SIGN UP LOGIN

Financing and Mortgages

October
31

Real Estate AppraisalI always enjoy throwing out an alliteration or rhyme for my titles. I think, much like 'orange', there's not much I can do with appraisal (Maybe I need more coffee). I'm certainly open to ideas for next time! Today we're going to talk about some myths related to your home appraisal. We'll touch, briefly, on the differences between an appraisal and a home inspection (though mostly in end-result, not practice). All that aside, as I write this they're predicting our first Noreaster of the season. Come on snow!

First and foremost, the appraisal tends to be one of the more anxiety inducing steps of the home selling journey. It is that point where you put the value of the home in the hands of the lender (sort of) and the result of this appointment has a very strong impact on the sale actually going through. "Will it appraise?" "If it doesn't, will the buyers bail?" Oh the drama!

One of the important things to keep in mind during the appraisal process is that this is supposed to be a neutral, emotion-free valuation of the home. If you peel back the first layer, you'll realize that the bank is the one requiring this step. Yes, you the buyer are paying for it, but the lender hires the appraiser and has a vested interest in the results. From a broad perspective, the bank is simply making sure that they will be covered if the buyers default on their mortgage and the bank needs to take ownership.

Appraisers use a number of different tools to complete their evaluation. While inspectors are more focused on the functioning of the plumbing, electrical, insulation, etc., the appraiser is interested in how your home compares to other homes in the neighborhood. They are looking at objective, quantifiable factors that help them determine the core value of the home. Appraisers look at the home's condition, square footage, and location as well as the general condition of the flooring and plumbing and electrical systems. The inspector is simply going to look more deeply at those systems and highlight any potential issues.

That last nugget is an important one to keep in mind when you're considering any type of remodeling project. Just because you spent (literally) countless hours installing a hot tub, home-theater, sauna or other luxury item, does not mean those translate into a higher appraisal. If yours is the only home in the area with those items, the appraiser does not have any comps to give value to those. This also means that those items are not in high demand with the buyers in this area. The buyer in this deal may be super excited about them, but the bank (read: appraiser) is not going to assign much value to them.

The same can be said about size. The value of the home is determined by comparing it to the other homes in the area on the same sized lot. If you double the size of the home, it simply means when you are ready to sell, you may have a harder time getting the home to appraise at your asking price. Which brings us to our next point, the actual price at which the home will sell.

An appraisal is just that. The bank's (appraiser's) estimate of what the home is worth. If your asking price is $200,000 and the buyers agree to that price, whoopie for you. You've done it. But if that buyer (like me) requires financing, the bank is going to order an appraisal. If the appraisal comes back at $175,000, the buyer has two options. They can simply back out of the deal because they aren't willing to pay more than what the appraisal states (assuming they included that contingency in the offer). Or they can pony up the $25K in cash and leave the mortgage at the $175k. At the end of the day, the bank is not going to lend more than what they deem the house to be worth (the appraised value).

Lastly, if selling is in your future, be really careful about what you do choose to remodel. As we noted above, some things are simply not going to appraise as well as you hoped. "One of the biggest mistakes we see homeowners make is converting a garage into, well, literally anything other than a garage," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Daren Levitt. "Leave your garage a garage and feel free to alter any other room in the house. After that first winter in new england, you'll know why," he continued. Daren is right. If you've lived in new england for more than one winter, you know how valuable those spaces are in mid-winter. Put your home gym in the basement and keep those buyers interested. Happy selling!

February
1

This week I'd like to encourage a little common sense when it comes to your finances and the purchase of a home.

First on the list is debt. Nearly all of us carry it like an albatross around our necks. There can be a healthy debt load but there can also be the dangerous kind. We're not going to delve into all the potential woes if your debt becomes too much of a monster. The goal here is to trim it down to a more manageable and tolerable level. My parents just purchased a new (to me) vehicle. It turns out they have great credit (owning a home and not missing payments will help with that!). They don't carry a very large debt load (literally none) and pay off any bills they have on time and in-full.

On average, Americans carry almost $60,000 in household debt and about $11,000 in credit card debt. That is a significant weight to bear even in a strong economy. With unemployment rates as high as they are, those numbers become even more stressful. Long gone are the days when people only purchased what they had the cash for. It is important to note that not all debt is a negative thing. The average student today graduates with $25,000 in student loans. You'll have a hard time convincing me that that is a bad debt (Unless that student majored in causal relations in alcohol consumption!). The lesson here is to be crystal clear of where your debt load stands and your plan for shrinking it.

