As you know I've been searching high and low for a new place to live. I've been bouncing back and forth between rentals and homes for sale. As a former home (and duplex) owner, I really hate the idea of renting (aka - paying someone else's mortgage). And with the market seemingly coming back to earth, perhaps this fall will be a fantastic time to make a purchase. Either way, I'm excited to finally have my own place. It's been nearly a decade since I've lived alone. I miss not having to tip-toe around in the mornings the most! (My current roomie is a bit of a late sleeper.)
The one consistent thing I have seen in my home search is the vast difference in photography quality between homes. It seems that the majority of real estate professionals are taking high quality photos, using the appropriate lenses, staying aware of lighting, and capturing the entire home and property. On the other side, the majority of folks offering rental properties appear to have let their toddlers take the images for them. They are consistently dark, not centered, capturing a portion of the room and with no regard for the flow of the home or any attempt to give the potential renter a sense of the space available. It's like they are not even trying.Today I want to throw those "photography-challenged" people a bone. We all understand that they don't see the value in good photos. We also understand that they are not interested in giving their clients a fair shake in the market. Perhaps, with a little help, they can learn to appreciate the value of a well thought out photo gallery and one day make their clients thrilled with how their property was portrayed. Let's chip in, shall we?
First and foremost is the lens choice. You know, actually, even before that is the camera. You need to use a decent quality camera (capable of swapping lenses) to get the most out of your photo shoot. But I'll leave that to you and a conversation with the folks at the camera store. For the lens, lean heavily towards the wide-angle variety. In general the wide angle lens is going to provide sharp imagery while still capturing the entire room. While on my search for a property, I can't count the number of times I felt like I was viewing the home through a tunnel. Let the photos breathe and let in as much light as possible (more on that later).
And don't confuse "wide angle" with "fish-eye". You don't want your photo shoot looking like Missy Elliot's The Rain video (you'll have to look that one up if you're under 40). I have also lost track of the times I squished myself into a closet or hung outside in the hallway just to get the best angle for my photos. Don't just lazily walk around snapping pictures. Move your body (and the camera!) outside of the room and give some thought to your perspective. Every little detail makes a big difference. "Never lose sight of the fact that these photos are the first (and very often ONLY) view of this home people will get," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Kevin Killourie. He continued, "If they don't get past your photos, they won't pick up the phone. That, you can count on,".
And if you're not hanging from the chandelier or stuffing yourself into a closet, use a tripod. The tripod should be the first thing out of your car when you get to the home. The camera can be the second. Take some time to walk around the home and see where you can set up. You really need to get past the idea of having to move the tripod a bunch of times just to get all of your pictures. Bring a friend to help if that makes it easier. Having sharp, in-focus pictures from just the right angle with no chance of movement or fuzzyness is going to make a big impression on those potential buyers and renters.
One of the more surprising (and amusing) discoveries I have made during my search is the baffling absence of the most basic (read: required) photos. I have looked at rental and property listings with no images of the front of the home. Others omit any images of the bedrooms. You do know what those two scenarios mean, right? The home is in an awful part of town and is horrifying from the outside and the bedrooms would barely pass for closets in most houses. True or not, that is the message you are sending. Show the interested party every possible image from every possible angle. Images are free, remember. Snap away!
The last note for our photo-challenged friends is lighting. This one seems obvious to most of us, but lighting truly is the pièce de résistance in real estate photography. Nobody, aside from Orin of Parks and Rec fame, wants to live in a dark, shadowy home. If you're stuck with a rainy, dreary, fall day, skip the photoshoot and wait for better weather. If given the chance, my favorite days to shoot real estate are those blue sky days after a decent snowfall. Everything is bright white and the rooms are lit up like Christmas trees. Snowstorms aside (It's only September, Jason!) be sure and pick a nice, bright, sunny day for your photos. And regardless of the weather outside, be sure and turn on every. single. light. in the home. You truly can never have too much light. Happy snapping!
UPDATED GUIDANCE REGARDING GOVERNOR MILLS' EXECUTIVE ORDER (March 25, 2020):
Maine Governor Janet T. Mills issued an Executive Order on March 24 (see below) that requires all Non-Essential Businesses and Operations to cease activities at sites that are public facing. This Executive Order is effective from 12:01 am on March 25, 2020 through 12:00 am on April 8, 2020.
