June 2008

A comet has been messing with my real estate mojo…not to mention leaving my clients a bit anxious.

Who would have thought that this particular comet would come around twice?  Who would have predicted a bidding war once (yes, in this market..trust me we know!)?  Who knew it was the right fit?  We all did, and apparently so did destiny.

I have dared not blog this story until all the ducks were in a row…call me superstitious, but jinxing a deal would not be my doing.  The story goes like this:

We happened on the Comet house after walking some land previously immortalized (in my mind anyway) in the Swishin’ My Magellan post some time ago.  It hit its mark immediately but this is a cautious market, no?  So we visited a week later, fine tuned some details then made an offer.  We can laugh now (no, still not laughing)…but suddenly came a significant price reduction and another offer on the table.  Things got far more complicated.  We bid, we lost.

Oh Yeah it stung.  It took a bit to recover then go forth and entertain other properties..and many were lovely houses, just not the same spark. The comet wiggled its way into conversation on occasion in the form of “if only”.

Five weeks later, the Comet came back around.  A list agents nightmare had indeed occurred..but I am these buyers agent and her unfortunate development is our good news!  A little worse for wear and slightly unbelieving of our good fortune…(could this be a cruel joke the universe was playing?) we stepped back up to bat, struck while the iron was hot, moved forth at lightning speed (get my point?).

Mr. and Mrs. Client are a tenacious pair and my hats off to them.  I told them when we lost round one…you never know.  But I in no way expected five weeks to turn into a Back on the Market Comet.

Moral of the Story:  Sometimes it is meant to be, and on occasion you may have to work for it.  Funny, this one was a little of both but absolutely fantastic clients made it a great ride.  And, as I stood on their new front porch today…I knew that they were about to (and did) close on the perfect house for them!



10.  Lighten the load, scale back, box and neatly hide away that what takes up space

9.  Have unique color shceme?  Please paint it.  Many are intimidated by the prospect of big paint jobs.

8.  Get outside sniff assistance!  Pets, smokers, woodstove users, etc. etc. they all leave behind residual odors which can offend and be remembered.  Bake some cookies, microwave vanilla.

7.  Clean!!!… to the point where it looks inconceivable that real humans have been living at your house!

6.  Yard always should have that freshly mowed look

5.  Garage…make is so a car can fit in there

4.  The root of all evil in a house basement (men and home inspectors dig them), tidy, cobweb free, dehumidifier running, open a window or two, working lightbulbs.

3.  No dripping faucets, no glaring repair issues, doors and windows should open without issue.

2.  Take the puppy (s) out for a walk during shows, if at all possible.  Most of them do not enjoy strangers.

1.  Always be ready for a showing!  Make yourself scarce and lets get your house sold!

Determining value is an opinion, not a science.

You can ask 3 Realtors for a Comparative Market Analysis or you can pay for an appraisal and what you will get is a hopefully educated opinion of value.  It is possible that you will end up with 4 different opinions of value…ideally all 4 will be within reasonable distance of one another.  I would expect REALTORS will give a range of value (by way of example: the property is worth between $210,000 and $218,000) and appraisers use 3 methods of determining value (cost approach, income approach and comparative market analysis approach) and come up with one price.

The discussion of value on property is a hot topic these days.  Why?  Because of supply and demand and the ultimate deciders of real estate value…the buyers of real estate; perhaps you heard those folks are a bit more scarce than they were a few years back.  And irony of all ironies, we use historic sold properties to determine the value of current for sale properties–even in our modest decline market, that poses quite a riddle.

Here is what I want you to know:

The CMA and appraisal have a very short shelf life in today’s real estate climate, no longer than 90 days.  If you have been on the market a while or received a price opinion a while back, it is time for a reexamination of comparable sold information.  A CMA or appraisal done over four months ago is absolutely useless.

Town Assessments have everything to do with the taxes you pay and are completely irrelevant to the market value of your property.  That 70% of market value figure could have been determined quite some time ago and they may not have even entered your house…disregard.

If you are currently on the market, know thy competition like the back of your hand or make sure your agent does.  What do they got that you don’t, and vice versa.  Do not price to be selling the competition (not a good place to be).  While marketing, be open to the ongoing CMA.

The upshot, stay ahead of the “opinions” you have received…chasing the market costs very real money and extremely valuable time. 

Once upon a time in a land far away…(well, not that far, Norwich actually), I had some condominium management experience so I decided to share some of my lessons learned.

Things to consider when in pursuit of a owner occupied condo are:

The Complex

Is it a conversion or was it built to be condos?  What kind of amenities does the property have, pool, tennis, gym, community room?  If it is new construction, how many units have already been sold?  How many are planned?  How many phases of construction?  Developer?

Tenant vs. Owner Occupied ratio

I would recommend leaning towards the complexes which have 51% or higher of owner occupied units.  There are many reasons for this but not the least of which is financing options change with owner occupied ratio.  Find out what the rental guidelines are, do they allow short term leases or is there a 1 year minimum requirement for tenancy.

Owner managed vs. Professionally managed

The self managed complexes tend to have lower association fees and many do self management very well but, have you tried to get people to a meeting lately?  Condo associations are suppose to be a democracy run for the good of the building for the personal investment of each unit.  If the meetings are poorly attended you can have the few making decisions for the many…and all processes can take that much longer.  Professional management of condominiums is highly regulated with various bonding required and paperwork intensive, it costs money which adds to the complex bottom line.  Of course, it can prove money well spent.

