Basements in your North Conway home are often considered a luxury. The added storage space is fantastic and if you can go as far as to “finish” the area you not only gain extra living space, but also increase the overall value of your home. That said, there are a few stumbling blocks that tend to trip-up folks working on restoring or re-claiming their basements. We’ll go over a few of these now in hopes of helping you avoid these and make your basement the best it can be.
One of the biggest challenges for basements is water. Even if your basement is not prone to water seepage and you’ve never had an issue with a wet basement in the past, this is something that you’ll want to have checked before you go gang-busters down there and certainly before you start to add carpet and sheetrock. Just have a professional check the slope around the home and the drainage system. Of course there is always a risk of water making its way into the home, but you can take steps up front to mitigate those chances.
Make the most of the light you have and bring in all that is possible to avoid the “dark cave” feeling. Basements are not typically filled with natural light. The windows are often just 1 foot by 3 feet and that does not lend itself to a well lit room. When planning the area, make sure you plan for plenty of overhead lighting and a large number of outlets around the room. This will ensure you can add additional lighting once the room is finished. You lose headroom and wall space with these additions, but the difference will be well worth the sacrifice.
Get creative in the basement. Since this area of the house is essentially separate from the rest of the house, you can be more creative down here and not worry too much about matching the rest of the house. For some reason, I’m reminded of the “Jungle room” at Graceland. This was clearly a room in which Elvis wanted to express his love of all things tropic and wild. Follow the King’s lead and go wild down there.
If you’re thinking of selling and are just doing this project in order to appeal to buyers, disregard that last paragraphs and keep it simple! Buyers will love the fact that you have taken the big steps for them, but they will want to be able to personalize that space on their own. Much like we have talked about paint choices for selling, the same applies for the finished basement.
Having bought and sold a couple properties in my day, I’m clearly the smartest man alive and everyone should listen to what I have to say. Now that we have that out of the way, the reality is, we can all learn something new every day. Did you know that the woman who sued McDonalds over the hot coffee was sitting in a parked car, not driving through the drive-through? Did you also know that she suffered 3rd degree burns on 16% of her body? The facts of that case got so buried in public opinion that the media hoodwinked us all. She actually asked for them only to cover her medical expenses ($11,000), but they refused and offered her a pittance of $800.00. (It should be noted that their gross coffee sales, at the time, were $1.3 million dollars a day!)
Did you know that the coffee is heated to 180-190 degrees and causes 3rd degree burns in 2-7 seconds? Their coffee burned more than 700 people between 1982 and 1992! They actually admitted that their coffee is “not fit for consumption” because it causes severe scalds if spilled or drunk. I’m sure it is no coincidence that their coffee is now served at 158 degrees. When we learn the facts about something, we tend to shift our thinking a bit and awaken to the reality of truth. (Do an online search for that case and you’ll find a few more eye-opening facts that will shift your thinking.)
First-time homebuyers are often guilty of a few stumbles that could be avoided if they just did a little research and gathered the facts before jumping in. If you’ve followed along with these articles and have been paying attention to the Badger Realty facebook page, you are likely aware of the fact that real estate is a great investment. If this is your first time jumping into the fray of real estate, I wanted to share a few of the more common pitfalls that “catch” the first timers.
Believe it or not, there are still buyers capable of playing this game with cash. First timers tend to get trumped by these offers because they are simply not prepared to move. Since first time homebuyers tend to steer more towards the lower end of the market, these homes are often the first to go and are in that more competitive market. This is not to say that you can’t be involved in this market. If you have already saved for a solid down payment and have a clean credit report, you can get approved for a loan and be ready to pounce when the time is right. The key here is to be very well prepared to make your move.
Don’t put the cart before the horse. Or, more appropriately, don’t put the car before the home. Consumer debt has jumped from $40,000 to $51,000 just since 2010! If you can hold off on that new car or any other unnecessary debt, before heading towards home ownership, banks will be much more willing to work with you on a home loan. Lending companies love to see a history of savings and a lack of (or very minimal) debt.
