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Buyers

August
24

Property Spotlight: A conversation with the Sellers

316 Beechnut Drive North Conway

Impeccably maintained and newly custom built in 2018, this 4-bedroom, 4 bath home is nestled on a private corner lot in the Birch Hill neighborhood of North Conway, moments to Echo Lake. Relax on the deck surrounded by nature and enjoy the lovely views of both Mountain Washington and Mount Cranmore. With a proven history of generating income, this house has the potential for income generation if proper permits are obtained from the city. Featuring an open floor plan leading into a spacious living room and kitchen, highlighted by cathedral ceilings, and a custom cultured ledge stone fireplace. The Kitchen boasts custom cabinetry, granite countertops and top-notch appliances. First floor bedroom, and office makes for easy living. Two bedroom, two baths upstairs including the Master bedroom en suite with gas fireplace and spacious tiled bathroom. Lower level, one bedroom, one bath in-law suite that has separate entrance from the outside with an interior door that locks and can be completely separate from the rest of the home/mud room. Spacious two car garage with tons of storage. Home has integrated smart home features by Nest including thermostats, video doorbell and smartlocks that make for easy integration of all Nest Home Products. Minutes to skiing, lake fun, and hiking at Diana's Baths/Cathedral Ledge, with direct access to mountain bike/running trails. Enjoy the nearby tax-free shopping and casual or fine dining in North.

MLS# 4864881

Read more, from the owners about their decision to sell, and what they love about the neighborhood, their home and the area they enjoy.


A conversation with the Sellers...


Spacious living room with a cathedral ceiling and toasty fireplace

How long have you owned your home?

We purchased our home in the Fall of 2018 so it's been almost 3 years.

You are leaving your beautiful Birch Hill home. What led you to this decision?

We are relocating due to new employment, or else we would not be leaving this perfect area! We will dearly miss living in Birch Hill and loved where our home was situated in the neighborhood. We had fantastic views of Mount Washington and Mount Cranmore due to being at the top of hill and a private corner lot that was excellent for spending evenings on the deck taking in the views. It was important to us when purchasing our home that we felt we had privacy but also access to the town and that is exactly what we found in living in Birch Hill.


Gorgeous views of the White Mountains

What did you love about Birch Hill and North Conway area?

We absolutely love living in Birch Hill and living in this home. It's our dream home and living in Birch Hill is so peaceful with a great community feel. We also have excellent access to running trails and Echo Lake. We often go running in the neighborhood and mountain bike both in Birch Hill and from our home to the trails in Echo Lake and up Cathedral Ledge. We love how close Birch Hill is to all the amazing features of North Conway such as Diana's Bath's, Cathedral Ledge, Echo Lake, Saco River and the great trails, and we can enjoy these features without having to worry about parking or driving our car.

The wonderful thing about living in Birch Hill is you're still less than 10 minutes from the North Conway strip where you have access to great restaurants and tax-free shopping, and just as close to Cranmore Mountain for some excellent skiing. It's an excellent location in that you are so close to everything but just far enough to feel you have privacy and serenity in the comfort of your own home and backyard.

What are some of your favorite places to shop and dine?

Our favorite places to dine are the Red Fox in Jackson, Vito Marcello's in North Conway, Delaney's which was very close to our home, Peaches for breakfast and A Taste of Thai for a quick bite. North Conway has such an amazing selection of restaurants, and we did not take this for granted! You can have both fine dining and casual dining any night of the week just 10-15 minutes from our Birch Hill neighborhood.

Our favorite places to shop were the outlets and some of favorites included J CREW, Banana Republic, Michael Kors, Eddie Bauer, and Columbia. The outlet mall is one of the best places to shop we've ever visited and we feel so lucky to have such an amazing shopping district in our town... tax-free and just 10 minutes from our home!

What do you look forward to the most when here at your home in North Conway?

It feels like a vacation any time of the year! We can relax and unwind by the fire in the living room, the fireplace in our master bedroom, or the bar room next to our deck. The views from our deck are magnificent any time of year. We often sit outside and take in the sounds of nature. The fall foliage is unmatched and is our favorite time of year to just take in the beauty right in our backyard.

What events or activities would you recommend to people coming into the community?

The polar express is so fun in the winter and is great for the holidays. In the fall we loved touring the restaurants and seeing them decorate and get into the fall spirit. The summer has great activities for the community including this year's Outdoor fest. The Conway scenic railroad is a favorite of ours and a must every year. We loved that North Conway had such a great community feel and there are things to do all year!


Hot tub on the deck.

What do you love about your home?

We love that our home really has it all, and we never have to leave if we didn't want to. With the size of our home, there's enough space to have a home office, home gym, and guest suite with exterior access for friends and family that want to visit. Our bar room and hot tub on our deck are definitely great for entertaining or having a night in and having two fireplaces was so convenient. We love the vaulted ceilings in our living room and feel so fortunate to have been able to call this house our home.