Weighing Special Assessment Risk

Take a good long look around and not just at the unit of your interest.  Look at the grounds, building exterior, common areas, windows the whole package.  Any glaring issues?  Granted not everything is visible, but does preventive maintenance seem to be in place?  Do things look well cared for, neat and tidy?  Common maintenance impacts every unit owner and has potential of resulting in additional association fees in the form of special assessments.

Association Docs and Rules and Regs

READ THEM!  Seriously, every page.  They are not light reading, but as a potential owner know what they say.  Review the insurance declaration page, minutes from recent meetings, check out the budget and reserves for the complex.  If there is anything you are unsure of (ex. pets, cars allowed per unit, parking, allowable uses) ask!  For the self managed complexes, check the quorum required to pass votes.  If you seek financing, your lender will likely ask for some of these documents as well.

The condo can be a most economical way to get a foot in the door of homeownership, downsize, live water side (and share the expense), leave some maintenance concerns behind…the condo comes in many shapes and sizes these days.  It can be a fantastic fit for many… choices, choices.

BUT, it is homeownership and it is encumbant on every owner to protect their investment.

Making a house a HOME!  I sell houses…it is the folks that live in them that make them a home.

My profession requires that we look at houses in the most clinical of terms with  professional detachment (hopefully we have a pleasant curbside manner:-).  In fact, proper advertising has real estate agents referring to real property as houses, not homes.    We deal in numbers and aesthetics;  cost per square foot, amenities, style, land and location, location, location!

But those we seek real estate for are not just looking for a house, they are looking for HOME!  I can even take that a step further and suggest that sellers of real estate try to place a lot of home value to the sale of a house.  As a homeowner, I appreciate all the emotional value that goes into a house.  Those four walls can be priceless.  (until they start to close in…then you need real value).

This blog is a huge shout out to the priceless nature of home!  I have been gently reminded how important home is by a little girl who just couldn’t wait to get back to hers…and a family that joyously welcomed her home.  And all the real estate shoppers out there; yeah I have to be clinical and knowledgable but those in pursuit of a home are allowed to get carried away by the emotions of the event.

So at the risk of being cliche’, there is indeed, NO PLACE LIKE HOME!  And, yes, in fact, HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS!

Lisbon Home of America’s oldest railway tunnel is back under some serious market scrutiny.

I admit to being a bit perplexed by my own home town…I watch this town like nobody’s business…and I wonder why we have so many long standing active properties?  It is a lovely small town with many conveniences and more on their way, yet many of 30 active properties in town have been on the market for quite some time?  Some are new construction which can account for some of this..yet, puzzled I remain. 

Lisbon’s inventory is modest compared to Griswold’s 95 and Canterbury’s 37 current active inventory.

Here is how it all shakes out:

Currently Active Listings:  30                              Range of value:  $41,900 to $1,300,000

Pending Listings:  6                                             Range of value:  $149,900 to 365,900

Closed in last 90 days:  11                                  Range of value:  $104,000 to 995,000

Average days on market:  153.81

Average sale price:  $307,318

List price to sell price ratio:  95.7%      

Caveats and sidenotes:  2 of the current pending listings have been under deposit for a long time (I suspect lack of update to MLS), Days on Market drastically impacted by a sold listing that spent over 1043 days on market (I kid you not!)– take out the high and the low average days on market is 72.


What have I been denying?  The power of www.REALTOR.com but how does 4800 hits on one property in 52 days sound?  It sounds to me like denial time is over and it is officially time to embrace this web giant.

I do not know this for sure but I believe that REALTOR.com is the oldest real estate web site and I know that the traffic numbers are impressive.  I have long contended that it is the first stop for most shoppers of real estate.  With a name like REALTOR.com, it is kind of hard to forget.

I maintain that www.CTReal.com is an excellent resource for Connecticut real estate shoppers…though I have trolled around it and find it a bit difficult to navigate on occasion.  I do not like the Sherpa thing.  And CTReal.com now links all of our listings to (get this, it is impressive):  Yahoo, AOL Real Estate, Zillow.com, Google Base, cyberhomes, Trulia, CLRsearch.com, Homescape, vast, hotpads, oodle and MyRealty.com.  All Connecticut listings should be there unless an agent or seller chooses not to–I do not know why they would, but it does happen.

I have conducted personal research on most of them and as of now my favorites are:  CTReal.com (though the color schematic annoys me a little), REALTOR.com (no denying it is easy to navigate, lots of flashing tends to get on my nerves) and Trulia (I enjoy the discussion boards, listing information I find a bit sparse..but it does link back to CTReal.com for virtual tours, etc).

My post point?  I have bit the bullet and paid the freight to enhance my relationship with REALTOR.com (and even linked it on the right of this here blog).  My fabulous listings now have showcase status with multiple pics, videos, etc. etc.  92 hits a day can’t be wrong!

I would truly enjoy hearing your favorite haunts via the web for real estate information…got a favorite site I neglected?  Please share.  Think I am way out of line on my top 3?  Tell me where I have gone astray.

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