We often sing the praises of home ownership and you'll be hard pressed to find someone that doesn't believe it is a great long-term investment. Now that the lending companies have started using more intelligent lending practices and have raised the bar for buyers, it is more important than ever to have a healthy credit score and a decent chunk of money for a down payment. In order to start the process towards that end, you will need to evaluate your "in-come" and "out-go" and make adjustments as necessary.

You do not need a degree in accounting (more student loans!) to get a solid handle on your budget. On a simple piece of paper, make note of your monthly bills including the checks you write for heat and lights as well as the debit card swipes for groceries, gas and candy bars. If you have never done this exercise, chances are you'll be slightly amazed. The first time I put my expenses down on paper, I couldn't believe how much money I was wasting in small, seemingly insignificant chunks. A simple cup of coffee on the way to work can easily add up to $50 every month and $600 a year! We all know $600 can buy a whole lot of coffee beans and filters for the coffee machine on our kitchen counter.

"One of the more common ways to start working on your debt is to focus on the high interest loans first," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Eileen Difeo. "We should all know by now that paying the minimum amount is never going to get us anywhere," she continued. If you target the high interest loan first, pay the minimum on the others and put any additional money towards the targeted high interest bill. This is a slow and steady process, but you will be pleasantly surprised at the results when the balance starts to shrink and you're soon able to eliminate that expense. Imagine how quickly you will pay down your next targeted loan when you apply the previous payment to that bill!

If you can't increase the payment right now you must at least make your minimum payments on time. Never, ever pay late. I learned this lesson when I was still in High School and it has stuck with me ever since. If you absolutely cannot make this month's payment, and it happens to all of us, contact the lender and make sure they are aware. Many lenders will work with you and won't report the missed payment to the credit bureaus. As someone who has owned rental property in the past, I promise you the knowledge that a payment is immanent versus wondering if my tenant has just decided to stop paying, makes all the difference in the world. This impacts my budget and my perception of said tenant.

Remember that your credit score is based on your ability to pay and your history of payments as well as the amount of available credit you have. If you have $30,000 in available credit, but you are using $25,000 of that, you are using over 80% of your limit. This is a scary ratio for lenders and it will start to negatively impact your score. The lesson here is once you pay off a credit card, assuming there are no annual fees, do not close that account. If the card you just paid off was at $10,000, your available credit is now up to 50%. Still too high for most lenders, but it looks far better than the 20% you had before.

The idea of adjusting your lifestyle along with your spending habits is not very attractive to many people. At this point it comes down to an alignment of your priorities. I love eating out for dinner. It is nice to meet with friends in a social place, have a decent meal (prepared and cleaned up by someone else). As I was going through the process of evaluating my budget, I realized the amount of money I was spending on these meals. This was clearly an unnecessary expense and one that I could easily remedy by a weekly trip to the grocery store. The sacrifice was not fun. I would obviously prefer to enjoy the full night out with friends. But a simple adjustment of eating at home and then joining up with my friends saved me the money for the meal but retained the real goal of a fun night out.

We are living in a society that rewards immediate gratification and thinking long-term is no longer the norm. If you can adjust your mindset and maintain your goal of living in your very own home (or just living debt free), that long-term reward will be an even sweeter treat when you finally attain it.

February
1

Last week we touched on some of the challenges of selling a home during the winter months. It is important to be wary of too much holiday cheer. It is always a good idea to ensure everything works and all lights are on. And it is also always a good plan to ensure that the walkway to the front door is free of snow, leaves and other debris that can cause a trip or at very least, a chagrin.

But what about the other side of the coin? What about buyers who are interested in home shopping during this time of year? There are certain considerations (and benefits) to being a buyer in the colder months. Let's explore a few of those today and maybe even prompt you to get in the game!

First and foremost it will be very obvious to buyers that the inventory has dropped off significantly since mid-summer. In most cities where snow and ice are a factor, home inventory can drop by as much as 30% throughout the winter. In some areas where winter activities are abundant, like northern New Hampshire, you won't see as much of a drop. In fact some homes even come on the market this time of year because they are so well suited for winter sports. The lack of inventory has plusses and minuses. Both of which will become more apparent as we move along.

One type of home that tends to get more active during winter is the "starter home". Trulia research reports that listings of less-expensive homes tend to increase by about 10% during the first 3 months of the year. For buyers interested in starter homes, this might be a great time of year to shop. While we see a decrease in other price brackets, this is a great opportunity to perhaps grab a good deal. This would also provide a good opportunity to tackle those remodeling projects that can be done indoors for the winter and then move to the exterior projects this spring. You didn't have anything scheduled for your next 20 or so weekends did you?!