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This amazing home is being offered by listing agents, Edward O'Halloran and Amy Rogers.
Contact Ed

Ed@BadgerRealty.com •  Cell. (603)986-5956

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Interviewed By:

Debbie Anderson
Marketing Director

 

April
4

As expected, my friend has put an offer in on a home. It's a condo just north of town. It has loads of natural light streaming in and satisfies her needs with 2 beds and 2 baths. Having been involved in real estate for over a decade now, I gently offered my 2 cents about it being a seller's market and all that. In the end, she is committed to being in this home for at least 5 years and is willing to ride the inevitable ebbs and flows of the market along the way. She's happy and I'm thrilled for her to start building equity.


Something I've learned over the past few months is the long-standing real estate mantra about location rings true with one's sense of home and contentment. We all know that when it comes to selling your house, the location will have a direct impact on the selling price, popularity and time on the market. There are certain features that are simply more attractive to the majority of buyers, but the beautiful thing about real estate is that the majority's opinion does not always have to be that which makes you happy.


Kitchens and closets are very high up on the list to most buyers. Windows, ceiling height and bathrooms also tend to score pretty well too. And those things can be universally accepted. "A large, well lit, modern kitchen with lots of natural light and plenty of cabinet space would be a welcome feature for nearly all buyers today," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Tara Peirce. But what about those factors that are not so universal?


The home I built in Lincoln had a drive-out basement. Some people would find that intrusive and the space would be used for something else. Outdoor pools have become a bit of an albatross with home sales simply because of the maintenance and liability involved in ownership, but there are some who wouldn't buy a house without one. As we've said before, there truly is a bum for every seat.


I'm currently renting in what would be considered an urban environment by New Hampshire standards. The home sits on a corner so there are neighbors on two sides of the house and their proximity is such that it would enable a second-story egg toss to either abutter without too much trouble. One bright point is the window in my office offers a decent view of some local mountains and, with a correctly positioned curtain, I can block out that particular neighbor's house. This, my friends, is nearly the opposite of what I want when I buy or build my next home.


My previous house had a condominium complex to the south, but there was a half-acre buffer between us and I never even knew if there was anyone home. The other two sides of my lot were nothing but trees and rivers. This was clearly more my style and aside from its proximity to a main road, was almost the perfect location.


A favorite home of mine (owned by some good friends) is surrounded by trees as far as the eye can see and is bordered by a babbling brook on one side. It sits at a high enough elevation that even the hottest days are cooled by the mountain breezes. At any time of day you can sit on the front deck in total silence, save for the hammering of a woodpecker or the songs of the many varieties of birds. Regardless of where my job has taken me or what stresses have weighed me down throughout the day, arriving "home" there makes it all go away.
I'm well aware that our perception of things can be skewed by the situation. It's safe to say that one of the reasons grandparents love grandkids so much is because they can spoil them for an afternoon and give them back to mom and dad. The reality is, I don't have any of the responsibilities of maintaining my friend's house. The firewood is stacked, the hot tub is clean, there's plenty of dog food and the fridge is always full. But if the house makes you feel that good when you visit, it would be smart to take note of the specific factors that contribute to that feeling.


Moving back to my current apartment, someone else, with a different set of priorities, might have the same experience were they to house-sit for me. Many of my friends from Mass. would laugh at my concerns about the neighbors. The fact that there is enough space to walk between the houses, let alone drive or park 2 vehicles is a luxury few people enjoy while living "downtown". Because the house is a few lots back off of main street, it's possible to visit the chamber of commerce, grocery store, post office and bank all during a 2 mile bike ride. There are also 15 restaurants to choose from that are all within walking distance. Three of those are less than 50 yards away! This is clearly what some people are looking for, as there are hundreds of people living all around me.


The lesson here is to know your priorities and stick with them. If you are in the market to buy a home, whether it is a primary residence or a vacation home, make sure you know what you want and don't waver on those items at the top of the list. For those of you selling your home, be sure you know why YOU love that house and highlight those features to the prospective buyers. There is a great chance the "right" buyer will love the house for the same reasons.

March
25

More than 15.5 Million Affluent Households across the Globe are in the Market for Residential Real Estate over Next Three Years, According to a Study

Consumers in top 1-5% bracket surveyed across 17 countries, representing more than 30 million households

NEW YORK CITY, NY, Feb. 17, 2021 - A comprehensive study of the world's affluent households by Luxury Portfolio International® (LPI), the luxury marketing division of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, the largest global network of premier locally branded residential real estate brokerage firms, revealed compelling metrics on the demand for residential real estate among the world's wealthiest.

The just-released study, State of Luxury Real Estate, focused on consumers in the top 1%-5% income bracket of 17 countries, representing more than 30 million households. It was conducted by the Affluent Consumer Research Company, a full-service market research and voice-of-the-customer organization, specializing in high-income and high-asset consumers around the world.

As detailed within the report, of the 30 million+ households represented, more than 15.5 million will be in the market for residential real estate over the next three years . Conversely, the report also revealed that demand for purchasing residential real estate by this sector far exceeds the number of sellers, with slightly more than 10 million looking to list their home for sale.

The more than five-million-home gap between those interested in purchasing and those interested in selling creates a seller's market within the overall high-end residential real estate market. The implication of this lopsided market is near-term price increases and greater demand for new development.