If you’ve been following along with our articles, you heard me lament the inconsistency (and blatant lack of truth) with online information. (If you are reading this on the blog, disregard that!) First time buyers are often surprised and frustrated by misunderstandings about fees, loan terms, etc. A simple and nearly always effective solution for this is to have a conversation with a real, live human being! I know, terrifying right!? Take the time to meet with a local lending professional in person. Then, take the time to go meet with anther one. In this impersonal digital age, the concept of a conversation with an educated professional seems to get lost in the shuffle. I promise you an interaction with a human will trump anything you can glean from an online article. (Except this one, of course!)
Falling right in line with that previous notion is actually believing the home values that you see posted online. I’m not talking about the actual listing price of the property but the “home values” assigned by national real estate sites (I’m looking at you, Zillow). How a national website can assign a value to a home in a market they have never stepped foot in, is so far beyond me I can’t begin to understand. Just because some website says a home is valued at “x” means literally nothing in the reality of the local real estate market. Once again, the lesson here is to work with a local professional that understands the market and the specific neighborhood the home is located. It turns out that views to Mount Washington and the complete lack of traffic noise has value here in the White Mountains!
I’m sure there are more stumbling blocks for first timers, but the last one we’ll mention today is the importance of staying objective. “Most new buyers don’t realize their comments and behaviors during a showing play a strong role in the sellers’ perception of them,” notes Badger Realty agent, Ralph Cronin. He continued, “In a competitive situation, sellers will lean heavily towards the buyers that seemed most attracted to the home. It is a perception that the sales process will be less of a headache with someone that “loves” the home vs. someone that nit picked the whole time”.
Nobody is suggesting that you should just accept the home and the price as they are. The lesson here is to look at those items you don’t like with a more objective eye. If you don’t like the color of the kitchen, keep that to yourself and know that a 40-dollar can of paint can fix it. Other items such as cracks in the foundation, water damage, rodent traces, etc. should be discussed with the agent once the showing is over.
Knowledge is, and has always been, power. Get yourself educated and approach your first home purchase with open eyes and an open mind. Chances are you will get a better deal, get the home you want and the whole process will go more smoothly. Now, be careful with that coffee!
I’m not going to bore you with the details of my interpersonal life over the past 3 weeks, but suffice it to say there has been a bit of a communication breakdown. Communication, or the ability to express our thoughts into a manner in which another person (or being) can understand, is a vital skill to possess and practice. One that I don’t believe many of us has or use today. I say that not to sound cynical or negative, but merely as an observation. You don’t get to a >50% divorce rate (not sure of the exact number) with lots of open, effective and honest communication.
My problem (O.K. one of my problems) is that I don’t tend to say what is on my mind. Instead, I stew a bit and eventually let it roll off my back (mostly). I tend to cater to the other person in the conversation and allow them to have their way. Mostly this is an effort to keep the peace and to make the other person happy. More often than not, the topic or issue being discussed is not important enough for me to make a fuss. If we’re talking about which restaurant to visit or which mountain to climb, I’m fairly happy with whatever decision is made. In the end, I get to eat and/or hike. It’s a win-win. (Again, mostly.)
The problem arises when we hit the proverbial end of our rope and dig our heels in. The main danger of not expressing ourselves is all of that frustration, if we haven’t been honest with ourselves (or our partners), comes boiling up and someone ends up getting burned. In my particular case this month, we both got a little burned.
However, in this situation, the end result was a positive one. (Hooray, a happy ending.) The frustration led to a conversation about self-expression and being open and honest with the other person. How in the world can we expect to participate in a meaningful relationship when we don’t let the other party know what is going on inside our brains? And, like (almost) always, the same is true when it comes to a real estate transaction.
Many times, and more so with new buyers and sellers, the parties are tentative to ask for (demand?) what they want out of the transaction. Buyers are afraid to ask for concessions in fear that the sellers will simply pass on their offer. Sellers cater to every whim and demand of a buyer for fear that they will walk away from the home and buy something else. This dance is not only counter-productive, but it is also detrimental to both sides of the deal.