Another advantage of shopping for homes in the winter is the competition has also abated. Open houses that may have seen dozens of buyers (and offers) during the summer will now be occupied by maybe a dozen people total. Not only does that mean you can more easily move around the home and explore, but you can also have more time with the agent and/or the owners to get your questions answered and get more information about the home. This also tends to take the pressure off for making an offer. During the winter months, buyers can much more easily visit a home 2 or 3 times without the intense pressure of bidding wars and competing buyers watching their every move.

There is a general assumption that winter sellers tend to be a little more willing to "deal" than in-season sellers. While this is not always the case, it can sometimes work in your favor. If you have seen a home on the market throughout the summer and find it still listed mid-winter, chances are good that the sellers are going to be motivated to sell. That doesn't mean they will take any low-ball (read: insulting) offer. It does mean you might be able to get a better deal than when it first hit the market.

This is also a good time to review those homes that were in need of renovations that perhaps you passed on this summer. Many times agents will list homes in need of renovations during those winter months since they won't have as much competition with "move-in ready" homes as they did in the summer. For those of us who are interested in a fixer-upper, this is a perfect time to be on the hunt for such homes and likely a good (but fair) deal. Like the "starter homes" we mentioned above, this is a more active price-bracket this time of year.

One item to be aware of with buying a home in the winter months is the home inspection. Any home inspector with a brain in his head is not going to climb up on the roof in the middle of January. There will certainly be some items that are skipped during the inspection like the function of the air conditioner and other items only accessible when it is not below freezing. This is not a reason to avoid buying a home, it is just something to be aware of and perhaps include a contingency in the Purchase agreement in order to account for those items once they can be inspected.

A final item to keep in mind when it comes to renovations and inspection reports is that the price you offer still needs to be fair for both of you. While the sellers may be very motivated and there is a possibility that you could include some contingencies regarding inspections, it is important to keep the true value of the home in mind when constructing your offer. "No seller is just going to dump a home to a low-ball offer just because there is snow on the ground," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty, Deirdre Braun. "The offer still needs to be fair and equitable for both parties. This is the best way to secure a deal any time of year", she continued.

Buying a home in winter certainly has its challenges, but you may find the benefits outweigh them in the long run. Be on the lookout for remodeling project-homes and you just may find a great deal on the perfect home (or ski home!). I would even recommend tire-kickers to peruse the listings available during these colder months. It gives you something to do over your morning coffee and who knows what you may discover?

January
31

You survived round 1! You made it through Thanksgiving and you are still alive and kicking! Perhaps at this point you are simply thankful that all of your relatives have finally gone home. This year it was just my girlfriend, her mom and I for a yummy turkey dinner. It was great, simple and we were on the couch by 7PM. For Christmas this year, we will have an additional 5 guests in the house: Mom, dad, Tyler (brother), Mel (his wife) and Lily (lovable greyhound). We are excited for them to be here and I haven't seen Lily since July! (Oh, and it will be good to visit with the humans as well!)

One thing that we all do, regardless of our guests imploring us not to "make a fuss" is clean the house before they get here. As I was reviewing my task list of cleaning it occurred to me that there are hot spots throughout the home that we all tend to forget about or miss during our whirlwind cleaning tours. These are also very common spots we see homeowners (sellers) miss when it comes time for a showing. If you are like me, you clean the house every week (or 2). Basically these are the spots that don't tend to make the cut during those regular cleanings.

The first (and often grossest) are the ceiling light fixtures. I'm going to go ahead and assume that everyone reading this article can look up at their ceiling and say "Oh yeah, me too". This is one of those areas that prospective buyers (and mothers-in-law) will notice almost as soon as they walk through the front door.

"As a buyer in the past, I'm always interested in the light fixtures around the home," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Rachael Brown. "We can all spot the cheap ones and the overly ornate ones. I want to know what I'm going to have to replace if I buy," she continued.

Kerry is spot-on with this observation. While the buyers and guests may not be specifically interested in the cleanliness of the fixtures, they are still most certainly going to be looking at them much more closely than you and I.

Another not-so-pleasant trouble spot is the outside of the toilet. Of course, everybody is going to clean their toilets and make sure that the most obvious and visible areas are spotless. But with family coming or a showing appointment coming up, it's time to take a closer look. For some reason beyond the confines of logic, toilet makers continue to include the snake-like shapes on the sides of the porcelain. These are superb spots for dust, dirt and hair to collect. These are also spots that most of us skip right over during our weekly cleaning. Take a little extra time to wipe down the whole exterior of your commode. You'll be amazed (and slightly horrified) at the difference it makes.