Highlights from State of Luxury Real Estate include:

• While real estate prices vary dramatically from country to country, a viable luxury threshold is homes in excess of US $1 million. Of the 15.5 million consumers who indicated interest in purchasing residential real estate, 66% of that segment (10.3 million consumers) noted a desire to purchase a residence valued at US $1 million or more over the next three years.
• Real estate is the leading investment category of the day, with luxury buyer sentiment a strong 'buy,' and a low inclination to 'sell.'
• One-quarter of global luxury buyers have an investment or a rental property in mind for their next purchase.
• New construction in newly developed neighborhoods is the No. 1 global preference and it commands the highest price among the luxury buyer segment.
• The pandemic has impacted homes at all price levels, including the luxury sector, with trends borne from quarantining including adjusting to all members of the household working from home; a heightened need for self-reliance at home; and recognition that spontaneity brings a welcomed break. For the most part, all three circumstances can be addressed within a luxury home setting.
• International luxury buyers cite non-financial reasons to live abroad, with education and COVID-19 responses influencing their motivation for a golden passport, specifically for buyers in Mexico, India, China, and post-Brexit United Kingdom.
• Specific to the UK, they lead Europe in interest in acquiring property outside of the UK, as well as a second passport.
• Luxury buyers are planning for extended shelter-in-place scenarios for themselves, family and guests. Expectations are high that over the coming year, more time will be spent at home, with about half of luxury buyers seeking a residence with accommodations for long-term guests. Whatever their individual reason, the result is preparation for non-household members to shelter with them.
The luxury customer is more interested in high-quality offerings and customer service than low price. The ultra-luxury segment values brands that feature corporate citizenship, reputation and loyalty.
• While real estate as an industry has had significant technological disruptors such as online agencies over the past few years, luxury buyers overwhelmingly prefer to work with a traditional brokerage firm. 70% of luxury buyers noted as much, with 19% noting they would work with an online agency.
• Luxury buyers are bullish on the residential real estate market. 45% of those surveyed believe that it is getting stronger (more buyers) -- compared to 31% who believe that it is softer (these results are impacted by in-market, in-country specifics).
• 60% of affluent consumers expect an increase in their current home's value, primarily in the 1% to 10% range.
• 50% of luxury buyers believe that now is a good time to buy real estate, being the number one result in the survey -- beating out stocks, private equity and gold, among others.
• More than one-half of ultra-luxury buyers (52%) perceive their current home value to have risen by more than 10%, perhaps incenting them to trade up or add to their portfolio.
• As to an outlook for 2021, barring unforeseen economic or geopolitical issues, a record number of affluent households will be in market to acquire, especially within the luxury segment.

"It is clear that affluent residential real estate buyers see opportunities within their respective markets," said Mickey Alam Khan, president of Luxury Portfolio International®. "We are noting a surge in buyers throughout many markets worldwide, where it continues to be a seller's market in the luxury space vis-à-vis the previous year. We expect that trend to continue through 2021 – as well as the next couple of years -- as buyers rush into the market. The ultra-luxury buyer perspective is that the current climate is getting stronger. In many markets, we see home values going up, and there is more interest in prime property."

"Real estate is an increasingly sensible investment at a time when financial and alternative investments appear potentially disconnected from traditional success indicators, like revenue and profit," said Chandler Mount, CEO of Affluent Consumer Research Co., the study's author, and research partner for Luxury Portfolio International®. "Many luxury buyers all over the world share this sentiment, and the implication is a lot of money flowing into real estate in the coming year."

"Investment sentiment toward real estate is positive and outstrips other forms of financial investment," concluded Alam Khan. "This bodes well for developers and resellers, along with sister industries, such as home design, art and furniture."

# # #

ABOUT LUXURY PORTFOLIO INTERNATIONAL® (LPI)
LPI (luxuryportfolio.com) is the luxury marketing division of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, the largest global network of premier locally branded firms dominated by many of the world's most powerful, independent luxury brands. LPI attracts a global audience of visitors from over 200 countries/territories every month and markets more than 50,000 luxury homes annually. Well Connected.™

Source: Luxury Portfolio International®

March
21

Try and contain your excitement over my clever title today. I typically love to use a play on words or an alliteration, but today I just wasn't feeling it. I'm still (casually) house-hunting and honestly enjoying the process. In the past decade or so, when looking for a place to rent, I spent loads of time on the interwebs seeking out rentals. The home shopping process has been literally the same. I'm spending time researching neighborhoods and homes and eventually I'll work up to actually visiting the home..you know... like a real human meeting with other humans. Hard to believe, I know. Can we stop wearing hazmat suits to the grocery store yet? Ugh.

If you're still debating whether to rent or buy, this article is for you. If you are not in this boat, I suppose you can turn the page, take another sip of your coffee and enjoy one of the other cool articles in this paper. I mean, you'll miss out on some additional funny commentary, but you've got a life to live. You do you. For the rest of you, this is not always a simple question to answer. We'll talk about some of the items you should be considering as you make your choice. It really comes down to your "5 year plan" and how much pizza and beer money you have saved over the last couple years. Let's get going.

Since I mentioned the "m" word, let's talk about your financial situation. Honestly there's a pretty big pile of things that you should have lined up before you can purchase a home. The fastest way to find out is to head on over to your local bank and have a sit-down with one of their mortgage specialists. Don't get me wrong, there's a million banks out there, all with different fancy names and functions. But at the end of the day, having a quick chat with your local bank can at least give you a bird's eye view of where you stand financially and give you some questions to ponder on your way up into the mountains this weekend.