Real Estate Deemed "Essential Business": Again overnight, the Maine Association of REALTORS® put forth a request to the Governor's office that real estate be deemed an "essential business". This morning, the Commissioner of Maine's Department of Economic and Community Development, given authority under Section V of the Executive Order, has made the determination that real estate services are "essential business" and can continue with the following restrictions in place:
Municipal Executive Orders Reminder: This MAR guidance applies only to the Governor's Executive Order. It is important to note that any local municipal orders that are more restrictive are permitted by the Governor's Executive Order. This means that if your local municipality passes an order that has additional restrictions on business practices, then those restrictions are also enforceable and must be followed.
Enforcement: The Governor's Executive Order may be enforced by any governmental department, official that regulates professional licenses, and/or law enforcement. A violation of the Governor's order may be construed as a violation of your professional license and penalties may be assessed.
Industry Partners: MAR encourages our Affiliate Member partners to consult with the Maine Department of Economic and Community development regarding the interpretation of the Governor's order as it pertains to their business. You may contact DECD at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Professionalism: This is not "business as usual". As professionals, please be respectful of others' business practices and other members' clients' directives. Each company and client make their own decisions regarding business continuity, including face-to-face interaction and access to properties. Please consider how you can provide outstanding service to your clients and customers while adhering to CDC guidelines and the Executive Order.
Guidance could change at any time: We will share information regularly about new developments as they happen through MAR E-NEWS.
Thank you for your support during these unprecedented times.
- Courtesy of Maine Associations of REALTORS®
Our offices will be closed to public foot traffic thru Monday, May 4th. We are taking this added precaution as we continue to take the lead of our Governor and the CDC.
We are committed to serving our consumers and clients. All REALTORS are on call and ready to serve your real estate needs. Our Staff will continue to serve you through phone calls and emails from 8 to 6 pm and you may leave a message after that time. Further, should you wish to reach us by email, you may email your agent directly or email me at Brenda@BadgerRealty.com. I will do my best to respond to your email.
Links are provided below to all agents at Badger Realty with their cell phone numbers should you wish to reach out to them directly.
Please check our website for future updates at http://www.BadgerRealty.com
Thank you for your continued understanding and cooperation.
Be safe and be well,
General Manager, Badger Realty
To help reduce the possible spread of COVID-19, we feel it is prudent effective 5 p.m. on 3/17/2020, to close our offices to public foot traffic. Our Staff will continue to serve you through phone calls and emails and will be available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to receive calls. You may leave a message after that time. Further, should you wish to reach us by email, you may email your real estate agent directly or email me at Brenda@BadgerRealty.com. I will do my best to respond to your email. We are committed to serving our consumers and clients. Our REALTORS are also available and are on call and ready to serve your needs.
We are taking this added precaution as we continue to take the lead of our Governor and the CDC. Additionally, we spoke with our local hospitals and medical teams who also feel it prudent to follow the guidelines set forth by people who are getting updates minute by minute.
We are committed to serving you and want you to know that we are taking this pandemic seriously. We hope to reopen to public foot traffic on Monday, March 23 at 8:30 a.m. Please check our website for future updates.
You may continue to call our office at 603-356-5757 to speak with a real estate advisor. A link is provided below of all the agents at Badger Realty with their cell phone numbers should you wish to reach out to them directly. They will make arrangements directly with you to assist you in your real estate needs
Please check our website for future updates at http://www.BadgerRealty.com
Thank you very much for your understanding and cooperation.
Be safe and be well,
General Manager, Badger Realty
March 16, 2020
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, we at Badger Realty are continuing to monitor the situation closely and use guidance from our partners at Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, The National Association of Realtors and through the CDC and World Health Organization for best practices for our clients and customers, as well our own families and work family.
