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I Said, You Said

conway nh real estate dealI’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.”

conway nh real estate dealsThis 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.

Quick Fix Ideas To Keep Your Weekend Sacred!

jackson nh home cleanWe 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.

jackson nh real estate cleanNext 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…

Call Now or Else

north conway nh real estate saleThere is a commercial on television now, not sure what product they are peddling, that instigates the potential client to buy now. One of the quotes was “140 characters, I just don’t get it”, followed by a scene with the main character (and his buddy from the earlier phone call) on his buddy’s yacht. His buddy asks: “Do you get it now?” I was one of the folks who didn’t “get” the Twitter thing and didn’t see how it would make any sense. Apparently, at the ripe old age of 40-ish, the service was not aimed at me.

There are countless commercials, flyers, salesman and dudes standing street corners flipping signs around telling us to “buy now” and “don’t miss out”. I honestly don’t know if any of them are legit or if this really is my “last chance to buy!” Perhaps I should be shopping instead of writing to you!

I typically tend to steer away from national real estate stories and certainly don’t encourage my readers to subscribe to much of what is broadcast in that arena. Real estate is, and always will be, “local” and the trends that we see nationally and throughout other areas of the country don’t necessarily pertain to what we see here in the valley. That said, there are a few trends going on right now that I think we should be aware of and that may nudge you over the fence if you’re thinking of buying a home.

Currently there are more options from which to choose. Existing home inventories are 6 percent higher than last year at this time. This represents a 5.6-month supply at the current pace. Those numbers are from the May housing data provided by the National Association of REALTORS®. With a higher inventory comes more choices and more choices tend to keep buyers happy. This is not to say this is a “buyer’s market”, but this does move us to our next point, which is less competition.

With more inventory there are fewer buyers vying for the same property. Redfin does an “annual bidding war report” which indicates a double-digit decline in bidding wars in multiple markets across the country. In March, according to the report, 63.4 percent of offers written by Redfin agents involved multiple offers from multiple buyers. A year ago, that number was 73.4 percent. Both numbers were taken from 19 various markets. While competition is great for sellers, buyers have the upper hand when the inventories rise.

From the same NAR report from above, we learned that home prices are rising, but they are rising slowly. The median existing-home price in May, for all housing types, was $213,400. This represents a 5.1 percent rise since May of 2013. The rise in home prices from 2012 to 2013 was a whopping 11.5 percent. The slowdown in home price increase is caused by the increase in inventory and the fact that there is simply not as much competition (see above) for each of the homes on the market.

We have been singing the praises of the low interest rates for as long as they have been this ridiculously low. A friend of mine just re-financed his house (I mentioned him a couple weeks back) and was giddy that his rate was below 4 percent. He recalls being excited about 6 percent when he first bought the home! The historical average for interest rates is 8.7 percent. Currently mortgage rates are averaging 4.1 percent. That is less than half of the overall average rate. On a $500,000 mortgage, this represents almost $500 a month in savings!

jackson nh real estate ball“Nobody can predict what the market is going to do, but with research and historical data, we can make educated observations about where we think it will go,” noted Badger Realty agent, Kerry MacDougall. She continued, “All of that aside, and with all the data we have at our fingertips, this certainly seems like a great time to be in the market for a home.”

The real estate market is a moving target. Inflation, interest rates, natural disasters, supply and demand and countless other factors play a role in where the market is and where it is going. If anyone tells you they know where the market is headed and can offer you a “sure thing”, they likely also have a great deal on a bridge. Use your brain and your good judgment and be sure to gather all the information you can before jumping into the market. The reality is, all signs are pointing to this being a fantastic time to buy. Maybe it’s time for you to get in the game!

A Few Must-Have's

jackson nh homes vinegarThere 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!

Know When To Hold 'Em

north conway nh homes choiceI’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.

north conway nh homes hugPeople 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!

Current Trends In National Real Estate

conway real estate dogWhether 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.

Super Summer Selling Secrets

north conway nh real estateSelling 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!

madison nh real estateWhile 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!

Tackle Too Much Technology

conway nh real estate techThere is almost nothing more irritating than talking to someone, whether friend, colleague or foe, and having them distracted by whatever technology is attached to their hand at the moment.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a nerd.  I spend my days engulfed in technology and in many ways make my living in the tech world.  But we have to know (learn!) when enough is enough.

In real estate, agents can be guilty of a few “sins” in the tech world.  Over-sharing is the main one.  It should be policy (or good common sense) to limit how much personal information you share on social sites when you are a professional agent.  If you’re representing a trusted brand, like Badger Realty, it is rather important to not share anything that you wouldn’t want associated with your brand.  Just ask Michael Phelps how “over-sharing” hurt his image!

Right alongside over-sharing is simple over-use.  Yes, technology is great and has made the marketing reach far greater than with earlier methods, but at some point you need to shut off the feed.  A friend of mine, when dealing with a very specific question with her landlord, kept choosing to email back and forth rather than pick up the phone.  Again, technology is great, but sometimes a quick phone-call can solve the issue in seconds.  In this case, the call would have saved 6 emails and some confusing back-and-forth.  Don’t rely so heavily on technology that you forget how to have a real conversation with someone.

Lastly, too much technology can lead some to be overly informal.  I have seen this in work settings as well as interactions with clients.  Just because you are on Facebook, Twitter or exchanging text messages, does not give you the right to be super-casual with clients.  Even though you use these platforms to connect with your friends and plan your next camping trip, this is now a professional dialog between you and another professional.  Treat it that way to keep yourself out of trouble.  Don’t use slang and don’t be curt or abrupt.  Use complete sentences and remember that you are still representing your name and your company’s brand.