The lender is going to expect you to have a stable job with a bit of history behind you. This simply tells the bank you can get and keep an income producing relationship with an established business. No real surprises there. And they're going to be looking into your credit history, so in hindsight, the purchase of that pinball machine and battle-used samurai sword and not going to help you one bit. But all is not lost. Keep reading.

If you are fortunate (smart?) enough to have saved up enough money for a down payment, pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with a new pinball machine. No, wait. Don't do that. Just be happy you have a pile of cash. We're generally talking about 3% for first time home buyers for the down payment and there's an added amount for closing costs as well. But don't count on those numbers. Everyone's situation is different, so again, the conversation with the lender will help out immensely. "I encourage all prospective buyers to get that lender visit taken care of as their first step towards home ownership," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Stacie Goodrich. "It establishes a more clear sense of reality with regards to what they can afford and how much 'real money' outlay they will need to have in hand," she continued.

Amy is right. If you're leaning towards home ownership instead of renting, the credit check, job stability and some semblance of a pile of cash are all going to be critical to the success of your buying adventure. The advantage of renting, in this specific, financial area, is that almost none of that stuff applies. Sure, your landlord is going to want to see a steady job and will even ask for some references. But aside from paying first month's rent and maybe a deposit on the propane account, the initial outlay is quite minimal in comparison. Right off the bat, if you're sitting on a questionable financial history, a spotty work history, and a bank account balance akin to Charlie Bucket (before he found the golden ticket), you're staring another couple years of renting right in the face. And that's perfectly fine.

Moving away from the financial side of things is a move back towards your 5 year plan. Do you love it here? Do you have kids in school? Are you itching for warmer weather? Do you want oceans or mountains? There's a lot to think about when you are deciding to rent or buy. Renting is relatively quick and painless. Moving around is almost without penalty and the flexibility of rental terms is pretty wide open. On the other side, buying and selling a home is more involved (and expensive) and should not be taken lightly. If your 5 year plan involves staying right where you are and building a "life", then you should be seriously considering a home purchase. It brings with it loads of benefits which we'll save for another article.

The last item for today is maintenance and renovations. If your idea of remodeling is the fist you put through the wall of your college dorm room, perhaps renting is not for you. Landlords tend to frown on unauthorized "renovations" and you will end up paying for the fix. On the bright side, your landlord is handling the plowing and mowing so you can enjoy that benefit. For homeowners, while you will be responsible for maintaining the property, the freedom to paint, tear down walls, even punch holes in the walls is all yours. Let your freak flag fly.

I love the idea of painting rooms, remodeling bathrooms, working on landscaping projects and generally making my home something that makes me smile when I drive in the driveway or walk through the halls. For me, there's no substitute for owning your own home and I'm anxious to get back in the "owners" column. If the timing is not right for you and your bank account has more dust bunnies than greenbacks, start saving now and you'll be shopping for your home in no time.

March
14

When I first went to college, I registered, paid, bought a plane ticket to Minneapolis and arrived on campus having never set foot there (or in Minnesota for that matter). It was a little silly for sure, but I knew I wanted to attend there and nothing was going to change my mind. In the case of my college choice, it fulfilled all of my "must haves" and most of my "nice to haves". Were I buying a house, my confidence would have been on the same level.

In our current (mildly insane-but slowly getting better) global climate, buying a home site unseen is becoming more common. While working over in Lincoln, we had a handful of people purchase condos never having stepped foot in them. For a ski condo, I think that is a little less risky. You are basically buying a place to recreate a few times (weekends) a year. I read once that the average pass holder only visits the mountain 12 times a season. Buying a ski condo or even a vacation home site unseen is a bit more understandable in my mind. But let's dig into purchasing your year-round home without stepping foot inside. There's a little more at stake.

One of the first things to evaluate about the home is the neighborhood and greater surrounding area of the home. This is obviously very challenging to do remotely, but it is possible. A friend of mine was looking into a home purchase a few states away and spent a couple hours using Google maps to virtually "walk" around the neighborhood where his prospective home was located. I thought it was brilliant. Of course you can't really hear and smell all of the minute details but he did learn there were some commercial "strip malls" close by and even a transfer station (read: dump) that was not obvious at first. Not that the agent was being dishonest, but that information was most certainly not going to make it into the home brochure!

Shopping centers, commercial areas, schools, parks and playgrounds are the things most of us would find after taking a driving tour of the area when we find a home we like. You'll need to be creative to accomplish this from afar but it is not impossible. Many cities even have welcome videos and slideshows. Of course those are all the highlights, but it's still more data for your brain to make this big decision. We are incredibly fortunate to have the Internet at our disposal. Be sure you make the most of it since this is the perfect use case (besides all the cat videos!).

The next best option here is to enlist the services of professionals. This is a piece of advice I give to "in-person" homebuyers as well. We all get a home inspection when we buy a home. Some have even paid for an inspection before making an offer. If you're interested in a home away from your home, why not hire someone to be your eyes and ears for the evaluation process. Whether you have enlisted the services of a buyer's agent (likely a good idea in this situation), a home inspector or even your mortgage broker, all of those people now have your best interests in mind. I'm quite sure every one of them would help you better evaluate the home and neighborhood since they each have a vested interest in this purchase. And honestly, if they aren't willing to help, it's time to find a better partner to work with.