“I recommend my buyers ask for whatever it is they want in order for them to feel good about the deal,” notes Badger Realty agent, Theresa Bernhardt. She continues, “Obviously there is a necessary level of flexibility once the list of “demands” is out there. But, there is no way to know what the sellers are willing to do to make the deal happen, if you don’t ask.”
This approach seems to be conducive to a more amicable experience at the closing table as well. Not only do both parties feel more comfortable with the deal itself, they also tend to be more amenable to any last minute changes or hiccups in the process. Since they have expressed their wants and needs up front, the deal has a much better chance of going through.
“One of the more challenging parts of working in real estate is having a deal fall apart at the last minute,” notes Badger Realty agent, David Cianciolo. “More often than not, it is a case of an unresolved and unexpressed need by one of the two parties. If people would get their wants and needs out on the table in the early stages, these situations would happen much less frequently,” he added.
I have to believe many of the issues we deal with in our personal relationships would benefit from David’s observation above. If we don’t tell our partner about our wants, needs, goals, dreams, etc., how in the world can they support them or, more importantly, support us? Whether you’re buying a vacation home in the Mount Washington Valley or considering changing careers, hairstyles or an item on your bucket-list, let the loved ones in your life know. You will not only help the immediate situation and educate the parties involved, you might actually learn something about yourself and your loved ones.
O.K. – Good talk.
We can all do a little better. How often have you put off cleaning the house because it just feels like an overwhelming task to conquer? Who wants to ruin an entire weekend cleaning windows and dusting? Well, here’s a couple of items you can tackle that are super-quick and will keep your Jackson NH home in “mom-visit” ready condition.
Start at the front door and sweep off the steps (porch?) and shake out the welcome mat. This quick tip will keep the front of your home more inviting and get the “task” off your brain each time you walk in the door. Next, I recommend you attack the kitchen. If it is a rainy day, tackle one of your junk drawers. (You have more than one, don’t you!?) Throw out stuff you haven’t touched in the last 12 months, file the papers in there and organize it a bit. You could even grab some of those drawer dividers so you can keep it better organized moving forward. Next, find some citrus fruit, lemons or limes, and grind them up in the garbage disposal. It will freshen up that “hole” and give your kitchen a fresh, clean scent.
Next attack the mirrors and windows. Now, remember this is supposed to be quick and (somewhat) fun exercises so maybe you can split this up with different family members. Each taking a floor of the home or a single room. If you were to tackle the whole house, it would take hours. By splitting this up a bit, it can be a 10-20 minute task and you can move on to more fun things like enjoying your summer!
Take a look around the house and see what other small tasks you can tackle (or assign!) and get them taken care of. You will feel better about your home overall and you will feel better about the time you’re going to spend in the hammock….. Once you mow the lawn…
There are a few things that every homeowner needs to have in their house. Whether you own Jackson NH real estate or live across the country in Boulder, Colorado. These items will come in handy at one time or another and you’ll be glad you had them on hand.
Vinegar is an amazing liquid and there are actually entire books dedicated to its many uses. From cleaning rugs and windows to unclogging drains and making salad dressing. Vinegar is an incredibly versatile product. Which goes right along with our good friend Mr. duct tape. From removing lint and pet hair to holding just about anything together, this versatile product has literally hundreds of uses. Now, it can even be found in loads of colors, patterns and even varying strengths.
Baby wipes are also a great thing to have handy. Even if you don’t have any little ones around to clean up after, these sheets are incredibly handy. From removing paint from baseboards to cleaning stains on upholstery, baby wipes are an inexpensive must-have for any home. Staying in the nursery, or continuing to “steal” from the nursery, keeping baby powder around is another great idea. It can dampen the squeaking of hard wood floors, keep ants away from windows and doors and even keep an inner-tube from binding while changing a tire on your bike.
There are lots of fun, interesting and useful things we can keep around our house to make things simple and, ideally, make life a little easier. See if you can come up with some other great ideas and share them!