My parents are always fumbling around our kitchen for one thing or another. Whether it is finding sugar for the coffee or a spoon or a drinking glass, they are forever rummaging through every drawer and cabinet in the house. For this reason, and because potential buyers are going to want to test out your drawers and cabinet doors as well, it is a great idea to target these areas for cleaning. The biggest culprits are those drawer organizers. We can all hide a layer of dirt and crumbs under the piles of stuff in our "junk drawer". But as soon as you put one of those handy organizers in place, the crumbs and dirt start to collect (and show!).

While you are in the kitchen take a good look at your appliance handles. We touch them every single day without a thought. Last night I made some scrumptious chicken fingers in a frying pan on the stove. The remnants, besides the pervasive smell of cooked olive oil, is little spots of grease on the stove knobs. These are typically really easy to remove and clean and the fridge and oven handles can be quickly shined up with a paper towel and some cleaner. If you tackle this the morning of the showing (or the arrival) your kitchen will shine and your appliances will even look newer!

Last but not least, be sure and clean all of the mirrors around your home. Nobody expects you to wash your windows this time of year, but the mirrors can always use a quick shine. Whether the bathrooms, closets or hallways, be sure to hit them all because someone will always stop for a quick look.

Cleaning your home in the springtime can be a bit of a daunting task. It includes the windows (inside and out), under the beds and appliances and maybe even a floor scrubbing or carpet cleaning. For the showing or the arrival of guests, just tackle these quick and simple spots and save the big stuff for the warmer weather. All of these trouble spots will be scrutinized and you can rest easy with one less thing on your mind. Now you just need to find a place for everyone to sleep!

January
30

I need more coffee, so I could only come up with the word "snappy" for my title this morning. The gist of our topic today is encouraging impatient sellers whose home is still lingering on the market. Coming from someone who sold his home in early March, I can tell you it is not easy sitting on one's hands waiting for that "right" buyers to come along. Today I want to explore a few strategies that might actually help you move that thing before the flowers start to bloom again.

Any of you who have been reading along over the past few years, as well as those of you who have some experience (or a well-educated friend) in real estate, are going to be very familiar with the first tip. It is as simple as doing your homework and knowing your market. A friend of mine is an agent in the Denver area and he is enjoying competing offers, rising prices and an influx of new buyers clamoring to get their hands on his listings. While that may be great for him and his sellers, that could not possibly have less bearing on the market in northern New Hampshire.

Forget what you have read in the national news. All that matters is what is happening, not just in New Hampshire, but Northern New Hampshire and right here in North Conway. If you really want to sell your home you need to research the activity right in your neighborhood, the past sales in the area (under 1 year if possible), and any other local trends that you can get your hands on. Your local real estate professional should be well versed in these things and, given a bit of notice, could help you do the research. In the end, the selling price that you come up with after gathering all of those facts (vs. the one you pulled out of the sky!), will be far more attractive to any savvy buyer that comes your way.

Although this little trick comes with its own challenges, offering an incentive on your home can be a highlight that is just what the buyers are looking for. One idea that we have covered in the past is getting a pre-listing home inspection. Imagine being a buyer in the dead of winter knowing a home inspection is going to have certain limitations due to the weather. If the sellers are throwing in a full (recent) home inspection report as part of the deal, your peace of mind just increased ten-fold. This practice is really popular in the mid-west and is starting to build momentum in the east. Jump ahead of the curve on this and show those potential buyers that you are willing to go the extra mile in standing behind your home's quality.

On the topic of quality, this is the perfect time to tackle any of those "honey-do" projects that have been ignored or forgotten. Buyers, especially those wanting to move in during the colder months, do not want to purchase a long to-do list with their new home. By picking away at those smaller remodeling or upgrading projects now, the next listing appointment will have far less explaining and back-pedaling involved. Take care of these projects and not only will your potential buyers be happier they don't have to purchase a project-house, but you can enjoy the benefits of your labor as long as you remain in the home.

"Winter can be a very good time to sell a home in the White Mountains," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Edward O'Halloran. "Buyers in the market during this time of year are typically moving because of need not want. That means they are typically more serious and single-minded than in other seasons," he continued.

 

This is also true since we are fortunate enough to live in and around a ski town. Vacation homebuyers are out in force this time of year and your home might be just the perfect place for them to hang their hats (and skis) for years to come. When you are considering listing your home, don't neglect to target these folks as they may surprise you.