One area that is particularly challenging to evaluate is space. A home (or room) with high ceilings just "feels" different than standard eight foot ceilings. A walk-in closet is, well let's be honest - magical, but is it functional and spacious enough to hold all your stuff. Even the basement can add a different dimension to the feel of the home and it really is difficult to get a sense for that without walking the space. "A virtual walk-through is very helpful in evaluating a home, but doing that 'real time' with a friend or trusted professional is truly the best way to see a home," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Linda Walker. "The ability to discuss a space, walk back through an area or a room multiple times and discuss every nook and cranny with a live human holding the camera really is the optimal way to do this," she continued.

One thing technology has still not mastered is transferring smells electronically. You can't experience pet odors, smoking remnants or a damp basement over a video chat. This is where that trust comes into play with the person on the other end of the line. If you have confidence in your relationship, you'll have confidence in their evaluation and interpretation of all the information they are receiving with all 5 senses. That piece of the puzzle really is my number one priority for you to take away today.

Buying a home site unseen is nerve-racking for sure. But it really can be done with a tolerable level of confidence. You need to do all the homework you can possibly do from your location and then lean heavily on the help from those who are on-site. Just like buying a home "seen", you shouldn't get too overzealous without sticking to your "must have" list. And be sure to find at least one person you can work with to gather all the possible data you can from afar. I think you will find that the process is more palatable than you originally thought. Happy browsing.

February
18

You say you want a revolution? (Can I say that!?) Anyway, we're not really going to revolt, but we are going to focus on renters today. I'm toying with the idea of getting my own place, so today's article is just as much a reminder to me as it is to you, my fellow tenant. I have had the fortune of owning 2 homes so far so I'm a little biased towards home ownership. But if you've never walked that path, today's thoughts will hopefully be a bit of encouragement for you. Buying a home is not as scary as it sounds and might be closer to your reach than you thought. Let's get started.

The first and most obvious myth we're going to squash today is that of the overwhelming debt that comes with buying a home. Sure, you are going to go from a few thousand dollars in debt to a couple hundred thousand. Yikes! But you really do have to keep that in perspective. The "few thousand" from before your mortgage was for that awesome TV in the basement and, let's be honest, some Christmas presents that you are still paying off. For some, it might even mean some college loans or other old debt that truly never goes away.

With a home mortgage you are still under that veritable mountain of debt, but it is what we call "good debt". Just like the avocado is filled with "good fat", the debt your mortgage brings with it is actually an asset for you. You are paying for something that has intrinsic value. In nearly all cases, the property you are paying down is increasing in value. You have likely heard the word "equity" before. That means the value of the thing you are paying for is increasing with every payment. OK, it doesn't mean exactly that, but you get the idea. Remember, I'm a web developer and aspiring writer, I'm not a mortgage smarty-pants. I do know enough to know that equity is awesome.

The other seemingly insurmountable barrier to home ownership is the idea of coming up with a 20% down payment. I would agree that it would be awesome if you could come up with that sort of down payment, but it is not necessary. There are a handful of options available to you and especially if you are a veteran. You can find some great deals with FHA as well. Don't let those old stories from your friend's uncle's wife's dog turn you away from your dream of home ownership. Make a few phone calls and learn for yourself. You will end up paying "PMI" which is a type of insurance the bank requires to protect themselves. But once you hit 20% equity, that extra charge goes away.

While it is true that your credit score and general financial stability is very important to how much a bank will be willing to lend you, it is not the final nail in the coffin of your home ownership dreams. (Wow, that was quite the sentence!). Your credit score should be north of 660, but if it is not, don't give up hope. Honestly the same advice from above applies here. Make some phone calls. There are programs out there for folks with bad credit or lower income and you might be surprised to learn what is available. In the end, this really IS an important factor so you may just need to spend a few months cleaning up your credit. The beauty of our credit score and the associated financial "report card" is we can all make changes to improve it and become more attractive to those lenders.

If you have been paying attention to both our local market and the national trends, you know that we are currently in a unique situation within the real estate world. Because of the virus, folks have been hesitant to list their homes. I don't think anybody is excited about having piles of strangers trounce through their living room right now. But on the other side of the coin are these insane interest rates. What we are left with is a (finally) growing inventory and a buyers group that has decent access to funds. The real estate market changes almost monthly. There are always ebbs and flows that change the landscape, change the inventory, and change the position you find yourself in as a buyer.

The main lesson here is don't let anybody tell you that "this" or "then" are good times or bad times to buy. If you stay within your means and stick to your "must have" list, it is always a good time to buy real estate. Right now inventory is a little on the low side and it is increasing every day. Nobody expects you to buy a home that is not right for you, but if you find "the one", you truly can't beat these interest rates. "I always encourage buyers to establish and stick to their "deal breaker" list," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent, Rachael Brown. "If the home checks off all the boxes, it's likely the right time to make a move," she continued.