I’m not married. If things in my social life continue the way they are, there’s a good chance it’ll be my dog and I (once I get one!) for time indeterminate. That said, I really don’t want to be “that guy” sitting alone in a Conway diner having scrambled eggs by myself. Perhaps he’s relishing the peace and quiet of the solitude. Who am I to judge? What I have learned this past week is our good friend Kenny Rogers was right. Sometimes you really do have to hold ‘em. (I’m guessing now he’s wishing he “held” off on that awful surgery!)
Our instinct to “fight or flight” is innate and strong. When faced with adversity, in any of its varying degrees of seriousness, we have the choice. That decision will often determine a happy or tragic ending to the story. In this particular case, the danger facing me was a Peruvian standing 5 feet 4 inches and weighing in at around 105 pounds. Her weapon of choice: rationale, hugs and logical reasoning. She is a formidable foe for sure.
Life tends to throw us choices every step of the way. Which college to attend? Attend college at all? Which career path to choose? Do you take that new job? Move to a new city? State? Country? Grow a mustache? Get married? Have kids? Duct tape the kids to the wall to quiet them down? (No, that can’t be right.)
The decisions we make are not always life altering, but can certainly direct us down a certain path. And while we have the ability to change our minds, change that decision and choose a new course, each of those small decisions are what make us the people we are. They also start to develop a trend in our behavior. Those decisions have a significant impact on future choices and the future course of our lives.
I say all of that to simply say that sometimes the best decision is no decision at all. When faced with a tough decision, what happens if you don’t make a choice? What happens if you decide to not decide? My life lesson this past week has been that sometimes it is OK to “hold ‘em” and save your decision making for another time. Sometimes is truly is best to sit tight and ensure you have all the facts before making a poor decision.
When I built my home, the number of decisions I had to make was simply exhausting and bordering on over-whelming. If you have been through this process, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Room sizes, closet locations, lighting and light switch locations, kitchen size, fridge location, insulation type, roof pitch, window size, etc. etc. etc. And very often, these decisions need to be made on the spot. A “sit and wait” approach is going to hold up construction and likely end up costing you money. Not to mention, it will annoy the snot out of your builder.
Other decisions, such as siding and trim color, carpet style and paint color afford you the ability to take your time and be sure about your choice. Do you really want the baby’s room to be pink? Or should it be blue? “When it comes to style and decorating choices, we encourage new home owners to really take their time deciding,” note Badger Realty agent, Brendan Battenfelder. “There’s typically no rush for these items and being content with their choices, especially on move-in day, makes for a far more pleasurable experience,” he added.
People have come up with all sorts of creative (crazy?) ways to save money and curb their spending. One of my favorites (though I have not tried it) is to freeze your credit card in a block of ice. This means, if you want to buy that new grill, power tool, purse or pair of shoes, you are forced to wait until the block thaws before you can return to the store. My mother always encouraged me to “sleep on it” before making a large decision. Very often that simple act of leaving the store and going home is enough to quiet the desire for that item and keep you on the path of savings.
This week I decided to “hold ‘em”. I decided to “freeze” my decision-making, “sleep on it” and hopefully come out the other end with a decision based on reason and logic (and a little bit of squishy stuff too!). If you find yourself faced with a tough decision, I simply encourage you to afford yourself the time to think it through and make the best decision you can. The other thing I have learned is no one path chosen is always going to be the best decision. And that path will most certainly not be the best path for everyone around you. The “best” decision is going to be the best decision “for you”. Take the time to think it through. Who knows? Perhaps the best choice for you will be to “walk away”! I bet Kenny wishes he did!
Whether you’re looking for Conway real estate or a home across the country, the 48th annual conference for the National Association of Real Estate Editors has brought to light a few trends in real estate. We wanted to share a few of them here.
Two wheels and four legs are both gaining in popularity across the nation. Bike racks are showing up in homes and office parks. The active lifestyle is gaining steam and people (and businesses) are taking notice. The same goes for our furry friends. More housing properties are including pet facilities, walking services and pet sitting. The benefits of pet ownership are well known, it seems the real estate world is catching up!