Eyes On The Prize

north conway nh budgetWe all know you have to have a good down payment to purchase a North Conway home. Yes, there are some programs out there that offer really helpful low down payments, but bigger truly is better in this case. If you want to show the sellers you are serious, show your bank you are serious and, most importantly, save yourself PMI costs and lower your interest rate, having a large stash to start with is always helpful. So how do you do it? If you’re at all like me, finding a few extra thousand dollars hanging around the house, tucked under the mattress, just doesn’t happen. Let’s take a peek at a few tips you can use to get the ball rolling.

If you have ever had to sit through a management-training class, you have heard about “SMART” goals. The main point of these is to be specific, attainable and timely. Basically all the things you are looking for when it comes to saving for your home. You likely have a timetable in mind and even if YOU don’t, the bank has a very specific number in mind for how much they will want up front. Once you can establish those items, you should write these down and keep them in a very visible place. The more we are exposed to these objectives, the more we tend to keep that focus.

The “attainable” part is a key factor for me. When I was staring my college loans in the face, it seemed like an insurmountable challenge to overcome (Especially working at a restaurant!). Rather than focusing on the “big picture” in this case, break that amount down into smaller chunks. (There’s an “elephant eating” metaphor in here somewhere!) If you can set your goal (timeframe), you can then break down the dollar amount into monthly or weekly values. Keep this number handy and it will remain at the front of your mind.

This one seems really obvious, but review (scrutinize) every item in your budget and then let someone else take a peek at it. There are things we can’t control or eliminate. We have to eat, have a phone, running water, etc. But, when you line things up against the prospect of owning a home, it becomes easier to shift them down the priority list. Yes, cable TV is nice, but is it necessary? Can you look online for a how-to on making an HD antenna and not pay for that service? “Many of my buyers have saved for a down-payment solely by making smart and aggressive budget cuts,” notes Badger Realty agent, Bill Barbin. He continued, “When the goal is home ownership, they realize how unimportant many of their expenses really are.”

north conway nh savingsSpend some time in the kitchen. When I was out of college and finally free from that debt, I got a decent job and literally had no bills except for rent and utilities. This is a dangerous place for someone like me. I ended up wasting an extraordinary amount of money at restaurants and bars with nothing left to show but a few extra pounds. Buying your own food and cooking at home can save you hundreds of dollars in a few short months.

Another way to save money on dining is to take full advantage of the deals that restaurants offer. Nearly every bar I have ever been to offers a happy hour and almost all have deals for kids. Some even offer discounts on their more quiet nights as well as “locals-only” deals. I have started to see more restaurants offering discounts in the newspaper and online. Take a little time to seek out these offers so you don’t pay full price. Come on! We live in the land of the outlet stores!

Stay positive. I tend to have an optimistic bent regarding goals and life in general. If you keep positive and maintain the mindset that this goal is, in fact, attainable, your chances of success improve exponentially. The phrase “fake it ‘till you make it” comes into play here as well. If you feel yourself getting discouraged and start to doubt yourself, throw on a smile and fake it. Tell yourself you are going to make it and reiterate those happy thoughts of living in your new home. Often the goal itself can be enough of a motivator to get you through the struggles.

Lastly, it is critically important to stay focused. As the title of the article says, keep your eyes on the prize. When you see the bikes roll through town during bike-week and picture your hair in the breeze cruising across the Kanc, just remember the Kanc will always be there and you can tackle that dream once you have your own home and perhaps a garage to keep your bike in! This world is full of distractions and people willing to tell you where you should spend your money. Only you will know the true reward of home ownership and the amazing feelings that go along with it. Skip the frivolous, unnecessary items in lieu of a long-lasting investment that will actually pay you back.

Easy Landscaping Tips To Help You Sell

north conway nh home lawnIf you are selling your Conway NH home, everyone knows that curb appeal is critical to your success.  Along that line, here are a few tips you can do, most of which are very inexpensive, that will help “wow” the buyers and hopefully prompt that offer.

First of all, mow the lawn.  This seems so incredibly simple, but you would be amazed at the homes we show that appear like an African safari when we arrive for the showing.  If you have to miss that latest episode of Jeopardy after dinner to have time to mow the lawn, do it!  It will pay dividends and keep you from getting your wrist slapped by your agent.

Installing outdoor lighting is also a quick fix to a dull looking front yard.  While most of your showings will be during the day, having a well-lit yard will show off your home in the case of an evening drive-by.  Most buyers are doing all of their research online and weeks before ever contacting an agent for a showing.  This means they are driving around on their own and many of them do this after work.  Have your home stand out with some inexpensive lighting that you can enjoy as well!

north conway nh home flowersA little on the more expensive side would be to add some shade trees.  The  home I just moved into has a handful of well-placed trees that provide a great spot for afternoon lunches as well as evening entertaining.  It keeps the home cooler in the summer and simply add a nice break-up to the yard area.  Easier and less expensive would be to add some colorful flowers to the front area.  You can leave them in the pots or go ahead and create an area around the home in which to plant them.

Lastly, be sure everything is clean before the buyers show up.  Take a few minutes to sweep the driveway and walkways so they are clear of those fresh grass clippings from last night and any leaves (or snow) depending on the season.