If you are considering getting out of the pattern of paying someone else's mortgage, start doing your homework. Reach out to some lenders and find out how much you can afford. Reach out to your favorite real estate professional and learn more about the market and what is available. It is incredibly exciting to start this journey (Ask me how I know!). I wish you the best of luck out there. You're gonna love it!

January
26

I watched "Inside Job" last night with our good buddy Matt Damon narrating. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch. As with anything, you do have to use your brain and recognize it is most certainly and purposefully slanted against big finance. You need to take the bias into consideration while watching. That said, it's no secret their greed toppled the global economy and created the massive, global meltdown we all experienced back in 2008. As someone who is diving into home ownership, it was well worth the watch.

Even with my awareness on high alert, I'm still excited to dig in and stop "paying someone else's mortgage" with my rent payments. Today I want to take a quick cruise through the options available to us as homebuyers. In the wake of the "challenges" of the early 2000s, it is safe to assume your finances will be more closely scrutinized. The good news is that there are a handful of great options available to buyers with varying levels of credit and down payment capacity. Let's check them out.

The first and most common is the fixed rate loan. This simply provides the same, single interest rate for the life of the loan. These loans are typically 15 or 30 years. It is great for folks who have no intention of moving for the next (at least) 5 - 10 years. One of the primary benefits of this loan is the variations in the national interest rate have no bearing on yours or your payments. While you may lament those rates if they fall (as they are now), you'll be celebrating when they trend in the other direction. For both of the properties I purchased, this was the path I chose.

The next option is the adjustable-rate mortgage. (FWIW, I'm going to use "mortgage" and "loan" interchangeably for the remainder of this article.) The most obvious difference between these two is that the fixed rate you were enjoying above has gone away. Typically, about once a year, your loan's interest rate will be adjusted based on the current national interest rate. Quite obviously, this is great when they fall, but a little challenging if and when they rise. These types of loans also tend to have lower initial interest rates. This is safe for the lender since they know they will "catch up" with the first adjustment. "The ARM is a great option for buyers who are anticipating relocating within the first 5 years of ownership," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Michele Jordan. "If plans change, these owners frequently refinance into a fixed rate to take advantage of the stability those loans provide," she continued.

FHA or "Federal Housing Administration" loans are fantastic for folks (like yours truly) who don't have a ton of savings to pony up the 20% typically required of standard loans. While there are some restrictions, borrowers can put as little as 3.5% down for the home. This is because they are government-backed and are considered "safer". Some of the restrictions include a maximum loan amount of $417,000 (don't ask my how they came up with that number), they are fixed rate loans for the standard 15 or 30 years, and the borrower is required to pay PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) at least until there is suitable equity in the home.

If you have served in the military, a VA (Veterans Affairs) loan is a suitable option for your purchase process. The primary (and amazing) benefits of this loan include no down payment and no need for PMI. There are some strict guidelines for the home you purchase. It needs to be your primary residence (no second homes or vacation homes) and it needs to meet some "minimum property requirements". That simply means you won't qualify for that fixer-upper you were hoping for. If you have served our country, we thank you and our mortgage industry thanks you!

USDA loans are another great, creative option for buyers looking to purchase a home in rural areas. If you are new to New Hampshire, we are flush with rural areas! These loans are also government backed so there is no down payment required. There are also very attractive interest rates included in these loans. While you are required to pay PMI, the pros certainly outweigh the cons with these. There are some restrictions with regard to your debt-to-income ratio. In a nutshell, your debt cannot exceed your income by more than 41%. If you are struggling financially and are looking to buy property where your closest neighbor is a moose, give this option a close look.

The last, and slightly less prevalent, loan we will cover today is the bridge or "gap" loan. This is for those folks who are a bit stuck between buying their new home and still not having sold their existing home. You cannot finance more than 80% of the cost of the two homes combined, so you really need to be flush with cash or have plenty of equity in your existing home for this bad boy to work for you. You also need to have pretty solid credit and a healthy debt-to-income ratio to be approved for this one.

There are a plethora of financing options available to home buyers these days. If you are considering buying a home or maybe have already started looking, I strongly suggest you re-visit with your lender (or keep shopping for one!) and explore all the options available to you. You might be very surprised at what you can afford.

January
21

Real Estate Corner - VIBE MAGAZINE Winter 2020/2021
By Bernadette Donohue, Contributing Author & REALTOR®

Handed down from generation to generation are special recipes that become family favorites—even though the vagueness of some instructions and ingredient amounts can make it interesting to try and duplicate. Seriously, how much is in a heap, pad, pinch, or tip? Yet, somehow using an old recipe, and winging it a little, makes it that much more impressive when the intended and delicious delight comes out just the way you remembered, or perhaps better.

I especially love coming across the recipe cards with the smudges, stains, and handwritten corrections, showing that they were tweaked and perfected to taste along the way. Treasured recipes from my mother, Nana, Grandma, and mother-in-law, proudly displaying their names at the top of the card, claiming each favorite as their own, or giving credit where due.

While the basics do not change much over time, a recipe that is passed along to the next generation will always require a few new steps, altered measurements, and adjusted temperatures to adapt traditional methods to more modern times.

The process of finding a home also comes with its own inconsistencies that may change what you imagined the process and outcome to be. If your efforts have not yet been rewarded, try using some old-fashion advice to revitalize your endeavors towards home ownership.