 

Lastly, it is of paramount importance that you stage (and keep staged) your home. There is a chance that you have impeccable taste and really do have an eye for design and interior decorating. But this is not a time for risking a sale based on your friend's opinions of your bathroom makeover. Trust a professional whose job it is to keep up with the latest trends in home staging. This does not have to be super expensive and will most likely result in a few modifications that you can certainly live with while your home is listed or at the very least during the showings. The potential buyers will take note and you'll more than likely have more interest in your home than if you simply kept it as is.

 

Having your home on the market past the prime selling season is tough. Nobody will take that away from you. But do your best to keep the faith and take a few of these steps to increase your chances of hooking that seller. I mean if those crazy people can catch fish in a frozen lake, you should be able to snag a buyer, don't you think!?

December
3

While living in a tiny cabin (~300 sq. feet) over in Lincoln, my bathroom was literally in between the living room and bedroom. Needless to say, privacy was not on the menu when I had visitors. Convenient escapes out to the kitchen (or my truck) offered a little more of a buffer and made the space tolerable. For the price I was paying, it was worth the hassle. Today, I have 4 bathrooms to clean and I'm (sort of) lamenting those simpler times.

While a bathroom is not the most prominent room in your North Conway NH home, there's no reason it can't stand out (in a good way!). We've all had small, large, cramped and expansive bathrooms in our lives. Today I'd like to explore a few of the ways you can make your bathroom shine. There are ways to make it flow better (no pun intended), stand out a bit and even be more welcoming and have that "wow" factor. These tips are great whether you are selling or not.

Long ago I shared a story about painting my kitchen bold shades of blue and yellow. It was a bright look to the room and helped liven up the place a bit. It also happened to be the central room on that floor acting as the axle for the two bedrooms, bathroom and living room. I painted it those colors because there were (are) my favorites, but thankfully the tenants didn't mind it one bit.

You can get creative (and bold) in your bathroom with colors since the space is usually not all that overwhelming in size. You may not want to go crazy with multiple variations in one room, but you could paint 3 walls one color and leave the 4th for a highlight wall. Many times the creative, bold colors will make the room feel larger and can even take the focus off the smaller space. Mostly, the bathroom is a great sized room to do some testing and get creative. Let your creative juices flow and give it a shot. The worst that will happen is you'll have to re-paint.

Along those lines of painting a highlight wall is the creative (but limited) use of wallpaper. Filling the whole room with some pattern could be very overwhelming and might even cause seizures! But if you have a fairly mellow tone of paint, don't be afraid to spice it up with a top border of wallpaper or (again) even target a single wall. Much like with the painting exercise before, if you hate it you can easily strip it off and start again. The task won't be nearly as daunting if you had done a whole bedroom with that pattern.

Lastly for the walls, is artwork. Obviously the standard beach scene is a safe bet, but don't be afraid to be bold here as well. There are plenty of great deals at the thrift store that would make a perfect addition to your bathroom. Not only can they be conversation starters, but they will draw your eye away from the other "toilet-y" things in the room and add some creativity and life.

Something we incorrectly tend to shy away from in the bathroom is furniture. I'm not saying you should throw a love seat next to the toilet, but you can add some pieces in here to help the layout. Remember when you're staging a room; smaller furniture makes the space feel larger. Follow the same tenet in the bathroom and add a small bookcase or even a small chair to the area. It will break up the room, provide an additional place to put "stuff" and help keep you organized if you don't have a sizable vanity.

In small spaces and in dark places (like NH in the winter), lighting is key. The bathroom is no exception here and lighting should be thought out well and experimented with a bit. So often we are tied to the same old notion that a couple of vanity lights or even an overhead light/fan combo is all we need. While that may be true, toss out those old notions and get a bit more creative.

"I always like the presence of lighting other than the standard wall sconces and vanity lights so ever-present in most bathrooms," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Nubian Duncan. "A lamp on a shelf or bookcase or even a simple hanging light can bring so much more taste and design to this small but important room," he continued.

Lastly don't be afraid to replace your hardware and allow it to coordinate with the theme you have created with all your new additions. The sink and tub are pretty prominent pieces in the bathroom and if you've gotten creative with the rest of the room, don't stop there. The variety available today is simply mind-blowing and you'll be able to put the finishing touches on your awesome bathroom to complete the look.

Have fun with your bathroom and your kids will look forward to bathing and brushing their teeth more. OK, maybe not, but at least you'll love one more room in your home!

 

November
30

There is a lot of discussion about the current state of housing affordability for both first-time and move-up buyers, and much of the narrative is tarnished with a negative slant. However, the truth is that housing affordability is better today than at almost any time in our history.