To help reduce the possible spread of COVID-19, our offices will remain open, but we may have limited staff and agent presence on site if we find it necessary. However, we are committed to keeping our offices open even with a smaller crew for as long as advisable. Our agents and staff have been on the forefront of the "work from home", "work from the car" and "work from anywhere" initiatives for years. These road warriors spent more than a decade working from their cell phones on the side of the road, negotiating contracts that are e-signed, and accessing everything they need in the Badger Realty technology cloud! For many of our agents, working remotely is commonplace and they are experts! They will continue to show property, work with sellers and buyers, write contracts and conduct closings. To help them continue to assist their clients and customers, we are sharing some recommendations for all of us.
For Sellers: If you are comfortable having your home shown, we are encouraging potential buyers to exhibit proper hygiene standards as outlined below. In addition, we recommend that you clean and disinfect your home after a showing, especially commonly touched areas like doorknobs, faucets and drawer pulls, and light switches. If you are uncomfortable having your home shown, please let your listing agent know as soon as possible.
For Buyers: With low market inventory, and low interest rates, we understand you want to see every home that is of interest to you. We are happy to help - we just ask you to use good judgement on your end. As we expect from our agents and staff - if you are sick or have a fever, we would prefer you stay put and get healthy. We can show you the house either using technology such as Facetime, or other live stream video product - you can even wait in your car while we take you through the house virtually.
For Our Service Providers and Office Visitors: As noted above, we may have a reduced number of representatives at our offices. With today's technology – we will be easily forwarding phone calls, sending out paperwork to be e-signed and more! If you want to come to our office, we have some public areas that we are disinfecting multiple times a day, and we are working to utilize our spacious conference rooms for visitors and our vendors. And while we always loved to greet you with a firm handshake, for now, we may just wave.
For our Badger Realty Agents & Employees: We have advised our agents and employees that if they are sick or have a fever, they are to stay home until the fever has been gone over 24 hours without medication. Employees and agents that develop symptoms will be sent home immediately. For our staff, we have always had an open sick day policy – if you are sick – take the day/days off with pay – no questions asked. That policy is in effect and will remain. If your listing agent is sick or taking care of a family member and not available, since we work as a team, we will find another Badger Realty agent who can pick up where they left off and get your needs handled professionally.
At Badger Realty, we take pride in the appearance and cleanliness of each of our locations. We already have measures in place to combat the spread of the flu using professional cleaning services, sanitizing and using disinfectants. Additional measures have been put in place to heighten the frequency of disinfecting common areas including door knobs, table tops, chairs, and equipment. We have placed hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes at all common areas and at each desk, meeting areas and general office areas.
In terms of preventative measures recommended to prevent and help reduce risk, we kindly ask everyone to:
For all of our clients and customers, when an infectious disease is associated with a specific population or nationality, fear and anxiety may lead to social stigma and potential discrimination. All of our agents are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are committed to their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and do not discriminate against any particular segment of the population. Together, everyone's health and safety remains our primary concern and working together we know we will get through this together. Thank you for your understanding.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to call your agent or reach out to me.
Brenda Leavitt, General Manager
email – Brenda@BadgerRealty.com
As I find myself now in the position of searching for a new home, I'm reminiscing about the time when I built my first home over in Lincoln. Everything was new. Everything was mine. And the whole process of ups and downs, joys and frustrations was something I look forward to going through again someday in the future. If building a home instead of buying an already built one is something you aspire to tackle, today I'd like to cover a few of the lessons I learned in the process and hopefully better prepare you for this awesome project.
At the time of my construction I was working in a real estate office full time. This position afforded me the flexibility of blurring the lines between "working" and "working on my house". I was also fortunate to have a boss that loved construction and home design so he tended to jump right in when I asked a question or needed some advice. A different boss in a different industry would likely not have been so patient. "I encourage first time home builders to get their hands on an experienced mentor to help out with some of the decisions," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Norman Head. "Having someone who has gone through this before alleviates a bit of the stress and helps the new builder see things from a different perspective," he continued.
I mention that because one of the most demanding parts of the construction process is the decision-making. I'm not great at making big decisions quickly so many of the choices that had to be made took me longer to settle on and required a bit more research. Shifting the kitchen wall a foot or two this way or that way was exhausting. When you are so deep in the project it is challenging to pick your head up and take a breath. The one thing I wished I had kept at the front of my mind is that this was not going to be the final home I ever lived in. Those decisions were important, but were not so critical that they deserved all of that attention (and stress!).