Certainly, one of the biggest obstacles in our current market is an overall lack of inventory, plus an unprecedented number of buyers who are ready, willing, and able to make their move as soon as another desirable property comes available. Those who are aiming for the Mt. Washington Valley and vicinity are looking for either primary living or vacationing, so we have double the interest, thus creating an urgency of buyers searching for the Valley's lifestyle. It's no wonder there are frustrations  experienced by buyers who have lost out, sometimes multiple times, and in bidding wars beyond the listing price.

Getting back to some basics may allow you to regain some control and find more joy and meaning in the outcome. Often overlooked in the frenzy of searching and competing for a property is to ask yourself: what are the most important things that you want in your next home? Each member of the family (yes, kids too!) should list their wants and circle their top choices. Then take the time to ask each other "why" that specific feature is important, and really listen to hear the reasons behind the desires. Even after the "why" has been answered, dig deeper to find out what it would mean to them if those needs were met. Next, identify any commonalities and talk about ways that your family might be able to tweak some of those ideas to achieve the basics on your new list. You may be surprised to find that what you thought you were looking for in a home is somewhat different with this perspective, which could open up your search parameters to include homes that you had not previously given much thought to.

For instance, in asking "why," you might find out that being together as a family and having a place for extended family and friends to visit is actually much more important than having that mountain view you had been searching for. Maybe being a part of a smaller community with access to a wonderful school system will open the door to crossing town or state borders, and may ultimately be more important than the updated kitchen or that two-car, attached garage you were expecting to find. In other words, what may have been highest on your list of wants, before this exercise, might be replaced by a shorter list of your real
needs. With this new outlook, discuss any changes in your search parameters with your local real estate advisor and begin to utilize this clarity to open new doors (quite literally).

Often overlooked in the frenzy of searching and competing for a property is to ask yourself: what are the most important things that you want in your next home?

Remember that most homes can be changed to create the lifestyle you desire—and there are homes on the market right now, or coming soon, that may have been overlooked because of their age, design, condition, size, or amenities. From personal experience, enhancements and a little extra vision created a new delightful home from a very basic one; a small 1970s ranch became a beautiful two-story colonial with a full, finished basement, farmers and screen porches, patio, mudroom, and a two-car, attached garage.

Tweak some of your expectations, include what your family values most, and add patience and persistence to this winning recipe of finding, creating, moving, and enjoying your new abode.


Bernadette Donohue is a seasoned professional, helping buyers and sellers with their real estate needs for the past 35 years. Bernie works for Badger Peabody & Smith Realty in North Conway, NH where she has dedicated her career and lifestyle to serving clients and the community with the heart of a mom. Bernie can be reached at (207) 542-9967, or by email at bernie@badgerrealty.com.

January
18

This past weekend my honey and I ventured up into the mountains for a little backcountry skiing. The day was amazing and we found a secret little stash of powder that made for some great turns and we even created some "powder 8's" like the cool kids back in the 80's! If you've enjoyed any such adventures, regardless of the season, you know they take preparation. Whether adventuring in the White Mountains at 4,000 feet or in the Rockies at 12,000 feet, being prepared is critical to both your enjoyment and your survival. We have all read countless stories of the half-wits that head up Mount Washington in jeans and sneakers and then wonder why they got hurt, lost, cold or worse.

I think the Boy Scouts were on to something with their "Be Prepared!" motto. (I think the exclamation point is part of the motto!! - So cool) One of the primary things I do before hitting the trail is I ask a ton of questions or rather I gather a ton of information. I'm checking the weather at the elevation at which I plan to achieve. It doesn't matter if it is 50's and sunny in North Conway, what is the weather atop the mountain with the worlds (second) worst weather? What are the trail conditions? Is there weather moving in? What do I need for gear? Do I have the right gear? What do I need for food? The list goes on.

I say all that to also say that when it's time to buy a house, it's equally important to be prepared. It's important to gather all the information you possibly can about the whole shootin' match. That includes the house, the neighborhood, the mortgage, the market, etc. That list goes on and on as well. Today we're going to focus on the questions you should be asking before you put in that offer. There are the inanely obvious questions like - Can I afford this house? But there are also more pertinent questions that many of us don't think of. Let's dig in.

What is the purchase history of this home? This question provides lots of information but I will caution you a bit to take the data with a proverbial grain of salt. "Simply knowing that a home was "bank-owned" or that the listing had expired at some point in its history are not necessarily bad things," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Norman Head. "As with nearly everything in life, the more information you have about the situation the better off you will be," he continued. I love knowing the sales history of a home. It shows you (almost inevitably) a continued increase in value and it provides a bit of back story to how the market has treated this property. If nothing else, it's a great place to start.

What is the future of this property? This, of course, is a little more challenging to ascertain, but equally worth your time to explore. I know almost none of the details of this story, but I heard through the grapevine about a community's government that accepted the creation of a waste facility. The homeowners were incensed that their properties were rendered nearly unsellable due to the proximity to the "dump" and the associated smells. You can never know all the future plans that any one of countless entities may have in store. But it is important to do your due diligence and learn about community upgrades and assessments, the general trend of the neighborhood's home prices, new construction going on (especially commercial!) and anything else that may impact, not only your home's value but your families enjoyment of living there.