Beyond just being bike friendly, many housing units are including (or highlighting) walking trails, fitness centers and even indoor air quality. Health is a big trend across all demographics and industries. Real estate is no different and it is great to see these trends taking shape. (no pun intended.)
The rental market continues to strengthen. If people have a low interest rate and are not in a big hurry to sell, they are turning to renting as an alternative. Also, younger buyers still find the under-writing process and standards to be too strict. These folks are sticking to renting for now as well. Perhaps to build up a savings and get ready to purchase that first home and take advantage of these great interest rates.
Selling your home in the summer is a good idea. That is no secret. Buyers can move around town more easily. You can have open windows and doors for plenty of fresh air. And, for those of us in a resort area, vacationers are “in season”! Let’s take a look at some ways you can prepare your home for sale and make the best impression for that drive-by or showing.
It is summer, so highlight the season. Many summer buyers are going to be focused on their ability to enjoy the season(s) in and around the home. Make sure the back yard is clean and free of debris. It should be inviting and have the components of a lazy summer afternoon. You can add a few decorations, make sure your grill is clean and in good working order and even hang some decorative lights. Making the backyard area inviting, even after-dark, is a key component to making it stand out during a showing.
Conquer the elements. Obviously a rainy day is not going to be the easiest time to showcase your home, but you can take some steps to make the best of it. If it is hot and humid, make sure you are running your dehumidifiers to keep the home feeling fresh. Even if you rent a higher-powered one for a short term, it can make a difference and keep your home feeling dry and fresh. Not going to lie, that last sentence sounded like a commercial for adult diapers. But I digress.
I’m a sucker for an open window and fresh flowers. Whenever possible, I keep my office window open and thoroughly enjoy the breezes, smells and sounds of (most) seasons. I will admit it is tough to work with snow coming through the window. When you are in the process of showing your home or preparing it for sale, remove some of your drapes and curtains (or lighten them) and add a few flowers around the house. You can take advantage of all the available sunlight with fewer (or smaller) curtains and you can bring life and energy to the home with flowers and plants.
Just walking into a home with plenty of sunlight and plant-life brings a smile to my face,” notes Badger Realty agent, Karla Badger. She continued, “It allows the home to breath better and can freshen up even the most stuffy home that has been buttoned up all winter.” Karla is right. Open, light and airy homes seem to feel bigger and fresher than those with less sunlight. Open up and sell!
While we’re talking greens, don’t neglect your lawn. Especially don’t neglect the “front” lawn. Not only will freshly cut grass give a better presentation for drive-bys, adding some flowers or flowering shrubs can complete the look at attract more buyers. I think this speaks to the way the seller views their home and is an indication, to the buyers, of how the home has been treated. If a homeowner is willing to maintain a lawn and shrubs to keep them looking fresh and clean, there is a good chance the rest of the house will follow suit.
While visiting a friend in Fort Collins, CO, I asked about the holes in all of the West-facing screens. It turns out a hailstorm, not uncommon there, peppered the home and ravaged the screens (not to mention the paint on the hood and roof of the car). If your screens look like they’ve been through a small war, get them fixed before the first buyer shows up. Nobody wants to deal with black-fly season in the back yard, let alone the living room.
This is also a good time to ensure all of the doors (and windows!) open and close the way they are supposed to. Weather stripping and doorstops can get beat up over the winter so make sure everything is in working order. This is the other area bugs can get into the home and savvy buyers will notice this damage immediately.
One of the more common questions we get from sellers is “How can I help sell my home?” One of the more common answers we offer is to get the word out. You would be amazed at how many “friends of sellers” didn’t even know their house was for sale. Since summer can be a time of back-yard barbecues and friendly get-togethers, take the opportunity to spread the word. Many homes are sold to buyers living only a few miles away. You never know whom someone might know or whom THAT person knows. By making it known that you are selling your home, we’re pretty sure you will be amazed at the excitement and interest your summer project gets! Now get out there and start mowing!