of your profits off the table and investing in a vacation home not only can be smart, it can also bring a whole new quality of life to you and your family. Over time, the likelihood that it will also increase in value is historically accurate. Between 1991 and 2016, stock prices have definitely outperformed housing prices, growing at a far higher rate than real estate price and sales, which is the reason that many believe that the stock market is more likely to suffer a possible set back in the not so distance future. Now may be the time to hedge your bet.