The naysayers are correct in the fact that affordability today is not as good as it has been over the last several years. But, we must remember that home prices collapsed during the housing crash, and distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) kept home values depressed for years. When we compare affordability to the decades that proceeded the crash, a different story is revealed.

Here is a graph of the National Association of Realtors™ Housing Affordability Index. The higher the graph, the more affordable homes are.

October
11

conway nh real estate snowstormIf you happen to be reading this on Sunday, you'll think I'm crazy. If you are reading this on Saturday, we're good! Fall is a time of roller coaster weather in the northeast. One day you are soaking in the sun on an awesome bike ride or hike, shorts and t-shirt blowing in the breeze. The next day you're packed under long johns and your favorite wool sweater, watching a high school football game huddled under a blanket. I just visited a friend in Boulder, Colorado and on Monday of this past week, helped him shovel 6" of snow off his front deck! It truly is the most amazing time of year.

My friend has lavender plants growing down below his deck and the wet heavy snow wreaked a bit of havoc on those poor unsuspecting bushes. It made me think of my own fledgling shrubs back at my North Conway NH home and wondered if this was the year I protect them with some plywood tee-pees to shelter them a bit from the coming snows. It sounds like a great project and will afford me a trip to the hardware store. Who knows; maybe I'll even have to buy a new power tool!

Fall is a great time of year to tackle a few household projects that you've been ignoring all summer. Let's be honest. This summer was pretty epic as far as weather is concerned. Chances are you've spent more time outside playing than you have maintaining your home. I'd like to review a handful of projects that could (should?) be tackled over the next couple weeks. Yes, there will be some amazing weekend weather (like Sunday!), but there will be plenty of cooler weekends that are perfect for tackling these simple but important chores.

The first one is rather important and that is to clean out your dryer vents. The reason this is a bit of a chore is to do it correctly you will often need to move the dryer. Access the hose. Clean it out. Wait for it to dry. And finally get everything put back into place. For those of you with a longer distance between the dryer exhaust and the wall, this is even more important since you've got more nooks and crannies in which that lint can be caught.

The benefits of this are not only some peace of mind that you're better protected against fires, but you will also notice that your clothes dry faster and more completely. If the dryer can "breathe" and expel that moist air, the more efficient it will be. While you are thinking about safety and fires, this is also a great time to change out the fire/smoke detector batteries. You can do this while you're waiting for the hose to dry from hosing it out. (My "Strange Brew" friends are thinking "Hose out the hose, hoser"!)

While visiting my friend, this mini snowstorm came as a bit of a surprise. We woke up to a couple inches of snow and were not the least bit prepared. On his deck sat the patio table and chairs and (more importantly) the corn hole boards! Before we get hit with the first dusting of snow, take care of your outside furniture to keep it protected. I'm lucky enough to have some extra space in the basement so we now have our stuff safe and dry down there. If you don't have the spare space, invest in some durable covers for your furniture. The protection from sun, rain, snow and sleet will pay dividends down the road, as the paint won't take such a beating all winter while it is not being used.

The same goes for your hose. While we do get some warmer weekends here and there where you may want to wash the car, for the most part, your hose is going to fare much better where it will not freeze. It can't be good for the rubber and plastic the hose is made from and it goes without saying that water in the hose will cause it to crack and likely burst. Although I would enjoy watching you turn that ruptured hose on in the spring, don't waste the money having to buy a new one and keep that thing warm or at the very least, empty.

I mentioned last week that I really do enjoy cleaning, but more-so the reward of a clean house. This time of year is a fantastic time to give the house a really good "spring cleaning" (for lack of a better phrase) to prepare yourselves for the coming season. We all know the house will mostly remain closed up for the next few months. Taking some time now to clean windows inside and out, sweeping under furniture, dusting tops of ceiling fans and even hoeing out the cat toys from behind the fridge will be very rewarding. You'll feel better about having to shut the house up for the winter knowing that everything is starting fresh and ready for some new dirt!

"Cleaning the house in the fall, especially for sellers, is a very rewarding and beneficial chore," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Ralph Cronin. "You get to enjoy the benefits all winter and it takes the pressure off when potential buyers come calling. The house has already had a thorough cleaning and a quick touch-up is all that is needed," he continued.

So, if you are reading this on Saturday, take some time today and tackle a couple of these tasks! Sunday is supposed to be much warmer and you can reward yourself with a hike or a bike ride. Come on, you deserve it!