The other factor that plays a big role in construction as well as remodeling projects is who the house/remodeling project is "for". If you are building the home, like I was, with the direct intent of selling it in the very near future, you have to adjust your decisions and priorities accordingly. About half of the decisions I made for my home were based on the notion of "someone else" living there. I wanted to be sure that the house wasn't so customized to my tastes and needs (at the time) that buyers would find it strange or unattractive.
As I noted above, one of the best parts about building a new home is that everything is brand new. Nobody has lived there before and nobody's messes or germs are anywhere to be found. My budget called for hand-me-down appliances and even a "pre-loved" kitchen. But knowing that I was the first person to walk across a floor, shower in the bathroom and brush my teeth in the sink was a very welcome treat. It also meant that there was no one to warn me about certain creeks and noises in the middle of the night. It turns out new homes do a fair bit of "settling" and make a fair bit of noise.
Another sneaky surprise for first time builders is that your budget gets bloated more than you expect. I was on a rather tight budget, but after getting proposals and estimates and getting creative with appliances and other big-ticket items, I felt comfortable jumping in. Inevitably there are bumps in the road, unexpected twists and turns and just about all of them cost more money. I also had a very helpful, conscientious and creative builder working on my home. The blessing was his insight and good ideas. The curse was that his good ideas seemed to always cost me more money. I still wouldn't change a single thing we did.
If you are like me and are expecting to do a fair bit of the work yourself, you are likely aware that there will be dirt, mud, snow, dust and then even more dust during the process. There were times when I assumed there would never be a time I would live in the home without sawdust on the floor. It is a bit overwhelming. But I was the only one building in the area and as soon as we were done, the noise and dust stopped. If you are building a home in an area that is currently under lots of new construction, it is important to realize it will be dirty, dusty and noisy for a while. It might make sense to get a feel for how long this is going to go on before moving in.
The privilege of building your very own home is something I hope everyone gets to enjoy someday. There's lots of planning, countless decisions and a fair bit of stress involved for sure. But every sleepless night and fretful decision was well worth it. If you are a bit tentative to jump in on a whole house, maybe try a tree-house for your kids first! It's a similar process without all the stress!
Some things are better-appreciated first-hand. For the past couple weeks, I've been "trekking" my way up to 17,598 feet above sea level. At one point, we ventured up a nearby peak that topped us out at 18,514 feet. The lung-busting lack of oxygen is simply (and literally) breathtaking. We moved at a snail's pace and even that was exhausting. All that said, the hundred or so miles hiked to and from Everest base camp were filled with trials, challenges, illness, excitement and relief.
I say all that simply to say (in a not-so-subtle segue) that those things that challenge us and push us to our limits are very often worth the extra effort. We have talked before about the challenges of selling a home in winter. We have also talked about the benefits of more serious buyers, fewer tire-kickers and the tertiary benefit of having your home decorated to help boost curb-appeal. Let's review a few of those tips for selling in winter and maybe the sale of your home can be your own personal Everest trek!
Unless you're Marty McFly, you'll have a bit of a challenge with this first one. That is, to take pictures before all the leaves are gone. If you are super lucky and a persnickety planner, you may have even snapped some photos while the leaves were changing. If so – Good for you! For the rest of us, it is always a challenge to make an exterior photo look nice in the barren times of winter. The one saving grace you have is that you can always use snow as a backup plan. If you failed to get exterior photos before the trees were bare, wait till we get a little of the white stuff and you can make your home look perfectly placed in a winter wonderland.
This one is seemingly obvious, but there's always that one seller that doesn't get the memo. It is important to go easy on the holiday décor. Nobody is saying you can't add some of your favorites and make your home attractive for guests (or your kids!). It is just important to remember two things. First, just like with family photos and our personal "stuff", we never want to hinder the process of buyers' ability to picture themselves in your home. So go easy on family photos and decorations alike. Second, I would encourage sellers to go easy on the religious-themed decorations and keep them generic. Nobody is saying you can't say "Merry Christmas". It's just a good idea to tone things down inside the home (at least during showings).