One lesson I learned a very long time ago is to ask for help or advice when I felt I needed it (which is often!). As we all know, from the teenage years through our late 20's (typically) we have the silly sense that we have it all figured out and don't need help from anyone. (Wasn't that an adorable time?!) Once we get past that mark, our eyes are finally opened and we see that the vast majority of the world is older and more experienced than we are and knows far more than we do about almost everything.

When you are considering buying a home, seek out those folks who already have that experience and can help you get pointed in the right direction. Do you know of any good home inspectors? Is there a handyman that you would recommend? Who did you use as your real estate agent and why did you like them? Where do you get your car fixed? Sure, the Internet is a wealth of information (and very often misinformation), but I always (always!) prefer to have a conversation with a human being to get my recommendations and advice. So much is lost in false reviews and curated 5-star ratings. Put down your phone and pick up your phone (Ha!) and give someone a call. You'll be glad you did. They will be honored that you trust them with this huge decision. And you will make a new connection with both them and the person to whom they refer you.

Buying a home is a big deal and owning a home is equally significant. Before and during this process, my advice to you is ask a ton of questions. Gather all the information you can about the property, the process and the potential (Struggled for another "p" word there!). You will be better informed and will feel so much more comfortable with the decision because you did your homework. Now go do some research and get up in the mountains! Just please don't wear cotton in the White's this winter! Happy adventuring!

January
7

In the famous words of Bruce Buffer: "Iiiit's Tiiiime"! No, I'm not planning to step into the octagon with anyone - ever. It's time to finally throw my proverbial hat in the ring and join the world of the homeowners once again. It's been too long. I really enjoy my roommate and could not have asked for a better friend for the last couple years, but it is time to have my own space. As I type this, I am celebrating (mourning?) turning 50 years old today. I'm sure I'll cohabitate with my honey eventually, but that's not in the cards right now. Let's take a peek at some things to be aware of (or to remind myself of) when joining this new group.

I've been the one behind the wheel when it comes to our lawn maintenance. I mow the lawn, trim the bushes and do (most of) the raking in the fall. This reminder is not for me, but mostly for those who are coming straight out of an apartment into a single family home. Your lawn/landscaping doesn't just happen auto-magically. It takes work.

Every year we have taken steps to eliminate sections of the lawn that were either trouble-spots (hard areas to grow) or simply impractical (better for parking spots). I have often encouraged you, my dear reader, to follow suit. Replacing maintenance-demanding sections of your yard with rocks, shrubs, or other "no-fuss" features is a great way to reclaim your weekends and save you money on the various chemicals used to keep that lawn looking like Fenway. You will appreciate the clean look as you head out on a bike ride instead of being stuck trying to get that hand-me-down lawnmower to run.

While this is something you should be aware of during the buying process, you may still incur fees for "improvements" to the neighborhood. Friends of mine live in Fort Collins, CO and even though they live in a single family home, they still pay HOA fees. I had no idea that was a "thing". If a petition passes to have a speed bump or radar sign installed, the cost is passed on to the homeowners. Property and city taxes are not utilized for these extra items. As someone who does not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, I think this is a great way to keep our taxes down and apply the costs to those who are going to benefit from the improvement.

Another thing that works differently everywhere is trash removal. Having lived in some rural areas in my life, when I first lived in a place that included trash pickup (for a fee, obviously) I felt I had died and gone to heaven. What a treat! We even pay a little extra to have brush/lawn clippings picked up during the summer months as well. Once you get settled into your new place, do some digging and find out how it will work where you now live. If you're lucky, those weekly trips to the dump may be a thing of the past (Although I did enjoy visiting with our boys at the dump in Lincoln!).

Renovations, while enticing, can prove to be a bit of a struggle. I am a huge fan of upgrading a space or renovating it to be more useful for me, the homeowner. We have covered, at length, the benefits of DIY as well as some of the pitfalls. "The primary piece of advice I give to new homeowners is to simply be aware of your limitations and temper your enthusiasm during the 'destruction' phase," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Kathleen Sullivan Head. "The gremlins often found behind a small section of sheetrock can railroad a quick upgrade into a full-blown room remodel with a single swing of the hammer," she continued.

Kathleen is spot-on with this one. Especially for those of us living in or buying older homes, you never really know what the previous owner may have hidden with some paint or sheetrock. If you prepare for the worst (but hope for the best), you will be slightly more ready when the project creep rears its ugly head. Don't just go tackling a wall like a linebacker or ripping off all the trim. Consider what additional steps you'll have to take to bring the job to the finish line. A quick conversation with a construction or remodeling professional will likely raise your awareness and give you some thoughts to consider before you start swinging that hammer.

The final little nugget I'll share is a side-benefit and/or maybe a bit of a curse. Once you have experienced the joy of homeownership, you will never want to go back to sharing walls again. Once you are able to stop listening to and smelling your neighbors through a shared wall, you will never want to go back. You can listen to your music as loud as you want and cook all the crazy, smelly things you want without having to worry about your building-mate. The freedom and independence provided with home ownership actually has me more excited than when I first started typing. Enough of this work stuff though, it's time to go find some birthday cake!

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