October
11

north conway nh real estate cleaningI enjoy cleaning the house. OK, to be clear, I enjoy the feeling of HAVING a clean house and the best way to get to that goal is to actually clean. I'm not fancy enough (yet) to have my own housecleaner, but that's on my bucket list for sure. Imagine combining my love of a clean house with simply coming home to a house that has been cleaned. I'm giddy at just the thought. But with all that said, there are some myths floating around about cleaning that I'd like to shed some light on. Some are simply helpful to avoid and others are downright harmful to your North Conway NH home. Let's get scrubbing!

The first myth is about the value of bleach. I think we all fall in various places along the spectrum of bleach-use depending on how our parents and grandparents used it. The important thing to remember is that bleach does not "clean", it only disinfects. The example I like is trying to wash muddy hands with hand sanitizer. You first need to remove the dirt and grime and then you can move on to sanitizing. Also, bleach needs around 10 minutes of contact, with the offending germ-covered item, to be effective. So using those combo cleaners that include bleach is likely a waste of time and is obviously not great for your lungs. Focus on the grime and soap scum in the bathroom and leave the bleach for the germs.

Moving on to your wood furniture, consider taking it easy with the polish. Many polishes are simple beeswax and are great for shining the wood and giving it that showroom new look and feel. The flip side of that is the fact that loads of polishes are filled with funky-named chemicals and can leave an unwanted buildup on your furniture. Don't be afraid to use polish, but don't feel like you have to use it every time you clean. Just make use of a high-quality microfiber cloth (damp with water) and you'll have great looking pieces all over the house without the waxy buildup. This is a safer option too because if you are like me you inevitably get some polish overspray on the floor and that slippery spot is there for days just waiting for you!

Speaking of flooring, don't be afraid of too much vacuuming. We had our carpets replaced when I was in high school. I will never forget the installer telling my mom that carpets tend to weigh 10 times what they did when they were new after as many years of use. I'm sure it didn't help that the house contained 2 teenaged boys either. Lots of vacuuming can help eliminate some allergens, loads of dust and can actually help the house stay smelling fresh longer. Obviously, you need to be more careful with oriental and handmade rugs, but you get the idea.

Staying down there on the floor, let's talk mopping. My honey always uses that nice smelling floor cleaner when she attacks the floors. Our entire first floor is hardwood so it looks amazing when she's done. When it is my turn, I tend to just wet the floor-cleaning pad with water. It really doesn't matter which you use as long as the fabric is damp. This doesn't just "push the dirt around" and will do a great job of picking up (and holding onto) the dust and dirt on your floor. While the cleaner is not necessary it does leave a nicer shine and smell than just water. I think the switching off works just fine and saves us from having to buy the cleaner as often.

"Floor cleaners are great for leaving a nicer looking finish and scent throughout the home," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty Vice President of Sales (formerly Badger Realty), Brendan Battenfelder. "Although any moist cloth will work well, the important note is to tackle the floors more often than not. Grit and dirt, especially as it is crushed underfoot, is the best way to scratch and mar those floors which nobody wants to have to deal with," he continued.

Last but not least are those dishes in the sink. I'm a fan of hand washing. Not because I think I can do a better job than the dishwasher, but because for most of my adult life I haven't had enough dishes or silverware to last me long enough for when the dishwasher will be full again. Even now we haven't unpacked all the silverware; so with only 8 forks and two of us dirtying dishes, the math doesn't work. All that said, it is still better to let the dishwasher handle its task if you are concerned about the cleanliness of your plates, glasses and flatware. All the scrubbing in the world (by you) can't compete with the water temperature and constant soaping that that machine can provide. So give yourself a break (and go buy some more forks!).

Cleaning the house is not a chore that many of us love and get excited about. But if you are the one tackling this task, make note of a few of these suggestions. Perhaps it will make the cleaning faster and easier and it could even save some wear and tear on your furniture and flooring. Now that we have that covered, get yourself outside and enjoy this lovely fall weather! You can always clean up your dirty boot droppings next weekend!

August
16

north conway nh real estate Before the turn of the century (Sweet Moses, that sounds awful!) I lived in Portsmouth with 2 roommates. For reasons that have left my memory at this point, we all participated in a "fast" for an entire week. This meant nothing other than water and tea for a full 5 days. (We weren't about to cramp our weekend style!) There were two prominent lessons we all seemed to pick up from this experience. First was how easy it was. Sure we were hungry through the first 36 hours or so, but after that the hunger dissipated. The second lesson was how much extra time we had in the day. Removing shopping, cooking, eating and cleaning from the day freed up at least 2-3 hours. In the end, we learned more about what we could live without and a ton more respect for those who don't go hungry optionally.