If you've been reading along over the past couple years, you know I'm a stickler for shoes-off in my home. You can handle this in two ways this winter. Number one is to always be sure your walkway is free of snow. We all know that the weather can make this a challenge here in NH, but if you get (and stay) ahead of the snow on your walkway you can minimize the amount of snow and dirt that will end up on your doorstep. Secondly, be sure you have a large and convenient area for removing one's shoes right at the entrance. Very often if people see other shoes in the doorway, especially if they are on a large winter-ready mat, they will follow suit and remove theirs as well.
While we are talking about the entryway, this is a good time to clear this area of any unnecessary clutter and make the process of entering and exiting your home as smooth as possible. This can include installing a coat rack/hook system and maybe even some cubbies for hats and gloves. If you have kids, chances are you have already got this system nailed down. For the rest of us, you can test this out by walking in the front door of your home and seeing how obvious the coat/boots/hat/gloves storage process really is. Chances are yours could use a little tweaking.
"Sellers often forget that when strangers enter a home they often want to be as polite and courteous as possible," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Kevin Killourie. "Making this process as obvious and smooth as possible tends to keep both parties happy," he continued.
Since we've already had our first cold spell most of you won't get caught by this one, but it is important to always make sure all of the systems in the home are functional. Be sure you have turned on the heat throughout the entire home and made sure that it works (and that musty smell is gone from a summer of being dormant). While you are at it be sure that there are no cracked light switches or chipped baseboards or any other little cosmetic items that could be fixed quickly and easily. Since you will likely be showing your home after work on many occasions, this is also a good time to test out all of the lights in the home and replace any bulbs as needed. Lighting in the home is of paramount importance this time of year.
Selling a home in winter has many benefits and a few small challenges as well. Much like a trek to 17,600 feet, it can be a bit of work but will certainly pay off in the end. Take a few of these suggestions and throw your proverbial hat in the ring. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Chances are good that there are lots of Holiday events happening around town this weekend. Get out there and enjoy the festivities. If nothing else, this is your best excuse to chow down on bite-sized candy bars. Remember, if you can fit the whole bar in your mouth in one bite, it eliminates the calories and fat! That's just science. We're actually getting spoiled this weekend with amazing weather, so get out there and have some fun. If you find yourself, like me, stuck at home though, I wanted to share a few ideas for keeping yourself busy and preparing for the coming winter and the coming festivities.
Something often overlooked this time of year is all of our outdoor "stuff". Last weekend I finally put away our deck chairs and table. I had stored the umbrella weeks ago simply because it got a bit blustery and didn't want to find it down the street! Of course your kids are great at putting away all of their toys, but on the off chance some of those things are still lingering on the lawn, get them in the garage or the basement.
With the changing temperatures between night and day this time of year, I find it to be the perfect breeding ground for rust. Any little scratch or blemish on metal bikes, toys and furniture will be exposed to these temperature swings and morning moisture. Save yourself some sanding and painting next spring and get those items under cover. Speaking of cover, actually just covering them up (yes, even with a blue tarp!) will help a ton. It keeps the moisture up on the tarp and protects your things from the elements.
Although the peak of foliage is waving goodbye, there is still time to get out there and grab a few branches for decorations. A couple simple foliage filled branches in a rustic vase treats you to a vibrant piece that should stick around for a couple weeks. Since it is in the fall spirit, even evergreen branches can fill that space quite nicely too. Of course those also have the "feel" of Christmas and you may not quite be ready for that yet (understandably so).
"Another great use for leaf filled branches and evergreens is on chandeliers and walls," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty), Eileen Difeo. "Putting decorative branches and leaves inside a picture frame is a simple but attractive addition to your walls and the foliage colored leaves look great on a white-lit chandelier," she continued.
Did you know that October 27th is National Black Cat Day? And that October 29th is National Cat Day! Let's celebrate our cozy, furry friends. In the spirit of caring for our four-legged housemates, remember to keep them feeling safe and secure this Halloween. If you intend to hand out candy to the little neighborhood kids, a quiet closed-off room in the house might be the best place for Fido and Mittens. It will help reduce their stress and make for a better night overall.
One of my favorite parts about this time of year is we get the first whiffs of wood-burning stoves throughout the area. Chances are good that if you heat your North Conway NH home with wood you are well stocked already and prepared for the colder months. If you are not, this would be a great time to get that wood ordered, stacked and ready to go. This can also be a good time to order wood if you just want to be prepared for the coming years. It is typically cool outside so cutting and stacking is far more pleasant than in the heat of the summer.
As the weather turns a bit less welcoming, weekends are a great time to cozy up on the couch and do some binge watching. If you are in the spirit of the holiday, there are loads of scary movies on cable right now. If you are a Netflix subscriber, I'm sure there will be a full category just for you. If you're like me, and don't "do" scary movies, perhaps taking in a classic or a comedy will be more to your liking.
Fall is an amazing time of year and a great excuse to do some fresh decorating around the house. Take care of a few chores this weekend by protecting your outdoor equipment and then maybe turn your focus inside. I hope you have a great holiday weekend and get all the candy treats you were hoping for!
With any luck at all, you got yourself outside this past weekend and enjoyed, not just the spectacular string of perfect weather we had, but some of the best foliage we have witnessed in many years. I was biking, hiking and fishing across northern New Hampshire on Sunday and Monday and found myself stopping to "smell the roses" on frequent occasions. During one of these pauses, it occurred to me that "these" are the views that people talk about. These are the scenes that are captured on countless cameras. These are a few of the many reasons we love to live here.
As I was enjoying the surroundings and the warm weather, I couldn't help but think about how this intangible and ethereal feeling we get, when overcome with that sense of wonderment, has a direct impact on the value of our Conway NH properties. There is no question the "view tax" created quite a stir when it found its way to the New Hampshire legislature. But is there more to it, than just a tax on a scenic view from your front porch?
In 2001 Michael Bond and Vicky and Michael Seiler researched the impact that a view of Lake Erie has on the value of a home. The study used "transaction-based" prices instead of "appraisal-based" so the numbers are derived directly from what someone actually paid for the property, not on the educated speculation of an appraiser, assessor or broker. What they found was while square footage and lot size had significant impacts on a home's value, having the view of Lake Erie adds $256,544.72 (an 89% premium) to the value of the home. And that was 15 years ago. These people take that "location" thing very seriously!
The location of your home is without question, the most vital piece of the value puzzle. As we all know, they are not producing any more land. And as our population continues to swell, the demand for land will continue to rise. Unless something happens to directly impact the demand for a given area, the land can be expected to increase in value over time. The opposite is true of the structure that sits on the land. It can be said that if left alone, a structure will continue to lose value until it no longer adds value to the parcel it sits on.
What about external factors beyond our control? Future developments can certainly impact your value in either direction. Wind farms and power lines are never ending points of contention both in the town hall meetings and in the media. In a study done in 2009 by James Chalmers for The Appraisal Journal, the presence of transmission lines did not show any consistent, material effect on property values. In fact, in most of the reading I did about nuclear power plants and their associated "disasters", the impact of these plants or events diminished within 2 or 3 years and property values stabilized.
On the flip side of that, the addition of a school or even a town office can do wonders for the value of your home. And little things like your location within a neighborhood and the proximity to more expensive or less expensive homes will impact both the perceived value and the sale-ability of your home.
I live within "earshot" of a state highway. Is that going to impact my home's value? I'm sure it will. But I also enjoy a panoramic view of multiple 4000' peaks in the White Mountains. It is safe to say, I'm banking on the latter countering the former! I think one of the biggest concerns many people have with the addition or extension of power lines is the impact it will have on the "view". When you are on Main Street in Lincoln, New Hampshire on the other side of the Kanc, you will look up to the mountains and see a string of steel cables cutting through the landscape where today you only see trees. While that may not directly impact the value of one's home, that is still a large part of the intangible value I was talking about.
"At the end of the day, it is important to look at your home as an investment. Chances are, this is one of the biggest chunks of money you will have placed in a single "basket" in your life, notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty agent (formerly Badger Realty) , Norman Head. If you can focus on the land, the surroundings and the potential, you will be more likely to see the true value of the entire property and how those external factors affect you. With any luck at all, we will continue to enjoy experiences like we did last weekend, that make living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, worth every penny!
Last week we touched on some of the challenges of selling a North Conway NH 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?