As I write this article today, there are a solid number of great properties for sale throughout the region. There are homes in every price range, every style and varying sizes of associated land to go along with them. Interest rates are still fantastic and operators are standing by! OK, that last part was a joke, but it really is a great time to buy. Today I'd like to talk about how you can be ready to buy much sooner than you think. While you may not be ready to throw down ten grand and have your agent toss you the keys to your new home today, that doesn't mean you can't start taking steps to get there in the coming months. Let's look at a few ways you can "fast" in different parts of your life to get you ready.

It is safe to assume that you are renting now. Rent, for the vast majority of us, is the largest line item on our budgets. (If your Smurf collection is taking more money each month than your rent, you can stop reading. I can't help you.) The options for chipping away at your rent are pretty wide open. The most obvious is taking on a roommate. This is an option that I avoided like the plague, but living in Portsmouth was (and still is) insanely expensive. Having roommates allowed me to live in the heart of the city (right across the street from the Rusty Hammer) and only pay a couple hundred dollars a month. "We are fortunate to live in a very beautiful and desirable location," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Bernadette Donohue. "Finding suitable roommates is rarely difficult and you have the advantage of screening them ahead of time. It's a great way to save money and most likely make a friend for life," she continued.

There are other options that can help with the rent that don't include you opening your home to strangers. I have often provided services to my landlords in exchange for diminished rental payments. Everything from mowing lawns, painting the exterior, cleaning the basement, painting other apartments and helping with cleaning out apartments when other tenants leave have all been easy ways to cut my costs. When we were little kids, I distinctly recall my parents being superintendents of the apartment building we lived in down in Amesbury, MA. I was too little to be involved in finances at that time, but there's no doubt in my mind they got a break just for the service of collecting rent and managing the building. Not a bad deal.

Along the same lines of chipping in and helping your landlord, if that is not an option look elsewhere to pick up some extra cash. Even while saving money by having roommates in Portsmouth, I was still motivated to get my own place. I was working full time in an "office job", but ended up befriending the landscaping guy that kept our office clean and kept the grounds looking great. He ended up hiring me to help him do landscaping on weekends and even some evenings. Before that I had picked up a couple of shifts per week washing dishes in a local restaurant. It is critical to understand that neither of these jobs was intended to be long-term. They were both a means to an end and that fact alone allowed me to swallow my pride, scrub the pans and weed wack the parking lots.

For those of us working to keep those couple extra pounds off, the trick is to burn more calories than you consume. It truly is not rocket science. The exact opposite is true when saving for a home. The key is to spend much less money than you are earning. We've noted a couple options for increasing your income. The next step is to minimize the out-go! This is done, in very simplistic terms, by thinking about my little fasting experiment from above. We learned very quickly how little we needed to sustain ourselves and live a normal life. The same is true of your budget. We need to scrutinize every little expenditure and evaluate it based on "need" versus "want". I promise this is mildly painful, but the payoff is well worth it.

There are two things I started doing to make myself more aware of my spending habits. The first is to stop carrying around my debit/credit card. I only had the ability to spend what was in my wallet at any given time. This forces you to walk away from that purchase and typically sleep on it before making your way back to the store. You will be amazed at what you can talk yourself out of after a good night's sleep. The second was simply to actually LOOK at my monthly statements. This can also be a scary exercise when you realize how much money you waste at restaurants, coffee shops and other entirely unnecessary "things" we purchase.

I learned this lesson the hard way about a year or two after I left Portsmouth. I was living with my girlfriend at the time, making the most money I had ever made in my life. I had a Miata, a truck and a motorcycle. We ate at restaurants multiple times a week and never missed a weekend at the club or some other dining/drinking establishment. Looking back at that time, just a couple of years later, I had absolutely nothing to show for it other than a beat up liver and an empty bank account. Learn from my ignorance and cut out those silly expenditures now. You will thank yourself as you are moving into your new home.

Find ways to cut out every tiny little expense that is not critical to your very existence. Yes, Game of Thrones is awesome, but that extra monthly cost is not helping you on your way to home ownership and building your own empire! I mentioned this before but it bears repeating and reminding yourself of this while you are saving: All of these sacrifices can be temporary. The goal is to save for a down payment and get yourself ready for home ownership. Once you are established in your new home you can consider those extra expenses and maybe even quit that second job. On the other hand, you might enjoy the savings and the extra income!

Login to JOURNEY HOME

Login to JOURNEY HOME